My F-150 4x4 has been a very sturdy and dependable vehicle. After 108,000 miles, the suspension and shocks have lost their soft ride. As I am not a big fan of the “nose-down” look, I am looking into options to increase ground clearance and level the truck.
Increasing ground clearance is a two step process, suspension and tires. Increasing the ride height is a great way to add functionality and can be relatively simple to do with the right mods. In addition, the ride height increase will allow use of larger tires.
Stock Ford F-150 Ride Height
Depending on the model of your F-150, Ford states your truck came with a ground clearance of either 8.8” or 9.4”. For many truck owners that just isn’t enough height. Ground clearance is important for tackling obstacles on or off-road without binding up your drivetrain or sustaining damage to the underbody, making your truck more capable as a fun off-roader or as a reliable work vehicle. Along with increased performance off-road, increasing ground clearance give your truck a beefier, more aggressive look.
There are options and trade-offs that must be considered. Adding a suspension lift does increase ground clearance. It also raises the overall vehicle height which may be a drawback if you frequent many parking structures.
How to Increase Your F-150's Clearance
There are a variety of ways that one can increase their ground clearance. It depends on how much you want to increase it by, and how much you’re willing to spend. When it comes to lifting your F-150 you can choose from a leveling kit, body lift, suspension lifts, and bigger tires. Keep in mind that with bigger tires you will affect your speedometer, and you need the space in your wheel wells to accommodate them.
With stock gearing, you are limited in tire size selection without needing to re-gear the differentials to keep overall performance. And, the on-board computer may need to be re-set to adjust for the increased tire size.
F-150 Leveling Kits
A leveling kit will simply raise the front of your F-150 two to three inches to make the front even with the rear or the rear even with the front. This is important for a variety of reasons. For starters they create a smoother ride since your vehicle sits more level. Secondly, they are excellent for adjusting your truck's ride after adding weight to the front end of your truck. F-150 leveling kits are very similar to body lifts, just with a different purpose. Leveling kits are offered to fix lift issues and make the vehicle level whereas body lifts increase lift all around.
Leveling kits are usually used when truck owners add bumpers, winches, lights, etc and increase weight on the front of the vehicle. This added weight takes a toll on your suspension, and adding a leveling kit can distribute the weight easier, removing stress on the lift/suspension.
Why Isn't My F-150 Level from the Factory?
In short, because of towing. The front end of your F-150 sits lower than the bed, so when you add the weight of a trailer and cargo the truck sits level. If you're planning on using your truck to tow, you'll want to consider a lift kit instead of a leveling kit to make sure you don't hamper your towing ability. A dedicated show truck can make excellent use of a leveling kit for a more stream lined appearance. A leveling kit is also useful for owners who don't want extra height, but instead want a better ride down the highway.
F-150 Body Lifts
An F-150 body lift will raise the nose and cab up from the frame, but this won’t do a whole lot for your ground clearance (if that’s your main goal). Body lifts will lift your body off the frame allowing you to run larger tires. Ford F-150 body lifts will not increase ground clearance unless you also increase tire size. Essentially, a body lift is a first step to increasing clearance. A body lift plus bigger tires will get you slightly further off the ground, but remember your suspension hasn't been altered. You'll look taller without actually being taller.
F-150 Suspension Lift Kits
If your main goal is to increase ground clearance under the axle then a suspension lift along with increasing your tire size is the only way to do it. An F-150 lift kit will give you the most ground clearance while also allowing you more room for bigger wheels. The bigger wheel will add even more clearance to your F-150. It’s important to keep in mind when going through with a suspension lift that when it isn’t done properly, it can do some serious damage to your front end suspension components.
A combination of a lift kit and increasing your F-150’s wheel size will give you the most ground clearance. Keep in mind some states only allow a maximum clearance increase of 4” (2” on tires and 2” on suspension or lifts). The reasoning is these alterations shift the truck’s center of gravity which makes the vehicle more likely to roll over. Also in the event of a collision, your face a greater risk of rolling over the other car rather than the bumper colliding with the other vehicle.
Overall, if you’re looking for a small lift go for a leveling kit which will give you a nice amount of lift without so much hassle. For you truck junkies out there who want all they can get, go for the full lift kit with a larger wheel size to maximize your F-150’s height.
For additional information and detailed specs, see American Muscle