Leveling kits are often overlooked. Much like a nice helping of maple syrup makes your Sunday morning pancakes look just right, leveling kits bring your truck’s stance to look just right. While there are only three main types of leveling kit options it’s still easy to get confused. The purpose of this guide is to talk about the four main options you have to leveling your truck and what the benefit of each option is.
Before we get too far you need to understand that leveling kits are NOT the same as air leveling kits. Those will be for another guide, another day. ‘nuff said. Now, let’s get into the real stuff! Leveling kits are similar to lift kits. Lift kits are intended to lift overall height of a truck. While some lift kits can help level a truck, actual leveling kits simply lift the front of your truck to achieve a more level stance.
What’s great about the lift kits is not only do they look sweet, but they also provide extra clearance for bigger tires and wheels. Keep in mind that that leveling kits are not universal. So, when buying a leveling kit make sure it will work with your truck.
Strut extensions are a type of extension lift that is only for vehicles that have a strut for the front suspension. Meaning, they are on most new ½-ton trucks and mid-size trucks. Originally designed to save space to give drive axles more space, these are a spring and shock combined into one unit. This type of leveling kit eliminates risks and hassles of compressing the strut springs in order to alter your ride height. While it is not incredibly difficult for you to install yourself it is recommended that a professional install it. Just bolt a spacer on top and install your strut assembly. There is another type of strut extension: the adjustable strut extension. The lovely thing about these is that you can alter the amount of lift to your preference. This is ideal for those who want some flexibility in how they level their truck. Especially since a truck’s rake (how much higher the rear sits compared to the front) will vary based on a truck’s specific options from the factory.
For trucks that use a torsion bar suspension, torsion keys replace factory torsion bar keys in order to gain lift for the truck. They change the clock position of the torsion bar in such a way that the suspension is raised. This is the proper way to level a torsion bar suspension. It may be tempting to adjust your factory keys to gain lift, but maxing out the OE torsion bar keys is not recommended as they will be at an extreme angle and put an excessive load on the keys and adjusting bolt. Because leveling torsion keys are built to be strong they can handle the extra load that comes with leveling a truck, thus creating a safe and effective way to level your truck. If you plan on doing this mod it’s best to also purchase a torsion key installation tool.
Besides struts, the two common types of coil suspensions on trucks are SLA (short and long arm) and solid front axle. For our purposes, we will consider coil spacers to be in the same category as torsion keys because they are so similar in effect. Coil spacers are also similar to strut extensions in that they are installed the same way. The difference is the coil spacers will mount on top of the factory coil spring. This way you can level your truck while maintaining a good ride quality. Alternatively, bigger coil springs can be installed. But these generally come with a ride that is more firm.
Block kits are considered the preferred method to leveling trucks with a leaf spring front suspension. Whether you want to just level your truck or also add rake back into your truck for hauling or towing, block kits are a tried and true way to go. One thing to know is that some block kits require the use of shock extensions too. Some block leveling kits include shock extensions. If your block kit doesn’t include shock extensions, shocks designed for lifted/leveled trucks should be installed to ensure full suspension travel. You wouldn’t want to be the guy who installs his block kit, backs out of his driveway only to hear the shock over-extending and topping out on the curb! If your truck will need them, once installed shock extenders hold the shock at its proper travel starting point to prevent the shock from topping out. Fortunately a new set of shocks for lifted or leveled trucks are generally inexpensive - especially when compared to the cost of repairing a broken shock mount.
Which Kit is Best?
This really goes back to your needs and preferences. You can always reread the previous section and do other research as well. But, to get you started you should measure the distance from the center of the wheel to the top of the wheel well first for a front wheel and then a back wheel. The difference between the two will tell you the height of the kit you need to level your truck. So if your front wheel measures 18 inches and the back measures 20 inches then a 2 inch leveling kit will set your ride just perfectly. After you know how much lift you need from your leveling kit you can go from there.
As with most modifications to the suspension or steering system, plan on driving your truck straight to the nearest alignment shop after installation. Even if you think your steering feels fine, there are several angles that must be adjusted for proper tire wear and steering response. It’s normal for the steering to feel somewhat numb on a leveled truck. This can be minimized by asking the alignment technician to set the camber angle as far negative as is reasonable while still being in factory specs.
To wrap up, there are many options when it comes to choosing a leveling kit. It depends on the type of suspension your truck has, wants, and personal taste. From strut extensions, to torsion keys, coil spacers and block kits, you have many options to consider. But, you can be confident that whichever option you choose can be installed in your garage given the right tools and patience. And again, keep in mind that regardless of which leveling kit you choose, always take your truck to an alignment shop for a proper adjustment. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call our customer service.