Lifts, Body Lifts, Ride Height, etc...
the Heck Is Legal in Your State?
From The December 2000 Issue of Off-Road Magazine
BY TORI TELLEM
LET'S KICK THIS OFF BY SAYING THAT finding
out what's legal in every state is about as tough as
figuring which one of those whiny, rodent gnawing survivors
would pocket a million bucks. You want to do right by
The Man, but it ain't all that easy to track down the info.
Start with the highway patrol and they'll send you to the
DMV, who will refer you to the offices of Public Safety, who
will recommend that you talk with AAA, who will return you
to the highway patrol.
more passing of the buck in some states than at a banquet at
the Sportsman's Lodge. We even had one state's finest
tell us he didn't have a clue and we should call a local 4x4
shop. But that's nothing like the one who told us we
needed to talk to the attorney general. Right.
We'd like to think
your attorney general is far too busy to take calls from
Billy Joe Bob about his 4x4.
But despite all that,
we still managed to compile the rules of the road. We
burned up the phone lines trying to get all this
information, but you online users might want to start with
Officer.com, which has links to the police and DMV in almost
every state (as well as international information), making
it a good source for phone numbers and addresses. If
you have further questions regarding the laws in your state,
the best bet is indeed the highway patrol-but get the
answers before you hit the road, not after you've been
One thing you should
be aware of: All states that base their laws on headlights
and taillights take their measurements from the center of
the lamp to the terra firma.
aren't codes dealing specifically with the suspension
components; rather, you'll have to base your mods on the
reflectors. They can't be more than 60 inches above
is another state that bases its laws on lights, and in this
case it's the distance from the headlights and taillights to
the ground, which is 54 inches max and 24 minimum front and
rear. One note: This state requires mudflaps.
all about mudflaps. The rear fender's splashguards
can't be more than 8 inches from the ground and must be wide
enough, of course, to actually cover the full tread of the
tires. However, 1/4-ton or lighter pickups are exempt,
unless you've increased the OE bumper height. So, in
other words, lift it, and you're stuck following the mudflap
rules. Leave your pickup stock, and you can skip the
flaps. Also keep in mind that empty or loaded, your
truck can't be taller than 13 feet 6 inches.
no law governing suspension upgrades, but there is a statute
that restricts the height of headlights. They can't be
lower than 24 inches or higher than 54 inches from the
ground. However, the overall height restriction is 13
feet 6 inches without permit, thereby limiting all those
dreams you just had.
you can do is dependent on the GVWR. If your truck's
is 4,500 pounds, the maximum frame height is
inches. If the GVWR is 4,501 to 7,500 pounds, it's 30
inches, and for 7,501 - to 10,000-pounders, it's
inches. Also keep in mind that the lowest portion of
the body floor can't be more than 5 inches above the top of
altering from the OE design is allowed. Psych!!
It's not allowed unless you follow the rules: Headlights
can't be more than 44 inches high, while taillights reach
their legal limit at 72 inches.
the factory bumper height is OK, as long as you keep it at
30 inches from the ground, or lift the vehicle no more than
and sweet, without legal-eagle mumbo-jumbo: Don't let more
than 30 inches get between the ground and the bottom of the
headlamps on every motor vehicle (and that means your
motorcycle too if you've got one) must stay below 54 inches,
and taillamps must not be higher than 72 inches. The low for
the front is 24, and for the rear 15. But we would hope
you'd be altering your truck in the other direction.
your truck's net weight is less than 2,000 pounds, the max
bumper height is 24 inches front and 26 inches rear.
If it's more 2,000 but less than 3,000, it's 27 front and 29
rear. And if it hits the scales between 3,000 and
5,000 pounds, it's 28 and 30 inches.
you modify the OE bumper more than 2 inches above (or below,
for that matter) the manufacturer's spec, don't be surprised
if you're cited.
also determines what's OK based on the GVWR. If your
truck is 4,500 pounds or less, the front and rear bumpers'
maximum height is 29 inches. If you're looking at
4,501 to 7,500 pounds, it's 33 inches for both. And
7,501 to 10,000 pounds? Don't make it higher than 35
inches at either end. Also be aware that the allowable
distance between the body and the framerail tops off at 3
laws here depend on the GVWR. 4,500 pounds or less, the
front bumper can be up to 24 inches and the rear 26 inches.
For 4,501 to 7,500 pounds, it's 27 inches in front and 29
out back, and for 7,501 to 10,000 pounds, it's 28 and 30
inches. Interestingly enough, 4x4s and dual-wheel
trucks with a 10,000-pound or lighter GVWR can have
30inch-tall bumpers up front and 31 in back.
can't lift the body from the chassis more than 3 inches.
