ATV lift kits are not only considered a popular mod but also an off-roading staple by recreational riders and enthusiasts. They offer an enhanced capability to tackle challenging terrain, increase ground clearance, and improve overall performance. But like any aftermarket modification, ATV lift kits have their highs and lows — most of which we’ll cover in this guide.
An ATV lift kit shares almost the same advantages and setbacks as its automotive counterpart. Its pros include enhanced off-road capability, customization, and increased ground and tire clearance, while its cons include an impaired center of gravity, stability, and overall handling.
In this article, let’s explore the different ATV lift kits, their lowdowns, and shared pros and cons. This information will help you get acquainted with all your options and make an informed decision (should you be in the middle of choosing the best lift kit for your four-wheeler).
ATV Lift Kits — An Overview
In two of my not-so-recent articles, I extensively discussed the lift kits off-roaders can install in their vehicles. And while those guides pertained to 4x4s, the options for ATVs are not too far from those recommendations. Perhaps the only difference is that we’ll cover options I haven’t previously mentioned in my lift kit guides.
To cite examples, the below ATV lift kits are meant to do the following:
- Suspension lift kits raise the ground clearance by 2—6 inches by altering suspension components.
- Body lift kits increase the space between the vehicle’s chassis and body by 1—3 inches via spacer blocks and pucks placed in between these two.
As for leveling kits, they can suffice as an upgrade if your only goal happens to be one of the following:
- Improve ground clearance without increasing the ATV’s height
- Offset sagging (but not deteriorated) suspension components
- Add a snow plow (view on Amazon) to your four-wheeler
- Support heavy aftermarket bumpers and recovery winches (view on Amazon)
Otherwise, you’ll be better off installing a standard lift kit if these are your needs:
- Need a considerable improvement in ground clearance
- Have a utility-oriented machine frequently used for hauling or ranch work
- Dramatically improve overall handling and performance
- Better equip your quad for extreme off-roading activities
- Seek a wider array of customization options
If you’ve read those two other articles, you already know all these. So then, what options do ATVs have that are considered normal add-ons on 4×4 vehicles? It’s these three:
Portal Axle Lift Kits (or PALK)
These ATV lift kits employ specialized gear hubs at the wheel hubs to raise the entire wheel and axle assembly by 4—8 inches. This lift offers substantial ground clearance improvements, besting a full-on body lift kit.
In addition to significant gains in ground clearance, PALKs make ATVs better suited for extreme off-roading, deep mud, and rocky terrain. However, expect their installation process to be more complex and expensive than other lift options. They can also affect your machine’s center of gravity and handling characteristics, so be warned.
Replacing stock with high-clearance A-arms is another milder approach owners can take. Switching to this type of component lends to 1—3 inches of lift and enables ATVers to enhance ground clearance without significantly altering the machine’s suspension geometry or breaking the bank.
The process may require additional mods, such as longer axles or tie rods, to maintain proper wheel alignment. But once completed, this upgrade would transform your brute into a much more capable rock crawler and trail beast.
Tire Size and Wheel Offset
Lastly, off-roaders have the option to tinker with their tire-and-wheel assembly. Yes, this isn’t exclusive to ATVs. However, the gains brought about by having larger tires and a corresponding wheel offset are more apparent on these machines than on full-sized vehicles.
Depending on how large a tire is installed, the increase in ground clearance could be comparable to a more complex lift type. On average, each inch increase in tire diameter is equivalent to approximately half an inch of added ground clearance.
Are Lift Kits Good on an ATV?
Now that we’ve quickly run through the seven different lift options you can have on your ATV, it’s time to answer the question, “Is installing a lift kit going to be good for your four-wheeler and you?”
Ease of Installation
Even if your chosen lift kit is of the right fit, properly installed, and bereft of alignment and clearance issues, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the installation process will be a piece of cake. Of all the options in the preceding section, installing body lift and portal axle lift kits will prove hard to undertake (especially if it’s your first time doing so). Heck — even going for higher-clearance A-arms (view on Amazon) will require some skill!
