The Beginner’s Guide to Truck Suspension Lift Kits
The suspension is the system in a vehicle that acts as the bridge between the passenger and the road. It is what holds the truck—and therefore the passengers sitting in it—suspended over the wheels.
Unless you’re doing some dirty stuff off road and you like bouncing around like a crazy ball, the better the suspension, the less you feel the ride. Since trucks are designed to haul and tow, there’s significant difference between the front- and rear-end suspensions.
Solid Front Axle
Although a solid front axle setup used to be all the rage in the truck world for its simplicity and ruggedness, these days, you only find it in a handful of heavy-duty trucks, like Ford’s F-250 and F-350 and the Ram 2500.
Very common in old Jeeps, it is still preferred by many off-roaders for its increased articulation—the amount of vertical wheel travel needed to slow crawl at a forty-five degree angle over rocky terrain, with one wheel in a crevice and another three feet up on a boulder.
The design is simple: a solid “live” beam axle transmits power to both front wheels. In older setups, a leaf-spring pack (long strips of metal bolted together), mounted to the frame via a hanger bracket and pivoting shackle, attached to the axle with U-bolts.
Today, with leaf springs mostly relegated to rear-end duty and coil springs and coilovers (where the coil spring is placed over the shock absorber) popular up front, it’s more common to find radius arms or various 3- and 4-link “arm” setups that connect the axle to the frame. More often than not, a track bar, mounted on the passenger side of the axle, links to a frame point on the driver’s side to help center the axle.
Benefits of a Solid Front Axle setup:
- Increased weight capacity
- Greater articulation for slow crawling off-road conditions
- Simple design with less parts
- Easy to lift
Independent Front Suspension or IFS
Much more common than solid front axles are the independent front suspension systems found on most half-ton pickup trucks.
These are two front axles, separated at the differential, that attach to the hub with CV joints and allow greater independent vertical wheel movement. Basically, if your left front tire hits a bump in a truck with IFS, your right wheel isn’t affected. The most common set up uses coilovers. Two control arms, one upper and one lower, attach from the frame to the hub.
Though many off roaders prefer a solid front axle set up, the Ford 150 Raptor comes off-road ready straight from the factory with IFS and receives rave reviews.
Benefits of Independent Front Suspension:
- More comfortable, car-like feel
- Well suited to faster off-road driving
- Less prone to axle wrap
Today, most light and heavy duty pickups feature rear leaf springs. These are mounted to the frame with a hanger bracket and shackle and attach to the axle with U-bolts.
Depending on the setup, this can be either what is called “spring over” the axle, as in most trucks, or “spring under” the axle, common on older Jeeps. Also, many trucks come stock with a small lift block between the axle and the leaf-spring pack; most lift kits include larger blocks.
With a history dating to the Middle Ages, leaf springs are strong and best suited for heavy loads and towing. Most off-road trucks use rear coil springs or coilovers with 4 links, two on each side of the axle, that link the axle to the frame.
Overtime, leaf springs can wear down, and the rear end of your truck can sag. When this happens, Add-a-Leafs are additional leaf springs that attach to your existing spring pack to help raise the truck back up.
Liftkits4less.com has everything you need to lift any make or model of truck. Whether you know what you want or if you’re just getting started, give us a call at 702-267-6100. We’re happy to help.
Written by: Lift Kit Larry