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A lift kit is another one of those essential modifications for anyone wanting more off-roading capability out of their Wrangler. There are a variety of options to choose from, depending on your crawling needs.Shop Lift Kits
Are you in the market for a new lift kit for your Jeep Wrangler? When it comes to lift kits there are a lot of factors to consider; what will it be used for, budget, tire size, etc. All of these factors effect what height and type of lift kit would be the most effective to get for your Wrangler.
A lift kit raises the body or suspension a Wrangler. A body lift increases the distance between the frame and the body while a suspension lift increases the distance between the axles and the frame.
Everyone has different reasons to install a lift kit. Whether it’s for off-roading or simply aesthetics, your reason for lifting your Jeep will dictate what kind of lift you install. If you are planning on doing any serious off-roading, you will want to lift your Jeep to increase ground clearance, suspension travel, and fit larger tires better suited for off-roading. People also tend to lift their Wrangler because it makes it look better. Ultimately when it comes to lifting your Jeep you should factor in what you are planning to do with it, how much you want to spend, and how difficult it may be to install.
For most of us, our Jeep is a combination of a daily driver, off-road toy, camping vehicle, and perhaps a little towing here and there. If you are looking for a suspension lift kit for this multi-use situation, the goal is to find the proper balance between on-road drivability and off-road suspension flexibility. If you have the luxury of owning a dedicated wheeler, most of its higher speed handling traits can be sacrificed to maximize suspension articulation. Just remember suspension is only one part of the equation; you must also address the vehicle's wheels and tires along with the drive train. The key is to get these three systems working together to provide the best possible traction at all times, on and off-road.
Some of the more important questions to ask:
If you’re not an experienced mechanic, it may be best to have your lift professionally installed to ensure it is done correctly. The installation process involves a lot of work and time spent under your Jeep. If you do not have experience in this area it may best to consult a professional to avoid any unintentional damage to your vehicle. If you install the lift yourself, you will likely spend hours under your rig tweaking everything over and over again... until it is just right.
If you're going for a larger lift (3.5" plus), then you will need to consider different lower control arms and longer shocks. You will also need to lengthen the front and rear brake lines. If you lift 4" or more, then you will likely need longer upper control arms as well. Plus, you will need to replace the track bar, and you might need to add longer emergency brake lines. As there are hundreds of kits to choose from, we’ve broken down the basics of each type to make it easier to decide.
If you just want a little more clearance under the transfer case, or a little more room to run 31” tires, then a smaller lift is the way to go. Typically, this type of lift will consist of coil spacers placed under the stock springs to give it a little bump in front height with long shackles in the rear. You could go with blocks in the rear IF you have new or strong springs. 1.5” to 2" is the most common "small lift"
NOTE: Occasionally buyers get remorse, wishing they had gone bigger to begin with.
A larger lift typically results in a more aggressive look and amazing off-road performance while still maintaining a stock on-road ride. Larger lift kits typically come with a whole slew of parts, and it is a good idea to know what you are doing before installing one of these. Most people run 35” tires with good results.
Pros & Cons:
A body lift is an inexpensive way to lift your Wrangler. You can typically get a 1-3 inch lift without new shocks for under $200.00. If you install a body lift larger than 1.5 inches without new shocks you could reduce ride quality. 2-3” body lifts are where you start to encounter major suspension issues due to the stock components are not long enough to span the extra distance and be in the correct position to perform correctly. Body lifts work by giving you taller spacers and bolts that go between the frame and body of your Wrangler. With larger lifts you will have to install extensions or new brackets for things like the radiator, shifter, fuel filler tube, and possibly your steering linkage.
New brackets must be installed to allow for your radiator to be in the correct position to allow for proper function and for the fan shroud to be reinstalled. Shift linkage must be extended to allow for it to fully engage into the correct position due to the body moving with the transmission staying in place. Your fuel filler tube must be extended otherwise it would not be long enough to reach between the body and the tank. Your steering linkage support may have to be lifted to correct steering angles. Without a taller linkage support it is possible you may experience stiff steering.
