Lift (Your Car) Responsibly
Summer is right around the corner, and it's impossible not to hear the call of adventure. All over Colorado, people are lacing up their hiking boots, loading up their car's rooftop storage, and texting 'wyd?' to those forgotten pre-COVID outdoor buddies. Summer also marks peak off-road season, with plenty of new drivers using Colorado's great summer weather and scenic trails as a chance to get into this adventure hobby. Naturally, this means an increase in drivers who are installing lift kits on their vehicles.
There are few things more empowering than driving a lifted jeep or truck. Sitting at a higher elevation fundamentally changes how you see the road; drives that would be stressful from the cabin of a compact Subaru now seem like comfortable cruises. Additionally, the lighter, floatier nature of your ride means you can spend less time worrying about specific turns and more time enjoying the road.
Once you have a lift kit installed, however, there's still one more important step before tearing up the (off) road with your newly minted off-roading vehicle: getting your car regeared.
Properly regearing your car after installing a lift kit is vital for preventing off-road breakdowns, keeping your drivetrain intact, and maintaining the overall long-term health of your car. Let's take a closer look!
Installing a lift kit gives your car a higher clearance while allowing for further upgrades, such as bigger tires, new shocks, and upgraded bumpers. The heightened ride also gives you a real sense of power (and a workout!) when you're clambering to get into the driver's cabin of a car that feels like it's a solid four feet off the ground, but that's more of an understood benefit than an advertised one.
In addition to the height, handling, and power that a lift kit provides, it also changes the stress that driving puts on your car's drivetrain. Modern cars are incredibly fine-tuned to drive optimally at factory specifications, but any aftermarket specifications can interfere with this. Under normal circumstances, most cars feature a factory gear ratio somewhere within the 3.55-4.10 range. Basically, this is a measurement of how many times the ratio ring and pinion in the vehicle's driveshaft need to spin in order to turn your wheels one full rotation. For example, a vehicle with a gear ratio of 4.0 means that your gear needs to spin four times for a complete tire rotation.
When you install a lift kit, you'll be subjecting your drivetrain to stress that it isn't calibrated for. As factory gear ratios aren't designed to handle these changes, you may find it difficult to engage your final gear ratios, leading to a noticeable decrease in vehicle performance. In addition to decrease handling, this can also seriously impact your car's fuel economy. If your ratios can't properly handle the adjusted stress, you'll be seeing the difference in decreased power and performance coupled with higher gas costs for driving.
That's where regearing comes in. Simply put, this is the process of having a shop re-work and re-install your vehicle's gears in order to make sure that you're getting an optimal drive. Doing this will bring your car's drivetrain in line with the new considerations posed by your lift kit instead of continuing to operate off of the manufacturer's default consideration.
While you can theoretically swap your car's gears out at home, we recommend doing your research and taking your vehicle to a garage that specializes in lifted vehicles. If this article is the first that you've heard of gear-ratios, then take a moment to imagine how much fun it would be to further study their finer points on the fly with your vehicle's performance riding on the result. Your car will thank you!
Are you planning to get in some off-roading this summer? If so, what are some of the things you're doing to prepare? Sound off in the comments.