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Beginners' Guide To Lifting Your Tacoma

By: Wannabe 4x4 (with minor editing by Jeff)

Front Suspension Options | Rear Suspension Options | Tire Size Guide

There are many different types of suspension lifts offered for Tacomas, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Costs can range from a couple hundred dollars to over $5,000. What follows is a listing of many of the common types of lifts, their advantages and disadvantages, their costs, and where they can be purchased.

Front Suspension Lift Options
Tacomas are equipped with an independent front suspension (IFS), which is a very common setup for stock trucks. Lifting an IFS is fairly simple, but it can be somewhat limited in order to maintain proper suspension geometry. For a simpler lift, as described in the first three entries, it is recommended NOT to lift more than 3 because it will likely cause premature wear and stress to your CV boots and ball joints. If you're looking for more lift in the front, consider a drop-down setup or a solid axle swap.

The least expensive way to lift your Tacoma is by using a coil spacer. A coil spacer basically preloads the spring which lifts the truck. Spacers can be used for up to 3 of lift. It is highly recommended that you purchase a differential drop with your lift so as not to damage your CV's. If you have a PreRunner then you have no CV's and a diff drop is not necessary. It is also highly recommended that you have a mechanic shop assemble your struts with the spacer as using a handheld coil compressor is difficult and dangerous. The $30 a shop may charge is well worth your piece of mind and safety.
Pros: -Inexpensive
-Gives a decent amount of lift
Cons: -Stiffens the ride of your truck
-Can cause your springs to prematurely sag

Places to purchase spacers:
ToyTec Lifts
Cornfed Suspension

Old Man Emu (OME) Lift Springs
A company called Old Man Emu makes lift springs for Tacomas. There are three different types of springs they offer. The first gives a softer ride but less lift (880) the second, which offers more lift but has a stiffer ride (881), and finally one that gives the most lift but is only recommended for V6 Tacomas with a winch or bull bar or Double Cab Tacomas. There are also two different types of front shocks. A soft set (N91SC) and a firm set (N91S). Many people are running these for lift. They are not overly expensive and still provide a good amount of lift and a quality ride. After time the coils can compress and possibly become uneven (one side of the truck sits higher then the other). OME offers trim packers to help resolve this problem. The trim packers provide additional lift (approx. .25) and can help balance out an uneven setup. With this lift you should purchase a diff drop if you have a 4x4. Several members have installed a 1.5 lift spacer on their OME setup once they compress to regain lift. This solution has worked very well.
Pros: -Provides a quality ride
-Decent amount of lift
-Can be mated with a spacer after they settle
-Not as expensive as coil overs
-Better ride quality then a 3 spacer lift
Cons: -Can compress and become uneven over time.

Places to purchase OME: (call them to order)

Coil Overs
Another way to lift your truck up to 3.5 is by using coil overs. A coil over is an adjustable strut/coil assembly that can be adjusted from stock height up to 3.5 depending on the brand. Just remember that the higher you crank the coil over up, the stiffer the ride becomes and the harsher your CV angle becomes. Coil overs are an excellent way to lift the front of your truck, and in some cases is an improvement on the stock ride quality. Many companies make good quality coil overs for Tacomas, though certain ones are favored by TTORA club members. As good as coil overs are, they are also more expensive then spacers. An inexpensive coil over will cost around $500 and can cost up to $1000 a set, depending on the brand. Again you will need to purchase a diff drop if you have a 4x4. If you have a PreRunner then don't worry about the diff drop.
Pros: -Excellent ride quality
-Adjustable ride height
Cons: -Expensive
-Only gives 3.5 of lift at most

Places to purchase coil overs:

Drop Down Brackets
A drop down bracket lift setup basically drops your front suspension down using a steel bracket and crossmember and top strut spacers (not coil spacers) and a few other bits. It provides lift without changing the geometry of your suspension and CV's. Drop downs allow for the use of the stock suspension (struts, coils, etc.) yet still provide up to 6 of lift. Drop down setups are extremely expensive and can cost up to $2000. However, with a drop down setup you can use any of the aforementioned suspension setups (spacers, OME, coilovers) and a diff drop and add up to an additional 3 of lift for a possible total of 9 of lift!
Pros: -Provides large amounts of lift
-Retains stock suspension and geometry
Cons: -Can be difficult to install
-Can require cross member cutting
-Extremely expensive

Places to purchase drop down setups: <- 6 lift <- 6 lift <- 5 lift <- 4 lift

SAS (Solid Axle Swap)
This my friend, is the coup de grace of lifts. Tacomas have what is known as IFS, or independent front suspension. This means that they have strut assemblies attached to A-arms. While IFS is great for street driving trail runs and even desert running, it is not nearly as strong as having a Dana 44 or Dana 60 axle sprung by leafs and in some rare cases coil overs. You can also get an old 86 or so Toyota axle as well. A SAS basically what your truck has in the rear with the addition of steering capability. Such a lift is extremely strong and can provide enormous amounts if lift. Also with leaf springs front and rear, and the height of the lift, it allows for some serious axle articulation. The downside, it is an extremely expensive mod, often creeping into the realm of $5,000 or more. There are no specific companies that sell the products to do a SAS all together, you have to get a hold of the parts anywhere you can. You can find axles for sale online, on ebay, in auto salvage yards, or you can buy them new from Dana. You need to purchase leaf springs, a drive shaft, and many other parts. If you decide you want to do a SAS on your rig, and have the cash to spend, hit up the board and post your questions. There are many people that have done SAS and would be happy to help.
Pros: -Strong as a tank
-Excellent off-road and rock crawling capability
-Great suspension flex
Cons: -Extremely expensive
-Complicated install

