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My two cents on Lift kits

34036 Views 94 Replies 40 Participants Last post by  Chillis
Hi everyone, I’m a certified mechanic, a Ford transit owner, and I’m frustrated with the available lift kit options. I’ve installed a lift kit in my van, but having the front end apart, I’ve discovered some things I want to discuss.

So, here’s a basic run down of the available kits, the problemsI experienced with my traxda lift and the issues I see with the rest of what’s available.

Vancompass has two lift kits. The Subframe drop idea is a crazy amount of work, but gives you perfect geometry. However you gain no effective clearance under the subframe unless you run bigger tires. You’ve merely lifted the van body higher.

Their second lift style is better. 3/4 inch strut spacer, plus a 1 and 1/4 inch lift from a new coil spring. Add those numbers together, you have 2 inches. Then you can also install a bilstein strut, and have a little more.

The problem with their second style of lift, is that struts have a maximum extension. These are arbitrary numbers, but imagine if you measured the strut from the top to the bottom, and it was 24 inches tall. That’s the maximum extension. When the strut is fully compressed, it’s 16”. So you have 8 inches of travel. When the weight of the vehicle is on the strut, it’s compressed somewhere in the middle of the travel.
So you have 4 inches up travel, and 4 inches down. When you add a coil spring that adds 1 and 1/4” to the height, what you’ve done is change where the mid point of the strut is. So you now have 5 and 1/4 inches of upward travel (wheel being pushed up into the fender by the road) but you only have 2 and 3/4” of downward travel. So if your wheel has to drop down into something, it is now has limited downward travel and you fully extend the suspension under a huge amount of negative load. This is really not good for the internal valving inside the strut and gives you a ride that feels like your being pulled back to the earth.

Now the traxda lift actually gives the van the best lift. “Technically” It pushes the van up in the air, adds height under the front crossmember, and keeps the strut at its factory middle. 4 inches up and 4 inches down. The problem is, actually getting everything back together. To put the 2 inch strut spacer on top of the strut, you have to remove the strut from the knuckle. It comes apart really easily, then you bolt the strut spacer on top, and stick it all back together. But the strut won’t go back into the knuckle, no matter how hard you try. The angles, because of adding 2 inches, are to great to overcome, and the strut won’t drop into the hole in the knuckle. So then I undid the ball joint, which allowed me to remove the knuckle from the lower control arm, and gave me the clearance to get the knuckle and strut back together. But then the angles were too extreme to get the ball joint back into the lower control arm..... arrrrrgggg. I got it back together, but had to fix the threads on the lower ball joint. Annoying.

Van compass only used a 3/4 inch spacer, and that is what would allow you to get it back together really easily. Remember that the strut has the same maximum extension no matter what. So that means, you’re only fighting 3/4 inch instead of 2 inch. For the sake of installing a lift, that’s why the van compass lift is better. You are not twisting and torquing on everything, to get it back together.

Foes manufacturing, their lift has the 2” spacer, but it has a modified factory control arm. Because the new lower control arm makes up for the angles of everything, the ball joint slips right in. This is the best solution, but very expensive for what you are getting and if you need new control arm bushings down the road, you have to buy new control arms... this is expensive. So that makes it the worst lift. Repairability is super important. You wouldn’t want to be on a trip, only to find out you need new lower control arms, and the factory ones are all that are available.

What I think the solution is.
1)Keep the factory strut and spring together
2) use a 2” space with camber adjustment
3) make a control arm with replaceable bushings, that deals with the angles that are at their maximums.

Anyways, I’d appreciate peoples thoughts.
Any other people who installed their lift by themselves, I’d love to hear of your experience.
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2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
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Much as I want a superior solution for the AWD for rough dirt roads (not serious rock-crawling), isn't the native AWD auto-shut-off going to remain the limiter in there? It is better/worse depending on the "mode" but I think it still shuts down / overheats if you get on it for long enough. Or has someone found a solution to this?
 

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2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
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Get it out there and try it out, @tomsaffell

We've put a bunch of miles on forest service roads on stock AWD tires. It does pretty well maneuvering shopping. If they're aired down, it rides pretty well. If we're in the 30mph+ speed, it throws errors and shuts things off after a while - but still drives great. Give it a few test drives before assuming the extra inch or two are needed.
 

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2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
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I sure will. I just want to make sure I make the change before I tear something off the bottom!
...
Can't say for every case... but mostly, that'd just be bad driving. Once you know what the bottom looks like (we took turns observing it going over stuff to see where the clearance actually was a challenge and were it really isn't), it's mostly the risk of getting too deep in and not having a better way out - then deciding "it'll probably be fine" that remains a problem.

On the other hand, it sure doesn't look as cool when it looks all stock - with stock tires and everything. And when it looks all stock, you have to put up with, "holy crap... how'd you get that thing out here?" Which is bragging rights, of course. 😏
 
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