Modern truck lift kits make it relatively easy to create a safe and robust jacked up truck. Truck lift kits come with all the parts and hardware to execute a proper suspension lift for your specific make and model of truck. However, there are several different kinds of lift kits and several different brands vying for your attention.
While they make the whole lift suspension job easier and more consistent than it was in the past, this is still something that should be done by an experienced mechanic with the tools and capabilities of a specialty garage. For the most part, this isn’t a weekend job for the casual home mechanic.
We’ll define and describe those different kits and different brands to help you ease your way into creating the best jacked up truck for your needs.
Navigate this guide with the following Table of Contents:
- Building A Jacked Up Truck
- What Are Truck Lift Kits?
- Truck Lift Kits vs Truck Leveling Kits
- Body Lift Kits vs Suspension Lift Kits
- Which Kit Should You Choose?
- Best Truck Lift Kits
As I have said before, building jacked up trucks isn’t as simple and fun as many people would hope. In most cases, even competent and experienced truck enthusiasts would probably be better off letting a specialty shop handled the lift job. You need to make sure you have proper leveling, proper balance, proper front end alignment, and you may also need adjustments to your transmission and to aspects of your truck body to accommodate the new height or new tire size.
Additional adjustments may need to be made for the fuel line, the steering wheel shaft, transmission linkage and new calibrations enacted to compensate for the new tire size, vehicle height and vehicle weight. Additional equipment may be needed or wanted, including (but not limited to) larger tires, additional optional shock absorbers, leaf springs, steering stabilizers, sway bars, trailer hitches, hitch covers, lift blocks and traction bars.
Thankfully, buying a precision truck lift kit and having it installed by a specialty shop should take care of all these complications for you. Just make sure you consider the right suspension lift kits for the exact make and model of your truck. I would hope most people reading this site aren’t the sort who would accidentally install a Ford lift kit on a Chevy truck, but you never know.
Truck lift kits are complete kits to help you lift the suspension of your truck. Typical kits include shocks, springs and spacers and all the necessary hardware to lift the suspension of your truck. Kits are usually designed for specific models and brands of trucks to provide the tightest fit and the most safe and accurate lift job. Components may include shocks, springs, add-a-leafs, coil spacers, shackles and blocks.
Some more expensive kits provide additional hardware and features for helping you increase the weight and towing capacity of your truck. Keep in mind that most truck lift kits do not provide the larger wheels you will mostly likely want once you have lifted your suspension and in some cases the lift or the wheels will require additional modifications. For example, larger wheels may require changing or moving the bumper to keep the steering radius of your tires clear.
As you will see as you read on, not all truck lift kits have to raise your suspension… although those are the most fun. However, body lift kits and leveling kits also qualify as truck lift kits.
Many people new to jacked up trucks ask, what’s the difference between leveling kits and lift kits? While the answer is pretty simple, selecting which one is best for you isn’t always as simple.
By default, most trucks are set with their rear wheels a little higher than their front wheels. Most leveling kits simply install spacers right above the front stock coilovers. This means they only raise the front to level with the rear. Spacers are usually just aluminum or plastic cylinders constructed to fit the prescribed truck body. They’re simple and inexpensive (in truck lifting terms). Some people install them because they don’t like the natural forward rake of factory suspensions.
If you’re truck or SUV has a torsion bar suspension (also referred to as a torsion beam suspension or torsion spring suspension), you may be able to raise your front end by just twisting the torsion bars up.
While there are some hybrid kits, for the most part leveling kits are much less expensive than lift kits because they don’t provide all the upgraded parts to give your vehicle the improved articulation and performance of a true lift kit.
A lift kit is often a more robust package, including longer, premium springs and shocks for all four corners of your truck. These premium springs and shocks provide greater dampening rates and spring loading rates than the stock springs and shocks. Some kits include heavy bumpers or winches for helping the truck handle more weight.
In addition to deciding between a leveling kit and lift kit, you must also decide between body lift kits or suspension lift kits. You will find a bit of discussion on this topic in 4×4 forums and blogs, but in general a body lift kit is just an inexpensive and cosmetic way to add height to a vehicle.
It is a much easier process involving far fewer parts and it doesn’t do much to the performance or capability of your truck. It basically entails installing spacers that lift the body higher off the frame, with no adjustments to the frame or suspension.
Body lift kits are a relatively inexpensive choice if you just want the visual appeal of a higher truck with greater body clearance for larger tires, but they won’t improve your off-roading capability or improve your performance. Depending on how high you lift the body, body lift kits do have the advantage of not raising the truck’s center of gravity as much as a true suspension lift.
While they’re simpler than suspension lifts, body kits still require some work and calibrations. Some variables one must consider include the angle of the steering wheel shaft, the position and movement of the radiator and the link to the transmission.
Some people choose to either buy a hybrid kit or install a combination of a leveling kit with a body lift kit. This gives you a little higher ground clearance, greater body height, removes the forward rake, and provides more room for larger tires. Keep in mind, this still doesn’t provide the improved performance or off road capability of a true truck suspension lift kit.
So now that you know the difference between lift kits and leveling kits as well as body lift kits and suspension lift kits, which one is right for you? Basically, this will be down to which one fits your needs better, and you have to be real and honest about your needs. Often people read the description and decide they’re “real men” and want the full suspension lift kit, when in fact a leveling kit or a body lift kit would suit them just fine.
If you are just looking for a more aggressive appearance and a little more ground clearance, a simple leveling kit may be all you need and will save you a lot of money compared to a full lift kit. Unless you are planning on putting on some enormous tires or you are genuinely an off road enthusiast, you may not need everything provided by a robust suspension lift kit. A leveling kit will also give you a vehicle with better gas mileage and fewer parts to wear out.
If you are a perfectionist for performance or you want to maximize your truck’s ability to handle difficult off road conditions, than a proper lift kit is a must. With longer springs and shocks and more accurate and robust articulation, a properly installed lift kit will make your pick up truck feel like an all new beast.
Also weigh the needs of your other planned truck modifications. When integrating real monster truck tires or custom truck bumpers, you will need to match the appropriate kit with the other upgrades you are planning.
Keep in mind that you should also consider each of these different types of lift kits along with their pros and cons as you evaluate jacked up trucks for sale.
What you consider the best truck lift kits will partially depend on your goal and your budget.
Starting with premium parts for people who want a smooth ride, you might look into Rancho lift kits or Skyjacker lift kits. If you want to retain the smooth on-road ride of your truck’s factory suspension but you also want a highly accurate and robust suspension for off-roading, those kits are your best bet. Skyjacker and Rancho have been around for a long time and they are highly respected suppliers.
If you’re strictly looking to maximize your truck’s ability to be a mudder and play in the mud or a rock crawler and you’re willing to spend the money necessary to build a more perfect beast, you might look into truck lift kits from SuperLift and Fabtech lift kits. Their parts aren’t cheap, but they’re built for the serious off-roaders out there.
If after looking at the prices of those truck lift kits you’re grinning and thinking, “I don’t think so,” Trailmaster and Pro Comp both provide comprehensive quality lift kit packages with more competitive pricing.
Regardless of which kit you choose, I encourage you to do your due diligence when it comes to researching and selecting both the manufacturer and the reseller. You want a solid warranty and you want a company who you can contact quickly and easily when you have any questions or problems. It isn’t uncommon for parts in even premium truck lift kits to require replacement, so you need to know you can get them replaced without too much fuss or expense.
Collectively, all this information should help you feel more informed and empowered to choose the right truck lift kits for your particular needs. Have fun but be safe and responsible as well._____________________________________