Four Ways to Lift Your Truck for Less

Lifted Ford Pickup
By Dan Sanchez for PickupTrucks.com

Truck owners are always looking for ways to improve the appearance and performance of their vehicles. Raising the ride height is one of the most popular upgrades, as it allows you to add larger-diameter wheels and tires without any rubbing or contact against the vehicle’s fenders.

A slightly taller truck with some aftermarket all-terrain or mud-terrain tires not only looks great, but it can also dramatically add to ride comfort and improve traction in a variety of road conditions. Heavy-duty and work trucks can also benefit from being lifted, as bigger tires often carry an increased load rating, which can improve the ride and safety when hauling heavy tools or cargo, and for vehicles that constantly tow a trailer.

There are many methods to raise a pickup that range in price from under $100 for simple coil spacers to well over $3,000 for a full suspension system.

For the average truck enthusiast, a low-budget method is always the first choice. Here are the best low-cost methods to lift your pickup that won't void your truck's warranty, yet still give your vehicle the amount of ride height it needs to add the tires and wheels you want.

Related: Pickup Trucks 101: How to Lift a Pickup

Torsion Keys

Aftermarket Torsion Keys
Aftermarket torsion keys can add 1 to 1.5 inches of ride height on pickups with a torsion bar suspension system. But unlike the factory torsion keys, these forged keys from Trail Master Suspension don’t add more spring preload and can provide a smoother ride.

Many four-wheel-drive trucks use a torsion bar suspension system. Torsion bars are actually springs that twist rather than compress like a coil spring. The vehicle's factory torsion keys hold the bars in place and provide some preload so the bar can keep the vehicle at a factory-set ride height. Adjusting the factory torsion keys is tempting and will add some height, but it can come at the expense of excessively preloading the suspension, which can result in a harsh ride and add premature wear to the rest of the suspension.

Aftermarket torsion keys cost anywhere from $100 to $150 and will add 1 to 1.5 inches of ride height that’s good for a tire about 1 inch taller than the factory size. Aftermarket torsion keys can also maintain the factory preload settings to maintain a smooth ride and will often come with shock extensions that keep the shock's range of travel within factory specifications.

Look for forged keys, which are stronger than cast units and will provide much longer service life, especially if the vehicle will be under heavy loads.

Leveling Kits

Leveling Kit Spacers
Leveling kits can consist of a variety of components. These steel spacers from ReadyLift fit on top of the coil-spring strut assembly to raise the front just enough to keep it level with the rear of the vehicle.

Leveling kits are extremely popular and can add 1 to 3 inches of ride height to most pickups using a front coil spring or coil-over strut suspension system. The term is derived from the fact that most pickups are taller in the rear than in the front, and raising the front suspension allows the truck to sit level.

Depending on the vehicle’s make and model, leveling kits can use a variety of methods to lift the vehicle. These include polyurethane coil spring spacers that fit between the coil spring and the inside of the spring perch. Some use aluminum spacers or strut extensions that sit on top of the coil-over strut unit. Others use blocks and U-bolts that will raise the ride height on leaf-spring vehicles.

Leveling kits cost as little as $30 for simple polyurethane coil spacer kits to $500 or more for kits that include shocks, anti-sway bar end links and other components needed to keep the suspension geometry in its original location.

Coil Spring Spacers
Some leveling kits use a simple coil spring spacer that fits on top of the spring within the coil-spring strut. Shown here is a standard spacer (right) compared with a leveling kit spacer (left).

For the low cost, leveling kits work great for adding tires that are 1 to 2 inches taller than your truck’s original tires. They are also easy to install for the experienced home mechanic, but some kits may require a spring compressor tool. The tool is necessary to remove the coil spring preload on models using a factory coil-over strut assembly. If you don't have access to this tool, you should have a qualified mechanic or truck specialty shop do the installation.

The advantage of a leveling kit is that it doesn't affect the ride of the vehicle or cause any warranty issues. If your truck or SUV is on a lease program, the leveling kit can be easily removed and restored to stock. In addition, there are leveling kits for just about every make and model pickup available (front-wheel and four-wheel drive), making these kits one of the most popular methods to lift your vehicle.

