Fitment: Suzuki SJ and Samurai
Pic: Lift shackles plus bolts and shock relocation mounts.
I would like to write a review on the lift shackles that you see advertised frequently on EBAY from my own experience with them. They claim that no other modifications are needed on standard vehicles but I have found this not to be the case. Just for clarity, I fitted these myself and have used them over a period of approx 10,000 miles and covered some of the harshest terrains in the world, driving through Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
The idea is a very simple one - they replace the existing shackles (the metal clamps that clamp your leaf springs to the body) and because they are longer, they lift the vehicle by whatever the stated amount is (typically 2-4 inches). The idea in itself is great - more clearance for bigger tyres and the body lifted off the ground to give more clearance. You will not need extended brake lines.
Having bough a set, I found the quality to be very good - they are well made out of heavy-duty steel and chances of breaking the shackles is probably quite slim. Fitment is easy and you only need a jack and a few spanners. However, there are inherent issues with them...
1. You will need to adjust the steering geometry and there are no two ways about this - lifting the car 2 inches higher will affect the angles so unless you have the equipment to do it, you will need to visit a garage. Without this adjustment it was very unstable on the road - it would follow every rut and steering was odd to say the least!
2A: Lifting the leaf spring on one side has the effect of tilting the front axle forward - not an issue on the rear, but on the front it again makes the handling very odd. I found that the only way to get this corrected was to have a wedge shape piece of metal between the axle and the leaf - correcting the tilt of the axle. The wedge needs to have a locating hole drilled into it for the leaf to sit on. If you do go down this route, you will need to tighten up the U bolts more than usual – otherwise the wedge will slide (and the axle with it) I obtained these from the suppliers of the lift shackles. In hindsight, I should have welded the wedge in place (not to the leaf, but to the clamp).
2B: If you are using the wedge in 2A, you will need longer U bolts as the standard ones will not reach all the way through the leaf and the wedge (they just about reach on the passenger side but you will not have much bolt to spare!). If you cannot make the bolts yourself, find a local engineering firm to do it – mine cost approx £20 to be made but need to be strong (see 2A:)
Pic: Fitting the Shim. Second pic shows why longer bolts are needed (passenger side).
3. It is recommended that you relocate the shocks by 2 inches, or get extended shocks; otherwise you will be stretching the capabilities of the standard ones. Something they typically fail to tell you is a good idea in the listings. Shock relocation mounts are not too expensive and easy to fit. Also obtained from the suppliers of the leaf shackles.
Pic: shock relocation
4. You will notice that when you tighten the bolts on the shackles where there is a bush, you will see that the old bushes splay out (if you have fitted a set you will know what I mean!). New bushes would work better and even better than that would be some poly bushes as they don’t squish as much as the rubber ones. This does not happen with the bushes on the standard shackles because of the design.
5A. The main problem is the fact that it stretches the leaf springs and just by observation you can see that the leafs are stressed. If you are just using your Suzuki on-road or just some mild off-roading then this shouldn't be a problem. However, if you give it something very tough, over a period of time it WILL snap your front springs (rears will be fine) - I can guarantee that! New leaf springs will last older than old ones. I have not tried it, but uprated heavy-duty leaf springs could completely solve the problem.
Pics: Lift shackles fitted
5B. I had a thought that if you use the same length shackle on both sides of the leaf spring, so not just on the outer part of the leaf, then you will not be stretching the leaf spring to meet the mount which will mean you will have no extra stress on the leaf spring. It will also mean you would not have the axle tilt problem as in 2A. If anyone has tried this with success then please let me know!
My conclusion is that these are a good fitting product that will lift your Suzuki as it states. They are fine for mild use once you have corrected the steering geometry, which they fail to mention. But if you are looking to do some very rough off-roading then save yourself some time and get yourself a proper lift kit.
I hope this review clears up a few things for people that are thinking of buying them and if anyone has any comments I would be happy to hear them.