Every vehicle has a gross vehicle mass (GMV) rating, which basically indicates how much load it can safely carry. Minus the amount your vehicle weighs without a load from the gross vehicle mass rating, and that should be your limit every time. Installing tougher, heavier duty suspension can help deal with more mass and more load, but until you get your GMV raised and certified by an engineer, you should never exceed the manufacturer guidelines.
So you want to head off the beaten track, or maybe carry a serious amount of weight. Unfortunately, you come to the realisation that your normal suspension just isn’t going to cut it. It won’t handle the pressure of lugging around a heavy load, nor will it get over the obstacles you want to tackle on the days you feel like having some fun. This is where 4 Wheel Drive lift kits come in.
Designed to raise you further off the ground and provide that extra toughness that doesn’t come from the suspension on a factory-fresh 4 Wheel Drive, lift kits are generally the go-to choice for many people who want to either make a lifestyle out of their 4×4 or do a job properly. But what actually makes a lift kit? In order for you to best understand what 4WD lift kit is right for you, it’s best to read up on what parts come together to form your ideal choice.
The springs are generally what most people think of when they think any form of auto suspension, whether it be on an everyday car or on a 4×4 lift kit. While they may look the part, they don’t actually do the job a lot of people think. Designed to surround the shock absorber, they help to provide additional stability for the shock absorber, and define how far your vehicle is being held above the road.
Many 4WD have what are known as “Leaf Springs”, which work in the same way, but attach more directly to the wheel look like this. Heavier duty springs will travel less, provide higher resistance to shocks and bumps, and firm up the suspension and steering of your car. This can be good in terms of handling, responsiveness and durability, but at the cost of ride comfort.
While Springs also help to deal with shocks and bumps, it’s not their primary purpose. This falls to…
Shock absorbers by name, shock absorbers by, well, nature. While the springs generally get all the credit, it’s actually the shock absorbers they surround that bear most of the load. The tube you see above is filled with gas and oil, which compresses as you travel over rough surfaces. In turn, this converts the kinetic energy that the car (and without the shock absorber, your spine) is impacted with into heat energy which is then dissipated, resulting in a smoother ride for you.
Many 4×4 lift kits come with what are known as “ReadyStrut” shocks at the front. ReadyStrut are essentially pre-assembled spring/shock set ups, with the springs, shocks and mounts all assembled and ready for you to simply bolt in. These can be an extremely handy, particularly if you’re installing your lift kit yourself, as assembly of these systems requires a special machine that unfortunately even we don’t sell.
Like the springs they come with, heavy duty shock absorbers will operate at higher pressures for longer, but provide a firmer ride in return.
Suspension bushes help to keep all the arms and joints of your suspension from grinding against each other. On something more performance oriented such as a lift kit, these are generally made of a tough, light material such as polyurethane. Such a material also helps to dampen the impact on the integrity of your whole suspension set up. These small pieces are crucial in keeping everything well situated and working as smoothly as possible.
Finding the perfect balance between all of these elements is the key to finding the perfect lift kit for your needs. You may need more comfort and more forgiving shocks, whereas you might have to sacrifice some ride comfort in the name of reliability. To delve deeper and find exactly what’s right for you, check out our next article here.
4×4 Recovery Tracks
Trapped in a bog hole, bellied out, or stuck in a sand trap? Any true 4×4 enthusiast will find themselves in one, or all of these scenarios at some stage. Don’t fret, 4×4 recovery tracks from TRED and Maxtrax have been designed to do all of the things that a traditional 4×4 winch cannot do.
Many modern 4×4’s are made to be just as much for family use as they are for towing or carrying heavy loads. This means that a sacrifice has been made on towing capacity and load-carrying in the name of ride comfort, leaving your 4×4 without the means to effectively haul like it should. Thankfully, many lift kit manufacturers have seen this, and made just the product to give you back some power over the loads you want to haul.
The Tougher Choice
Commercial 4×4 lift kits are made tough. This means everything is beefed up, stiffened up, and can cope with the most extreme pressures that come with either carrying huge amounts of weight or towing objects far beyond the family caravan. When a significant amount of weight is placed on the rear of a vehicle, the nature of the suspension means it dips to cope with the load and stop the entire car from collapsing in on itself. If you’re running a conventional suspension system, it’s often too soft and unable to cope with the massive pressure, meaning you lose a huge amount of performance and responsiveness from your handling, and your suspension geometry suffers when going around corners.
