When it comes to 4×4 ownership, the metric through which we measure our machines isn’t how it looks or even how it drives, but how much lift we can get.
Lift refers to, quite literally, the amount of lift in your vehicle’s suspension, with more lift allowing you to install larger tyres and gain greater ground clearance.
For serious off-roaders, the search for that extra bit of lift is almost eternal and there are various methods for doing so, each of which brings their own advantages and disadvantages to the table.
This is a complex topic, to put it lightly, with different manufacturers using vastly different components and setups. Here, the idea is to give you a basic overview of the principles involved.
The most popular option is a suspension upgrade kit because it offers the best all-round results, this option involves replacing at least your stock coil/leaf springs, and shock absorbers and perhaps more, depending on the vehicle and the kit.
Factory suspension will wear over time and a new suspension kit could breathe fresh life into your old ‘banger’. This replacement will give you the best ground clearance and should give you years of use but it is also the most expensive option.
A more cost-effective, though arguably less stable upgrade, this option quite literally involves lifting the body off the chassis with spacers.
This might be cheap but it also looks cheap and if the spacers are not installed properly you’ll probably experience problems with the location or angle of transmission and transfer case levers, steering columns, and other linkages and components.
The ride itself is unchanged, as the stock suspension is still in place. All you’re getting is a higher centre of gravity and the ability to install larger tyres.
Spring Spacers and Shackle Lifts
This is a method of extending your existing coil or leaf springs using spacers or longer shackles respectively. It’s a lower-cost option than a suspension kit upgrade but the drawbacks can render the subtle improvements in lift almost mute.
However, this is a common upgrade for company cars and leases, as they are easy to fit and easy to remove. Particularly quality kits such as the SuperPro Easy Lift Kit.
Some lesser quality kits, however, 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.
Taking a ‘best of both worlds’ approach seems like a great idea in theory but in practice, this is an option only for the most experienced owners and upgraders.
This means combining different types of suspension lifts to achieve an even greater overall lift and while it certainly can work it also generally leads to a poorer overall driving experience.
These combined suspension lifts do have their place but for 99% of drivers, it’s an incredibly costly and risky move.
Generally speaking, we’d always recommend a full suspension upgrade kit for most ‘regular’ drivers. These kits are designed to work specifically with your make and model and often come with manufacturers guarantees.
It is the more costly option but it’s a relatively easy install for a self-fit and you’ll be left with something that will give you years and years of driving and lots and lots of lift.
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