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How to Choose a Lift Kit for Your Toyota Tacoma

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Lifting your Tacoma is integral to performing well during off-roading adventures. The milder the lift, the easier the installation. Be sure to keep in mind the tire size you want for you build when deciding on a lift height for your Tacoma

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The Toyota Tacoma is easily one of the most desirable pickup trucks on the modern market. These trucks are super capable and super attractive, especially to those who are looking to break the norm and step away for full-sized Chevy, Fords, or Dodges. Off-road, the Tacoma is a lightweight truck with a narrow enough footprint to navigate through the trails effortlessly. With an off-road vehicle there is also the demand to lift the truck. This is also true for truck owners who simply want to increase ground clearance and achieve a particular look. Whatever the case, you should be sure to take the time to read up on and understand lift kits. This will ensure you’re spending your money appropriately rather than throwing it blindly into a build you didn’t intend.

What is a Lift Kit?

Lift kits are chassis modification kits that are designed to lift and/or level the suspension of the vehicle. Today there are a few different ways to achieve the lift you are looking for. Before heading to the store, you should at least be prepared to discuss the principles of the options you have.

Leveling Kit

From the factory most trucks, including the Tacoma, typically have a rake in the suspension. This means the front end of the truck sits lower than the rear. There are a few contributing factors to the issue but when you consider the weight of the engine, it simply makes sense that this happens.

With that in mind, leveling kits are designed to give the front end just enough lift so that it sits even with the rear of the vehicle. They also allow for the truck owners to fit larger tires, which will increase the ground clearance of the vehicle.

Suspension Lift

The next step up from a leveling kit takes you into the world of full suspension lifts. A suspension lift’s intention is to increase tire clearance on both the front and rear of the truck.

These kits can also modify suspension characteristics including the angle of control arms, travel, and even positioning of transfer case and differentials. Of course the extent of how much is modified depends on the lift height and brand behind the kit.

Body Lift

Less common than leveling kits or suspension lifts, body lifts are still a lift type worth understanding. A body lift is also intended to increase tire clearance. Unlike a suspension leveling or lift kit, increasing the distance between the body and the frame of the vehicle does this.

Considering this method leaves the suspension stock, they aren’t desirable for off-road use. You may find them being in used in combination with a small lift kit to help truck owners fit larger tires underneath a truck without spending a ton of money on a lift kit.

Ground Clearance

A suspension lift kit is used to increase the ground clearance between the vehicle and the ground. Though, without larger tires the whole idea might as well be scrapped. What tires can be fitted to what size lift? Well for each vehicle this changes. For Tacoma’s, lift kit and tire fitment is as follows.

  • 1-2”Lift: 31x10.5 Max
  • 3-4” Lift: 33x12.50 Max
  • 6” Lift: 35x12.50 Max

What Do You Realistically Need for Off-Roading

If bigger lifts and tires make for more lift, bigger is always better right? Well, it certainly may look cool, but the added expense isn’t always worth it. You need to take a look at the terrain your Tacoma is tackling when you want to gauge which kit you’re going after.

For moderate trail use, a leveling kit or 2” kit should do the trick. When you go into rougher terrain where the trail is covered with large rocks and stumps you might want to bump it up to a 3”-4” lift. When you get involved with even bigger obstacles like full on rock crawling or something similar, a 6” lift is much more appropriate.

Be sure to pay attention to suspension travel as well when you’re shopping for large kits like a 6”. Longer travel will help keep the truck stable when running through and over jagged, uneven surfaces.

It’s Not Just the Suspension

When you run into a larger suspension kit you need to consider what the lift and terrain will be throwing at your Tacoma. Of course this warrants other areas of the vehicle to be modified. Some of the following mods may be included with the lift kit you are purchasing but consider this food for thought.

Brake Lines: Brake lines will need to be increased in length when a larger kit is installed. This is because of the fact that the distance between the caliper and frame will be increased when a vehicle is lifted. Even if the kit purchased includes longer brake lines, you may want to consider braided steel lines as they may be subjected to intense abuse.

Driveshafts: A driveshaft’s job is to connect the differential to the transmission or transfer case in order to spin the tires. As a vehicle is lifted the driveshaft may need to change in length. Because of this, you may want to consider purchasing a new driveshaft after the installation of a large lift kit. With intense off-road use, you will also want to opt to do so based on the fact that you will need a stronger driveshaft that can take the beating.

Diff and Transfer Case Relocation: Along with brake lines, these components are typically included in kits that warrant their use. If they aren’t you will want to consider this upgrade since lifting the vehicle will change the geometry of the drivetrain.

Ring Gear: Lastly, a big lift and large tires pose some obstacles. One of which being decreased aerodynamics and the other being a loss in response due to the gears having a harder time getting larger tires up to speed. Lower ring gears are the key to restoring that lost power and even taking the response up a few notches.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro