You see them everywhere you go – UTEs and SUVs coasting down the roads, sitting atop lift kits and sporting tyres so big that you can fit inside them. If you’re looking to lift your own 4×4, there are quite a few things you need to consider to ensure you’re making the right move. The purpose of your rig and your daily driving habits will impact what type of 4 lift kit is best suited for you. If you’re a seasoned off-roader who has conquered the toughest terrains that Australia has to offer and knows their vehicle better than their wife, then you probably won’t have much to learn here. If you’re just getting started, however, and want to get familiar with the basics of lift kits, keep reading.
Why Should I Install a Lift Kit?
Fitting your vehicle with a 4 lift kit involves much more than just buying the largest kit available and dropping your rig at the mechanic. In fact, if that’s all you intend on doing, lifting your vehicle is probably not the best idea in the first place. Installing a lift kit requires some tech-savviness, hard work and consistent attention and upkeep of your 4×4’s components. The first thing you need to consider is what you want to do with your vehicle. There are two basic purposes for installing 4×4 suspension kits – function and style. Although both are slightly interrelated, it’s still important to know which way you lean more, so that you can install the right type of lift kit.
Let’s be real – transforming your vehicle into a style statement has been a thing ever since flame decals and tailfins appeared. And as much as we all like to crack a joke or two at the family sedan or the hybrid hatchback sitting on 18inch wheels, some of us still have a bobbling hula dancer on the dashboard and some fuzzy dices hanging from the mirror. That being said, as far as style goes, adding a 4×4 suspension kit to your vehicle can leave a bigger impression on people than anything else you can do to it. Heads will instantly turn at the sight of a lifted 4×4 that sports massive tyres and an exhaust system that scares toddlers. But if that’s the intended purpose of lifting your vehicle, then good looks is the easy part. You’ll have to pay attention to the general performance of your vehicle in order to make sure you get the right lift kit that promotes comfort, durability, reliability and safety.
If you’re all about performance and function and want to prepare your 4×4 for the Australian off-road, then you’ll have to consider the type of off-roading you’ll do. Will you be desert racing at high speeds, or maybe rock crawling at slow speeds? Are you going to be 4-wheeling in general, or going on long-distance open country treks? Once you find your answer, you can narrow down the lift kit choices that are suitable for your needs. No matter whether you’re a seasoned off-road enthusiast, or just starting out, tuning your 4×4 for optimum off-road performance is an extensive hobby with multiple factors to be wary of. The tuning and modification possibilities are endless, which can make it difficult to determine which lift kit is ideal for what you need.
Where Do I Start?
As if figuring out which lift kit to buy wasn’t complicated enough, installing one can change how other components in your vehicle perform, causing unforeseen problems that can affect safety and performance, or even be detrimental to your vehicle itself. For instance, brake lines, drive shaft length, gear ratios, steering geometry, performance and handling, overall weight are just some of the many factors that can be impacted when adding a lift kit.
Finding reliable resources to determine what you need to successfully install a lift kit can be difficult. Speaking with an experienced mechanic, and reading off-road magazines, factory service manuals, manufacturer’s guides and internet message boards can be helpful. The best way to determine which lift kit is suitable for you and your vehicle, however, is to speak to a knowledgeable and experienced person who has a similar vehicle to yours and uses it similarly to how you intend on using it. Not only can such a person help you pick the right product, but they’ll also probably have experience with general drivability and installation.
What Accessories Do I Need?
Before you install the lift kit, take a good look at which components (if any) will be affected by the added height. Some of the few accessories that may need to be upgraded include the following.
- Brakes – factory brakes won’t always accommodate larger tyres, or they’ll wear down easily because of the added strain;
- Differential and drivetrain – gears, axles, differential covers, lockers, etc. ensure that your drivetrain is compatible with your lift;
- Shocks – for higher lifts, longer shocks will ensure a smoother performance on and off the road;
- Replacement parts – longer track bars and control arms to compensate for the extra height of your vehicle;
- Other parts – drive shaft length, steering linkage, u-joint angle, slip yoke and brake lines should all be considered before installing a lift kit.