|4x4 & Lift Kit FAQ's
Some answers for the
Lift Kits and Lift Kit Suspensions
You see them all the time: Light trucks, Sport
Utility Vehicles, Jeeps, and more, coasting down the highway, sitting atop
towering truck suspension lift kits and sporting a set of tires so big that
a person could live in them. If you’re the curious type looking to lift up
your own rig, a more important question than “How do I get my ride to do
that” is “Why should my ride do that?”
There are several reasons why people might
customize their vehicles with suspension lift kits, as well as quite a bit
to know before you get started. If you’re a seasoned veteran who has
conquered the most vicious terrains and knows your vehicle better than your
own mother, there probably isn’t much for you to learn here. On the other
hand, if you’re just getting started and want to familiarize yourself with
the basics, read on.
Why should I lift my ride?
Glad you asked. Equipping vehicles with a suspension lift kits involves much
more than buying the sexiest looking truck lift kit and then dropping your
ride off at the local mechanic. Actually, chances are good that if that’s
all you plan to do, lifting your ride might not be right for you in the
first place. Installing truck suspension lift kits requires some hard work,
a bit of technical savvy and consistent upkeep and attention to your
The first determination you need to make when considering suspension lift
kits is what you want to do with it. There are essentially two main purposes
for installing truck lift kits: style or function. Although the two are
somewhat interrelated, it’s still important to consider which purpose you
most wish to pursue, as it will assist you in making the correct
modifications to your vehicle.
Let’s face it: Transforming a vehicle into a style statement has been a
popular hobby ever since the advent of tailfins and flame decals. As much as
we all might chuckle at a hybrid hatchback sitting on 18” wheels, or the
family sedan with a wing that resembles the Seattle Space Needle more than a
spoiler, we also find our own vehicles having fuzzy dice hanging from the
mirror, or a bobbling hula dancer statuette on the dash. As far as style is
concerned, adding truck lift kits makes more of an impression than anything
else you can do to your ride. Heads turn instantly at the sight of a lifted
rig with massive tires that appear to be sprouting fangs and an exhaust
system that scares stray puppies into hiding.
When it comes to adding suspension lift kits to make a style statement,
looking good is the easy part. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook general,
everyday performance in the midst of decking out a ride. For this reason,
choosing the right suspension lift kit with attention to comfort,
reliability, durability, safety, and not to mention price, should be given
just as much consideration as those precious inches you want to add.
you’ve made the jump into tuning your rig for the off-road world, and you’re
ready to take the plunge to invest in one of many truck lift kits. But
before diving headfirst into a custom truck lift kit and gigantic tires,
there are a number of issues to address to ensure a correct setup. The first
step is to ask yourself what you will be doing the most, whether it’s
slow-speed rock crawling, high-speed desert racing, general purpose 4
wheeling, mud racing, or long distance open country treks. From there, you
can narrow down what you need to do in order to customize your vehicle to
suit your needs.
Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re the experienced professional,
tuning your rig for optimum off-road performance is an expansive hobby with
numerous factors to be wary of. The possibilities are limitless, which can
sometimes make it hard to determine exactly which suspension lift kits are
ideal for what you want.
Where do I begin?
if determining which suspension lift kits to purchase weren’t complicated
enough, installing truck lift kits can alter other components in your
vehicle, sometimes causing unforeseen issues that could affect performance
or be potentially detrimental to the vehicle itself. For example, drive
shaft length, steering geometry, brake lines, highway performance and
handling, gear ratios, and overall weight are just a few of the factors that
could potentially be impacted by adding truck suspension lift kits.
Finding ample resources to determine what products you need can be
difficult. Speaking with an Alpha Auto Repair mechanic can provide some
insight. Reading factory service manuals, off-road magazines, internet
message boards, manufacturer’s guides, and a number of other resources can
help as well. But by far the most useful way to determine what truck lift
kits are right for you and your vehicle is to consult an experienced and
knowledgeable person who has a vehicle similar to yours and uses it in the
manner similar to what you want to do. Not only can such a person suggest
the correct products, but also likely has experience with installation tips
and general drivability.
the meantime, here are some of the basic elements of suspension lift kits
for you to keep in mind as you plan your modifications.
