Stay Away From truck "Leveling Kits"

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68
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NY
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This information is for anyone thinking of buying a "Leveling Kit" or a mild lift kit for there modern day IFS, double wishbone, torsion, or any other IFS front end truck. It's been really popular lately, for truck owners to install what is called a "leveling kit" or, a 2 or 3" front end lift kit for there pickup truck, so they can clear larger tires. Currently I have done quite a few installs. I have done some F-150s, some Dakotas, and a Silverado 1500. The point of this thread, is to inform potential buyers, to please stay away from such kits. The kit is generally a steel spacer that bolts to the top of the strut assembly. The spacer doesn't pre-load the spring, but instead, it sits like a crown on top of the upper strut plate, putting space between the strut frame mount and the strut itself. Making a strut longer on any IFS vehicle is a bad idea. Increasing the struts length, and putting more space between the upper and lower control arm throws geometry way off. At static ride height, a vehicle wearing a leveling kit sits in a position where the suspensions down travel travel is at 2" or 3" (depending on the kits lift.) This puts the cv joints for the transfer case out of the normal operating range and angle they should function at, as well as causes the power steering rack (if applicable)to have poor tie rod operating angles. A tie-rod that used to operate nice and parallel to the ground, is now working at an angle. With the kit installed, allowing full articulation of the front end causes even bigger problems. Now that the strut is displaced 2-3" lower in the strut tower/frame mount, it now fully extends too long for the other front end components, causing over extension of the cv joints, tie rods, and upper control arms. Ive noticed that this translates into the upper control arm drooping down to the point where it swings into the struts coil spring, where it rests. This makes the upper ball joint the suspension limiter, instead of the strut. I can only imagine the shortened life the ball joint will suffer with a leveling kit setup. Leveling kit companies such as "ready lift" and "truxxx" to name a few state that "our kits will not alter the factory ride feel" Although this statement is true, because the strut assembly's shock remains unchanged, it is doing a number on your front end. I will argue that such a kit will make your truck LESS capable of off road tasks. It seems there is very little information online about how these kits negatively effect a modern day IFS front end pickup truck. I figured I would start a rant on THIS FORUM, because it has been the best, and most thorough in exposing what a waste of money a K&N air filter is. In short, you simply cannot lengthen a strut on an IFS and "call it a day". These kits are complete garbage, and I urge anyone who is taking good care of there pickup truck, to stay away from these things. I apologize if I have posted this is the wrong section. I am sure this isn't news to someone with a drive line or suspension background, but for the common guy looking to run larger tires, i think it should become common knowledge. Anyone have any feelings on this?
 
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68
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NY
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Well, the first few times I did them was pure ignorance, the guy who had the silverado didnt care what I had to say, he just had to have it installed. Its not my money, not my choice.
 
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446
Location
NV
It's the same as lowering cars. In most cases it ruins the suspension geometry so bad that it's not worth it imo.
 
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2,053
Location
Detroit, MI
who cares. Everyone knows (or has at least heard) that any time you modify something on a car that it may have a negative effect on life expectancy and/or reliability. However, the trade off is usually in favor of the mod. People lift their trucks and lower their cars all the time. IFS trucks tend to do a number on ball joints anyway, so it is what it is.
 
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3,756
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CA
The point is, there is a right way and a wrong way to raise or lower a vehicle. It doesn't have to shorten life or kill geometry. In my Acura for example, most guys are ricers who only care about looks. They throw a set of springs on there and don't get a camber kit. 10,000 miles later the insides of the tires are worn. A camber kit is $200, cheaper than a set of tires. Not to mention the car is left sitting on the bumpstops so performance is worse than stock.
 
