Times are tough all around these days; we get it. But for most of us, regardless of the state of the economy, the tinkering gene is alive and well. So even in the thinnest of these times, we'll bet that you probably have that little stash of fun money hiding in your mattress, or maybe your weekly stipend from the spouse has been diverted from lunches out to your truck fund. Heck, skipping lunch will probably help you to shed a few of those extra pounds anyway, and you can tell your friends you are on the new dirt diet.
With a serious focus on high-end suspensions costing thousands of dollars as of late, we thought the time was right to show you some options that will get you going for well under a grand. We have assembled a variety of different types of lifts, at a wide spectrum of price points, in a quest to make sure our reader can continue to tinker with (not-so) reckless abandon.
Thanks to more generous factory wheelwell sizes, bigger tires can usually fit on the rear of most trucks without issue, though to fit the same upgrade to the front of the truck often requires the front to be lifted, making for more room and giving the rig a nice level stance. Enter the leveling kit, which requires fewer components to achieve the goal of bigger tires, and therefore costs less.
Budget lifts come in all styles and designs. Body lifts have always been popular when it comes to budget suspension, but some of the newer designs use simple spacers that bolt between the factory front suspension and the chassis, in effect making the front spring assembly taller and leveling the truck. This is the popular way to go, but if your truck has torsion bars instead of coil springs, a torsion-bar key is what you need. The torsion-bar keys reindex the torsion bars to change their relationship to the front suspension, thus leveling the truck. Higher-end leveling kits may mix a body lift with the spacer, or include new front shocks with grooves in the body that set the ride height for the factory spring. These can also be matched to upgraded rear shocks.
Looking for a full suspension system? Well, you might be surprised how affordable those still are today too, and we have included a couple for your benefit.
While we can give you ideas of the direction to go with your trail machine, what we don't have for you is an easy explanation to your significant other on why the truck is tougher to get in to and seemingly sitting a little more proudly. You are on your own for that pal, but if you really want our advice, it makes for a convenient cover story if the shocks are blown and the tires are worn out when you proceed. After all, you do need to replace any worn-out parts to get to work and pick the kids up from school, right?
Bilstein 5100 Series Height Adjustable Leveling Shocks
Bilstein 5100 Series Front Height Adjustable Leveling Shocks are designed to level out the front end on pickups with factory coilover suspensions and have the benefit of Bilstein's monotube design. Bilstein 5100 Series leveling shocks feature multiple snap-ring grooves on the body of the shock to provide 0 to 2.5 inches of frontend lift and utilize the vehicle's existing stock coil. These shocks offer increased wheel travel and allow the use of up to 33-inch-diameter tires. Bilstein 5100 Series Front Height Adjustable Leveling Shocks feature vehicle-specific split digressive valving and Bilstein also offers companion rear 5100 shocks with matched valving.
What It Fits: Most Popular Pickups
How Much It Will Set You Back: $208.00 and up
Contact: Bilstein, 800/537-1085, www.bilstein.com
Rubicon Express Wrangler JK Spacer System
Hit the trails with more clearance and better-than-factory ride at a rock-bottom price. The Rubicon Express JK 2-inch spacer system will clear 33- to 35-inch tires and includes front and rear coil spacers, bumpstops, and bumpstop pads, and unlike other kits out there, front and rear shocks that have been specifically valved for this application.
What It Fits: '07-and-newer Jeep Wrangler JK
How Much It Will Set You Back: $369.95
Contact: Rubicon Express, 877/367-7824, www.rubiconexpress.com
Pro Comp '09 Ford F-150 Level Lift
Pro Comp Suspension now offers its Level Lift suspension system for the popular '09 Ford F-150. This easy-to-install system raises the front end of the new F-150 2 inches for a proper level stance and allows fitment of larger size tire-and-wheel combinations up to 35 inches tall. Each kit is constructed of heavy-duty steel and features a durable black powdercoat finish for the ultimate corrosion protection and lasting good looks.
