Today, vehicles feature coil springs as the suspension systems, but you still come across several vehicles with leaf springs. These springs, unlike coil springs, are simple and inexpensive, and you can use them to lift your vehicle for a better ride. In this system, there are leaves that hold the axle and the vehicle in place and adjust to the terrain.
If you are considering lifting your vehicle, these springs are among the options you have, but they may not quite meet all your lifting needs. Read on to learn more.
Can You Lift A Vehicle With Leaf Springs?
You can lift your vehicle using these springs by adding more leaves or changing the existing leaves to bigger left spring kits. When you replace or add the springs, you get better quality ride for your vehicle. If you lift the rear of your vehicle, you get better suspension to ride on rugged terrain and over speed bumps.
Even though the springs appear to lift your vehicle, they only level out your vehicles front to the rear when you need to reduce sagging. This means that the springs will not lift your vehicle enough for you to fit bigger tires. In most cases, the lift will not even be visible to your eyes and will only help when you haul a heavy load.
If you need to fit bigger tires, you are better off with a suspension lift kit and not springs.
The use of these springs to lift a car also ensures that your vehicle does not sag when under a heavy load. These springs are hidden after installation and will not affect the appearance of your vehicle. The vehicle will look raised, but that is all.
You can use many thin leaves to lift your vehicle, which gives you a very smooth ride. The thin leaves have a low spring rate to provide a soft ride. The pack with many thin leaves provides a better lift than a pack with a few thick leaves when used in a spring-over application.
The pack with a few thick leaves will eat up ground clearance when used in a spring-under application.
What are Leaf Springs and How Do They Work?
These springs are packs of spring material that flex when placed under pressure. They become operational when a vehicle is in motion. Each spring has eyes on its ends, and they attach to the chassis of your vehicle on both ends.
The axle of the vehicle then attaches to the center of the vehicle. To form eyes on both ends, the leaves are rolled. It is through these eyes that rubber bushings pass and act as insulators against noise and vibrations.
A centering pin, which is a bolt, holds all the leaves together. One end of the spring mounts to a hanger while the other mounts to the frame with shackles (movable mounting hangers). When the vehicle hits a bump or drives on rugged terrain, the movable mounting hangers allow a rearward movement that adjusts to the terrain.
When the shackles move, the curved spring material extends to become longer and straighter. There are rebound clips, also known as spring alignment clips, which ensure that the leaves do not separate during the rebound.
In some vehicles, you will see single springs made of steel. Also known as mono leaf, these springs usually taper to generate variable spring rate. They are common as rear suspension systems for light vehicle.
If you need to lift your vehicle using springs, you can do so by using a leaf spring that allows the attachment of multiple leaves. This way, every leaf you add increases the height of your vehicle.
The leaf spring supports your vehicle when you hit bumps or drive on rough terrain. They also ensure that you enjoy a smooth ride by absorbing bumps and vibrations. You can also use them to locate the axle and keep your tires well aligned when driving.
You can use springs to lift your vehicle when you need more carrying capacity for your vehicle. Here, you only need to use auxiliary or helper springs to raise the vehicle to reduce sag.
How to Install a Leaf Spring to Your Vehicle
You will find these springs just behind the wheel of your vehicle. To see them, you need to check under the trailer as they are not visible from outside the wheel. This also means that you need to remove the wheel completely to install the springs effectively.
Once you remove your wheel, you will see hangers on each side of the axle. These hangers are small and extended pieces that hold the springs in position. They attach to the frame of the trailer.
Each hanger has holes through which you should line the eyes of the springs and secure them as necessary. To lift your truck a little, you can choose to add a few thick leaves, or you use several thin springs. If the spring has two eyes, the hanger on one end will have a shackle link.
After you connect the springs into the hangers, you need to install U-bolts for better functionality. Your springs can either be spring-under or spring-over. In spring-over setup, the leaves are placed over the axle while in a spring-under setup, they are placed under the vehicle’s axle.
The U-bolt go round the axle and holds the springs flush with the axle to ensure they do not move around when you start driving.
Although these springs are install-and-forget, with no maintenance needed, you should check them regularly for wear. If the springs wear out or crack, you need to replace them with better quality springs. Cracked or worn springs can cause so much damage to your vehicle – it will be like you are driving with no suspension.
When replacing these springs, check the shackle links for wear. After sometime, the shackle links will develop a ring of wear that looks like the nut, but this should be no cause for alarm. If the ring of wear turns oval, then you need a new shackle link.
