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lifted subaru crosstrek with offroad wheels

Subaru Suspension Lifts: Everything You Need To Know Before Buying

There’s a lot of disparaging comments made about spacer lifts or “leveling kits” on the internet in the 4×4 community. Some of them are warranted and others, not so much. The technique for lifting trucks doesn’t always carry over when modifying a unibody Subaru with independent suspension for offroading.

I actually believe that a spacer lift is more than enough for a Subaru since they allow most drivers to install a tire that’s big enough for trails. But what about suspension lifts? How do they compare and is it something you should invest in? 

For most Subaru owners, I would say that a full suspension lift is unnecessary. Some suspension lifts require specialized installation and might even cause some headache if a replacement is needed down the road.

Table of Contents

Types of Lift Kits

Spacer Lifts

The biggest downsides to using a spacer lift on a Subaru is that they don’t provide any change in spring rate or adjustability.

When you lift a vehicle, you are raising the center of gravity and creating a bit more body roll than stock. Body roll occurs when centrifugal force is applied to the vehicle during turning maneuvers. You may feel the vehicle leaning as the car tilts or “rolls” towards the outside of a turn as you drive around a curve – this is what we refer to as body roll.

In order to offset this issue in a lifted Subaru, a set of stiffer springs can be installed to help stiffen up the vehicle’s suspension. Or you can install a suspension lift that solves this issue as well.

lifted subaru forester SG in the rain

I’ve been lifting Subarus with spacers for almost ten years. I personally have not had enough of an issue with body roll to cause me any concern when only lifting two inches. But if you plan to load your car up with camping gear or offroad gear, it might become more noticeable.

Some drivers also prefer to have adjustability built into their suspension. Customizing one’s suspension requires some know-how and time. In my case, I’ve never needed to adjust the suspension on my Subaru. But there are those who prefer to be able to.

My opinion on spacer lift kits for Subarus – for the overwhelming majority of drivers, spacers offer more than enough lift and capability at a great price. Our cars aren’t rock crawlers and don’t typically need to be lifted much more than 2 inches. A spacer lift does everything that most Subaru owners will need. I personally use spacer lifts and have had no issues still keeping up with folks who have more advanced suspension set ups.

If you’d like to explore some of my favorite Subaru spacer lifts, check out this article that has some great lift kit options.

To recap, here are the main pros and cons of running spacer lifts on a Subaru:


  • Very affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Usually come with everything to lift the vehicle
  • Provide enough room to fit larger tires
  • Very reliable and durable
  • This lift kit design has been perfected to provide great suspension geometry out of the box
  • No change in spring rate to offset body roll after lifting
  • No built in adjustability for dampening or ride height
  • Suspension may sag when carrying heavy gear in the vehicle
installing subaru lift kit

You’ll notice how the spacer bolts to the top of the factory suspension. For the record, we recommend inspecting and fully cleaning your suspension before installation. This strut assembly was cleaned prior to reinstallation.

Suspension Lifts

ironman 4x4 suspension lift subaru

I just spent a lot of time speaking kindly of spacer lifts and it may seem like I don’t think anyone should spend extra money on a suspension lift. On the contrary, I actually believe there are many situations where a suspension lift could be the best choice for a person.

Suspension lifts are a good idea for the following situations:

  • On Subarus that will have a lot of heavy gear in them (full size spare tires, camping gear etc.)
  • For drivers who simply like to be able to customize/fine tune their suspension settings
  •  If a Subaru is in need of a suspension replacement before being lifted, a suspension lift can save money

There are a few different types of suspension lifts to consider when buying:

  • lift springs
  • extended strut/spring combo lifts
  • long travel coilovers

There are also kits that incorporate springs and spacers, such as the Primitive Racing lift kits that I happen to like a lot. Lift springs replace your factory springs and are usually stiffer while providing additional height.

