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
Proryde Leveling Kits
Coming off of a "Best New Off-Road/4x4 Product at SEMA" win, ProRYDE has the only complete line of on-vehicle adjustable light-truck leveling kits. The installer decides what the front ride height will be, from 2 to 3.5 inches. Additionally, unequal side-to-side ride height issues can be corrected. Whether the vehicle has a strut-type or torsion-bar suspension, ProRYDE has a patented or patent-pending adjustable solution that no other company can offer.
What It Fits: Most Popular Vehicles
How Much It Will Set You Back: $299.00
Contact: ProRYDE Suspension Systems,888/813-RYDE, www.proryde.com
Performance Accessories '09 Dodge Ram 5-inch Premium Lift
2009 Dodge Ram owners-who are looking to add larger wheels and tires to their vehicle-will find that Performance Accessories' new 5-inch Premium Lift System offers the best and most economical method to add clearance. The system incorporates Performance Accessories' 3-inch body lift kit with a 2-inch leveling kit, allowing you to outfit any '09 Dodge Ram with up to 35-inch tires. In addition, the Performance Accessories Premium Lift System is a fraction of the price of a full suspension lift and does not compromise the smooth factory ride. The '09 Dodge 5-inch Premium Lift System should only take a few hours to install and includes the company's reinforced nylon body mounts, Grade-8 hardware, billet front spring spacers, and a unique CNC-machined billet steering adapter. The system also includes black powdercoated mounting hardware, thread locker, and a set of Performance Accessories urethane Gap Guards for a clean appearance in the wheelwells.
What It Fits: '09 Dodge Ram 1500
How Much It Will Set You Back: $510.00
Contact: Performance Accessories, 928/636-7080, www.p-a-g.net
Rancho Super Duty Leveling System
Rancho has engineered a complete offering of cutting-edge suspension and leveling technologies for the '08-and-newer Ford Super Duty. Rancho's Super Duty Leveling Systems are engineered to be easily installed and includes its competition radius-arm upgrade and coil springs that are designed to level the front of the vehicle to the rear height. This system is also completely compatible with Rancho's full line of adjustable shock absorbers. As with every Rancho suspension, the latest Ford Super Duty system includes detailed and illustrated instructions. No drivetrain or exhaust modifications are necessary.
What It Fits: '08-and-newer Ford Super Duty
How Much It Will Set You Back: $1,000.00
Contact: Rancho Suspension, 734/384-7804, www.gorancho.com
Rocky Road Outfitters Spring Over Axle Kits For Wranglers And CJs
Spring-over conversions are popular because they offer great articulation. The 6.5-inch Rocky Road SOA system is completely bolt-on and requires no cutting or welding. Installation of this is so simple, anyone can do it themselves. Rocky Road's spring perches are precision built and designed to slip over your front and rear axles and onto the factory spring pads to make the mounting system extremely stable, tough, and durable. The spring pads are fully gusseted and self-align for proper caster/pinion setup. Another great design feature is the extended length of the spring perches, which combats spring wrap. To properly address steering angles, Rocky Road offers two options-an inexpensive drop pitman steering arm, or its High Steer OTT steering system. Also included in the SOA system are Panhard/track-bar mounting kits, longer brake lines, parking brake system, sway-bar mounts, U-bolt skidplates, and long-travel shock mounts. Kits come with all necessary hardware and a comprehensive installation manual. Your Jeep will perform great not only off-road, but will also be well mannered and stable for highway driving.
What It Fits: '76-and-newer CJs and leaf-sprung Wranglers
How Much It Will Set You Back: $459.00
Contact: Rocky Road Outfitters, 888/801-7271, www.rocky-road.com
Rough Country '07 Chevy 1500 3-inch Easy Lift
Rough Country has a new addition to its Easy Lift line. This 3-inch kit for '07-and-newer Chevy and GMC 1500 pickups will level out the stance and allow up to 32-inch tires. The '07 Chevrolet 1500 Pickup 3-inch lift kit includes front strut spacers, which install without disassembling the strut or using a strut compressor. Driver- and passenger-side diff drop brackets are included in order to maintain proper CV axle angles, and new upper control arms will allow for a true alignment. The rear is lifted with 1.5-inch cast-iron blocks and receives new U-bolts and premium rear Nitro 9000 shock absorbers.
What It Fits: '07-and-newer Chevy and GMC 1500 Pickups
How Much It Will Set You Back: $249.95
Contact: Rough Country Suspension,800/222-7023, www.roughcountry.com
Tuff Country 2-Inch EZ-Ride Lift Kits
Tuff Country Suspension now offers a wide selection of small, easy-to-install, and affordable suspension lift kits. Designed to give just enough lift to fit slightly larger tires and gain some additional fender clearance, the method of lift depends on the application. Spanning nearly 20 individual part numbers for most Chevy/GMC, Dodge, Ford, and Toyota model trucks, they are sure to have a kit for your truck.
What It Fits: All Popular Pickups
How Much It Will Set You Back: Under $600
Contact: Tuff Country Suspension, 800/288-2190, www.tuffcountry.com
Suspension MAXX Torsion Bar Leveling Key
The SEMA award winning seven-position adjustable Maxx Cam 2 torsion-bar lift just got beefier with the introduction of the Maxx Cam 2 HD model for all fullsize torsion-bar-equipped GM, eight-bolt trucks and SUVs, including the Hummer H2, from '01-'08. This kit includes precision-formed super heavy-duty shock relocation brackets in addition to the keys and is capable of delivering up to 2.5 inches of lift with no degradation in handling or ride quality. Investment cast to exacting standards, and constructed solely from 4140 heat-treated alloy steel, Maxx Cam 2's strength and durability are said to exceed that of even the toughest one-piece OEM torsion-bar lever. Suspension MAXX products are made in the USA and are easy to install when coupled with an optional job-specific tool.
What It Fits: '01-and-newer GM HD Trucks and SUVs
How Much It Will Set You Back: $249.95
Contact: Suspension MAXX, 888/MAXX-CAM, www.suspensionmaxx.com
Zone Offroad Products Ford F-150 2-Inch Budget Boost
If you have an F-150 and $100, you could level your truck and still have money left over for a Dr. Pepper and some gas, thanks to Zone Offroad Products' new F-150 Budget Boost. This 2-inch spacer kit is made in the U.S. and contains reinforced steel spacers that are easily installed on top of the factory struts. No strut disassembly is required, so in 2 hours or less you can complete the lift install. You will be able to clear 33-inch tires on your F-150 while maintaining the factory ride quality. The strut spacers have been powdercoated black for long-term durability and corrosion resistance.
What It Fits: '04-'08 Ford F-150
How Much It Will Set You Back: $81.95
Contact: Zone Offroad Products, 888/998-ZONE, www.zoneoffroad.com
Revtek 3-inch Toyota Tacoma Spacer Kit
Revtek's 3-inch lift systems for '05-'08 Toyota Tacoma and PreRunner offer Toyota enthusiasts bulletproof performance at a budget price. Part number 426 includes black powdercoated, cast-aluminum preload spacers, laser-cut steel top-out plates, billet-aluminum rear lift blocks, differential drop, and Grade 5 or better hardware. Part number 426A is identical, except that it uses add-a-leaves rear instead of lift blocks. These kits retain the stock suspension geometry and do not require new shocks, so the OEM ride quality is retained.
What It Fits: '05-'08 Toyota Tacoma/PreRunner
How Much It Will Set You Back: $365.00
Contact: Revtek Suspension, 877/LIFT-TOY, www.revtek.com
Skyjacker JK Value Kits
Skyjacker Suspension has developed a great lineup of kits for the '07-'09 Jeep Wrangler JK, each of which provides exceptional performance, strength, and durability. For those of you with a budget in mind, Skyjacker has you covered with both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch kits. These lifts provide bumpstop brackets to help coil retention and a rear track-bar bracket for rear differential alignment. Also the coil-spring rates are within 10 percent of factory rates and the factory wheel and tire can be used.
What It Fits: '07-and-up Wrangler JK
How Much It Will Set You Back: $345 and up
Contact: Skyjacker Suspensions, 318/388-0816, www.skyjacker.com