Which Lift Is Best For Your Vehicle?
With so many lifting options out there you may not know where to turn, so we’re here to look at two of the more popular lifting methods on the market: body lifts, and suspension lifts. Whether you saw one for the first time as you were walking down the street or you’ve spent every night for the past month dreaming of installing one of your own, you want to put a lift on your vehicle. We’re going to help shed the light on body lift and suspension lift kits, the function behind each, and the differences between the two.
What do you want from a lift kit?
It is important to know the answer to this question, because each lifting method is useful for its own specific purpose, with varying levels of performance. For the everyday driver who wants their truck to have a more aggressive look while cruising down the streets of Stephenville, TX, a body lift might suit them. A body lift raises the ride height of the vehicle without making any alterations to the OEM suspension parameters, making room for larger tires.
For the adrenaline junkie who wants to climb sheer walls of rock from the inside of a vehicle, a suspension lift is the way to go. There are many types of suspension lifts from simple lifting and leveling options to more complex full-suspension lifts. Suspension lift kits each function on the principle of elevating the suspension, along with everything it supports, which can mean simply adding spacers on top of the coil-overs (pictured in the Installation section), or installing entirely new suspension components. It’s solely up to you to decide what you want out of lifting your vehicle, because that will determine what you put into it. A high-quality suspension lift kit can transform your normal vehicle into an off-road monster worthy of respect.
Why Is Lifting So Dang Expensive?
As the age-old adage goes, “You get what you pay for.” You wouldn’t skimp out on the quality of materials or hired expertise when you build the foundation of a house, would you? Of course not! If you’re going to replace or upgrade the foundation of your vehicle, you should always get the highest quality parts that you can afford. Both a body lift and suspension lift are available in a wide variety of types and qualities, but there exists a substantial difference between the base costs for both of them. A body lift kit usually comes with lifting blocks, a set of bolts, and a couple other components. This keeps the costs down, even for the highest quality body lift kits. A high-quality suspension lift, however, is a kit with many parts, some of which require complex engineering to manufacture, pushing the price higher while providing more benefits.
The Wheel Bone Is Connected To The…Brake Bone
Installing or replacing any part on your vehicle can seem like a nightmare of torque settings, socket measurements, electronics, and alignment. A vehicle may seem like a puzzle of parts, but you can figure it out on your own, right? Depending on your skill set…or tool set, you may have the resources to take apart your truck and put it back together with your eyes closed. Just in case you can’t, let’s see what it takes to complete a lift kit installation for either of these methods.
A body lift kit follows a fairly cut and dry system of installation that consists of separating the body and frame, placing spacers between the two, and bolting the body and frame back together. It’s pretty simple, and easy to do at home with the right tools. A suspension lift, however, takes more work and the higher the lift or more complex the kit, the more you’re going to want to seek the help of a professional mechanic.
This kit combines the ease of a body lift while offering similar performance to a full suspension lift. Taller, more complex suspension lifts require drastic alterations to the steering and suspension components, as well as other parts of your vehicle. The point is, most body lifts are easy to install at home, while most full suspension lifts are not. If you’re up to the task, and you have the means to see it through, a suspension lift can transform your vehicle into a beast that will strike fear into the hearts of the largest mountains.
I Can See My House From Here
There are definitely perks to every lifting method, but a question that everyone seems to ask is, “Will this lift raise my ground clearance?” Added ground clearance is always a bonus as it allows for larger tires and more off-road possibilities. A suspension lift may seem more desirable as it raises your ground clearance at a rate of 1″ of increase for each 1″ of lift height. A body lift does not add ground clearance due to the suspension and frame remaining at the original location and height, but increases the total ride height. Raising the ride height of your vehicle with a body or suspension lift adds room for larger tires that can increase your ground clearance.
