Conservatively Raised: Using Old-School Body Lifts to Add Tire Clearance - Diesel World

In years past, people didn’t consider a body lift for their full-size truck because it wasn’t as “cool” as a full suspension lift. Body lifts were relegated to off-road Jeeps and some already tall trucks looking to gain a few extra inches. Today, with modern heavy-duty pickups incorporating electronic stability control systems and strict factory warranties, tall lifts are problematic. This has resulted in a resurgence in the use of body lifts. This simple way to add a taller stance is becoming a popular way to raise these newer trucks. This is especially true for truck owners who simply want to run larger wheels and tires.

Because there are no suspension modifications such as new coils or torsion springs, lift spindles, or crossmembers to install, body lifts generally enable owners to maintain the factory warranty, OEM ride and turning radius on most vehicles. Of course, the tire size and wheel offset you choose also has an effect on the turning radius. Some body lift kits also include a suspension leveling kit that brings the nose level with the tail, and can raise a vehicle up to 5 inches overall. This is enough to allow for a 33-inch wheel and tire combination on most light trucks. Most importantly, because body lifts are separate from the factory suspension system, electronic stability controls and traction management systems remain unaffected.

To bring you the inside line on how a body lift is installed and to understand the effects it may have on a heavy four-door diesel pickup, we followed along as Performance Accessories installed a kit. Our test truck was a 2013 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD pickup, virtually stock all around suspension-wise. This truck is used to haul a heavy race car trailer and is often driven cross-country while towing. Needless to say, ride comfort and maintaining the vehicle’s towing capabilities were paramount to the owner.

1. Here you can see the lift system before it was installed on this 2013 Silverado HD. This kit is a Performance Accessories’ Premium Lift System (part number PLS-111). It comes complete with a 3-inch body lift, bumper brackets, torsion key-type leveling kit, urethane wheel well extensions and all of the necessary hardware. The install can be done in eight to 10 hours, less if you have a shop with a lift and some air tools.

1. Here you can see the lift system before it was installed on this 2013 Silverado HD. This kit is a Performance Accessories’ Premium Lift System (part number PLS-111). It comes complete with a 3-inch body lift, bumper brackets, torsion key-type leveling kit, urethane wheel well extensions and all of the necessary hardware. The install can be done in eight to 10 hours, less if you have a shop with a lift and some air tools.

Performance Accessories installed its Premium Lift System onto the truck. The complete kit consists of a 3-inch body lift that uses nylon-reinforced body blocks, laser-cut bumper relocation brackets, and the company’s urethane Gap Guards that extend the inner wheel wells to conceal any visible gaps between the body and frame. The system also includes a leveling kit made up of forged torsion bar keys that provide an added 2 inches of ride height in the front for a total of 5 inches of lift at the nose. This provides a level stance to the truck, rather than the tail-high factory stance that some find unappealing.

The installation of the body lift blocks requires unbolting the carriage bolts on the truck’s body mounts, and lifting one side at a time. A floor jack and a wooden block extension are needed to lift the truck under the body seam of the cab. Every body mount is extended, from the radiator core support to the back of the cab. The kit comes with the required longer hardware and a bottle of red thread locker compound. The system also included body lift blocks for the bed, a longer fuel filler extension, relocation brackets for the front radiator core support braces, and a parking brake cable mount extension.

When lifting the cab, the steering column is, of course, raised. To properly lengthen the steering column, Performance Accessories provides a hefty CNC-machined steering adaptor that bolts the shaft to the steering box. This particular application also requires some modifications to the fan shroud that includes bolting on extensions and blocking plates to maintain proper airflow through the radiator and A/C condenser.

2. The first step was to unbolt all of the truck’s body mounting bolts. Then a floor jack with a wood block was used to lift one side of the vehicle. Be sure to place the block under the body seam to prevent damage and only lift as high as required to get the blocks in place and start the threads on the new, longer bolts.

2. The first step was to unbolt all of the truck’s body mounting bolts. Then a floor jack with a wood block was used to lift one side of the vehicle. Be sure to place the block under the body seam to prevent damage and only lift as high as required to get the blocks in place and start the threads on the new, longer bolts.

3. Performance Accessories used nylon-reinforced body blocks that are strong, but also dampen road noise and vibrations to the cab more than an aluminum block would. The factory rubber is retained but new, longer bolts are provided in the kit to secure the cab and bed back in place. To keep things in place for the long haul, high-strength red thread locker comes with the kit.

3. Performance Accessories used nylon-reinforced body blocks that are strong, but also dampen road noise and vibrations to the cab more than an aluminum block would. The factory rubber is retained but new, longer bolts are provided in the kit to secure the cab and bed back in place. To keep things in place for the long haul, high-strength red thread locker comes with the kit.

4. Laser cut and CNC press-brake bent bumper brackets raise the factory bumper mounts to properly align the factory bumper to the lifted body.

4. Laser cut and CNC press-brake bent bumper brackets raise the factory bumper mounts to properly align the factory bumper to the lifted body.

