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Gaining Ground: Installing A 4-Inch BDS Lift Under A 2015 Ford F-150

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on February 27, 2017 Comment (0)
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One of the many attractions of the latest generation Ford F-150s is how smooth they ride on- and off-road. The suspension on the 4x4s is especially nice, soaking up dips, bumps, potholes and other irregularities one encounters during daily driving with a smooth balance of control and comfort. Those traits carry over off-road where the aluminum-bodied 1/2-ton excels as a decent all-around four-wheeler.

So when owners of ’15-’16 F-150s start looking for ways to further improve their trucks’ stance and gain precious ground clearance for more serious off-road forays, most want to retain as much of the factory ride as possible. They also want to retain the Ford’s electronic stability control (ESC) safety features.

This is the base BDS lift kit that includes everything you need to raise a ’15-newer F-150 4 inches, making room to run up to 35-inch tires. The kit, which takes 8-10 hours to install, carries a “No Fine Print Warranty” and a 5-year, 60,000-mile-plus drivetrain warranty.

Balanced Suspension

BDS Suspension’s engineering team clearly understood that with the design of its new 4-inch suspension kit, which can be easily increased to 6 inches of lift after the initial installation. BDS says the high-clearance design of its kit maximizes ground clearance while retaining the factory-like suspension and steering geometry without compromising the ESC system, and it’s all done with high-end components including CNC-machined ductile iron steering knuckles, 1/4-inch steel front crossmembers, built-in front skidplate, and Fox gas-charged rear shocks.

We saw the company’s technology firsthand when we were visiting Dunks Performance in Springfield, Oregon, as Richard McFarland installed the kit under Brad Myers’ ’15 F-150 FX4. During the eight-hour installation the secrets to how BDS lifts an F-150 and the quality of their parts were on open display.

The most impressive aspect of the finished installation is that it actually did retain the factory steering feel and overall ride quality. The kit also cleared the way for Myers to run taller tires, increasing precious ground clearance under the differentials.

Here, Dunks Performance tech Richard McFarland (left) gets a helping hand from coworker Casey Castle in removing the F-150’s front differential. Installing the BDS kit requires removing the entire front suspension from driveline to struts, steering knuckles to sway bar, to the differential and its supporting crossmembers.

Uplifting numbers

Before McFarland started the installation, the F-150 was rolling on factory P275/55R20 (31.9-inch) Goodyear Wranglers, which Myers replaced with LT285/65R20 (34.6-inch) Nitto Terra Grapplers mounted on Fuel Maverick rims.

With the new suspension and tires/wheels installed, the truck gained 5 inches of ground clearance under the front air dam (a 55 percent improvement) while the hitch-to-ground measurement went up from 17 1/2 inches to 22 inches, a 26 percent gain. It also added 1 1/4 inches more clearance between the rear differential and terra firma.

The BDS kit and increased tire diameter also increased the F-150’s approach angle from 30 degrees to 37 degrees (a 19 percent increase) and the departure angle from 23 degrees to 30 degrees (a 30 percent improvement).

Every inch and every degree of improvement in ground clearance and approach/departure angles means less chance of getting stuck in snow or hanging up in deep ruts during off-road adventures.

This kit repositions the front differential downward, so it required cutting off a large chunk of the driver side of the differential’s rear support crossmember before installing the new drop bracketry. We also had to drill an additional hole in the frame pocket to bolt in the new BDS crossmember. The instructions in the kit (and online) are very well illustrated and detailed in every aspect of the installation.

Bottom Line

To keep costs down, Brad chose to retain the factory struts (BDS offers both a standard kit with strut spacers and an upgraded version that includes Fox 2.5 Series coilovers. Both kits include Fox 2.0 IFP rear shocks, which are a significant improvement over the FX4 OE shocks, most noticeable when towing or hauling a load in the bed. We noticed the IFPs did a fine job controlling the extra 24 pounds per tire the beefier Nittos added to this truck’s unsprung weight.

After the installation, the truck’s alignment was surprisingly good even before it was put on Dunk’s laser-alignment rack and totally dialed-in. This is a testament to the design and quality of the BDS kit, which uses special caster/camber adjustment bolts for easy fine-tuning of the alignment.

Another appealing aspect of this F-150 kit is the owner can easily bump it up to a 6-inch lift by simply replacing the 4-inch strut spacers with 6-inch versions (or swap out the struts for the 6-inch Fox 2.5 coilovers), and replace the rear lift blocks with 5-inchers and longer U-bolts.

There’s a lot we liked about this kit, including the high-clearance design, quality of the parts, and the detailed installation instructions. Follow along as we delve into some highlights of the install.

Installing the CNC-machined 1/4-inch steel front drop crossmember required some minor grinding on the front corner of each frame bracket. The fit of the heavy-duty crossmember is tight and includes an angled skidplate to increase protection of the differential from hard impacts.
When we bolted the front differential to the new drop brackets, the mounting bolts were left loose until after the new BDS rear crossmember was installed to ensure proper alignment. All of the kit’s mounting brackets appeared strouter than OE.
After the differential was bolted into place, McFarland installed the rear crossmember. BDS’ kit lowered the front differential 4 inches while retaining the stock front suspension geometry.
We appreciated the extra support this “Z”-brace added to the differential support.
Included as part of the kit are heavy-duty drop-blocks that kept the front sway bar in its factory alignment with the rest of the front suspension.
One trick not mentioned in the instructions is chasing the threads to clean out powdercoating where the BDS skidplate bolts to the new crossmembers.
What’s impressive about the BDS F-150 lift kit design is how well the components fit and the added protection they give the frontend.
We were impressed with how robust the new drop-knuckles are built. Not only do they speed up the typical IFS lift installation, they showed how BDS engineers anticipated the added stress in both weight and leverage heavier tire/wheel combos place on the steering knuckles. The OE steering components are swapped right into the BDS knuckles.
In the BDS base kit, a 4-inch spacer is placed on top of the factory struts to provide the lift, retaining the OE ride and handling. If the owner wants to go to a 6-inch lift later, the spacers are simply swapped out for taller ones, with no other modifications needed.
Here’s how clean the BDS F-150 lift kit looks when it’s installed on the front. The heavy-duty steering knuckle and strut spacer are clearly seen. The reused OE parts fit into place without modifications.
BDS uses these machined lift blocks that had alignment pins built in to keep the rear axle and leaf springs in perfect alignment. The built-in “wing” is the bumpstop. The rear lift installation took just a fraction of the time compared to the front.
A nice upgrade are the Fox 2.0 gas-charged rear shocks, which are standard in BDS’ ’15-’16 F-150 kit. These shocks controlled the rear axle and added weight of taller tires while providing full suspension travel, and they are long enough to be used with the 6-inch lift.

Sources

BDS Suspension
517.279.2135
www.bds-suspension.com
Dunks Performance
541-726-1006
http://dunksperformance.com/

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