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Changing ground clearance

I have a 2008 Toyota Matrix to which I would like to increase its ground clearance. What would I have to have done to accomplish this and how would it impact the safety of the cars handing?

How much do you want to lift it? It’ll be pretty hard for anyone to comment without that basic information.

Why do you want to do this? Most guys lift trucks for better off-road capabilities. The Matrix is not an off-roader. Other folks do it to put larger rims and tires on their cars.

Also, how much lift do you think you need? 1 or 2 inches can be done with spring spacers in the struts. More than that requires custom parts to maintain proper suspension angles, and is much more expensive.

Also, any lift will change the handling of the car by lifting the center of gravity. The higher the lift, the worse the handling.

What are you looking to do?

about an inch and a half so I have better clearance over rutted roads when I go fishing. Thanks.

An inch and a half increase in ground clearance on a Matrix isn’t going to be easy or cheap. The only way to gain an inch and a half of clearance is by installing taller wheels and tires. But before that can be done you need a body lift kit so the taller wheels and tires can fit in the wheel wells. This then is going to change the geometry of the suspension and drive axles. Then you have to make sure the taller wheels and tires don’t interfer with suspension/frame components when turning sharply.

Don’t you have a friend/relative that’ll let you borrow/rent their vehicle more suited for these conditions for your fishing excursions?

Tester

If the Matrix doesn’t have traction/stability control, I would have NO qualms about test fitting the largest diameter tires on the car. I did this to my previous Chevy Prism, Suzuki Sidekick and Subaru Legacy and a Plethora of trucks…I got two sizes on the cars and about a 5% increase. If you have these traction aids, I would check with a Toyota technician. You may be able to get away with one size up. The problem…a change in the spare if a flat is on the front wheels, may be necessary.
I like the softer ride of taller tires at the expense of handling as I live on a dirt road and wanted the higher profile. Unlike others, I think you can safely do it…a little and only with tires. Otherwise, adding things like adjustable air shocks gets expensive, even if you could get them to fit.

You can look under tirerack.com or an equivalent website, choose “tires by size”, look under “specs,” then look at diameter. Then enter your existing tire and compare them, to find if the tire will give you the desired clearance. Your search is not over, though, because you’ll need to see if they will clear your fenders and not rub when you take a corner. You can probably guesstimate this just by looking under the car.
Yes, from bitter experience, they can affect handling, engine loading, performance, steering, ride, etc. and a different brand of tire can make your car feel like you have a different vehicle. Some vehicles will easily manage a change in tire sizes … and some won’t.
If you do find a tire that meets your needs, but it makes your car handle poorly, consider finding a used set of wheels (from a salvage yard), put the new tires onto those wheels, and then change them when you go fishing so you won’t be riding around on a set of unsuitable tires on the 360 days a year when you do not go fishing.
If you do a lot of fishing you might consider just buying a used pickup.

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A Matrix is not a good vehicle for increasing ground clearance. A simple change in tire size quickly gets into fender clearance issues. The other ways of lifting vehicles basically don’t apply because the vehicle is a unibody - not a separate frame/body.

Better (big $$) alternative is to get a CR-V, Rav4, etc.

Increasing FWD vehicles beyond what you can gain by larger tires gets complicated. You effectively lengthen the distance from the hub to the differential, pushing the inner CV joints to their outer limits and increasing the articulation angles of both the inner and outer joints, accelerating wear. You also change the front end geometry substantially, affecting the “camber gain” that keeps your track constant, as well as the relationship between the steering link’s inner joint and the steering knuckle, as well as just about everything else.

I’d suggest that you (1) go with the largest size tire the vehicle will accept without wheelwell inrterference, and (2) attach a winch to the front end…just in case.

+1 to TSMB’s ideas - alternative to the winch is to put a ‘come along’ in the trunk:
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But before that can be done you need a body lift kit so the taller wheels and tires can fit in the wheel wells.

This is a unibody. I’ve never seen a body-lift kit on a unibody…only body on frame.

What about an old regular cab pick-up? If you are going to spend a few grand on a lift kit, wheels, and tires, why not get something built for the task? Something like a Ranger or S-10 might work for you. I didn’t sugest Toyota or Nissan trucks because they are popular, and will be priced that way. But you might find an old Toyota 4WD; maybe a Jeep Wrangler priced right for you.

The easiest way to get extra ground clearance would be larger tires or larger wheels, but you need to make sure they don’t rub against the inside of the fender/wheel wells, so you will need some built-in clearance to make this happen.

If you want more clearance, or if you don’t have the clearance for larger wheels/tires, the question will be whether you want to lift the suspension or the body. In any case, this won’t be a DIY job for most people, and I’d look for a good trustworthy shop to do the work.