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Choosing the Right Lift Kit

By HertzAdam Subscribe to RSS | July 11th 2012 | Views:

Are you in the market for a new lift kit for your Jeep Wrangler? You’ve come to the right place. Now you have to decide what your Jeep’s true purpose is for before continuing. For most of us, our Jeep is a combination of a daily driver, off road toy, camping vehicle, and perhaps you throw a little towing in 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 driveability 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 that 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 vehicle systems working together to provide the best possible traction at all times, on and off road.

Some of the more important questions to ask:

What is your Jeep be used for?

What size and type of tires would you like to use?

How much money do you have?

Also, if you’re not an experienced mechanic, it may be best to have it professionally installed to insure that it is done correctly. The installation process involves a lot of work and time to 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, I’ve broken down the basics of each type to make it easier to decide.

Smaller Lifts

If you want just 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 height in front 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"

Pros & Cons:

The factory ride is maintained.

It’s very inexpensive so you don’t break the bank.

It is quick and very easy to install.

There are rarely any installation complications.

Very few future mechanical issues related to lift.

Occasionally buyers get remorse, wishing they had gone bigger to begin with.

Medium Lifts

This is the best choice for most wheelers. It offers good tire clearance while giving you a well handling on road drive. Tires between 32” and 34” are ideal for this size lift. Often you don’t need too many additions to the lift when you go this route, but you still might need wheel spacers or longer brake lines, which are very inexpensive. In some newer Jeeps, a different drive shaft may be needed, but only on automatics (manual transmissions are much smaller and the stock drive shaft works fine). These kits often come with new shocks too. 2" to 3.5” is the most common "medium lift"

Pros & Cons:

Amazing clearance for a reasonable price.

Offroading capability is noticeably greater.

Your Jeep looks better, while still maintaining on road capability.

Bigger tires mean loss of power, so re-gearing may be warranted.

Bigger Lifts

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 new 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:

These are the most expensive lifts; even more so should you venture into coilovers.

Complications are to be expected, since some lifts basically re-design the entire front-end geometry. This is for the serious off road enthusiast.


Going bigger on your Jeep 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!

HertzAdam - About Author:

Hertz Adam is an avid off road enthusiast who has successfully tackled the Rubicon Trail, Moab, Lift Kits and The Hammers. He passed his driver’s test at age 16 in a Jeep Wrangler and hasn’t looked back, having since owned 8 more Jeeps along the way. He currently resides in Lake Arrowhead, CA where he currently owns a 2007 JK Rubicon, 1978 CJ7, and 1947 CJ2 Willys. He regularly wheels the John Bull Trail and Dishpan Springs. Ryan frequently writes for Extreme Terrain, an online retailer of Jeep parts and accessories.

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