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Lift Laws You Need to Know

Jeep Pulled Over By Police
Tom Morr | Writer
Posted November 1, 2010
Photographers: Chris Collard, The 4-Wheel & Off-Road Archives

Rules By Region Part 2: The South

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, 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.

(Code of Virginia, Title 46)
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."

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."

Code of Virginia

West Virginia
(West Virginia Vehicle Code, Chapter 17)
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."

West Virginia Code

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