Body-Lifts

Body Lift Block
Body-lifts are another popular and inexpensive way to raise a pickup truck. Shown here is a Performance Accessories body-lift providing 3 inches of extra ride height on an F-150.

Before trucks and 4x4s had independent suspension systems and integrated coil-over struts, body-lifts were a popular way to add as much as 3 inches of ride height. The advantage of a body-lift is that it doesn’t affect the vehicle's suspension and provides enough ride height to fit tires that are 2 or 3 inches taller than the original tires (typically a 32- to 33-inch tire).

Body-lifts are popular because they are inexpensive, ranging from $110 to $600. Depending on the truck’s make and model, they can provide more ride height than leveling kits alone.

Body-lifts use urethane blocks that are stacked on top of the factory body mounts to raise the body above the frame. Because a wider gap is formed between the truck’s body and frame, the bumpers and some components of the vehicle also need to be altered. This is accomplished with heavy-duty bumper brackets and spacers that are typically included in the kit. In addition, the steering shaft must be extended. Because of this, many truck owners look for kits that include a high-quality CNC machined steering extension as well as Gap Guards that fit in the vehicle's wheel wells and hide the space between the frame and body.

Body Lift Kit Bumper Brackets
Body-lifts also require readjusting the height of the factory bumpers. This Performance Accessories kit has bolt-on bumper brackets on this 2009 Nissan Titan.

Body-lifts typically take six to eight hours to install, depending on the vehicle, but the overall effect provides plenty of wheel and tire clearance for most popular tire upgrades. Furthermore, they don't affect the factory ride or cause any warranty issues with your vehicle.

Premium Lift Systems

Premium Lift System Kit
A Premium Lift System combines a body-lift with a leveling kit to provide the same lift as a full suspension but at a fraction of the cost. Shown here is a PLS kit from Performance Accessories that provides 5 inches of lift to fit 35-inch-tall tires on a Ford F-150. The kit costs around $800.

A relatively new concept is to combine a leveling kit and body-lift to provide a comparable ride height to that of a full suspension kit at a fraction of the cost. Depending on the vehicle, a Premium Lift System can provide up to 6 inches of lift without affecting the vehicle’s factory suspension geometry and ride. For enthusiasts wanting to go big and add 33- to 35-inch off-road tires, a Premium Lift System makes a perfect choice.

Premium Lift Systems include everything from coil spring spacers, bumper brackets, body-lift blocks, hardware, a steering column adapter, Gap Guards and everything else you need to raise the vehicle in about six to eight hours.

Depending on the vehicle make and model, a Premium Lift System can cost $219 to $900, leaving you with enough cash to lift the vehicle and buy the tires you want all at once.

Lifted Chevrolet Silverado

Because these types of systems don’t affect the factory warranty, many truck dealerships are installing them onto some of their inventory, appealing to customers who want the look of a full-suspension system with aftermarket wheels and tires straight off the showroom floor.

No matter which method you choose, look for high-quality parts that are made in the U.S. Beware of lower-priced "bargains," as they often don't include all of the components and you’ll end up purchasing more parts to get the job done in one sitting. Either way, your final decision will ultimately depend on the size of tires you want to fit under your pickup. With the variety of inexpensive lifting methods, the cost of personalizing your truck has become much more affordable and enjoyable.

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Comments

@Gabe

Who cares if the tailgate step is an issue for Chevy, its not like everyone's knees are shot. Not everyone climbs into the bed everyday (I'm pretty sure Lou wouldn't.) If you need to get in the bed just climb on the tire or bumper.

Which would you rather have, a truck without steps and a 100k mile warranty, or a ford with steps that falls apart and catches on fire?

See MI Auto Times for more info. Those who like crap, buy crap.

While I agree that these are cheap, effective methods of getting lift, I'd just like to throw out there that I'd still rather have a proper suspension life than a body lift. You get more ground clearance out of the same ride height and, well, its just overrall stronger.

