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 do not buy a used truck that has been lifted. Make sure it’s not the reason they’re selling.
If you’re looking into this issue in the first place – it’s important to realize the higher the lift kit the more stress it puts on the components that surround it.
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. All you have is hearsay from a person who really really wants you to buy it.
So our first recommendation is to avoid a lifted vehicle altogether, and do it yourself properly or have one installed by a local body shop.
If you’re dead set – we go over how to tell if your truck has a lift kit:
1. Look at the leaf springs
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
A lift block on your rear, when professionally installed and not made of scrap metal, is much better than seeing them the 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 is it bad to have lift blocks up front?
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 going at a high rate of speed.
Nearly all of this force goes to your front angle, and these little additions that your car wasn’t designed for are in a hell of a lot of trouble. If your shit someone stayed together it wont be for long.
On your next hard stop there is a good chance that the blocks will be ejected or your u bolt will break.
2. 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, 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.
3. Compare measurements with a stock vehicle
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. The main thing you want to look for are tiny spacers or blocks, if they weren’t in the 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 paint can if done poorly.
You will get less mileage. This isn’t the biggest 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. A properly installed kit will leave you driving fine, but done poorly and you’re going to be annoyed. Lift kits can be removed depending on the way it was installed, it’s going to take some work though.
Something to keep in mind is that it’s harder to sell lifted trucks, because of how often lift kits are improperly installed. So if you’re planning on throwing yours up for sale you might want to remove the kit.
Hopefully that helped you out. I’m not trying to say lift kits are bad, they aren’t. Just make an informed decision. I’ve been in a situation where I overpaid after being deceived for a truck, and it’s made me very cautious. That’s a hard lesson to learn.
If you need a heavy duty jack for your new truck, you can get one here. Good luck on the truck search and let me know how it goes in the comments.
I'm the owner of Beast Auto. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I love anything automotive related, and taking road trips all across my beautiful state.