What It Fits: '09 Ford F-150
How Much It Will Set You Back: $219.95
Contact: Pro Comp Suspension, 800/776-0767, www.procompmotorsports.com
Low Range Off-Road 3-inch Toyota Leveling/Lift Kit
Low Range Off-Road recently released its 3-inch leveling/lift kit for the '07-'09 Toyota Tundra. It is a quick and easy way to turn your Tundra into a head turner and still retain the factory ride. The Low Range Off-Road kit is designed to fit on top of the coil-spring assembly and doesn't require disassembly of the factory coilover for easy installation. The kit includes solid CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum spacers with pre-installed studs and flanged Nyloc nuts, solid aluminum rear blocks with a 3.5 degree taper to decrease driveline vibrations with new U-bolts, and a differential drop that is used to keep those Rzeppa-style CV Joints from premature wear due to increased angles. Also included are skidplate drop spacers with longer factory-style flanged bolts, bumpstop spacers, and very detailed instructions. This kit allows up to 35-inch tires with minor modifications.
What It Fits: '07-and-newer Tundra
How Much It Will Set You Back: $299.00
Contact: Low Range Off-Road, 801/855-6644, www.lowrangeoffroad.com
Old Man Emu '07-and-newer Wrangler JK 2.5-inch Lift
OME's new JK suspension was designed with control, comfort, and load carrying in mind. When developing the new suspension, OME engineers focused on creating the best possible range of spring and shock absorber combinations to increase ride height, maximize load-carrying capabilities, and provide the vehicle with an outstanding ride over all road surfaces, while remaining compatible with the Wrangler's ESP system. With an approximate 2.5-inch increase in ride height, significant improvements in handling and control, and greatly enhanced ride quality, JK owners will certainly enjoy the benefits associated with a complete Old Man Emu suspension system. Best of all, ARB backs this OME suspension system with a 2-year, 24,000-mile warranty.
What It Fits: '07-and-newer Jeep Wrangler JK
How Much It Will Set You Back: $781.08
Contact: ARB, 800/761-8159, www.arbusa.com
Icon Vehicle Dynamics '05-'08 Ford Super Duty 2.5-inch Leveling System
If you are sick of the nose of your Ford Super Duty being lower than the rear, Icon's 2.5-inch Leveling System is a great way to level your Ford Super Duty. Icon's components provide for better-than-stock ride quality and are perfect for the cost-conscious truck owner who wants a level truck and a smooth ride. With Icon's 100-percent bolt-on system, you'll get 50 percent more wheel travel, less body roll, dual-rate coil springs, lifetime guarantee against coil sag, specifically tuned monotube shocks, all without changing the towing capacity or having to alter your driveshafts. And Icon's products are all made in the U.S.
What It Fits: '05-'08 Ford Super Duty
How Much It Will Set You Back: $741.80
Contact: Icon Vehicle Dynamics, 951/272-4266, www.iconvehicledynamics.com
Daystar '09 Dodge Ram 2-Inch Lift Kit
Right on the heels of the new Dodge Ram, Daystar has developed a 2-inch leveling kit. Daystar utilizes a pair of high-density polyurethane spacers that are positioned on top of the factory struts and rear coils in order to achieve lift. This design does not preload the strut, so there is no impact on ride quality. Installation is simple and requires no special tools or other modifications aside from a professional alignment. Daystar uses polyurethane spacers rather than steel or aluminum and because polyurethane is an insulator; it helps absorb the noise, vibration, and harmonics that come from the suspension. Daystar's lift kit includes 2-inch front and rear lift components, or you can choose just the front leveling components. Like the rest of Daystar's product line, the new Dodge Ram Lift & Leveling Kits are manufactured in the USA and backed by a lifetime warranty.
What It Fits: '09 Dodge Ram 1500
How Much It Will Set You Back: $159.95
Contact: Daystar, 800/595-7659, www.daystarweb.com