• JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

Lift Laws You Need to Know

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on November 1, 2010 Comment (0)
Share this
Photographers: Chris CollardThe 4-Wheel & Off-Road Archives

Last month we covered lift-law basics and listed regulations for the Northeast. Without recovering too much territory (search for the Oct. '10 article at 4wheelandoffroad.com), we'll reiterate measurement methodology: Nearly all states calculate bumper and frame measurements from the ground to the bottom surface of those components. Light height is measured from the ground to the lense's center point.

This month the South rises in a big way. Confederate states are some of the least regulated on bumper and frame heights; many don't even specifically address suspension modifications. On the other hand, light location is often mandated. Codes typically define visible distances for headlights and taillights, and some even mention light intensity, defining it in terms of candlepower. In general, lights with DOT stamps on them likely comply with the various states' regulations.

Remember that the laws below pertain to street-driven, licensed vehicles. Once your 4x4 becomes a trailered, trail-only machine, these rules don't necessarily apply. Also, some 4x4s might fit the "farm use" definitions in their states, permitting them to run agricultural plates.

We're limiting this series to regulations that cover lift-related equipment: suspension, steering, fender coverage, and heights of bumpers/frames and lights. We aren't addressing other common reasons 4x4s get pulled over, such as license-plate problems (a lack of front plate in some states, no rear illumination in others).

One other issue we plan to address later in this series is reciprocity among states. Coming up next time, we cover the Heartland.

Virginia
(Code of Virginia, Title 46)
Summary:
Virginia is somewhat thorough-its code even addresses "smoke projectors" and "flame throwers." Maximum bumper height varies by GVWR.

BUMPER HEIGHT (§46.2-1063):
4,501 lb GVWR or less 28 in. front, 28 rear
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 29 in. front, 30 rear
7,501-15,000 lb GVWR 30 in. front, 31 rear

Body Lift (§46.2-1063):
"No vehicle shall be operated on a public highway if it has been modified by any means so as to raise its body more than 3 inches, in addition to any manufacturer's spacers and bushings, above the vehicle's frame rail or manufacturer's attachment points on the frame rail."

At Virginia's Crozet Park, this '88 YJ on 38-inch Swampers is likely too high for street use. Depending on GVWR (Wranglers with automatic transmissions and 4.11 axle gears can be over 4,500 pounds), the YJ could be street-legal if its bumper heights are between 28 and 30 inches.

Lift Blocks (§46.2-1064):
"No motor vehicle whose front-end suspension has been modified by the use of lift blocks shall be driven on any highway in the Commonwealth."

Steering (§46.2-1065):
"No Virginia-registered motor vehicle shall be issued a safety inspection approval sticker or be operated on a highway in the Commonwealth if equipped with a repair kit or preventive maintenance kit installed on a tie-rod end, idler arm, ball joint or any other part of the vehicle's steering gear."

Source
Code of Virginia
leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+TOC46020000010000000000000

West Virginia
(West Virginia Vehicle Code, Chapter 17)
SUMMARY:
Front lift blocks are verboten, and the state limits body lifts to 3 inches. A "modified vehicle" inspection sticker is required for "any motor vehicle which has been altered from the manufacturer's specification with respect to bumper height for that vehicle make and model but within the allowable limits."

Maximum Bumper/Frame Height (§17C-15-48):
10,000-pound GVWR or less: 31 inches. Bumper must also be at least 3 inches in vertical width and "not less than the width of the wheel track distance."

Headlights (§17C-15-4):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.

Body Lift (§17C-15-48):
"The maximum distance between the vehicle body to the vehicle frame may not exceed three inches."

Lift Blocks (§17C-15-48):
"Modification of the front end suspension by the use of lift blocks is expressly prohibited."

Suspension (§17C-15-48):
"No part of the original suspension system may be disconnected to defeat the safe operation of the suspension system. ... Nothing contained in this section prevents the installation of heavy-duty equipment, including shock absorbers and overload springs."

TIRE SIZE (§17C-15-48):
No modified-vehicle inspection is required for "a vehicle modified solely by the installation of tires not larger than two sizes beyond the maximum specified by the manufacturer."

