How to pick the right lift kit for your truck

How to pick the right lift kit for your truck

Your truck is your baby. It takes you wherever you want to go. Maybe you want to go farther, do more off-road. Or maybe you just want to improve the look of your truck with bigger wheels and tires. Whatever the reason, you want to lift your truck.

This is a big decision, and not just because it can be expensive. While there are affordable lift kits, factoring in the cost of wheels and tires and other additional work you may have to do, it’s important to get it right the first time. Here are a few tips for installing a lift kit on your truck.

Form vs. function

You have a couple of choices when it comes to lift kits. Do you primarily want to affect the look of your truck or its off-road performance? Do you want a mix of both? Once you’ve decided that, there are other considerations as well. What size tires do you want on your truck? What kind of wheels? Will you do the work yourself or hire someone to do it for you?

These factors not only affect the cost of the project but how your truck will function once the lift is complete. Even the smallest of kits will change how your truck rides both on and off road. New tire sizes will do the same. Determining where your truck will spend most of its time, whether that’s commuting to work or tearing up the dirt on the weekend will impact the type and size of lift you choose.

Two lift types

There are essentially two types of lift kits: a suspension lift and a body lift. The body lift does exactly what it sounds like: it lifts the body off the frame, giving you more clearance for larger wheels and tires.

The suspension lift actually involves replacing parts of your suspension and parts related to your drivetrain, and can give you more actual ground clearance and clearance for even larger tires and wheels.

Of the two types, the suspension lift is the more expensive and difficult to install. But if you’re looking for off-road performance, it’s probably your best choice. Because the suspension components are actually modified, the ride of the truck can be adjusted to meet your needs, and ground clearance can be increased dramatically.

The downside is the higher you lift your truck, the more components you’ll have to replace to keep it functional. With both lifts, you’ll likely need extended brake lines. But with a body lift, you may not need to change some steering components or drivetrain parts. With a suspension lift, on the other hand, these part changes often become necessary, along with modifications of the rear end and driveshaft to prevent excessive u-joint wear and other issues, and the front CV axles to prevent joint separation.

With body lifts, there are other considerations. You might need spacers to relocate the radiator and transmission cooler so they remain in the optimal cooling position. Other engine modifications might be needed.

Typically, with a body lift, you can move up to 33-35" tires. Anything beyond that, a suspension lift is essential. There are a variety of heights in suspension lifts, but usually 6" is the limit without more serious modifications.

Installing a body lift is pretty simple and nearly anyone can do it. A suspension lift takes some mechanical knowledge and shouldn’t be attempted on your own unless you have the right tools and the expertise needed. How will these lift kits affect your ride?

Mileage may vary

The first thing you’ll notice with any lift is lower fuel mileage. This is usually due to the greater rolling resistance of larger tires. This reduces the responsiveness of your truck in cornering as well. The wider and taller your tires, the more reduction you will see in mileage.

Keep in mind you’re increasing the gross vehicle weight of your truck by adding heavier tires and wheels. This means your motor will work harder to move everything along, so you’ll be sacrificing some speed and mileage as well.

Aligning it all

Yes, the handling of your truck will be affected and so will the mileage. But if you’re not aware and careful, lift kits will also impact your alignment, and therefore how long your tires will last, unless you make corrections. Here are a few tips:

  • Get tougher tie rod ends, ones with larger adjustment than your stock ones, or you may break them. The same is true of ball joints, A-arms, and more. The more you beef up the components around your suspension, the less likely they are to fail and the easier it will be to achieve a good alignment.
  • Look at steering components. Idler arms and the like will often need to be replaced with longer and stronger components to improve alignment.
  • Go to a specialty shop. Yes, almost any decent mechanic with a good machine can do an alignment, but a shop that specializes in four-wheel drive vehicles can get you a much better and more accurate alignment and do it more quickly than another shop can. They can also tell you what new components you might need and will probably have them in stock.

Alignment is vital to your truck’s handling and the wear on important parts of the steering, suspension, and driveline.

Lifting your truck is a good way to improve both looks and the way it performs for you in off-road situations. Determine the balance you want between the two, how much you want to spend, and what exactly you want your truck to look and feel like. Then you can proceed with lifting your truck.

Have a question about lifting your truck and what size tire you’ll need? Give us a call at (866) 961-8668 and we can help.

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