What Is The Carolina Squat?

Joe Terrell
04/21/202121st April, 2021
Filed under Beginner Guides

Modifying is known for dividing opinions, and this latest truck craze is no exception. We’re diving into the love/hate world of the Carolina Squat.

carolina squat


Introduction

There’s no shortage of tuning trends in the automotive world, and although we’re used to looking at the likes of the stance community when it comes to cars, we’re struggling to ignore the Carolina Squat.

Although lowriders and hotrodders have been ‘squatting’ their suspension since the beginning of time, the birth of the Carolina Squat scene has seen it soar in popularity over recent years.

Frequently causing controversy among car and truck owners alike, the trend is often classed as downright dangerous.

In contrast, others think it looks ridiculous, stating that it also defeats the exact purposes of the trucks they’re modifying.

But, let’s face it, the vast majority of modifications to vehicles are carried out for looks rather than practicality.

It just so happens that the Carolina Squat arguably comes with more disadvantages than benefits!

We’re all for freedom of expression and going against the crowd here at Drifted, so we’re always open to exploring both the love and hate opinions.

Whether you know it as the Palatka Squat, BullDogging, Truck Squatting, Star Gazer, Carolina Squat, or even the Carolina Crawl, this guide will answer your questions regarding everything you need to know.

We’ve all witnessed a crazy-looking truck with a gigantic fifth wheel on the back dragging its ass down the highway, and the squatting trend has gone on birth a whole host of crazy and ideas, however useless they may seem.

It’s time to take an in-depth look at the history and origins of the Carolina Squat before we take a look at the positives and negatives of this extreme mod and why so many truck owners are opting to follow suit with their ride.


What is the Carolina Squat?

We’re willing to bet that you’ve seen a truck with the front suspension raised higher than the rear, with the driver seemingly having a fantastic view of the sky while cruising down the highway - this is the Carolina Squat.

The Carolina Squat look is achieved by modifying the vehicle to lift the front end, with the rear suspension remaining static or often lowered for maximum impact.

As you’ve probably guessed, it’s not always this extreme. Sometimes it can be just a couple of inches difference between the front and rear, but there’s always those that are looking to go one step further - especially in the good ol’ US of A!

Alongside the suspension modifications, we’d typically expect to see aftermarket wheels fitted, which unsurprisingly usually end up being the most substantial wheel and tire combo achievable!

Most enthusiasts will know this tuning style as the Carolina Squat, but it’s often referred to as different names, such as the Carolina Lean or Cali Lean, as well as many others.

Many have begun wondering why you would want to apply the Carolina Squat to a perfectly functional truck and where its origins began, so we’re taking a look at those next.


What is the point of the Carolina Squat?

It won’t come as much of a surprise that the Carolina Squat has left people wondering about the benefits and purpose of undertaking such a drastic lift configuration.

We’ll be honest - there aren’t many other than the fact that many love the look that it provides.

Standing out from the crowd (quite literally in many cases) is enough for most fans of this unique tuning style to think it’s worthwhile.

The only slight practical benefit will be that you’ll have a much larger rake, which can help when it comes to approach angle.

However, since most trucks already come with plenty of approach angle in stock form due to high ground clearance and minimal overhang, this is unlikely to be the real reason, besides rare exceptional circumstances.

Simply having something unique and different that turns heads are often more than enough of a reason, which is why the Carolina Squat is booming on social media, with groups and hashtags on your favorite platforms multiplying over an impressively short period.

Another reasoning is that they can fit bigger aftermarket wheels and tires on their truck. But let’s be honest, a standard lift kit would make life far more straightforward in this regard.

History of the Carolina Squat

Since we’ve explained why so many are excited by this tuning trend, we’re heading back to where the Carolina Squat story began.

Many will argue that Truck Squatting is a pointless modification, but that’s not entirely true.

Sure, it certainly doesn’t make too much sense for the road or cruising down the highway.

When it comes to off-road racing, however, it’s an entirely different story.

Naturally, the popular opinion is that the trend started in Carolina in recent years. In contrast, others will argue that it originated in Southern California with the ‘California Lean’ or ‘Cali Lean’.

Since then, it has achieved incredible popularity in most Southern states such as Louisiana, Georgia, and North and South Dakota - alongside many others.