What does a Suspension Lift Kit do?
For starters, one of the foremost reasons for installing truck suspension
lift kits is to raise the height of your ride off the ground to enable
steeper ascent or descent off-road, and higher ground clearance. In
general, it makes sense that when driving over boulders, slogging through
mud, coasting across the desert, or even just making your way through the
occasional forest trail, higher clearance facilitates negotiating certain
obstacles. This can often be a tricky bit of artistry to manage, as higher
clearance also raises your vehicle’s center of gravity, which can reduce
Larger Tire Fitment
The general consensus suggests that larger tires equate to more traction,
right? Well, not entirely. While larger tires may provide some improvement
to traction in off-road conditions, there are other ways to improve a
vehicle’s traction that are far more efficient than simply bulking up the
rubber. Aside from the obvious stylistic discretion, the main reasons for
adding larger tires are for higher vehicle clearance for improved
performance in mud, deep snow, rocks, and deeply rutted trails. Certain
tires designed specifically for off-road conditions can improve traction
depending on the circumstances, but the added clearance is the most
immediate and direct benefit of larger tires.
Factors to Consider with Truck Suspension Lift Kits:
Installation: Many manufacturers offer manuals for
installing truck lift kits onto certain vehicles; however, some
installations are quite intricate, requiring some welding or cutting in
order to add some necessary components. In this case, having a trusted
mechanic or a few knowledgeable friends is the best resolution.
Additional Modifications: Upgrading to truck lift kits
with taller tires also means that a number of components may require part
upgrades or some tuning to compensate. For instance, a truck’s engine is
tuned at specific gear ratios to propel the vehicle. When adding taller
tires, the gear ratios must be tweaked accordingly, since the engine has
to spin much larger, heavier tires. Again, consult with more experienced
individuals for further insight.
Highway Performance: Larger, wider tires can sometimes
result in instability on roads or a noisy, uncomfortable ride,
particularly at high speeds. Also, more aggressive off-road tires tend to
wear faster on the highway, and traction might not be as great as you
would expect on wet roads. In this sense, larger tires can sometimes be a
gamble without any direction from an experienced off-road veteran.
Weight: larger tires are heavier, which can put a lot of
strain on your suspension, particularly if it’s a stock suspension.
Trusted, durable suspension components and lighter aluminum wheels can
sometimes help to reduce the strain.
Handling: Adding truck suspension lift kits will
undoubtedly raise the vehicle’s center of gravity, resulting in less
stable turns. This is a common issue when installing truck lift kits, but
is mostly just a matter of becoming accustomed to a vehicle’s change in
Legality: Some suspension lift kits are such a serious
change in your suspension system that it may not be legal. Check the
suspension regulations within your country, state, or province to be sure.
A Few Useful Accessories: Before installing a lift kit,
it’s a good idea to first examine if any components will be affected by
your vehicle’s new height. Here are a few useful accessories that may need
to be upgraded:
Brake Upgrades: Stock brakes can’t always accommodate larger tires, or
will wear easily due to the added strain.
Drivetrain and Differential:Axles, gears, differential covers, lockers and
more ensure that your drivetrain is up to par with your suspension.
Replacement Parts: Longer Control Arms and Track Bars to compensate for
the additional height of your rig.
Shock Absorbers: For those taller lifts, longer shocks will ensure the
smoothest performance both on and off road.
Other Parts: Steering linkage, slip yoke, drive shaft length, u-joint
angle, and brake lines are all worthy of consideration before installing
suspension lift kits.
Installing Suspension Lift Kits:
When it comes time to install a lift kit, there are two ways possible ways
to go about it: install it yourself, or have a professional do the job.
Naturally, each has its advantages and disadvantages, and when it comes to
your rig, attention to detail is crucial. A general rule to follow is that
even if you know you want a large lift, it’s best to start with a small lift
and work your way up. This allows you to work out any kinks and hindrances
along the way to make sure your kit works right.
