Lifting Parts: Spacers, Control Arms, Shocks and Struts

Photo by dave_7, from the Hemmings Nation Flickr Pool.

At Intense Motorsports Maui, the most common question we answer is, “how can I get my truck higher?” In this post, we aim to serve as an intro to some of the common ways in which vehicles can be lifted. While we don’t openly endorse all of the below methods, trucks can be seen with the following types of lifts throughout the island of Maui.

The method in which you can lift a vehicle is different in the front and back. Some vehicles have significantly different lifting methods between right and left.

What will you be doing with your truck?

Before you decide to lift your vehicle, it’s important to establish your vehicle’s purpose. Are you wanting to drive off-road? Do you want to drive off-road frequently? What type of off-roading will you be doing? Are you more interested in having a high vantage point? Are you raising your truck for aesthetic reasons? Is your raised vehicle also your primary vehicle?


Spacers are, usually metal, disk-like components that are placed between the strut/shock and the vehicle’s mount to increase a vehicle body distance from the ground. While spacers are a relatively quick and initially inexpensive solution to get more height out of a vehicle, the performance is almost always inferior to the other options in this post. Some truck owners will add multiple spacers for each tire. We do not recommend using multiple spacers on your vehicle.

Spacers can reduce the quality of the ride. Many will report a ‘rougher’ feeling suspension after installing spacers. Spacers can increase the wear on the cars ball joint. While rare, breaking a ball joint on a moving vehicle is extremely dangerous. Also, spacers can damage the vehicle’s suspension, and in-turn damage the vehicle. It’s important to note that not all spacers are created equal. Minimal height increases from spacers are great. However, vehicle owners try to get larger lifts for lower prices with spacers are dangerous.

Upper / Lower Control Arms

Changing control arms on a vehicle is another modification. Depending on the vehicle, the control arm repair can actually take less time when compared to adding a spacer. Control arms are what attach to the tire assembly to the vehicle.


Aftermarket control arms tend to be stronger than stock control arms, which increases the safety and durability of the vehicle. When pushing an off-road vehicle to its limits, it’s not unusual for the control arm to hit a rock. The strength of a control arm could determine rather or not the driver is trapped in Maui’s jungles.

Ball joint replacement

Most stock ball joints are not made to endure the performance requirements of extended offload driving. The pressure of a balloon is increased with the addition of an aftermarket spacer or control arm. Ball joints are relatively inexpensive but moderately difficult to install. A poorly installed ball joint is extremely dangerous as the driver will lose control of their vehicle while moving.

Improved ride quality

On occasion, ride quality can be greatly improved with an aftermarket control arm. An existing control arm may be damaged or not utilize a vehicles full dynamic range. Usually, when installing control arms, most vehicle owners also will upgrade their shocks and struts. If you are lifting your vehicle for aesthetic reasons, control arms will make your car ride higher.

Strut / Shock Options

The back of most automobiles uses a spring for each tire. The assemblies which these springs belong to are called struts. The struts determine how much ‘give’ the car has from the driving surface. A stiffer strut will mean that a vehicle can handle a heavier load without riding too low. At the same time, a stiffer strut can also make the ride seem stiffer and can be found by drivers to be unenjoyable. 

Shocks Compared to Struts

Shocks are like struts. The difference between shocks and struts is that shocks utilize a gasket like a mechanism to steady a vehicle’s ‘bounce.’ A spring alone would be too bouncy, creating an undesirable and unsafe driving experience

What Products to Use

This is an important question! Unfortunately, answering this here will take a bit too long. However, every product being sold on this site comes highly recommended. So if you see the product in our online store, it’s a good product. We also recommend consulting a professional in your area. Feel free to comment below or text us if you have additional questions. As said earlier in this post, the poorly installed suspension is extremely dangerous. Mahalo for reading. Aloha.