Wherever it may have originated, the reality is that squatting trucks go back quite a bit further than that in motorsport history.

Baja inspiration

Although there are very few benefits for road use, the origins of the Carolina Squat go back to Baja Racing and Trophy Trucks, where having the front-end pointing upwards is far more beneficial.

Since Baja Racing takes place in the Baja California Peninsula, it’s most likely that the Baja inspiration began reaching US shores, with US tuners looking to replicate the look of their favorite Baja trucks.

As Baja Racing became one of the most popular forms of motorsport in North America, Trophy Trucks took these to the streets and racetracks of the US, where squatting trucks were becoming the new norm in the racing scene.

Given that Baja and Trophy Truck racing are arguably up there with the most thrilling forms of motorsport (behind drifting, of course!) It’s no surprise that the Carolina Squat started achieving popularity.

However, the squat-style suspension of these race trucks serves a real purpose when it comes to racing - and we’re not talking about drag racing between stoplights.

The front-end of a Baja truck pointing slightly upwards and the rear-end hugging the ground provides optimal performance when launching the vehicle off challenging jumps.

When a Baja or Trophy Truck hits a ramp at speed, the squatting rear suspension helps the truck land rear first, reducing the potential of a nose-dive, which is a far from ideal scenario!

Despite its practicality when it comes to racing, the biggest jumps most Carolina Squatted road trucks are likely to see are the speed bumps to get into the local parking lot.


Carolina Squatting your truck

If you’ve made it this far and you still think that going for the Carolina Squat is what you’re after - good for you!

Let’s face it – it’s done for looks rather than practicality, after all, and we love seeing unique rides.

When choosing an ideal truck to squat, the perfect choice is one with independent front suspension.

There are various ways to go about opting for the Carolina Squat, so we’ll help you decide the best option.

Lowering/Lift Kits

Perhaps the most convenient route here is to opt for a lowering/lift kit.

While some owners will opt for a lift kit on the front while keeping the rear suspension stock, this will allow for a subtle ‘lean’ that provides the reverse rake orientation that many desire.

Others will fit a lowering kit in the rear or remove the rear blocks (or leaf spring) alongside raising the front, which will provide a noticeably more aggressive squat.

Sometimes the front lift can also be achieved by a ball-joint lift or by adjusting the torsion bar, which will vary between the make and model of your truck based on the suspension design.

When it comes to lowering the rear, drop shackles can often make for a great alternative.

Aftermarket Squat Kits

As the popularity of the Carolina Squat grows, certain aftermarket part manufacturers have begun designing kits specifically with the ‘squat’ layout in mind. Still, it’s often cheaper to go for a custom option.

When it comes to finding the suitable kit for your ride, you’ll want to ensure that it fits your truck’s make, model, and year correctly while also providing the desired lift/drop required.

With the continued popularity of the Carolina Squat, there will be plenty of forums and communities out there that’ll help you find the perfect kits and ride heights - be sure to try to avoid the haters in the process!

When it comes to kits, you can expect to find them ranging between two inches to beyond ten inches, so you’ll want to decide the height that’s best for your needs before you part with your cash.

Installation Processes

Whichever method you choose to go for, we recommend having the suspension fitted by a professional or at least someone who has worked with suspension components previously.

Kits will offer the most costly yet safest, and most convenient method.

Alternatively, going down the cheap DIY route of simply removing the leaf spring will hinder suspension performance and significantly reduce the towing weight capacity of the truck.

Prices for a squat setup can vary enormously depending on the kit and labor.

We would typically expect to pay between $250-1,500 to achieve the desired look, with the upper end of the bracket being the safest, most convenient, and highest quality method.

Carolina Squatting in GTA V

If you’ve not yet got the money for a truck, why not give squatting a go in GTA V?

Okay, it might not be the perfect solution, but it’s a great time burner and photo opportunity to show off your new ride!

RC Truck Carolina Squat

We love this Carolina Squat upgrade that this kid does for his four-year-old brother on his RC truck.

We can’t wait to see what these guys come up with in the future!


Downsides of the Carolina Squat

So far, we’ve tried our best to outline the positives of the Carolina Squat.

