8 Tips for DIY Suspension Projects

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For many people, the chance to work on their own truck is a thrill. Unfortunately, few of us come out of the gate knowing all of the ins and outs of these projects, and that can be inefficient at best and dangerous at worst. Plus, most of us don’t have a hydraulic lift and armory of air-tools at our disposal, which can make suspension work quite a brutal endeavor.

DIY Lift Kit Install Tips

While working on your vehicle’s suspension system isn’t exactly complicated, it’s almost always inconvenient. Here are some tips that will save you time and heartache.


Here are several tips that you may find useful when you are working on your truck’s suspension.

Tool Lending Programs

Suspension work often requires specialized tools: tie rod splitters, spring compressors, ball joint presses, and the like. Why buy these when you can borrow them from your local AutoZone or Advance Auto Parts? Both of these chains, and others as well, have “loan-a-tool” programs for seldom-used tools like these. Typically you’ll need to put down a deposit that’s roughly equivalent to the tool’s retail price, and you get your money back when you return it. You can typically keep the tool for days on end, if necessary, since you’ve effectively paid for it already. It’s the next best thing to having a friend with a commercial garage.

Investing in a 3/4″ Ball Joint Separator

If you’re working on your truck’s front suspension, chances are you’re going to need to disconnect tie rods and/or ball joints from their spindles. Most auto parts stores can lend you a pickle fork, but one of these can destroy the rubber boots that protect these components from road grime – bad news if you want to reuse the parts. You’ll have a much easier time with a pivoting ball joint separator that accepts a 3/4″ socket or wrench. Not only will it save your boots, it will keep you from having to wail away on a pickle fork for half an afternoon. Honestly it’s one of the best tool investments I’ve made. Harbor Freight sells these for about $20 (part number 99849).

Securing Your Undercarriage

How many times have you had a part fall and smack you in the head? Stop rubbing your noggin. Instead of wedging parts into a seemingly secure nook, tie them in place with bungee cords or a zip tie. It’s tough to continue any project with blood in your eye – trust me I know 😉

Choosing Eye and Mouth Protection

Eye protection should be a no-brainer, of course. There is all kinds of oil, grime, and nastiness under your truck that you don’t want dripping in your eyes, not to mention falling bolts, nuts, and other parts. In recent years I’ve begun wearing a surgical mask as well. This came after a couple close run-ins with brake dust. Have you ever seen what brake fluid does to a coat of paint? Imagine what that stuff could do to your lungs! A mask can be hot in the summer, and it might not look very cool, but your health comes first.

The Right Type of Gloves

You might think grease underneath your nails is a badge of honor, but your significant other probably doesn’t agree. Gloves are your best bet. Those blue rubber ones they sell at the auto parts store might be fine for changing your oil, but they won’t last long when working underneath your truck. You’ll shred a pair of them every few minutes, and they offer no protection against busted knuckles. Instead, I advise a pair of high-quality gloves from Mechanix or Snap-on. They cost more upfront, but they’re actually cheaper than running through a full box of latex gloves every time you tackle a project.

Breaking Bolts

Where is a large part of your time spend on any suspension project? Breaking rusted nuts loose! The quick and easy solution is to spray them with PB Blaster or some other penetrating lubricant a day ahead of time. Once you have them off, you may be tempted to apply anti-sieze to these nuts and bolts. Be sure to consult your service manual first. In some cases, anti-sieze is not recommended, especially when dealing with suspension components where a loosened bolt could be catastrophic.

Stable Ground to Work on

If you have to work on gravel or dirt, your jacks and stands may be a bit unstable. A handy piece of wood or metal will help. Since neither is going to be available on a reliable basis, you need to provide them yourself. Buy an eight foot 2×12 and cut it to fit your tools. Keep the pieces with your onboard tool kit.

Multiple Levels of Protection

Lastly, always use jack stands! Never rely on your jack alone. Each year, more than 15,000 people are injured in accidents involving hoists, lifts, jacks, or jack stands. If you’ve got the wheels off, lay them on their sides underneath the frame rails. This will give you an extra layer of protection if anything fails. After all, your tires are probably wider than your head 🙂

Hopefully, these tips will help you with your next project. If you have any other tips, feel free to leave us a comment.

Author Taylor Brown is the founder of AutoFoundry.com, a fast-growing automotive community, and he maintains the blog at Keystone Auto Loans, a leading provider of auto financing services. He drives a ’98 4Runner 4×4, and his latest project is restoring an ’85 BMW 325e from junker to daily-driver.

Filed Under: Tundra Lift Kits


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  1. Mickey says:

    Suspensions are hard to work on. Ask any Dodge owner about ball joints. They become experts in just a few years.

  2. BriBri says:

    These are good tips.

    Another one I would offer up is this: If you have a lot of suspension travel, prior to jacking up the vehicle, run a chain around the lower control arm or axle and attach to one of the higher-up spring coils or other static mounting points. This will enable the tire to lift up along with the vehicle body, so that you can remove the wheel easily. Once the wheel is off, you can remove the chain (carefully) and do whatever suspension work needs to be done. This works just as well when changing a tire during off-road activities.

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