Poll: lift kit for Toyota Matrix station wagon?

TEAMROBOT
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I just installed an 1 1/4" hitch receiver and Thule 2-bike tray rack on my 2006 Toyota Matrix. The rear of the car felt a little soft before the hitch receiver was installed, but now it feels a lot softer than the front of the car, it's visibly sagging a little, and the hitch rack drags when I go through steep driveways, even when the car is empty. I use this car as a mini-pickup and pile it with bikes, gear, people, and moving other heavy things around, so having soft rear suspension that drags is not ideal. And I'm kind of worried about how much/how often it will drag when fully loaded with bikes and people.

It seems I've got four options, ranging from good to terrible, along with the option to not worry about and just let the rack drag. I'm assuming there are some car and truck nerds and some people who've dealt with rear hitch racks on compact cars, so let me know what you think:

1. A $65 spacer kit to boost the length of the strut assembly and lift the back of the car a little. There are options for 20, 30, and 40mm, but I think I'm only really looking at the 20 or 30mm kit. I'm not planning to change wheel or tire size, either. This would be a body lift only, with no change in spring rate, so the soft suspension would still be soft, just with less risk of dragging.

2. A $35 coil spring spacer, basically "Sprindex for cars," that eliminates part of the coil spring, raises the effective spring rate, and raises the ride height of the car. This also only requires jacking up the vehicle and removing the wheel you're working on one-at-a-time, so it's super easy.

3. A $90 combination of the coil spring spacer and lift spacer listed above. I'd probably use the thinnest lift spacer in anticipation of the spring rate getting stiffer, too. This would raise the car a little and stiffen the suspension, too.

4. Sketchy looking $13 Autozone spring expanders. These look like terrible stress risers on my almost 20 year old springs, but new springs aren't so expensive. This is clearly the worst option, but wanted to hear thoughts.

BTW, I replaced all the struts with OEM Lexus/Toyota struts 3 years ago and measured spring sag when I did it, so I'm already familiar with the job, pulling out the strut assemblies, using spring compressors, etc and there's no reason to think the struts or springs or dysfunctional.

Poll

How should I lift the rear end of my 2006 Toyota Matrix?

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jonkranked
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4/15/2024 1:49pm

i wouldn't care if this was anyone but you.  i have no advice to offer but would love to see the end result. also i'd pitch in a few pesos for you to upgrade to a proper 2" receiver hitch.

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Mwood
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4/15/2024 2:06pm

This is the real discussion we should be having. Lift it to the moon and drive it like you stole it. 

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ak_trnsplnt
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4/15/2024 2:21pm

I'd fire up Team-Robot filled entirely by AI driven content prompted to melt peoples faces off, sell some sketchy google ads and buy yourself a Raptor. You deserve it. Alternatively, I'm on team "Lift it to the moon and drive it like you stole it."

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jonkranked
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4/15/2024 2:25pm
Mwood wrote:

This is the real discussion we should be having. Lift it to the moon and drive it like you stole it. 

gotta go for broke and get some offroad tires too. 

 

Found this looking for a side profile of the Matrix. : r/battlewagon

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bstens
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4/15/2024 4:45pm

Charlie, there's probably an airbag kit you could use as well. The cheap kind you just inflate with a tire pump, nothing crazy. just helps to mitigate. We used them all the time at 38 with bikes weighed down hella.

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4/15/2024 5:26pm Edited Date/Time 4/15/2024 5:35pm

Out of all the weirdo lifted vehicles used for MTB that I know and hang out with (2015 Forester, mid 2010s RAV4, late 2000s Highlander, diesel Jetta Wagon, Honda Fit), the most successful ones lift and stiffen. The Forester absolutely crushes gravel and washboard with stiffer suspension, when loaded with bikes and people.

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hogfly
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4/15/2024 5:42pm

A friend of ours had this issue with their Toyota minivan and they installed air bags which solved it. 
 