Source
West Virginia Code
www.legis.state.wv.us/WVCODE/Code.cfm?chap=17&art=1

North Carolina
(North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 20)
Summary:
North Carolina's statutes even address how to display the Confederate Flag. Liftwise, "passenger" vehicles (donks?) are limited to 6 inches of lift. Pickups need written permission to go higher; SUVs built on a truck chassis and used "for occasional off-road operation" could be exempt depending on who is doing the interpreting.

"Normal" vehicles in North Carolina are limited to 6 inches of lift. Exceptions are made for passenger vehicles constructed on a truck chassis that have special features for occasional off-road operation.

Vehicle Elevation (§20-135.4):
"The manufacturer's specified height of any passenger motor vehicle shall not be elevated or lowered, either in front or back, more than 6 inches by modification, alteration, or change of the physical structure of said vehicle without prior written approval of the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles." North Carolina defines private passenger automobile as "a four wheeled motor vehicle designed principally for carrying passengers, for use on public roads and highways, except a multipurpose passenger vehicle which is constructed either on a truck chassis or with special features for occasional off-road operation."

Source
North Carolina General Statutes
www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/Statutes/StatutesTOC.pl?Chapter=0020

South Carolina
(South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 56)
Summary:
Like North Carolina, S.C. limits "passenger" motor vehicles to 6 inches of lift. "However, this shall not apply to motor vehicles commonly called 'pickup trucks' (§56-5-4445)."
Headlamps (§56-5-4450):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24 inches.
Taillamps (§56-5-4520):
Mounted not higher than 60 inches nor lower than 20 inches.

Shot at the 4-Wheel Jamboree in Anderson, South Carolina, this show Super Duty has a dropped bumper and lights, presumably to comply with the its state's vehicle code.

Source
South Carolina Legislature
www.scstatehouse.gov/code/titl56.htm

Georgia
(Georgia Code, Title 40)
Summary:
Maximum lift is 2 inches "above or below the factory recommendation (§40-8-6)." Since Mopar lift kits are sold at Dodge and Jeep dealerships and are covered by a warranty, does that constitute "recommendation?" Can you go 2 inches above the tallest "factory"-offered lift kit available at a Dodge or Jeep dealership? Let us know if you have firsthand experience with these issues. Also, driving on the street in Georgia is illegal "if the (vehicle's) springs relative to the suspension system are broken."

MAXIMUM FRAME HEIGHTS (§40-8-6.1):
4,500 lb GVWR or less 27 in.
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 30 in.
7,501-14,000 lb GVWR 31 in.

Source
Georgia Code
www.lexis-nexis.com/hottopics/gacode/

Florida
(Florida Statutes, Title 23)
Summary:
Lifting isn't specifically addressed by Florida; bumper and light heights are. Trucks more than 5,000 pounds "net shipping weight" are apparently exempt. For legal-trivia buffs, the Florida Legislature calls its website Online Sunshine.

Bumper Height-"net shipping weight," not GVWR (§316.251):
"Every motor vehicle of net shipping weight of not more than 5,000 pounds shall be equipped with a front and a rear bumper such that when measured from the ground to the bottom of the bumper the maximum height shall be as follows":

2,000 lb or less 24 in. front, 26 rear
2,000-3,000 lb 27 in. front, 29 rear
3,001-5,000 lb 28 in. front, 30 rear

Headlamps (§316.220):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.

Source
Florida Statutes
www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Index&Title_Request=XXIII#TitleXXIII

Alabama
(Code Of Alabama, Title 32)
Summary:
Alabama doesn't have any specific lift or height laws.
Headlamps (§32-5-240):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillamps (§32-5-240):
Mounted not higher than 60 inches nor lower than 20.

This YJ, with 4-inch Superlift springs and 35-inch BFGs, can legally be driven to and from the Gray Rock ORV Park (notice its license plate).

Source
Code Of Alabama
www.legislature.state.al.us/codeofalabama/1975/coatoc.htm

Tennessee
(Tennessee Vehicle Code, Title 55)
Summary: Tennessee uses frame and bumper heights to regulate lifts. Bumpers "or other energy-absorption system" are required for street driving; "drop bumpers" are allowed. Also, front lift blocks are illegal.

