5th Gen 4Runner Mods (Part 3) Lift Kits
Suspension Upgrades, Lift Kits and Leveling Kits
A basic overview of lift kits, leveling kits, and suspension lifts for the 4Runner
When it comes to a 4Runner, it only looks right with a lift or leveling kit. There are a few different options available. Deciding on a suspension or leveling kit is a big decision because there are so many options. In the details below, we only cover the top or most popular options. This is not every option out there. If you know of a kit that needs to be mentioned below, please comment and let us know.
One of the most important factors when lifting is wheels and tires. We get questions almost weekly on “What is the biggest tire size I can fit on my 4Runner” along with trimming areas in your wheel well. So, please read those posts before asking that question, please.
Some of the main questions you will face
- Difference between level and suspension lift?
- Stock wheels/tires and new suspension?
- Running larger tires than stock?
- Chopping away at your body, fender liners, and wheel well?
If you have stock wheels and tires and you are looking to upgrade your suspension, you should probably look into getting a new set to match your lift. If you add a leveling kit or lift kit with stock wheels and tires, your set-up might not look balanced.
With a 1.5″ front leveling kit only, your 4Runner will look somewhat normal with stock wheels and tires. If you go any higher in the front, for example, a 3.5″ in the front and 2″ in the back, then you might want to buy new tires to balance the look.
Depending on the kit, your wheels and tires may look pretty small with the added height, so this is something to consider.
Suspension Upgrade Vs. Lift Kits Vs. Leveling Kits Vs. Body Lifts
The most common set-ups will be the six items below.
- Front Spacer
- Front and Rear Spacer
- Long Travel Suspension
- Full Lift Kit
- Body Lift
You have front spacer kits (front spacer only), front and rear spacer kits (front and rear spacer), and then you have a suspension kit (Coilovers, Upper Control Arms “UCAs”, rear springs, and rear shocks). The height of these kits range from 1″ – 3.5+” but can be adjusted with adjustable Coilovers.
The next level would be a little more involved. To start, you have your Long Travel Suspension which includes a wide variety of upgraded parts (usually between 3″ – 5″ of height). Then, you have full lift kits (FabTech & ProComp) which are 6″ kits.
Then, you can add a body lift (usually 1″) which separates the body from the frame. Body lifts are a touchy subject among many people in every automotive circle. Enter into a body lift at your own risk.
A really good option out there would be to upgrade your suspension. This is going to include upgraded Coilovers, Upper Control Arms (UCAs), rear springs, and rear shocks.
Front and Rear Spacer Kit
The next option is going to be your leveling kit. Leveling kits are great for people who want a lifted look without enhanced off-road functionality and performance of an upgraded suspension system.
Front Leveling Kit
You really just want to level the front. If you do not like the raked look (slanted from back to front) and want to level everything out, you want a front leveling kit.
Level and Suspension Kit Options
ProComp Leveling Kit
- Pro Comp Front/ Rear Spacer Kit: (Check Price)
- Height: 3″ Front, 2″ Rear
Bilstein 2.5″ front and 1″ rear
- Front Coilover 6112 (Adjustable 0.8-2.5″): Check Price
- Rear Shock 5100: Check Price
- Rear Shock 5160 (remote reservoir): Check Price
- Dobinsons 1″ rear Spring: Check Price
Icon 3.5″ front and 2″ rear – Stage 2
- Front Coilover: Check Price
- Rear Shock: Check Price
- Rear Spring: Check Price
- UCAs (Upper Control Arms): Check Price
These are the parts that make a stage 2 Icon. If you buy all the parts separately, you will save almost $200 (depending on state tax) as opposed to buying from Icon directly. I wish I would have known this before we bought ours. We paid almost $3000 after tax buying directly. Parting these options together will get you closer to $2500.
Limited Edition XREAS front level only
Difference Between Leveling Kit and Suspension Kit
- Mod #1 – Leveling Kit
- Mod #2 – Lift Kit
Below we are going to look at the lift and leveling option as well as suspension options.
#1 – Leveling Kit – Pro Comp Level Kit – $350
A leveling kit is typically done through a set of spacers on top of your factory struts and springs. Spacers are made of metal, rubber or a wide variety of other materials. Spacer kits offer a good introductory solution to getting your truck off the ground. Spacers come with benefits and downsides.
The reason why most owners install a leveling kit (front only) or a leveling-lift kit (front and rear) is cost. Spacer kits are cheap. With an average range of $100-$300, spacers offer an affordable solution to lifting your truck. Some owners might also install a leveling kit because that might be all they need.
With a leveling kit, you are not going to see an increase in on-road or off-road performance. If you buy a leveling kit, do not expect your 4Runner to handle any better (body roll, nose dive, etc.). This might actually get worse with a spacer kit. With the addition of a spacer kit, you may experience a more floaty feel, more body roll and even more nose dive than stock. But, this all depends on what leveling kit you buy. Not all leveling kits are made the same.
For the most part, leveling kits and leveling-lift kits serve as an affordable alternative to a suspension lift but with very few of the important features of a true suspension (coilovers, rear springs, rear shocks, and UCAs).
#2 – Suspension – Icon Stage 2 Suspension Kit – $3000
A complete suspension upgrade is going to offer better on-road and off-road performance.
In the picture above, you see a set of coilovers (coil spring over shock). These specific coilovers are adjustable which means you can adjust your ride height in the front. This is also known as preload (adjusting the height on your coilovers). In this case with the Icons, we can adjust our preload from 0-3.5″.
