If you are thinking about putting a lift kit in your 4WD, this is a comprehensive, unbiased guide for every single item you should think about before proceeding. Taking the time to get the right gear, in the right configuration will save you a huge amount of money, time and headaches down the line, so grab a drink, and get stuck into this.
What’s the end game?
A lot of people fit 4WD accessories without really thinking about what they want to achieve from the vehicle. If you are after more flex, you don’t have to fit a lift kit to do this. If you want to run larger tyres, a lift kit might help, but there will be situations where it will still cause issues with rubbing.
Please don’t fit 4WD accessories just because everyone else is doing it. Fit them to meet a purpose, and to make your 4WD better, for you. This will save you time, money and frustrations down the line when you realise its not really for you.
What’s the maximum lift amount in your state?
You might be very surprised to read the limitations on suspension and body lifts across various states in Australia. No, it’s not the same in every state, which makes it even harder. The short and sweet is this; if you run a lift kit that is higher than what the state allows, and you are involved in an accident, your insurance can be void, and you can even be criminally liable for any injury or damage that you cause.
In WA, you are limited to a roof height increase of 50mm by way of tyres, suspension and a body lift (all 3, in combination). In many other states, you can do a 50mm tyre size increase along with a 50mm suspension lift, making the roof go up 75mm.
There are exceptions to this, like when engineering certificates are involved, but this gets complicated and expensive really quickly.
How much do you want the lift kit?
If you are committed to going for a big lift kit, you might need to go down the path of engineering, which can be costly and time consuming, but is the only way you’re going to get a vehicle legally modified.
What size tyres do you have, and is it going to change?
In combination with the above, you need to look into tyre sizes; if you fit a 50mm lift in WA, you can’t fit any larger tyre. This is because larger tyres also lift the vehicle, and it puts you over the maximum roof height increase by doing so.
What weight are you carrying now, and into the future?
One of the most important factors to consider when fitting a lift kit is the weight in and on your 4WD now, and in the future. This is important for a number of reasons, but the first is that you want your springs to suit the weight you are carrying. If you get light, flexy suspension and then add a heap of accessories and gear onto the vehicle, it’s going to sag big time, and your lift kit will be a normal suspension kit.
A good suspension shop will weigh the vehicle, discuss your application and fit a kit that suits the weight being carried.
Going on from this, if you are getting close to the vehicle manufacturers GVM, rear axle or front axle weights then its critical you look at GVM upgrade options too.
I’ve seen people pay 4k for a lift kit, only to realise that they are overweight, and because it’s not GVM compatible, they have to rip the whole lot out and start again. Frustrating, time consuming, expensive and all in all, an experience you’d be wise to avoid.
Get your 4WD weighed, and seriously think about what you are going to put in its long term, or it is going to come back to haunt you.
How long are you going to keep the suspension and vehicle for?
If you just want a cheap lift kit to get you through for a year or two, then buy any brand you want. However, if this is a long-term touring vehicle you need to think about how long the lift kit is going to last for, what the warranty period is, how easy it is to get spare parts, and how happy you’re going to be with it in 5 years’ time.
You can spend a huge amount of money on top-of-the-line lift kits, and for some people that’s entirely justifiable, but it really depends on your individual situation.
What did we do?
As much as a big, lifted 4WD with huge tyres looks and goes great (in some situations), its got a lot of downsides, and our 4WD’s have been modified fairly conservatively.
Our 80 Series Land Cruiser had a 50mm Old Man Emu Suspension kit installed, and was running 285/75/16 tyres. With twin lockers, this was legal, capable and was an exceptional 4WD off road, without running into issues with the police.
Our Isuzu Dmax that we are currently touring around Australia in is at the absolute maximum that we could do in WA (where its registered), and this was the priority. An illegal 4WD is simply not worth the risk.
As such, we got a 30mm lift from ARB using Old Man Emu Suspension (which is also a Dmax GVM upgrade), and we installed 50mm bigger tyres. Fortunately, the roof height has gone up less than 50mm from the largest tyre Dmax in the range, which means we’re fully compliant, and its got enough clearance for touring.
We’ve done a heap of the High Country, Grampians, Pilbara, Kimberley and Flinders Ranges and I’ve never really wished for more clearance. Ultimately, we spent a lot of time trying to find the right lift kit, and its paid dividends over the last 6 years.
What lift kit are you running? Are you happy with it? Would you do anything different next time?