Lifted trucks look like beasts, and it is hard not to check them out when you see one driving even among hundreds of other vehicles on a cramped city road. The aggressive stance sure is catchy and alluring.
While some crave the looks, some crave the lift for reasons such as off-roading and improving the driving experience. But like every good thing in life, lifting comes with a lot of obvious setbacks as well.
One of those drastic setbacks is the safety issue introduced by a drastic amount of lifting. It’s not without reason that in most states, you can lift a tuck up to a certain legal limit. Check out my article on “How high can you lift a truck” for more on that.
But let’s start today’s topic: are lifted trucks safe?
They are not as safe as a fresh out-of-the-factory truck, that’s for sure. But there’s a wide spectrum of how unsafe they are depending on the way they were lifted.
Let me elaborate so you can have a clearer idea of this issue and be able to make a wiser decision if you’re thinking of lifting your own truck.
The Truth About Lifted Trucks
How Unsafe is a Lifted Truck: What Makes it So?
Well, to what extent will a lifted truck be unsafe is a complicated subject that depends on many things like what type of lift is used, how high each type is, how high the total lift is, and so on. I’m going to touch upon all that in a bit.
But first, let’s go over the things that change in a lifted truck to reduce its safety measures. These are things that come with any amount of lift. In the case of some people, these are going to be more relevant than others, so make sure you read til the end.
Pros and Cons of Driving a Lifted Truck
A lifted truck has its center of gravity and center of mass higher up. This makes it more unbalanced than before.
Also, when you go around a steep corner, you have to slow down a lot more than factory-setting trucks. This gets especially worse when there’s a load on the back.
So, what’s the safety concern here, you ask?
Well, with the center of gravity so high, the truck does not tend to sit tight on four wheels, with or without being loaded with heavy stuff.
If you don’t slow down around corners where the road is not inclined according to the cornering angle, you will see that your truck wants to lean heavily on one side, and if you’re not careful, it can topple over, putting you and everyone around you at risk.
If you’ve ever driven a truck that’s been lifted high, you’ve probably been able to notice it as the truck tends to lean to one side, or when you steer it to one side, it gets harder to steer in the opposite direction.
Also, there may be unpredictable situations on the road. For example, you may find yourself needing to steer hard right or left to avoid hitting someone or something, and these types of situations don’t allow time to slow down.
A lifted truck is sure to upend when something like this happens, which is quite a risky thing to think about. And a self-steering or leaning truck can possibly cause a collision if you’re distracted and not focused on the road ahead.
It’s not like lifted trucks perform that much worse than stock ones. But when you’re talking about the safety implications, it should be touched on.
So, what makes lifted trucks perform worse than before they are lifted? It’s the amount of unsprung weight added in the lifting process.
The body of the truck and everything that sits above the suspensions are sprung weights, which means when the wheels roll over any uneven surface, their weight falls on the suspensions and the impact gets dampened.
Unsprung weight is a pretty self-explanatory term. It refers to weights that do not pass through suspensions. This means the engine has to pull this load along with the axle.
The extra weight of thicker tires and bigger wheel rims that usually come with a lifted truck makes the engine work harder to speed up. The brakes need to work harder to slow the truck down as well because the heavier wheels carry more momentum.
Now you can probably see the safety implications involved. A lifted truck struggles more to speed up and down. This makes it harder to avoid unappealing situations. You’re going to have to be careful and keep “overrunning” in mind as a dreadful possibility.
- Speedometer reading: If you install larger tires on your lifted truck (which most people do after lifting), the speedometer reading will be lower than the real speed of the truck when driving.
The difference will be more drastic the more you go up in tire size. If you don’t calibrate the speedometer, you can get into some risky situations by overspeeding without even realizing it.
- Front lights: The headlights will be lifted along with the body of the truck. So, even with the beam lowered, you might have a hard time seeing the road surface in front.
Moreover, the beams will probably go all over the place, causing problems for other drivers coming from the opposite direction.
- Rearview mirrors: Remember, the mirrors will sit higher as well. So, remember to adjust the angles properly to ensure that you’re driving safely on the road.
How to Lift a Truck Keeping Safety in Mind
If you’ve read thoroughly till this point, you’ve probably developed quite a distaste for lifted trucks, as the safety concerns I’ve talked about are very serious.
But, before you decide that lifted trucks are totally unsafe, let me tell you that you can make your truck relatively safer by installing proper components and by leaving it in the hands of an experienced professional.
The safety of a lifted truck depends on several factors, including the quality of the lift kit, the way it’s installed, the type of vehicle it’s installed on, and the way it’s driven.
A lifted truck that is properly installed with a high-quality lift kit can be safe to drive as long as you maintain it well. However, if the lift kit is not installed properly or if the truck is not maintained well, it can lead to problems with stability, handling, and braking.
As a lifted truck’s shifted center of gravity changes the way it handles on the road, you need to adapt your driving style.
In emergency situations such as sudden stops or evasive maneuvers, lifted trucks are more prone to rollovers, it’s important to drive carefully and be aware of their handling characteristics.
So, how can you make sure that your lifted truck is safe?
Here are the things you need to keep in mind when lifting your precious truck to keep it as safe as possible.
- Proper suspension modification: Make sure the suspension is modified properly to handle the added weight and height of the truck. When suspension modifications are not done properly, a vehicle can handle poorly, lose stability, and be more prone to rollovers.
- Moderate lift height: The higher you go with a lifted truck, the more its chance of rollover is increased. Keep the lift height just enough to suit your purpose of lifting.
But, if you’re just looking for a show truck, you can throw all the safety concerns out the window and go all out on the lift height.
- Wheel alignment: Regular wheel alignment is essential for a lifted truck, as the changes in the suspension geometry can cause misalignment. Proper wheel alignment helps maintain the vehicle’s handling and stability.
- Tire size: Choose the right tire size for your lifted truck. Larger tires can affect the truck’s speedometer reading, braking ability, and overall stability. Make sure to choose tires with a proper load rating for the weight of your vehicle.
- Brake system: Check the brake system regularly, as the added weight of a lifted truck can put more stress on the braking system. Make sure the brake system is in good working order and upgrade it if necessary.
- Balance and stability: Make sure the weight of the truck is evenly distributed to ensure proper balance and stability. Improper weight distribution can affect the truck’s handling and increase the risk of rollovers.
- Drive with caution: Remember that a lifted truck handles differently than a standard pickup. Drive with caution, especially on sharp turns, steep inclines, and rough roads. Avoid sudden movements and always wear a seatbelt.
- Regular maintenance: Regular maintenance is essential for a lifted truck, as it helps keep the vehicle in good working order and reduces the risk of mechanical failure. Get the truck serviced regularly by a qualified mechanic.
My Verdict on the Safety of Lifted Trucks
Lifting a truck will definitely make it risky if the installation process is executed poorly and/or with improper components.
But lifted trucks can be safe if they are properly modified and maintained, but it’s important to be aware of the potential safety issues that can arise so that you can take the necessary precautions to mitigate them.
If you keep in mind the causes of the safety concerns that I’ve talked about and adapt your driving habits according to what the truck demands, I can assure you that your lifted truck will be as safe as any other lifted truck out there.
Let me remind you before I end today that it’s always the wiser choice to consult with a trained professional before or during a truck lift.