There are also some companies producing longer strut and spring combos that replace your entire strut assembly such as the Ironman 4×4 lift. Then there are long travel coilovers that are a similar concept to longer struts, but they are adjustable via a threaded collar that can be rotated to change the height of the vehicle.

Suspension lifts can change your spring rate and allow you to carry heavier loads in your vehicle without experiencing rear sag. For people who carry a full size spare tire on their rear hitch, or anyone using a roof top tent, this is vital to making sure the suspension doesn’t sag and that the car doesn’t have excessive body roll.

Let’s briefly look at the three types of suspension lifts available for Subarus.

Spring lifts: Lift springs on their own typically don’t provide a lot of lift. However, this type of lift kit is great for someone who is planning to tow or carry a lot of heavy equipment. Rear tire carriers and steel bumpers are a great reason to install lift springs on your Subaru. I have a heavy tube bumper on my Forester and recently purchased some springs from Primitive Racing to help offset the sagging caused by adding that much weight to the front of the car.

A spring lift can typically be installed on your OEM struts without the need for purchasing an entire assembly. But the installation needs to be done correctly with a spring compressor.

Most people won’t run just a lift spring but will usually add a set of spacers for a full 1-2 inch lift. This allows for a person to offset extra body roll while still getting additional ground clearance. This type of lift is one of the most reliable suspension lifts.

Extended struts and spring lifts: These lift kits are great because they provide an option that gives lift and a better spring rate without strut top spacers. Companies like Ironman 4×4 and Rough Country are now offering longer strut assemblies.

While these provide lift, good suspension travel, and usually a stiffer spring rate, if one of the struts needs to be replaced, it has to be special ordered. A custom strut can’t simply be purchased at your local auto parts store and you may be forced to wait while a new one arrives. This is one of the major reasons I haven’t installed an aftermarket suspension system on my Subaru.

Long travel coilovers: Up until recently, long travel coilovers for Subarus were very expensive (we’re talking 5 figures in some cases) and typically only purchased for rally use. A few years back a couple of brands tried offering some LTC’s for Subarus at a more affordable price point but they weren’t very reliable. Many of the early adopters would complain about having to constantly send them back in for service and having them break regularly.

Today, the off-road coilover options are actually very reliable and well built. The surge in the popularity of off-road Subarus has incentivized new entrepreneurs and well established manufacturers to enter the market and provide a great product. There are a wide range of great off-road coilovers for all current Subaru models from companies like Raceworks and Flatout Suspension.

Long travel coilovers provide a wide range of customization options and offroad performance benefits. They allow for adjustable ride height, different dampening settings, and can even be purchased with custom spring rates from the factory to fit your exact needs. There are different levels of coilovers available, but even the entry level options offer a good driving experience.

Despite being more affordable now than they were a few years ago, long travel coilovers are still one of the most expensive ways to lift your Subaru. This may deter some people, but they can be a good option for others.

2022 subaru wrx with crosstrek struts

To recap, here are some pros and cons to using a suspension lift:


  • Improved spring rate to offset body roll
  • Customizable and can be a great way to get the exact ride quality you need
  • Can be great for towing and carrying heavy gear


  • Suspension lifts usually cost more than a spacer lift…a lot more
  • Coilovers usually require installation to be performed by a professional with knowledge setting up coilovers properly
  • If one of the shocks breaks or wears out, it will usually have to be special ordered

If you load your car up with extra equipment and are looking for the “best of the best,” then a suspension lift may be the right choice for you. A suspension lift is also a good option for someone who’s factory suspension is already worn out. If your stock suspension needs to be replaced, an upgraded suspension lift might not cost much more than the price of factory parts. 

