Lifting trucks are becoming increasingly popular these days. While some do it for a better off-roading experience, others do it for the looks.
That tall profile, along with those chunky tires, can really turn some heads. But lifting always comes with various degrees of complications.
A lift of 3 inches or more usually affects the vehicle’s mechanics. The higher center of gravity alters how and where the weight of the truck is distributed. As the distance between the frame and the drive shaft changes, the angle of the suspension changes with it.
This is why a lifted truck experiences more pressure on the suspension. To compensate for the added pressure on the coils, some lift kits come with new shock absorbers included.
But this does not always mean you must change the stock shocks when you lift your truck. The reason for this is that trucks can be lifted in various ways. and how the shock absorbers in your truck will be affected depends on how you lift it.
In some cases, you can keep the old shocks. But in most scenarios, opting for newer shocks is the better choice.
Which one applies to you? Let me answer that in detail, and help you make an informed decision about whether you need new shock absorbers for that 3-inch lift on your truck or not.
The Choice Between Stock and New Shock Absorbers
A lift of 3 inches is relatively small, and many methods can be used to achieve it. Some leveling kits allow 2-3 inches of extra height on the front as well as 1-2 inches on the rear. You can go for body lift kits as well. These kits use spacers between the body and the frame.
There are also an enormous amount of aftermarket lift kits available for a 3-inch lift. Some go for newer coils or coilovers, some put spacers between the strut spacer and strut bracket. The thing is, they all affect the vehicle in unique ways.
Let’s talk about different types of lifts and explain if you need new shocks or not for each scenario.
Body lift refers to the method where a spacer is put between the body and the frame, raising the body by 2-3 inches from the frame.
Though it raises the total height of the vehicle, it does not result in better ground clearance, as the frame sits at the same height from the ground.
As these lift kits do not alter the position of the frame and the suspension, the way the truck’s weight interacts with the suspensions and the shock absorbers stays the same.
If you lift your truck by 3 inches with a body lift kit, you can keep the truck’s stock shock absorbers without any worry.
Standard leveling kits let you lift the front of a truck to make it level, as it comes out of the factory with its front end lower than the back. This is to compensate for the rear sagging when a heavy load is put on it.
Many leveling kits come with the capability to lift both the front and back of a truck, lifting it more on the front than the rear to make it level. Some call these “leveling lift kits.”
These are, in essence, body lift kits with the objective of making the truck level. They do not affect the suspension geometry at all, which means the stock shock absorbers will work just fine.
In Case of Strut Spacers
Strut spacers do increase the distance between the suspension mounting point and the body mounting point, resulting in a lift of a couple of inches.
Suspension lift kits lift a truck by modifying its suspension system by replacing the stock coil or coilover springs, adding a leaf to its leaf spring, and sometimes adding strut spacers between the strut and the mounting bracket of the strut.
Many lift kits that require the shocks to be changed come with the new shock included. If it includes new ones for both front and rear, you need to replace all the stock shock absorbers.
If the kit comes with new shocks for just the front or the back, you can keep the stock shocks for whichever ones were not included.
If a 3-inch lift kit does not include new shock absorbers, this either means it’s a cheap kit trying to cut costs or maybe it does not require the old shocks to be replaced. Let me tell you the details.
If the coil springs or coilover springs are replaced with newer, taller springs to lift the truck up, changing the shock absorbers is a must.
As these lift kits increase the distance between the wheel axle and the suspension mount, new shocks are needed to reach that extra height.
By keeping the stock shock absorbers after a 3-inch lift, your truck will lose its downward travel by 3 inches. And the shock absorbers will encounter more pressure, causing them to wear out too soon.
Also, the rebound of the taller springs will be less controlled and drastically less refined. This means the truck will ride unsteadily and be unnecessarily jumpy on rough terrain.
To dampen the extra jumping of the taller and softer springs, a taller and stiffer shock absorber is a must.
Some lift kits combine other methods of lifting (namely, spacers) with new coil or coilover springs. These kits don’t increase the suspension height too much, and the stock shock absorbers work just fine with them.
Most good 3-inch lift kits will include replacement shock absorbers if they are needed, reducing the hassle and confusion of getting new shock absorbers.
Shock absorbers are moving parts and are subject to wear and tear. If you put new shocks in your lifted truck, you’ll need to replace them once in a while.
Generally, you should replace your shocks every 50,000 miles if you’re not a very rough driver. If you don’t drive very frequently, you can go as far as 100,000 miles with one set of shocks.
Always remember to read the specifications of a lift kit before purchasing it. Go through the manual to see if there are any suggestions about changing or not changing the shock absorbers.
The spec sheet will usually mention the specs for the shock absorbers needed or the ones that will fit. If you still can’t be sure, contact a professional.
Do I need longer shocks for a 3 inch lift?
If you install a suspension lift kit that will lift your vehicle 3 inches higher from the ground, you will need to use longer shock absorbers.
This is because, between both the bottom and the top mounting points of your shock absorbers, the distance will grow after installing a 3-inch lift kit.
And this distance will make for unsuitable shock travel, which needs to be adjusted by using newer and longer shock absorbers.
What size shocks for a 3 inch lift?
Because of installing a 3-inch suspension lift kit to your vehicle, you would need to use longer shock absorbers ranging from 8 to 14 inches, depending on your vehicle.
This is covered in the specification sheet. You need to look for the length of the shocks in both the extended and compressed positions. Then compare it to the specification of the lift kit. For example, find out the distance between the suspension mounting point and the body mounting point of your truck after installing the lift kit. Measure it in its static position, compressed position, and extended position. Now, compare and see if a shock’s measurements match.