Leveling Kits: the Lowdown Guide
So you’ve answered that age old question then: to level or to lift? And you decided Level for now, but then Lift later? Great call. You’ve come to the right place.
If you are still considering Lifting or aren’t sure, check out our Lift Kits page too and read this article that breaks down the distinction between the two: To Level or To Lift?
Still here? Alright then. Let’s get started.
Leveling Kits are a great first upgrade to your suspension system. These kits are designed to raise your truck or Jeep up about 1 to 2 inches. Often times, truck and Jeep owners start here, only to find that this level of lift, 1-2 inches, isn’t quite enough for them. Hence the joke about moving on to Lift Kits already.
But there are many good reasons to Level instead of Lift.
Why should I consider Leveling my truck or Jeep instead of Lifting it?
What are the main reasons people Level their vehicles?
- Installing Larger Tires & Wheels: 33 to 35 inch tires, for instance
- Slight Increase in Height of Vehicle: 1 to 2 Inches
- Costs Significantly Less than Lifting
- Better for Towing than Lifting Typically Is
- Less Drop in Gas Mileage Compared to Lifting
- Better for Street Driving than Most Lifts
Two things you’re going to notice from the list above are the Cost and the constant Comparisons between Leveling and Lifting. Hope you got that.
So the really big concerns are those two. Lifting might end up costing you more like thousands of dollars than say the hundreds you’ll spend on a Leveling install. So that’s the first big consideration. Do you want to spend the money to lift your truck up to 10 inches higher off the ground?
Height Increases: Consider a Lifting Kit
At the end of the day, if the look you desire is a large non-stock looking lifted truck, then chances are the money isn’t going to matter that much. And again, if you came to the Leveling kit page here because you aren’t ready to drop that kind of cash but you want to see your truck lifted up a few inches, let me emphasize that a 1 to 2 inch increase alone isn’t going to give you much of a visual increase in truck size. Go head and say it--that’s what she said. Haha! Very funny. I’m not amused.
I do mean that though. Sometimes we get customers who think that the Leveling kit will give them the kind of height increase they are looking for. And most of the time those customers end up disappointed. So if the main reason you are considering a suspension upgrade is increasing the height of your vehicle, we highly recommend you save up that money and take the big dive into the world of Lift Kits.
With all that being said, if you plan to upgrade your truck or Jeep with a Leveling kit AND some new bigger Wheels AND some new bigger tires, now you’re talking. You certainly won’t be able to raise your truck up as high as you could with a Lift kit and bigger wheels but you can make a noticeable change from stock, for instance. Just please don’t think that a few spacers alone are gonna be enough to make your truck look big and bad like many of the images you’ve seen of monster truck like greatness all over Instagram.
You’ll likely want to head on over to the Wheels and Tires section next, in other words.
Fuel Economy: Go with the Leveling Kit
I know. Really? He’s gonna talk about MPG’s in a guide to all things Leveling? Yeah. I kinda have to. Here’s another plus side--sorta--to Leveling kits. You’ll see less of a dip in your fuel economy with a Leveling Kit than with a full Suspension Lift Kit.
It’s almost all about aerodynamics here. Both a Level kit and Lift kit are designed to raise your truck or Jeep up into the air more. Stock vehicles are designed with aerodynamics in mind. Altering the way your vehicles rides on the road is bound to increase your drag, in other words. So bear this in mind as you consider the full cost of any suspension mod.
If the truck or Jeep you are upgrading is your daily driver, we highly recommend you stick with a Leveling Kit for this reason over the Suspension Lift kit. While driving a fully lifted truck over rocks and through streams on the weekend is super bada$$, driving a fully lifted truck through rush hour traffic can be kinda a pain in the a$$ instead.
Off-Roading: You really need a Lift Kit
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s cover another issue: going off-road. If your idea of off-roading is just driving through a pasture or some empty farmland, a level kit is probably going to suit you just fine.
However, in our experience, most of our customers who tell us they are off-roaders are heading out to the mountains or canyons to rock climb and bounce through difficult trails and off-road tracks. For that kind of extreme and “true” off-roading, you should really get a lift kit.
While larger wheels and a leveling kit are going to increase your clearance some, most serious off-roaders are going to need more height than a typical leveling kit is capable of providing. If you want to climb steep rock walls or large boulders, a leveling kit just isn’t going to allow you to get it done.
Now there are those of you out there right now who are screaming at the computer screen that your leveling kit and 35 inch tires did just fine off-roading last month! We hear you. And again it all depends on what kind of terrain you’re driving in. “Off-road” is a versatile phrase. The driveway up to my mother-in-law and father-in-law’s house in my opinion constitutes off-road. And a leveling kit will get you through that no problem.
But when most people think of serious off-roading and serious off-road trucks and Jeeps, they are picturing vehicles that have full suspension lift kits install on them. So that’s what I mean by that.