Bumper Height/Suspenion Modifications (§55-9-215):
"No person shall operate a four-wheel drive recreational vehicle of a type required to be registered under the laws of this state upon a public highway or street modified by reason of alteration of its altitude from the ground if its bumpers, measured to any point on a load-bearing member on the horizontal bumper bar, are not within the range of 14 to 31 inches above the ground, except that no vehicle shall be modified to cause the vehicle body or chassis to come in contact with the ground or expose the fuel tank to damage from collision or cause the wheels to come in contact with the body under normal operation, and that no part of the original suspension system be disconnected to defeat the safe operation of the suspension system; provided, that nothing contained in this section shall prevent the installation of heavy-duty equipment to include shock absorbers and overload springs. ... In the case of a four-wheel drive vehicle where the 31-inch limitation is exceeded, the vehicle will comply with this section if the vehicle is equipped with a drop bumper. The drop bumper must be bolted and welded to the frame of the vehicle and be made of a strength equal to a stock bumper. ... No person shall modify or cause to be modified by the use of lift blocks the front end suspension of a motor vehicle."

MAXIMUM FRAME HEIGHTS (§55-9-215):
4,500 lb GVWR or less 24 in.
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 26 in.
7,501-14,000 lb GVWR 28 in.

Source
Tennessee Code
michie.lexisnexis.com/tennessee/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=main-h.htm&cp

Kentucky
(Kentucky Revised Statutes, Title 16)
Summary:
Light heights are specifically addressed by Kentucky; lifts aren't.
Headlamps (§16-189-040):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.

This Toyota's license plate indicates that it complies with Kentucky's light-height regulations.

Source
Kentucky Revised Statutes
www.lrc.state.ky.us/KRS/189-00/CHAPTER.htm

Mississippi
(Mississippi Code Of 1972, Title 63)
Summary:
Mississippi is exceptionally modification-friendly. It currently has no lift or height laws on its books.

Source
Mississippi Code
www.mscode.com/free/statutes/63/index.htm

Louisiana
(Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 32)
Summary:
Light height and fender-coverage are regulated. Lifts/suspension modifications are not specifically addressed.
Headlamps (§32-303):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillamps (§32-304):
Mounted not higher than 70 inches nor lower than 15.
Fenders/Mudguards (§32-364):
"Every motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle, when operated upon a highway of this state, shall be equipped with fenders, covers, or such devices, including flaps or splash aprons, or fender flares to effectively minimize the spray or splash of water or mud or loose material on the highways to the rear of the vehicle unless the body of the vehicle or attachments thereto afford such protection. The width of such fenders, covers, or other devices shall be at least the width of the tires of the motor vehicle."

With a 4-inch Skyjacker suspension lift and 1-inch body lift, this TJ on 33s has the proper light locations and fender coverage to be licensed in Louisiana.

Source
Louisiana Revised Statutes
www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?folder=106

Arkansas
(Arkansas Code, Title 27)
Summary:
Arkansas doesn't regulate lifts or frame heights. Light heights are the only specified limitation.
Headlamps (§27-36-209):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillamps (§27-36-215):
Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 20.

Arkansas only has light-height laws. Scot King often drives his mildly lifted '54 CJ-3B to and from the Superlift ORV Park in Hot Springs.

Source
Arkansas Code of 1987
www.arkleg.state.ar.us/bureau/Publications/Arkansas%20Code/Title%2027.pdf

Texas
(Texas Statutes, Transportation Code, Title 7)
Summary:
Like many of its adjacent states, Texas is hands-off regarding lifts. Lights must be mounted within specific heights. The vehicle code is one of the most clear and succinct.
Headlamps (§7-547-321):
Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillamps (§7-547-322):
Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.

This exoskeleton Super Duty has the proper light heights as well as a front plate, making it street-legal in Texas.

Source
Texas Statutes
codes.lp.findlaw.com/txstatutes/TN/7

Comments

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Sponsored Content