Adjustable and non-adjustable suspension systems typically perform much better than factory struts and springs. With an aftermarket coilover, you will often see an increased ride-quality on-road (stiffer rider) and off-road (looser, more flex ride). This is why most owners prefer an aftermarket suspension system. It offers benefits both on and off-road.
Then you have upper control arms (UCAs). UCAs are are a part that connects your suspension system to the frame. This articulating part manages the up and down range of motion that your wheels go through. Depending on the height/ preload on your coilovers, you may need UCAs. With a height of 3″ on your front coilovers, most companies recommend aftermarket UCAs.
In the back, you have rear shocks and rear springs. Springs handle your actual lift and can range in levels of load rate capacity. You have multi-rate springs, progressive-rate, dual-rate springs, and linear-rate springs. Each of these springs have their place in different suspension systems. Depending on the type of system you are going for will depend on the type of spring you will want.
Rear shocks are simple, they range in motion depending on the ride height of your rear springs.
Understand the Types of Suspensions
- Stock or Shocks and Springs: You have a coil-spring, independent double-wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar in the front. For the rear, you have a coil-spring 4 link with lateral rod rear suspension with stabilizer bar in the rear. (Comes on most SR5s) – Check out our post on the strut spacer leveling kit install for the SR5 for more information.
- X-REAS Independent Counterpart Shocks: (Connects the Passenger Rear right to Driver Front Left and Vice Versa). X-REAS helps lessen body sway, pitch, and roll.
- K.D.S.S. Great for On and Off Road: OFF-ROAD: Hydraulic Oil flows in loops from the front and rear cylinder which means the cylinder is not locked. ON-ROAD: Hydraulic Oil flow against each other from the front and rear cylinder which means the cylinder is locked. (Comes on Trail and TRD Off-Road models).
Top Brands for Lifts & Leveling Kits
- Readylift SST
- Total Chaos
- Rough Country
- Old Man Emu (OME)
Different Options for Suspension Kits & Leveling Kits
- TRD PRO Bilstein Shocks w/ TRD-tuned Front Springs – $1500+
- Leveling Kit: Daystar – $150
- Leveling Kit: Toytec – $250
- Lift/Leveling Kit: Pro Comp Nitro – $350
- Spacer Kit With Coils: Rough County – $200
- Spacer Kit with Coils: Toytec – $320
- Non-Rebuildable Coilovers & Shocks: Bilstein 5100 – $400
- Non-Rebuildable Coilovers & Shocks: OME – $900-$1200 with Options
- Non-Rebuildable Coilovers & Shocks: Pro Comp – $600
- Rebuildable/Adjustable: Icon – $1800-$6000 (Multiple Stages)
- Rebuildable/Adjustable: Total Chaos Long Travel – $3000+
How to decide which is right for you?
Deciding which of these is for you will depend on how you drive.
If your 4Runner is a street princess, you might want to buy a basic leveling kit. But a leveling kit might also make your on-road driving a bit more floaty than stock. A leveling kit is just a means to an end. Leveling kits typically do not solve common issues like body roll and nose dive that are common with the stock suspension.
If you go on the occasional off-road adventure, you should probably look into a mid-level suspension kit with coilovers as this will have the most flexibility off-road. This would be the Bilstein 6112 front coils and a 5100 rear shock. You would also need a rear spring like the Dobinsons spring.
If you plan to hit some serious trails or go on a week-long adventure through rough terrain, you might want to look into an OME, Icon, KING, Fox, Radflo, or Total Chaos Long Travel set-up.
Common lift and level kits
- Spacer front: Toytec 2″ Level Kit
- Spacer front and rear: Pro Comp 3″ Nitro Level
- Mid-Level suspension: Bilstein 6112 front, 5100 rear and 1″ spring
- Mid-Level/advanced suspension: Old Man Emu (OME)
- Advanced suspension: Icon or KING
- Long Travel: Total Chaos Long Travel
This is all completely subjective and heavily relies on your knowledge of your suspension needs. Again, check out Icon, KING, FOX, OME, Radflo, Bilstein, ProComp, ToyTech, or many others before making your choice.
If you need a solid company that you can call anytime, call Metal Tech 4×4. They are super cool, incredibly helpful and always around to answer any of your questions. Whether you are just getting started or looking to upgrade your current system, they make it all pretty simple and easy.
FIRST: Before buying any of these, understand which suspension you have. If you have an SR5, the options are going to much different than if you have X-REAS. Alternatively, if you have KDSS on your Trail 4Runner or TRD Off-Road, your options are going to be, somewhat similar compared to the SR5. X-REAS is really the only thorn in your side. Most websites and manufacturers do a good job of categorizing their products so you will know for sure if the kit fits. You can always rip off your X-REAS system if you want, but do your research before you go pulling parts apart.
SECOND: Do your research and understand what you are buying. If you purchase a $3000 and plan on doing it yourself, you should plan on having the right tools for the job. If you are buying a $300 spacer kit, it probably won’t last for that long, you might not like the new feel and it might not perform the way you want it to off-road.
THIRD: You don’t need a full suspension kit if you intend on rolling around the business parks or your local mall. A mid-grade leveling kit should be fine. The Pro Comp 3″ Spacer Kit is a nice in-between kit that should suffice for all street driving and mild off-roading here and there.
FOURTH: If you are spending $6000 on an Icon stage 7 or big money on a Long Travel system… have fun!!