Suspension Lift Kit Buyer’s Guide
- A suspension lift raises the vehicle's profile, increases the room in the wheel well to fit larger tires, and improves the off-road capability of a Jeep, pickup, or SUV.
- Some vehicles feature a raked stance. Their front suspension sits lower than the rear suspension.
- Disadvantages of a suspension lift kit include a higher center of gravity, increased instability, and reduced traction.
- In comparison, a body lift kit lifts the vehicle’s body away from its frame. It raises the vehicle’s ride height but doesn’t change its ground clearance. It offers different advantages and comes with its own drawbacks.
- At CarParts.com, suspension lift kits come in either a kit, a 4-spring set, or a set of 2 units. They can cost anywhere between $83 and $6,431.
- Select a suspension lift kit compatible with your vehicle. Check the kit’s parts to see if you will need to get additional parts. Last but not least, lift as much as necessary, but as little as possible.
Feeling the need to make your Jeep, pickup, or SUV taller? Planning to install larger wheels and tires on it? A lift kit can raise your vehicle’s ride height to improve its profile and fit those shiny wheels.
However, when you want to raise your vehicle to increase its ground clearance and ability to cross rough terrain, you want a suspension lift kit. This guide can help you pick the best kit for your vehicle.
What is a suspension lift kit?
This lift kit contains aftermarket parts required for giving your vehicle a suspension lift. It increases the vehicle’s ride height by making the suspension longer and raising the entire vehicle.
A suspension lift serves two purposes. Cosmetically, it can improve the vehicle’s appearance by raising its profile and makes room in the wheel well to fit larger tires.
In practical terms, installing the suspension lift makes it easier for the vehicle to tackle rough roads and off-road terrain. A lifted Jeep, pickup, or SUV can handle steeper angles and climb over taller obstacles thanks to its greater ground clearance.
When combined with larger tires designed for off-road use, the suspension lifted vehicle enjoys even better cross-country capabilities. The classic monster truck takes this concept to the extreme, chewing up terrain and old cars like their namesake beasties.
Some vehicles feature a raked stance. Their front suspension sits lower than the rear suspension.
Most suspension lift kits raise both the front and rear parts of the suspension system. The lifted vehicle keeps its raked stance.
A leveling kit, meanwhile, only lifts the front suspension and brings it to the same level as the rear suspension. By putting both suspensions at the same height, it gets rid of the raked stance.
Disadvantages of a suspension lift kit
A suspension lifted vehicle also comes with several drawbacks. While these disadvantages don’t outweigh their advantages, keep them in mind to avoid getting an unpleasant surprise.
Lifting the vehicle not only makes it taller and increases ground clearance but also raises its center of gravity. A lifted vehicle becomes more liable to tipping over while making sudden or sharp turns or when driven on a side slope.
Lifted vehicles also suffer from reduced traction. Their higher center of gravity makes it harder for their wheels to grip the ground surface, especially when it’s slippery from rain or snow.
Difference between a suspension lift kit and a body lift kit
Body lift kits offer another way to make your vehicle taller. They achieve this effect by raising the vehicle’s body away from its frame.
Unlike a suspension lift, a body lift doesn’t fiddle with the suspension. It also leaves the frame in place.
A body lift enjoys several advantages over a suspension lift kit:
- A body lift kit costs less. It doesn’t replace important and expensive parts of your vehicle like the axles, shock absorbers, and driveshaft.
- It doesn't change the way the vehicle handles. A suspension lifted vehicle may become more prone to rolling because of its raised center of gravity. In contrast, a body lifted vehicle handles like one fresh from the factory.
- It's much easier to install a body lift kit. You install fewer parts and only alter the vehicle’s body, which saves time and effort.
A suspension lift, meanwhile, offers the following benefits:
- It improves the vehicle’s off-road performance. A suspension lift raises the entire vehicle higher off the ground. It also changes the suspension system to handle the increased height.
- It offers a wider range of lift sizes. A suspension lift can raise your vehicle anywhere between 2 to 9 inches. In comparison, a body lift can only increase the height from 2 to 5 inches.
If you just want to make your vehicle taller or fit bigger tires, you can get away with a body lift. But if you have serious plans to go off-roading, don’t settle for anything less than a suspension lift.
Suspension lift kit pricing
The price tag of a suspension lift kit depends on the manufacturer, the quantity and types of parts in the kit, and the lift height.
At CarParts.com, suspension lift kits come in either a kit, a 4-spring set, or a set of 2 units. A Skyjacker 3-inch lift kit can cost $83 while a TeraFlex Alpine CT6 6-inch lift kit goes for $6,431.
Picking the right suspension lift kit for your vehicle
Get a compatible kit for your vehicle
A suspension lift kit contains parts intended to lift a specific vehicle model. You cannot install a 2019 Ram 1500 air suspension lift kit on a Jeep Cherokee, given the difference in the dimension and parts of the two vehicles.
To find the right suspension lift kit for your vehicle, take advantage of CarParts.com’s filter bar. Enter your vehicle’s year, make, and model in the bar to go through the site’s extensive list of lift kits for a guaranteed fit.