A commercial 4wd lift kit is designed specifically to counter this. The springs have less travel on them, meaning they compress less under heavy load. The shock absorbers have a much higher resistance to the increased weight, meaning you keep the level ride height and your handling isn’t affected. Suspension geometry is crucial, and the stronger bushes from SuperPro help to maintain the integrity of your suspension system under a heavy load. Less pressure is also placed on the wheels, meaning the power reaches the wheels far more smoothly, and the life of your tyres increases.
It should probably be pointed out that heavy-duty 4wd lift kits should only be really recommended for that very purpose. Firmer springs mean a firmer ride, every time. There’s no way around it, and that means that unless you really need it, a heavy load lift kit might not be the best choice for you. Many manufacturers offer a comfort-oriented range which offer a bridging gap between the harsh ride of a heavy duty kit, and the softer ride of an every day lift kit that serves a mainly cosmetic purpose. If you’re only towing every now and then, in time your back will thank you for choosing a compromise. Either a performance or enhancement-oriented 4×4 lift kit will do the job for this purpose, and for smaller loads an airbag suspension system is probably a more viable alternative. If you’re towing lots, try a combination of a performance lift kit and airbags added on.
If it sounds like you need a better balance between ride comfort and lift, check out our piece on performance-oriented kits. If you’re not sure about quite how lift kits work, click here to take a look at everything that forms them.
If off-roading is a pastime or yours, or maybe life just takes you off the beaten track on regular basis, you may soon come find that normal suspension isn’t quite up to it. It won’t get over the rough terrain you need to tackle, and it might not be able to cope with the pressure and strain being put on it. whether you’re out there having fun or not. This is where 4wd lift kits come in.
The High-Performance 4×4 Option
Off-roading 4×4 lift kits are like performance tuning for 4WD’s. They lift the vehicle by anywhere up to 50mm (the legal Australian limit), giving it that imposing look, while increasing its performance off-road and while crossing water. As with any suspension system, you have to find a compromise between handling and ride comfort, and performance lift kits are generally the best at minimising the effect on everyday handling that comes with increased off-road performance and an increased ride height.
The shock absorbers and springs that come with an off-roading 4×4 lift kit are performance oriented, often being made by premium suspension brands such as Bilstein and RAW Predator 4×4, and are tuned to work at high pressure while tackling every terrain that’s thrown at them. Shocks such as those made Bilstein are able to handle a far higher pressure than lesser shocks, meaning that you can go over rougher terrain, faster AND for longer. As with all lift kits, the crucial bushes are made of tough, light polyurethane, premium made by SuperPro.
The Perfect Compromise
Unlike commercial 4×4 lift kits, they’re designed to provide more of a balance between suppleness and toughness. This enables it to handle a wider variety of uneven terrain, and fortunately also means that you get the best of both worlds when it comes to both comfort and performance. If you need a heavy duty system for towing frequently or transporting large loads, a commercial-oriented 4wd lift kit with heavy duty springs and shocks should be your choice. Performance kits offer the best compromise between the two, of course for a little bit of extra money.
Performance lift kits also offer an excellent option when it comes to lighter duty towing or load-bearing. If you’re occasionally hauling weight of anywhere up to around 300kg, a load-based lift kit will just be too harsh, and something like a performance or enhancement kit will serve you just fine for all of your needs. It’s also crucial to ensure that if you have any winches, bull-bars, canopies or any other off-roading accessories attached to your car, that you’re getting the right kit to cater for that. Here at Spares box, we can supply and substitute heavy duty springs where required.
If you think a commercial 4wd lift kit is more down your alley, take a look here to learn about the kind of stuff they’re made for. If you’re still not sure, and want to learn about the parts that make up your 4×4 lift kit, this article will give you all the info you need.
The legal Australian limit of how much you can lift (or raise the suspension of) a 4×4 is 2 inches. There are a number of ways you can do this, all of which help to improve the performance of a 4WD or commercial vehicle in a different way. You can check out the variations of our 4WD lift kits here.