How To Tell if your Truck has a Lift Kit

If you’ve bought a vehicle and you’re trying to figure out whether or not a lift kit was used, there are a few surefire ways to tell. Our general advice is to be careful buying a truck that has been lifted. Make sure it’s not the reason they are selling it.

If you’re looking into this issue in the first place – it’s essential to realize the higher the lift kit, the more stress it puts on the components that surround it. This is because cars are not designed to have 4-inch lifts; however, the looks and the desire to go offroading often overcomes this.

And if you’re planning to do work on your truck, make sure to grab a manual. You can download one for a reasonable price at eManualOnline. It’s hard buying a vehicle that has been lifted because you can’t know for sure how it was installed and how it was used. So our first recommendation is to gather as much paperwork as possible. 

If you’re still unsure, it’s probably best to avoid a lifted vehicle altogether and have one installed by a local body shop. If you are interested in telling if your truck has a lift kit, then this is how you do it.

How to figure out if your shock length and if it has a lift ?

There are a few ways to measure your shocks to determine how much of the lift your car has. Now in the unlikely event that you have your shocks handy, here is the first way. You can look up the specs online of what lift that shock offers or check the manufacturer’s website. If that doesn’t work, try asking your local mechanic as it’s common to install these, and they can be pretty knowledgeable about this.

Another way you can find out the lift is by measuring the length of the shock and compare this to the stock shock. This will let you deduct the size of the stock shock to find the height of the lift added. For example, if the stock shock is 8inches, and the one fitted on your car is 11, then your car has a 3-inch lift.

This method sounds relatively straightforward and seems like the obvious answer; however, a few things worth noting. Obviously, when the shock is loaded with the vehicle’s weight, it compresses, therefore not displaying its entire length, giving you an incorrect size. 

What I mean by this is if you measure the stock to be 10 inches, but it’s compressed an inch due to what is known as the “sag” of the vehicle. Then you will be 1 inch out. This sag can happen for several reasons. It can occur if the truck is loaded with weight or when the shocks are old. Therefore the measuring method can have its limitations.

How to avoid the sag issue and get an accurate measurement?

If you are really keen on finding out if your truck has been lifted and want to get around the issue of not knowing by how much due to the shock being loaded by the truck’s weight. 

You can remove the shock and measure it while it’s fully extended. Or you can jack up the car, so the wheel is off the ground and get a precise measurement. If you do decide to do this, make sure it’s done safely.

If you just want to know if its lifted or not

You should be able to look up how many leaf springs your truck has stock. Sometimes people will add a few for a more gradual lift. Say if you were driving a 2004 Toyota Tundra, you’d only want to see 3/1 leaf springs. Anymore than that, and it’s not stock. The 3/1 designation would be 3 curved and one horizontal.

If you see anything funky with the springs, use caution. It’s either a poor install, or someone had no idea what they were doing. We’ve even seen pictures of lift blocks tied in with leaf springs on the internet.

When professionally installed and not made of scrap metal, a lift block on your rear is much better than seeing them in front of your truck.
If you see lift blocks on the front, run, and if you’ve bought the truck, it’s time to fix it. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

Why having a lift can be bad

Your front axle and brakes absorb most of the momentum. They do most of the work whenever you come to a stop. Imagine you’re on the road, and someone cuts you off. You might have to slam your brakes.

Nearly all of this force goes to your front axle, and if its got spacers installed, there is a chance of failure, and if it happens when under load, it can cause some damage.

If you see spacers, you have a lifted truck

See that little black thing they slipped on top? Yeah? That’s a spacer.
They’re added to your suspension by clamping it down with a decompressor and adding gradual force. When you finish doing that, just slide one of these bad boys in, and now you have liftoff.

It’s actually a pretty tricky operation, so if you haven’t done that before and plan on it, you might want to be careful. These are used in leveling kits. In the video below, they’re working on an ATV, but the same concept applies.

Compare measurements

If you’re fortunate enough to have a level surface and a stock model of your car that you can procure, just measure them side by side. Sometimes body kits are hidden behind panels or concealed well enough that it’s hard to spot if you’re not an expert. If they weren’t in the places we mentioned, the main thing you want to look for are tiny spacers or blocks. If they aren’t in places we mentioned.

Some leveling kits are hard to spot

A lot of truck owners don’t like the downward slope of their truck, even if it’s hardly noticeable. There’s also the appeal of running larger tires.

So, they install a leveling kit. Once you decide to go down this path, your truck is going to look saggy hauling anything.

It’s a lot easier than getting a proper suspension lift and cheaper as well. So it tends to be common. Here’s a video showing the process so you can better understand what to look for. Leveling kits are generally considered less stressful on the frame than other types of lifts.

Changes to your vehicle with a lift kit

The most common things that will change in your vehicle are mileage, handling, and the feel of the ride. When you’re modifying your vehicle, you have to account for new tolerances.

An improperly installed lift kit can make your truck rattle around like a ball in a spray can. Additionally, as the car now has a greater surface area, you will get less mileage.

This isn’t the most significant flaw, but it’s just something you will have to accept. Bigger tires, bigger lift, means lower mileage, but it’s barely going to be noticeable unless you’re a pro accountant who needs to chart everything.

Handling is last but not least. An adequately installed kit will leave you driving fine but done poorly, and you’re going to be annoyed. It’s important handing at all speeds isn’t affected when adding a lift to your vehicle.

Common handling issues that you should look for are bad vibrations, primarily through the steering wheel and wobbles. This can be a giveaway for a poorly installed lift kit. 

Conclusion Section

Hopefully, that helped you out. I’m not trying to say lift kits are bad. They aren’t. Just make an informed decision. Good luck on the truck search and let me know how it goes in the comments.

2 thoughts on “How To Tell if your Truck has a Lift Kit”

  1. Awesome article Conor !!
    I have had a lifted sierra for a cpl years and I never really know the actual lift height… it has 5″ of blocks in the back and a leveling kit in the front.. That doesnt mean its 5 ” lift right? Looking to get new shocks and I want to get the right size

    Thanks in advance

  2. Hey Geoff. Do you know the stock measurements of your Sierra? It’s hard to know exactly without sitting it on level ground or properly measuring it. It sounds like you have an offset lift. The best advice I can give you is to double-check with a local shop before buying your shocks just to be sure.

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