One thing I have to take aim at the article for: larger tires = more towing capacity? Not necessarily. Even with the higher load rating, remember that larger tires take more force to turn, and hence you will actually lose pulling capacity when going larger. The only way to regain this is to add lower gears in the rear axle (or numerically higher gears, to put it another way). You'd be better off, when looking for pure pulling capacity, going with the same size tires with a higher load rating. Even better: throw in lower gears as well. How do you think the old 200cid inline six trucks of yore used to pull big loads? Really low gears. Its also the reason their top speed stunk.

Best looking lifted up truck is a 2010 baja ford f150 done up by sherrod mustang conversions damn that truck is awesome!!! 10 times better looking than any chevy!!

Bill,
Do you have a picture?

Go to sherrod mustang conversions website Steve check it out the black fx4 is awesome real head turner

@bill

Exactly, a real head turner. i too, would want to turn my head away from that hideous truck.

lol you have pretty lame posts on here chevy !!!

I am running the Icon 2.5 kit on my truck..... and I have a ton to say on the topic!

I don't think you can buy a better 2.5" kit for the truck than a Icon kit. It rides better than stock. It does come with two alignment cams for the ball joint. It was very easy to install.

You don't have to order it with the Bilstien shocks.... you can run any shocks you want with it. I am running 8" Fox shocks on my truck... and you can adjust the pressure in them to suit. If you do want to go with an 8" shock from Fox/King/Sway-Away... make sure to purchase the Icon shock upper mount.... it allows you to go from a pin type shock to a regular bolt through shock. I recommend the Icon mount... because I have tried the rest.... and the Icon one allows the shock to sit the highest of them all... giving you max wheel travel. This is the ultimate setup.... I love the way my truck rides!

I am running 35" Toyo's on my truck with no issues.

I also tow.... I haven't done anything to the back of my truck other than Firestone Airbags.... (I need to get the fox shocks for the rear).

I tow a 37' 5er.... and I love having my truck at stock height in the rear.

My last truck I put the Donahoe 4" kit on and the f-350 block in the rear.... and it worked fine.... but I'm much happier with the truck only leveled now... its still pretty high.

One thing to think about with that wheel/tire combo you are talking about.... will a full size spare fit under the bed? I wouldn't go without a full size spare again! Its a pain in the ass if you get a rear flat! You have to swap a front into the rear and run your smaller spare in the front.

I just realised how UGLY Ford trucks are !!

Remember just because it the best selling truck,doesnt mean its the best looking truck !!

Most popular doesnt mean a thing...People jumped on the Obama band wagon and hows that turning out !! He was the most popular(just because its the most popular doesnt mean its the best or right or good) ..No oil production allowed,what do trucks run on ? Lets all ride bicycles and sniff fairy dust !!


I just realised how UGLY Ford trucks are !!

Remember just because it the best selling truck,doesnt mean its the best looking truck !!

Most popular doesnt mean a thing...People jumped on the Obama band wagon and hows that turning out !! He was the most popular(just because its the most popular doesnt mean its the best or right or good) ..No oil production allowed,what do trucks run on ? Lets all ride bicycles and sniff fairy dust !!


How did I do that..2 same posts ? Must be the fairy dust !!!

Wow,those Ford head lights look like my 1991 Ford f-150 I had back in the 90's...Retro 2010 Ford !!

Ford does look better than Toyota/Nissan....thats not saying much !!

A Dodge Ram would look killer !! MegaCab Dually !!!

The Chev would look better if it was a single cab,short box !!

The Ford could never look better..They ruined Ford's...puke !! ...

I like higher lift truck is AWD.

Gee Oxi, My full sized Titan stock is within and inch or two of you leveled Taco with oversized tires. SO much for your theory on ground clearance and full sized trucks. FWIW please enlighten us on your lower shock mount theory that you so vehemently bring up. I have yet to see one shear off at the axle. Aside from you I don't hear much about it either I think the lower hanging differential that is dead center of the rear axle is a bigger target no? Also Ford has their shock mounts of the F150 so close to the wheel I doubt that would be an issue for them.

To get back on topic, I have a 1.5 inch leveling kit on my truck and love it. It took most of the forward rake out of it, but left enought in there so when I hook up good size load it doesn't make the truck look like it is squating.

