Hilux Lift Kit; what do you need to know?

The Hilux is one of the most popular four wheel drive vehicles on the road today, and for good reason. When you still see 1985 hilux’s driving around you know that they have been well made! Regardless of what model Hilux you own, there can be a lack of clearance (even with the older ones that have a lot of it in their stock form). There are a number of ways in which you can gain more clearance, which I will go into below.

When looking at a lift kit its worth putting some time into researching what is going to suit you best – many people end up spending considerably more on their lift because they don’t look into it enough!

My Hilux at Mundaring Powerlines
Testing My Hilux Suspension

I have learned a lot since purchasing My Hilux, and would like to share that knowledge with you. Upon purchasing My Hilux, my first impression was that a big Hilux Lift Kit was needed to make the vehicle capable off road, but this is not correct. In my opinion, keeping the centre of gravity down is the most important thing to consider when modifying your four wheel drive, so a big lift is not always what you want.

What is a Hilux Lift Kit?

A lift kit refers to one of two things; a body lift or a suspension lift. Both are totally different and should be used to achieve different results. I have explained the difference below.

Types of clearance

The clearance your four wheel drive has comes down to a number of things. In general, the lowest point on every four wheel drive is the diff pumpkins (unless it is independent suspension). The only way to lift this up is to fit larger tyres. Both a body lift and suspension lift will do nothing to increase the clearance of your diff (and ultimately ground clearance), and this is something that a lot of people don’t realize. By fitting larger tyres you lift the diffs, chassis and body off the ground further.

Toyota Hilux lift
Lifts are needed for serious 4WD tracks

The next thing to know is approach angle, ramp over angle and departure angle. The approach angle is the maximum angle you can drive up without the front of your vehicle touching the terrain. The further forward your front tyres are the better approach angle you have, and also the taller your body is the better angle you have.

This is the same for departure angle (except it is inverse). The ramp over angle refers to the clearance under the middle of your vehicle. If you look side on to your car, you can imagine a triangle from bend the the front wheel to in front of the rear wheel, and the centre underneath. The higher your vehicle sits, the better ramp over angle you have and as a result the larger object that you can drive over without it touching.

A lift kit is required for this hilux
Lacking clearance at Mundaring

Why fit a lift kit?

There are generally only a few reasons to fit a lift kit. The first is to increase clearance. The second is to fit larger tyres, and the third is to make the Hilux look better. A fourth reason is to get better flex out of the suspension (but a big lift is not always required to achieve this).

What I learned very quickly with my Hilux is that there are multiple ways to achieve the same result, which not everyone knows. For example, if you want to fit larger tyres you can either fit a body lift or suspension lift, or you can move the diff forward, cut the guards, hammer them in a little bit or fit extended shackles. Each require a different amount of money and effort, and will achieve very similar results (with some being better than others).

What is the difference between a body lift and suspension lift?

A Body Lift:

A Body lift refers to lifting the body off the chassis of the vehicle. You do this by fitting aluminium, steel or poly blocks in between the chassis and body. The most common body lift kits are 1” or 2” (25 and 50mm) but some people do 3, 4 and even 5”.

A body lift will give you a better approach and departure angle, but not necessarily a better ramp over angle. What you need to remember is that the chassis stays in the same location, meaning it is just as low as it was before. Please note in Western Australia fitting a body lift kit to a vehicle with air bags is illegal (I am unsure about other states).

Advantages of a body lift

– Body lifts are considerably cheaper than suspension lifts, and they won’t wear out over time if done correctly.- The centre of gravity is kept lower as you are only lifting the body and not the whole chassis- It limits the sideways movement as a pose to a bigger suspension lift

Disadvantages of a body lift

– If you have any bar work, most of the time it is attached to the chassis. When you lift the body up on a four wheel drive, the bar work stays in the same position. This means that your bull bar, rear bar and side steps now sit 1” or 2” (depending on how much you lift the body) lower than your body work.

It can be a lot of work modifying the bar work (not to mention the legalities that can be associated with it). It is worth noting though that the older Hilux side steps bolt to the body and not the chassis. – Other modifications may need to be done – gearstick, radiator, fuel line modifications, steering shaft modifications etc.