Towing: A Leveling Kit is Recommended
The higher your truck is in the air, chances are the more nose up your vehicle is going to go when you are towing. So for towing anything from a camper shell to a trailer, a sled in a competition to your buddy’s 4 Wheeler that got stuck in that ditch, we recommend a Leveling Kit.
Since these kits are designed to balance out the height difference between front and back tires, hence leveling it, they are actually much more suited to towing.
Furthermore, most trailers and campers are not designed to be tilted up, nose in the air, when they are in motion, being towed. You can likely picture in your head how many issues are likely to come up if you are rocking a 12 inch lift kitted pickup truck that has 40 inches tires on it and trying to pull a camper behind it. That camper is going to be sending up sparks from dragging its back end all the way to the campground.
So once again, when it comes to towing, we’d stay in the realm of Leveling.
Cost: It All Depends
I know, I’m like a broken record here, but the cost consideration has to be addressed in detail. At the end of the day, I don’t know your pocketbook and how deep it goes. Also, I don’t know how badly you want that lifted truck look.
If we’re just talking numbers, the answer is obvious: a Leveling Kit (even including new wheels and tires too) is most likely going to cost several hundred if not a thousand plus less than a full suspension Lift kit.
However, if what you really want is that clearance, that obvious height gain, and the ability to go off-roading through the most extreme environments, then that price tag is quite worth it, isn’t it? And if that is the end goal, but you’re considering a Leveling Kit now while you save up for the full Lift, you might want to hold off on the Level and just start putting those funds away for the Lift kit.
We do not want our customers to be disappointed. And the worst thing ever is when you have certain expectations about a product and those expectations aren’t met. Alright, that and being forced to watch that Nicholas Cage movie where he’s an assassin and falls in love with the blind Asian gal over and over and over until you’ve memorized every line. I think that one was called Bangkok Dangerous. Go ahead and go watch it. Probably on Netflix or something by now. Not kidding you. It’s the worst.
Now that that is all over with, let’s breakdown exactly what Leveling Kit does.
What is a Leveling Kit?
What does a leveling kit even do?
A Leveling Kit is designed to increase the height of the front end suspension of a vehicle, typically a truck, Jeep, or SUV, so that it is level with the often stock higher back end suspension. A Leveling Kit is useful for a number of reasons including adding clearance under your vehicle to install larger rims/wheels and tires, adding aesthetic appeal to your formerly stock rig, and mild off-road excursions and slight improvements to towing capabilities.
Time to Buy a Leveling Kit
So you’ve decided that you want to Level your Truck or Jeep.
Well, you need to decide which great manufacturer you want to go with and what style of Leveling Kit. Most of these kits are going to increase your clearance or truck / Jeep height by relatively the same amount. So this isn’t gonna be like discussing Lift Kit options where if you know you want an 8” inch lift, you’ve gotta go with a manufacturer who offers that height of lift.
Nope, with Leveling Kits (and Lift Kits too) you need to consider the spacer construction and whether to go with a spacer or a strut replacement in the first place.
What is a strut spacer?
What are strut spacers made of?
Strut spacers are the simplest way to level your vehicle. These inserts raise your front end (and sometimes back end) up a little bit to level off your suspension. Most are made of billet aluminum or solid steel, but you can find some made from rubber and polyurethane too. Typically the metal spacers are more durable but can make the ride a little more harsh.
What is a full strut swap or replacement?
Should I go with spacers or strut replacement to Level my truck or Jeep?
The Pro move here is a full strut replacement. While spacers will Level out your vehicle’s front end, your stock suspension isn’t designed to have its geometry altered like this, so that strut isn’t going to function as normally. Typically for about the same price or a hundred more or so you can do the full strut swap instead of just going with spacers. And you’ll find that your suspension will function as normal or even better than stock. Whereas, with a spacer addition only, you may find down the road that your struts aren’t functioning as well, which could lead to a very rough ride indeed.
Some customers still opt to go for the spacers only because they are the cheaper option, but we recommend that you go with quality over cost. At the end of the day, we leave it up to you. There are some great spacers on the market and it seems like these products get better every year. Nevertheless, over time, that strut isn’t going to function as well and will start to lose its downtravel ability. When that happens, you’ll be replacing a strut or four anyway.
Now that’ we’ve spelled it out for you, we hope you’ll be able to decide whether you really just want to Level or need that full Lift kit. Also, keep in mind the difference between the ways or methods of Leveling, and that while a full strut swap may cost a bit more, it is likely worth it at the end of the day.
When you’re ready to start your suspension project, we hope you’ll do so through us. Midwest Aftermarket's collection of struts, lift kits, leveling kits, pickup bed covers, truck running boards, and much more includes all the leading styles and brands. Midwest Aftermarket is the #1 online retailer for aftermarket truck and Jeep accessories, selling products at the lowest prices and providing the best customer service in the industry. With the goal to provide the highest quality product with the fastest shipping at affordable prices, look no further for your vehicle’s aftermarket accessories. From UTV’s to Jeep-fanatics to F150’s or Chevy Silverado’s, Midwest Aftermarket will give you the customer support you deserve.