Below is a visual representation of what each suspension lift will look like generally. You’ll notice that the spring lift contains a bunch of extra pieces. Some spring lifts can be purchased with just springs, but many people will purchase spacer blocks to go with them for extra lift. The aftermarket strut and spring combo may not look much different from a stock suspension assembly, but they are typically about 2 inches taller than stock. These don’t require strut top spacers, but they do require rear subframe (or multi-link) spacers as pictured below.

subaru suspension lift kits

Now that we’ve explored some of the different types of suspension lifts, we’ll look at some of the most popular suspension lifts that are available for Subarus.

Best Suspension Lift Options For Subarus


Primitive Racing Spring & Spacer Lifts

Primitive Racing is one of the best companies out there offering parts for Subarus. They take quality control very seriously and their owner, Blake, takes customer satisfaction equally as serious.

I own their yellow overload springs and will be installing them soon to offset the added weight from my heavy off-road bumpers. This is what I would recommend to anyone with a rooftop tent, rear tire carrier, or off-road bumpers. Even if you are loading your car down with heavy camping gear, this is a great way to cut down body roll and maintain good drivability.

These lifts can help offset the sag that may occur when carrying things like:

  • Rooftop tents
  • Rear tire carriers
  • Heavy camping gear
  • Offroad gear

One of my favorite things about the Primitive kits is the reliability. They utilize OEM parts that allow you to quickly and easily replace parts in the off chance that you break something. For example, my struts are getting old and tired but I can easily buy a new set at my local auto parts store without having to wait weeks for a new assembly to arrive. Then I can swap my Primitive parts right over with no issues. Not to mention, Primitive designs their kits with stage rally in mind. They’re built to withstand severe demands.

In my opinion, this is the most reliable suspension lift available. They have a decades-long track record of outfitting Subarus with some of the best suspension parts on the market.

Are you going to find crazy big 6 inch lifts at Primitive? No, but you will find reliable, high quality lift kits that work for 90% of people’s needs.

ironman 4x4 suspension lift subaru

Ironman 4x4 Extended Strut & Spring Lift

Ironman 4×4 has rocketed to the forefront of everyone’s mind in the lifted Subaru community in recent years. They’ve been one of the first companies to offer a full strut/spring combo lift for our cars. Their kits offer 2 inches of lift and are surprisingly good quality.

We recently installed the ATS kit on a friends Outback in my garage and I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the completeness and overall fit and finish of the product. The coating on the struts appears to be solid and didn’t easily chip as we accidentally bumped them around during install. The kit also came with the necessary items to correct the rear suspension geometry – multilink spacers and all the needed hardware. Each piece of the spacer kit looked very well made, powder coated, and precisely machined.

While these are fantastic suspension lifts, there is one thing to keep in mind. If you need to replace one of the struts, it won’t be as simple as going to the auto parts store and grabbing new ones off the shelf. You will have to order them from Ironman and there may be some downtime during the shipping process. If you’re a person who needs their Subaru every day and doesn’t have a second car, plan for this before you go this route.

This suspension lift kit is a good option for someone who likes to participate in mild trail runs and spirited driving in the forest. But these shocks may not be up to the task for those planning to participate in rallycross or stage rally events.

flatout suspension coilovers for lifted subaru outback wilderness

Flatout Suspension Long Travel Coilovers

Flatout Suspension got its start in the rally/overland Subaru industry but has since exploded in popularity among a wide range of enthusiasts. You’ll find their coilovers on Porsches, Broncos, Toyotas, and more.

I’ve spoken with a lot of folks who’ve run these suspension lifts and have heard nothing but good things. Our friend Ryan is using their suspension to lift his 2019 Outback 3 inches and absolutely loves it.

Flatout offers three different options to choose from: The GR Lite, GR Plus, and the GR40. Each of these is progressively more heavy duty and capable. For most off-road Subarus, the GR Lite is perfectly fine. But anyone looking to take their build above and beyond may want to use one of their higher level options as they provide more adjustability, more lift, and more travel.

These coilovers can be purchased for almost every Subaru year, model, and trim level. So if you own something newer or something from the 90’s, they should have an option for you.

