One area the H2 is somewhat lacking in when off-road is ground clearance, usually not by much, but a little more clearance would certainly help. While a 6" suspension lift will not give you an extra 6" of clearance, it will certainly improve a few things and also allow for larger tires.

Lift kits
There are several "mainstream" lift kits available for the H2, namely Fabtech [6"], Rancho [4"] and Skyjacker [5.5"]. After looking at the main three lift kits and researching the subject, it was decided to go with the Fabtech 6" lift kit. There were several reasons for this; good reputation, a company that stands behind it's products, and the maintaining of proper drive line angles, to name a few.

That is not to say there is anything wrong with the other lift kits on the market, just that for this particular application the Fabtech kit was deemed the best choice.

While you may be able to get away with using the stock rims, at 8.5" wide they severely restrict tire options. Fabtech also recommend using a rim with either 4 5/8" or 5" back spacing.

The American Eagle Series 064 18x10 rim is a "budget" priced chromed alloy rim, but looks as good as much more expensive rims. Backspacing is 4.5" which is ideal for a wide tire. Rims are very much a personal choice, so as long as they are wide enough for the tires you plan to use and have the correct backspacing, then they will be fine.

There are several tire options available for a lifted H2 and choosing the tires goes hand in hand with choosing the rims, they need to be able to work with each other. For a good compromise between an off-road tire and a tire for the highway, the Toyo Open Country MT's were chosen in a 38x15.50x18 size.

The Open Country MT's have an aggressive tread pattern for off-road use, yet still retain a very smooth and quiet ride on the highway. The sidewall lugs provide extra traction for climbing rocks and digging through mud, as well as help protect the sidewalls. Weight for balancing the tires ranged from 1.25 oz to 3.5 oz, which is excellent for such a large heavy tire. The tires are 106 lbs each and the rims weigh in at 42 lbs a piece, this makes for a for a very heavy wheel at over 150 lbs when aired up.

A 40" tire would fit fine with the 6" lift, but you are reaching the point were you really need to re-gear and they will rub heavily when off-road. A 38" tire obviously effects the speedometer reading, low end torque and performance, but is still acceptable without re-gearing, although re-programming is still required.

The 38" titres do not rub at all when on the highway, but off-road they do rub on the rear of the front wheel wells and some trimming is required..

Steering Components
To help deal with all the extra weight the Fabtech Heavy Duty Tie Rods were installed. A Fabtech FTS8004 was also installed and helps give a more positive feel to the vehicle. A SDP Center Link was added later to deal with the additional stresses when off-road.

Fender Flares
With 15.5" wide tires and 4.5" backspacing the tires protrude past the stock fender flares by some considerable distance. This will result in more stones and mud flying up at the side of the vehicle and other vehicles behind you. It also doesn't look quite right.

The widest fender flares on the market for the H2 are the E&G Classics Wide Fender Flares, which are about 3 1/4" wide. They cover the rear tires almost entirely, but leave about 3" of the front tires uncovered.

The flares require drilling of the body panels and take about 2 hours to install. They offer substantially more coverage than the stock flares and also look much better.

Lift Installation
Installation was performed by The Max in San Antonio and took one and half days. That included the HD idler and Pitman arms, mounting and balancing the tires, an alignment and installing the lift kit itself.

The Max had done several Fabtech lifts on H2's before, which obviously helps. When looking for a company to install the lift, make sure they have prior experience with your lift kit and your vehicle. If at all possible, you don't want to be their learning experience on such a critical system.

Off Road
Despite doubts over the higher center of gravity, the 6" lift performs excellent off road. The increased approach, departure and break over angles help considerably, as does the much needed extra under body clearance.

Articulation is decidedly better, especially at the rear. The higher center of gravity showed no significant decrease in incline or side slope ability. In fact the vehicle feels more stable on side slopes and inclines, most likely due the longer suspension travel, better articulation and wider track.

The Fabtech 6" lift provides big advantages when off road compared to a stock vehicle and shows no significant draw backs at all. It makes for a positive feeling vehicle that can easily tackle much harder obstacles than a stock H2.

The handling is definitely different. There is a little more wallowing around corners and over correction of the steering will provoke an uncomfortable experience. The ride is very smooth and cruising down the highway is very comfortable.

Even with no steps, [only rock sliders], getting in and out of the vehicle is much easier than anticipated and six year old children can still climb in and out unassisted.

The higher center of gravity is somewhat negated by the wider track, however there is definitely a change in the center of gravity and extra caution needs to paid when on side slopes or at extreme angles.

Underbody Protection
The Fabtech lift kit comes complete with a 1/4" thick skid plate for the front differential and one for the transfer case, as well as brackets to allow the use of the stock underbody protection.

However, the diff protection will get damaged pretty easily and the Fabtech FTS97000 full diff skid plate is recommended for off-road use.

The torsion bars are the most vulnerable point underneath, although they are very strong and minor impact will be absorbed through the suspension. In to order to afford maximum protection, a new underbody cage was fabricated out of 2" x 2" 0.250" wall box section that sits about 1/2" below the torsion bars to afford them some protection. It also covers the rear torsion bracket with 1/4" plate to minimize any damage in the that area. This is also substantially stronger than using the stock under body protection.

Ground Clearance
Frame : 20.5"
Rear Torsion Bar Mount : 15.5"
Torsion Bars (Lowest Point) : 14.5"
Front Cross Member : 14.0"
Front Differential : 12.0"
Rear Differential : 11.3"

The stock H2 has a ground clearance of 9.7", the lowest point (rear diff) of the 6" lifted H2 is now at 11.3", and the largest difference is seen in the frame with nearly 8" of added clearance. The fording ability of the H2 will also increase by somewhere close to 8", giving the lifted H2 a fording ability of 28" compared to 20" stock. Rear axle articulation also increases substantially, the front also increases but not by as much.

Stock Lifted
Approach : 40.8º 57.0º
Departure : 39.6º 55.0º

So was it worth it? Are there enough gains to warrant the expense? Obviously, these are questions that can only be answered by the person having the lift done. But if you want a little more clearance, better approach/departure angles, the ability to run larger tires, and a much more aggressive look, then lifting your H2 may be for you.

Click to see video of a Fabtech lifted H2 in action

Click on an image below to enlarge

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