Ride height does not equal ground clearance. Ground clearance is increased when the frame and everything it supports is raised further from the ground, increasing the distance between the ground and the undercarriage. Ride height is calculated several ways, usually by measuring the distance between the ground and a specific point on the body, usually the fender lip. When you lift the frame or the body, the ride height increases since the body is raised further from the ground. So, a suspension lift increases ground clearance, which also increases the total ride height, but a body lift only increases total ride height.
Traction Reduction, Body Roll, And Handling Issues
Center Of Gravity
The center of gravity is the point where the total weight of an object is concentrated. Increasing the ride height of your vehicle elevates the total concentrated weight, increasing the center of gravity. This can increase handling issues, body roll, and reduce traction. The center of gravity increase is dependent on how high the vehicle is being lifted, the method of lifting, and the weight distribution of the vehicle. Using a typical extended cab half-ton truck as an example, the weight distribution is as follows:
- 10% – Tires, Wheels, and Axles
- 20% – Body, along with all components inside of the body
- 70% – Frame, Engine, Transmission, and Drive Train
Using this weight distribution, lifting should yield these results:
- Increasing the tire diameter elevates the weight of the vehicle by nearly 100%, increasing the center of gravity by 1” for every 2” of increased tire diameter.
- A suspension lift elevates 90% of the vehicle’s weight (sprung weight), resulting in a .90” increase in center of gravity for every 1” increase in lift height.
- A body lift elevates 20% of the total vehicle weight, resulting in a .20″ increase in center of gravity for every 1″ increase in lift height.
Although each vehicle has different levels of weight distribution, the general result is this:
A suspension lift will increase your center of gravity the most and negatively affect handling. A body lift will elevate less of the vehicle’s weight and leaves handling closer to a fresh from the factory setting. If you’re looking for taller ride height but want turns to feel the same a body kit is your best option.
Body Lift vs Suspension Lift Combination
Best Of Both Worlds
Having a hard time making up your mind? There is a third option. When you combine a lifting/leveling kit and body lift kit you get increased ride height, increased ground clearance, and room for larger tires. To provide an accurate depiction of the benefits of this alternative, this scenario may help give you an idea:
A man has been saving money for a few months now, and is finally ready to put a lift on his 2016 Toyota Tundra. With a budget of about $1750, he jumps online hoping to find a high-quality lift kit. After searching for a while he arrives at two options: buy a full suspension lift, or combine a body lift with a lifting and leveling kit, staying about $1000 under-budget. Not sure which option is better, he decides to weigh the benefits of both:
*This information is based on a 2016 Toyota Tundra model with 30″ stock tires.
Prices evaluated for:
- Daystar Suspension (3″ Front | 2″ Rear) Lift and Leveling Kit
- Performance Accessories 3″ Body Lift Kit
- Set of four 33″ offroad tires at $250/tire
- ProComp 4″ Suspension Lift
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and after a few minutes of great deliberation the man comes to a decision. He decides to buy the lifting/leveling and body lift combo instead of the alternative. The full suspension lift has many benefits like being of very high quality, installing with no alterations to the OEM suspension or maintaining CV axle angles to prevent premature wear and tear. However, he goes with the lifting method that allows for larger tires while remaining in budget.
We hope that you have benefited from the information here or even made a decision on which lifting method you want to use for your vehicle! Here’s a quick recap about what we’ve learned:
- Body lift kits are less expensive, but don’t add ground clearance. They raise ride height by adding space between the body and frame, making room for larger tires.
- A more expensive suspension lift kit increases both ground clearance and ride height by lifting the frame along with everything it supports. It also makes room for larger tires.
- Combining lifting and leveling kits with body lift kits can produce comparable results to a full suspension lift, at a much lower price.
- Every lifting method increases the center of gravity to some degree, increasing the chances for body roll, handling issues, and reducing traction.
It is important what you want out of a lift and how it will affect your vehicle. To minimize the negative results of lifting, only lift as much as you need. If you have any other questions regarding body or suspension lifts, we would love to hear from you in the comments section below!
From all of us here at DST: Ride Smooth (and tall), and Drive Hard.