Cranking the Torsion Bars vs Installing a Leveling Kit

Duramax Leveling Kit vs. Cranking Torsion Bars

Crank It or Level It
When it comes to leveling your truck, there is one common question that comes up: “Should I save money and crank up the torsion keys, or should I fork out the cash for a full leveling kit?”

There are plenty of opinions out there…

My answers come from over 20 years of experience in the automotive industry and specifically from my hands-on experience in the aftermarket and customizing end of the industry, with an emphasis on suspension.

This post is a follow up to my last blog article,  Replacing Torsion Keys vs Cranking Stock Keys. Again, I'll use the GM IFS (independent front suspension) torsion bar equipped trucks as an example.

In my previous post, I discussed cranking up your torsion bars using the factory/stock adjusting keys vs replacing them with aftermarket leveling keys. They both produce similar results.  The only difference is the amount of lift you will get on some GM truck models using aftermarket leveling keys.

The overall ride quality and suspension angles will be the same using either method. Yes, you can level your truck this way and for the most part this is how a good number of trucks are leveled. In my opinion, it’s just not the right way to do it.

Just to be clear, no matter what leveling method you decide, they all require some adjustment to the torsion keys. This adjustment will not change the spring rate and cause a stiffer ride. The stiffer ride is caused by the other affected suspension components, and can be corrected through the different stages of leveling kits I discuss below.

Stages of Leveling Kits

In comparison to cranking up your torsion keys, leveling kits tend to come in stages when you are looking to purchase them. Each stage has an added number of components, or improved components, to get your truck level.

The stages are usually 1-3 depending on the company offering the kit. I’m going to use Dmax Store’s kits as a reference to give you an idea of what to expect between the different stages.

Stage 1

We will start with the Stage 1 Leveling Kit. This kit consists of a set of new aftermarket torsion keys, and shock spacers for the shocks that are currently equipped on your truck. This will be the least expensive kit and will help improve one common issue when leveling your truck; The over-extension of your front shocks.

As you turn the adjusters for the new torsion keys and raise the front of the vehicle, the factory shocks will be close to the max extension level, give or take a half inch, depending on the shock.

The shock extensions re-position the shocks giving you the added length needed for a longer shock travel. This also helps by returning some of the factory ride quality and you are still limited by the factory upper control arms.

Stage 2

Your next option would be to progress to a Stage 2 kit.  This kit will add new aftermarket upper control arms which have a design feature that re-aligns the upper ball joint, correcting the position for the added lift.

The upper control arms are also designed to be stronger.  They come with either a boxed or tubular design, have new improved upper ball joints in some cases, and will help to keep the upper control arms from bottoming/drooping out.

This helps a bit more with your ride quality in conjunction with the shock extensions by keeping the proper suspension geometry throughout the travel of the front suspension.  This kit is a definite improvement over the Stage 1 kit, but I suggest going a bit further with the Stage 3 kit.

Stage 3

DMAXLVLSTAGE3FOX-stage-3-gm-01-10-dmaxstore-leveling-kit-fox-shox The next natural step would be the Stage 3 Leveling Kit.  This kit adds four aftermarket shocks combined with new upper control arms, and leveling keys.

This kit not only gives you the proper ball joint and upper control arm alignment, but also is a significant improvement on your ride quality.

If you are seriously considering leveling your truck, than this is the kit I would highly recommend.

In most cases the shocks that come with the Stage 3 kit are either Bilsteins or Fox Shocks.  My personal choice would be the new style Fox Shocks.  Since the re-designed Fox’s came out, I believe the ride quality is superior.

Keep in mind you might see other stages of kits out there from other companies.  For example, Cognito adds a pitman idler support kit, and calls theirs a Stage 4.  Basically Stages 1-3 are the basic leveling kit components.  The rest are just optional add-ons.

Let’s Be Clear
I’m not recommending going with the Stage 3 kit because it’s the most expensive, it's because of the components included with the kit.  They combine to solve the individual issues you encounter when leveling the front of your truck.

This kit, installed, makes for a great looking and riding truck, not to mention the larger tire size you will now be able to fit. In this case, it’s worth the money invested. The best advice is always, “Do it once and do it right.”

Of course, the options are yours. Now you know enough to make an informed decision.

Always have your truck aligned at a reputable alignment shop after altering the ride height of your truck, so that you are not chewing up your sweet tires, and you’re not prematurely wearing out suspension and steering parts.

Duramax 2001-2010 2500-3500HD:

Part# DMAXLVLSTAGE1 Dmax Store Stage 1 Leveling Kit

Part# DMAXLVLSTAGE2 Dmax Store Stage 2 Kit

Part#DMAXLVLSTAGE3BILSTEIN Dmax Store Stage 3 Kit w/Bilstein

Part# DMAXLVLSTAGE3FOX Dmax Store Stage 3 Kit w/Fox

Duramax 2011-2016 2500-3500HD:

Part# DMAXSTAGE1LVL-LML Dmax Store Stage 1 Leveling Kit w/Fox

Part# DMAXSTAGE2LVL-LML Dmax Store Stage 2

Part#  DMAXSTAGE3LVL-LML   Dmax Store Stage 3 Kit w/Fox

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