 

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owl-x
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4/15/2024 7:07pm

P p p pump it up

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chacou
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4/15/2024 7:35pm Edited Date/Time 4/15/2024 7:39pm

We've put a 2" Traxda spacer kit (strut and spring spacers) on my wife's Sienna which allows us to run larger tires and nets about ~1.5" of added ground clearance. I put on Bilstein B6 struts and shocks and H&R lift springs to my 2013 Rav4, basically slightly cheaper than what Northwoods Performance makes. That also allows for clearing a larger tire and nets about ~2" ground clearance, put a Northwoods exhaust elbow and skid plate on as well, it's much better in the snow and on gravel/forest roads and just generally more fun to drive now. We get all the looks from our Taco/Tundra/4Runner/LC friends.

Lots of options out there and the Matrix isn't a bad platform to do something, I just wouldn't go too crazy as you don't want to stress your CV joints.

kperras
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4/15/2024 8:26pm

2006 Matrix...struts and springs likely need replacing. For the least amount of faff, buy a pair of complete strut assemblies, and hit the Matrix forums for insights on HD versions if they exist. 

Rock Auto has both coil springs and strut/coil assemblies in stock. This will be the cheapest place to buy parts.

Grave
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4/16/2024 5:16am
kperras wrote:
2006 Matrix...struts and springs likely need replacing. For the least amount of faff, buy a pair of complete strut assemblies, and hit the Matrix forums for...

2006 Matrix...struts and springs likely need replacing. For the least amount of faff, buy a pair of complete strut assemblies, and hit the Matrix forums for insights on HD versions if they exist. 

Rock Auto has both coil springs and strut/coil assemblies in stock. This will be the cheapest place to buy parts.

Seems like he replaced the struts three years ago, but not the springs. I would try springs then the spacer kit. I think Moog springs are rebranded Hyperco, so that could be a good option.

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Splayleg
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4/16/2024 6:55am

Any badass trophy truck worth its weight in skanky energy drink models is going to have rear squat. Just run it and gun it

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nskerb
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4/16/2024 7:01am

Pull the running gear off and drop the unibody onto a nissan hardbody frame lol

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kperras
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4/16/2024 10:27am
kperras wrote:
2006 Matrix...struts and springs likely need replacing. For the least amount of faff, buy a pair of complete strut assemblies, and hit the Matrix forums for...

2006 Matrix...struts and springs likely need replacing. For the least amount of faff, buy a pair of complete strut assemblies, and hit the Matrix forums for insights on HD versions if they exist. 

Rock Auto has both coil springs and strut/coil assemblies in stock. This will be the cheapest place to buy parts.

Grave wrote:
Seems like he replaced the struts three years ago, but not the springs. I would try springs then the spacer kit. I think Moog springs are...

Seems like he replaced the struts three years ago, but not the springs. I would try springs then the spacer kit. I think Moog springs are rebranded Hyperco, so that could be a good option.

Whoops reading fail. 

 

There's gotta be some HD spring out there. The car scene, especially sweet alt platforms like the Matrix/Vibe, is quite creative. 

TEAMROBOT
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4/16/2024 2:41pm

Thanks for all the feedback, y'all. There are a ton of stiffer spring kits for this car to lower it, but I'm not aware of any spring kits to make it stiffer and ride higher. But maybe it's worth an email or phone call to HyperCo to ask about their springs. Springs are cheap.

Love all the suggestions to turn it into a Swampfest monster truck, but this is our only car. Not planning to lift the front at all, just wanting to get the hitch rack off the ground. Seems like the collective vote is to lift it and make the springs stiffer.

Dave_Camp
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4/16/2024 6:31pm

you can also look at shortening the rack itself- ie how far it sticks out from the back of the vehicle- better exit angle for steep driveways etc.  My old Thule stuck out an extra foot or so before it would have handlebar to window issues.

 

I made this- carries a single bike about as close to the bumper as possible.

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mrpfp
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4/16/2024 7:58pm

The supplemental airbags won’t easily work on the Matrix rear suspension but they do perform really well for this exact task. Coils definitely fatigue, older generation 4Runners and Land Cruisers were notorious for rear spring sag.

I’d recommend the strut spacer and coil reducer combo if you’re not happy to crawl around the local Pull-n-Pay comparing spring seat and wire diameters to find your glass slipper.

