Does Lifting A Truck Reduce Gas Mileage?


Trucks are workhorses. They are designed to tow and haul cargo any day of the week. These workhorses are also ideal when you want to venture beyond where the pavement ends.

When you have a truck, there are some modifications you can make to make it better at driving off-road and towing cargo. Lifting a truck is one of the easiest ways to make it better at handling mud, driving on rocks, and having better traction. But does lifting affect the mileage of a truck?

Does Lifting A Truck Reduce Gas Mileage?

Yes. Lifting a truck and installing new and bigger tires will lower the fuel economy of the truck. Lifting a truck between 6 and 10 inches is within the acceptable limit, but that will alter the factory setting and geometry of the truck, making it less efficient. 

When you add larger wheels, you increase the size and the weight of the truck. This means the truck will need more energy to pouch it around, and this translates to more fuel burned. If you use a leveling kit to lift the front part of the truck, you will still lower the fuel economy. 

The use of a leveling kit keeps the nose of the truck raised when the truck is under load, and this increases wind resistance. Luckily, there are several ways you can increase the fuel economy of your truck even after lifting. Read on to learn more. 

How Can I Improve The Gas Mileage On My Lifted Truck?

Lowering your truck will increase the gal mileage, but it may affect the performance of your truck. Therefore, you need other options such as below:

Pick the Right Lift Kit

There are several lift kit options – some are light and others are very heavy. When you pick a heavy lift kit, it adds to the curb weight of the truck, and this impacts gas mileage. When the truck is heavier, the engine will work more and harder to push it around. 

When shopping, consider high quality kits that balance weight and performance. Again, you do not have to go overboard with the lift. If a 4-inch lift allows you to fit the larger wheel you need, then you do not need to go further. 

Pick the Right Tire

Bigger tires are part of the increased weight of the truck. Most of the tires fitted in lifted trucks offer better traction, allowing one to drive off the road. Tires with less traction would enhance the efficiency of your truck, but that may not meet your needs. 

As such, you need to ensure you never go for tires bigger than you will need. Again, choose the right type of tires for your applications. You do not need a heavy winter tire if you live in a relatively warm area. 

You can also reduce the weight of the wheels by swapping steel wheels for alloy wheels. Alloy wheels are much lighter compared to steel, and this will significantly cut weight. This will help when you add larger tires, which may be a little heavier. 

Cut The Weight of Your Truck

If there are unnecessary items and parts in your truck, you need to keep them off so that your truck feels lighter. The first thing you can do is pick a lighter fifth wheel – one made of aluminum or any composite material. You may not notice the reduced weight, but you will be happy when you get to the weight station and your truck weighs less. 

If you are replacing any parts of your truck, use lightweight parts. Instead of using steel for your body panels, you can go for aluminum or carbon fiber or any composite material that is lightweight and cuts on the weight of the truck. Getting a new hood will cost you a lot, but it can mean great savings in fuel. 

Your wheels, gear cases, and cross members can also use a lightweight upgrade. Today, there are so many anti-corrosion coated materials that can make your truck better. Better still, these upgrades will make your truck better at resisting salt and other chemicals on the road.

Most composites do not rust and are a great addition to your truck. So, when you upgrade, you get better fuel economy and your truck is more durable.

You can have smaller engines as long as it delivers the power you need. What is the use of having a 13-liter engine when you can have a nine-liter engine that gives you the same power? Manufacturers are now creating smaller engines that offer the same power as larger engines. 

These engines may be up to 500 pounds lighter than larger models, and that makes your lifted truck more fuel efficient. 

Another way to keep the weight down is to go for lightweight suspension system. It is easy to find high-strength steel materials that are lightweight and deliver durability. 

Have Less Luggage in Your Truck

Do you always have a tool box full in your truck? I know it feels badass to tow a toolbox with more than EDC tools. I have had one in my truck for a long time until I realized it takes so much space and also adds weight.

It is okay to have a few tools, but not tools you will never use. I also know people who have a load of clothes in their trucks, most of which they never need. 

The bottom line is, remove unnecessary items and fittings in your truck to reduce its weight. For instance, if you have a sleeper box, you can remove it as you may not sleep in your truck often. However, if you drive your truck across the country, a sleeper box will be a great option, but you can reduce its size from 60 inches to 42 inches. 

Use of Aero Packages

The nose of your truck needs to be aerodynamic to reduce air resistance. The cab and the windows too need to be aerodynamic, and this will help you cut down on the fuel you burn, pushing against wind. Automakers engineer trucks to be aerodynamic, but there are still things you can do to increase the aerodynamic design. 

