Lift Kits - An Introduction to Riding High

12 21, 2021

You’ve seen them, trucks and SUVs with oversized tires that have been lifted to the point you almost need a step ladder to get in them. If you have a truck or SUV, you may be considering raising your own ride. If you are wondering how that’s done, we can give you a little insight into the pros and cons of aftermarket lift kits that you can use to help you decide.

What is a Lift Kit?

Simply put, a lift kit raises a vehicle higher off the ground. While a few vehicle manufacturers offer limited factory lifts on select models, most kits are aftermarket products that need to be installed by the owner or qualified service technicians. There are two types of lifts, body, and suspension. Each works differently, and each has its pros and cons.

Most trucks and SUVs are body-on-frame construction meaning the vehicle’s foundation is a steel frame, and the body is placed on top and attached. Body lift kits involve detaching the body from the frame and raising it one to three inches using blocks and spacers, then reattaching the body. Suspension kits are significantly more complex and involve modifying mechanical parts lifting the entire vehicle off the axels.

Body Lift Kits

Body lifts, which are the most straightforward and less expensive systems, are typically installed on trucks and SUVs to make room for bigger tires and wheels. While the body is lifted, the frame is unchanged, and any increase in clearance comes from the larger tires. A body lift can give you the look you want, the “tall ride” that improves visibility, a tighter turning radius, and increases your capability (thanks mainly to the bigger tires) off-road.

However, when you raise the body, you change the center of gravity, which can affect handling. Additionally, raising the body from the frame will leave a visible gap. Gap covers are available for an additional cost. Installation is relatively simple, and you may not need a professional to perform the installation.

Suspension Lift Kits

Suspension lift kits are an entirely different story. Unlike a body lift, suspension lift kits raise the entire vehicle, frame, and suspension, above the axel. Achieving this often requires a change in the existing suspension geometry. It’s not uncommon for a suspension kit to call for replacing shocks, control arms, and other related mechanical parts. These kits are significantly more complex, typically cost more than a body lift, and require installation expertise.

The principal advantage of a suspension lift kit is the ability to lift the ride as high as you want. While body lifts are limited to three-inch lifts, suspension kits can raise the ride a foot or more. The extra clearance allows easier negotiation of rough and rocky trails and makes room for larger and wider tires. In addition, if you install the kit on an older vehicle, you will be replacing used parts with new ones, resulting in an improved ride and handling.

There is one significant drawback to a suspension lift. Installing the aftermarket product may void the OEM warranty, which can be an expensive proposition.

Before You Buy

Installing a lift kit, particularly a suspension kit, is a major modification to your ride, and before you buy, you should consider:


Make sure you understand why and what you expect a lift to do for your truck or SUV. Do you want a cooler look, or are you a hardcore off-roader, and you want more trail capability. Knowing exactly what you want will help you select a kit that won’t disappoint

Is it Legal?

If your truck is not a dedicated off-road vehicle, check with your state DMV to see what, if any, limits there are in terms of how high you can legally raise your ride. Luckily, here in Texas, the Department of Motor Vehicles does not have any hard limits on the height of your vehicle. However, other states may have much stricter regulations like Virginia which constricts vehicles' maximum bumper height based on the vehicle's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR.

Don’t Shop Price Alone

Everybody does it. You enter the year, make, and model, then look for the least expensive kit. That’s a mistake. It would be best if you researched the brands that interest you. Often “economy” kits have all the parts needed to get the job done but result in a less than desirable ride meaning you have to buy additional parts to get what you want.

Budget Enough Time

If you do the installation yourself, ignore the marketing material that says it will only take two days. Double it and be prepared to spend even more. While installing a large lift kit yourself can be rewarding the process can be arduous and can damage your ride if you get it wrong. That two-day estimate assumes a brand new truck, the right equipment, and an experienced technician. If you have nerves of steel then feel free to check our beginner self-installer guide. However, If you need it down fast and right American Wheel and Tire is Houston's #1 installer and service center. Give Us a Call at (713) 682-1085 or contact us here

Be Ready to Spend More

​​​​​​​While installing your kit, you will inevitably find damaged, worn out, or rusted parts that need to be replaced. If you are regularly crawling rough trails we would recommend performing regular checks before and after every off-road adventure. However, if you do notice any damaged parts the manufacturer of the kit may sell those parts separately . When it comes to lift kits the brand does matter. Kits are expensive so we would recommend looking for manufacturers that offer lifetime warranties like Rough Country. They offer lifetime warranties on the hard-working parts of their kits. This can help cut down on those extra maintenance costs.  If you would like to know more about Rough Country's warranties, and a 90-day money-back guarantee, then check out our guide to Rough Country Lift Kits and Shocks.

Installing a suspension lift kit is a challenge. At American Wheel and Tire, our experienced team is here to help carry the load.  brand If you have any questions about where to start feel free to give us a call at 713-682-1085, or hit that chat button in the bottom right and get live support from home.
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