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Lift Laws You Need To Know

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on January 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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Lift Laws You Need To Know
Photographers: Chris CollardThe 4-Wheel & Off-Road Archives

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 www.semasan.com.

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

Illinois
(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.

Source
Illinois General Assembly
www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1815&ChapterID=49

Indiana
(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.

In Indiana, all under-11,000-pound-GVWR trucks are limited to a 30-inch frame height. This Super Duty on 49s at the Indy Jamboree could have a high enough GVWR to make it exempt.

Source
Indiana Code
www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title9

Iowa
(Iowa Code, Title 8)
SUMMARY: Iowa doesn't currently have height laws on the books except for auxiliary light mounting. However, a proposed law would limit frame height to 23 inches and body lifts to 5.
Driving Lights (§8.2.321.403): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 12.

Source
Iowa Legislature
search.legis.state.ia.us

Kansas
(Kansas Statutes, chap. 8)
Summary: Kansas is wide-open for 4x4 modifications: no lift or height restrictions other than specified light-location ranges.
Headlights (§8-1705B): Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillights (§8-1706B): Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.
Auxiliary Lights (§8-1719): Mounting heights range between 42 and 12 inches depending on light function.

Source
Kansas Legislature
www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-statutes/index.do

Michigan
(Michigan compiled laws, chap. 257)
SUMMARY: Michigan limits heights of bumpers, frames (measured to the lowest point on the chassis), and lights. All front lift blocks and coil spacers are illegal; rear leveling blocks are limited to 4 inches, and springs shackles can't be more than 2 inches longer than stock. Maybe the Detroit Three will use whatever political clout they still have in the state to create more aftermarket-friendly legislation. Some (Mopar, for example) are beginning to capture significant profits from dealer-installed lift kits. Current laws limit this potential in Michigan.

The Big Three's push for dealership service might influence Michigan's highly restrictive height-modification laws. Chrysler finally figured out that profits from dealer-installed (and financed) lift kits far outweigh potential warranty issues. This factory-Moparized JK with a 2-inch Mopar/Superlift lift and 35-inch Goodyear MT/Rs is likely borderline street-legal in Michigan.
FRAME HEIGHTS (§257.710c2)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 24 in.
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 24 in.
7,501-10,000 lb GVWR 26 in.
BUMPER HEIGHTS (§257.710c2)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 26 in.
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 28 in.
7,501-10,000 lb GVWR 30 in.

Body Lifts, Shackles, Coil Spacers, Steering (§§257.710c4): "... a person shall not operate a motor vehicle having lift blocks between the front axle and springs, or with lift blocks that exceed 4 inches in height between the rear axle and springs in addition to those provided by the original manufacturer. Any body lift block shall be of single piece construction and shall not use more than a 3-inch spacer. Any suspension lift block shall use an alignment pin between the axle and the spring, and shall be of single piece construction. Spring shackle replacements shall not exceed the original equipment manufacture length by more than 2 inches, and coil spring spacers are prohibited. All steering components shall be geometrically arranged to function as original equipment manufacture. Welded pitman arms, drag links, and tie rods are prohibited. All parts used to modify the original suspension or height of a motor vehicle shall be factory manufactured and shall meet or exceed the original manufacturer's specifications."
Headlights (§257.685(4)): Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Fog Lights (§257.696): Mounted not higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12.

Source
Michigan Legislature
www.legislature.mi.gov

Minnesota
(Minnesota Statutes, Chap. 169)
Summary: Minnesota is status quo, setting bumper heights and specifying mounting-height ranges for auxiliary lights.
Bumper Restrictions (§169.73.3): "No person shall operate a private passenger vehicle that: (a) was originally equipped with bumpers as standard equipment, unless the vehicle is equipped with bumpers equal to the original equipment; or (b) has a suspension system or body so modified that the height of the vehicle or any bumpers varies more than six inches from the original manufactured height for the vehicle."
Bumper Height (§169.73.4): "Notwithstanding the restrictions contained in subdivision 3 [above], bumpers required under this section shall not exceed a height of ... 25 inches on any four-wheel drive multipurpose type vehicle, van ... or pickup truck ... when the vehicle is being operated on a public highway. The height of the bumper shall be determined by measuring from the bottom of the bumper, excluding any vertical bumper attachments, to the ground. A vehicle which has an original bumper which does not exceed a height of 30 inches may be modified by attaching a full width bumper to the regular bumper to meet the height requirement. The attached bumper must be at least 4.5 inches in vertical height, be centered on the vehicle's centerline, extend at least ten inches on either side of the frame, and be attached to the frame in at least four places with angle braces at no less than 45 degrees so that it effectively transfers impact to an extent equal to or greater than the original bumper."
Foglights (§169.56.2): Mounted not higher than 30 inches nor lower than 12.
Auxiliary Driving Lights (§169.56.4): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 16. Exceptions are made for snowplows.