08 Ram

So the final word on IFS... If it works on fire engines and military trucks that haul heavy loads both on and off payment, why do people have such a problem with it on something as wimpy as HD pickup. When was the last time you saw a Ford, Chevy/GMC, or Dodge with a 40ft ladder in the back, or hauling a M1 tank off road in Iraq.

Do any of those vehiles you mentioned have power going to the front wheels?

@x007

You need to watch your language, I doubt you worked for the Border Patrol with such a foul mouth...

Anyway, anybody can trail ride graded roads like down in the border areas. I have raced off-road with Whiplash Motorsports and Score-International down in Arizona and Mexico and their are places on the Parker 400 course that your heavy and fat Ford would not make it through!

For the weight of those heavy Ford's, you do not have sufficient ground clearance. Like I said you can trail ride the smooth areas and call it off-road but that is not the real picture.

I would love to see your heavy Ford up here in the north woods and try to patrol fire lanes and watch it sink with it's massive weight and little ground clearance!

Do us a favor and stay on your graded roads and leave the real stuff to more capable vehicles!

@Keith

Drive behind a 4wd Tacoma...

Do you notice where the lower shock mounts are? Tucked wayy close to the wheels thus better protection than the domestics that run them below the axle line between the diff. and brakes in the rear UNPROTECTED!

When you drive behind a 4wd Tacoma you see axle, not lower shock mounts like domestic trucks. And when you drive next to most domestic trucks you see torsion bars unprotected up front, not good!

@Peter

You are correct. Military tactical trucks are running more and more independent suspensions insteade of old school straight axles that do not work that well in the battlefields of today!

Just about every heavy truck maker is running independent front and rear suspensions to meet military requirements!

Yawn. Lift kits only degrade the true work ethic of a truck. Besides how is this news? Old stuff different day there PUTC

@ oxiclean- You truely are a know all. You have been there and done that. Why don't you post a link to how you place in all these racing you claim you have done? I know what my trucks can do. Your little grassroots racing is nothing more than one time deal so you tell everyone that you did it just like your little ride along with Whiplashmotorsorts at the parker 400! Post picture or some kind of poof to why you think at my fat ford can't handle it. I will watch what I said If you can back up what you say about fullsize trucks until then F OFF!!!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know-it-all

@ oxiall-Parker 400 WOW!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b81FtaLTQM

@ Jordan L. - Re. Joan of Arc - ouch!
Note to self - don't aggitate Jordan L. ;)

@oxi - I've never seen a shock mount get broken off of the rear axle.
I've seen trucks with upper frame mounts break off.

Ground clearance is a big help offroad but "sinking into the ground" is based on PSI not ground clearance.
Weight of vehicle divided by square inchs of tire in contact with ground = PSI (not ot be confused with the pressure inside the tire).

A heavier truck needs bigger tires to maintain a low PSI(pounds per square inch) of force on the ground. The higher the force exerted on the ground the greater the chance of sinking.
That is why airing down your tires helps = more rubber on the ground decreases penetration force.

Example: a hot little blonde wearing stiletto heels will exert more PSI of force on the ground than a loaded truck.

come to think of it - a hot little blonde in stiletto heels exerts more force on all sorts of things ;)

@Lou,

Please do not insult me, I build military heavy and medium duty tactical trucks. I understand the whole PSI thing, we build CTIS into military trucks...

Your theory is only a small part of the battle. You can have big military Michelin size tires and you can air them down all the way but if your front cross-members let's say are only 5 inches above the ground with such a heavy military truck, your not going to go very far in deep rutted terrain no matter how much you air down.

You will be dragging your whole underneath and thus sink!

Bigger tires give you ground clearance and that is what you need to get your axles and other low hanging parts above the ground so when you hit deep rutted muddy patches, when you do sink from the weight of your truck you will stand a better chance of making it with more ground clearance.

Case in point my little 86 Toyota 4x4 with 35 inch tires and a big Bronco full-size with wide 36 inch tires going through a deep rutted section of a trail in the north woods about 15 years ago. He was 302 powered and I had the little 22R carb. engine.

