This is the second part of The Ranger Owner’s Guide to Getting a Lift, my how-to series on how to give your Ford Ranger or Mazda B-Series some extra height. In this chapter, we’ll have a look at the Superlift K358 kit and what you need before starting to take your truck apart.This post is part of a full series on lifting your late model Ford Ranger or Mazda B-Series:
- Chapter 1: Lift Basics
- Chapter 2: The Superlift K358 Kit
- Chapter 3: Wheels & Tires
- Chapter 4: Coilover Conversion Overview & Planning
- Chapter 5: Leaf Spring Swap Overview & Prep
- Chapter 6: Replacing the Leaf Springs
- Chapter 7: Installing the Superlift & Coilovers
- Appendix: Full Shopping List & Budget
The Superlift K358, listed as the ‘4″ Ford Suspension Lift Kit’ for 2000-2011 Rangers, provides most of the hardware required to lift a Ranger 4″ in the front and 3″ in the rear. This is ostensibly because there’s already an extra 1″ of height at the rear for normal pickup truck rake, and many people are looking to level their rides. I’m guessing it’s also a way to keep the kit price down by providing a block-only rear lift.
Although I eventually replaced the rear blocks with new Skyjacker springs, this kit is really the only reasonably-priced option for a true front suspension lift on the IFS. As seen in Figures 1 and 2 in Chapter 1, it works by relocating the entire front axle and suspension 4″ further away below the truck’s frame.
For the front lift, it provides:
- Brackets for lowering the front differential / axle assembly
- Brackets for lowering the lower control arm mounting points
- Taller steering knuckles for bridging the new distance between the upper control arms (UCAs) and lower control arms (LCAs)
- Longer, stronger sway bar links
- Brackets for lowering bump stops to meet the repositioned LCAs at full compression (these keep you from blowing out your CV joints)
- Brackets for repositioning the front brake lines so they still reach the brakes
- New longer shocks
For the rear lift, it provides:
- 3″ blocks
- Longer u-bolts
- Brackets to lower the bump stops
- New longer shocks
Extra Needed Parts
You need a few extra items beyond the basic kit. I won’t count the wheels and tires, coilover conversion and such here because they aren’t strictly necessary to install the lift. Superlift also sells an optional skid plate. While this is a cool and useful part, it is not necessary and can be added at any time later on without taking anything apart.
Superlift and various Ranger forum members say that the stock front driveshaft on a Ranger doesn’t survive more than 20K miles after the kit is installed. This is because it’s has a tulip-style articulation at one end, not designed for the degree of angle with the re-located axle. Superlift sells a replacement driveshaft for about $450-500, though many forum readers have used modified Explorer driveshafts to achieve the same end for much less money, though with more effort.
You’ll also need to buy the shock boots (dust covers) separately as these are not included with the kit. These will help your shocks last longer by keeping junk away from the sliding shafts. Plus, you can pick the colour of your choice. These go for anywhere from $4-8 each. You’ll need 4 if you’re NOT putting the coilovers on at this stage. You’ll only need 2 if you are, because these shock boots won’t fit the coilovers that replace the front shocks when you do away with the torsion bars.
The Superlift Instructions include several steps that apply only to trucks equipped with vacuum-operated hubs (i.e. 2005 and earlier models) and list the following parts you may need to have on hand:
- #F87Z-1177-AA — O-ring for wheel bearing hub-to-knuckle
- #F87Z-1177-BA — O-ring for locking hub-to-wheel bearing hub
- #F87Z-1190-AA — Axle half shaft main seal
Camber Alignment Kit
You may or may not need this, depending on your truck’s model year and whether an alignment shop has already had its way with it. The Superlift kit comes with camber alignment cam washers that require a flat-edge on the upper control arm bolts (cam bolts). My truck didn’t have them and I didn’t know about this detail until install day, when stores were closed. I “made” my own by taking a bench grinder to the factory bolts to give me the flat edge needed to work with the cam washers. This was tedious and time consuming, so if you’re not sure, I recommend buying a kit like the Ingalls 29000, pictured here. You’ll need 1 kit per wheel.
Before you buy the bolts, you can reach up into your truck’s front wheel wells and have a look at the bolts connecting the upper control arm to the frame. Here is the diagram from the Superlift manual, which should help you find the bolt location to check for flat edges if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.
