5 Things You Should Know About Car Lift Kits
There are many aftermarket modifications that car owners in Monmouth County can make in an effort to make a vehicle their own. Among the most dramatic of these modifications is what is known as "lifting" the car.
Through the use of either a body or suspension lift kit, car owners are able to literally pick their vehicle higher up off the ground and thereby install taller tires, changing the look of the car as well as several other aspects of its performance and character.
Indeed, the addition of a lift kit can really enhance a vehicle's look as well as its performance. However, there are 5 things that every driver should know about car lift kits before committing to a purchase. In the following article, Auto Attitude of Monmouth County guides readers through each of these important aspects of car lift kits. Among the items discussed first will be the difference between putting a lift on a car vs. a truck or 4x4 vehicle, the difference between a body lift and a suspension lift, the size of lift needed for a vehicle, and whether a wheel adaptor/spacer is needed. Then, the effects of a lift kit will be discussed along with the cautions associated with driving a vehicle with a lift.
1. Why Car Lift Kits Are Different
Most people associate lifting kits with trucks and other 4x4 vehicles like Jeeps. This comes from the fact that the lifting process has a practical application with these vehicles. Think about it: trucks and 4x4s are designed to drive on diverse terrain. Therefore, lifting their chassis and increasing the ground clearance of the vehicle allows drivers to go over more dangerous roads or rocky hillsides without the fear of damaging the undercarriage.
On the flip side, car lift kits are strictly about aesthetics since cars are not designed to drive off of paved roads. When drivers install car lift kits, their goal is generally to take their vehicle from its stock size to larger sized tires, generally 20 in. or above. This is done in an effort to change the look of the vehicle. Regardless of the type of lift a car has received, it still not able to drive off road any better than before. This enhancement is limited to truck and 4x4 lift kits.
2. Body Lift Kits vs. Suspension Lift Kits
Since the purpose of a car lift kit is merely to enhance the overall look of the vehicle, it is important to consider both general "types" of lift kits: body lift kits and suspension lift kits. The differences between these two types of lift kits are both financial and practical.
Body Lift Kits
The purpose of a body lift kit is to elevate a car or truck between 1 and 3 additional inches off the ground from its stock stature. This is accomplished by lifting the body of the vehicle up off of its frame through the placement of blocks or spacers. What this accomplishes is an aesthetic change in the car itself and an elevation of the wheel well, thereby allowing for the installation of taller tires. A body lift kit does not, however, increase a vehicle's ground clearance.
Suspension Lift Kits
On the flip side, suspension lift kits are designed to increase a vehicle's ground clearance and are the type of lift kits most often used with trucks and 4x4s. A suspension lift kit works by raising the suspension of a car through the replacement of the front and rear shocks and leaf springs. In general, a suspension lift kit will elevate a vehicle between 4 and 6 inches above its stock stature, though extreme lift kits can reach elevations up to 18 inches. These taller kits can severely impact the car's handling, however, making them dangerous to drive. Plus, they look quite odd, especially on cars.
3. Finding the Correct Size Car Lift Kit
For most drivers, the determination of whether to use a body lift kit or a suspension lift kit will come down to the type of tire they want to install on the lifted car and how high the car must be lifted in order for it to fit. There is a specific way to determine what size lift kit will be needed for a particular job and several variables that can influence one's decision. Minimally, this means looking at the following:
- - Year, make, and model of the car
- - New tire diameter
- - New tire width
- - Rim offset (the amount of rim that sticks out)
The goal is to elevate the car so that the tires do not cut or rub on the frame of the car. Therefore, the only way to be completely sure about the size of the lift kit needed is to literally measure the wheel diameter as well as the car's current clearance. Many car owners ask professional mechanics to do this for them and then compare the measurements to lift charts specific to the brand of lift kit that they intend to buy.
4. Determining If You Need a Wheel Adaptor/Spacer
When installing a lift kit on a car, as opposed to on a truck or 4x4, it is important to determine if you will need to also use a wheel adaptor/spacer. Therefore, buyers need to know what wheel adaptors/spacers are and determine if they will need to purchase them along with their car lift kit.
What Is a Wheel Adaptor/Spacer?
Wheel adaptors or wheel spacers are used to help remedy the problem that occurs when trying to install big wheels on a car. Generally, car wheels range in size from 13 to 19 inches. Lifting a car within this range is therefore pretty easy. However, installing anything larger, even through the use of a lift kit, can cause a problem because the rims will rub on the frame of the car or on its inside suspension. This happens because the offset of the rim (how much it sticks out) on these bigger wheels is too small for the design of the wheel well on a car. Wheel adaptors seek to increase the offset of the rim to fit these larger wheels on the car.
Determining Whether You Need a Wheel Adaptor/Spacer
The best way to avoid the use of a wheel adaptor/spacer when installing a car lift kit is to purchase the wheels after buying the kit. This is because many lift kits require a minimum rim offset to work. Wheel adaptors/spacers help get the wheels compatible with the car and its kit, but are an added expense and may still not be sufficient to comply with the needs of a lift kit.
5. What to Do After a Car Has Been Lifted
Regardless of the path chosen in terms of a car lift kit, there are important cautions to keep in mind after installing it. This includes how to properly drive a lifted car as well as routine maintenance that is necessary to retain the lift's safety.
Driving a Car That Has Been Lifted
Once a car has been lifted, its handling will vary dramatically from the way that it was before. This includes pronounced swaying as it takes corners and an altered center of gravity that makes turnovers easier. Because these changes can increase the likelihood of wrecking a car, it is important to drive carefully and get a new feel for the vehicle immediately after it has been lifted. Essentially, it's like driving a whole new car.
Maintaining a Lifted Car
In addition to general driver safety, the lift kit itself must be maintained and monitored. Since a lift kit is an aftermarket addition to a car, it is the owner's responsibility to maintain its integrity and standard of safety. This involves periodically checking the mounting bolts on the lift kit to see if any slack has been created through the driving process. The bolts may then need to be tightened.
Choosing to install a lift on your car is more than just a financial investment for most drivers. It is a deeply personal decision that can seriously impact the look and function of a vehicle. In fact, there are several aspects of choosing, installing, and maintaining a lifted vehicle that are important to know before even beginning the process.
These 5 things you should know about car lift kits begin with the differences between lifting a car as opposed to a truck or 4x4 vehicle as well as the difference between a body lift and a suspension lift. Next, car owners need to properly measure their car and their tires to find the perfect kit to use. This involves assessing whether it will be necessary to buy and install wheel adaptors.
Finally, once all of these items have been considered and the lift kit attached, the issues surrounding lift kits are not over. In fact, drivers who are operating a vehicle that has been lifted need to take extra safety precautions as well as make sure to maintain the integrity of their lift system. It is only through taking note of all these facts that car lift kits can be used to the best of their ability, helping drivers enhance the look of their car in a safe and effective manner.
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