Lifting your pickup truck with torsion keys, a leveling kit or a body lift are great and inexpensive methods of gaining ride height when you want to upgrade to larger diameter tires mounted on cool new wheels. Each method has its advantages. But to decide which one to use, depends on a variety of factors.
Many early and late-model vehicles utilize a torsion bar suspension system. Torsion bars are actually springs that twist, rather than compress like a coil spring. The torsion bar keys are used to hold the bars in place and provide some pre-load, so the bar can keep the vehicle at a ride height set from the factory. While the bars are adjustable, avoid the urge to add more preload to the springs to raise the vehicle. Adjusting the factory torsion bar keys will raise the vehicle 1-1.5 inches, but it will also add lots of pre-load to the spring. The spring will push the tire down forcefully and provide a harsh ride. It’s also hard on the rest of the suspension, including the shocks and ball joints.
Using aftermarket torsion keys will give your vehicle the same ride height, but without all of the pre-load on the spring. Aftermarket torsion keys will readjust the position of the torsion bar, giving you the ride height you need and allow the factory pre-load settings to remain so that you’ll enjoy a factory smooth ride.
Leveling kits can also add 1-2 inches of ride height, usually by means of coil spring spacers. The reason they are called leveling kits, is that on most pickup trucks, the rear sits taller than the front. This is to provide extra spring compression for heavy loads that you may put into the bed. Many leveling kits will provide a spring spacer that fits on top of the factory coil spring, and is typically made from dense polyurethane to provide additional cushioning. This raises the front of the vehicle to be level with the rear. Leveling kits work great for adding tires that are a size taller than your truck’s OEM tires. They will also require the use of a spring compressor tool to safely remove the coil spring’s pre-load on the factory shock and spring assembly to add the spacer.
Before trucks and 4x4’s had independent suspension systems and integrated coil-over shock systems, body lifts were popular methods of gaining as much as 3-inches of ride height. That’s enough to add a tire that is two or three sizes taller than OEM tires. Body lifts are still popular as they are inexpensive and can typically provide more lift than torsion bar keys and leveling kits alone. Body lifts are hard urethane blocks that replace the factory body mounts along the entire frame of the vehicle. Because a gap is formed between the truck’s body and frame, the bumpers and other components of the truck’s body need to be lifted or spaced. This is accomplished with heavy-duty bumper brackets and spacers. In addition, the steering shaft must also be extended and some of the more high-quality kits will come with a CNC machined steering extension as well as Gap Guards that are installed in the wheel wells, so the gap in the frame isn’t visible. Body lifts typically take 6-8 hours to install, depending on the vehicle, but the overall effect provides plenty of wheel and tire clearance for most popular upgrades and it doesn’t affect the factory ride.
Premium Lift Systems
A relatively new concept is to combine the use of a leveling kit and a body lift to provide safe and additional ride height, similar to that of a full suspension lift system. Depending on the vehicle, a Premium Lift System can provide up to 6-inches of lift, without affecting the vehicle’s factory suspension geometry and ride. For enthusiasts wanting to add 33-35 inch diameter off-road style tires and wheels to their pickup or Jeep, can easily do so at a fraction of the cost of a full suspension lift kit. Premium Lift Systems will typically come with coil spring spacers, bumper brackets, body lift blocks, hardware, a steering column adaptor, Gap Guards, and everything else you need to raise the vehicle in about 6-8 hours.
No matter which method you choose, look for high-quality parts that are made in the U.S.A. Look for systems that include everything you need, some even come with thread locker, so you don’t have to stop your installation process to purchase additional items that you’ll need to finish the job. For more information on torsion keys, leveling kits, body lifts and Premium Lift Systems, visit http://www.p-a-g.net/.