see them all the time: Light trucks, Sport Utility Vehicles, Jeeps,
and more, coasting down the highway, sitting atop towering truck
suspension lift kits and sporting a set of tires so big that a person
could live in them. If you’re the curious type looking to lift up your
own rig, a more important question than “How do I get my ride to do
that” is “Why should my ride do that?”
There are several reasons
why people might customize their vehicles with suspension lift kits, as
well as quite a bit to know before you get started. If you’re a
seasoned veteran who has conquered the most vicious terrains and knows
your vehicle better than your own mother, there probably isn’t much for
you to learn here. On the other hand, if you’re just getting started
and want to familiarize yourself with the basics, read on.
Why should I lift my ride?
you asked. Equipping vehicles with a suspension lift kits involves
much more than buying the sexiest looking truck lift kit and then
dropping your ride off at the local mechanic. Actually, chances are
good that if that’s all you plan to do, lifting your ride might not be
right for you in the first place. Installing truck suspension lift
kits requires some hard work, a bit of technical savvy and consistent
upkeep and attention to your vehicle’s components.
determination you need to make when considering suspension lift kits is
what you want to do with it. There are essentially two main purposes
for installing truck lift kits: style or function. Although the two
are somewhat interrelated, it’s still important to consider which
purpose you most wish to pursue, as it will assist you in making the
correct modifications to your vehicle.
face it: Transforming a vehicle into a style statement has been a
popular hobby ever since the advent of tailfins and flame decals. As
much as we all might chuckle at a hybrid hatchback sitting on 18″
wheels, or the family sedan with a wing that resembles the Seattle
Space Needle more than a spoiler, we also find our own vehicles having
fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror, or a bobbling hula dancer statuette
on the dash. As far as style is concerned, adding truck lift kits
makes more of an impression than anything else you can do to your ride.
Heads turn instantly at the sight of a lifted rig with massive tires
that appear to be sprouting fangs and an exhaust system that scares
stray puppies into hiding.
When it comes to adding suspension lift
kits to make a style statement, looking good is the easy part.
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook general, everyday performance in the
midst of decking out a ride. For this reason, choosing the right
suspension lift kit with attention to comfort, reliability, durability,
safety, and not to mention price, should be given just as much
consideration as those precious inches you want to add.
you’ve made the jump into tuning your rig for the off-road world, and
you’re ready to take the plunge to invest in one of many truck lift
kits. But before diving headfirst into a custom truck lift kit and
gigantic tires, there are a number of issues to address to ensure a
correct setup. The first step is to ask yourself what you will be
doing the most, whether it’s slow-speed rock crawling, high-speed
desert racing, general purpose 4 wheeling, mud racing, or long distance
open country treks. From there, you can narrow down what you need to
do in order to customize your vehicle to suit your needs.
you’re just starting out, or you’re the experienced professional,
tuning your rig for optimum off-road performance is an expansive hobby
with numerous factors to be wary of. The possibilities are limitless,
which can sometimes make it hard to determine exactly which suspension
lift kits are ideal for what you want.
Where do I begin?
if determining which suspension lift kits to purchase weren’t
complicated enough, installing truck lift kits can alter other
components in your vehicle, sometimes causing unforeseen issues that
could affect performance or be potentially detrimental to the vehicle
itself. For example, drive shaft length, steering geometry, brake
lines, highway performance and handling, gear ratios, and overall
weight are just a few of the factors that could potentially be impacted
by adding truck suspension lift kits.
Finding ample resources to
determine what products you need can be difficult. Speaking with a
mechanic can provide some insight. Reading factory service manuals,
off-road magazines, internet message boards, manufacturer’s guides, and
a number of other resources can help as well. But by far the most
useful way to determine what truck lift kits are right for you and your
vehicle is to consult an experienced and knowledgeable person who has a
vehicle similar to yours and uses it in the manner similar to what you
want to do. Not only can such a person suggest the correct products,
but also likely has experience with installation tips and general
In the meantime, here are some of the basic elements
of suspension lift kits for you to keep in mind as you plan your
What does a Suspension Lift Kit do?