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StudBeefpile
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4/17/2024 11:18am

Looks like option three is winning out and I agree.  I guess it all comes down to, will it suck when you don't have bikes on the back?  Also 1 1/4", dude what you doing.  I can ship you an old 2" off my element.  

 

Full disclaimer, im not a car guy, i just mainly wanted to razz you about the small adapter. 

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TEAMROBOT
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4/17/2024 1:24pm
Looks like option three is winning out and I agree.  I guess it all comes down to, will it suck when you don't have bikes on...

Looks like option three is winning out and I agree.  I guess it all comes down to, will it suck when you don't have bikes on the back?  Also 1 1/4", dude what you doing.  I can ship you an old 2" off my element.  

 

Full disclaimer, im not a car guy, i just mainly wanted to razz you about the small adapter. 

The only hitch receivers for the Matrix/Vibe are 1 1/4", unless you want to go the full custom route and get something welded up. I'm also curious if stiffer springs will suck when the car's unloaded, but luckily it's pretty easy to undo the spring reducers if I hate it. Leaning towards option #3

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jonkranked
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4/17/2024 2:12pm
TEAMROBOT wrote:
The only hitch receivers for the Matrix/Vibe are 1 1/4", unless you want to go the full custom route and get something welded up. I'm also...

The only hitch receivers for the Matrix/Vibe are 1 1/4", unless you want to go the full custom route and get something welded up. I'm also curious if stiffer springs will suck when the car's unloaded, but luckily it's pretty easy to undo the spring reducers if I hate it. Leaning towards option #3

i had the same issue with my 2012 impreza.  only 1-1/4" hitches are available stock. but you don't need to go "full custom".  i went to a custom trailer shop, discussed what I wanted, the solution was to cut out the 1-1/4 receiver from a stock hitch for my vehicle and weld in a 2" receiver. it's been going strong for 12 years now. 

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4/17/2024 3:14pm

My Forester does drive more like a truck in a straight line with the lift it has: 1.5" Primitive brand - combination of lifted King Springs on KYBs  + body spacers. If you think of it as "sporty" rather than trucky because a Vibe or Forester is more of a car, it's easier to accept. Fun handling and less body roll are beneficial side affects of going stiffer. I don't find it jarring on long unloaded drives.

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4/27/2024 2:00pm Edited Date/Time 4/27/2024 2:28pm

I drove an 0'4 matrix for many years, about 400K or so, well past the stopped 299odo limit. I drove it off-road a ton, including driving the road to Inuvik twice in a year, all the way from the prairies to the edge of the north, Alaska, all over the place. I had everything I owned, plus a cat in it for about two years straight while doing this, I might be the only person really qualified to tell about the suspension on that thing on this MTB forum...

Don't bother lifting it, the spring spacers suck. lower A arm and upper connecting arm mean the camber will always be off, unless you want to do some serious fabrication of course. 

Your best bet is to run KYB struts and springs, I forget the exact name but the twin tube design is slightly better. Matrix XRS's use a stiffer spring and damping, but lowers the car about 1cm. If stiffness is desired you could try that but you'll sacrifice some height. I found the springs only realistically last as long as the shock/strut and changing it all at once was the way. I scrapped my matrix in 2016 so I'm a bit fuzzy, but I think I went through 6 strut/spring assemblies.... After all, it's a commuter car the springs aren't really meant for this. I tried some random BS with spacers, springs etc.. throughout the years and found normal replacements for cheap but more frequently was better. 

You can fit 205/60/16's with no rub, which gains you about 1/2" extra clearance at the belly pan, far more worth it than spring lift where you'll still drag the oil pan. You can run 205/65/16's as well, but they rub at full lock without some trimming on the front inner fender and the rears need to be rolled slightly, I just used a random pipe and made mine fit. I'm sure with wheels spacers/off-set rims, a grinder and a fender puller you could go even bigger, but the thing is already gutless so beware. If it's a stick the clutch won't love you either...

The best things I did for that Matrix was a roof rack and box, all the weight on the rear will always sag it, bikes and gear on the roof made it top heavy but dragged less. Pros/vs cons there, you decide. I had a hitch rack but rarely used it, only if the roof racks were full, or I was all HWY. Bigger tires, I made a road sign into oil pan skid and that seemed enough for me. 

