Suspension Lifts, Body Lifts, Ride Height, etc...
What 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.
Seriously, there's 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 pulled over.
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.
There 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 the ground.
Alaska 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.
It's 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.
There's 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.
What you can do is dependent on the GVWR. If your truck's is 4,500 pounds, the maximum frame height is
27 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
31 inches. Also keep in mind that the lowest portion of the body floor can't be more than 5 inches above the top of the frame.
No 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.
Modifying 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 4 inches.
Short and sweet, without legal-eagle mumbo-jumbo: Don't let more than 30 inches get between the ground and the bottom of the bumper.
District of Columbia
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.
If 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.
If 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.
Hawaii 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 inches.
Lift 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.
You 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.
Simply put, that bumper needs to stay within 3 inches of the factory height. Keep those headlights at 54 inches while you're at it.
We've 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.
There 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 than 15.
Currently, 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.
It's 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.