As with any custom suspension assembly, keep in mind that in the rare case you manage to damage one of the coilovers, a replacement unit will not be an over the counter piece of equipment. You may have to wait for a new one to ship to you. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s something to consider if you daily drive your Subaru and wouldn’t be able to go more than a couple of days without your vehicle.

It’s also important to remember that a professional or qualified individual needs to perform installation. Coilovers need to have the ride height and preload set correctly. They also need to be maintained regularly and kept free of contaminants to avoid seizing the collar.

I have coilovers on one of my street cars and I try to clean them and re apply anti corrosion products every six months. If you’re going offroad regularly, I would do this even more often.

subaru outback overland raceworks long travel coilovers

Raceworks Long Travel Coilovers

Raceworks is most likely the brand I would use if I wanted to switch over to a long travel coilover on my Subaru. Every person I have talked to that uses them has been blown away by the quality and customer service. They have multiple price options available and seem to be the most well-built LTC for Subarus. 

The Overland coilover is an affordable purpose-built suspension for outdoor enthusiasts. It offers a versatile lift range of up to 2 inches (or up to 4 inches with the optional C2 Performance Upgrade). This suspension system is engineered with unique valving for rough terrain, has anti-corrosion features, and ample shock travel to absorb substantial bumps. It’s the perfect choice for those who love to explore the great outdoors.

On the other hand, the GZ series coilover is specifically designed for more versatility, offering an impressive lift range of 2 to 6 inches – suitable for a wide spectrum of projects (please be aware that if you want to lift past two inches, it’s recommended that you reach out to Raceworks prior to ordering to determine what additional parts you’ll need to purchase.)

The GZ features long travel struts, Swift Springs known for their quality and performance, high-quality helper springs, and specially designed mounting points that prioritize strength and durability. The chrome-plated shock body prevents rust and corrosion while housing a larger piston for improved performance.

Both the Overland and GZ suspension systems offer adjustability and the freedom to fine-tune your ride to perfection. From damping adjustability to camber adjustment and independent height adjustment, Raceworks makes sure that every user can tailor their suspension setup to their precise requirements. Their coilovers are also fully rebuildable which means you can have them serviced by a professional instead of having to replace them when they wear out.

Common Misconceptions With Subaru Suspension Lifts

"Subaru spacer lifts aren't a real lift"

It’s not uncommon to hear people say “spacer lifts aren’t a real lift. If you want to do it the right way, a suspension lift is the way to go.” With most 4×4’s, I would agree. But the way that spacer lifts work on most trucks and SUV’s is completely different. 4×4’s are usually built using a body on frame design and the spacers simply lift the body up off the frame. 

Subarus are built using a unibody construction and a spacer lift actually goes on top of the suspension. It actually creates a suspension lift of sorts.

Now you may need a full suspension lift kit to meet your needs. But if all you need is a spacer lift, there’s nothing wrong with going that direction. They actually require less maintenance and allow for full OEM suspension retention.

What Does Long Travel Really Mean?

Long travel Subaru coilovers do have more travel than a regular street or track oriented coilover. However, they don’t magically provide more suspension travel for Subarus.

With our cars, suspension travel is ultimately limited by our CV axles and control arms. If you want a set of long travel coilovers specifically to give you more “flex,” they likely won’t provide as much travel as you’re expecting.

On a 4×4 with straight axles, it’s not hard to create more suspension travel. But on Subarus with fully independent suspension, getting additional “flex” or suspension travel is not something that can be easily done without a lot of custom fabrication.

I believe that a suspension lift provides a lot of great benefits for those of us who need to fine tune the suspension on our offroad Subarus. They can allow off-roaders and overlanders to carry more equipment without sacrificing handling.

If you feel comfortable working with aftermarket suspension or have a great shop that can assist, I think that suspension lift kits are a good option for Subaru owners. Just be prepared to spend a little more money up front and spend additional time dialing in the final touches.