Looking for a Leveling Kit? Here are Some Do’s and Don’t’s
A leveling kit is one of the easiest ways for you to provide added clearance needed for bigger wheels on your vehicle, but buying one is not as easy as it seems. In this guide, we will share with you some do's and don'ts when buying a leveling kit:
- DO understand that leveling kits may potentially alter or damage your vehicle's suspension. Leveling kits are basically suspension modifications that are not officially sanctioned by the vehicle manufacturer, so there's a risk that the kit may negatively affect the suspension. Thankfully, the risk is fairly low, but it is a fact that car owners have to know and accept before purchasing and installing this kit.
- DO buy a kit that's tailored for your vehicle. There are leveling kits that specially designed for specific makes and models. So using a Ford kit for a GMC truck, for example, is nearly impossible and even potentially dangerous. So before taking the kit to the counter, make sure that it is compatible for the exact model and make of your ride. Kits come with labels detailing what vehicle it is meant for, and don't hesitate to ask for help when searching for a particular kit.
- DO have the kit installed by a professional mechanic. As we have pointed out earlier, installing a leveling kit can potentially hamper or damage your car's suspension. So it's best that it is done by a professional. It might cost you, but it's a lot cheaper than having a broken suspension repaired.
- DON'T buy refurbished leveling kits. Leveling kits have a hundred-dollar price tag or higher, so it's not a surprise if there are many secondhand refurbished kits circulating in the market at a cheaper price. However, it is not advisable to use these kits as their integrity may have already been compromised and potentially endanger you and your vehicle.
- DON'T buy a kit that offers more than 3 inches of additional space. This is because adding clearance way more than 3 inches can put the geometry of the struts and the suspension way off mark. In addition, it can also put a lot of strain on the CV joints, tie rods, and upper control arms.
- DON'T buy from forums or Craigslist. Given the high demand for these types of kits, scamming incidents are high. Instead, stick with major online sellers.
Beginner’s Guide to Installing A Leveling Kit
Putting oversized tires in a pickup or SUV used to involve taking the vehicle to a garage for an overhaul, but nowadays the process can be as simple as using a leveling kit. Consisting of spacers and other hardware, leveling kits provide additional clearance in between the hat of the strut and the strut bracket, creating enough space for a bigger tire in the process. The kit is best done by a professional mechanic, but if you have the time and the skills on hand you can do the installation yourself.
Difficulty level: Moderate
- 15mm Socket and a matching wrench
- 18mm deep socket
- 21mm deep socket
- 30mm socket
- 1-1/16-inch wrench
- Breaker bar socket wrench
- Pitman arm puller (optional)
- Pry bar
Step 1: Loosen the lug nuts with a socket wrench or tire iron. If your wheels have a center cap covering the nuts, pry it off with the flat portion of the tire iron. Make sure to cover the tire iron with a piece of cloth to avoid scratching the cap.
Step 2: Chock the rear wheels, put the vehicle in neutral, and lift it with the jack. Do not engage the parking brake as the rear wheels need to have some wiggle room for the jack to work properly. Once the vehicle is high enough, place two jack stands on the frame.
Step 3: Unscrew the lug nuts, remove the tires, and unbolt the sway bar end link from the control arm.
Step 4: Loosen the upper ball joint but do not remove it completely. Use the hammer or a Pitman arm puller to dislodge the joint from the spindle. Avoid hitting the ball joint or control arm or you may damage both components.
Step 5: Loosen the lower strut bolt. This can prove to be quite a tough nut to loosen, so you may want to use a breaker bar on this one.
Step 6: Once the strut bolt is out of the way, place the jack under the lower control arm and remove the upper ball joint nut. Next, use a pry bar to lift the upper control arm and remove the spindle.
Step 7: Remove the three nuts holding the strut top to its bracket. Once they're gone, let the jack slowly drop the lower control arm and strut assembly.
Step 8: Install the spacers on top of the strut. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Once that's done, reverse the process and you now have the leveling kit installed.