Trucks are best customized, if you own one, you know what I’m talking about. When customizing, there are so many options from appearance to function. While Tacoma’s are a killer truck straight from the factory, let's be real: we like our Tacos with a little height!
In my last post, we covered different grille options. In today’s post, we’re talking lifts. Regardless if you're lifting your Tacoma for looks or function, you’ve got options, but there are some things you might need to know before you start shopping around. Let's dive into some technical terms, and then some lift options so you can decide what's best for you and your truck.
Technical Info and Terminology
Coilover: A coilover is the front coil spring and shock assembly. The parts are one unit. A typical spring and shock suspension are two separate parts.
Shock: A shock is an oil or gas filled piston that's designed to compress and expand with suspension travel. They are designed to absorb impacts to give you a smoother or stiffer ride, depending on the type you choose. You can see these inside your springs.
Upper Control Arms: UCA are at the front of your independent front suspension (IFS). They are mainly responsible for the vertical alignment of the front spindles. They generally are not load-bearing.
Lower Control Arms: LCA are also part of the front IFS. These work together with your UCA, but these see most of the load-bearing.
Leaf Springs: These are one of the oldest suspension designs. Leaf springs are made of a number of strips of metal curved slightly upward and clamped together one above the other.
Add-A-Leaf: AALs are additional springs that are excessively arched to provide additional lift or support to the rear of some trucks.
Leaf Pack: these are a replacement set of leaf springs. They are generally designed to have a better spring rate. Leaf packs may also add lift or additional load capacity.
Now that we've covered the parts of the suspension, let's go over the aspects of alignment. It's important to make sure your alignment is correct. If it's not, you could have uneven and quick wear and tear on your tires and other components. ALWAYS make sure that you have your truck aligned after doing any suspension work, especially when adding a lift.
Caster: This is the angle that your front tires are tilted in relation to the steering axis.
Camber: The angle that your tires are in relation to the vertical axis when viewed from the front of the vehicle.
Toe: The angle at which your front tires turns in or out in relationship to each other.
Types of Lift Kits (Front)
We've got the suspension components covered, so let's get to the lift options for our trucks, what they are, and what they consist of. There are a few to consider for the front and rear. For the front, we have spacer lift kits, coil lift kits, and coilcover lift kits.
Spacer Lift Kits: Spacers (also known as leveling kits, leveling spacers, or spring blocks) are the most inexpensive method to give you a fixed amount of lift in your truck. They don't require any new suspension components or modification. They simply add “space” between your suspension and the body of the vehicle effectively giving you typically one to three inches of lift.
You should know that if you do any serious off roading, a spacer lift is probably not the best option for you. Because spacers compress the shock, you could cause the ball joint to break if you hit a big rock or dip. Trust me, this has happened to several friends of mine, so be careful!
Coil and Coilover Lift Kits: The kits operate the same way, but keep in mind the differences we stated before. Coils are separate pistons and springs, and coilovers are one unit. Now, while spacers add space to the existing units, coils and coilovers replace the stock suspension entirely. You can get them in all different sizes and stiffnesses. It all depends on what you're looking for.
Coilovers are basically plug and play: remove the old, put in the new. Coilover lift kits are a bit more popular for the serious lifter. While they may cost more, they are already assembled and good to go. Some are also adjustable, depending on your needs.
Here are some popular options for each to consider for your truck:
Toytec makes multiple suspension components for our trucks. This is their three inch spacer kit. At $169.99, they are relatively inexpensive, and they are designed to work with stock shocks.
This company also makes plenty of lift options. This kit costs slightly more at $239.95. Price and features depend on your situation and what you're looking for.
Coils are generally inexpensive as well like these taller springs from Toytec for $169.99. Always be mindful when buying coils to make sure the shocks you have work with them.
At over $1600, these kits are your most expensive. This particular kit from ICON offers adjustable ride height. This is a benefit of getting a complete coilover kit: more options.
Types of Lift Kits (Rear)
For the rear of our trucks, we'll be talking about lift blocks, add-a-leafs, and leaf packs. Since we've talked about these in some way, shape, or form earlier in this post, we don't need to go into too much detail.
Lift Blocks: The principle of these is the same as spacers for the front. These are blocks that are placed under your rear leaf packs, on top of your axles. Kits generally include the lift blocks and longer U-bolts.
Add-A-Leafs: As mentioned, this type of lift consists of an additional leaf spring that has an increased arc. They add lift by increasing the curve of your rear stock spring pack. They also allow added load capacity for hauling.
Leaf Packs: Similar to replacing your coilovers up at the front, this is a replacement for your leaf springs in the back. Depending on what you get, these could increase your ride height, increase or decrease suspension travel, hauling capacity, and so on.
Here are some popular options for each to consider for your truck:
Blocks are cheap, but effective for up to three inches. These blocks from Tuff Country can be found for about $60. A quick search online will lead you to many offerings for around the same price.
There are a multitude of popular brands for add-a-leafs including the very popular Toytec, but I picked this one to show you just how inexpensive this option can be as well.
I figured I would throw this one in too. It’s a little bit extra at around $85, but it’s one of the more popular options out there for the Toyota Tacoma.
A full on leaf spring swap with leaf packs is going to be your most expensive route. This kit from Hellwig goes for about $6000. Sometimes it may be best to consider an option such as this to avoid mixing new parts with stock parts. This would be a completely new unit.
Types of Lift Kits (Body Lift)
The last type of lift I’d like to discuss needs its own section: a body lift. This lifts your truck exactly the way it sounds by lifting the body. Spacers are added to the mounting points where the body of your truck meets the frame.
While these are generally inexpensive, like this kit from Toytec for $180, there is more to it. You may want to get new bumper brackets to avoid such a gap between your bumper and body. You may also need things like steering and fuel line extensions. They are also not the most durable option.
To wrap up, lifting your truck is a common practice. It looks good, and gives you more clearance. There are many options, and it all depends on what you want to do. If you just need to look good, a body lift, block, or spacer kit will do just fine. If you are serious about off-roading, then a full coilover and leaf pack kit are the best options.
Keep in mind that any time you alter one component on your truck, it will affect something else. Factory trucks are technically meant to be left stock. If you modify them, it’s best to know what you’re doing. It’s always best to get an alignment after changing out suspension parts. If you lift your truck, remember that non-lift parts such as upper and lower control arms may need to be changed as well.
Be safe, have fun, and lift ‘em up!
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