Here are CARiD, we recently installed a Pro Comp 6-inch suspension lift kit on our Project Ford F-150. We had a lot of fun completing the install (yes, we get paid to do this stuff!), and we learned a lot too. You can see a nice summary of our efforts in this video:
While the video serves as a great "how-to", it also occurred to us that a written summary of our experiences would be helpful to those truck owners attempting the same thing at home. Let's face it, unless you work in a shop performing these upgrades 40 hours a week, this is not something that most of us have much experience with. Below are the six key learnings from our hand-on experience.
Know Your Ultimate Goal
We decided on a six-inch lift because, well, that was what the boss wanted. However, we knew going into it that we also needed to budget for new (larger) wheels and tires. Look at the bigger picture, because initial cost may not be your total cost. (Another example: not all lift kits include new shocks.) Ask yourself, how much lift do you really need or want?
Now that our truck is done, there's more effort involved to hop into the cab. If you're 6' tall but your significant other is 5'2", and she rides in the truck every day, she may not be thrilled with the running jump she needs just to get in. And how will you be using this new-found height? If low-speed off-roading in a full-time 4WD vehicle is your thing, more power to you. But if you're commuting 50 miles a day, think through how acceptable that kind of daily driving will be.
Have The Right Tools & Supplies
Anyone tackling this in their garage or driveway most likely already has a good assortment of hand tools. Air-driven tools (and the required compressor to run them) make your job a lot easier, but they are not required.
You will certainly need a floor jack, jack stands, torque wrench, and breaker bars. For this particular Pro Comp lift kit, we also needed a cut-off tool, and various shop chemicals, including thread locking fluid, silicone spray, and rust penetrant. These are inexpensive and handy additions to your arsenal, and you want to be certain to have these on hand before your begin.
Not owning all the tools you need doesn't require a big investment: look into either borrowing or renting the ones you'll need.
Inventory Your Kit's Parts
When your new lift kit arrives, you will be so excited to get started, you'll be ripping open bags and boxes, mentally assembling the blocks, braces, bolts and brackets. Wait. First, find the sheet which lists all the kit's components. Set aside a clean area in your garage or workshop, and take inventory of every part. Do this for two reasons.
First, be certain that you've received everything you ordered. Honest mistakes happen, but you don't want to be on your back at 5pm on Sunday afternoon to discover that you're missing the left-rear brake line bracket.
Second, taking inventory gives you familiarity with the names and locations of the parts. Spacers for front AND rear springs may look alike, but in fact are different. Handling them ahead of time and recognizing the differences will pay dividends at installation time.
Don't install the wrong part in the wrong location, only to take it all apart again (ask us how we know!).
Don't Underestimate The Time You Need
Sure, our video is 15 minutes long. You don't think that's how long this entire installation took us, do you? Yes, we frequently stopped in order to change camera angles or lighting (or to repeat a line we flubbed).
But here's the reality, which should come as no surprise: the actual work took us several days, and you should plan on at least that much time, depending, of course, on your skill level. If your truck is your daily driver, give yourself an entire weekend (with help from friends), but start early, and plan to go late.
If you have another vehicle to drive, all the better while you tie up your truck, giving yourself some luxury of time. Either way, this is not something you're going to knock out one weeknight after dinner.
Follow The Instructions
The lift kit manufacturer writes how-to instructions for a reason: they want you to follow the steps in order, because they know how you should proceed with the work. Think of the instructions as your owners manual, and yes, you should put these in the glove box for future reference.
In our case, even though we have done previous lift installs, we still read through the entire directions several times before turning a single wrench. You then want to constantly refer back to them. You should be reading the NEXT step while performing the current step.
No, you don't know better than Pro Comp (or Skyjacker, or Superlift, or Eibach). If there is an optional step to include if off-road supremacy is in your future, consider your goals (again) and don't just skip over it simply because it's optional.
Handle Chassis Components With Care
Springs, shocks, and struts, in their installed positions, are under tremendous tension, as they need to be in order to support the weight of a 2.5 ton truck. Always practice shop safety and common sense when handling these parts!
We don't kid when we tell you that removing the wrong bolt can send a coil spring flying with enough force to deliver a lethal blow. Similarly, most lift kits will require the front and/or rear axles to be dropped and reinstalled. As we stress in the video, this is no time to play hero. You are not in Gold's Gym showing friends how much you can bench-press!
Plan ahead, using floor jacks, jack stands, and spring compressors. Also remember to employ several sets of helping hands. You can thank them later, as the video states, with pizza and beer.
Between the video and these 6 highlights, you are going to feel that much more confident when you climb under your truck to perform the lift kit installation. Whichever kit you choose, good luck! And send us a photo when you're done.