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My two cents on Lift kits

34046 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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My biggest concern about my (soon to hopefully be built) AWD Transit on forrest service roads is how low the rear shock supports hang. (I previously owned a Subaru Outback and would scrape the bottom too often for my liking)

Van Compass has a solution for that, which I'm considering along with a small increase in tire size: REAR HIGH CLEARANCE SHOCK EXTENSION BRACKETS - TRANSIT (2013+) by VAN COMPASS

If I'm understanding Travaland's concerns properly, this should not be an issue, as it does not change the geometry of drive train. Is that right?
Quadvan offers a set of these, as well...much nicer (IMHO) than the VC ones. I bought a set for my van, but they're still sitting on the shelf at this point.

The high-clearance shock mounts do not affect anything related to the geometry of the drivetrain.

Craig
 

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What's the downside to doing the high clearance rear shock brackets and installing a 2" shorter shock (without a 2" bump). That would seem to increase the clearance w/o changing the drive train geometry. But maybe I'm missing something?
2” less suspension travel. I’m not sure how much these vans have to begin with, only 6-8”? 25-30” is a big decrease. Quad van basically strongly said to only run the brackets with a lift
Not necessarily. You'd have to compare the compressed measurements of the shocks (stock vs. 2" shorter) before determining that there would be any loss of articulation.

Craig
 

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I also thought the issue with 2" less is that you may also bottom out and damage the shock (unless you do a modified bump stop).
Bump stop extensions limit the suspension travel to keep the tires from contacting the body or (unibody) frame due to increased articulation when installing suspension lifts. They can also protect your shocks from bottoming out and getting damaged. If, however, the new shorter shock allows the rear suspension to stuff without bottoming out the shock or having the tire contact the body, you're good. This is where one would have to research and compare the compressed/extended measurements of the replacement shock. Slowly articulating the suspension in a shop one side at a time would be the best way to verify.

Ideally, you wouldn't want to install anything that would limit your articulation, at least for off-road use.

Craig
 

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This is useful - thanks, but I don't understand what "stuff" mean here. Please can you explain?

Seems like in theory the shock brackets could be raised without a lift, but whether that's practically possible depends on whether there is a set of shocks that meets all the requirements, and currently neither Van Compass nor Quigley provide a recommendation for doing that, so we'd be on our own.
Sure thing. I added a couple photos of my old Jeep LJ below. I swapped to 1-ton axles, and 37" tires with only about 3" of lift. "Full stuff" is when the suspension is at the maximum range of articulation, and the tire stuffed as far as possible into the fender well. On a coil-sprung vehicle, it's best/easiest to do this without the springs in place, as it allows the control arms to flex easily without resistance. On a leaf-sprung vehicle, it can be a little tougher, but you're just looking for the maximum suspension travel without the tires (or other suspension components) making contact with things they shouldn't.

Craig

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