starters, one of the foremost reasons for installing truck suspension
lift kits is to raise the height of your ride off the ground to
enable steeper ascent or descent off-road, and higher ground
clearance. In general, it makes sense that when driving over
boulders, slogging through mud, coasting across the desert, or
even just making your way through the occasional forest trail, higher
clearance facilitates negotiating certain obstacles. This can often
be a tricky bit of artistry to manage, as higher clearance also
raises your vehicle’s center of gravity, which can reduce
Larger Tire Fitment
general consensus suggests that larger tires equate to more traction,
right? Well, not entirely. While larger tires may provide some
improvement to traction in off-road conditions, there are other ways
to improve a vehicle’s traction that are far more efficient than
simply bulking up the rubber. Aside from the obvious
stylistic discretion, the main reasons for adding larger tires are
for higher vehicle clearance for improved performance in mud, deep
snow, rocks, and deeply rutted trails. Certain tires designed
specifically for off-road conditions can improve traction
depending on the circumstances, but the added clearance is the
most immediate and direct benefit of larger tires.
Factors to Consider with Truck Suspension Lift Kits:
Installation: Many manufacturers offer manuals for
installing truck lift kits onto certain vehicles; however, some
installations are quite intricate, requiring some welding or cutting in
order to add some necessary components. In this case, having a
trusted mechanic or a few knowledgeable friends is the best resolution.
Additional Modifications: Upgrading to truck lift
kits with taller tires also means that a number of components may
require part upgrades or some tuning to compensate. For instance, a
truck’s engine is tuned at specific gear ratios to propel the vehicle.
When adding taller tires, the gear ratios must be tweaked accordingly,
since the engine has to spin much larger, heavier tires. Again,
consult with more experienced individuals for further insight.
Highway Performance: Larger, wider tires can
sometimes result in instability on roads or a noisy, uncomfortable ride,
particularly at high speeds. Also, more aggressive off-road tires
tend to wear faster on the highway, and traction might not be as great
as you would expect on wet roads. In this sense, larger tires can
sometimes be a gamble without any direction from an experienced
Weight: larger tires are heavier, which can put a lot
of strain on your suspension, particularly if it’s a stock suspension.
Trusted, durable suspension components and lighter aluminum wheels can
sometimes help to reduce the strain.
Handling: Adding truck suspension lift kits will
undoubtedly raise the vehicle’s center of gravity, resulting in less
stable turns. This is a common issue when installing truck lift kits,
but is mostly just a matter of becoming accustomed to a vehicle’s
change in performance.
Legality: Some suspension lift kits are such a
serious change in your suspension system that it may not be legal.
Check the suspension regulations within your country, state, or
province to be sure.
A Few Useful Accessories: Before installing a lift
kit, it’s a good idea to first examine if any components will be
affected by your vehicle’s new height. Here are a few useful
accessories that may need to be upgraded:
- Brake Upgrades: Stock brakes can’t always accommodate larger tires, or will wear easily due to the added strain.
- Drivetrain and Differential:Axles, gears, differential covers, lockers and more ensure that your drivetrain is up to par with your suspension.
- Replacement Parts: Longer Control Arms and Track Bars to compensate for the additional height of your rig.
- Shocks: For those taller lifts, longer shocks will ensure the smoothest performance both on and off road.
- Other Parts: Steering linkage, slip yoke, drive shaft length,
u-joint angle, and brake lines are all worthy of consideration before
installing suspension lift kits.
Installing Suspension Lift Kits:
it comes time to install a lift kit, there are two ways possible ways
to go about it: install it yourself, or have a professional do the
job. Naturally, each has its advantages and disadvantages, and when it
comes to your rig, attention to detail is crucial. A general rule to
follow is that even if you know you want a large lift, it’s best to
start with a small lift and work your way up. This allows you to work
out any kinks and hindrances along the way to make sure your kit works
if you’re not technically inclined, taking the time to learn the
inner mechanics of your vehicle is a valuable experience that can save
you time and money. An intimate knowledge of your rig can
also allow you to make your own modifications to your vehicle if the
need arises. There are numerous resources available that
can usually guide you through the majority of the process;
however, one must keep in mind that it’s a lot to take in, and tweaking
the intricate components of your vehicle is no small matter. It’s
always a good idea to have a second set of hands or an
experienced individual assisting you.On the downside, even with
the increasing availability of bolt-on kits, installing suspension
lift kits is no easy task, particularly if you’re a beginner.
