There are a number of reasons to lift your Jeep, from practical to aesthetic. Whether you want to make your ride more off-road ready or just look good cruising down the street, there’s a lot to consider. There are many factors that affect everything from the ride and safety of your vehicle to potential future repairs, and the overall cost of the changes you will make.
How high is high enough? Here’s a guide to deciding how much to lift your Jeep, and what lift kit is right for you.
There are essentially two categories of lift kits and several variations within them. The first is a body lift, which raises the body off the frame to allow more room for larger tires. The second is a suspension lift, which actually lifts the frame and everything on it further off the ground, creating significantly more ground clearance.
How do you choose between the two? It depends how you’ll use your Jeep and what tires and wheels you want on it.
For most of us, our Jeep is a combination of a daily driver, commuter, grocery getter, occasional towing vehicle and a weekend off-road machine. This means that to keep things practical, we need to maintain some of the high speed and handling characteristics.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated wheeler just for off-road use (and getting there) you can sacrifice some of the on-road capability for more off-road flexibility. You can go higher with lifts and do more suspension modifications, depending on what you do when you leave the pavement.
Of course, lift kits also cost money. From a simple and inexpensive lift to a complete overhaul of your suspension system and several other mods you may have to do, the cost can rapidly surpass the cost of the lift kit itself.
Research is key. Here are a few important factors to consider.
Be careful where you get your information. The internet is a great resource, but it’s also full of misinformation. Research several sources and stay true to what you want to do with your Jeep and what you use it for.
Be sure you can afford the choices you make, and do things all at once, not one thing at a time. Going without some parts, even briefly, can cause damage to your Jeep or has potential risks involved.
So what do Jeep lift kits look like, and what are the numbers to look for? Here’s a quick rundown of tire sizes, needed lift size, and how that will affect the way your Jeep handles.
Here’s the good news: you can switch to 33" tires with almost no modifications to your Jeep at all, as long as you plan to stay mostly on the road. If you plan to take it off-road, you might need a few small adjustments for tire clearance.
One type of lift, the Budget Boost lift, will give you all the clearance you need. This lift kit usually includes front and rear spring and shock spacers, front sway bar extensions, and longer brake lines for both the front and rear of your Jeep.
These kits add around 1.5" of body clearance to accommodate the larger tires. This isn’t a huge gain in ground clearance, but it’s a place to start.
This tire size is where a lift is no longer optional. You’ll need at least 2.5" to give you the proper clearance. This is a good spot to talk about net lift vs. the lift the kit says you’ll get.
Most lift kits assume that your Jeep is fully loaded when they calculate the height you will get. This means you have steel bumpers front and rear, and a steel skid plate. If you do not have one or more of these items, your lift will be higher.
Why is this important? Because you might need longer brake lines or sway bar links than what come in the kit to get the lift you want. A good kit will come with new shocks and springs all the way around, brake lines or extensions, top or bottom front control arms, and track bars both front and rear.
To run these tires, you’ll need a lift kit of 3.5" or more. This kit will have the same contents as the 2.5" kits with the exception of control arms top and bottom for both front and rear. These kits are for serious off-roaders. Why? The math is pretty simple.
A 1 to 2" lift lets you maintain the factory ride, it’s inexpensive and easy to install, and causes few if any maintenance issues down the road. This would be a Budget Boost lift or simple body lift.
Body lifts are the second least expensive option after the Budget Boost lift, but they limit how much you can lift the body from the frame without having to do some other serious modifications like radiator mounts, motor mounts, and even suspension changes. This happens at the 2-3" range, at which point you might want to consider a suspension lift instead.
Besides Budget Boost lifts, you have the option of long or short arm lifts when you get to the 2-4" range. Both change the geometry of your Jeep, and if you go beyond the 4" lift range up to 6” lifts, it’s recommended you primarily drive your Jeep off-road. The reason isn’t because they can’t be driven on the road, but they won’t be comfortable, and your safety may be compromised due to the higher center of gravity. If you’re going to go that high, your Jeep will probably no longer be your daily driver.
How high is too high? That’s a question you can only answer yourself. Do your research, know what you want to do and don’t want to do with your Jeep both on and off the road, and determine how much you have to spend. In the answers to all those questions lies your solution.