In terms of bumper height, a 4,500-pound GVWR or less and
your front bumper can't go higher than 24 inches, and the
rear must be no more than 26 inches. GVWRs between
4,501 and 7,500 mean 27 inches at the front and 29 at the
rear. Finally, if your truck is between 7,501 and
9,000, the allowable altering is 28 and 30 inches.
put, that bumper needs to stay within 3 inches of the
factory height. Keep those headlights at 54 inches
while you're at it.
been told that Iowa has repealed requirements concerning
lifted 4x4s. For now, that means the general height,
weight, and width requirements that apply to all other
vehicles in the state apply to your four-by.
Translation: The height cannot exceed 13 feet 6 inches, and
the width can't go beyond 8 feet.
aren't laws specifically about the suspension, but rather
about headlight, taillamp, and reflectors. Headlights
should be no higher than 54 inches (no lower than 24
inches), and the taillamps can't reach higher than 72 inches
(or below 15). Reflectors must be present front and
rear (out back they can be incorporated into the light or
stand alone) and can't be higher than 60 inches or lower
there are no restrictions in terms of bumper height.
The Kentucky General Assembly has addressed the issue before
but, lo and behold, no one could agree on anything.
Just keep it at what most mortals would call safe.
a headlight state. No matter what kind of motor
vehicle you drive, the lights can't be higher than 54
inches. Alter the suspension however you deem fit, as
long as the lights are up to code. FYI, foglights
can't be higher than 30 inches from the ground.
Don't even think about going higher than 54 inches.
However, keep in mind that the original suspension cannot be
"disconnected", but don't let that stop you from
bolting on heavy-duty shocks and overload springs.
Other need-to-knows: Don't remove or disconnect the ABS, and
the tires can be only two sizes larger than the
manufacturer's recommendation. Spring-shackle
extensions are also a no-no.
trucks or multipurpose vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds
or less can be taller than 28 inches. A truck beyond
10,000 pounds-but not more than 18,000 pounds-can go beyond
30 inches (you Excursion owners just made it into that first
grouping under the wire). Lift more than those 30, and
you'll be ticketed and/or given a Safety Equipment Repair
Order (SERO) to fix the violation.
out your calculator: The maximum allowable mechanical lift
(as well as what's acceptable in terms of bigger rubber) can
be determined by this formula:
Lift = Wheelbase
x Wheel Track
example, if you did that formula and came up with 2 inches,
then a 2-inch lift and a 2-inch increase in tire size is
allowable, equaling a total lift of 4 inches over stock.
blocks between the front axle and springs, or lift blocks
that exceed 4 inches in height between the rear axle and
springs, are not allowed. Shackle replacements cannot
exceed the OE length by more than 2 inches, and ixnay on the
coil-spring spacers. In terms of acceptable height,
less than 4,501 GVWR, and your frame height cannot exceed 24
inches, and the bumper height can't go beyond 26 inches.
For GVWRs between 4,501 and 7,500, those numbers are 24 and
28 inches. For 7,501- to 10,000-pound vehicles, keep
the height at 26 and 30 inches.
maximum legal height for bumpers is 25 inches from the
bottom of the bumper to the ground. If you attach
something to the bumper to make it conform to the legal
height, it must be just as strong as the factory bumper or
meet SAE standards. Simply bolting on pieces of wood
or metal isn't gonna cut it, folks. If you slap on a
lift kit, you might actually be required to register your
truck as a "reconstructed" vehicle, and that would
mean you'll have to pay an additional road-use tax and need
an inspection where a new VIN would be applied.
vehicle can be modified in any way that will put it over the
state's 8-inch total-lift limit, and the maximum suspension
lift front and rear is 6 inches (so make sure your big tires
won't be over the limit if you raise the suspension that
another state that uses the GVWR as the bumper-height
guideline. For vehicles 4,500 pounds and under, the
front bumper can't be taller than 24 inches and the rear
must see no more than 26 inches. For 4,501 to 7,500
pounds, it's 27 inches front and 29 rear, and for 7,501 to
9,000 pounds, it's 28 and 30 inches.
laws here, but your truck will need to meet the lighting
requirement, which is that headlights are no higher than 72
inches or lower than 15 inches.
aren't any specific laws concerning lift kits, but mudflaps
get all the attention. They must block the entire width of
cut to the chase: The bumper height, be it front or rear,
cannot go beyond 24 inches.
vehicle's height (and we're talking loaded too) may be
taller than 13 feet 6 inches. Don't change the height or
alter the bumper in any way that would make it farther than
20 inches from the ground.
can raise the suspension only 4 inches above stock height.
