LIFT YOUR VEHICLE
There are several different ways to lift your truck or 4×4. Here we explain the most common methods and the benefits and drawbacks. This is a complex topic, and different manufacturers use varying components and setups, so the aim of this article is to give a basic overview of the principles involved.
Monocoque vehicles (many modern vans and campers, cars and SUV/soft-roaders) are constructed differently from traditional body-on-frame 4WD vehicles and trucks, so the following points do not apply. Brands such as Van Compass offer specialist kits for vans, including the Sprinter and Transit, and provide an engineered solution which, although a type of body lift, is different from the basic body lift kits referred to below.
Specialist modifications such as SPOA (spring over axle) conversions are not covered here, as they are quite specialist and not something we generally recommend. Such conversions require a fairly high level of skill and are not useful for most roadgoing vehicles.
Suspension Upgrade Kits
This is the most common way to lift an off-road vehicle, and will give you the best all-round results. Generally, fitting a suspension lift means replacing your coil or leaf springs, your shock absorbers, and sometimes other key components. For an older vehicle, this can give you a new lease of life as your factory suspension becomes weaker over time and can introduce handling and cornering issues.
A quality replacement suspension package will last for years, increase ground clearance, and give you a controlled ride. This is typically the most expensive option, but is the only one we would recommend in most cases.
Installing a body lift is usually the cheapest option, and it has its drawbacks. Typically, this involves lifting the vehicle’s body off the frame or chassis and inserting some spacers. This creates a gap between the body and the frame, which can look odd. Some vehicles can experience problems with the location or angle of transmission and transfer case levers, steering columns, and other linkages and components.
As the vehicle still has its original suspension, the ride will be unchanged – aside from the higher centre of gravity. Body lifts are a low-cost way to make room for larger wheels and tyres, but unexpected costs can add up in some cases. Aside from any tyre-related height increase, ground clearance is not improved.
Spring Spacers/Shackle Lifts
The final option is to extend your coil springs by adding spacers, or your leaf springs by fitting longer shackles. This can give more ground clearance (depending on suspension type) as it lifts your body and chassis and is a lower cost option than a full suspension replacement. However, some kits can put stress on your suspension and lead to premature component failure, and factory shock absorbers can be too short, causing ‘topping out’ and eventual leaking.
Ride characteristics tend to change, making the vehicle less pleasant to drive and less stable.
Occasionally, vehicle owners combine the different lift types to achieve a larger overall lift. We do not recommend doing this without careful consideration, and it is rarely a good idea for your daily driver. Larger lifts can lead to vague handling, cornering instability and body roll, premature drivetrain component failure, access issues to passenger and load areas, and driveline vibrations. Combined lifts have their place, but we recommend careful consideration before going down this route.