While modifying the suspension on a vehicle might seem like something reserved for lowriders and off-road trucks, there are some who want to lift or lower their vehicles just to improve everyday performance and appearance. As a Mitsubishi Pajero owner and off-road enthusiast, I lifted my vehicle for practical purposes. I needed the extra ground clearance and had to improve my departure angles to prevent damaging my undercarriage.
Lift kits are 4 wheel accessories that can be found in most aftermarket parts dealerships, and there are many different types to choose from, depending on what you want to do with your vehicle. Here’s what you need to pay attention to when modifying your suspension.
Spring Suspension Systems
Every vehicle needs to be flexible enough to drive on different types of roads and it needs to be capable of handling sharp stopping and turning. The springs are the main part responsible for all of this. These parts sit between the frame of your car and its wheels, allowing for movement within specific parameters. They’re part of the suspension system, and one of the most sought after aftermarket 4 wheel accessories. You can lift or lower your vehicle by adjusting the placement and length of the springs. I replaced my springs from a specialised Mitsubishi Pajero sport accessories store to ensure seamless installation and proper fit.
However, you also have the option to cut the existing coil springs rather than buy new ones, but that’s inadvisable as it can weaken the springs. Avoid taking shortcuts when you tinker with the suspension, as it can make for a dangerous ride. Not only that, but cutting corners can result in the wear and tear of other nearby parts, including the tyres, frame and undercarriage.
The Mitsubishi Pajero sport accessories manufacturer I bought from makes their springs using the right ratios for my Pajero’s specs. You can find affordable springs for under $100, or you can get high-end versions that cost up to $500.
Air Suspension Systems
Not every suspension system utilises mechanical springs, though. You can get an air suspension system that works with the help of flexible bags or canisters full of air that you can inflate or deflate to adjust the height of your vehicle. These suspension systems are more expensive, but the flexibility they offer is second to none. In fact, most lowriders take advantage of these systems, but they cost several hundreds of dollars, at least. Still, they’re more affordable than their hydraulic counterparts, which I’ll talk about now.
Hydraulic Suspension Systems
Hydraulic suspension systems allow you to lower your vehicle without compromising its ability to take on driveways, changing weather conditions and speed bumps, making them the best solution for a lot of gearheads. These suspension systems are very versatile and provide the utmost adjustability with the help of a fluid pressure system. Air suspension systems do the same with air, but fluid suspension systems adjust much faster. Heavily modified vehicles that perform quick front to back or one-sided rises or drops typically take advantage of hydraulic suspension. The only downside to these systems is their high cost, ranging anywhere from $2000 to $5000, not including maintenance and installation.
Body Lift Kits
Raising your vehicle with a body lift kit will ensure proper balance, symmetry and proper spacing between the wheels and the vehicle body. This is generally done with the help of rubber or polyurethane blocks, as they simply add height by adding space between the body and frame. While the suspension will remain intact, the vehicle’s body will be lifted. This is mainly done for off-road purposes, as the body movement will be seamless. You can also add spring spacers with blocks. Body lift kits are typically more affordable than suspension lift kits, but if you go for a full out body lift, the costs can add up to $1000 or more.
Suspension Lift Kits
Suspension lift kits modify your vehicle’s suspension using one of the aforementioned three methods. All of these methods will alter the suspension and thus, how your vehicle drives. So whether you lift your truck to make it off-road-ready, or you’re lowing your car to make it appear and perform more sporty, you have to take into account the changes that will occur, and ensure you make the right modifications to ensure safety and smooth handling without adding too much stress on the vehicle’s body.
You can choose between front, rear, whole-body and one wheel suspension kits. If improved performance is your main goal of modifying your vehicle’s height, suspension lift kits are your best choice. While body lift kits will raise your vehicle without raising its frame, suspension lift kits raise the frame higher off the ground. Most lift kits you’ll come across are suspension lift kits, and they’re considered aftermarket parts, as they modify the vehicle’s suspension from the factory. In most lift systems, the frame is suspended in order to reduce contact with the road. Further, modifying the suspension will allow you to fine-tune all of the handling parts and allow for extra customisation. On the downside, suspension lift kits are the priciest type of lift kit.
Custom Lift Kits
Custom lift kits are a specialty of some high-end automotive shops, and they use a combination of kits, parts and creativity to create a custom solution for your particular model, make and year, and your particular driving style. For instance, you can get a body lift kit and a levelling kit instead of a full suspension kit, which will provide you with some of the benefits that come with suspension lift kits, but without the high cost. These kits can cost anywhere between $300 and $1000, depending on your vehicle model and make, and how much of the stock parts you want to replace. As always, you should do your due diligence and only work with an experienced mechanic when performing these types of upgrades, as otherwise you risk making your vehicle unsafe to drive, or at the very least, it can lead to issues further down the road.