Leveling kits are a popular and inexpensive method for truck owners to raise the ride height of their vehicle’s front suspension, so that it can be equal or “level” with the rear. Because the front is raised one or two inches, it also allows for the truck owner to install larger diameter tires without them rubbing the fenders or bumper. While this can provide improved towing capability or simply a more aesthetic appearance, there is a growing concern over long-term vehicle damage, as a result of using low-buck leveling kits that are not designed properly, or those made from poor quality materials.
Coil Spring Spacers
Leveling kits used on most late-model pickups and sport utility vehicles are simply coil spring spacers that replace the factory unit, with a thicker one. Most aftermarket suspension manufacturers with a good reputation in the industry have performed lots of research and testing to limit the coil spring spacers in their leveling kits to 1 or 1.5-inches of added ride height. But many leveling kits can be found on the internet that are much less expensive, and offer more ride height for your buck. While this may sound like a great deal, the fact is that, depending on the application, thicker coil spring spacers can add excessive spring pre-load which leads to a harsh ride.
Because coil spring spacers require removing and taking apart the truck’s strut assembly, which houses the coil spring and shock in one unit, some manufacturers have developed leveling kits that utilize strut spacers. These are typically made from steel or aluminum and attach to the top of the strut assembly to raise the vehicle two even three inches in some cases. This type of system maintains a smooth factory ride, but lengthens the strut assembly to the point where it can increase the vehicle’s ball-joint angles and cause excessive wear. In other cases, the effect of increasing the strut assembly length this way can reduce the clearance between the vehicle’s upper control arm and the coil spring. This can cause these components to make contact as the suspension system moves up or down. While some kits offer offset strut spacers to avoid this, it can lead to other problems such as altering the truck’s alignment and adding excessive tire wear.
Before you find a great price on a leveling kit, be aware of the effects it will have on your vehicle. While it may seem simple for someone to mold a urethane coil spacer or machine a strut spacer out of billet steel, the fact is that reputable manufacturers such as Performance Accessories, Trail Master, Daystar, Ready-Lift, Pro-Comp and others have invested in research and development to know what the limits are for each vehicle make and model application. In fact, manufacturers such as Ready-Lift for example, offer complete systems that include shock extensions, track bar relocation brackets and anti-sway bar spacers to maintain proper factory suspension component alignmnent.
Another unique approach are leveling kits is available from Performance Accessories and Trail Master suspension, both companies are owned by Performance Automotive Group. This manufacturer divides the leveling kit ift into two parts by providing both a strut spacer and coil spring spacer in their systems. This method solves many of the problems while still providing a 2 or 2.5-inch lift. But each vehicle application requires a different combination of spacer lengths, which is why development, testing and design are crucial to determining the right combination, instead of manufacturing for a low price.
While quality kits can range in price from $200 to $600 the components included and the development are a better bets to ensuring that your truck will not have problems in the future. Many $50-$80 leveling kits are definitely appealing, but if you’re not careful, they can cost you hundreds of dollars more when your vehicle’s tires and suspension components wear prematurely and require replacing.