How to Lift a Truck
Pickup trucks usually have a higher rear suspension to accommodate heavy loads and towage, which would otherwise cause them to sag at the rear. Without this heightened rear suspension, a truck could weigh down heavily on the rear axle during trips where the back is full of heavy equipment such as furniture and appliances. In worst-case scenarios of insufficient rear suspension, the rear bumper might grind against the pavement on trips where the truck is fully loaded.
The purpose of lift kits and truck lifting is to raise one or both ends of the vehicle to make the riding experience level, or preferably higher at one end or the other. How do you lift a truck? Read on for our complete guide to ways to lift your truck.
How to Lift a Truck With a Lift Kit
Practicality and comfort are the two deciding factors in determining the amount of height you seek for your truck. If you intend to lift your truck by anywhere from one to three inches, spacers are one of the easiest and most effective options. If you desire a lift of four, five or six inches, you should also get bigger shocks and longer springs to accommodate the new height. For off-road use on rugged terrain, it is generally necessary to have several inches of frontal lift.
You also have the choice between a front lift, a back lift or a leveled lift, where the front and rear are aligned evenly. Many trucking enthusiasts favor the last option because it is generally more comfortable to drive in an even vehicle. In most modern 4x4s, the elevated rear suspension creates a slope-nose effect for a truck without a load. To keep trucks balanced during light and heavy loads alike, more and more trucking enthusiasts are adding lift kits to their vehicles.
Can you install a lift kit yourself? Yes, with a bit of technical know-how. The first thing to understand about how to lift a truck with a lift kit is that these kits come labeled with numbers that indicate the front and rear height they will provide. For example, if a kit has a 4" x 2.5" lift, the front of the truck will have a four-inch lift, and the rear of the truck will be two and a half inches higher once you have installed your lift in your truck's suspension system. For kits labeled with a 2" x 2" or 4" x 4" lift, that means you will get an equal lift or two or four inches across the front and back of the truck.
One of the most significant advantages of a lifted truck is how the increased height creates more space for larger tires. This way, you can switch up to a higher size in tires without the risk of them rubbing against the underside components of your truck, such as the inside fenders or possibly the inside of the bumpers. Due to the nose-down slope of newer trucks, it can be dangerous, if not impossible, to trade up a tire size without a lift kit because the fenders are otherwise liable to press down on the rubber of the frontal pair. Many of today's lift kits offer a higher frontal lift to balance out modern pickup trucks.
Best Options for a Two-Inch Truck Lift
If you're looking for how to lift the front end of a truck by just a couple of inches — or perhaps 2" x 0.5" or 2.5" x 1" — you can generally achieve the task with the right body lifts, spacers or torsion bars. The best way to lift a truck two inches is by changing out your frontal coil springs for a longer set or adding leaves to the rear leaf springs.
Body lift: A body lift serves as a spacing component between the chassis and body mount of a truck. The purpose of a body lift is threefold:
- Create space under the truck for higher, thicker tires
- Add space for bigger engine and transmission components
- Boost the truck's takeoff power
You can add a body lift without compromising the factory feel of a given truck because the addition bears no effect on steering or suspension. Unlike suspension lifts, body lifts don't affect the truck's center of gravity because the only components that are elevated are the cab and bed of the vehicle. Body lifts also compare favorably with suspension lifts regarding cost and ride smoothness, the latter because body lifts don't affect suspension travel. On some trucks, however, certain components and wires need to be adjusted for the larger space between the frame and body of the vehicle.
Spacer lift: The spacer lift is another low-cost option for the trucking enthusiast who seeks a certain amount of vehicle lift. The component serves as a spacing device between the suspension mounting area and the suspension itself. On trucks equipped with coil springs, you can install spacer lifts above or below the suspension. Leaf spring spacers — alternately known as blocks — are installed between the axle and leaf spring. Spacers and suspension lifts work well together because the former allows the latter to work with less air, particularly when the ride-height sensor is under adjustment.
Torsion bars: If you intend to lift a truck in small increments, torsion bars could be your easiest option. The majority of torsion bars come equipped with bolts that allow you to fix the suspension height, little by little, to your liking. If you intend to make a larger lift, you need to use braces to allow for a lower connection between the torsion bars and truck frame. If you already have torsion bars on your truck, you may opt to change them out for the following benefits:
- Bear additional amounts of steel bumper weight
- Handle bigger tires and front-end accessories, including a snow plow
With torsion bars in place, you can expect to ride more smoothly due to the enhanced spring rate.
Coil springs: If you intend to add lift to your truck with the use of spacer-free coil springs, you will need to trade out the pre-existing coils for longer springs. You can get a set of coil springs customized to specific heights and flexibility rates, if necessary. With newer, different coil springs, you can boost the suspension travel of your truck's performance over great distances and enjoy an overall better ride. There are also aftermarket options for coil-over suspension that allow you to adjust the perch location for a higher or lower spring. If you need to alter the ride height, you could add struts for flexible perches. If you already have experience with coil-spring installation, you can accomplish the task in roughly the same amount of time as a spring spacer.
