Living With Lift Kits: Save Your Ego for Under Ten Bucks

If you’re reading this post, you’re likely of the school of thought that once a truck, SUV, or other such vehicle with more ground clearance than a carpet shampooer is purchased, it immediately must be fitted with lift kits and/or modified in any way to differentiate it from the one you can rent at the airport. A majority of this is ego driven because we love our vehicles to be uniquely ours and by unique, I mean bigger, better, stronger, and/or faster than everyone else’s, or at least the one that your neighbor bought.

We never admit this because, along the way, many great people have instilled in us that over-indulgence of one’s ego is impractical, unattractive, and often vulgar. As a result, we tell ourselves, our significant others, our letter carriers, and anyone else who will listen that we did all that to maximize traction and ground clearance in the name of the time-honored pastime of running over stuff.

I’m not talking about beer cans, old mobile phones, cantaloupes, and all the other things that juveniles like to film themselves crushing, I’m talking about stuff out in nature. Things like large rocks, unkempt ruts, fallen trees, random debris, and rushing creeks all pepper the route between us and our favorite camp sites, tree stands, trail heads, and fishing holes. The only way to get out there is to run over all that stuff.

Jumping back to the ego, one surefire way to deflate one’s ego is, after investing countless hours and dollars into assembling the ultimate weekend warrior wagon, having the maiden weekend warrior excursion interrupted by something as annoying as mechanical failure. We can inspect components, preventatively replace wear-prone items, and top off our fluids but there are forces in the wild that even the best looked-after rigs cannot avoid; forces that aim upward with the capacity to puncture rubber.

Back in civilization, there are auto clubs, complimentary roadside assistance programs, or, at the very least, ample solid and level surfaces where flat tires can be swapped out relatively painlessly. The farther off the grid one wanders, however, the less towing companies are willing to come to the rescue while surfaces acceptable for changing a tire become fewer and farther between.

Once you get over that your progress was foiled by a two-and-a-half cent decking nail, that there isn’t anyone to come assist you, and that there’s no crying in baseball, you need a solution. There are a few products on the market to remedy this but I strongly advise against anything that entails injecting a sealant into the tire; items with catchy names like Mend-A-Tire, since we aren’t about singling out specific brands.  The reason being is that the sealant makes a hot mess of the inside of the tire and rim that’s virtually impossible to keep balanced and a royal pain to clean up later.

The alternative solution comes in at less than ten dollars and is small enough to stash almost anywhere, even with the toolkit that came with the truck. This magical product is known as the classic tire plug kit. It comes with two tools, one knurled and the other with an eyelet at one end, as well as a small cache of tire plug chords (avoid getting too many plugs as they do, eventually, dry out). You can even spring an extra dollar or so to get the one with a tube of rubber cement.

The process is fairly easy, assuming the puncture is small limited to the tread section of the tire. If it’s a large tear and/or on the sidewall, unfortunately, there is no saving the tire at that point. Begin by locating the puncture and remove whatever caused it if the offending object is still present. Ream the knurled tool into the puncture several times to clean it out and rough up the edges. Next, thread one of the tire plugs into the tool with the eyelet such that the tool is centered on the plug chord; you’ll notice that the eyelet is split at one end. Insert the eyelet and plug into the puncture hole, making sure that the ends of the plug remain outside of the tire. This will take a bit of force but keep pushing until only about a half inch of each end of the plug is showing. Now rapidly pull the tool straight out of the puncture; the split in the eyelet will release the plug and allow it to remain seated in the tire.

If you have rubber cement, slather some around the plug for good measure and let it set for five or ten minutes. Also, trim the ends of the plug while you’re waiting for the cement to cure. If you don’t have clippers handy, you can drive on it like this but it will likely make an odd noise until the plug gets trimmed. Finally, inflate the tire to the recommended pressure and continue on your way.

Now is probably the time to mention that it’s a good idea to keep a twelve volt air compressor on hand if you travel off road since the various surfaces encountered in the back country require adjustments to tire pressure for optimal traction. Usable compressors can be found for thirty dollars or less but, generally speaking, the more you spend, the faster it will inflate the tire and the less likely it is to overheat and fail in the process.


It’s also a good idea to have a tire shop check out your handy work once you’re back to town since the preferred method of repairing a tire puncture is to remove the tire from the wheel and install a patch from the inside. Properly installed, however, tire plugs can stand as long-term fixes for minor punctures, especially when access to repair facilities is limited or unavailable. Additionally, you’ll look like an absolute boss fixing your own flat out in the field.

Check back soon for more Supreme Life Hacks and suggestions for making your off-road trips more enjoyable.

1986-1995 Toyota 4Runner Full Suspension Lift Kit 2WD 4×2

  • 2x Front Ball Joint Spacers
  • 2x Rear Poly Lift Spacers
  • Installation Instructions

1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ Full Lift Kit w/ Extended Pro Comp Shocks & Transfer Case Drop Kit 4WD 4×4

  • 4x Coil Lift Spacers
  • 2x Front Pro Comp Extended Shocks
  • 2x Rear Pro Comp Extended Shocks
  • Transfer Case Drop Kit
  • Installation instructions

1997-2011 Ford Ranger Full Suspension Lift Kit w/ Install Tool & Shims 4WD 4×4

  • 2x Front Lift Steel Torsion Keys
  • 2x Rear Billet Lift Blocks Anodized Black
  • 2x Pinion Alignment Shims
  • 4x Zinc Plated U-Bolts
  • Torsion Key Unloading Tool
  • Installation instructions

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