Most serious trail machines are likely towed to Minnesota's Iron Range OHV Park. State residents who legally want to drive their 4x4s there are legally limited to a 25-inch bumper height or a bumper that's within six inches of the OE height.

Source
Minnesota Statutes
www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?year=2006&id=169

Missouri
(Missouri revised statutes, chap. 307)
Summary: Missouri follows the common trend of setting bumper heights and allowing those to determine lift and tire size. Light heights are also specified; the state limits street-legal vehicles to three auxiliary driving lights.

This custom Econoline is likely limited to 27-to-30-inch bumper heights in Missouri. Who determines GVWR on vehicles with heavier-than-stock axles and other hardcore modifications?
BUMPER HEIGHTS (§307.172)
4,500 lb GVWR or less 24 in. front, 26 rear
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 27 in. front, 29 rear
7,501-9,000 lb GVWR 28 in. front, 30 rear
9,001-11,500 lb GVWR 29 in. front, 31 rear

Headlamps (§307.045): Must have at least two, mounted at the same level, with at least one per side. Mounting height isn't specified.
Taillamps (§307.075): Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.
Auxiliary Lamps (§307.075): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 12.
Mudflaps (§307-015): Required for commercial vehicles over 24,000 pounds that don't have rear fenders.

Source
Missouri Revised Statutes
www.moga.mo.gov/STATUTES/C307.HTM

Nebraska
(Nebraska revised statutes, chap. 60) SUMMARY: Like Kansas, Nebraska is laissez-faire. Aftermarket equipment stipulations are minimal; auxiliary light heights are one of the few defined modifications.
Auxiliary Lights (§60-6,225): Mounting heights range between 42 and 12 inches depending on light function.

Source
Nebraska Legislature
uniweb.legislature.ne.gov

North Dakota
(North Dakota Century Code, Title 39)
Summary: Unlike its southerly neighbors, North Dakota spells out maximum limits. Vehicles that weigh 7,000 pounds and under are limited to 4 inches of lift, 44-inch tires, and bumpers 27 inches off the ground. Also, modifying the steering system on a vehicle lighter than 7,000 pounds is unlawful.
Allowable Modifications For Vehicles That Weigh 7,000 Pounds Or Less (§39-21-45.1)
(1) Front and rear bumpers are required.
(2) Maximum body height from the ground to the floor of the cargo area is 42 inches.
(3) Maximum bumper height is 27 inches.
(4) Drop bumpers are allowed if at least 3 inches tall, full body width, and attached to the vehicle to transfer impact.
(5) Maximum outside tire diameter is 44 inches.
(6) Maximum suspension lift is 4 inches.
Headlamps (§39-21-03.2): Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24. Taillamps (§39-21-04.2): Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.
Auxiliary Lamps (§39-21-17): Mounted not higher than 42 inches nor lower than 12 inches depending on function (fog or driving).

North Dakota wheelers likely trailer their rigs. The state has some of the nation's most restrictive laws. This CJ-7 appears to possess an ND plate.

Source
North Dakota Century Code
www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t39.html

Ohio
(Ohio Administrative Code, CHAP. 4501)
SUMMARY: Ohio is specific yet liberal concerning suspension modifications. It defines truck as any vehicle "designed and used to carry property and having a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less." Suspension stipulations are directed primarily toward "low-brow" trucks: "No person shall modify any motor vehicle registered in this state in such a manner as to cause the vehicle body or chassis to come in contact with the ground, expose the fuel tank to damage from collision, or cause the wheels to come in contact with the body under normal operation, and no person shall disconnect any part of the original suspension system of the vehicle to defeat the safe operation of that system including the installation of inverted, altered, or modified suspension system component parts which results in elevation of the height of the vehicle bumper or frame unit which is not in compliance with this chapter" [§4501-43-03(B)]. Body lifts are limited to 4 inches. Additionally, bumper parameters are defined. §4501-43-03(C) specifies that all vehicles originally equipped with bumpers must retain same in order to be licensed.

