Does Lifting a Truck Affect Towing, Payload, or MPG?


Most truck owners have concerns before they make any modifications. One of the main concerns is how the modification will affect the performance of the truck and gas mileage. 

No matter how small a lift is, it changes the geometry and mechanical aspects of your truck. Lifts are great as they better performance, but they may have other issues that you need to deal with.

Does Lifting a Truck Affect Towing, Payload, or MPG?

Lifting your truck makes it better driving off the road, but it reduces its gas mileage and towing capacity. A lift kit enables you to install bigger tires for better traction and more ground clearance. However, these are not the only parts that a lift kit affects as many other parts also get affected. 

When you install a lift kit, you alter the angle of the hitch, the springs get softer, and you get different ratings for the tires. The kit you choose and the tires you install will determine whether your truck gets better at towing or off-roading. 

Lift kits are of two main types – body lift kits and suspension lifts. Body lift kits are ideal when you need a small lift, and you are on budget. Here, you will need to add spacers between the rolling chassis and the frame of your truck. 

The body lift doesn’t affect your truck’s payload, gas mileage, and towing capacity as it is mostly cosmetic. It also doesn’t offer you more ground clearance, so the performance of the truck off-road remains the same. If you install a body lift kit, you never have to worry about gas mileage or changes in performance as the truck remains as it was before the modifications. 

Suspension lift kits bring all the difference. These kits add height and ground clearance to your truck as it raises not only the body, but also the frame. When you need a more rugged 4WD to handle rugged terrain, this is the kind of lift you need. 

Because the suspension lift affects several components of your truck, it will affect the performance and gas mileage of your truck. It will perform better under load, but that may mean a lower gas mileage. 

Does Lifting a Truck Affect Towing?

Lifting your truck affects how it tows as the lift changes its dimensions. After a lift, the truck gets a higher center of gravity and more ground clearance. The latter is great as it ensures your truck has more space to sag when it is under load. 

Lifting the truck may not affect its payload, but there are changes in how the truck handles the load it tows.

If you only did a body lift, your truck will still tow as it has always without any changes. A simple body lift doesn’t change the truck’s height and so the towing capability remains. Because the frame of the truck retains its original height, the hitch doesn’t move, and you can attach the trailer as you have always. 

However, if you use a bumper tow, the bumper will be higher and your tow will be affected. You will need to have a drop hitch to drop the hitch to the height of the trailer. In most cases, though, you will not be using a bumper tow when you need to carry heavy loads. 

When you install a suspension lift kit, you raise the height of your truck and this means there are changes to most of the mechanical components of the truck. The kit raises the frame of your truck, and with it, the hitch. You will have to use a drop hitch to lower the hitch for the attachment of the trailer. 

It is not easy getting a drop hitch that allows enough towing capacity. Again, if the drop hitch is long, it will have less tensile strength, and this can mean you have to two less. 

You can handle this by getting a stronger drop hitch. These stronger hitches might be more expensive, but they allow you to tow more load with your lifted truck. 

If you can avoid towing with a lifted truck, I recommend you do. The challenge of getting a good drop hitch and the reduced strength that comes with the hitches should make you avoid towing. There is also the issue of bigger tires as discussed below:

Do Tire Sizes Affects a Truck’s Towing Capability?

The reason you lift a truck is so that you can install bigger tires and make the truck better at off-roading. However, these bigger tires might affect the towing capability of the truck. 

The bigger tires offer better traction and more ground clearance so that you can drive over rocks and in deep snow. While these tires make your 4X4 an off-road beast, they make it less of a towing workhorse. 

It is simple how these bigger tires affect towing capacity. The larger tires and smaller tires of your trailer have to turn at the same speed, and this means lower RPMs for the tires of your truck. With low RPMs, the truck tows less. 

But tires have more effects on your truck’s performance besides towing. Although the wheels have low RPM, they take more effort to stop and your brakes will suffer from the pressure. You need bigger brake pads and perhaps you tune the braking system to meet the needs of these bigger tires. 

Brakes are important when a truck is not under any load. When you are towing, brakes are even more important as they serve the truck and the trailer. If it takes more energy to stop an empty lifted truck with larger tires, it will take even more effort to stop a lifted truck with a trailer attached to it. 

If, after lifting a truck, you still need to two heavy loads, you need a new set of braking system. The brakes need to match the new configuration of your truck. It will cost you more money, but it will save you on the road. 

Does Lifting a Truck Affect Payload?

