• Off-roading 101: Lifting your 4X4


    Part Two

    In the previous article, we discussed the advantages and benefits of lifting your 4WD vehicle. Here in the second part, we talk about the complications that come with lifting

    Extreme body lift was done on this Jeep to fit the humongous tires

    Extreme body lift was done on this Jeep to fit the humongous tires

    your vehicle.

    Lets begin with the body lift. This kind of lifting is only applicable to vehicles equipped with a ladder frame chassis that is separate from the vehicle body. The process is simple and quick, as all one needs to do is to insert either a polyurethane, rubber, aluminium, or steel puck that is usually two inches thick in between the body and the chassis.

    In the past, two-inch body lifts were the norm for modifying 4WD vehicles. Back then, two-inch lifts were considered as the maximum height a body can be lifted as anything higher will usually result in a cracking sound when the vehicle’s chassis twists in off-road driving and after an extended period of trail time. However, body lifting is really not the best option in enabling a 4WD to better clear deep holes and obstructions as normal wear and tear on the body together with normal body corrosiondue to age will result in a lot of squeaking sounds. Moreover, lifting the body will make the 4WD quite unsafe. Now that there’s a more scientific approach to 4WD driving, body lifts are done as the last resort for the tires to clear both the body and the chassis and prevent them from rubbing against each other.

    Example of a 4WD vehicle that underwent a body-lift

    Example of a 4WD vehicle that underwent a body-lift

    Let me jump the gun here on the naysayers. Yes, you can lift your vehicle higher. I have seen it done with elaborate and stylish body reinforcing. But with the added cost, why not just spend it on a proper lift kit? Some complications of body lifting includes: the relocation of the radiator which is mounted to the body; looking for extended hoses for the cooling system; relocating the brake line mounts; extending the fuel tank filler lines; modifying the tranny shifter; and almost everything that is attached to the body and chassis.

    Another option in lifting a 4WD is the Suspension lift. This option is done by replacing the factory standard coil or leaf springs with a much taller set. Repositioning the mounts of the torsion bars is another option in raising the vehicle’s height. With this option however, complications begin when a two-inch lift is exceeded. Anytime the torsion bar is repositioned and surpasses the two-inch mark, the caster angle of the suspension system will also change, giving the driver a deceptive feeling that the vehicle is quite easy to steer. The truth is, the tires lose contact surface as the tires do not flatly make contact with the road. A major drawback of this method is it will make one’s vehicles wander even when driving in a straight and perfectly flat road.

    Another complication of performing a body lift is the drive-line angle or the angle of your propeller shafts. A misaligned cross joint will result in a shorter life span of one’s cross-joint on the propeller shaft. More extreme circumstances we will lead to vibrations on your drive line. There are added cost remedies to all those symptoms. It is just important that you understand what you are getting into when you tamper with the factory settings on the vehicle. Remember the taller you go, the higher the cost. It’s the little things that add up especially with vehicles that have independent front suspensions.

    Car manufacturers have spent millions and have gone through extensive research and engineering to give vehicle owners the optimum life for a vehicle. However, modifying the height and other settings means that you have to have the vehicle go through maintenance a bit more often. That cost, along with the initial cost of modifying your vehicle, can add up considerably.

    Lastly, there is what I call body butchering. It is basically cutting every bit of sheet metal and steel part of your vehicle to be able to clear those larger than standard tires. However, this method It has its limitations, too, in relation to how large the tires you want use. You also have to take into consideration if the steering system and the front axle can handle the considerable weight of the larger tires. Should one opt for the body butchering method, he or she have to be psychologically prepared because of the hacking the vehicle will undergo. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. One benefit of this method is that you will maintain the factory standard suspension and drive line angles on your 4X4.

    So there you have it. Go and lift your 4WD. But always, do so with caution. Personally, the best method for maximum lift is the moderate use of all three mentioned.


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