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Cut the Cost of Lifting

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Posted February 1, 1998

Money-Saving Tips

Step By Step

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  • Body Lift

    Cheap! In fact, many older trucks can be body-lifted for around $60 (it’s more for later-model vehicles because if they have an airbag in the steering column, that will need an adapter kit), which is especially appealing if you want to lift an IFS truck on a budget. And a body lift kit is peanuts when you consider that a suspension lift’s ticket can be as much as $2,000 including labor. However, with the body lift you’ll really only gain clearance for bigger tires. So if hard-core ’wheeling is on your slate, you’re better off saving up for a suspension kit.

  • Spring-Over

    What’s been increasing in popularity for straight-axle/factory-leaf-spring vehicles, such as Jeeps and Land Cruisers, is a spring-over axle mod. Essentially, it requires moving the leaf springs from below the axles to above them. It’s not really expensive or tough, and typically the stock springs work fine. You’ll need to have tubing bent for the drag link. With this switch, you’ll gain more articulation and clearance simply by having the leaf springs up and out of the way.

  • Shackles

    If you have worn-out shackles, it’s time to bolt in new ones, and motivation to do so will come to you in the form of inches. In last month’s no-hassle shackle installation story we used ones 1-inch longer than stock and gained 1/2 inch of lift, although shackles are available 1 to 5 inches longer than stock for even more height. At a couple inches of lift from longer shackles won’t risk stretching or breaking components or throwing off the alignment. There are also flip-type shackles--basically the shackle gets turned upside down--that can net you up to 8 inches of lift at the rear. But keep in mind that it’ll cost you to bring the front end up to speed, and you’ll probably kiss your pinion angle and driveshaft fitment good-bye with that much air. Check out "Chevy Shackle Flip" in the Sept. 1997 issue for details on doing this the right way.

  • Cranked Torsion Bars

    Yes, you IFS-ers, there is low-buck hope: You can adjust the torsion bars slightly for additional height, but make sure you crank them equally on each side. Heavy-duty aftermarket torsion bars won’t lift you any higher than stock ones, but they won’t wear as fast as the stockers. And then there’s that downside--the pros warn of a rough ride, that you’ll wear the steering components, and lose suspension travel, and the alignment will be thrown off.

  • Do It Yourself?

    Many of these tips are easy enough to do yourself to save on labor costs. But to be frank, there aren’t many ways around money when lifting an IFS truck (shown). This is a complicated suspension that requires the entire front end to be disassembled, pieces whacked off, and new brackets installed, so unless you’re really knowledgeable, it’s best left to the experienced to modify--which will cost you, but it will also save money in the long run compared to you screwing something up. Other suspension systems are straightforward, so do what you can yourself.

  • Add-a-Leaves

    It’s so simple: Add another leaf to the rear for lift. This is a much better alternative to adding lift blocks, but you don’t get as much lift. Adding only one more leaf is best because the more you add, the stiffer the ride, and you may not continue increasing the height with every leaf added. Thin, full-length add-a-leaves generally give a better ride than short, thicker ones.

  • Rear Springs or Re-arched Springs

    Adding new rear springs rather than lift blocks will net you a softer ride and more suspension travel. And for some people this is their method of lift because the stock-height appearance appears to be retained. But if you’re going for re-arched springs, think of them as a temporary lift fix--within a year, they’ll begin to sag.

  • Rear Lift Blocks

    Note that we said rear, not front. Front lift blocks are illegal in nearly every state because they are unsafe and turn a vehicle into a severe road hazard. And by rear lift blocks we don’t mean bricks, hockey pucks, 2x4s--it’s not a creativity contest. Store-bought lift blocks aren’t expensive and won’t stiffen your ride. The con? Lift blocks increase spring wrap and long U-bolts can often work loose.


  • Coil-Spring Spacer

    Consider buying an aluminum coil spacer for underneath the stock coil for additional inches. The spacer goes between the spring and the mounting tower at the upper end of the coil, not at the axle end. Daystar Products (Dept. 4WOR, 841 S. 71st Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85043, 800/595-7659 or 602/907-0640) makes a urethane spacer for between the coil spring and the upper mount on Jeep TJs for about 11/2 inches of lift. It’s cheap, won’t change the geometry much, and, when combined with a 1-inch body lift, will add 21/2 inches of lift.

  • Replace Your Bushings

    If your bushings are toast, your overall ride height will diminish, so swap in new bushings. You’re not going to gain significant height, but every little bit helps, and this is dirt-cheap. And new ones may also give you a better ride by eliminating the metal-to-metal contact.

  • Don’t Lift More Than a Couple Inches

    Rule of thumb: The more you lift, the more you’ll spend. And this goes for the alternatives we’ve listed in this story or if you’re buying a lift kit. For a couple of inches, you shouldn’t need to replace or alter any other components, although you may need to relocate the brake lines. The driveshaft shouldn’t need to be lengthened with a shorter lift, but if there is some angle, try lowering the transfer case. Make sure the kit you’re planning to add includes such things as extended brake lines and drop-down brackets for the transfer case, or that you’ve at least set aside for them in your budget. And have spare cash in case the filler tube for the gas tank needs to be extended, the steering components need to be changed, the front bumper needs to be relocated, or the power steering lines or the shifter needs to be lengthened.

We’re not going to lie to you: Lifting your truck is gonna cost you. If you’ve priced some of the kits out there, you know. So if buying an entire kit is nowhere this side of reality for your budget, check out the following pages for the best ideas for more inches on a bargain plan. Rody Jarve at 4 Wheel Part Wholesalers, Chris Overacker at Mountain Off Road Enterprises, and Steve Brown at Off Road Unlimited clued us in to bucks-saving ways to lift without a kit, as well as some tips if you’re saving for the real deal.


Off Road Unlimited
4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers
Mountain Off Road Ent. Inc. (M.O.R.E.)
Rifle, CO