It’s easy to wear rose-tinted glasses and think it’s a great idea, but we’d highly recommend considering the negatives aspects that come with squatting your truck.

Outside of the practicality that comes with Baja Racing and Trophy Trucks, squatted vehicles can often become a liability for road use since you’re not only changing the looks but also the handling and functionality of your ride.

We’ve got no doubt you’ll think we’re boring here, but here are some considerations to bear in mind, especially with so many calling for a ban on squatted trucks.

We love seeing the freedom of the modified scene and hate seeing people spoil it for others.

Handling

When you squat your truck, the handling will be drastically affected, especially since trucks can often be notoriously squirrely, even in stock form.

Shifting the weight around with significant suspension alterations will only make this far more prominent.

Suspension Wear

Some trucks can handle suspension wear better than others, so with the added wear that comes with squatting, it’s always worth checking the setup often to ensure nothing is likely to lead to a catastrophic failure.

On a positive note, at least your suspension will be easier to see - on the front, at least!

Loss of Towing Capacity

Manufacturers spend plenty of R&D refining their trucks to perfection to ensure optimal designs for carrying substantial loads.

When you squat a truck, you’re significantly affecting this delicate balance as the tail-end of the vehicle is already far lower than in stock form.

Depending on the amount of squat you’ve decided to carry out, this can either significantly reduce your towing capacity or make it incapable of towing altogether.

For this reason, we highly recommend towing with great caution on a squatted truck.

Reduced Visibility

While a squatted truck will provide a great view of the sky for stargazing, it won’t be so practical when it comes to cruising down the highway.

Although it can be amusing, it’s likely to get tiring pretty quickly, so we’d think about this before carrying out an aggressive squat.

Perhaps see if you can find someone with a squatted truck locally to see how you find it with that setup.

Headlight Alignment

Admittedly, we’re more used to sitting low in our cars, which means we’re way too familiar with how annoying misaligned headlights can be, so do this for the drifters. PLEASE.

With the front of the truck lifted, the headlight angle is drastically adjusted. Not only is this dangerous for others, but it could quickly fail when testing time comes around.

There’s also the consideration that you’re more likely to be illuminating buildings and trees rather than the road ahead, which you’re already struggling to see from our previous ‘Reduced Visbility’ point!

Reduced Braking Capacity

As well as the negative impact on the handling, shifting the truck’s weight around makes the brakes far less effective than they should be.

Given that most vehicles rely on the front brakes, this could be a potential disaster that needs to consider.


Removing the Carolina Squat

Often with tuning trends such as the Carolina Squat, you may well regret the decision further down the line and wish to return your truck to its stock form.

Thankfully, this is often simple enough by re-fitting the stock parts that were removed.

However, if the truck has been squatting for quite some time, the chances are that the suspension components may have ‘sagged’ after being under additional tension for extended periods.

2011 silverado 1500 chevrolet king off road suspension lift 8in american force trax ss polished

Admittedly, this can also happen with stock vehicles that have worn and tired suspension.

Vehicles with setups such as leaf springs, and even typical coil springs, can often deteriorate over time.

With leaf springs sometimes having a life expectancy of around 200,000 miles, or even less under frequent heavy loads, it may be time to replace the tired old setup.


Conclusion

Of all the guides we’ve written here at Drifted, the Carolina Squat is undoubtedly among the most controversial.

Most truck owners will tell you it’s a ridiculous idea that will ruin every valuable function of your truck.

Others take a “no f**ks given” approach to trying something different, creating something unique that’ll undoubtedly turn heads wherever it goes.

For us, this defines the true beauty of the tuning scene, defying the norm and following your heart rather than your head.

Sure, it’s not for everyone. But, since it’s your truck and not theirs, why the hell not?

All we ask is that you carefully consider the downsides and don’t just go fitting a crazily aggressive setup to your junkyard truck before not being able to see the road ahead and blinding everyone else on the street in the process!

So, there we have it! We hope that we’ve covered everything you could want to know about the Carolina Squat in this guide.

Thank you for reading our Carolina Squat guide.

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Photography credits

We thank the following entities for the use of their photography in this article:

author avatar Written by Joe Terrell Drifted.com founder, motoring journalist and all-round car enthusiast. Read more about Joe and the Drifted team on our about us page.

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