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Lifted and Leveling Struts vs. Strut Spacers - Pros, Cons, and Risks

Diagram: Adjustable Height Struts Compared to Strut Spacers

Pros and Cons of Strut Spacers

There are pros and cons to each option, the biggest factor for people going with a spacer is perceived cost vs a new set of struts that may do the same. Spacers are also very popular amongst new truck owners who just want to level the vehicle without replacing struts that dont have much life on them yet. Besides those significant advantages of ease and cost, there are also cons to such a system compared to leveling struts.

  • Pro - Strut disassembly not required, coil spring compressor not required
  • Pro - Maintains more of a factory ride compared to leveling struts that pre-load the coil spring to achieve lift
  • Pro - Can be found for very inexpensive online, most of these products are all made from solid steel or billet aluminum, whether $50 or $200 a pair.
  • Con - Does not increase suspension capability offroad
  • Con - Loss to downtravel, more risk to the strut since the bottom of the strut becomes the limiting strap to the lower control arm drooping down.

Strut Spacers are Best For: Daily Drivers that see some light off-roading

Strut spacer prior to installation into vehicle
broken tacoma strut from bottoming out
Spacer vs Strut

Pros and Cons of Adjustable Height Struts

Leveling struts, lifted struts, or adjustable height struts, all mean basically the same thing. On these struts, there is a coil spring collar that can sit at different heights on the shock body, either through a collar that changes orientation (Pro Comp), or different grooves that the coil spring collar sits in (Bilstein). By changing the bottom mounting of the coil spring, and keeping the same top mounting position, this results in the coil spring being pre-loaded (compressed) prematurely, and when the vehicle weight sits on that new compressed coil spring and strut tower, the vehicle will squat less than it would on non-compressed (loaded) springs.

  • Pro - Increases suspension travel
  • Pro - Doesn't compromise droop travel like a spacer, little to not risk of busting the lower shock mount
  • Pro - Refreshes ride dynamics provided by the new shock absorbers
  • Con - Sometimes the same price as billet or steel strut spacers ($200-300)
  • Con - Installation is more difficult if installing only the strut, coil spring compressor required

Adjustable Height Struts are Best For: More serious offroad rigs that need to maintain full and proper shock absorber articulation (travel)


Ride-Height Adjustable Struts account for the shortcomings found in spacer kits:

Leveling Struts vs. Strut Spacers

Suspension Up-Travel

Full stock suspension up-travel is maintained with Ride-Height Adjustable Struts installed.

Up-travel is restricted when the shock assembly bottoms out with the strut extension spacer installed.

Leveling Struts vs. Strut Spacers

Suspension Down-Travel

Ride-Height Adjustable Struts prevent over extension of the suspension.

Strut extension can created extended down-travel causing possible damage to ball joints, CV joints, and driveline components.


Bottom Line

If you're trying to gain more clearance for a wheel and tire combo, and dont do much offroading or aggressive terrain, spacers will work. If you need the clearance for wheels and tires, and you definitely plan on offroading or exploring off the beaten path, grab new struts and shocks for the leveling kit & improved ride control.