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10,060
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Central Washington
Originally Posted By: BuickGN
The point is, there is a right way and a wrong way to raise or lower a vehicle. It doesn't have to shorten life or kill geometry. In my Acura for example, most guys are ricers who only care about looks. They throw a set of springs on there and don't get a camber kit. 10,000 miles later the insides of the tires are worn. A camber kit is $200, cheaper than a set of tires. Not to mention the car is left sitting on the bumpstops so performance is worse than stock.
You mean some of them actually buy springs? I thought they all just cut their existing ones. duh
 
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19,479
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Chicago Area
A common mod when I was younger was to use those spring spacers that you screwed/turned into the coils. Or, the ones you screw threaded the springs apart with. Lifting the rear looked cool. This caused broken springs sooner or later.
 
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4,009
Location
Calgary Canada
I've got a 3/4 Ton GM truck and I'm about to do a different kind of leveling. I'm adding lowering shackles to the rear spring pack. It should give me a 2" drop in the back and take away the fact that the truck looks "jacked up" in the back with no load. Shouldn't alter load capacity either. Plus it'll be that much easier to load junk in the back of the truck. When I get it done, I'll probably have the caster on the front axle adjusted to compensate for this change. Probably will have to re-aim the headlights too. I can't anticipate and problems with this approach, but would appreciate any comments.
 
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68
Location
NY
Thread starter
Those are better I guess. A pre-load setup, like a spring spacer? The geometry will still be a mess at ride height, but I guess there wouldnt be any over extension with a setup like that. The shock or strut would probablly just stop at its normal full length. I still wouldnt do it. It's just not worth it for a few inches. Unfortunately, its getting really popular to just do these "leveling kits" instead of a good complete front end setup.
 

rat

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361
Location
Michigan
Originally Posted By: redwolf4k
Those are better I guess. A pre-load setup, like a spring spacer? The geometry will still be a mess at ride height, but I guess there wouldnt be any over extension with a setup like that. The shock or strut would probablly just stop at its normal full length. I still wouldnt do it. It's just not worth it for a few inches. Unfortunately, its getting really popular to just do these "leveling kits" instead of a good complete front end setup.
Its still better than cranking up the torsion bars all the way.
 
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528
Location
Kansas
I just leveled my 09 Silverado with a 2 inch spacer. While I appreciate your concern, I am well aware of what happens to all the suspension components when extending the overall length of the strut. I can't speak for Dodge/Ford, but the GMT900 trucks (07+) all have NON serviceable upper A arms (no zerks), and roughly 50% are failing within 50K regardless of ride height. I can't stand the forward rake of the stock truck, and if my stock upper ball joints are [censored] to start with, who cares. By the time mine fail, somebody will have made greasable fittings that STILL cost less than the OEM ones. We all "pay to play" in regards to modifications. I disagree wholeheartedly that these items are "complete garbage." They do exactly what they are designed to do, in the same way that lowering springs do what they are designed to do. Everything has trade offs.
 
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68
Location
NY
Thread starter
Zulu, people have been lifting trucks for years, and its a free country. I have nothing against, and if it makes you happy, more power to you. I know I'm not providing breaking news here but, Figured I would just say. The control arms aren't as big of a deal as leaking CVs or damaged inner tie rod seals, etc. These problems are real in regards to leveling kits. Thing is, part failure rates vary so much, it could be hard to tell if the kits actually the cause. Fact is I know someone who blew through several power steering racks due to a leveling kit, once the kit was out, the problem was gone.
 
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39,806
Location
Pottstown, PA
Well, it's better to state your opinion then it is to come in when someone complains "my leveling kit cost me $$$" and tell them "oh, yeah, didn't you know that?". I'm so glad I didn't go into a 4" lift on my wife's jeep. We may get offroad once a year ..and we might have a blizzard. We're never going to do anything hard core. The Fast & Furious wannabe's are usually trashing the ride fast enough as it is. They're probably on the same learning curve on their turbo upgrade and will be scrapping the thing into a fond memory when they had the money to afford the upgrade, but never made enough money to afford maintaining the car at their fatigue rate. I think a legit lift on an IFS about 2001 was about $1000/inch. I imagine it's more now. Solid axles you can get more inches for the buck, but the ante is still high.
 
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