A budget boost is a kit that will provide a small increase in a Wrangler’s suspension height and uses either spacers that install on top of coil springs, or on a YJ, larger shackles are used. This form of lift kit is very simple to install, however it can cause issues if new shocks or extensions are not installed. When a budget boost is installed with stock shocks or shocks that have not been extended, down travel will be limited and you may run the risk of bending shock mounts.
Suspension lifts are sometimes called short arm lifts and are one of the most common lift kits for Wranglers due to their mid-level price and effectiveness. These lifts range from 2-6 inches. The main downside of taller suspension lifts is anything over a 2.5 inch lift will require a slip yoke eliminator and a CV driveshaft in order prevent driveline vibrations and other issues. 4.5-6 inch lifts are best suited for off-roading because they provide large amounts of ground clearance, articulation and allow for some very large tires. This doesn’t mean that they cannot be driven on the road, however it may be less comfortable and less safe due to increased center of gravity. Short arm lifts generally include bigger coil springs, sway bar links, and shocks. Some may also use extended control arms, upgraded steering components, or more depending on the size and manufacturer. Coil lifts are often grouped with short arm lifts due to their similarity, however coil lifts typically only include larger coil springs and possibly new shocks.
YJ Wranglers: YJs use a leaf spring suspension on both the front and rear axles. The main component of the lift is a new set of larger leaf springs. YJ Wranglers do not use control arms thanks to the use of leaf springs which are able to hold the axles in place while acting as springs.
TJ & JK Wranglers: In 1997, the Wrangler’s suspension changed over to a 4-wheel coil type suspension which remains the stock suspension setup in Wranglers today. TJ and JK Wrangler lift kits use taller coil springs to increase the distance between the frame and the axles. Larger lifts may include new control arms to maintain suspension alignment providing smoother highway driving.
A long arm lift kit is a special form of suspension lift that uses longer control arms that mount further back in an attempt to bring suspension angles closer to the original. This form of lift provides better ride quality than a short arm suspension kit due to the better angels. However, a drawback of long arm kits is they tend to be expensive, and they are more likely to get caught on rocks when crawling due to the long control arms hanging down further. As part of the typical installation for most long arm lifts, you may need to modify your exhaust and possibly weld on new mounts for the longer control arms.
As you increase the size of your Jeep’s tires, there are a variety of suspension upgrades needed in order to accommodate the necessary clearance for the tire both on and off-road.
Increasing to 33” tires: There is very little to do if you plan on increasing your stock tire size to 33” on JK Wranglers. On-road, the JK Wrangler can accommodate most 33” tires without any modifications. If you plan on going off-road, you’ll need a slight increase in lift in order to give you the proper amount of clearance. In most cases a simple 1.5” “Budget Boost” is enough to provide the needed clearance. Most budget boost lifts include the following:
Increasing to 35” tires: If you plan on upgrading to a 35” tire, you will need a lift of at least 2.5” for proper clearance. A good 2.5” lift should include the following:
Increasing to 37” tires: increasing your tire size to 37” or more will require a lift kit of at least 3.5” or more. A good 3.5” lift kit should include the following:
Certain tires sizes require minimum lift heights. In doing so, a lift can affect your Jeep’s geometry in a couple of ways.
Stock to 33”: The stock tire size leading up to a 33” tire can be installed without modifications or along with a basic lift kit (“Budget Boost”). This basic lift kits usually consist of spacers for the stock springs and shocks. They don’t have a noticeable effect on the overall geometry of the Jeep, but will provided the needed fender clearance to properly use a 33” tire on the trail.
33 to 35”: This tire range introduces the need for a moderate lift kit ranging from 2.5” to 3.5”. The additional lift height introduces the need to correct the Jeep’s geometry through the use of front and rear track bars and at least upper or lower front control arms to realign the front axle under the Jeep.
35” to 37”: the introduction of a tire size larger than 35” requires a more advanced level of lift kit of over 4”. These lift kits replace the majority of the Jeep’s stock suspension and will also require new drive shafts. The geometry will need to be properly aligned through the use of the front and rear, upper and lower control arms. In addition, the front and rear track bars will need to be elongated in order to re-center the axle.