If you take care of the springs, they will give a comfortable ride and ensure you carry cargo to the vehicle’s capacity without sagging.
How Do You Pick the Right Leaf Spring for your Vehicle?
There is nothing fancy about these springs. It may be challenging to pick the leaf spring that will meet the needs of your vehicle. The springs appear as long and narrow places to the frame behind the wheel.
When installed, the leaves are below or above the axle. The ends of the springs are curved to form eyes while the length of the unit also curved to form an elliptical shape.
You can pick your spring from one of several types of springs. The monoleaf spring is a single spring with a thick middle and which tapers towards the ends. These springs are not ideal when you need strength and suspension for your vehicle.
If you need to tow or haul heavy loads, and you also need to enhance the suspension by adding more leaves, a multileaf setup is the best. Here, you have several leaves of varying lengths. The long leaf spring is at the top while the shorter one is at the bottom.
This arrangement ensures that you get the same semi-elliptical shape as you would with a monoleaf. The thickness of the middle is more for multileaf setup, and this gives your vehicle a small raise and ensures the pack is stronger, making the suspension better.
The ends of these springs are also different, and this affects the way they connect to the frame. Some have a single eye while others have two eyes. The double-eye springs are long and have both their ends curved into circles that form eyes.
The ends of these double-eye springs have two holes that you can bolt into the bottom of the frame of the trailer. Other springs have one eye and are known as open-eye springs. The end with no eye is known as the flat or hook end. Both these types of springs serve the same purpose, although they have different ways of attachment.
When you install either of the suspensions you choose in your truck, you will enjoy better suspension to drive on rugged terrain. You will also raise your vehicle a little to avoid sagging when under load.
Should You Install Springs Over or Under the Axle?
There are vehicles with their springs under the axle such as some Jeep and Toyota models. However, Most vehicles have springs that mount on top of the axle. It is easier to give your vehicle a lift when you mount the springs on top of the axle.
If your vehicle has springs that mount under the axle, you can swap them so that they mount at the top for better functionality. When you install over the axle, you will gain a height that is equal to the thickness of the springs and the axle tube.
You will get a smoother ride and more articulation, and at the same time, enjoy more ground clearance where the springs and axle plates were.
If you are changing a spring-under to a spring-over configuration, you will need to buy more than new springs. The soft springs might cause a rear axle wrap that you need to correct before installing new springs. An anti-wrap bar comes in handy in ensuring the wrap doesn’t damage your springs and break the U-joint.
During installation, you need to ensure that there is enough caster so that your vehicle doesn’t wander off the road. This means you have to balance the caster angle and the pinion angle.
When you swap the springs from under the axle to over the axle, they will take up the space where the drag link used to be. You will need a high steer conversion to connect the drag link to the steering arm on the knuckle.
Note that, when you use a spring-over connection, you will spend more than you would with lift springs.
Can You Use Lift Blocks to Lift Your Vehicle?
If you really want to lift your vehicle and not use a lift kit more than the springs do, you need to install lift blocks between the springs and the axle. However, to do this, you need to have a spring-over configuration as a spring-under setup will not allow you to add the block.
Blocks come in handy when you need to add bigger tires or increase the ground clearance of your vehicle. If you need to add the blocks, you need longer U-bolts to fit the blocks. However, you should never use them in the front axle as the force from steering can add side loads to blocks.
There are trucks that come with lift blocks already attached. If you need to lift the vehicle, you should avoid stacking another lift block on the factory lift block. If there is an additional block, you risk the blocks falling off or folding when you are driving.
When you add lift blocks, you will add a distance between the axle and the spring, which gives you additional leverage on the springs. This can cause axle wrap.
To avoid an axle wrap, you need to use a traction bar. If you fail to add that, you may have issues with your vehicle in the future. However, the axle wrap issue is more common with long and soft springs than it is with short and stiff springs.
If you want to lift your vehicle using springs, you need to add many leaves in a multileaf setup. You will need to have a spring-over setup as this allows you more added size.
If you want more height, you need to install a lift block in between the springs and the axle. You will have enough height to install bigger tires. However, without the lift blocks, you cannot add any bigger tires.
If you have the technical skills, you can install the springs yourself. However, if not installed right, the springs can result in a loss of suspension, and this can lead to damage on some mechanical parts. The complexity of installation will depend on the type of springs you buy and the make and model of the vehicle.