Lift your Ford the right way
You want lift kits for '80-and-newer Ford trucks? There are lots of them. In fact, one of the companies listed here offers 41 of them. So if you're ready to lift your Ford truck, you're in the right place from which to survey all your options. Many of the kits listed here feature similar components.
For example, all the manufacturers to whom we spoke advise giving particular attention to the rig's steering components because bumpsteer is a common side effect of lifting a TTB-equipped Ford. As a result, dropped pitman arms are a common inclusion in many of these larger kits. As with most lifts, new shocks are also often a standard inclusion, as are rear lift blocks, add-a-leaves or new leaf springs. But beware: Many manufacturers omit some key parts, expecting you to fork over a little more for "accessories." Call for more details and don't be afraid to ask questions. Happy lifting, Ford fanatics.
Kits available: 3
What it fits: '97-'03 F-150 (6-inch), '99-'03 F-250/F-350 Super Duty (5 1/2-8-inch)
Inches of lift: 5 1/2, 8
Maximum tire diameter: 35
Kit details: Fabtech's F-150 kits feature a one-piece drop-down steering knuckle and a 1/4-inch-thick high-arched lower control arm crossmember, providing a good deal of ground clearance. The front differential is relocated on the crossmember and protected by an integrated 1/4-inch-thick steel skidplate. Other parts include antiroll-bar link ends, torsion-bar drop-down brackets with crossmember impact struts. The rear of the F-150 is lifted using 3-inch blocks and bumpstop brackets. The company offers two similar kits for the Super Duty. Both the 5 1/2- and 8-inch lifts feature 10-leaf spring packs with nylon glide pads. These systems also include a track-bar bracket, pitman arm and antiroll-bar end links.
Optional accessories: Replacement leaf springs
More info: Fabtech, 4331 Eucalyptus Ave. Chino, CA 91710, 877/432-2832, www.fabtechmotorsports.com.
Kits available: 10
What they fit: '80-'96 F-150/Bronco (2-, 4-, 6-inch), '83-'97 Ranger/'82-'91 Bronco II (4-, 6-inch), '80-'96 F-250 (4-inch), '86-'97 F-350 (4-inch), '99-present F-250/F-350 Super Duty (4-, 6-, 8-inch)
Inches of lift: 2-8
Maximum tire diameter: 30-38
Kit details: For '80-'96 F-150 trucks, you can order 2-, 4-, or 6-inch lift kits. All these come with new coils; and, for lifts of 4 inches or greater, BDS offers an extended radius-arm kit, which includes 46-inch-long radius arms, brackets and tubular side plates. The 2-inch lift includes coils, an alignment cam and four shocks. The 4- and 6-inch kits include those parts plus what the company calls a front box kit-essentially a dropped pitman arm and antiroll-bar drop brackets. This kit lifts the front 4 inches and the rear 2 inches. The front-box kit, in this and other 4-inch-plus sizes, can be swapped for the aforementioned radius-arm kit. The kits for '80-'96 Broncos are the same as those for the F-150, except that these kits keep the Bronco level, front to rear. The '83-'97 Ranger kit comes with coils, radius-arm drop brackets and axle-pivot brackets. A pitman arm, antiroll-bar drop brackets and bumpstop relocation brackets are also included. The 2 1/2-inch lift kits for the '99-'00 Super Duty feature a front shackle hanger kit, an antiroll-bar-link kit and new shocks. When called for, BDS sells its Ford kits with either Glide Ride leaf springs or Pro Ride coil springs. BDS kits are available with rear lift blocks, add-a-leaves and U-bolts or complete replacement leaf springs. Each kit comes with new BDS 500 Series shocks valved specifically to your application.
Optional accessories: Steering stabilizer, alignment cam, front auxiliary shock, bumpstop extension kit, rear 3-inch-block kit, antiroll-bar drop kit.
More info: BDS Suspension, 102 S. Michigan Ave., Coldwater, MI 49036, 517/279-2135, www.bds-suspension.com.
Kits available: 7
What they fit: '99-'03 Super Duty (2 1/2-, 4-, 6-, 8-inch), '00-'03 Excursion (4-, 6-, 8-inch)
Inches of lift: 2 1/2 - 8
Maximum tire diameter: 33-38 (depending on kit and application)
Kit details: These kits all include leaf springs that provide lift, Revtek shocks, an "installer-friendly" track bar, dropped pitman arm, bumpstops, add-a-leaves, carrier-bearing drop brackets and all necessary hardware. The rear uses five-leaf military-wrapped, progressive-rate leaf springs that include OEM-style bushings.
Optional accessories: Replacement rear springs, dual front shocks, single or dual steering stabilizer.
More info: Revtek Industries, 4288 SE International Way, Portland, OR 97222, 877/LIFT-TOY, www.revtekindustries.com.
Ford first introduced what it called Twin Traction Beam (TTB) front suspension systems on the F-150, F-250 and Bronco in 1980. The TTB system uses coil springs and radius arms like its predecessor, but instead of a solid front axle, the TTB system uses a two-piece axle assembly connected to the frame by pivot brackets. The shorter link is on the passenger side, while the longer driver-side link houses the differential. This arrangement allows each axle half to travel independently of the other, thus offering more travel to the wheels. The most common complaint about Ford's TTB system was that the front wheels needed alignment more frequently than solid axles. Lifted rigs can be even worse, and in extreme cases, alignment can be much more difficult to accomplish than with other designs.
Usually lifting a TTB Ford creates negative caster and positive camber. Camber is the outward (positive) or inward (negative) tilt of the tires as viewed from the front. Caster is the angle of the steering pivot, measured in degrees, when viewed from the side of the vehicle. Generally, when lifting a TTB 2 inches or less, caster change is minimal, and camber can be corrected using adjustable camber bushings. When lifting more than 2 inches, lowering the axle halves at their frame attachment points restores camber, and spacing the radius arms down from the frame restores caster. Sometimes you may still have to replace the factory camber bushings to precisely set camber.
The standard approach to lifting Ford TTB rigs is to use drop-down pivot brackets on the radius arms for lifts of 4 inches or less. But a common problem that arises under serious off-highway use is that the brackets can tear out of the frame. Also, because of different camber arcs due to the drop brackets, steering geometry is greatly affected and can cause the steering box to loosen or crack the mounting points. To correct this, you've got to drop your steering system as well. A dropped pitman arm will partially correct the problem and many larger lift kits include pitman arms. These move the pivot point back.
One company, Autofab, modifies the beam housing and relocates the ball joint outward, allowing the beam pivot brackets to remain stock. According to Autofab, this design offers more ground clearance down the center of the vehicle. The company also uses larger coils and tube-type radius arms mounted at three points in the beam for extra strength. This lets you use the factory pivot brackets and steering geometry so that no dropped pitman arm is required. Finally, Autofab also employs a stronger pivot bracket that is moved inboard to make room for bigger tires.
Whatever approach you take to lifting a TTB Ford, be aware that you're about to embark on an anything-but-standard lift. Prepare to befriend your local wheel alignment specialist. You're about to get a lot closer to him.