That said, the benefit of a lift kit installation will hinge on your desired outcome. If it’s improved visual appeal that you’re after, there are other ways to pimp your machine without having to labor so much. But if it’s enhancing your quad’s overall handling and off-roading capabilities, then I’d say it’s worth the tedious task!
In principle, suspension lift kits for cars and ATVs follow the same pattern — the better the gains and the more complex the system is, the more components included and the higher the price tag.
But before you even think that the high cost of these kits is driven by capitalism, think again. Since that seems to drive all things consumerism-related, there are a different set of reasons behind a lift kit’s high price:
- Complexity — ATV lift kits are intricate and require precision engineering and manufacturing.
- Durability — They require high-quality materials and construction to be rugged and withstand extreme stressors during off-roading.
- Performance — As they are meant to improve an ATV’s off-roading capabilities and overall performance, higher-end lift kits warrant top-tier engineering and testing to ensure realistic performance gains.
- Specialization — Portal axle lift kits, in particular, are uncommon and often have limited production runs, hence the higher price tag.
A 2-inch suspension lift kit comprises new springs, shocks, control arms, steering components, and blocks or spacers. In contrast, body lift and leveling kits generally consist of spacers or pucks, essential hardware, and brackets to elevate the body from its frame. Understandably, these inclusions explain the pricing of ATV lift kits — which could be anywhere from $50 to $4,000+ (or more if outsourced to a qualified technician).
The thing with ATV lift kits is that the more pronounced the clearance gains, the more uncomfortable the machine might be when riding. But before you disagree, hear me out — I have several reasons for saying this.
First, ATVs are inherently rugged and bumpy, and no amount of clearance or fancy suspension components can change that. Second, higher clearances tend to exacerbate these characteristics. Third, some lift kits that provide massive clearance gains tend to significantly alter an ATV’s center of gravity — impacting the machine’s overall performance and stability.
Of course, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all description. If anything, these statements are mostly true for portal axle and higher-end kits offering a lift of 4 inches and above. Ultimately, a balanced approach to the mods you have in mind will turn your lift kit into a win-win situation for both your ATV and you.
Of the ATV lift kits available to riders, three options provide the best tire clearance. The first two are suspension and body lift kits. The portal axle lift kit (PALK) completes the trio.
Although it’s clear that suspension lift kits are better than body lift kits due to how an increase in ground clearance is achieved, there seems to be contestation for the top spot between suspension lift kits and PALKs. Both allow considerable ground clearance improvements and are ideal for extreme off-roading environments. But from the looks of it, the only deal breaker between the two would be the actual kit purchased and its compatibility with a given ATV model.
This is where PALKs fall short. Portal axle lift kits have more restricted options, as they’re typically designed for specific trims or OEMs only. Moreover, the portal gear hubs included in the kit must perfectly match the receiving machine’s wheel hubs and axle specifications — lest the lift kit won’t work.
Suspension list kits are more versatile in this regard. But they’re still not as universally compatible with off-roading wheelers as body lift kits. Still, they come with multiple options for different ATV makes and models, allowing for a more customized fit and better accommodation of tire size upgrades. Personally, however, the maximum tire size anyone should move up to is 35 inches — for the sake of the machine, the rider, and other enthusiasts.
Suspension lift kits, in particular, can lead to driveshaft issues (especially if done incorrectly). The reason is that the driveshaft angle may become more acute due to the installation. If the angle becomes too extreme, it can result in binding or accelerated wear on driveshaft components (among other things).
Sometimes, the installation may be spot on, but the desired lift height is beyond the ATV’s limits. When this mismatch happens, added stress is placed on the U-joints (view on Amazon), eventually leading to premature wear or the component’s potential failure. That said, restraint should be exercised when deciding on a lift kit — similar to tire clearance.