Go any higher and your truck becomes classified as a
"High Rise" and it must undergo a stability.test
at a state facility.
restrictions this state has are that headlamps can't be
higher than 54 inches, and taillamps can't be higher than 72
inches. However, it's no-holds-barred on the type of
1990-and-newer commercial vehicles and trucks can't go crazy
and get that bumper above 24 inches from the ground.
Also keep in mind that headlights must not be more than 54
inches above the cement, and taillights can't be higher than
72 inches. Turn-signal lights can't exceed 83 inches.
even think about going higher than 6 inches from the factory
height-unless, of course, you get a written OK from the
Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. You don't need a
permission slip if yours is a multipurpose ride atop a truck
chassis that sees some dirt.
height of 14 feet, loaded or unloaded, is the limit.
Keep in mind that if your tires poke out from the body,
you're best advised to stick on fender flares to keep the
police at bay.
state keeps an eye on the GVWR for bumper height. For
4,500 pounds and under, 24 inches is the max at the front,
26 at the rear, and 4,501 to 7,500 is 27 to 29. For
7,501 to 10,000, it's 28 and 31 inches. If the body or
truck-bed height is altered, the difference in height
between the body floor and/or the bed floor to the top of
the framerail can be no more than 4 inches.
you pick out that lift kit, keep in mind that headlights can
be no more than 54 inches from the ground, and the
taillights' can't exceed 72 inches.
doesn't have a maximum bumper-height law, but headlights can
be only 54 inches from the center of the headlight to the
asphalt. Also, the maximum height of a vehicle, with
anything on top or loaded, is 14 feet.
aware that increasing the wheel track by using spacers or
similar doodads thicker than 1/4 inch is a very bad move.
On medium and heavy-duty trucks, the rear bumper must be
within 30 inches of the ground when the truck is unloaded.
all vehicles with a 10,000-pound GVWR or less, you can raise
the chassis or body no more than 4 inches from the OE
can't modify either up or down by more than 6 inches from
the original height.
aren't regulations for the suspension, per se, but the
taillights can be no higher than 72 inches.
can be no more than 4 inches between the body floor and the
top of the frame. The distance between the bumper and
the ground is 24 inches for GVWRs of 4.500 and less; 26
inches for 4,501 to 7,500; and 28 inches for 7,501 to
concern lighting but not bumper height or even lift blocks.
The headlamps must be mounted between 24 and 54 inches from
the ground, the taillamps between 15 and 72, and the
foglamps between 12 and 30.
being told it's a "mathematical nightmare" to
figure out by one local trooper, we got the scoop from
another trooper: If your vehicle's wheelbase is 100 inches
or less, the most you can lift can be determined by:
x Wheel Track
4x4 wheelbases beyond 100 inches, you can lift a total of 8
inches, butyou'll have to remember your new tires do that
equation (so if you lift 4-inches, you can go up in tire
size that much too).
trucks and multipurpose vehicles, the allowable
bumper-height increase for front bumpers and rear bumpers
depends on the GVWR. For 4,500 pounds and under, it's
24 inches front and 26 inches rear. For 4,501 to
7,500, it's 27 and 29, and for 7,501 to 10,000, it's 28 and
even think about driving on these highways if there are more
than 28 inches between the bumpers and the road if your
truck falls in the 4,500-pound GVWR rating. For 4,501
to 7,500 pounds, the front bumper must stay lower than 29
inches and the rear 30 inches; for 7,501 and 15,000 pounds,
it's 30 at the front and 31 at the rear.
can lift your truck in Washington without fear, as long as
the kit is manufactured by an aftermarket company and is
designed for your make and model of truck, as well as
installed the right way. You know this already, right?
Right?! Body lifts can't use more than a 3-inch spacer
and are not allowed to raise the body more than 4 inches
above the frame after all the components are installed.
most space you can have between the body and the frame is 3
inches, while the acceptable gap between the bumpers and the
ground is 31 inches for a 10,000-pound GVWR or less.
More weight than that, you're free and clear.
law says that vehicles with up to an 8,000-pound GVWR can be
pushed 5 inches above the OE height, and the tires can be
increased by up to 4 inches in radius over the factory size,
equaling an acceptable 9-inch lift.
are no official statutory guidelines for bumper height,
frame height, rear blocks, or shackle lifts-all laws
referring to these alterations say vehicles must simply be
in "safe" working condition.
Lift Laws Sites: