Tips For Buying Your First Lift Kit

First High

John CappaPhotographer, Writer

If you’ve ever wondered what the best lift kit for your 4x4 was, you’re not alone. One of the more common questions we receive involves choosing the best aftermarket suspension for a specific 4x4. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as easy as loading a silver bullet into a revolver. There are many things to consider when choosing a suspension lift, especially if it’s your very first. Always keep in mind that what may work for someone else, may not work for you. Driving style, personal preference, and the kind of off-roading you plan to do will dictate what lift kit will fit your needs best.

There are usually two kinds of first-time lift kit buyers: those that want to spend as little as possible and those that jump in with both feet and buy more suspension than they may ever need. As you can imagine, neither practice is ideal. The low-buck buyer often tries to piece together a lift with spacers and other random suspension components. For an inexperienced enthusiast, the result can be a poor-performing system that ends up costing more than a conventional complete kit available from any number of manufacturers. On the other side of the coin, if you spend umpteen thousands of dollars on an off-road-specific suspension, you may find that it can be a handful on-road or while towing a trailer.

Choosing a lift kit requires some compromises. You have to be honest about what is really important to you. If a soft ride and slow speed trails are your thing, look for a lift with low spring rates and soft-valved shocks. If you load down your 4x4 with gear, like to carve corners on the street, or you regularly tow a heavy trailer, you’ll want firmer springs and shocks. For all-out high-speed desert two-track, you’ll want to look for a lift that provides increased wheel travel and comes with monotube-style or maybe even bypass shocks. Many higher-end lift kits give you a few shock upgrade options to choose from. Here are some lift basics that should set you in the right direction to purchase your first lift kit.