Performance Accessories also provides heavy-duty bumper brackets to relocate the factory bumper on the truck’s frame. But because they will be positioned higher, some minor trimming on the bumper’s inner mounting structure is required to clear the brackets. This trimming doesn’t take away any strength or safety of the bumper’s operation, and when finished the result is a much more professional and polished appearance.

The gaps in the inner fender wells that result from the body lift are filled in with urethane “Gap Guards.” These provide a nice finishing touch to the body lift look after installation. On our Silverado install, these fit onto the factory inner wheel wells by simply drilling a few holes into the OE wheel well liners and securing the Gap Guards into place with the plastic push pins from the kit. This is similar to the way the OEM splash guards are installed.

5. On this Chevy Silverado application, some minor trimming is required to the inner structure of the front bumper to clear the bumper lift bracket. A Sawzall works well for this, with a metal blade. Be sure to touch up the cut with some paint to hold rust at bay.

5. On this Chevy Silverado application, some minor trimming is required to the inner structure of the front bumper to clear the bumper lift bracket. A Sawzall works well for this, with a metal blade. Be sure to touch up the cut with some paint to hold rust at bay.

6. Some minor modification is also required on the rear bumper’s inner structure for the Performance Accessories rear bumper relocation brackets.

6. Some minor modification is also required on the rear bumper’s inner structure for the Performance Accessories rear bumper relocation brackets.

7. With the rear bumper removed from the truck, you can see how the new mounting bracket fits into the factory location on the frame.

7. With the rear bumper removed from the truck, you can see how the new mounting bracket fits into the factory location on the frame.

8. To raise the front of the vehicle new forged torsion bar keys are supplied in the kit. These require the new-style torsion key tool, which is available from a variety of rental outlets.

8. To raise the front of the vehicle new forged torsion bar keys are supplied in the kit. These require the new-style torsion key tool, which is available from a variety of rental outlets.

9. Urethane Gap Guards included in the kit are seen here in darker black. They are installed to the front and rear inner wheel wells. These covers any visible gaps between the body and frame due to the body lift.

9. Urethane Gap Guards included in the kit are seen here in darker black. They are installed to the front and rear inner wheel wells. These covers any visible gaps between the body and frame due to the body lift.

10. The kit includes spacers that modify the fan shroud opening. This is essential for keeping the engine cool and at proper operating temperatures.

10. The kit includes spacers that modify the fan shroud opening. This is essential for keeping the engine cool and at proper operating temperatures.

11. Here you see the competed truck, also outfitted with nerf bars and a set of Pro Comp LT295/65R18 X-Treme MT-2 tires, mounted on Pro Comp X-Treme Alloy wheels. The truck takes on a completely different appearance, without sacrificing the factory ride or its towing capabilities, or causing stability control computer issues.

11. Here you see the competed truck, also outfitted with nerf bars and a set of Pro Comp LT295/65R18 X-Treme MT-2 tires, mounted on Pro Comp X-Treme Alloy wheels. The truck takes on a completely different appearance, without sacrificing the factory ride or its towing capabilities, or causing stability control computer issues.

Once the body lift is installed, it was time to tackle the task of raising the nose of the truck to get a level stance. This is done with the new forged torsion keys in the kit. Installing the new torsion bar keys requires a torsion bar removal tool. If you don’t have one in your toolbox, they’re available for rent from most rental shops that have automotive specialty tools available. With the torsion key removal tool, the factory torsion keys are easily swapped out with the Performance Accessories keys and the correct ride height is set to keep the vehicle’s front end level with the rear. Take care to mark your torsion bars with a marker so that the correct bar is returned to each side and that the orientation is the same. Torsion bars locate on a six-sided hex and it’s best to keep the same hex side down as well as each bar on the original side of the truck.

A body lift is very inexpensive to way to lift your truck for a new look and more tire clearance, perhaps the least expensive way. This can mean more in a truck owner’s budget to purchase new wheels and tires. In addition, a body lift doesn’t affect a truck’s towing capabilities. In addition, while the truck has more tire clearance, it will have a lower center of gravity; compared to a similar truck lifted with a full suspension kit.

While body-lifts may seem like an old-school way of lifting a truck, it’s definitely a reliable and less expensive alternative. Although you may not get multiple shocks or the appearance of a Baja-style chase truck with a kit like this one, the cost savings and ride quality are definitely things to consider. DW

EDITOR’S NOTE:

It should be noted that while a leveling kit is fine for towing, with proper trailer tongue weight, it can have a downside when carrying a load. The tail-high stance, or “stink bug look” as some call it, is there for a reason. The factory builds trucks to carry a load in the bed and the tail-high stance means a level stance when the bed is loaded to the recommended carry truck capacity. This ensures that whether empty or loaded, you have the correct steering geometry. When the noise is too high, steering is adversely affected and response to input is sluggish. If you plan on carrying a full load in your truck bed, consider just installing the body lift, or adding air springs to the rear suspension to level the load when doing heavy hauling.

SOURCES:

Performance Accessories

928.636.7080

PerformanceAccessories.com

Pro Comp Wheels & Tires

800.776.0767

ProCompUSA.com