He went first and hung up his axles. His Bronco was too heavy with what ground clearance he had and thus dragged his I-beams up front and got stuck.

I went after him and gunned the throttle a bit and made it through with just a little dragging of the rear axle. I had less weight and higher ground clearance thus floated over the ruts where he sunk in. Weight and size are killers off-road. The more weight you have the more ground clearance your gonna need period!

@oxi - I guess all those engineering, road-building, and bridge building classes I took years ago are not as important as a guy's experience turning wrenchs on an assembly line!

You miss my point - I was talking about sinking. That is based on PSI and surface tension of the ground you are on. If you do sink - yes ground clearance will help. If there is a rut or ruts and you fall into them - yes ground clearance is part of the picture. If the bottom of the rut is soft - you'll need a low PSI to keep from sinking further.
Ground clearance has absolutely no effect on PSI. Ground clearance will keep you from dragging axles, diffs, frame ect. on the ground. That will rob foreward momentum, and facilitate wheel spin (loss of traction).
Traction, momentum etc. also comes into play.

If you are so hung up on ground clearance(pardon the pun) install portal axles on your truck.

Your a tad testy tonight - mellow out with the Toyota is best, small truck is best stuff and you'll get hammered less.

Guess Oxi missed the part where the Raptor wa stested by actually running in Baja and placing. He also missed where it was posted here that they took it mud bogging at Ford's test track. He also fails in his torsion bar statement as most new fullsizers except for GM run coil overs. Once again, show us a sheared lower shock mount. I have yet to experience on. Also just a thought? Maybe they are below the axle to fight axle wrap.

@ Keith- Good point about axle wrap.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g10rklaTTDE

@Keith,

Have you ever been to a desert off-road race?

Now how many trucks run shock mounts below the axle line let alone below the skid plates?

That would be NONE of them!

Ever bottomed out your rear-end during a desert race? Those shock mounts would simply break and then you will need field repairs just to finish.

Go ahead and hit a rock with your lower rear shock mounts and let me know the outcome at any speed.

Race teams torch off the factory shock mounts and build stronger ones that are tucked away from bottoming out or striking deep ruts and rocks during the race.

On my 86 race truck I kept the spring seats that housed the lower shock mounts but built one off of a Downey kit that rode along the axle line thus never going below. All 4 Bilstein 5100's on the rear axle never struck rocks or ruts during the desert races.

The Raptor has lower rear shock mounts that are vulnerable (and a lift block? c'mon). They can work fine with light off-road duty but you bottom out the rear at speed or in deep ruts you risk losing them.

Like I said the Raptors can do fine with light duty like the safety trucks for the Traxxas off-road series. You get into some of the hidden areas of a typical desert off-road race and run at speed, you risk breaking those weak points if not tucked away and protected.

LOL @ oxi - Now you are comparing cutom built rear lower shock mounts to factory ones? Like I said before. The lower factory ones use the lower geometery to combat axlewrap. Maybe not a big deal in the desert racing a truck that has no need to haul or tow very much, but it is a big deal to those of us who do. I am guessing these custom builds are also running traction bars as well as reloacting lower mounts or flat out running a multilink system with coilovers?

BTW keep yapping about the Raptor. Your showing to lack of knowledge of it very well. I'd say completing Baja with a class 3rd place fininsh showed it was pretty durable no? Or perhaps they had better drivers who knew how not to bottom out undercarriage parts unlike yourself and your race buddies.

5th way to lift your truck for less:
http://www.dakota-durango.com/forum/showthread.php?t=120397

@Red: I saw that last night and it gave me nightmares. If you see that truck on the street - drive away from it as fast as possible.

@ Red - I'm with Mike on this one. Scary. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

I was trying to find information on the frquency of lower shock mount breakage.
It does happen.
Some rock climbing sites seem to mentiion it more than other sources.

Air shocks seem to be a culprit frequently mentioned as a cause of broken mounts.
Air shocks are also used to get lift.

