Raising Your Truck’s Suspension—Good Idea or Bad Idea?
Raising your truck suspension is not all about off-roading. With a lifted rig, you can see better and tow and haul better, too. Some lift their trucks just because it’s a great look. There are also good reasons not to raise your truck suspension. Should you raise your truck suspension or stick with stock vehicle height?
Why raise your truck suspension?
The simplest reason to lift a truck is to increase the differentials ground clearance. A stock-height differential is a prime target for rocks, and this increases your chances of getting stuck in the mud. The only way to increase differential height is to fit bigger tires. If the vehicle’s original tires are 28 inches, 33-inch tires will increase the differential height—and the vehicle height—by 2-1/2 inches. A lift kit will keep your bigger tires from rubbing against fenders or suspension components.
There are two kinds of lift kits available: body lifts and suspension lifts. Body lifts push the body up, while suspension lifts push the axles down. Some start with one or the other for bigger tires, better visibility, or load capabilities, but both are usually required in extreme cases.
Commercial lift kits have been around since at least the 1970s. Today, some lift kits include everything for perfect project completion, while others include just a few key lifting components; other parts, such as longer shock absorbers or brake lines, come separately. Some lift kits are bolt-on replacements or additions to your stock suspension, like these adjustable coil spring spacers, while others require professional installation or welding.
Maybe a lift kit isn’t such a great idea
Installing a lift kit isn’t for novice mechanics. Good tools are readily available, but knowledge and experience aren’t so easily obtained, especially when it comes to welding. Also, incomplete kits, insufficient parts, or a poor understanding of the project can damage the vehicle, lift kit, or user. If you install a DIY lift kit, have it checked by a professional before taking it on-road or off-road. Even installed properly, a lift kit creates problems of its own:
- Raising the truck also raises its centre of gravity (CG). Ideally, the CG is low to the ground, which improves stability, but increasing CG height increases the chance the truck could end up on its side after a sudden swerve or panic braking. Adding big squishy tires increases vehicle roll as well.
- Adding a lift kit and big tires creates another hefty problem: too much weight. Adding over a hundred kilograms of lift kit and tires will increase braking distance. The extra weight is also more than the shock absorbers are designed to handle, which can lead to overheating and failure. Stock suspension components, such as control arms and ball joints, can wear prematurely.
- Finally, because lift kits fundamentally change the relationship between vehicle, suspension, and tires, they necessarily change the dynamics of the vehicle. It may pitch, yaw, or roll more in response to acceleration, braking, and turns. Wheel alignment angles can also change, causing abnormal tire wear or poor steering tracking.
There are good reasons to lift your truck suspension, but also good reasons to leave things as they are. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages will help you make the best decision for you and your ride. For routine maintenance and repairs, check out all the suspension services available at any of our 600 NAPA AUTOPRO locations. For more information on suspension parts, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTOPRO service centre.