Additionally, certain instructions or resources can sometimes be
misleading or based upon the personal preferences of individual
gearheads. Often times, after installing a lift kit you’ll find
yourself spending hours tweaking the other components of your
vehicle to get them back to spec. That’s a whole lot to take on,
particularly if you’re inexperienced.
licensed professional installing your lift kit is typically the best
way to ensure that suspension lift kits are installed correctly,
so long as you’re willing to pay the labor charges. A
professional can perfectly tune your vehicle to your liking and
see to it that all components are working as they should, all within a
fraction of the time it would take even the most experienced
gearheads to install it themselves.On the other hand, as is
the case with regard to any mechanic, it might be difficult to
find one you can trust to install the kit properly while not
overcharging you for any unnecessary parts. Also, if you’re not a
gearhead, anytime there’s a functional deficiency or your vehicle
needs minor tweaking, you have no choice but to return to the
mechanic for service.
Suspension Lift Sizes:
small lift consists of 1.5 or fewer inches, and will grant you a
little more clearance and room to run slightly larger tires. The most
common way to gain a small lift is by using coil spacers in front and
long shackles in the rear.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Small lifts are inexpensive and easy to install with very few complications.
Medium: A medium lift is roughly 2″ of lift,
and is a good choice for those looking for the best tire clearance, but
aren’t planning on doing any off-roading. Common medium-sized lifts
use spacer and add-a-leaf lifts, and sometimes come with new shocks.
You’ll notice changes in handling and performance: some good,
some bad. You’ll also need strong rear springs, and if you plan
to use an add-a-leaf kit, later modification for more lift may be
difficult, since add-a-leafs are designed to lift stock springs.
Large: The largest lifts consist of 3 to 4″
or more for an aggressive look and the best off-road performance. A
common large lift setup consists of new front coils and add-a-leafs in
the rear, plus some combination of new front coils and new rear
springs. These kits often include a matching set of shocks.
Large lifts are obviously the most expensive, and more
complications are expected than with smaller lifts. On-road
performance will also be affected, sometimes dramatically.
But a large lift will transform your rig into an intimidating
off-road machine that will stand out among a crowd.
Types of Suspension Lift Kits:
Spring Over Axle (SPOA):
suspension lift kits are most popular among serious rock crawlers
looking for the utmost articulation (up and down wheel travel). These
truck lift kits keep the tires on the ground for maximum traction,
while correctly lifted springs lifts everything out of harm’s way,
including the springs.
Shackle Reverse (S/R) Suspension Lift Kits:
truck lift kits are designed to provide a smooth ride upon mild
terrain such as forest roads, desert driving, and scenic trails;
however, high-speed driving on highways is not recommended.
Coil Suspension Lift Kits:
choice of many of the world’s best-riding 4 wheel drive vehicles, Coil
Suspension Lift Kits offer unrivaled ride quality and cheaper springs,
but installation sometimes requires some welding. The end result,
however, is a suspension lift kit that provides excellent articulation
on the trail, and a comfortable ride you have to feel to believe.
Lifted Spring Suspension Lift Kits:
most commonly used type of truck lift kits in the world, Lifted Spring
systems are easier to install, and an excellent choice for first-time
lifters in the off-road world. These truck lift kits allow you to run
larger tires for additional clearance, while producing control on the
Shackle Suspension Lift Kits:
probably the most affordable way to add inches to your rig, Shackle
Suspension Lift Kits are primarily for the truck enthusiast looking to
add larger tires, yet are not intending to do much hardcore
off-roading. Moderation is recommended with these truck lift kits, as
Shackle systems are known to affect steering and sway control.
Billy Han currently resides in La Palma, CA, and works as a Copywriter for Transamerican Auto Parts, an aftermarket distributor of automotive parts and accessories. Transamerican Auto Parts, is a leading supplier of truck and Jeep lift kits. They carry a vast array of truck suspensions, lift kits, tires, wheels, and exterior or interior accessories. Jeep and Truck lift Kits are manufactured by a variety of manufacturers including Pro Comp, Fabtech, Superlift, Skyjacker.