Sometimes you’ve just got to do it yourself, right? SuperATV was founded on that philosophy—when Harold Hunt couldn’t find the Polaris Sportsman lift kit he wanted, he made it himself.
Today things are a little different. If you’re trying to figure out how to make your own lift kit, you might want to consider that there are tons of lift kit companies out there (including us) that have probably already made the lift you want and have more lift kit making experience than you can shake a fist at.
SuperATV has spent tons of time and money developing lift kits that are better, stronger, easier to install, and more affordable. When you buy a premade lift kit, you get a great performing lift at a reasonable price. That means whether you ride a Polaris Ranger, Can-Am Outlander, a CFMOTO ZForce, or anything else, you can lift it with little effort.
So the first step to making your own lift kit is to ask yourself if you really should.
If you plan on making your own lift, first ask yourself why? Trying to save some money? If you’ve already got all the tools you need, you might save a little bit over buying a kit. But you’re also losing out on warranties, tech support, and your own time.
Does nobody make a lift kit for the vehicle you want to lift? There’s probably a good reason for it. Some vehicles are nearly impossible to lift without a major overhaul. Imagine building an all new suspension complete with extended axles, bigger shocks, and beefy coil springs but only getting something like three inches of lift. That’s probably not worth the effort.
Do you want to go bigger than you can get from stacking a traditional lift on top of a GDP Portal Gear Lift? We’re talking turning your UTV into a literal monster truck complete with subframe, 60-inch tires, and two shocks in every corner. If that’s your goal, then making it yourself is basically your only choice. Godspeed.
Do you enjoy fabrication just as much as you enjoy riding a side by side? Go for it! The best reason to make your own lift is because you enjoy making stuff. If you’re the kind of person that loves to weld metal to metal and spend hours in the garage measuring and tinkering, then you’ve got a good reason to do it. Just ask yourself this question: “If I spend all this time making this lift kit and it totally sucks to ride with it installed, did I waste my time?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s time to get started!
We’re not going to show you exactly how to make a specific lift for a specific machine. That would only be pertinent to a tiny fraction of you. Instead, consider this more like a checklist to make sure you know everything you need to do before you get started making your own homemade lift kit.
The term “lift kit” is a nice, vague term, so you have to decide what a “lift kit” means for you on your machine. Are you going to use your same suspension and just move your shock to get a little more lift? Do you want to stick a shock spacer on your suspension to get a couple more inches?
Or, do you want to go with the whole shebang and build new A-arms and axles for a much bigger lift?
Today, we’re going to go with the whole shebang, which gives you the most leeway and most control of your lift. But it’s also the most labor intensive. (We’re serious, if more labor doesn’t sound like more fun, then you should turn back now.)
If we assume we’re doing a complete suspension overhaul, the final height of your lift is up to you. Keep in mind that the bigger you go, the harder it will be on your new homemade A-arms, trailing arms, and radius arms.
If you’re buying a new set of longer shocks for your lift, use those to determine your lift. You can mount them up to your cage, and using your stock shock angles as a guide, determine where your A-arm shock mount would need to be at full drop.
We recommend buying aftermarket extended length axles as well so that you don’t have to fabricate your own by chopping up stock axles. The length you buy will help you determine your overall lift as well.
Now it’s time to get out the scratch paper.
The main thing you need to know before you get started is what angle the CV joints you’re going to use can handle, and where your shock mount needs to be. To do this, you just need to remove your shock mount and let your suspension drop as far as possible. Then, see how high you have to raise it (a ratchet strap is great for this) before you can turn your wheel. This is your maximum CV angle. It gives you a great idea of where your shock needs to mount.
You’ll need to repeat this step in the rear of the machine as well. And if you have one of those funky side-by-sides that doesn’t use the same axle on the left and the right like some Can-Ams, you’ll want to repeat at all four corners.
After that, you’ve got to measure everywhere your suspension attaches to anything. That means measuring from each mounting point on each A-arm, trailing arm, and radius rod, to the ball joints and spindle mounts. It doesn’t matter precisely where you measure from on each of these points as long as you’re consistent between taking these measurements and fabbing up your parts.
In our shop, we use a Romer arm to take measurements that are accurate down to the micron. If you don’t have access to one, at least your tape measure is accurate to 1/32 of an inch. (There are 794 microns in a 1/32 of an inch, just FYI.)
This is where you figure out how much longer you have to make your suspension to achieve your desired lift. Making your suspension three inches longer doesn’t give you three inches of lift. You’re gonna have to break out the calculator and do some trig. If your axles are perfectly flat, you’ll never get any lift. If they’re pretty steeply angled, you won’t have to make your A-arms that much longer to get the lift you want. Or you can just wing it and make it longer and see what that gets you.
Now the easy part, you just have to build the dang thing. And you have to be accurate to your measurements. And it has to be strong enough to actually work. Good luck!
Well actually, this is where you’ll need to bring your skills to the table. You’ll also have to bring the materials—either steel plating or steel tubing, and in all likelihood, a mixture of the two.
If you’re not afraid to ruin your backup plan, you can hack up your stock suspension parts to reuse parts like the pivot tubes and ball joint housings. While you won’t be able to cut your A-arms in half and weld in a new piece of tubing (the tube angles will be all wrong), you can get away with welding in lengths of tube or steel plating for your radius rods and trailing arms. Adding welded seams will reduce overall strength compared to building a new part from scratch, though.
And don’t forget to get some longer brake lines for your longer A-arms too.
The trickiest part is the axles. If you didn’t buy extended length axles, you’ll have to make them. The problem with making your own is that no matter how you chop them up and weld them back together, they’re going to be weaker than buying a complete one. One way to make extended length axles is to chop an axle in half, then weld a tube that has a wider diameter than the axle shaft so that it overlaps. It gives you very precise control over length. When we make these “sleeved axles,” we give them a special name: “prototypes.” Yeah, these axles aren’t very strong. We can ride on them, but they’re not designed to hold up to real rides. Welding in a length of chromoly bar is better, but getting the right length can be difficult. As with every part of building a lift kit, you want to measure twice (or nine or ten times) and weld once.
You’ll also need to make extended tie rods. These can be tricky. For our big lift kits, we make gusseted Z-bend tie rods. The bend gives them the reach and angle they need so that the tie rod ends don’t bind up and the gussets give it strength. Really long tie rods need some extra reinforcement because the longer you go, the easier it is for them to bend.
The most important thing to do while you’re fabbing everything up is to make quality welds. Having extra seams in your suspension means that you’re compromising strength no matter what, but making great, penetrating welds can help minimize strength loss.
You’re not done yet. You’ve got to gussy that bare metal up! It’s not just a matter of showing off your hard work in the best light possible—you need paint on that metal so it won’t rust.
For the most durable and best looking finish, you’ll want to powder coat your parts. You’ll likely have to take your parts to a business that’s equipped for powder coating and pay them a bit to get it done. The wait and the cost are worth it as your only real alternative is to spray paint everything. And that’s a surefire way to make sure the lift you spent 100+ hours building comes out looking crappy.
Now you can finally take your new lift out for a spin. Just make sure you get some good pictures before you hammer down on the trail. That maiden voyage is gonna be terrifying and you’re not gonna have much help if something breaks.
If you don’t want to go through all that, and you still want a killer lift kit that’s backed by a lifetime warranty, a technical support team, and decades of axle, suspension, and tie rod manufacturing experience, you should check out our UTV and ATV lift kits. We do the dirty work and all you have to do is ride on it.