The body lift on My Hilux

I would like to point out that a body lift kit on the older Hilux’s are relatively simple. I modified the bull bar brackets to suit the lift, and left the rear bar alone to protect the LPG tank. I didn’t need to touch the side steps as they are attached to the body (and consequently came up on their own).

I also needed to loosen and re tighten the steering shaft and bottom radiator hose. However, I didn’t have to do any modifications to my gear sticks, brake lines, radiator and fuel lines. In my situation I just wanted to fit larger tyres without spending too much money, and it has paid off very well.

A Suspension Lift:

A Suspension lift involves lifting the chassis and the body off the diffs. The average suspension lift is in between 1” and 6” but they can get much larger than that. In general the lift is done by replacing the springs, but it can be done by adding extended shackles. A Suspension Lift is considerably more expensive, but is popular for a number of reasons.

The work that is required for each model four wheel drive varies depending on the size of the lift. A 2 inch suspension lift on most Hilux’s is all that is required and will do the job nicely. As soon as you go to 3” or 4” you have to do a number of other modifications which become costly.

A Hilux suspension lift is popular because it is simple, and can often be fitted at home. Most people stick with a 2” suspension lift, which is a good place to start. Another popular combination is a 2” body lift and 2” suspension lift, but in my opinion this is unnecessary in many cases.

Air bag suspension

For those who carry heavy loads (or tow heavy trailers) air bag suspension might be something worth looking into. It is considerably more expensive, but there are limited alternatives. When you put extra weight in or on the back of your car (like a trailer hitch or camping gear) the suspension will sag a little bit.

The amount that it sags depends on how ‘stiff’ the suspension is, but in many cases it will sag too much. In order to compensate this, you can get stiffer springs fitted (which are uncomfortable if you don’t have the vehicle loaded up) and/or fit air bags. These can be pumped up and will lift the vehicle back up to its correct height. It is worth noting that air bag suspension is not cheap!

What are extended shackles?

For all leaf sprung hilux’s, shackles are used at the end of each spring. In stock form, these are quite small. If you want a cheap lift, you can purchase extended shackles. These replace the original ones, and will lift your vehicle 1”, 2”, 3” or 4” depending on the size that you get. You need to be very careful with the angle that these sit at, but 2” extended shackles is a very popular modification.

Fitting longer Shock Absorbers

If you are going to fit a Hilux Lift Kit, a lot of people recommend getting slightly longer shock absorbers than what  normally comes in the kit. In general, the shock absorber is the first thing to stop the suspension from flexing to its full amount. By getting slightly longer shock absorbers you remove this from the equation, and usually end up with better flex.

Alternatives to a Hilux Lift Kit

I mentioned earlier on that I prefer to keep my centre of gravity low. A lot of people prefer to cut the guards of their vehicle over fitting a lift. This literally involves taking an angle grinder to the guards, and it works well assuming you know how to do it in a tidy manner! Another popular method to fit larger tyres is to move the front diff forward. This is a relatively easy job on solid axle hilux’s and allows for 35” tyres to run without any lift at all (in the older hilux’s).

A newer hilux set up for camping
Is your vehicle legal?

Legalities of a Hilux Lift Kit

In my opinion, this is the most overlooked part of fitting a Hilux Lift Kit. In WA, lifting your vehicle over 50mm makes it illegal. This has some serious ramifications; your insurance is void and as a result you are liable for any damage.  

You can get an engineer’s certificate (which needs to be accompanied with a lane change test) for lifts up to 150mm but it can get costly very quickly. 50mm equates to either a 2 inch body lift without any bigger tyres, or a 2” bigger set of tyres with a 1 inch body lift.

If you do any modifications to your Hilux, I would strongly advise you check that they are legal, and you notify your insurance company of the changes. If you don’t let them know then they can get out of claims.

When should I fit a Hilux Lift Kit?

It’s not uncommon to see a Hilux purchased and then a lift kit fitted within the first week. I would say you should never fit a Hilux Lift Kit, unless you have a reason to do so. You might find that your Hilux with a decent set of tyres does everything you need it to – why bother lifting it if this is the case? If you need more load carrying ability, more flex or to fit larger tyres then you have a reason.

My recommendation is to drive your Hilux, find out where it lacks (if it does at all) and then modify it to fix those issues.

