Are body lifts still a thing?

ByWes WhitworthMay 28, 2020
5 MINUTE READ
Are body lifts still a thing?

Body lifts used to be extremely popular and then they fell out of favour for a while but they are now coming back into fashion. This is in part thanks to changes to the VSB14 (Vehicle Standards Bulletin 14) a couple of years back, and the number of modest 25mm suspension lift kits around designed to suit the newer dual-cab utes on the market. With the changes to VSB14 allowing for a 75mm overall vehicle height lift, these 25mm suspension lift kits just don’t cut it for many four-wheel drivers, especially those who want to fit bigger tyres.

There are a few dual-cabs around where the common lift is only 25-30mm, such as on Tritons and Navaras and the like. Sure, you can go bigger, but the run-of-the-mill suspension stuff is limited to this height increase. This equates to a one-inch suspension lift and if you increase tyre size to 33s (such as a 285/75R16 which is 32.8-inch diameter or a 285/70R17 which is 32.7-inch diameter) you’re going to struggle to get them to fit inside the guards. But if you could easily add an extra inch of clearance under the guards to clear the tyres you’d be laughing.

The (easy) solution? Enter the estranged, oft-looked-down-upon, evil stepchild of the lift family: the body block.

One-inch body blocks will increase the cab height by one inch, as well the space under the guards, so you can fit those brand spanking 33-inch muddies in there without ripping the lugs off when the suspension compresses or you’re on full steering lock. You’ll also get other benefits with body lifts, such as less chance of water ingress in river crossings and the like, all without raising the centre of gravity too much, helping you to keep all four wheels planted on terra firma.

The various state rules regarding body lifts are different insofar as what materials can be used in body blocks, and some states require an engineer to give the vehicle the once-over to make sure the job has been done right and to make sure you’ve used the appropriate material for your state. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of throwing a set of body blocks at your truck.

Body lifts

A poly body-block stocked by the team at Superior Engineering.

Pros:

Cost: A set of 1-inch body blocks and bolts will set you back around $400, give or take. eBay kits can be had for less, but one can only assume the quality of them (cheap crap) is something you don’t want to trust your family’s life to, or the wrath of your engineer.

Ease of installation: Body lifts are reasonably easy to install and other than allowing the steering yolk to move up a touch, there’s really not much to it besides a bunch of bolts. You’re not having to fully remove and replace suspension components like upper and lower arms, or sort castor correction, and it can be done at home over a quiet Sunday. If you’re only going a 1-inch increase, brake lines, shifter angles and the like are generally able to be left unchanged – any bigger and you’ll start having issues.

Suspension characteristics remain unchanged: Unlike modifying your suspension, the way the 4X4 moves on the road will remain essentially the same for the most part.

Lower centre of gravity: Lifting only the body, you’re leaving all the heavy stuff (chassis, engine, gearbox) in the same place. That’s easily a tonne and change in most dual-cabs getting around.

Actual tyre clearance: With the suspension left unchanged, so no increase in up or down travel, you’re gaining a full 1-inch clearance for the tyres. So if at full lock, fully flexed, you’re hitting your 32.8-inch tyres into your inner guards, they will clear easily now.

 

Cons:

Cracked mounts/floor pans: Yep, the body lift has been known to crack floor pans and body mounts over 20 years of harsh use, simply due to the extra stress on the mounts of the higher cab being thrown around.

Engineering: In some states, body lifts still require an engineer go over them, however in others they’re “self certification” (do it yourself, and do it right).

Issues with controls: Besides sliding the steering yoke up a little, with too much body lift there have been 4X4s that have had issues with wiring harnesses, gear shifters, throttle and clutch cables, and brake lines, however a reasonable size body lift won’t have these issues.

Mismatched panels and bar work: Most of the bar work on your truck is going to be hard mounted to the chassis – move the body up and there will be an instant 1-inch gap. There are ways around this with bullbars/rear bars designed specifically for body lifts, but it’s just a bit of a pain in the arse to sort out if you’ve already spent squillions on all of your bar work.

Suspension characteristics remain unchanged: You’re only getting clearance increase – your suspension will work just as it did before.

 

 

Here are the state by state rules from the engineers contacted by Unsealed 4X4.

 

NSW:

Vaughan Larkham at Signatory Automotive Engineering Tamworth told us:

Engineering: Must have an engineer’s report

Self Install: Can be self-installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: 8.8 Grade, hardened washers with Nylock nuts

Block Material: Block material can be alloy, steel or poly, but suggested alloy for strength

“Material of similar strength and durability to original components.”

 

QLD:

Dwayne at Ken Day Automotive in Bundaberg:

Engineering: Mod plate required

Self Install: Can be self-installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: 8.8 Grade, hardened washers and Nylock nuts

Block Material: Steel, alloy or polyurethane accepted

 

VIC:

Archie at Archie Robertson Auto services

Engineering: Engineer’s report required

Self Install: Can be self-installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: 8.8 Grade, hardened washers and Nylock nuts

Block Material: Steel, Alloy or polyurethane accepted

 

NT:

Alex McDonald at McDonald Engineering

Engineering: Engineer’s report not required for under 4-inch total lift

Self Install: Can be self-installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: 8.8 Grade, hardened washers and Nylock nuts

Block Material: Must be as good as OEM pads (rubber/poly)

 

SA:

South Australia driving and transport website.

 Engineering: Engineer’s report not required if total lift less than 50mm

Self Install: Can be self-installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: As good or better than original – Grade 8.8 Bolts

Block Material: Steel, Alloy or metal of equivalent strength

 

WA:

Department of Transport website – per VSB14

Engineering: Inspection and declaration of modification required

Self Install: Can be self-installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: 8.8 Grade, hardened washers and Nylock nuts.

Block Material: Must be as good as OEM pads (rubber/poly)

 

TAS:

Josh at Eurotech Automotive Hobart

 Engineering: Mod plate not required for under 50mm total lift

Self Install: Can be self installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: Must be as good as OEM

Block Material: Must be as good as OEM pads (rubber/poly)

 

ACT:

Access Canberra government website – per VSB14

Engineering: Engineers or inspection report not required

Self Install: Can be self-installed

Block Size: up to 50mm

Bolts Grade: 8.8 Grade, hardened washers and Nylock nuts

Block Material: Must be as good as OEM pads (rubber/poly)

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