A Guide to the Right Lift and Leveling Kits for Your Tacoma
Parts and Installation Available in Bend, Oregon.
Summary: Stock Tacomas are good rigs but there’s a lot you can do to kick the off-road up a notch or lift with minimal impact on your suspension geometry. Below are some popular customizations. If you want to help making choices, ordering parts, and getting everything installed reach out to us. Be aware we make performance oriented recommendations! If you’re looking to go big we’re probably not a good fit. Reading time: 6 minutes.
For every 1” inch of lift you can add 1” of tire height
There’s a cost/benefit to lifting a Tacoma. How you intend to use your Tacoma will determine how negligible the compromise is, and how useful the benefit is.
Make sure to consider both aesthetic gains and performance gains and losses when selecting your lift kit.
A long-travel kit is the only suspension lift that is a no compromise improvement in performance, ride height, and aesthetics, while maintaining Toyota factory geometry. It’s also the most costly at upwards of $5k all things considered.
Front-End Tacoma Lift & Leveling Kit Types
Long Travel Kits
For serious off-roading at a cost, long travel kits improve every part of your stock front suspension. Kits include shocks, upper and lower a-arms, coils, uniball, and some include a new axle.
Coil Over Kits
Considered to be the best lift kit to preserve performance with the exception of a long travel kit due to being designed from the ground up to accommodate the rise in ride height. Not actually a spacer kit due to directly replacing parts.
Drop Bracket Kits
Adds parts to the bottom of your frame which suspension gets mounted to directly. Raises the center of gravity of your Tacoma but maintains factory geometry and travel. Mid-range in regards to cost and produces significant lift.
These kits, often part of combo kits, put a spacer above the spring which increases ride height moderately due to the increased compression. Although popular due to being inexpensive and easier to install than some other kit types, reduces up-travel which can result in your Tacoma hitting bump stops in aggressive off-road situations.
Some manufacturers design their own combination kits which minimize the drawbacks of any one design maximizing benefits while keeping costs low. If you’re interested in no more than 2.5” of lift combo kits can be a good option. Be aware your desired tire size will dictate how much lift you’ll need.
Body Lift Kits
Spacers are used to lift the body of your Tacoma up to 4” and can combine with other lift options to create more lift for less money. Further benefits include a lower center of gravity and better handling when compared to most direct lifts.
Above Coil Spacer Lift Kits (not recommended)
Raises the ride height by increasing the length of the coil assembly. Known to cause suspension damage at full travel. Cheap but not worth the risk.
Spindle Lift Kits
For 2wd trucks only. Capable of dramatic lifts up to 12”. Inexpensive and is known to mostly maintain factory geometry depending on lift amount. Allows you to keep stock shocks/struts.
Rear Tacoma Lift Types
Adding a leaf increases lift by increasing leaf pack stiffness. Considered superior to blocks, add-a-leafs help prevent axle wrap while still delivering increased ride height. As you can imagine this rear suspension kit type increases ride stiffness due to the extra leaves.
Replacing your existing leaf spring packs with an entirely new pack designed to increase ride height is the best way to lift your Tacoma and preserve performance. Naturally it’s the most expensive option.
A low cost option for older Tacomas only, new shackles can increase lift up to 2” without changing existing spring stiffness.
Steel blocks are placed between the leaf springs and the axle resulting in 1-3” of lift. Blocks are inexpensive but considered the least desirable rear lift type due to the reduction of reliability and increased likelihood of damage to surrounding parts. For normal truck use and light off-roading smaller block lifts can be suitable and keep costs down. For any kind of more spirited off-roading other rear lift types are recommended.
Aesthetics Vs Off-road Performance
There are die hard off-road performance fans that heavily favor performance and will argue in favor of long travel kits and trash talk spacer lift kits. The argument is that spacer lift kits reduce travel and negatively affect geometry which is 100% true. That said it’s important to consider just how much off-roading you’re going to be doing. Most people don’t buy trucks to beat on them, especially if it’s their daily driver. If your priority is off-road performance you should consider options that support that intent. For those occasionally taking their Tacomas down a mountain road these arguments may have limited application. For those favoring aesthetics at relatively low cost a spacer lift kit can be a good fit. Most normal Tacoma owners don’t notice the loss of performance and can feel strongly about dramatically improved gains in aesthetics for less than $1000. Thinking your choices through carefully pays dividends.
Durability & Costs to Off-Roading
A Tacoma is not a cheap truck. If you’re going to hammer one off-road prepare to pay for the upkeep and any lessons you learn along the way. Some off-road warriors recommend a Polaris RZR or an inexpensive truck to beat up if you’re really going for it. A properly geared Tacoma can be an excellent off-road vehicle but you want to take calculated risks at every turn. An old blazer might not compare but you can have a lot of fun and shed fewer tears if you bang up your ride.
How Much Lift Should I Get?
If you’re interested in off-roading and want to preserve most of your Tacoma geometry, handling, and durability a 1.5” lift will serve you well at moderate cost and allow you to upgrade your tire size. Including a shock upgrade can turn your lift into an all around suspension upgrade. That said benefitting from these improvements requires a commitment to off-roading that should be a good fit for your lifestyle or they will largely go unused and unnoticed. If you want to go for a big lift and intent to spend most of your time on pavement with your Tacoma as a daily driver it likely won’t make much sense to spend a lot of money on high end off-road components. If your intent is to off-road as a priority the coil overs or a full long travel lift might make sense. If you’re obsessed with a particular tire size, start with that so you get the right amount of lift. Most importantly don’t let someone else tell you what you should want. There are a lot of options out there and only you know what’s going to be a good fit.
The Magnusson-Moss act protects you from voiding your warranty with modifications. Vehicle warranty can only be affected if the modification was the direct cause of a failure.
Any changes to your suspension will impact the alignment of your tires and affect performance characteristics.
Tire Sizing Guide for Lifted Tacomas
The below resource will guide you through lugs patterns, maximum tire sizes for stock lift, maximum tire sizes for different lifts, and suggested tires and wheels.
Most Important Off-Road Upgrades
- Rear Air Locker
- Recovery Gear
Other Off-Road Tacoma Upgrades
We can order and install the following Tacoma upgrades:
|Rear Bumper Guards
|Truck bed cover
|Front Skid Plate
|High Clearance Receiver Hitch
|Exhaust skid plate
|Transmission Skid Plate
|Long Travel Kits
|Cat Back Exhaust
|Short Throw Shifter
|Rear Bumper Sides
|Rear Air Lockers
Who We’re a Good Fit For
Your Tacoma is an excellent truck! We want to keep it that way. One look at the road is all it takes to see what lengths some Tacoma owner are willing to go for the sake of aesthetics. We’d like to see your Tacoma perform well and stay reliable, as well as hit your aesthetic objectives.
Do plenty of research before getting in touch. As much as we like talking Tacos we like to stay productive at the shop!
Feel free to get in touch to get some help figuring what upgrades are going to be a good fit. We can order parts and get everything installed ready to drive.