Impact on Handling and Performance
None of the ATV lift kits available in the market are exempt from altering the machine’s stability and handling mannerisms (especially in off-camber situations) — they all affect the quad’s center of gravity in some shape or form. The main difference between each kit is how far an ATV deviates from its original suspension geometry after being installed with an ATV lift kit.
A suspension lift kit (view on Amazon), for instance, preserves an ATV’s factory suspension geometry as much as possible despite being able to provide the quad substantial clearance gains. In comparison, a portal axle lift kit shifts the machine’s center of gravity upward and away from the original equilibrium point.
The main difference is the execution of the lift. Suspension lift kits achieve this by modifying relevant components. Meanwhile, PALKs utilize specialized gear hubs at the wheel hubs to raise the four-wheeler’s entire wheel and axle assembly. Other lift options, like control A-arms and wheel offset, don’t have as significant of an impact on the center of gravity as the more intricate kits do.
As mentioned earlier, body lift kits (in addition to tire size upgrades and wheel offset) are the most universally compatible ATV lift kits. They primarily involve raising the body from the frame using spacers and brackets. This method avoids significant alterations to the stock suspension geometry and has little to no impact on suspension design.
Moreover, body lift kits typically don’t affect the machine’s center of gravity or handling characteristics, allowing for improved but reasonable tire clearance without compromising stability or ride comfort.
Inversely, suspension and portal axle lift kits are the most restricted. They are often intricate — sometimes even warranting extra mods for the lift kit to be retrofitted in a given ATV.
Fortunately, there’s huge aftermarket support for owners. It offers many customization options, enabling folks to choose the right lift kit for their needs. The seven lift kit options mentioned here cater to performance goals like improved clearance, better off-road performance, and fitting larger tires (to name a few).
While there are many advantages to aftermarket ATV lift kits, there are also considerable downsides. Among these drawbacks is the variability in product quality and compatibility. Since numerous OEMs and brands produce these kits, not all of them hold their products to the same standards as more expensive options. Hence, these alternatives may not work well with certain ATV models.
Another potential concern is the cost. While tire and control arms replacements are still on the affordable end of the price spectrum, high-quality ATV lift kits with advanced features can be pretty pricey. This is especially true for lift kits with inclusions like suspension upgrades or extended axles.
Shared Benefits and Drawbacks
- Enhanced ground clearance and water fording ability
- Increased traction
- Larger tire compatibility
- Improved off-road capability
- Better approach and departure angles
- Protection from trail hazards
- Improved handling in deep snow
- Enhanced aesthetics and vehicle stance
- Altered equilibrium point or center of gravity
- Installation and maintenance costs
- Compatibility and quality
- Impaired stability and handling (for excessive lift increases)
- Added strain on drivetrain, braking, and steering systems
- Higher propensity to rollover
- Lift kit limitations for certain ATV models
- Reduced ride comfort (particularly with substantial lifts or subpar kits)
Most Recommended ATV Lift Kits
- Super ATV Polaris RZR S 1000 3″ Lift Kit
- High Lifter 2″ Signature Series Suspension Lift Kit (view on Amazon)
- Rough Country 3″ Lift Kit for 2017-2022 Polaris Ranger XP 1000
- QuadBoss 2″ Lift Kit
- Extreme ATV Lift Kits
- 2019-2023 CFMoto UForce 1000 & 1000 XL 2″ Suspension Lift Kit
Conclusion — ATV Lift Kits Pros and Cons
ATV lift kits offer exciting possibilities for off-road enthusiasts — with benefits like enhanced ground clearance, improved performance, and personalization options. However, they also come with considerations such as altered center of gravity and costs.
When considering a lift kit for your ATV, carefully review the pros and cons and choose a kit that aligns with your needs and riding style. More importantly, always prioritize safety and compatibility to ensure a thrilling, secure off-road adventure.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.