There are many reasons a driver would want to lift their truck, such as that special “cool factor” or the improvement of its off-road capabilities. Considering that the top three best-selling vehicles in 2019 were pickups, the know-how to lift a truck is an in-demand skill every mechanic should have. Below are answers to frequently asked questions to help you get started.
What are the differences between a body lift kit and a suspension lift kit?
As its name implies, body lifting refers to the use of spacers to raise the cab up to 3-inches from its frame to enable larger tires. This provides a higher center of gravity and an elevated line-of-sight without the added costs and labor that comes with lifting the bed. Amateur mechanics will find the installation of this type fairly easy, considering that there are much fewer parts for them to replace. Plus, handling will feel the same as if the truck had not been lifted. The major downside is that body lift kits don’t increase ground clearance and can only raise the truck a few inches.
Alternatively, a suspension lift raises the frame from the ground for increased clearance, making this the ideal option for off-road vehicles. What’s more, mechanics can achieve overall greater heights. However, suspension lifts require more parts and labor, leading to higher costs. What’s more, there are greater chances of damaging the vehicle if not installed by an experienced professional.
When should a leveling kit be used instead of a lift kit?
Naturally, a truck’s rear rides slightly higher than the front in order to counter any sagging that comes from hauling heavy loads. However, when the bed is not weighed down, the variance in height can create a look that some consider being unattractive. For this, a leveling kit offers an easy fix.
Lift kits inherently level the vehicle as well, eliminating the need to use both. So when should a mechanic use one versus the other? The determining factor is the height. Leveling kits will raise the truck a maximum of 2 inches while suspension kits are preferable for lifting a truck greater than 4 inches.
What are the common mistakes amateur mechanics should avoid?
- Do not assume lift kits are one-size-fits-all. Reputable lift kit manufacturers will make clear which vehicles it is compatible with, so do your research.
- Make sure the amount you’re lifting the truck makes sense in light of the desired tire sizes. Generally speaking:
– A 33” tire requires a 1-2 inch lift to provide optimal tire clearance
– A 35” tire requires a 2.5-4 inch lift
– A 37” tire requires a 3.5-4 inch lift
– A 40” tire requires a 6-inch lift
Treat these as loose suggestions, as the exact amount a truck should be raised depends on the specific model. To find real-world examples and feedback from users, check out this helpful gallery from Custom Offsets in which users provide information about their lift kit, tire-size, and whether they experience issues like rubbing.
- Respect the complexities that come with added height. The amount of mechanical work that is required grows exponentially with each new inch added to the height. For example, the gear ratio will need adjusting to accommodate the larger wheels; this amount starts off with 3-4 miles an hour for 4-inch lift kits and only increases as the tire-size expands.
Many mechanics cap themselves at 6-inches to maintain the vehicle’s health. Anything higher, and you require a significant number of replacements to the OEM parts, as well as risk the integrity of components like the steering gearbox. This can lead to “death wobbles” in which a small bump causes the steering to abruptly yank to the side.
Do lifted trucks require additional regular maintenance
All the bolts that come with the kit have a torque spec and are required to be retorqued on a semi-regular basis. Many manufacturers recommend this occur every 500 miles but check with the maker of your specific kit for details.
Additionally, shock absorbers will wear out over time and will need to be replaced. The frequency depends upon the type of vehicle, the size of the lift, and the off-roading conditions.
How can you tell if a vehicle is equipped to be lifted?
As long as the OEM equipment is in sound condition—for example, no rust and a structurally sound substrate—a truck can be lifted.
How much do lift kits typically cost?
Higher lift kits come with more parts, further driving up cost. Other factors include your truck model and the kit’s brand. However, generally speaking, a leveling or body lift kit will come in a lower price range of $100 – $1000. By comparison, suspension lifts can cost $300 – $12,000. While it’s unlikely that most drivers seeking a smaller height change will spend anywhere close to $12,000, it’s advisable to steer clear of the cheapest options on the market.
When choosing the right provider, consider whether the kit comes with all the necessary equipment and is backed by a warranty. Also, check online reviews for both the product and the manufacturer.
How can I make sure that the lifted truck is legal?
Make sure that both you and the driver are familiar with the regulations in your state. Liftlaws.com makes it easy for you to find up-to-date information on maximum bumper and frame height, as well as state-specific restrictions on body lifts.
Does lifting a truck impact its insurance coverage?
If the insurance company is willing to cover a lifted vehicle, expect a higher price through a policy endorsement. This does not due to added risk, but rather the added costs that would come with repairing or replacing a damaged lift kit should the vehicle be involved in a collision. If drivers fail to notify their insurance provider about the lifting of their vehicle, they should expect no reimbursement for the lift kit if damaged.
Take note: not all insurance companies will cover lifted trucks, particularly if the height increase exceeds 6-inches.
In Conclusion . . .
Key takeaways for beginning mechanics wanting to lift a truck should be to start small (perhaps with a leveling kit) and to conduct proper research into what equipment is best for your particular model. Major manufacturers provide ample information online including fitment and installation instructions, so make sure to review these carefully prior to making your purchase.
If you’re not a professional mechanic, it’s always advisable to consult with a nearby service center. They may be able to help you fine-tune the truck’s steering and wheel alignment to ensure optimal safety and performance.
Contributed by Shop Foreman Randy Friedman and Master-Certified Sales Consultant Jeff Liberty from Bo Beuckman Quality Ford.