Shocks or shock mounts were never meant to be load bearing members. I'm surprised that air shocks are still made. Dirt bikes and street bikes (at least performance machines) haven't used them in decades.
The shock's job is to do what the name implies - absorb shock.

It never pays in the long run to "cheep out" or take shortcuts.

I would imagine rock crawlers would be more succeptable than a prerunner. Rocks are much less forgiving than dirt. Looking at the types of suspension oxi mentions, those are purpose built. You aren't going to see a custom desert racer that can tow 6,000lbs with a 1000lb payload.

I had a look at that link. OMG!!!!! WTF!!!!!
As a licenced mechanic I'm completly speechless. Washers as ball joint spacers? Doubling up body lifts? Cutting control arms and springs? ............ All the changing and rechanging springs and spacers.......... And the guy actually found a shop that would attempt a wheel alignment. What kind of specs do you align it to? I suppose caster and camber could be adjusted by adding or removing washers. I'm a little surprised the guy didn't just use longer wheel studs with washers behind the rims for spacers. And all this so he can put 33s on a 2wd truck. Idiot. Un friggen believable.

I am an off road enthusiast, and I have owned both chev and ford. My truck (F250) has been sponsored and displayed in 4x4 magazine. My chev 2005 2500HD (had) a 6 inch kit with 35's and my 2008 6.8L F250 (has) an 8 inch kit with 38's. I would have to admit that the chev was the worst investment I ever made. First of all the ride height sucks, I would never imagine that 35's would rub with a 6 inch kit, but chev has managed to do just that. Second, I broke a half shaft on my chev after going through the first mud puddle it had ever seen (during a photo shoot which was called off after this event). Chev interior and exterior are just fine, but they need to vastly improve on their suspension and engine. If you want to buy a truck to lift, please buy a dodge or ford. If you want to buy a low rider, go with the chev or GMC they come stock like that.

**Low riders are for guys who can't get it up**

@Mike Folkin,

I have the same sentiment. I'm glad I didn't choose the Chevy. I'm happy with my F250 8" lift, 38" Super Swampers. I love the leaf spring suspension set-up which is one of the main reason I chose the Ford.

@ Mike F.

Funny, you bring up the rubbing of 35" Tires on a 6 inch lift. When I had my F250 at stock height it was able to fit 35" BFG A/T. It look tough!!

I was researching broken lower shock mounts and I was on a pro Chevy site. One guy had said the cheepest and most reliable way to replace broken lower mounts on a Chev was to use bolt on HD mounts from a Ford HD. He said to weld them on where you need them and you'll never have a problem again. He got flamed bigtime by the other Chev guys. His reply was that it was what works best.

@Lou,

I wouldn't doubt it.

I'd rather push my ford home then drive a GM. Now wheres my beer..

@chevy man,

Someone should take a dump on the hood of your GM and pour a beer in the gas tank.

@ mouly#1 - Frank was the one handing out beer.
As to your second post - why would you want to waste beer?

lou,

True. You know, drink the beer first and then piss it out in the gastank lol. The rot in his chevy floorboard is probley patched with duct tape along with the holes in the seats.

@Bobby

You should try draining your coolant system and funnel straight beer into it. It gives a chevy the horespower it needs to catch up to ford.

@mouly#1 - better watch it. Bobby might atttack you under one of his secret identities that none of us know about.

Bobby
bobby1971
bobbysilverado
Chevy#1Truck
xXChevy_ManXx
Bobby Go Chevy
chevyman123
GM's Joan of Arc
Bobsie twin
Mama's boy

lol. wouldnt doubt it

Add SOCCER MOM to that list

So I think yall should stop ya crying about ground clearance and all. For starters there are trucks that go off the road every day.... those are what you call real trucks, the ones that can literally run your little pansy trucks over and not even know you were there.... the ones that actually have this stuff called mud on them. I know you probably don't know what it is, but that's OK. Also my truck would kick your trucks ass off the line... so to all you haters of dodge out there, well when you're truck can go to the track, run nine and a half then pull the goose neck home getting 22mpg, come talk to me...
It's an 03, 3500, 4 wheel drive. Incase you were wondering. Yea I got some money into it, but who doesn't with a truck..... peace.



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