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Lifting Your Jeep
Why lift your Jeep? More height means more clearance for dealing with obstacles while offroading. It allows you to run larger tires, which also helps with conquering offroad challenges. Still another reason is that many folks just feel that a lifted Jeep with larger tires looks better, and I certainly agree with them. The added height and larger tires just give a Jeep a better more pronounced profile
No matter the reason for lifting your Jeep, there are a number of ways to go about it. Before you pick which one is right for you, you’ll need to make some decisions along the way. First, you'll need to decide on what you’re looking to accomplish with the lift. Is it simply for show, or is it for go? Serious rock crawling anyone? Second, determine just how high you want to go. Looking for a little height for some mild wheeling or are you really serious about this height thing? Third, you’ll need to select the type of lift to use. Finally, install the lift or have it installed.
The basic methods for lifting a Jeep are Suspension Lift Kits, Body Lifts Kits, Shackle Lifts, Spring-Over-Axle Conversions, and Coil Spring Spacers. Jeep shackle lifts and coil spring spacers typically result in a maximum increase of 2 inches. Coil spring spacers are just what they say: spacers that are inserted under the base of the coil spring, resulting in lifting the springs higher. Shackle lifts are comprised of leaf spring shackles that are longer and lift the frame higher from the leafs. Both of these kits are rather inexpensive methods, but if you’re looking for more than a couple of inches, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Spring-Over-Axle conversion kits allow you to change the location of the leaf spring from beneath the axle to sit on top of it. They’ll usually result in a lift of 4 inches or more. This can be increased by the size of springs you use with the over axle kit. Use of these can cause cantering, and steering linkage and driveline issues which must be addressed. It can become a little complicated for the less mechanically inclined among us (I’m one of them!). It will definitely change the handling of the rig. While the spring-over-axle conversion kits are rather inexpensive when compared to suspensions lifts, there is a good bit of time and money spent on fixing the issues it creates, which needs to be taken into consideration when assessing the costs of your various options.
With Body Lift Kits you basically unbolt the body from the frame, and place manufactured blocks between the Jeep's body and the rolling chassis. This raises the body of your Jeep but doesn't directly increase the clearance of your undercarriage. The body lift does allow you to run larger tires, which will increase your Jeep's clearance.
Suspension lift kits will directly increase the clearance of a Jeep. They call for installing taller suspension components (higher lift springs and longer recoil shocks). These systems deliver lift, better articulation, and better offroad handling. Unfortunately, they are the most expensive of the lift options, but they deliver the best handling performance.
When it comes down to choosing a lift, you’ll need to determine why you’re lifting the vehicle, and how much you’re willing to pay for it. If you’re only looking to add a couple of inches and you want the lift just for looks, a body kit, coil-spring-spacers or lift shackles may be just what the doctor ordered. If you’re looking to build a Jeep that is more offroad capable then you should look at suspension lift systems.
Many serious offroaders combine the suspension lift with a body lift for additional height. Installation of any of these lifting methods will usually change the handling of a vehicle. They all raise the center of gravity and will, therefore, affect side-to-side handling and cornering. This can be addressed by adding wider tires along with the lift. Depending on the type and size of kit you install and the model of your Jeep, you may need to install a dropped Pitman arm, longer control arms, longer brake hoses, a transfer case drop, and/or a CV drive shaft and slip yoke eliminator kit (due to a change of the angle of the drive train on TJs and some Cherokees). It’s important to not cut corners when lifting your Jeep. Why spend the money on a lift just to compromise the handling performance and face potentially serious wear and tear issues with key components? Do it right the first time and it will serve you in the long run.
Whatever system you select, the one thing for sure is that the added height will help give your Jeep that rugged tough look most of us seem to prefer.
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