Cab extenders and side fairings are available to enhance the shape of your truck for better aerodynamics. However, note that these fittings will add to the weight of your truck. If you only drive around town at low speeds, you do not need enhanced aerodynamics. 

These fittings are ideal for truck drivers who spend most of their time on the highway, driving at very high speed. 

Although there are so many ways to make your truck more fuel efficient, you will have to spend a lot of money to achieve the efficiency. Replacing available parts with lighter materials will give you better fuel economy, but will cost you more money.

Analyze each method of increasing fuel economy before you take it up. 

Get Better Mileage When Driving

Fittings such as aero packages can be expensive and can also add weight to your truck. You can avoid them and make your truck more efficient on-road. 

A few changes in your driving habits will enhance your truck’s fuel economy. For starters, you need to accelerate slowly after a stop. When driving on the highway, keep your speed as close to the limit as possible as driving fast saves you energy. 

Other driving habits for better gas mileage include:

  • Use the cruise control feature as much as you can to avoid unnecessary stops
  • Keep your truck in good working condition as the manufacturer recommends
  • Choose the right tires – all-terrain tires will be ideal unless you often go off-road 
  • Buy premium fuel
  • When driving off-road, remove roof rails you may never need
  • Add tonneau covers to the truck bed to manage air flow 

Why Have a Lift Kit Anyway?

If lifting your truck means you will spend more on fuel, why have the kit anyway? 

When you lift your truck, you are able to fit bigger tires and have more ground clearance. With that, you can drive the truck on rocks, deep snow, deep waters, and other rough terrains. The larger tires may add a little weight, but they give you better traction when you need to go off the road. 

When you lift a truck, you get three or four inches of more ground clearance. From the driver’s seat, you will have a better view of the road, allowing you to navigate with ease. Better still, lifted trucks look better than other trucks with their bold stance. 

When under load, trucks will squat down. You can ensure your truck stays up when towing or when hauling by giving it a lift. The lift kit balances the height of your truck with and without load to keep it steady and give it a level stance. 

If you need to improve the straight line performance of your truck, you can do so with a lift. Your truck feels more comfortable and the ride is smoother, giving you better towing capacity. 

If yours is a work truck, you will enjoy better braking and better road holding capacity. 

Installing a suspension or body lift kit is a great idea for people who need to carry heavy loads and those who need to go off the road. If you only drive your truck on the highway, and you never tow or haul heavy loads, a lift kit will only serve as decoration. 

It is easy to install a lift kit, but if it doesn’t serve any purpose, you do not need to lower your gas mileage for no reason. 

Do Lifted Trucks Have Other Disadvantages Besides Fuel Economy?

I recommend lifting of trucks for people who drive off-road. Although you will have a few disadvantages to deal with, your truck will generally perform better. Your bigger tires will take more power to push, but they will offer more traction for better off-road and winter performance. 

One other issue you have to deal with is poor handing. When you lift a truck, you raise its center of gravity, and this increases its chances of rolling over when you speed. The risk is more when you are taking sharp corners at high speeds. 

Because you know this, you will need to drive slowly when you get to corners to ensure you are safe on the road. 

Another reason you may be hesitant to lift your truck is that you lose your warranty. Before you lift a truck, call your dealer and confirm if that voids your warranty. If it does, analyze what you will lose and see whether the lift is worth it. 

After lifting your truck, there are so many other modifications you may have to make to ensure your truck is street legal. Such modifications will cost you a lot of money. Laws on vehicle modifications vary from state to state and these additional modifications may not be optional in your state. 

Lastly, lifting a truck is costly. You will spend between a few hundred dollars and tens of thousands to get the look and performance you desire. The costs go even higher when you have to make other adjustments to increase the fuel economy of the truck. 

Closing Thoughts

It is true that a lifted truck has reduced fuel economy, but the truck offers better performance. Such trucks will haul, tow, and drive better than trucks that still have their factory configuration. 

Instead of giving up performance for fuel efficiency, you can perform a few other modifications to get better gas mileage. These modifications are costly, so you have to pick the ones that fall within your budget. 

You can start by changing your driving habits and reducing the number of items you keep in your truck. From there, you can take inexpensive measures such as removing roof rails you never use. Then you can move on to more labor and capital intensive measures such as replacing the heavy steel parts with aluminum or composite materials. 

You will enjoy the best off-road experience with a lifted truck. Ensure that you have the suspension or body lift kit installed correctly and any associated parts also installed correctly and then focus on keeping your truck light for better gas mileage.

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.

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