Boosting the ride height on your truck with a good suspension kit gives it a number of on- and off-highway performance benefits and a level look. Suspensions are available in hundreds of brands, performance options, price ranges, and installation difficulties. They also range in price from a few hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. But in this tough economy most of us don’t have $5,000 to drop into a $4,000 truck for a high-end suspension.
Looking to keep costs down and show you how to lift an old Toyota Tacoma with a good-quality suspension lift, we picked up a Rough Country budget lift, which retails for just a few hundred dollars. This suspension kit is a great way to give a cool old four-wheel-drive Tacoma performance advantages while sticking to a modest budget. The 21⁄2-inch kit fits ’951⁄2-’04 Toyota Tacoma and can be easily installed in about four hours. Specialty tools aren’t needed, making this the perfect driveway installation.
The suspension kit consists of front strut spacers, rear lift shackles and shocks, and all installation hardware. For an additional $130 we picked up Rough Country’s Super Struts to replace the Tacoma’s worn-out factory struts. The Super Struts use a spherical lower bearing, which is superior to the rubber bushings on the old struts.
The factory front strut is easy to remove; just remove the lower mounting bolt and the upper three nuts on the top of the strut tower, and the strut pulls outward from the bottom and then down.
The upper A-arm and the ball joint need to be disassembled to get the new strut and its spacer back in place. Once the cotter pin and nut are removed, use a ball joint separator to get them apart. Sometimes tapping around the ball joint on the A-arm with a hammer will make the ball joint drop out.
A strut or spring compressor must be used to get the coil spring back on the strut. Be careful because it takes considerable force to get the spring back in place. We wrapped a rope around our cheap spring compressors so we wouldn’t lose an eye if they slipped off the spring. Safety first!
Place the strut inside the coil spring and then hardware and bushings in this order shown. The new strut’s rubber boot can be installed or left out; either way won’t affect performance.
Make sure the three new upper mounting studs are placed in the strut spacer before bolting it to the strut. The studs should be torqued to 35-45 ft-lb, then the spacer can be mounted on the strut.
With the strut and spacer bolted back in place, all the fasteners should be tightened to factory specs, which are included in the detailed instructions. The lift will change the camber, so the suspension should be aligned before hitting the highway and ruining a good set of tires.
The rear lift shackle comes with new hardware, but the original factory bushing must be reused. When removing the old bolts, take care not to damage them. The shackles lift the back of the truck 11⁄2 inches while keeping the original leaf springs in place so the truck retains the comfortable factory ride.
The suspension kit comes with Rough Country’s Hydro 8000 rear shocks. The nine-stage velocity-sensitive shock is tuned for each application, which offers a comfortable ride. The 9⁄16-inch chromed and hardened piston rod keeps it durable and dependable.
We tested the Rough Country Suspension on some grueling washboard roads and were surprised that such a budget-priced kit gave our old Tacoma a comfortable and controllable ride. Since then we have not noticed any unusual noises or the squirrely ride characteristics commonly found in budget suspension kits.
To see how the kit would do for guys who use their daily driver as a trail runner, we hit the street and parking lots. We found the suspension very highway-friendly. The truck rode comfortably on the freeway and side streets with a much smoother ride, even when we hit speed bumps faster than we should have.