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Lift Laws You Need To Know

Jeep Pulled Over
Tom Morr | Writer
Posted January 1, 2011
Photographers: Chris Collard, The 4-Wheel & Off-Road Archives

Rules By Region Part 3: The Midwest

Our bureaucratic lift-law odyssey began in the Oct. '10 issue with the Northeast, where in general they have some of the most restrictive lift laws for street-legal vehicles.

In contrast, the South, the subject of our Nov. '10 installment, tends to allow 4x4 owners more leeway in modifying street-driven vehicles.

This month we venture to the Midwest, the true-blue heartbeat of fullsized American 4x4 mania. Agriculture and manufacturing are Midwestern mainstays, so trucks are ingrained in the Heartland lifestyle. The vehicle codes tend to reflect this.

A quick review of tape-measure issues for those who've missed the previous articles in this series: Frame measurements are from the ground to the chassis' bottom surface, either at the frame horns for some states or at the lowest point. Similarly, bumpers are measured at their lowest surface. Some states permit "dropped bumpers," while others consider the frame horn-measurement to be the bumper height. Lights are generally measured from their center points to the ground. Exceptions are often made for military and "collector" vehicles.

Nonlift regulations often address braking, typically mandating a secondary mechanical parking brake. Many states also stipulate minimum stopping distances from a specified speed. Some states also address steering components. For example, Michigan mandates that the factory steering geometry be retained and makes it illegal to weld on linkage components (MCL 257.710c).

Overall size dimensions are normally set with big-rigs in mind. They vary slightly from state to state but are generally around 102 inches maximum width and 13 to 14 feet tall.

Pending Legislation
At press time, Iowa was one state with proposed lift legislation. As our subscribers know from last month, SEMA, the trade association that represents the automotive aftermarket, lobbies to oppose lift laws not based on engineering analysis. The association advocates a compromise of scientifically determined frame and bumper heights based on vehicle GVWR: up to 28 inches for the frame off the ground and 31 inches for bumpers. For more information, visit the SEMA Action Network at

Next time we'll wrap up our overview of lift laws with the Wild West.

(Illinois compiled statutes, chap. 625)
SUMMARY: Illinois is ill with vehicle regulations. The state addresses all angles: bumper, frame, and lift heights. In addition to GVWR-based bumper heights, suspension modifications in Illinois must keep bumpers within 3 inches of the OE height. Body lifts of 3 inches are the maximum too (§625-5/12-607).

Suspension Lifts (§625-5/12-607): "It shall be unlawful to operate a motor vehicle on any highway of this State when the suspension system has been modified from the original manufactured design by lifting the body from the chassis in excess of 3 inches or to cause the horizontal line from the front to the rear bumper to vary over 3 inches in height when measured from a level surface of the highway to the lower edge of the bumper ..."

FRAME HEIGHTS (§625-5/12-607)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 24 in.
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 26 in.
7,501-10,000 lb GVWR 28 in.
BUMPER HEIGHTS (§625-5/12-608)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 24 in. front, 26 rear
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 27 in. front, 29 rear
7,501-over lb GVWR 28 in. front, 30 rear

Mudflaps (§625-5/12-710): Full-tire-width "splash guards" are required for most vehicles.
Auxiliary Lights (§625-5/12-207): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 12.

Illinois General Assembly

(Indiana Code, Title 9)
Summary: Indiana sets maximum bumper height for vehicles lighter than 11,000 pounds GVWR at 30 inches, allowing all modifications that maintain that spec (§9-19-4-2). Light heights are also mandated; suspension lifts and frame heights are not.
Headlights (§9-19-6-3): Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillights (§9-19-6-4): Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 20.
FOG Lights (§9-19-6-14): Mounted not higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12.
Passing Lights (§9-19-6-15): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 24.
Driving Lights (§9-19-6-16): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16.

Indiana Code

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