Considering a Lift Kit for Your Bronco? Here are a Few Things to Think About
Lifted trucks and SUVs. You see them on the road all the time, and they invariably command your attention. Whether only slightly elevated or jacked up to the point of making you wonder how anyone could reasonably get in and out of the cab, you find it’s hard to look away when one passes by.
And, of course, whether the modification in question is tasteful or way over the top — and that judgement is squarely in the eyes of the beholder — a raised vehicle is always associated with serious off-roading.
You may be one of that large group of soon-to-be Bronco owners, eagerly awaiting the arrival of your new ride. If you do fall into that category, there’s a pretty fair chance that you’re considering lifting the ride height on your own Bronco. If that’s the case, without getting too far into the weeds, here are some things to consider.
To Start, Just What Is a Suspension’s Purpose?
Your initial response will almost surely pertain to ride quality, or something very similar, and that’s a big part of the equation. A properly working suspension does smooth irregularities — whether you find yourself on a paved highway or more rugged terrain.
Because your tires — no matter how large they may be — generate energy when they come into contact with any rock or divot that might be in their path, it’s pretty easy to imagine the jostling you and your passengers would experience if your axles and tires were rigidly affixed to the body of your Bronco. A suspension absorbs that energy and gives your vehicle’s wheels range of motion to accommodate it, so you don’t have to bear the brunt of it.
Ramp up the intensity of that situation just a bit, and you’d find your tires leaving the ground at times, rendering your vehicle unstable in the process. Remember back when you were a kid and your skateboard would, at times, unceremoniously leave the ground upon contact with an obstacle? Or if that obstacle was large enough, you might have even found yourself stopped dead in your tracks. That’s largely because the trucks on that skateboard — those fixtures that hold the skateboard wheels in place — had no real capacity to compensate for any irregularities in your path. If your Bronco’s suspension were engineered in the same manner, despite its vastly greater weight, it would make for one very rough and unstable ride.
Where Does a Lift Kit Fit Into the Equation?For anyone planning on taking detours off the asphalt — even if those detours are infrequent — a lift kit that’s properly chosen to match your Bronco’s intended use will yield immediate dividends.
For starters, just a modest lift to your ride height will allow for more suspension travel. Let’s assume that you opt for the 35” tires that come with the Sasquatch package when you take delivery of your new Bronco. Despite the fact that the Bronco’s rugged design includes some pretty sizable wheel wells, under extreme circumstances — an especially drastic ditch, for example — those tires could conceivably run out of room to respond.
There are design precautions in place to prevent a full-on impact between tire and body, but an increased ride height allows for more wheel travel before that would even happen.
Then, there’s the added benefit of being able to negotiate more aggressive obstacles that may lie in your path. Increasing your ride height improves your approach angle, breakover angle and departure angle, making your Bronco a much more formidable force once it’s off the asphalt.
Let’s not forget aesthetics. Sure, you may prioritize function over form, but there’s no denying that curb appeal matters. A lot. A 2021 Ford Bronco is going to attract plenty of attention in thoroughly factory form, but just imagine the response you’re going to get with a set of sizable tires — maybe even bigger the 35” rubber that comes with the Sasquatch package — mounted on a set of tastefully aggressive aftermarket wheels.
There are Two Types of Lift KitsBody lift kits are by far the most common and this is for a couple of reasons. For starters, they’re generally fairly easy to install. Most ardent Bronco aftermarket parts enthusiasts will be up to the challenge of installing such a kit themselves, and if not, they’re bound to be able to find a qualified shop within easy reach that can get it done. Because they require fewer components to do their job, body lift kits are almost always going to be the least expensive option to achieve the ride height you’re looking for.
As far as the increase of that ride height — body lift kits generally max out at about 5” of added lift, so there is a limit as to just how drastic you can get with this approach. But, when you consider that a lift of this magnitude will allow for substantially bigger tires and a markedly more aggressive looking stance, adding a body lift kit to your Bronco will usually provide all the added elevation you’d likely need.
Suspension lift kits up the ante. Just as their name implies, they extend the entire suspension of your Bronco, allowing you to go bigger than that aforementioned 5” lift. This approach raises pretty much every component on your Bronco, allows for the addition of even bigger tires and gives you the ability to conquer some pretty extreme terrain without the fear of running aground in the process.
Some Words of Caution: Planning Properly Really HelpsA lot of us will strategize for an upgrade by first stocking up on all the parts we’re going to need. There’s no doubt that this approach will usually speed things along, but in this case, it may not be the best approach.
For example, wheels and tires should be chosen after the lift kit has already been installed. Adding such a kit can affect wheel offset, which could render a set of undeniably cool wheels and tires a less than optimal choice as a match for your Bronco’s newly elevated stance. On the other hand, if only a slight adjustment in offset is needed, a set of wheel spacers will almost always do the job.
Aesthetics come into play again. Obviously, if you aren’t testing the limits of your newly found wheel clearance with a new tire purchase, there would be nothing stopping you from even running the original tires, even if those tires were less sizable than the Sasquatch-level rubber. But visual perception is relative, so the increased elevation of your wheel wells could easily make your original tires look pretty small and out of place.
Unless you’re going for a drastic lift, it’s also probably a good idea to hold off on your selection of shock absorbers until after your lift kit is installed. Bigger tires and increased ride height will affect your ride quality.
Finally, there’s something else to consider. If you come to find that your Bronco seems gas-thirsty when you finally bring it home and log some miles, which wouldn’t be a surprising conclusion based on its current mileage estimates, you should be aware that larger tires will often adversely affect gas mileage — so that thirstiness will only increase with the addition of more sizable rubber.