People often say that off-road vehicles are made, not bought. It’s mostly true — very few vehicles these days are created specifically for off-roading. When you’re preparing your vehicle for off-roading, one of the first upgrades you’ll likely consider is a lift kit. The simplest lift kits for trucks are lift blocks or extended shackles, both of which increase the ride height of your truck. With increased height, you can then mount larger tires, which increase axle clearance for not getting stuck on obstacles. This way, a big rock in the middle of the trail won’t rip a hole in your oil pan.
Some lift kits for trucks may seem simple, and if you’re a DIYer, you might be tempted to skip buying lift kit components and just tackle the project yourself. While DIYers ought to have fun repairing their vehicles, there’s danger when it comes to making modifications without the required parts.
Depending on how much room you have in your fenders, you may be able to squeeze in larger tires without too much trouble. However, without a lift kit, you’ll likely experience rubbing on full articulation or near the steering wheel lock. This isn’t good for your tires or your truck.
As mentioned, some of the cheapest lift kits for trucks are lift blocks — either for leaf springs or coil springs — or extended leaf spring shackles. These might look like simple blocks or straps of metal, but you shouldn’t attempt to fashion your own parts to save a few bucks. Even basic lift kits include essential pieces like longer U-bolts and shock absorbers. Some lift kits include or tell you to purchase other components as well, such as longer brake lines, engine and transfer case mounts, or a longer driveshaft. Lift kits can drastically alter how your truck functions, so you should always note what’s involved in the modifications.
Unfortunately, people do try to substitute wood blocks or weld together U-bolt extensions, forgetting about the rear axle brake line or other essential steps, and the results aren’t pretty. If you’re lucky, it will fail while you’re on the trail, but it could also fail on the highway. If this happens, the best case scenario is riding home in a tow truck and footing the bill.
Have Fun Out There!
At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of if you can rig up a homemade lift kit, but whether you should. In 99 percent of cases — particularly if you’re not an engineer by trade — you’re better off buying a specific kit for your truck, reading and understanding all the precautions and then following through with the proper parts and installation practices. If you aren’t comfortable picking and installing your own lift kit, you can always visit your local NAPA AutoCare and they can handle it for you. The goal is to have fun and stay safe on the trail, so using a half-baked or incorrect lift kit isn’t the way to go.
Check out all the steering & suspension parts
Photo courtesy of Flickr
Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.