Toyota Tacoma: Lift and Level Modifications
On-road or off-road, read on to explore how you can level your Tacoma for a cleaner appearance at the mall, or lift it for a cleaner pass over the rocks.
This article applies to the Toyota Tacoma (1996-2015).
Four varied options for leveling and lifting the Tacoma, from mild to wild, are presented here. Suspension lift kits increase the ground clearance of the chassis, at the expense of raising the center of gravity. When lifting the Tacoma, the main concerns are:
- Allowing enough remaining suspension travel to function properly.
- Ability to correct toe and camber changes with an alignment.
- Lowering differentials enough to prevent driveline binding.
- Lowering the anti-roll bar enough to allow proper motion.
- Relocating the brake lines to prevent over extension.
Basic suspension terms:
- Damper: Commonly called a shock absorber. The damper uses oil or pressurized gas to slow the suspension's up and down motion. The damper is not an integral part of the suspension and carries no vehicle weight.
- Coilover: A damper with the suspension spring coiled around it. The coilover is part of the suspension structure and carries vehicle weight. The Tacoma has front coilovers.
- Strut: A coilover assembly that carries vehicle weight and is an integral part of the suspension. The strut rigidly holds the suspension in place and turns with the front wheels as they are steered.
- Control Arm: A pivoting arm connected to the chassis that attaches to the wheel with a ball joint. The control arm pivots with up and down wheel motion. The Tacoma has upper and lower front control arms.
- Toe: Left and right steering alignment of mainly the front wheels. Lifting and lowering suspension can affect toe and may require an alignment.
- Camber: Inboard and outboard tilt of the top of the wheel. Lifting and lowering suspension changes camber and an alignment is required.
Bro, Do You Even Lift?
The options below are selected for a balance of economy and performance. Each of the companies shown offer a wide variety of Tacoma lifting packages.
ReadyLift 2.25" Front Leveling Kit
DIY Cost – $370
Professional Cost – $500
Skill Level – Moderate; requires jacking the Tacoma and removing suspension parts, but does not require spring compressors.
The stock Tacoma is designed with a rake. Unloaded, the rear sits about 2" higher than the front. The most economical correction is to add a spacer to the top of each front coilover. The additional height of the 1" spacer presses the control arm down 1" at the lower coilover mount. When the control arm pivots down, the ball joint—which carries the wheel at the outboard end of the control arm—moves down 2". This lifts the front to level the truck and allows for a 33x11.5" tire, such as a 295/70R17 or 295/65R18. The downward arc of the control arm draws the ball joint inboard, causing positive camber, so the Tacoma will need an alignment. Additionally, the headlights will need re-aimed.
ReadyLift also includes differential drop spacers to prevent binding of the front driveshaft and axles; and skid plate spacers to accommodate the diff drop. However, leveling spacer kits are not intended for aggressive off-roading, as full extension can over-stress the control arms, ball joints, CV joints, and anti-roll bar.
Bilstein 5100 Adjustable Dampers
DIY Cost – $380
Professional Cost – $510
Skill Level – Difficult; requires jacking the Tacoma, removing suspension parts and using spring compressors.
Adjustable coilover dampers perform better than leveling spacers for very close to the same price. However, spring compressors must be used to install the stock springs on the Bilstein dampers. The spring seat rides on a snap ring that can be placed in four ride height positions, from stock height to +2.5", but the Bilstein must be removed to change the snap ring position. The 2" position will level the Tacoma and a differential drop kit should be used for increases of 2" or more. The damper extension also pushes the control arm down and an alignment and headlight aiming will be required at height increases above stock.
Matched, but non-adjustable Bilstein dampers are available for the rear, which improve greatly handling at the stock rear ride height.
Bilstein offers a lifetime warranty for the original owner. They will send you a replacement damper for 1/2 price, which is refunded when they receive the failed damper back.
ToyTec Boss 3" Lift Kit
DIY Cost – $1,500
Professional Cost – $1,740
Skill Level – Difficult; requires jacking the Tacoma, removing suspension parts and loosening the rear axle, but does not require spring compressors.
The ToyTec Boss uses adjustable coilover dampers, pre-assembled with Eibach springs, so no spring compressors are needed. Coilover height can be adjusted on the truck using the supplied wrench. In addition, the rear add-a-leaf spring system is much more robust and secure than spacer blocks. The kit includes differential drop and anti-roll drop spacers to maintain driveline alignment. Installation requires loosening and supporting the heavy rear axle, but the additional leaf springs increase load capacity and the matched rear dampers improve handling. An alignment and headlight aiming will be needed.
ToyTec provides a limited lifetime warranty to the original owner.
Rough Country 6" Lift Kit
DIY Cost – $1,300
Professional Cost – $1,540
Skill Level – Difficult; requires jacking the Tacoma and removing suspension and heavy frame parts, but does not require spring compressors.
The 6" lift is available on the 2nd Gen Tacoma. Maximum lift is achieved by installing modified, lowered frame crossmembers both front and rear. Spring compressors are not required, as the front OEM coilovers are mounted with spacers. The rear OEM leaf springs are mounted with spacer blocks and Rough Country rear dampers are installed. Brackets are provided to drop the differential and anti-roll bar, as well as to re-position the brake lines. The kit includes steering stops as well as bump stops and two steel skid plates. An alignment is required and this lift will allow 35x12.5" tires.
Rough Country offers a lifetime replacement warranty to the original owner on most suspension components.
- ToyTec Lifts 2" Lift Kit for 85-94 - YotaTech.com
- 4-5 Rough Country Lift What Kind of Leaf Springs Would Level It Out - YotaTech.com
- How Much Lift to Level Rear- YotaTech.com
- After 2" Lift, Front Sits Much Higher - YotaTech.com
- Lifting Rear to Level Out - YotaTech.com