The Key to Lifting Modern Land Rovers Is a Three-Letter Word
Messing with air suspension can be done simply... whether or not that's a good idea is another question.
“In rod we trust” is a line from one of the greatest Simpsons episodes ever: “Deep Space Homer.” An inanimate carbon rod is jammed into a broken door to secure it as Homer and his astronaut colleagues make their descent to Earth from space. This saves their lives, which makes the rod the hero of the day, which leads to it getting all the fanfare. Among off-road enthusiasts in air suspension-equipped, modern Land Rovers, rods are also the hero of the day. Though, this is no life and death kind of scenario, but rather a really easy, no-fuss way to lift one’s Rover and keep it lifted.
When a Landie is equipped with modern air suspension, gone are the days of pricey lift kits. All it takes to keep one high in the air is a set of revised ride height sensor rods, like these for the Discovery 5.
Their engineering is awfully simple: they trick the EAS (electronic air suspension) ride height sensors into thinking the air bags are low, thus not airing them down automatically above certain speeds. This means they stay inflated, providing a nice lift of around two inches that’ll help accommodate bigger tires, and maintain the improved articulation that comes with being hoisted up.
The install is also awfully simple. According to Johnson Rods, one of the steps to pulling the factory rods and installing the new ones is “carefully remove the original sensor rods. I find a golf divot tool works well for this job.”
Chalk that up to specialty tools for off-roaders: A divot tool from your local golf pro shop.
Naturally, folks who own any modern electronic air suspension-equipped car can take advantage of this tech as well. But it seems like it’s the easiest to do on modern Land Rovers. Even the new Defender can come equipped with bags that are ready to be kept inflated for just $68.
However, the suspension nerd in me is concerned. Coming from fiddling with conventional suspension equipment in the name of track performance, I know that ride height alters a lot alignment-wise. Typically, cars gain positive camber when lifted, which will kill tires faster due to being well out of spec.
Positive camber is when the top of the tire leans out of the wheel arch, and the bottom of the tire sits more inwards. The only real benefit to more positive camber is it makes very-low-speed turning easier/lighter, but that’s about it. This doesn’t really negate the fact that the tires will lose traction quicker under cornering and have less stability.
This forum thread shares some of the woes of lifting an LR without factoring in the change in alignment.
Whether there’s enough adjustment in the factory suspension to accommodate the increase in ride height is hard to tell; some forums are saying there isn’t enough adjustment to negate the positive camber gain. Lowering a MacPherson suspension-equipped car, like a 986 Boxster or Mazda2, often requires camber bolts to gain negative camber for fitment and increased cornering grip. This will also increase tire wear, though it seems at a much slower rate than increased positive camber.
It sounds like this might be a case of just swapping between lift rods and factory rods depending on the set of tires you’re running, how often you’re hitting the trails, etc. Though, this still seems like an easier amount of prep than swapping wheels, corner balancing, and aligning track cars once every-to-every-couple-of track days with a track-centric ride.