Lifted trucks have ample appeal—they provide an elevated line of sight, greater ground clearance and, most importantly, that head-turning, rugged coolness factor so many of us envy. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone should jump feet first into the decision to install a lift kit on their truck. Make sure you’re fully aware of the realities of owning a lifted truck before determining if it’s the right decision for you.
Installation of a Higher Lift Kit Impacts Handling
Lifting the vehicle shifts its center of gravity upwards, subsequently adding new instability. Wider tires can help counter this, but drivers should still avoid sharp turns at high speeds. The higher the height gain, the more noticeable the change.
Trucks with lifts taller than six inches may have further steering issues. For example, the wheel may wander, exhibit resistance, or even unexpected yank to one side, also known as a “death wobble.” A skilled mechanic can lessen the risk by adjusting the steering box components, gear ratio, and other internal mechanisms, but risk remains nonetheless. Because of these potential safety concerns, some mechanics won’t lift a truck taller than six-inches.
Should this stop you from purchasing a lifted truck? Not necessarily. However, it does suggest that people without previous experience driving a lifted truck should test-drive one of a similar height before lifting their own. They should also consider the environment in which they plan on doing most of their driving; if it’s on paved ground, a less dramatic lift may be the better fit.
Not All Drivers Can Reap the Full Benefits
So why deal with these potential downsides? Because there’s many benefits to be enjoyed! The increased tire size and ground clearance makes off-roading increasingly possible by limiting the potential damage of debris, as well as providing an overall smoother ride across the rough ground.
However, not everyone’s lifestyles enables them to take full advantage of these benefits. For individuals who do exclusively on-road driving and no hauling, the only noticeable benefit is the lifted line of sight and boosted aesthetic.
These drivers should not forego lifted trucks, but should consider a lower height that would accomplish their goal without exceeding what is necessary.
This is Not a Fun Project to Do at Home
Beginning mechanics may be surprised by the complexity of lifting a truck, particularly if the added height exceeds three inches. Suddenly, they may find themselves needing to install a new brake system, springs, and suspension arms, as well as needing to realign the wheel and gear ratio.
Failure to properly execute the necessary changes means that you place yourself and other drivers at risk. Trust a professional mechanic to lift your truck rather than treating this as a project you can complete at home.
Lifted Trucks Come With Added Costs
Lift kits are sold at price points ranging anywhere from $100 – $12,000, significantly impacted by the desired height and manufacturer. Yet the costs that come with lifting a vehicle doesn’t stop there. Drivers should consider the added costs of the following:
- Professional installation. As highlighted above, it’s strongly recommended to work with a professional to apply the lift kit, adding to the upfront cost.
- Increased gas usage. With the added mass, your lifted vehicle will consume more fuel than it would otherwise.
- More frequent part replacement. Key parts like your brakes, suspension system, and tires will need to be refreshed more often than if you drove a non-lifted truck.
- Potential to void your warranty. If your truck is still under warranty, read the fine print or talk to the dealership about whether the installation of aftermarket parts voids it entirely. Keep in mind, it may not ultimately be up to the location manager, as he or she may need to submit a form for approval to the truck’s manufacturer before offering you repairs under warranty.
If the mechanic determines that the aftermarket parts are responsible for a mechanical issue, repairs will most likely not be covered.
- Added insurance costs. If you’re hoping to cover your lift kit, you’ll need a policy endorsement. Without one, you shoulder the financial burden if your kit and aftermarket parts become damaged in a collision.
Trucks With Higher Lifts May Struggle to Find Insurance Coverage
A common complaint amongst drivers of taller vehicles (particularly those driving trucks lifted by more than 6-inches) is the difficulty of finding an insurance provider willing to work with them. On forums like F150 Forum and Insurance Journal, drivers with dramatically lifted vehicles compare notes about various providers but, as you can read in the threads, finding insurance options may be tricky.
Key Takeaway: Do Your Research Before Lifting Your Truck
There’s a lot to love about lifted trucks but, simply put, they’re not for everyone. Make sure you feel comfortable maneuvering the vehicle with its raised center of gravity and are prepared for the added costs. Invest in a quality kit from a reputable manufacturer and work with an experienced mechanic to ensure that your lifted truck provides optimal performance both on and off the road.
Contributed by Jeff Liberty, Master Certified Sales Consultant from Bo Beuckman Quality Ford