A hilux without a lift
A standard height Hilux

If you are going to fit a Hilux Lift Kit, think about the other modifications that you want to do. If you plan on fitting bar work (or other heavy items) to your vehicle then you should do that before fitting a lift. If you don’t, you will find your new lift kit will sag under the weight and you will end up having to purchase a new set!

Choosing the right Hilux Lift Kit

There are literally hundreds of kits on the market, ranging from body lift kits through to suspension lift kits, extended shackles, air bag suspension and more. Consider the weight that you carry, the amount of flex that you need, the legalities involved with doing a lift, why you need the lift done, where you are driving and how the vehicle is treated. If you take the time to do a proper lift you will end up saving yourself time, money and energy!

My Hilux at Lancelin
My Hilux at Lancelin

Be aware that lifting your Hilux is not the end of the story. There may be other modifications that need to be done as a result of the lift (like adjusting the headlights as they now sit up higher).

I feel for those that have fitted a Hilux Lift Kit without really looking into it, and have had to pay more money and time to get it rectified (or even worse – they are driving a car that is not lifted correctly and as a result is potentially dangerous). The Hilux is an awesome vehicle, and it will bring you a lot of enjoyment if you set it up correctly.

If you have a Hilux Lift Kit, let me know – I would like to find out what set ups you are running, advantages and disadvantages you have found and general comments. If you have any questions I will do my best to answer them!

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  1. Hi Paul,

    What do you need the clearance for? You might find some good all terrain or mud terrain tyres does the trick, whilst not touching the suspension at all

    All the best

  2. Hi Aaron) Thanks for your help for people! May I ask, I have a hilux 2.4 2017, 20% of the ride I will need to drive on bad off-road with loads, I want to put an iron bumper in the front, possibly in the back. I need to increase the clearance and passable, I’m thinking about a 2inch elevator. Wanted to just lift through the spacers in the suspension, but read some bad reviews about spacers above the shock strut. What can you advise me in my situation? I serve the poor people of the Pokot tribe in Kenya. A car with low mileage didn’t want to throw out my native suspension, but use it and then think about replacing it

  3. Hi Stanley,

    You’ll fit the 275/65/17 without any body mount chop, and you might even fit the 265/75/17 without a chop too; you should be able to measure it to clarify.

    If you go over 50mm increase in tyre size you’ll need engineering, and its worth looking into what size tyres are common, and cheap. No point getting a tyre that is hard to get a variety of tyres in, or that you have to pay a huge amount for.

    Honestly, for what you are saying, you would probably get away with a tiny increase in tyre size (the smaller of your two options) in a good quality all terrain or mud terrain, and maybe consider a locker?

    I would keep it as mild as possible, and find what you like about the vehicle and don’t, and then modify it from there

    All the best

  4. Stanley Xu says:

    Hi Aaron,

    I read the whole page, all the way from more than 10 years ago and you’re still here helping people. Very informative explanations, and you are very knowledgeable.

    I live in WA, and I have a Hilux 2019 rugged x, just purchased that few months ago. This vehicle is my daily drive to train station for work (5km), and weekend activities going round and about, occasional beach driving, some off-roading but nothing crazy.

    I’d like it to be capable of doing off road, but still keeping the handling on road. The factory tyre is 265/65/17, and I am looking at a slightly bigger size AT 275/65/R17 or 265/75/R17. I am planning to get a certified body mount chop from a known workshop, so I can (attempt to) fit the tyres in. I would avoid doing a lift if I can for now. But for long corrugation driving that may come later, I will maybe eventually upgrade the factory suspension to more robust models.

    My questions is, for my purpose, is this a good choice of suspension wheel and tyres? can I get away from lifting the vehicle and fit the slight bigger tyre in my hilux?

  5. Hey Lance,

    I’d steer clear of body lifts, but I’m not really sure what is needed in terms of clearance. Your best bet would be to ask on the Hilux owners groups on Facebook, as people will have done the same thing as you.

    All the best

  6. Hi Aaron
    I am wanting to put on 285/70/R17 Tyres on my 2016 Hilux, 2.8 diesel, wanting that more aggressive look, only really do beach and dune driving with a little medium terrain 4wd, what would be the best a bodylift or suspension?


  7. Hey Marty,

    If you are talking body lifts, you won’t have to change the suspension, but you will have other issues. I don’t recommend them at all.

