Lifts and Leveling Kits for your Truck: Good or Bad Idea?

Installing an aftermarket lift or leveling kit on your truck isn't necessarily a bad idea, but you should be aware of the potential problems.

Truck owners may wish to install a lift or leveling kit for many reasons. For example, if you want to install a snow-plow system on your truck, the factory settings may cause the front suspension to sag to low with the plow. A lift or leveling kit will raise the front of the truck, solving the problem. Another reason for installing a lift or leveling kit is so you can put on larger tires, which might not fit with the design of the fenders at factory height.

What are lifts and leveling kits?

A lift or leveling kit will raise the front of your truck, allowing for taller tires and higher ground clearance. Leveling kits are pretty affordable (usually only a few hundred dollars), and can be fairly easy to install (at least for someone who is used to working on cars and trucks). Lift kits are typically more expensive and much more difficult to install (we recommend having them professionally installed).

Lift kits and leveling kits are basically the same-they both raise the body of the truck further above the axles. The difference is that a leveling kit will raise the front enough to make it level with the back of the truck (usually only a few inches), while a lift kit can raise it much higher. Since lift kits raise the front higher, they are typically much more complex and involve more components.

Possible drawbacks of lifts and leveling kits

Anytime you change the geometry of your vehicle, you are potentially decreasing performance and possibly creating a safety concern. Some drawbacks of lifts and leveling kits include:

  • A drop in gas mileage, since you're raising your vehicle and creating more wind "drag"
  • Increased chance of uncontrolled steering oscillation
  • Decrease in driver visibility for high-lift jobs
  • Increased wear on ball joints as well as general front-end wear
  • Installing a lift or leveling kit may cause warranty issues, so it's a good idea to ask your dealer for specifics about your vehicle's warranty

Choosing the right lift or leveling kit for your truck

It's important to choose a lift or leveling kit that is specifically designed for your truck's make and model. There are several high-quality manufacturers that make these kinds of kits, so ask your dealer to make a recommendation based on your needs and your truck.

After you install a lift or leveling kit, keep in mind that you'll need to adjust your headlights to compensate for the increased height. If you're putting on larger tires, you should also be aware that it could negatively affect your car's handling, steering, and breaking systems. Before installing a lifting or leveling kit (or making similar modifications), talk with dealership mechanic you can trust.