Superlift Shopping List
|Item||Part #||Why||Where To Buy||Quantity||Cost (USD)|
|Total||Not including tax or shipping||$1,900 to $2,000|
|Superlift Ford Ranger 4' Master Kit||K358||This is the core element of the front suspension lift.||I bought mine at Amazon for $1,798 with free shipping but they're not currently showing the part number. This is fine because Summit Racing seems to have it cheaper now (Check their shipping charges, though! This item comes in several very heavy boxes.) Without free shipping, it would have cost over $100.||1||$1,399.95|
|Superlift Ford Ranger / Explorer Front Driveshaft||9636||The stock front driveshaft will fail quickly because of the new angle it has to work at.||Amazon or Summit Racing||1||$499.95|
|These are not included in the kit and can only be installed before the shocks are bolted on. I did not know this when I ordered mine and they were a pain to install.||Summit Racing||2 - if you're doing the coilover conversion immediately|
4 - if you're not doing coilovers.
|Camber Adjustment Kit||Ingalls # 29000 or Specialty Products #87500.||The Superlift kit comes with camber washers that won't work if you don't have flat-edged bolts, which they don't provide in the kit. If you don't buy this, you'll need an angle grinder to flatten the edge of your stock bolts yourself.||Ingalls sells these direct, but they're also available from many other vendors.||2 - (1 kit per front wheel)||$26.94|
This is not what I’d consider an easy install, but with the right tools and help, it’s totally doable and just challenging enough to be fun and rewarding. Despite working a desk job, I would say I have moderate amount of driveway wrenching experience, thanks in large part to the weekend projects my dad and I worked on when I was growing up. I say this to provide some context for my assessment of the difficulty and effort required to install the kit.
You should assess the difficulty for yourself and your own situation before you proceed with this project. Taking your truck apart is the easy part. Putting it back together properly is significantly more challenging. I spent days combing through scattered forum posts all over the web before I felt like I had enough information to take the plunge. The present series of articles is intended to save you most of this trouble, but it won’t hurt to read other folks’ experience with this kit before you order it.
Read The Instructions
In the tech world, we say RTFM. Before you do anything else, download Superlift’s latest instructions from their site and read through the whole thing a couple of times to wrap your head around it. A later article in this series will provide commentary and clarification that should prove useful as well.
You’ll notice that the instructions suggest you have the Ranger shop manual handy. This is good advice. Where the Superlift instructions may glibly assert “remove the [insert impossible-to-reach thingamajig here]”, in some cases you’ll find that this is easier said than done. A good repair manual will fill in the missing information. I used a Haynes repair manual, which goes for about $20. You’ll do even better with the genuine Ford workshop manual, if you can get a hold of one.
Reading through this info is the best way to mentally prepare for the work and make sure you’ve got the right skills and enough time available.
Decide Whether To Do It Yourself
If you’ve never gotten your hands greasy before and you don’t have expert help, consider having the kit installed by a 4×4 shop. I was quoted $500-600 for the labor when I was considering my options, but call around your local area to get a sense of the costs. You’ll need help from another, somewhat skilled and strong, person for some of the tasks (e.g. safely removing the front axle/diff assembly), not to mention access to the right tools and facilities (see below.)
The main reason for doing this yourself, if you can, is the immense sense of satisfaction you’ll be able to derive from asserting that you built your truck up yourself. It really is a fun project if you’re into this kind of thing, and if your skilled assistant happens to be a good buddy, you’ll get a great chance to hang out and shoot the breeze for several hours.
Decide Whether to Also Install Coilovers and Rear Springs
Later articles will describe these projects in detail. If you have the budget and intention to see the lift mods through to a more optimal state, you save a lot of time and money by adding these to the same project and planning for appropriate facility/friend time. Figure on an extra day of effort if you’re going all the way.
You’ll need your basic complement of mechanic’s tools for this to go smoothly. A partial list, from memory:
- 1/4″, 5/8″ and 1/2″ drive ratchet, extension and driver set with both SAE and metric sockets (your truck is metric, the kit is SAE)
- Torque wrench
- Plastic and ball peen hammers
- Screwdrivers, mostly various larger sizes of flathead and Phillips.
- Grease pencil for marking parts
- A compressor and impact wrench + sockets is also going to save you a bunch of time and save your wrists. There are a LOT of nuts and bolts to tighten and loosen with this project
- Various Vice-Grip pliers
- Needle-nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- A drill with a good set of cobalt bits. A stepper bit is always useful.
- Measuring tape for adjusting ride height
You will also need some specialty tools that you’ll want to research and source well in advance of your install.
- Torsion bar unloading tool. Superlift recommends their on 9635 tool, which for around $60 is a pretty good deal.
In my area, these tools are impossible to rent so in hindsight, it would have been worth it for me to buy the Superlift tool. They alternately recommend a T95T-5310-AR from Ford or Kent Moore. The Ford one seems to be going for over $335. This OTC clone is still expensive for such a rarely used tool at $157 on Amazon. Because the Superlift tool wasn’t available at the time I was ordering all my stuff, I found a used ReadyLift Universal Torsion Bar Leveling Tool near Hamilton. This did the trick beautifully for removing the torsion bars, but not for putting them back on; the tool doesn’t fit anymore once you install the Superlift drop brackets. Anyway, get the Superlift 9635 if you can’t rent the T95T-5310-AR. It’s the best and apparently the cheapest tool for the job.
