A lifted Suburban can be amazing – if they are done right. Hopping behind the wheel of a lifted truck allows you to feel like a king while driving. You are finally above all the soccer moms and you can see what’s coming up ahead on the road by a good stretch.
You are going to draw attention from everyone you pass, so you need to lift your Suburban the right way. Otherwise, they’ll all notice.
In order to make your lifted Suburban the best on the road, you need to follow some practical advice. Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes that are made when lifting a Suburban and how you can avoid them.
Problem #1 – Tires are Too Small
When you are thinking of lifting your Suburban, the first thing you need to consider is your tire size. One of the purposes of installing a lift kit is to beef up those tires. It’s the only way to gain the ground clearance you want from the axle.
If you opt to go with a monster of a tire, you are going to need to do a little fender trimming. You’ll also need to take into account the settling occurring with the suspension after installation. Your tire might fit fine one day and then rub later down the line.
As tires get bigger, manufacturing tolerances are lower so they become harder to balance. In addition, the higher you go, the harder it is to find the size of radial tire you need.
What’s the Solution? When you install large tires, you need to check them closely and then rebalance them after about 500 miles. That’s because these beasts tend to rotate on the wheel which alters the overall balance and leads to vibration.
When choosing your tires, keep this in mind:
– Large all-terrain tires play nice on the streets, but suck in the mud
– Radial tires are superior to the bias-ply tire
One last thing about the tires on your lifted suburban – make sure they are DOT-approved for use on the street and they must be load-rated with the fully loaded weight of your vehicle in mind.
Problem #2 – Speedometer is Incorrect
It’s common to forget about the speedometer discrepancy after lifting your Suburban. This is caused by the swapping of your tire size because larger tires lead to your odometer and speedometer reading slower than your actual speed.
This affects several other things as well such as your traction control, ABS, and transmission shift points. Some manufacturers have a buffer built-in to allow some compensation for the change, but this only works on changes up to 1 or 2 inches from the stock size.
What’s the Solution? If you are dealing with an older Suburban, you want to look at the end of your speedometer cable and change the speedo gear. Look for it either in the transfer case or in the transmission. When working with a newer Suburban, there will be a Vehicle Speed Sensor that relies on electronic sensors for data on the speed of your Chevy. There are also companies that offer a plug-in module to calibrate the speedometer.
Problem #3 – Brake System is Insufficient
You’ve picked out the best large tires for your lifted Suburban, but you might have neglected to think about the brakes. If you don’t change out the system, your brakes are compromised. That’s because of the additional leverage of the tires as well as the rotating mass increase.
This leads to premature pad wear, overheating, increased stopping distance, minimal reserve braking power and additional rotor wear. Basically, your safety is at risk when your brake system isn’t working properly, so don’t overlook this issue.
What’s the Solution? You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a kit to upgrade the brake system. They are designed with the large diameter wheel in mind so they’ll include thicker, larger slotted rotors, multi-piston calipers as well as brake pads that are geared for high performance.
This creates a nice feel to the pedals, reduces the likelihood of heat buildup and offers an improvement in reserve braking. Many of the kits also include brake lines that are made of stainless steel. This provides support for the additional suspension travel and height. These lines also improve performance by allowing fewer deformities while braking heavily. Look for the best brake kits from companies like Brembo, Stillen, and Baer.
Problem #4 – Vibration
When you lift your Suburban, the frame and the body are also moved. This causes the space between the differentials and the body to be larger. In addition, the angles of the driveshaft will be extreme often leading to binding, excessive wear and annoying vibrations.
If your Suburban has an IFS, then you also need to worry about the CV joints. Most aftermarket Suburban lift kits come with spacers which move the axle outward, but this isn’t the best long-term solution.
What’s the Solution? If you have a solid-axled leaf-sprung suspension, install pinion wedges between the spring pack and axle. This compensates for the angle by rotating the differential upward. This isn’t as easy to do with the transfer case or transmission side so you may want to consider a custom unit instead. If you go this route, look for a system using a CV joint or double cardan so you can run better at the higher angle.
With any lift kit, the best bet is a custom-length CV axle that offers an increase in wheel travel over stock. Then, spacers are used with the stock axles. This way, you won’t blow a CV joint while traveling in the middle of nowhere.
