What is a Lift Kit?

R. Kayne

A lift kit is an aftermarket vehicle modification that lifts either the suspension or the body to give the vehicle a higher profile. Once a kit is installed, the wheel wells ride higher, allowing taller tires to be installed. Some new 4x4 trucks and SUVs come with moderate ones already installed. There are two types: body lifts and suspension lifts. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Monster trucks are an extreme example of the use of lift kits.
Monster trucks are an extreme example of the use of lift kits.

The body lift kit is a 1, 2, or 3 inch (2.54, 5.08, or 7.62 cm) kit that only lifts the body from the frame. This inexpensive option consists of blocks or spacers. A body lift does not increase ground clearance; however, it might allow for slightly taller tires because it will increase the height of the wheel wells.

A lift kit suspension puts distance between a vehicle's chassis and its wheels.
A lift kit suspension puts distance between a vehicle's chassis and its wheels.

Depending on the model of vehicle and the height of the kit, additional money might have to be invested in raising the bumpers, extending the gearshift through the floorboard of the vehicle, and making other modifications to accommodate the body lift. Although this type causes a vehicle to sit higher, it does not alter or improve the suspension or increase travel. In general, it is therefore not considered the lift of choice by offroaders.

A suspension lift kit raises the suspension of the vehicle by replacing the front and rear leaf springs and shocks. This not only creates greater travel, it can allow for significantly taller tires, improving clearance between axles and ground. Articulation should improve with a good kit, but because the steering geometry is affected, some people choose to add steering stabilizers.

A suspension lift is more expensive than a body lift, but produces better results in terms of height, handling and ground clearance. Kits are usually 4-inch (10.16 cm) or 6-inch (15.24 cm), although there are ones as high as 18 inches (45.72 cm). Extreme lifts can drastically compromise safe handling, look odd by most standards, and are not commonly installed except on showcase or hobbyists' cars.

People who are considering a lift kit that is over 4 inches (10.16 cm) should remember that the higher they raise the vehicle's center of gravity, the less stable it will become when making sharp turns at high speeds. This can happen in a split second, such as to avoid an accident or dodge oncoming debris. The jerk of the wheel might not be a problem for stock suspension or even a 4-inch (10.16 cm) lift, but at 6 inches (15.24 cm) or higher, more caution must be used. The vehicle might also have a tendency to lean more in banked turns, such as freeway interchanges and offramps, so it is important for the driver to re-familiarize himself with the feel of the truck, SUV, or jeep after installing a lift.

If the main objective in installing a lift kit is to get tires that are at least two sizes larger than stock, it may be necessary to re-gear the car to account for the new circumference. Re-gearing will also keep the mileage as close to stock as possible. Whether or not re-gearing is needed can depend on the vehicle and tire size, so it's a good idea for car owners to talk to a professional mechanic to find out if a vehicle needs to be re-geared when the kit is installed.

Several different manufacturers make lift kits, and the prices vary, depending on the model and type. In addition to the cost of the kit, owners will need a set of four tall tires and any other modifications that may be required, which can push the total price up a great deal more. New tires are not necessary, but stock tires will look conspicuously small in higher wheel wells.

Lift kits can be self-installed with the proper tools and skill, but unless the car owner is a mechanic, it's probably easier to pay a reputable shop to install one. Many shops that specialize in 4x4 gear also have auto bays and skilled mechanics ready to perform modifications. Although US law prohibits manufacturers from voiding a warranty for installing an aftermarket part, they are often used as a cause for denying a claim, so people who install lifts will want to check with their dealership before doing so if the vehicle is still under warranty.

An aftermarket lift kit may be installed on an SUV if the driver often encounters rough terrain.
An aftermarket lift kit may be installed on an SUV if the driver often encounters rough terrain.

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Discussion Comments


I have a three inch lift. Can I put a 6-inch lift suspension on it to get it to flex more?


I have a f150 and I want to have a lift truck kit, about 5-6". how much do I have to spend?


i have to ask this: do any of you consider the fact that both your lights and speedometer are now realistically non-functioning as the headlights aren't re-leveled so that they point to the road like they are supposed to when manufactured and the speedometer is inaccurate due to the larger tires which have a greatly increased diameter and this can be anything from seven to 15 mph out? Is this a though anyone has?


I've heard that lift kits damage your vehicle. is that true?


There is a way to increase ground clearance but it is nearly impossible to do on your own unless you're a mad scientist.

My friend took the front end out of a junk dodge 4x4 and fabricated everything he needed to fit it to the rear end, giving him two front ends. And independent suspension. No straight axle, high clearance. VoilĂ ! It kind of worked but mostly stayed in his shop because it was never exactly to his standards.


yea a spacer will do that just fine.

i got a three inch body lift and a four inch suspension lift from skyjacker.

You need to add spacers to your transmission and transfer case, otherwise the angles on your drive shaft will be incorrect, but that's why you got the body lift, plus the larger space you have allows for larger tires and a taller truck.


Ground clearance is measured from the lowest point, the axles. It is the tire size that dictates the clearance from the axles to the ground, so in that respect, neither a body lift nor a suspension lift makes any difference.

The next thing that off-roaders want is articulation, or the movement of the axles. The less-expensive lift kits do nothing to increase articulation. To get that costs big money.

Bottom line, unless you go all out with a top of the line suspension, you are better off with a good body lift kit that includes everything from the bumper brackets to the steering extension to do it right.


Anon 4049, there is no way to do a body lift on a unibody. The frame is attached to the body of the vehicle. A body lift goes in between the two, can't be done if they're welded together.


i am looking at lifting my 1988 F-250. I do not really want to by a full kit. What would I need to put together to get a lift that is safe and stuff


any lift kit does not do anything to raise your axles, if you know of a way to do this you must be a magical wizard....think about this, what does the lift kit attach to? oh yeah the axles???? so doesn't that raise everything that is attached to the axle? what would raise your axle from underneath your truck, oh yeah those things called tires, that do go UNDER the axle, right? draw it on paper if you think you are confused...


What all needs to be extended to lift a truck 4 inches? Does anything like the driveshaft or wiring have to be modified also?


I would not think a suspension kit will get you any better ground clearance on your axles as your article states, "It improves clearance between the axles and ground." The only way to get more clearance between your axles and the ground is to run bigger tires. As an avid off roader I find the article very misleading as far as handling of vehicles after they are lifted. I have a truck that has been lifted 6 inches and it still handles very nicely on and off road. It's all in how the lift is done. You pay for what you get..you do it cheap, you're going to get cheap results.


On a unibody construction, would not a body lift kit increase ground clearance? Say the floor or the gas tank--wouldn't they be higher if the wheel wells are higher? I would like to have my vehicle clear rocks by adding a lift kit. I think a spacer set would do that, correct?

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