Ohio limits body lifts and bumper heights. This truck apparently complies with the state's vehicle code.

Further, "The horizontal bumper shall be at least 4.5 inches in vertical height, centered on the vehicle's centerline, and extend no less than the width of the respective wheel track distances. Bumpers shall be horizontal load-bearing bumpers and attached to the vehicle frame to effectively transfer impact when engaged" [§4501-43-04(A)]. Finally, Ohio uses bumper heights to determine allowable modifications.
Body Lifts [§4501-43-03(D)]: "No person shall operate upon a street or highway any passenger car, multipurpose passenger vehicle, or truck registered in this state if the difference in height between the body floor and the top of the frame exceeds four inches."

Shot at a Summit event in Ohio, this CJ-5 looks show-only. Its pristine primp hints that it travels more on a trailer than under its own power.

BUMPER HEIGHTS [§4501-43-04(B)]
4,500 lb GVWR or less 24 in. front, 26 rear
4,501-7,500 lb GVWR 27 in. front, 29 rear
7,501-10,000 lb GVWR 28 in. front, 31 rear

Source
Ohio Administrative Code
codes.ohio.gov/oac/4501-43

Oklahoma
(Oklahoma Statutes, Title 47)
SUMMARY: Oklahoma is more than OK for vehicle modifications. The state doesn't legislate lifts or bumper heights. Allowable light heights are specified, and vehicles without rear fenders need mudflaps.
Headlamps (§47-12-203.B): Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 22.
Taillamps (§47-12-204.B): Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.
Auxiliary Lights (§47-12-217.E): Mounted not higher than 42 inches.
Mudflaps (§47-12-405.3): Vehicles without fenders over the rearmost wheels must have rubber or fabric aprons hanging perpendicularly to the body. Animal-drawn vehicles and farm tractors traveling less and 20 mph are exempt.

Source
Oklahoma State Courts Network
law.justia.com/oklahoma/codes/os47.html

South Dakota
(South Dakota Codified Laws, Title 32)
Summary: Improper light heights could incite citations in South Dakota. Vehicle heights cannot.
Taillights (§32-17-8): Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 15.
Auxiliary Lights (§32-17-17): Mounting heights range between 42 and 12 inches depending on light function.

This Ranger-bodied Bronco is licensable in South Dakota. (Almost everything is.)

Source
South Dakota Legislature
legis.state.sd.us

Wisconsin
(Wisconsin statutes, chap. 347 & 348)
Summary: While most states limit bumper or frame heights, Wisconsin goes against the grain, capping lifts and tire heights: the maximum lift is 5 inches, and tires can be no taller than 8 inches over stock. That's for vehicles under 8,000 pounds GVWR. Vehicles over 8,000 pounds appear to be exempt.
Height Modifications (§347.455): "(2) If the modification is for the purpose of strengthening or improving handling, modifications may be made to the suspension system, axles, or chassis of a four-wheel-drive vehicle or a motor truck which has a gross weight of not more than 8,000 pounds which cause the vehicle to ride 5 or less inches above the height of the vehicle specified by the manufacturer. The height of the vehicle shall be measured from the level surface on which the vehicle stands. "(3) A four-wheel-drive vehicle or a motor truck which has a gross weight of not more than 8,000 pounds may be modified to use a tire and wheel size which exceeds the wheel and tire size specified by the manufacturer for the vehicle by up to 4 inches in radius."
Headlamps (§347.09): Mounted not higher than 54 inches nor lower than 24.
Taillamps (§347.13): Mounted not higher than 72 inches nor lower than 20.

Shot at the Memorial Day event in Dresser, Wisconsin, Fordzilla runs 48-inch Terra tires. It also has a license plate. Vehicles over 8,000 pounds GVWR are apparently exempt from Wisconsin's lift/height laws.

Source
Wisconsin Statutes
www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/Statutes.html

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