Problem #5 – Improper Gear Ratios
One of the biggest downsides to increasing your tire size is the effort it takes to get power to move from the engine to the pavement. That’s because the bigger tires changed the Suburban’s gear ratio. With your larger tire in play, your Chevy feels like it is geared higher, which works great on the highway but not so much for power, grunt work, or acceleration.
What’s the Solution? To achieve a stock performance, you need to re-gear your Suburban, which requires only a simple calculation. Hopefully, I didn’t lose you yet – it really isn’t difficult!
Divide your new tire diameter by the old tire diameter. Then, multiply that by the old axle ratio and you’ll know what the new ratio should be. Just keep in mind that you need to re-gear your 4×4 in the front and back to the same ratio.
Problem #6 – Handling is Poor
After your Suburban has been lifted, you’ll likely take notice of the poor on-street ride. The tires themselves are not to blame for all the trouble and neither is the suspension. You might be exhibiting what is referred to as bump steer. You could also experience slow reactions or wandering tendencies. All of this is linked to two main issues: a steering system that becomes overburdened by your wheels or inaccurate steering geometry.
What’s the Solution? Custom steering might be required if you want to cure the steering troubles. Even if you have a basic lift, you need to ensure that your tie rod is parallel to the axle.
You could also consider the use of a heavy-duty pitman arm to improve steering geometry. When you add big tires, the steering assist from a hydraulic ram also helps to increase handling. You also want to perform wheel bearing maintenance as needed and add some steering stabilizers on the frontend.
One final note about the handling – you are not driving a sports car. Don’t expect your lifted Suburban to handle like one.
Problem #7 – Difficulty Getting In and Out
This is probably something you haven’t thought about before lifting your Suburban. Sure, you are big and tough; you can grab hold of that steering wheel and hoist yourself inside. Have you thought about ever having a passenger?
What’s the Solution? Do yourself a favor and plan ahead for how people will be getting in and out of your lifted Suburban. At least park next to a curb!
Perhaps you could look into installing some drop-down side-steps or maybe even a handle mounted inside the footwell for easy access!
Problem #8 – Visibility
Let’s first discuss the lights. When your Suburban is lifted, your lights are now shining directly into the cab of the truck in front of you. This makes it impossible to see anything on the roadway at night.
The visibility issues don’t stop there as you’ll also have trouble maneuvering in city traffic and stop-and-go driving. Good luck parking the beast as well. You aren’t going to see pedestrians, bike riders or tiny cars located anywhere around you. The factory mirrors aren’t much help at these heights, so what should you do?
What’s the Solution? Starting with the lights, why not re-aim them? Some Suburbans are too high for this to work. In addition, they might be too far away from the pavement according to the law. That’s why Suburban owners have overcome this issue with auxiliary headlights mounted on the bumper instead.
For other visibility issues, you’ll want to use a camera system for reverse operation plus you can mount one on the front bumper as well. Obviously, you also want to proceed with caution.
Funny Things That Happen With a Lifted Suburban
Now that we’ve dealt with the most common problems that could occur with your lifted Suburban let’s take a look at some funny things you might encounter.
Have you given thought to how you’ll fit in the garage? Or worse, what if you lifted it in the garage and then realize you can’t get out the door? We’re sure it’s happened!
How about getting money from the bank? Either your location has one in the drive-up lanes, which you won’t be able to drive through, or they have a standalone, but you aren’t going to be able to get those buttons. I guess you’ll have to park and take a walk.
Probably the most important consideration is how in the hell are you going to flirt? It’s great that you can see the road with so much clarity but what about that good looking chick sitting next to you at the stop light. All she is going to see are your tires! Guess you’ll have to find a lady with a lifted Suburban.
In the End
We’ve covered most of the lifted Suburban issues that might plague you. Hopefully, the solutions help you to have a better understanding of the planning you must do. Clearly, the higher you go, the more you need to take care of. Some things might just be a tradeoff for having the best lifted Suburban on the road.
Speaking of the best lifted Suburban – take a look at this video before you leave and let us know if you think it’s a winner?