If you really want a lifted car, buy a Subaru Forester or a Golf hatch. Subarus have way more support and Golfs are basically lego, you can lift them with all OEM parts pretty easily. 

When the matrix finally died I bought a Jeep Cherokee (XJ) and never looked back, the only problem was gas mileage. The Matrix was pretty close to as bad as the 4.0 i6 all loaded up anyway though.

TLDR just buy tires and maintain it. It's not, and never will be that capable off-road. You'll spend more trying to fix it/make it better than just getting something more worthy. 

 

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TEAMROBOT
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4/27/2024 5:38pm
I drove an 0'4 matrix for many years, about 400K or so, well past the stopped 299odo limit. I drove it off-road a ton, including driving...

I drove an 0'4 matrix for many years, about 400K or so, well past the stopped 299odo limit. I drove it off-road a ton, including driving the road to Inuvik twice in a year, all the way from the prairies to the edge of the north, Alaska, all over the place. I had everything I owned, plus a cat in it for about two years straight while doing this, I might be the only person really qualified to tell about the suspension on that thing on this MTB forum...

Don't bother lifting it, the spring spacers suck. lower A arm and upper connecting arm mean the camber will always be off, unless you want to do some serious fabrication of course. 

Your best bet is to run KYB struts and springs, I forget the exact name but the twin tube design is slightly better. Matrix XRS's use a stiffer spring and damping, but lowers the car about 1cm. If stiffness is desired you could try that but you'll sacrifice some height. I found the springs only realistically last as long as the shock/strut and changing it all at once was the way. I scrapped my matrix in 2016 so I'm a bit fuzzy, but I think I went through 6 strut/spring assemblies.... After all, it's a commuter car the springs aren't really meant for this. I tried some random BS with spacers, springs etc.. throughout the years and found normal replacements for cheap but more frequently was better. 

You can fit 205/60/16's with no rub, which gains you about 1/2" extra clearance at the belly pan, far more worth it than spring lift where you'll still drag the oil pan. You can run 205/65/16's as well, but they rub at full lock without some trimming on the front inner fender and the rears need to be rolled slightly, I just used a random pipe and made mine fit. I'm sure with wheels spacers/off-set rims, a grinder and a fender puller you could go even bigger, but the thing is already gutless so beware. If it's a stick the clutch won't love you either...

The best things I did for that Matrix was a roof rack and box, all the weight on the rear will always sag it, bikes and gear on the roof made it top heavy but dragged less. Pros/vs cons there, you decide. I had a hitch rack but rarely used it, only if the roof racks were full, or I was all HWY. Bigger tires, I made a road sign into oil pan skid and that seemed enough for me. 

If you really want a lifted car, buy a Subaru Forester or a Golf hatch. Subarus have way more support and Golfs are basically lego, you can lift them with all OEM parts pretty easily. 

When the matrix finally died I bought a Jeep Cherokee (XJ) and never looked back, the only problem was gas mileage. The Matrix was pretty close to as bad as the 4.0 i6 all loaded up anyway though.

TLDR just buy tires and maintain it. It's not, and never will be that capable off-road. You'll spend more trying to fix it/make it better than just getting something more worthy. 

 

Thanks for all the info! Sounds like you know this car pretty well. Just to be clear, I'm not planning on off-roading this car at all, just trying to remove the rear end drag on the road. I found someone who's selling brand new stock take-off springs from a 2007 Matrix on eBay, so I'm going to try those and a 20mm spacer in the rear to see if it can get my hitch a little higher off the ground. https://www.ebay.com/itm/175813969606?itmmeta=01HWH23HFYEWMNY2J4E34JG11…

No interest in putting bigger tires on or lifting the front.

4/27/2024 7:33pm

Yeah fair enough. These cars rely on compression damping to maintain. Ride height, you’re probably best to replace everything at once, but just springs may help. 
 

If your just trying to not scrape the rack/hitch you could pickup a hitch riser or get someone to chop/flip your hitch. 
 

Im sure you’ve picked on it, but I still don’t think strut spacers are a good idea… because this is a bike site, let’s compare them to running a satori heads up steerer extender or flipping your drops upside down for a more comfortable position. 