Rear Suspension Lift Options
There are many options for lifting the rear of your Tacoma and even several different combinations. Listed below are some common options available and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Add-A-Leaf (AAL)
One of the most common ways people have lifted the rear of their truck in the past is by using what is known as an add-a-leaf. Basically it is an additional strip of metal (leaf) that is placed in your leaf pack. It is arched more and causes the rest of your leafs to arch more, providing lift. An AAL can provide up to 3 of lift for under $100 for the pair and will increase your trucks load carrying capacity a bit. On the downside an AAL will stiffen your ride (the higher the AAL the stiffer) and decrease suspension flex. There are short and full length AAL's. The long ones ride a bit better and are less prone to breakage (yes they can break), but are more expensive then the short ones.
Pros: -Inexpensive lift
-Increases load carrying capacity
Cons: -Stiffens ride
-Can break
-Decreases suspension flex

Places to purchase an AAL:

Full Leaf Pack
A full leaf pack replaces your stock leafs with ones that are more arched to provide lift. This is an excellent way to lift the rear end of your truck. Doing so provides better ride quality in many cases and better suspension flex and articulation. The only downside is it can be a bit expensive, normally around $360-$500 depending on the height and brand. You can have custom leafs made by either Alcan or Deaver.
Pros: -Excellent articulation and flex
-Better ride quality
Cons: -Cost

Places to purchase a full leaf pack:

Rear Shackles
Rear shackles are what your leaf springs attach to in the back. A new, longer, shackle will provide lift. Also a longer shackle can help decrease axle wrap and increase suspension flex and articulation. They are a very inexpensive way to add 1.5 of lift to your truck, normally only costing between $50-$60 for the pair. You can also get greaseable shackles which allow you to �inject grease into the bolt to lubricate the bushing and allow for better movement and decrease any squeaking. With Tacomas it is required to cut or re-route the exhaust if you install a longer shackle so as to stop it from hitting the leaf spring. Longer shackles do not increase or decrease load capacity for the rear.
Pros: -Inexpensive
-Added flex and articulation
-Decreases axle wrap
Cons: -Requires cutting or re-routing of exhaust

Places to purchase shackles:

Lift Blocks
In the off-road community, the lift block is also known as the devil. Not many people like them due to the side affects of having them. One, they are prone to breaking, and two they increase axle wrap tremendously. The upside to that is they are an inexpensive way to lift the rear by as much as 6 inches. Basically the block lifts the rear by being placed between the rear axle and leaf pack. The leaf then sits on the top of the block, thus providing lift. Companies that make drop down bracket lifts (Trailmaster, ProComp, Fabtech) use rear blocks in their lift kits. As stated blocks are inexpensive, but they do have problems. It is recommended that you avoid large blocks if at all. Most companies use aluminum for their blocks which is prone to breaking. Cornfed ( uses steel for their blocks, which is much stronger.
Pros: -Inexpensive - normally about $80-$100
Cons: -Aluminum blocks are prone to breakage
-They can cause axle wrap
-Decreases load-carrying ability
-Speeds up leaf sagging

Places to purchase lift blocks:

Combo Styles For The Rear
Depending on your needs you can combine different parts to lift your truck. For example, you could purchase a 1.25 lift block and a 1.5 shackle to lift the rear nearly 3. Or you could go with a 1.5 shackle and 1.5 AAL for 3. You could even go with a 4 leaf pack and a 1.5 shackle for 5.5 of lift. It's all up to you and your wallet.

Any suspension lift of 2 or more will require replacement of your stock rear shocks. Many people go with Bilstein 5100 shocks. They ride much better then stock and are a much stronger shock. Though Bilstein is recommended, Rancho and Procomp also make good shocks.
Places to purchase Bilsteins:

Full Lift Kits
Several of the aforementioned companies make full lift kits. For Example, Trailmaster makes a 6 drop down bracket setup kit which includes rear blocks, shocks, etc. Fabtech, Procomp, Cornfed, and others also sell full kits. So if you do not want to configure your own, you can always go with a pre-made kit by one of these manufacturers.

Body Lifts
You can also put up to a 3 body lift on your Tacoma to help get a bit more height and clear bigger tires. A body lift in an inexpensive and fairly easy way to add up to 3 of lift to your truck. Basically it involves putting pucks in between your trucks fame and the body mounts. These pucks are usually made of a nylon or poly composite. If you do a body lift it is recommended you get a full kit with new bumper brackets to properly mount your bumpers and keep the look clean, instead of having a big gab between the body and bumper. You may also want to get �gap guards. They are a rubber or poly panel that protects and hides the gaps that are created in your wheel wells from the body lift. Also if the company you are getting the body lift through offers Grade 8 hardware, get it. If you do a body lift you need to stay on top of the mounts and make sure they are tight and in good condition. If small cracks begin to appear in the body around the mounts, you will need to repair it or risk further damage. Also, don't go jumping your truck out at Pismo if you put on a bodylift, unless you want the pucks to tear through the body. Other then that, a body lift is a great option.
Pros: -Inexpensive way to get up to 3 of lift
Cons: -Can cause damage to body and mounts
-Can come loose

Where to get a body lift:

Recommended Tire Sizes
Depending on the lift you choose, you can run up to a 37 tire without rubbing your frame or wheel well. Here is a basic chart of recommended tire sizes to run depending on your lift:

of lift
Tire Size
Stock height - 2 31x10.50
3 32x11.50
4-6 33x12.50
6-10 35x12.50 (or wider)
10 37 tires
Note: Other tire sizes may work with some of these lift heights, but you may experience fenderwell or body rubbing.

There are many options you can choose with a lift for your Tacoma. When you make your decision do what suites your needs best and does not kill your wallet. Hopefully this FAQ has helped you make a good decision for your truck.

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