Lift kits are one of the most common ways to prime a vehicle for off-road driving. For someone new to the world of off-roading, it can be daunting to jump right in and purchase a lift kit, as there are a number of questions that need to be answered to avoid making a costly mistake.
To get the inside scoop on some of the most common mistakes made when installing a lift kit, we turned to one of the experts at Rough Country. Keith Lovins has been working within the off-roading industry at Rough Country for almost nine years, and much of his expertise comes from working as a new parts designer and quality manager. Lovins currently works as a technical writer, so he definitely knows his stuff when it comes to making any type of Jeep or truck modifications.
Here is what Lovins had to say about some frequent questions or misconceptions that drivers may have on their minds:
What tools should a driver have on hand as they start installing a lift kit?
There are few things more annoying than starting to install a lift kit, only to find that you don't have the proper tools to complete the job. Not only can this lead to half-completed tasks that keep you off the roads, but trying to finish the installation without the right equipment is unsafe. Lovins recommends all drivers have a floor jack and jack stands, a drill and drill bits, a reciprocating saw, screwdrivers, pry bars, WD-40 and a socket and wrench set in standard sizes of 1/4-inch through 1-inch.
Will installing a lift kit prevent drivers from making other modifications down the road?
Drivers new to off-roading may be hesitant about installing a lift kit because they believe it will impact other plans they have for a truck or Jeep. This kind of misinformation could lead to owners making other alterations to a ride that don't have the same immediate effect lifting does.
However, lift kits are usually just the first taste of truck mods. It allows the driver to make several similar changes to the exterior of a vehicle, many of which work seamlessly with the lift kit to provide a better driving experience.
"Most of the time it is only the start of modifications done to the vehicle," Lovins said. "Once a lift kit is installed, then the customer is going to want other accessories like fender flares, extra lights, [a] winch, bumpers, gears, tube steps or skid plates."
Are certain lift kits better suited to a style of driving, such as a better option for mudding, desert driving, etc.?
Rough Country kits are split into three categories: economy, standard or trail riding, and rock crawling or heavy off-road kits. Each of these styles is ideal for a certain type of driving, and owners should consider what their vehicle will be used for prior to making a purchase.
Economy kits lift a vehicle between 1.5 and 3 inches, and are mainly catered toward drivers who want a bigger tire size but will mainly be driving on the streets. The next level up is the standard kits. These lift a vehicle 4 to 5 inches and can be driven on pavement or for light trail riding on weekends.
Those individuals who want to get serious about off-roading will be drawn to the rock crawling or heavy off-road kits.
"We have rock crawling long arms kit that are designed for performance off-road use, and are still able to be driven on the road," Lovins explained. "This customer is going to install roll cages, [a] winch, bumpers, lockers and bigger ring gears and pinions to get the most performance he can out of that vehicle."
Should drivers purchase shock absorbers, brake upgrades or any other accessories with a lift kit?
"All of our lift kits already come with new shock absorbers," Lovins said. "They do not need to purchase any another accessory with the lift kit to function correctly ... [but] there are many upgrades that can be added to the lift kit, like brake lines, sway bar disconnects or steering stabilizers."
What is the most important thing drivers should keep in mind throughout the process of shopping, buying and installing a lift?
Lovins believes drivers should pay special attention to what size tires they will need once they install a lift kit. Some kits allow for the use of stock tires, while others require larger wheelers for more clearance. This will also impact the bottom line, so taking these details into account can help drivers stay within budget.