Lift Kit Do’s and Don’ts
- What are your intentions for your truck? This is the question you need to ask yourself before going any further. If you are just going to use the truck for an occasional off-road foray, but most of the time it’s going to be on the pavement, you do not need a 4” lift kit and oversized tires. The taller the lift kit, the more complicated and expensive things are going to become (we’ll get into that in a second).
- Any changes in ride height are likely to cause some changes in your truck’s drivability. That means ride quality, steering, handling and road manners, and chances are you are going to notice some vibrations and other quirks that weren’t there before, especially if your lift kit installation isn’t well thought out.
- A 1.5” lift kit is a good starting point. This type of lift will usually consist of coil spacers in front and longer shackles, or possibly blocks, in the rear. A mild lift like this will usually offer few complications and is typically affordable and easy to install.
- Next up is a 2” or 2.5” lift, typically consisting of spacer and add-a-leaf kits. At this point, you’ll also usually need new shock absorbers with longer tubes. You’ll also notice a difference in handling with a medium-height lift kit like this.
- A 3-4” lift kit is where things really start to get complicated; these types of lift kits are essentially a redesign of the entire front suspension and need to be done correctly. For an extreme lift like this, you’re likely to need new shocks, longer brake lines, driveshaft spacers, drop Pitman arms, alignment shims and possibly other steering and driveline modifications to retain the proper geometry. At this point, a steering damper might also be necessary to correct a tendency toward wander and bump steer.
An improperly-designed-and-installed lift kit can lead to all sorts of problems. It can mean premature wear of driveline and suspension components, squirrelly and possibly unsafe handling on pavement and a whole host of other issues. Past a certain point, after all, you are essentially trying to re-engineer the truck’s undercarriage, and there are many, many unintended consequences and things to take into account. And that’s not even touching on some of the headaches that can go along with oversize tires…
Too many times, guys with trucks have taken on the job of installing a lift kit themselves, only to get in over their heads. Issues often don’t present themselves until after the lift is installed, and alignment, track, steering and everything else have to be brought back to spec. That means hours under the rig in the driveway, tweaking everything over and over again trying to find the sweet spot.