Lifted Trucks - Trend or a Necessity

Lifted trucks became popular many years ago in the US. In fact, they are popular even guys who never took their truck on mud, ice or show decide to add several inches and increase ground clearance. Be honest and say how many times did you see a guy that needs a stool to get into the truck? Some lift new truck and never go off-road. So do you really need to throw $5,000 or even more for suspension lift kits and off-road tires if you are not an off-road junkie? We’ve done some research to answer what are the benefits of lifting your work rig and does lifting a truck affect towing capacity?

How to Lift Truck?

Let’s face it – they look very cool. Mighty is a probably better word to use. Big, fat all-road tires, increased vehicle height, and firm shock absorbers offer an incredible driving position and change the way truck handles.

If you find mentioned above interesting you should know it’s possible to lift truck in two ways – one is with body lift kit, and another is using suspension lift kit. Both have some pros and cons, but the main difference lies in customer wish. How much do you want to lift truck?

Body Kit Lifts

If you find 3-inch lift is enough to tackle off-road drive, choose body lift kit. It's much cheaper than suspension kit because it includes only spacer between truck body and frame. This means there are no modifications in bumpers what so ever. Furthermore, the truck will handle almost as it was before. So, if you drive a new truck factory warranty will remain.

The main downside of adding spacers between body and frame lies in two facts – frame visibility and cost of kit installation. Frame visibility is possible to solve using gap guards. But what about performance? Don't expect any improvements here. Tire alignment and geometry stay intact but due to a changed center of gravity truck can have slightly downgraded performance concerning handling. This kit allows use of slightly bigger tires than recommended by the manufacturer.

For those who think the sky is the limit (and so is the budget) lift truck using suspension kit. When we say lifted truck we mean on fully modified trucks raised more than 8 inches.

Suspension Lift Kits

If you tend to make your pickup more like the monster truck pay close attention to lines below. Remember the guys with stool from the beginning of the article? It's not a joke. Modifying suspension and buying a bigger, usually 4x4 tires, can lift truck to the sky. If that makes sense to you, of course. These kits cost much more; some guys invested incredibly $20,000 in suspension, tires and other after-market parts.

Let talk about performance and pros here. With increased ground clearance, new absorbers, and big tires truck will have tremendous off-road capabilities and traction on snow, mud or rocky terrains. While in the city and open road, seating so high will make feel like a king on the road. You’ll draw attention, that is for sure.

What about drawbacks? Freedom has a high price they say. Lifted trucks are freedom machines indeed, thus have a high price tag. Lifting any vehicle means further modifications on brakes, driveline, suspension, sometimes transmission and body and those modifications cost a lot.

Let’s check what are other risks, problems but also benefits of owning a lifted truck.

Pros and Cons

Let's start with bad things. Many drivers want to invest in lift kit just to improve the look of their vehicle. They don’t realize problems or at least risk that comes with lifting a truck. Here are some disadvantages of lifting your truck:

Fuel consumption – Bigger tires mean lousy fuel economy. It's a simple fact; truck needs more power to spin bigger tires. More power, more gas. How much gas? It depends how big tires you use. On or two sizes bigger than recommended won't make a crucial difference.

Poor handling – Higher center of gravity affects handling the truck in sharp turns. Off-road and driving on the open road don’t have much in common. Thus, pay attention to fast corners since the truck will react slower when equipped with big tires. A chance to roll over with a truck that sits so high is high as your truck.

Braking – Large tires mean heavier rotating mass. That will cause not only hasty, and early brake pads wear but overheating. Overheated brakes can cause longer braking distance, brake fade or loss of stopping power. Make sure to replace stock brakes with larger ones and improve braking performance.

Tire wear – Big 4x4 off-terrain tires give fantastic grip and maneuverability on rocks, mud, and show, but they wear much faster on paved road. Also, large tires need to be balanced after 500 miles.

Maintenance cost – We already mentioned more frequent tire alignment and rebalancing, but other parts also need maintenance. Shocks, springs, suspension, and transmission will be affected. Premature wear of brake system is nothing uncommon for lifted trucks. Spare parts are not cheap, same stands for service.

Forget about warranty – Car makers won’t warranty truck that has suffer suspension alteration. If you drive a new truck, check with all the details truck dealer and avoid losing warranty.

Every day use and practicality - If you use a truck as a daily commuter, going in and out can be challenging for kids.

Now, move to good things.

Alongside appearance and clear off-road advantages truck raised for several inches can benefit from better visibility. The higher driving position gives way better view on and off the road. This doesn't apply in a tight and narrow city street and parking lots. It's hard to see what is going on behind you when you sit so high. Luckily, all trucks made in the last several years have rear and side-view cameras as standard.

However, the main advantages of lifted trucks are:

• High clearance means improved off-road capability,

• Cool appearance and aesthetics,

• Improved visibility (on a highway and open roads),

• The sense of freedom,

• Better towing capability?

Finally, here comes the main concern. Towing and lifted trucks? As always, the answer to this starts with – “it depends,” but in many cases lifting truck is done to improve look and off-road performance, but not towing performance.

Lifted Truck = Better Towing Capability. Is it?

If your latest work project is located on hard to reach job site consider investing in lift truck kit but dive deep into numbers and calculate return of investment carefully.

Before we proceed to towing, calculate how long you will stay on the job that requires off-road work truck. If you will drive out of pavement for several months maybe you can buy used 4x4 truck and avoid expensive suspension modifications and truck lifting. Compare prices, do the math and make a decision. There are thousands of off-road capable RAMs, Fords, Toyotas, Chevys, and GMCs that are possible to buy at affordable price.

Does Lifting Truck Affect Towing?

Move on to towing capability. If you tend to buy lifted truck but need to tow a boat or trailer pay attention to every detail. First of all, if a truck is raised more than 6 inches, it has gone under many modifications regarding frame, chassis, brakes, suspension, gear ratios, etc. Car makers define towing as well as payload capacity in alignment to stock parts and their configuration. Alterations affect GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), if lifting kit has added extra pounds that means towing capacity has dropped. And vice versa.

Furthermore, when truck sits so high, you need to count on side-to-side movements, especially in the corners. Thus, truck is less stable. All truck parts are much more stressed when using kit.

Here you need to think about tires as well. Tires weight rating has to be according to towing needs.

Bottom line is you'll have much more stability, control and braking power without a kit. Many lifted trucks with big wheels are just partially done right. To make sure your truck is capable for serious towing there is so much that needs to be modified, not only suspension and out larger tires. There are leaf springs, stiffer stabilizing bars, stiffer shock absorbers, and much more. All these after-market parts are costly. So, pay special attention when buying used lifted truck.