    My advice would be to keep the vehicle as low as possible, whilst fitting some slightly larger tyres, but it really depends on what you want it for. Sometimes its possible to do a body mount chop (which is engineerable), or move the front axle forward a little without touching the lift.

    I’d get the vehicle, then the tyres and plan based off the clearance you have left.

    All the best

  8. Marty McD says:

    Hi mate
    Very good write up, thanks.
    My question is, which i am having trouble finding good info about, is… I have ordered a new 2021 SR double cab, I want to put the same Wrangler A/Ts I had on my 2018, but I had a lot of rubbing issues (they were only 265/65/r17s). So I want to give it a slight lift, but being a brand new truck I don’t want to butcher it. I am thinking either 2″ blocks, but these seem a but rough if I am honest, and it would would still seem to me that the rear shocks would need to be changed?? My second option is a suspension kit. Which I am leaning towards, but I am unsure if the control arm and anything else needs to be changed along the way?
    Any advise would be much appreciated mate, new truck arriving in mid May and I want to get on top of it.

  9. Hey David,

    You have to decide whether you want to keep it legal, or not. Getting the factory height is easy – any decent vehicle engineer will be able to look it up in 5 minutes. In fact, you can probably get it here – https://rvcs.infrastructure.gov.au/pls/wwws/pubrvcs.Notify_Search

    I would lift the vehicle as little as needed to run the tyres you want. Bigger tyres aren’t always better though.

    At the end of the day, build the vehicle to do what you need it to, and keep it legal if you can.

    All the best

  10. David Abadier says:

    ive been overwhelmed at the consideration of a 2 inch lift.
    i have a 2004 kzn165. dual cab with a tub. i feel ike it could already be lifted but i cant tell. it doesnt say toyota, or anything for that matter, atleast not the torsion bars or leafs in the rear. kyb shocks in the rear thats it. after a little torsion cranking and a 30mm raise in the front its sitting at 580mm on all fours.
    ive been asking every bloke selling theirs on gumtree and carsales, even on the facebook pages for measurements of either stock or 2inch lifted similar utes. from centre hubs to arches etc. one guy says his is 610 front and 600 mm rear. could it be mines already lifted( in the rear) by one inch..
    noone knows anything, toyota, tough dog, opposite lock..
    i dont want to drop 2k on an inch of lift. i believe i have decent clearance for bigger tyres. currently running 31 10.5 r15 and looks like it will easily fit 33’s. im only going to go 32s btw.. the way it sits looks just as lifted as the 2inch examples. using a keen eye and things like the side steps, or wheel arches themselves to gauge against top of rims. considering 15 v 16 inch rims.

    can i just use extended shocks in my case? (being a supposed 1 inch less than a 2 inch lift) to help cusion the rouggher ride from torsion bars, and in general with the old looking shocks that could be replaced

    sorry for the rant. any info would be more than helpful. thank you in advance


  11. Hi Kirk,

    Go for the right rated springs. If you are adding around 400kg plus gear, 500kg springs should be fine. A good suspension place should be able to weigh everything and put you on the right path.

    All the best

  12. Kirk Moore says:

    Hi looking at getting a 2 inch lift on my ln167 hilux, bought a canopy for it that weighs 400kg and I believe it still has it’s original stock suspension which is cactus, planning on adding fridge 12volt system , should I go with 500kg leaf springs any advice would be awesome. Cheers thanks

  13. Hi Van,

    I would suggest you add all your weight to the vehicle first, and then take it to a shop to get weighed, and get the right suspension. Fitting larger lifts to the front to counter the weight is not what you should be doing; you want the right weight rating.

    The back will be higher, because that’s how they are engineered to handle best. It’s called rake, and you should keep it that way.

    The higher you lift it, the more issues you will have; consider a mild life, with the right spring ratings and some quality tyres, and it will go where you need it to.

    All the best

  14. im based in Sydney, i lifting the front higher because im planing to get bullbar winch and 2nd battery and not much load at the back. My hilux right now seems to look like the back is higher. Im planning on doing tracks and just want to make the car look abit tougher.

  15. Hi Van,

    Where are you based? Why would you lift the front and rear different amounts? What do you want the vehicle for? What’s the legalities where you are, and the consequences for an illegal vehicle?

    All the best