- A 12-ton (or thereabouts) shop press to push the wheel bearing out of the factory steering knuckle and into the Superlift one. I don’t know if you can rent these, but they’re not overly expensive to buy at a couple of hundred bucks and could be used for other projects. If you don’t have one of these, you can just take your steering knuckles to a place that has one and they’ll press the bearings out of the old and into the new for next to nothing. (This is what I did.)
Where you work is also important. You’ll be at this for many, many hours, so access to a garage where you can leave the disassembled truck for at least a couple of days without having to move it would be really nice. I am lucky in that my buddy owns an oil change shop with a hoist in a bay that doesn’t get used very often. I had to drive 5 hours to get there, but it was worth it. Consider the following:
- A hoist: being able to move the truck up and down to a comfortable working height makes a huge difference and will save you a lot of time and pain;
- A level surface (i.e., not a driveway) is necessary for setting the ride height and safer to work on;
- It’s good to have lots of room to move around and lay out removed parts, keeping left and right separate, and out of the way enough that they don’t get kicked around and lost;
- A workbench for tools, parts, etc.;
- Lots of light under the truck;
- Comfortable working temperature (if you’re doing this in the winter time in northern Ontario, a heated garage is a must);
- Ready access to tools. If your buddy has his own set of tools, have him use them while you use yours – you can work simultaneously on both sides of the truck that way without having to share;
- Jacks and jack stands (particularly critical if you don’t have a hoist, but also useful for supporting parts with the hoist). They need to be tall. I got the leaf spring and coilover swaps done with this jack and these jack stands, having a 5-3/4″ to 21″ and a 18-1/8″ to 28″ lift range, respectively.
After the install, you’ll also need to take the truck to an alignment shop (or an alignment rack if you have one) so if you’re in a hurry to drive your truck after the lift kit is on, line this up in advance.
Now that you’ve read up on the project and everything you’re going to need to do it right, go ahead and order your stuff. Google the part numbers and check a few different places; the prices and shipping costs can vary significantly. You also have some luck finding some of the components second hand if you search the forums. Allow for a good amount of lead time, as these large parts ship via ground.
I called around the places in the greater Toronto area that carry these parts and everyone was way more expensive than most online outlets in the US. The approach that worked out cheapest for me was to use a US mailing address service (I used CBI in Niagara Falls) and arrange to have everything shipped there. It let me take advantage of the free shipping offers (continental US only, right?) and in some cases like Amazon.com, they didn’t provide an option to ship to Canada.
Once all the pieces had arrived, I drove to Niagara Falls, Ontario on a Friday evening with my girlfriend where we had a nice dinner and overnight stay, then drove across the border to Niagara Falls, NY on Saturday morning to load up the back of my truck with stuff. CBI charged a small fee for each box and tire. Thanks to NAFTA, there’s no duty charged on items that are made in the USA when brought to Canada, but you do have to pay 13% HST. At the border, make sure you have all your receipts accurately added up and be ready to prove that the stuff was made in the US, because the border guards will look for that. Even after you pay the HST and factor in the gas to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto, it still worked out several hundred dollars cheaper for me to order this way than through Toronto area stores. Note that if you find a way to stay 48 hours or more in the US before coming back with your stuff, you can knock $800 off the taxable amount for each person in the vehicle.
When You Have Your Stuff
Set aside some time in your garage to open every single box and check the parts list against what actually got packed. Do this with plenty of time before your scheduled installation time so you can resolve any missing parts. Seriously. I neglected to do this and lost a lot of time and money as a result. My missing parts misadventure went something like this:
- I stupidly didn’t open the boxes until I had driven to Chelmsford, Ontario, 5 hours away from home, to spend 2 days working in my buddy’s oil change shop.
- I realized on day 1 that the sway bar links were missing from the kit. I phoned Superlift and paid a stupid amount of money for rush delivery of the missing parts so they would arrive while I still had time at my buddy’s place.
- The courier service bungled the job and took an extra day to deliver the parts – I had been forced to put the truck back together without them and drive out to the depot in the middle of nowhere.
- Once I had the parts, I realized they were of a different design than the ones the original kit’s instructions described. It was Sunday, and Superlift tech support was closed.
- I had to drive back home the next day, so I jammed them into place in the best way that I could figure out, while lying on my dad’s gravel driveway in Sudbury.
- Once I got back to Toronto, I finally got the straight goods from Superlift tech support – I had to take the sway bar links out again and reinstall them differently (with sway bar reversed)
Anyway – don’t let this or something similar happen to you. Double-check that you have everything with lots of time to spare before you’re supposed to take your truck apart.
If you’ve done all this, you should be ready to start your Superlift install. Next chapter: Wheels & Tires!