In the pursuit of building up our long-term test Ford Maverick Hybrid to have more capability out on the trail, a leveling kit was at the top of the list. There are a number of them on the market, the most popular a low cost product from Rough Country. In further searching I came across a kit of Zone Offroad that got my attention just a little bit more.
The Zone Offroad kit is made of laser cut steel instead of molded plastic like the Rough Country one. The plastic gave me pause, concerned it might compress over time and become loose. That said, the Zone Offroad kit also offered a number of other benefits I liked.
First, it comes in two pieces for each side. There is a well made and engineered 3/4-inch spacer for the top of the strut, but also a 1/4-inch pre-load spacer that actually goes inside the strut assembly to give you a total of a 1-inch lift if desired.
The methodology here is that with a 3/4-inch strut spacer, they claim less binding at full drop than a 1-inch spacer. This is because even with the added 1/4-inch lift spacer in the spring, the total drop is only 3/4-inch at max travel. This means you don’t have to grind the bottom of the strut like on the other brand’s kit. Also, the travel dynamics for ABS wiring and brake hose is less problematic.
The rub is that to achieve the full 1-inch lift you need to disassemble the strut assembly which isn’t a lot of fun, even though the Zone Offroad website erroneously states that disassembly is not required. I pointed the error out to them, but they have not fixed it as of this video.
In the end I chose to start with only the 3/4-inch lift spacer for now and forgo the 1/4-inch pre-load spacer for a couple of reasons. First and the obvious, I’d didn’t feel like tearing down the struts just yet. I figured if I wanted the full lift, I would add the pre-load rings when I replace the struts sometime next year.
The main reason I chose to do just the 3/4-inch spacer is because this is not a AWD vehicle. Raising the front of a front-wheel drive only vehicle too much can have adverse effects on handling and traction at some point. I wanted to thread the needle here and keep the best of both worlds – lift and extra ground clearance as well as close to factory handling.
The good news is that with the Plus 2 tire and wheel upgrade of 245/65 17 Firestone Destination A/T2 tires and 17×8 wheels I gained an additional half-inch of ground clearance just by virtue of their larger diameter. So all-in I now have 1.25-inches of increased ground clearance at the front and a half-inch at the rear. If I want the extra 1/4-inch, its in the drawer in the garage for the taking.
My initial experience here is that the truck feels good on the trail and the increased ground clearance and traction I have now gives more confidence to push a little further. These trucks sit low and the undercarriage is easy to drag, especially at the bottom of the front bumper. With 1.25 extra space, I feel a bit better out there.
Handling on the pavement and body roll don’t seem to have been adversely affected at this point, grip the the wider tires is indeed better than before. At $139 retail the Zone Offroad kit I found to be of a high quality. The hardware and instructions were well put together. It does cost more than the competition by a good amount, but I liked the all-steel construction and the engineering options it provided.