Lifting a truck affects its payload. Unlike in towing, you can carry more in your bed and drive more smoothly in different terrains. 

Automakers design trucks so that the rear is higher than the front. This way, then there is a load in the truck’s bed, the nose of the truck raises a little, and the truck levels. If this was not the case, the truck would sag and lose its ground clearance, making it challenging for you to drive on bumpy roads.

When you lift a truck, you increase its ground clearance and give it a space to sag. A leveling kit, which only raises the front of the vehicle, will not affect payload much. In fact, when you use a leveling kit, your truck will sag more when under load. 

A body kit will also not affect payload as it doesn’t increase ground clearance or raise the frame. However, when you install a suspension lift kit, you increase the payload capacity of the truck. 

Does Lifting a Truck Affect MPG?

Lifting a truck means reduced gas mileage. If you lift a truck for aesthetics, where you use a body lift kit, the modification will have no effect on the gas mileage of your truck. However, if you lift the frame, there will be significant effect on how your car performs when empty and under load. 

When you lift your truck, you get to give it bigger tires and you also raise its center of gravity. When your truck is taller than factory configuration, it is less aerodynamic, and it works more to beat wind resistance. 

However, a lift kit doesn’t have to lower your truck’s gas mileage as long as you choose the right tires as Reference explains. The best tires for you are all-terrain tires that work well on-road and off-road. If you drive in moderate off-road environments, then the tires will meet your needs without reducing gas mileage. 

When you pick a tire with more treads, it will be heavier. More tread also means more traction. Although this will make the truck perform better on mud and when you go off-road, the reduced gas mileage may be too much for you. 

Another thing you can do is to pick the right kit. Kits might add to the curb weight of your truck, consequently lowering the fuel economy. When shopping for kits, you need to go for lighter options that are strong to meet your needs.

If loss in mpg is a concern to you, you can reduce the weight of truck so that you never lose more than one mpg after the lift. Reducing the weight means looking at parts you do not need, say roof rails, and removing them. It also means carrying less unnecessary luggage such as large toolboxes. 

You can also adopt some driving habits that will make you drive longer before refueling. One of these habits is maintaining your driving speed and only make adjustments when the terrain changes. 

Do You Need a Lift, Better MPG, or Better Towing?

What do you prefer more? Would you rather tow better, go off-road, or to enjoy better mpg? The choice is personal and it should be informed by how you use your truck every day. 

For Off-Road Trucks 

If you love mudding and taking your 4X4 for exploration, I recommend you install a lift kit. I bought my truck because I wanted to go beyond the pavement where other cars do not go. If you want to explore, then a truck with more ground clearance will come in handy for you. 

If you are an off-road warrior, you may not mind the reduced fuel efficiency as all you need is to see the next horizon. Nevertheless, you can still better the mpg by taking the steps I recommended above. Once you lift your truck for off-roading, you may never use it for the towing. 

If you still want to use an off-road truck for towing, limit the lift and keep it at less than six inches to make it easier for you to attach the trailer. 

For Workhorses

If your truck is a workhorse, you are better off avoiding a suspension lift kit. This lift kit will make the truck less effective at towing, and it doesn’t help the payload either. If you still need that raised look, you can go for a body lift kit, which doesn’t move the frame. 

With a body lift kit, you will sit higher, and you will enjoy a smooth ride, but you may never fit larger tires. However, you will maintain the towing and payload capacity of your truck.

For Trucks That Do It All

You may want a workhorse and an off-roader all in the same truck. You use the truck to carry items during the week and explore when weekend comes. If that is your case, you need to find the lift kit that offers you the best of both worlds. 

I suggest you go with a leveling kit. This kit will only lift the front of your truck, but the rear stays the same. You will have more clearance, to the front, and you will still maintain the towing and payload capacity of the truck. 

There is only one small issue with this; a level truck will raise its nose a little when under load. This should not be a big issue as long as you have a clear view of what is in front of you. 

Closing Thoughts 

A lift kit is ideal when you need to increase the off-road performance of your truck. However, the lift and the bigger tires limit your truck’s towing capacity, reduce gas mileage, and doesn’t help payload in any way. Even then, I still recommend you lift your truck if you venture off the road. 

Body lift kits do not have any effects on payload, towing, and mpg. The effects start when you install a suspension lift kit, which affects several mechanical components of your truck. 

If it is necessary that you lift your truck, there are several ways you can deal with the effects of the lift, so go for it. But if you tow every day, then a lift will only come in your way.

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

Recent Posts