Leaf springs: If you're wondering how to lift a truck with leaf springs, you can use additional leaves, or change them out for larger spring assemblies. Altering the leaf springs changes the quality of the ride. With more lift at the rear of the vehicle, you can enjoy a smoother riding experience over gravelly terrain and speed bumps. Leaf springs also reduce and possibly eliminate all sag when you haul heavy objects such as beds, desks and drawers. You can even raise the leaf spring suspension by changing out the spring-mount shackle with a bigger one. Best of all, leaf springs remain hidden from view and therefore don't affect the appearance of your truck to onlookers.
Air suspension: The simplest way to lift a truck by a couple of inches is with the use of air suspensions. If you wish to lift your truck by three inches or more, however, you may need customized air suspension to do the trick. For one or two inches, you can fool the truck's sense of elevation by moving the placement of the ride-height sensors. When the truck believes it needs to rectify a low-height situation, the vehicle will increase its air suspension to raise itself to a more acceptable height. If you do this without the use of a spacer, the truck will ride more firmly with reduced down travel.
Independent lifts: If you use independent lifts to raise the vehicle by three inches or more, the joints will wear more rapidly due to the blunter angles. To remedy this situation, you will need to lower the front differential to keep it in line with the overall lift. Another change that can help for a lift of three inches or more is the addition of control arms, which will keep the truck more evenly aligned and stable. Control arms also prevent tires from wearing out at uneven rates to one another.
Solid axles: To add lift on trucks with solid axles, you might need to use extra parts in the suspension assembly. Added parts that could help you get more lift with solid axles include the following:
- Longer control arms
- Lengthier track bars
- Drop-limiting straps
These components help the axle adjust to the lift and prevent coil springs from slipping under this setup. For lifts that exceed two inches, you will also need to insert shims between the springs and axle to keep the joint angles properly aligned.
Necessary Additions for a Truck Lift of Four, Six or More Inches
If you intend to add more than a mere two or three inches of lift to your truck, you will need to make other adjustments to the steering and suspension systems to compensate for the effect the lift will have on the vehicle's steering geometry and braking system. You will also need to adjust the meters and headlights. Many newer lift kits come with some of the following accessories, but you may need to get these separately, depending on which lifting method you choose.
Shocks: If you intend to lift your truck by at least two inches, you should enhance the suspension with newer, longer shocks. They will equip the suspension for full travel and reduce the possibility of lift-related issues, such as your truck bottoming out when you drive over dips and gaps on a given terrain.
Steering: When you add lift to a truck and trade out the tires for larger ones, the change can have an unbalancing effect on the steering. Consequently, the truck is liable to have a rougher, less even feel on most terrain. To keep the steering more even and stable under these new conditions, the track bars should be modified or swapped out for newer ones. You should also consider replacing the Panhard bars. The addition of stabilizers will also make it easier for the steering to adjust to the larger tires.
Headlights: One of the more dangerous aspects of a lifted truck is the realignment of the headlights. If you don't adjust the headlights to account for their heightened angle, the lights could be blinding to drivers in oncoming vehicles. To prevent yourself from endangering fellow motorists, check the alignment of the headlights and adjust as needed to keep them at the proper level once you have added lift to the truck.
Brakes: The addition of larger tires to your newly lifted truck can also take their toll on your braking system. Due to the increased weight, the brakes could rapidly wear out and render your truck less safe. To prevent overload on your braking system, augment the brakes with thicker pads and rotors. Alternately, you could change out the brakes for a bigger braking kit, as some kits are specially designed for lifted and heavy-hauling trucks.
Speedometer: Larger tires will also affect the reading on the speedometer and odometer, which might lead you to believe the truck is going slower than its actual speed and driving shorter distances than the routes in question. On a recently built truck, you can most likely get the two meters electronically adjusted to account for the difference. On an older model, however, you will probably need to make gear adjustments to prevent the two meters from misreading the speed and mileage.
Gearing: The change of tires on your newly lifted truck will also affect the gear ratio. As the gearing goes taller in proportion to the bigger tires, your truck will make fewer rotations per minute, regardless of the speed at which you drive. The taller tires will also reduce low-end torque, which can negatively impact the acceleration. To counter these unintended changes, install new gearing in the axles to keep the ratios properly balanced with the newer tires.
Choose the Best Lift Kit for the Make and Model of Your Truck
When determining how to lift a pickup truck, first determine your ideal vehicle height and select the most appropriate lifting equipment for the height and vehicle model in question. For example, when it comes to how to raise truck height, you might determine a combination of lift types will work best for you, such as the use of a body lift, spacer and newer springs.
If you intend to lift your truck by three inches or more, you will need to change out some of the key components of your steering and suspension system. If you are willing to invest considerably in a new lift, you could equip your truck with larger shocks and steering components that could significantly combat alignment and heating issues that might otherwise arise with a more bare-bones lifting job.
Are you asking yourself, "What kind of leaf kit should I get?" When it comes to lift kits, leaf springs, coil springs and other truck-suspension components, trucking enthusiasts turn to General Spring. For more than 50 years, we've offered parts that make it easier for truck owners to enhance their vehicles for smoother riding. We sell lift kits and more for trucks by GMC, Toyota, Ram, Ford and other automakers. Explore our catalog to learn more and buy a leaf spring or lift kit today.