Homemade Lift Kitby Richard Rowe
Although most off-road oriented vehicles come from the factory with higher ride heights than road-cars, really extreme off-road wheeling can call for a little more altitude to avoid getting caught on obstacles or make room for larger wheels. The required approach to lifting varies by suspension type and the amount of lift desired for the application.
There are several types of lift kits: axle "flips," lift blocks, spring lifts and suspension lifts. Spring lifts and suspension lifts are always preferred for the greatest suspension articulation and safest wheeling, but can be impossible to fabricate at home for do-it-yourselfers on a budget. This leaves axle flips and lift blocks as the preferred medium for the average off-roader looking for a few extra inches.
Doing the Flip
Many trucks and other leaf-spring suspended vehicles utilize axles mounted on top of the leaf spring. While this approach does make for a smoother and better handling ride, it is a weak point for ground clearance. If your vehicle uses such a set-up, the simplest solution is to relocate the axle to the bottom of the spring with a "flip kit." Flip kits require welding a new spring mount to the top of the axle, but are cheap since you may even be able to re-use the original U-bolts and hardware.
Add a Block
Lift blocks are kind of the "Stage 2" to an axle flip, or Stage 1 if your truck already has a bottom-mounted axle. A lift block is simply a spacer that fits in between the axle and the spring. You can fabricate lift blocks from rectangular 2-by-1 inch steel stock (laid on its side), from solid aluminum or even pressure-treated hardwood (although it's not advised), but purchasing a set will cost about the same and will almost certainly be safer and easier. Never use lift blocks on the front axle of your truck; it's incredibly dangerous and makes the truck unstable while cornering.
Add a Ring
Lift rings are less common than lift blocks, but are the comparable option if your truck uses coil springs instead of leaf springs. Lift rings should sit between the top of the coil spring and the chassis mount or the top of the spring and the spring perch. You can fabricate a lift ring in much the same way as you would a lift block, and they're generally safer to use on the front end of a truck than leaf-spring lift blocks. Stay under two inches for lift rings, or you risk hanging the entire weight of the wheel off of the shock should the wheel leave the ground.
Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.