One of the major concerns when adding any new accessories to your truck, is “how will this affect my towing capacity?” It’s one thing to enhance the clearance of your vehicle, but it may not be worth it if you have to sacrifice power.
Lift kits do affect payload. This is mostly due to the fact that lift kits change the angle of the hitch, have softer springs, and different ratings of tires for each task. Often you have to make a choice between a “tower” and an “off-roader.”
In the following article, we’ll explore just exactly how lift kits affect payload and how to make the decision between getting a lift or keeping towing ability.
What Is a Lift Kit?
A lift kit is an after-market accessory that changes the height of a vehicle. They are most often used to increase the clearance of a truck so that it can travel over large objects (like rocks) without damaging the undercarriage. Often lift kits are installed purely for aesthetics and have become a favorite of the luxury truck industry.
There are two main types of lift kits: body lifts and suspension lifts, and they are chosen for different reasons.
Body lifts are the cheaper of the two lifts. This more simplistic lift involves adding spacers between the frame and the rolling chassis of the truck so that the body of the truck sits higher off of the ground. This type of lift is mostly cosmetic, however, as it doesn’t increase the clearance of the truck’s frame at all.
A suspension lift is the type of lift that most off-roaders are looking for. This lift adds height to the suspension of the truck so that both the body and the frame are both sitting higher. This increases ground clearance and makes for a more rugged 4×4 vehicle.
How Do Lift Kits Affect Towing Capacity?
Different types of lifts affect your truck differently. When you lift your truck, you change the dimensions of the vehicle. A taller truck has a higher center of gravity and more distance between its bumper and the ground. This doesn’t necessarily change the payload of your vehicle, but it does affect how your truck interacts with the object it is towing.
Because a body lift only changes the height of the body of the truck, it doesn’t have as much effect on towing ability. With your frame at its original height, the frame hitch still attaches to your trailer at the same point.
If you use a bumper tow, which is not recommended for heavy loads, your tow will be affected because the bumper is higher. To counteract this, you’ll need to use a drop-hitch to keep the attachment from your truck to your trailer at the same height.
A suspension lift more greatly affects the towing capacity. Because the frame of the truck is being raised up as well, this changes the height of your hitch. You’ll need to use a drop-hitch that has a high enough towing capacity, which can be hard to find. The longer the hitch, the less tensile strength it has.
Some companies have started making stronger drop-hitches, like Bulletproof Hitches, who have taken to creating durable hitches, especially for lifted trucks. This makes towing with a lifted truck more likely, but still not as recommended.
It’s More About Tire Size Than Lift Height
While it’s commonly said that lifted trucks don’t make for good towing trucks, this has more to do with the tire size that usually increases with lifted trucks.
When most people lift their trucks, especially with suspension lifts, they are going to add bigger tires. Bigger tires make for a better off-road machine, as the larger tires offer more surface contact between the ground and your vehicle. This, in turn, gives you better traction. While bigger tires are better for 4x4ing, they are worse for towing.
The science behind why tire size affects tow capacity is that a different tire diameter changes the rate of revolution of your engine. Think of a set of gears turning together. Smaller gears will turn faster than bigger gears. Your tires are a type of gear in the truck’s movement. Larger tires mean for slower turning gears.
When you increase your truck’s tire size, you lower your RPMs, and therefore, lower your towing capacity.
Tires Affect Your Brakes, Too
Again, it’s not the lift kit itself that is the main factor in affecting your towing capacity; it’s more about the increase in tire size that comes with it. Larger tires may have a lower RPM, but they also take more effort to stop. This puts more pressure on your brakes and can cause a loss of braking power.
Brakes are important when driving the truck alone, but they’re crucial when towing something. It takes much longer to start and to stop a vehicle that is towing something because it takes more effort for the engine to get up to speed and more energy for the brakes to slow down the heavy load.
When your truck is lifted, and you have larger tires on, this fact is only exaggerated. It’s recommended that if you lift your truck and you still intend on towing heavy things, you should upgrade your brakes as well. This will give your truck more stopping power and make for a safer ride overall.
Lift Height or Payload: Which Is More Important?
This leads us to the dilemma of deciding which of these truck functions is more important. Ultimately, it has to do with what you use your truck for.
If you’re passionate about off-roading, and one of the main reasons you bought a truck was to explore areas that other people only dream of reaching, then lift kit and tire size are probably more important for you than payload. You can always get a drop-hitch that will still allow you to pull plenty of things. However, hauling a big camper-trailer will probably not be in your future.
Camper, Boater, Contractor
If you purchased your truck to move things that no one else could, then your towing capacity is probably pretty sacred to you. Consider getting a body lift if you like the look and feel of a taller truck but don’t intend to conquer the mountains anytime soon. A body lift will let you sit higher but will preserve the towing capacity of your vehicle.
Jack of All Trades
If you’re someone who works 9-5 and needs to be able to tow machinery to the job site, but you also want to explore the mountains on the weekends, then you’re going to have to find the right compromise that works for you. You might be better off getting a leveling kit. A leveling kit is a front-wheel only suspension lift that will increase clearance while maintaining towing capacity.
Most of the trucks are produced with a slightly higher rear end to counteract the pressure put on the suspension when you load the truck bed. A leveling kit raises the suspension on the front end of your vehicle so that the entire truck sits level. This gives you more clearance in the front but keeps your towing capacity and height at the same point.
While lift kits do affect the angle of your tow, payload actually has more to do with tire size than lift height. A body lift will affect payload less than a suspension lift because your frame remains at the same height, and you can’t fit massive tires on.
A suspension lift will greatly affect your payload for two reasons; the frame will be higher, changing the angle of attachment to your trailer, and your tire size is larger, which will lower your RPMs and pulling power.
- Check Engine: A Beginner’s Introduction to Lift Kits
- Driving: Trends: Explaining the huge rise of luxury trucks and SUVs
- Suspension: Body Lift vs. Suspension Lift
- Wikipedia: Tensile Strength
- Bulletproof Hitches: Towing With Your Lifted Truck
- Wheelfire: ARE LARGER TIRES AND WHEELS BETTER?
- It Still Runs: How Does Tire Size Affect Towing?
- Beefed Up Brakes: Do I Need To Upgrade My Brakes If I’m Running On Big Tires?
- Truck Spring: What is a Leveling Kit?