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TEAMROBOT
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4/27/2024 8:24pm
Yeah fair enough. These cars rely on compression damping to maintain. Ride height, you’re probably best to replace everything at once, but just springs may help. ...

Yeah fair enough. These cars rely on compression damping to maintain. Ride height, you’re probably best to replace everything at once, but just springs may help. 
 

If your just trying to not scrape the rack/hitch you could pickup a hitch riser or get someone to chop/flip your hitch. 
 

Im sure you’ve picked on it, but I still don’t think strut spacers are a good idea… because this is a bike site, let’s compare them to running a satori heads up steerer extender or flipping your drops upside down for a more comfortable position. 

I hear you, I guess I don't get why you think strut spacers are a problem. If my wheels and tires aren't heavier, and I just replaced the rear struts three years ago with OEM KYB struts from the dealer, and the previous struts lasted 15 years, it seems like a small body lift in the back with fresh OEM springs should ride very close to stock, just 20mm higher in the back. You mentioned the A-arm and camber problems in your earlier post, but I'm not talking about doing a front lift, so I don't think I'd need to get an alignment. Unlike the front, the rear axles move vertically.

Serious question: help me understand what I'm missing here. Body lifts are super common in truck world. Of course in performance truck world its optimal to replace everything when you're doing a lift (springs, shocks, sway bars, tie rods, axles, A-arms, etc) but that's mega expensive and lots of people are driving around with a one or two inch body lift on their trucks doing fine.

NoahColorado
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4/27/2024 10:06pm

Looks like the discussion has progressed past this idea/solution, but I use the supplemental air bag things in my Passat. Works good.

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TEAMROBOT
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4/27/2024 10:13pm

Looks like the discussion has progressed past this idea/solution, but I use the supplemental air bag things in my Passat. Works good.

I would love to do that Noah, but I don't think that would work with my car. My understanding is that the airbags go inside a coil on cars with a separate strut assembly, but my struts are inside my rear coils taking up that space. When I looked at airbags, they didn't have a kit that was listed as being compatible with my car.

Air Lift 1000 Air Helper Springs for Coil Springs - Rear Air Lift Vehicle  Suspension AL60769

4/27/2024 11:03pm
TEAMROBOT wrote:
I hear you, I guess I don't get why you think strut spacers are a problem. If my wheels and tires aren't heavier, and I just...

I hear you, I guess I don't get why you think strut spacers are a problem. If my wheels and tires aren't heavier, and I just replaced the rear struts three years ago with OEM KYB struts from the dealer, and the previous struts lasted 15 years, it seems like a small body lift in the back with fresh OEM springs should ride very close to stock, just 20mm higher in the back. You mentioned the A-arm and camber problems in your earlier post, but I'm not talking about doing a front lift, so I don't think I'd need to get an alignment. Unlike the front, the rear axles move vertically.

Serious question: help me understand what I'm missing here. Body lifts are super common in truck world. Of course in performance truck world its optimal to replace everything when you're doing a lift (springs, shocks, sway bars, tie rods, axles, A-arms, etc) but that's mega expensive and lots of people are driving around with a one or two inch body lift on their trucks doing fine.

In the truck world body lifts aren’t super common. Body lifts entail spacing the entire body up from the frame. The common one is preload spacer lifts. Those aren’t great for handling. Down travel is quite important off road so when you decrease that by like 3” it’s not great. A lot of travel for a stock truck is 15” so that lift is 20% less sag. On bikes your legs can let the bike fall into holes without your cg moving vertically much. With cars and trucks this isn’t the case. When off road, decreasing down travel results in the cab pitching around more at slower speeds and a decrease in traction at higher speeds when going over holes, whoops, or whatever it is where the surface that dips below the normal driving surface. People often mistake this for the preload spacer making the suspension stiffer. Preload spacers don’t change the rate of the spring so stiffness is the same. If you want stiffer a preload spacer won’t solve anything. Motor vehicle suspension is much different from bikes when it comes to spring/damping balance though. Whereas spring rate is frequently used to tune bottom out resistance along with damping on bikes, suspension for off road trucks really only uses spring rate to tune ride height and then relies heavily on damping to not bottom like crazy. 

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