Even if you’re not technically inclined, taking the time to learn the
inner mechanics of your vehicle is a valuable experience that can save you
time and money. An intimate knowledge of your rig can also allow you to
make your own modifications to your vehicle if the need arises. There are
numerous resources available that can usually guide you through the
majority of the process; however, one must keep in mind that it’s a lot to
take in, and tweaking the intricate components of your vehicle is no small
matter. It’s always a good idea to have a second set of hands or an
experienced individual assisting you.
On the downside, even with the increasing
availability of bolt-on kits, installing suspension lift kits is no easy
task, particularly if you’re a beginner. Additionally, certain
instructions or resources can sometimes be misleading or based upon the
personal preferences of individual gearheads. Often times, after
installing a lift kit you’ll find yourself spending hours tweaking the
other components of your vehicle to get them back to spec. That’s a whole
lot to take on, particularly if you’re inexperienced.
A licensed professional installing your lift kit is typically the best way
to ensure that suspension lift kits are installed correctly, so long as
you’re willing to pay the labor charges. A professional can perfectly tune
your vehicle to your liking and see to it that all components are working
as they should, all within a fraction of the time it would take even the
most experienced gearheads to install it themselves.
Suspension Lift Sizes:
small lift consists of 1.5 or fewer inches, and will grant you a little more
clearance and room to run slightly larger tires. The most common way to gain
a small lift is by using coil spacers in front and long shackles in the
medium lift is roughly 2” of lift, and is a good choice for those looking
for the best tire clearance, but aren’t planning on doing any off-roading.
Common medium-sized lifts use spacer and add-a-leaf lifts, and sometimes
come with new shocks.
Advantages/Disadvantages: You’ll notice changes in
handling and performance: some good, some bad. You’ll also need strong
rear springs, and if you plan to use an add-a-leaf kit, later modification
for more lift may be difficult, since add-a-leafs are designed to lift
The largest lifts consist of 3 to 4” or more for an aggressive look and the
best off-road performance. A common large lift setup consists of new front
coils and add-a-leafs in the rear, plus some combination of new front coils
and new rear springs. These kits often include a matching set of shocks.
Advantages/Disadvantages: Large lifts are obviously the
most expensive, and more complications are expected than with smaller
lifts. On-road performance will also be affected, sometimes dramatically.
But a large lift will transform your rig into an intimidating off-road
machine that will stand out among a crowd.
Types of Suspension Lift Kits:
Spring Over Axle (SPOA):
SPOA suspension lift kits are most popular among serious rock crawlers
looking for the utmost articulation (up and down wheel travel). These truck
lift kits keep the tires on the ground for maximum traction, while correctly
lifted springs lifts everything out of harm’s way, including the springs.
Shackle Reverse (S/R) Suspension Lift Kits:
S/R truck lift kits are designed to provide a smooth ride upon mild terrain
such as forest roads, desert driving, and scenic trails; however, high-speed
driving on highways is not recommended.
Coil Suspension Lift Kits:
The choice of many of the world’s best-riding 4 wheel drive vehicles, Coil
Suspension Lift Kits offer unrivaled ride quality and cheaper springs, but
installation sometimes requires some welding. The end result, however, is a
suspension lift kit that provides excellent articulation on the trail, and a
comfortable ride you have to feel to believe.
Lifted Spring Suspension Lift Kits:
The most commonly used type of truck lift kits in the world, Lifted Spring
systems are easier to install, and an excellent choice for first-time
lifters in the off-road world. These truck lift kits allow you to run larger
tires for additional clearance, while producing control on the highway.
Shackle Suspension Lift Kits:
probably the most affordable way to add inches to your rig, Shackle
Suspension Lift Kits are primarily for the truck enthusiast looking to add
larger tires, yet are not intending to do much hardcore off-roading.
Moderation is recommended with these truck lift kits, as Shackle systems are
known to affect steering and sway control.
Alpha Auto Repair installs lift
kits from the Industry's most trusted manufacturers. For details, or
to speak with an Alpha Auto Repair technician, please call us at (708)
597-2700 or (708) 377-4335.
Emergency and late hour
appointments upon request
● Closed Christmas Day
● Closed New Years Day