Check the parts of the suspension kit
Always check the parts included in the suspension lift kit you plan to buy. Some kits only come with crucial or rare parts. You may need to purchase other parts and hardware to complete the lifting job.
Lift as much as necessary, but as little as possible
This saying guides many vehicle owners and auto shop technicians who install suspension lift kits.
Raising your vehicle’s ride height can drastically change its suspension system and characteristics. A lifted vehicle may need a longer driveshaft to reach the transmission system and extended brake lines to control the brakes, and it may prove more unstable on the road.
That’s why you need to determine just how high you want to lift your vehicle before looking for ways to raise it with the minimum amount of modification. Combining a body lift kit with a suspension lift kit is one way to get the best of both worlds while minimizing the problems experienced by a lifted vehicle.
Minor lift jobs require relatively few and simple parts. Their suspension lift kits include lift blocks, spacers, and longer shock absorbers. They may also contain specialized parts from the steering and transmission systems, like axles and driveshafts.
Bigger lift jobs will require many more complex parts found in the drivetrain, steering, and suspension systems. Removing those old parts and replacing them will use more time, money, and effort.
Buying the Right Suspension Lift Kit for Your Vehicle
With bigger tires, come bigger responsibilities. Vehicles used for off-road purposes usually have abused suspension systems that come from their monster tires. That's why it is important to protect your ride from the extreme road conditions and debris. This is done with the use of a suspension lift kit. But how do you know which kit it perfect for your off-roading lifestyle? There are some basic types of suspension lift kits, each having its best application.
Spring Over Axle (SpOA)
If you want to go extreme, then a Spring Over Axle lift kit is ideal for this type of wheeling. It lifts your vehicle approximately 4.5" inches, giving you enough clearance for 31" tires. But this height is not what makes it popular among the rock crawling off-roaders. It also offers more side-to-side deflection for your springs and maximizes your vehicle's articulation (the way your wheels travel up and down). This kind of suspension lift kit will give larger tires lesser traction and allow it to climb rougher terrain, such as rocky mountains and muddy landscapes. So if you're looking for a suspension lift with the best power (and is relatively inexpensive and easy to install), a spring over axle type is the way to go.
Are you strap on cash and you want to lift your 4WD without the expensive upgrades? Then you can try installing a shackle reverse suspension lift kit on your vehicle. It is also preferred by a majority of do-it-yourselfers because of the ease of its installation. However, there are a lot of complications when choosing this type of lift. Aside from the fact that it cannot be used on short wheelbase vehicles, it is also not recommended if you plan to do some highway driving. This kind of kit does not offer the flexibility you will need if you plan to drive your 4WD both on the streets and off-road.
The best and most flexible kind of suspension lift kit is the coil suspension. It offers unparalleled suspension travel and allows you to have a butter-smooth ride, whether on rough terrains or flat highways. This kind of suspension lift is probably the most expensive kind of lifts out in the market. It needs a substantial amount of work to manufacture, which in turn gives out the best technology in suspension lift kits.
Another commonly used suspension lift kit is the lifted springs type. It offers a good starting point for drivers who want to try their hand out on off-roading. It is fairly easy to install and it also offers the same flexibility as coil suspensions at a considerably lower price. It can run on larger tires and provides good clearance, all while still offering a good controlled 'feel' when on the highway.
Install a Suspension Lift Like a Pro
For good looks, better handling, and improved vehicle performance, giving the vehicle suspension a little boost is a must. To enjoy the benefits from this upgrade, make sure that you install the suspension lift kit the right way. For that, you need a detailed installation guide. Well, here are the steps you need to know to work like a pro even if for your first time:
Tools you need:
IMPORTANT: Check your suspension lift kit. Make sure it comes with bump stops, rear riser blocks and U-bolts, front differential and torsion bar drop brackets, a skid plate, brake hoses, and a reinforced subframe. This is a job that is best done with help from a friend.
Step 1: Jack up your vehicle and put it on a stand.
Step 2: Remove the torsion bars and crossmember.
Step 3: Take out the steering knuckles, shock absorbers, and lower control arms at the front.
Step 4: Position the subframe for the transfer case and secure it with the drop-down brackets, but don't tighten them all the way.
Step 5: Cut off about ? -inch of your tie rod to correct the alignment of your steering.
Step 6: Mount the new and longer brake hoses from your new suspension lift kit.
Step 7: Install the shock absorbers.
Step 8: Use the bump stop and its spacer to compensate for your suspension's new height.
Step 9: The exhaust system may need a little bending to give your driveshaft enough clearance, but you can choose to splice in a curved tube if you don't want to alter your system.
Step 10: Tap bolt holes of frame members to install the torsion bar's drop-down brackets.
Step 11: Install the torsion bar crossmember back in place.
Step 12: The torsion bar has a supporting part called ?pork chop', which you need to put tension on. You can do that with the use of a C-clamp.
Step 1: Remove your old shocks and replace them with the longer shocks in the kit.
Step 2: Unbolt the leaf spring brackets and install the rear riser blocks between the axle and the leaf springs. Secure them with the U-bolts in the kit.
Step 3: Install the skid plate and you are done!