Wranglers with any form of suspension lift over 2 inches should consider adding a slip yoke eliminator and a CV driveshaft to prevent driveline vibration. After about 3 inches it should be considered essential. This is because 3 lifts can cause driveline vibration, accelerated wearing of U-joints, and in some extreme cases your rear driveshaft could slide out of your transfer case when your Wrangler flexes. A slip yoke eliminator gets rid of the slip yoke in your rear drivetrain, and replaces it with a fixed flange in order to allow a CV driveshaft to be installed. A CV driveshaft allows for greater driveline angles without vibration.
It’s easy to misinterpret actual lift estimates when buying a lift, because manufacturers estimate the increase in height based on a fully loaded Jeep. A fully loaded Jeep is considered one running full front and rear steel bumpers, winch, and underside skid plates. Within those specs, a 2.5” lift will net you about 2.5”. In cases where a lift is installed in an otherwise stock Jeep, the actual lift is considerably more and could easily reach close to the 4” mark. This can cause serious concerns for the driveshafts. A good rule of thumb is to replace the drive shaft in a lift that nets close to 4” of actual lift. Manufactures prefer to error on the side of caution and base their estimates on the worst case scenarios while still fulfill their advertised estimates. If you get more than advertised they consider that a good thing.
One of the drawbacks when lifting your Jeep with an automatic transmission is the drive shaft. The automatic transmission is larger than a manual transmission, and therefore utilizes a smaller diameter drive shaft due to space limitations. This is obviously weaker, and in newer 2012 Jeep models, offers a significant problem when lifting a Jeep.
For 2012 and newer Jeeps with the Pentastar engine, a larger lift might cause contact issues with the front part of the exhaust cross-over pipe and the front stock drive shaft. In some cases if the lift is high enough, it will angle the drive shaft enough that the rubber boot will come in contact with the hot exhaust pipe and melt or actually rub, causing significant damage. An aftermarket thinner drive shaft would solve this issue or a new aftermarket pipe might also provide enough clearance. However, the cheapest solution is an exhaust spacer. These are aluminum spacers placed between the exhaust flanges, pushing the cross-over pipe back and lower, allowing enough clearance for the driveshaft.
In addition, when lifting a Jeep, there’s an increase in angle to the drive shafts, which if not corrected, could also lead to premature failure during extreme articulation use on the trail. Two door Jeeps in particular are more prone to this type of problem, due to the shorter wheelbase. Four door models are still subject to the same issue and should be monitored closely, especially while on the trail.
Control arms keep the axles properly center and angled correctly. If you install a new, longer drive shaft, you’ll need longer control arms to properly center the axles and correct caster angles. Along with front and back adjustment of the axles that control arms provide, you may need to adjust the side-to-side centering of the axles. These adjustments are done with the track bars. Both the front and rear axles require track bars, although the rear axles can often be taken care of with a simple bracket that clamps onto the axle and raises the lower contact point of the track bar, allowing it to be properly centered under the Jeep. The front track bar often requires a new adjustable bar that can extend to swing the axle back into the center position. Extending the track bar pushes the axle towards the passenger side and properly centers it under the Jeep.
Finally, brake lines could also become an issue. Although they are often included with most 2.5” lift kits, they still might be needed with smaller leveling kits. Sometimes brake line extensions are enough to provide the needed clearance. In more severe cases new, longer lines may be needed and are a good overall investment.
Although there might be additional smaller components needed, those listed in this guide are typically the most critically overlooked pieces in entry-level kits and some of the most significantly impacted pieces. It’s always best to take these parts into consideration when budgeting for a lift kit 2.5” or more.
Going bigger on your Wrangler is not as scary as it can seem at first. I once traversed the entire Rubicon Trail on a 3.5 spring-only lift with 35” tires, and didn’t have a problem getting myself unstuck when it happened. I would have been more comfortable with 37 inch tires, but the 3.5 lift suits me perfectly. (This is in a 2007 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited.) If you do your homework, ask your friends, and read reviews, you will find a lift that is right for you. Happy Wheeling!