I’ve always been a truck guy. I’ve had one since I was 17. I don’t know why, but I’ve just always loved the look. And there is so much storage space! My first was a ’78 F-150 with a 400M. Man I miss that truck. I sold it last year to make sure we had enough money to cover closing costs for our current home.
When I got back from Iraq, I had my eyes on a ’02 FX4 in Raleigh. This bad boy had a 6″ suspension and 3″ body Fabtech lift with 38 x 15.50 Super Swampers. Ridiculous. On our first date, I had to lift Lisa up into it. I’m not sure which one of us enjoyed that more. Probly Lisa ha ha.
When we had Emma Jo, I decided to give my FJ to Lisa and we traded her car in and got a ’10 F-150 XLT. I loved the color.
Tough guy in front of the truck, right? My buddy said I should get the Supercrew but I didn’t want it. The Crew was plenty room for me. But I soon realized a Crew is not the easiest thing to get one of these in and out of.
So after only a year, I started looking around for a replacement Supercrew. I knew I wanted another FX4 model, and was able to find a ’09 with lower miles than my ’10.
My latest, an F 150 FX4 Supercrew is so very different from my first pickup. How far we’ve come in just 31 years of comparison. This truck actually has air conditioning, which was an option my ’78 lacked. And let’s talk about automatic rear window. What an improvement. I’ve done some things here and there to the truck since buying it. I installed a cold air intake. I installed a throttle body spacer. I had flowmasters put on. I bought a tuner. It’s a good truck with a lot of power. But there’s one thing that Ford did not improve on in 31 years. Its stock tires. Especially the option I had. 20″ rims paired with Pirelli road tires have no place on a truck. Especially an FX4. So this mistake was really getting down to the end of its life.
With winter coming, and the tread life nearing its end, it was time. I was already slipping in the rain when goin’ uphill. I spent several months trying to decide on everything. I knew I wanted something other than 20″ rims, and I knew I wanted all terrain tires. It’s amazing the price difference between tires for 20s vs 18s or 17s. I was wanting some bigger tires. Not like my 38″ swampers. I’m past that point in my life, and so is my wallet. But the size I wanted, bigger than 33 and smaller than 38, wouldn’t fit on the truck stock. I needed to have a slight lift. I chose to have a leveling kit to level out to rake in the front in the process of lifting.
I searched and searched the forums and found the most common and well spoken of one for Fords was one from a company called Auto Spring. There were three kinds of leveling kits I found. Polyurethane, aluminum, and steel. Polyurethane can have a tendency to squeak and even compress or degrade. I had no desire to put poly spacers into a completely metal suspension on a heavy truck. Aluminum seemed a better choice, but still will corrode and break down over time being that it’s rubbed against the steel suspension. So that leaves the steel, the same construction as the suspension. Made sense to me.
Another reason why I went with the Auto Spring is the way it is installed. Some kits require placing the spacer between the upper and the strut. This means you have to disassemble the spring/shock assembly. You also end up compressing your springs and in return always have them under load. This will change the ride characteristics among other things. With Auto Spring, you don’t have to disassemble the assembly and you end up basically moving the assembly downward and the whole suspension upward. The spring load is good and the ride isn’t changed. In addition, the rear blocks are steel replacement blocks. That means you take out the stock block and replace it, not “double-stacking” which can be very dangerous. And the replacement u-bolts are rated almost twice as high than the stock u-bolts. They’ve also got this patent pending offset thing goin on. It helps prevent the upper control arm from hitting the coil spring (that metal on metal sound) when hitting speed bumps or washboards on those gravel roads.
And here’s the best part: the kit is manufactured in the U.S.A.
Now I was goin with the 2 1/2″ front and 1 1/2″ rear kit. With stock wheel width, they claim a 35″ tire will clear. So it seemed like the kit to get. And for just under $200, I felt it was a great alternative to a full out lift kit. No new shocks, no super expensive kit, no extra cost for adjustments from a big lift. And of course, no huge drop in my already less than awesome gas mileage.
The next thing was the rims. This is what I stressed over the most. You can get super carried away when looking at rims. There are a lot of really cool ones out there. But the problem was that the bigger tires I was looking to get were gonna possibly rub when making sharp turns. I decided to go with 17″ rims for several reasons. They’re cheaper, the tires are cheaper, and there’s more tire and less wheel, which is a look I like. Not to mention safer when off-roading and all. I knew the leveling kit would clear the diameter of the tire I was going to get. But the width was another thing all together. I had to narrow my wheel selection down to wheels with an offset of between 18-21mm. Any more or less and I’d run the chance of either rubbing, or sticking out obnoxiously far past the wheel well. That took out a lot that I loved. Now for the tires I was wanting, 315/70R17, I had to stay within the recommended width wheel as well. This makes it even more difficult. After spending weeks looking at American Racing, Helo, Fuel, KMC, Moto Metal, etc, I finally snapped out of it and got on Discount Tire Direct and found the cheapest style that I actually liked. And I actually really liked ones I picked at a fraction of the price of the others. The V-Tec Raptor.
The final thing was deciding on a tire. I have had BFG A/Ts on all but one truck I owned up to this point. I love that tire. But a friend (who actually helped me put the leveling kit on) recently bought the new Cooper Discoverer A/T3 tires and I really liked the look. They rode without the loud hum or knobby feel from other aggressive all terrains. And surprisingly, they have a 55k mile warranty! Pair that with the fact that they’re cheaper than the BFGs, and I made the decision to try them out. I still went with 315/70R17 for the size.
So I ordered everything except the tires I would have my local place do. I got the stuff in the mail and had to stare at it all in my garage until I was able to start working on it that weekend. It was torture.
So my buddy and I went over the folowing Saturday to my father-in-law’s house and got to work. I know there are a select few this may apply to, but for those of y’all who have F-150s, here’s a link to an extremely well-put together write-up on how to do the Auto Spring lift. This guy took the time to take pics and go into depth on the steps where Auto Spring thoroughly fails to do. It made life so much easier for us. We finished in about 7 hours. Be warned: lots and lots of muscles will be used in quite awkward positions. We threw back on the silly Pirellis until I’d be able to take the truck to my tire shop the following Monday. It was a good thing Lisa’s father had a poster of her motivate me…
Monday came around and I nervously dropped off the truck at my place TCI. I was still really nervous I’d be forced to go with a smaller size due to rubbing. I was prepared to trim a little of the valance off, but not the actual bumper. Chris Williams is the guy I always talk to there, and he assured me that I’d be able to take a look with one tire on and make the call. So after a couple hours, he called for me to come back and look. We turned the tire fully and had probly 1 1/2″ of play. I was so relieved. And the tire and wheel combo was so awesome. Although it looked pretty awesome on my truck, I needed to see all four to make a final call of whether I was satisfied or not.
After work I went back to pick the truck up. I can honestly say that I was completely satisfied with everything that was done. I loved the all black wheels, the tires were amazing, and the leveling kit gave an aggressive stance while leveling out the rake in the front. The only thing left is a lot of snow to play in.