Off-roaders are all about suspension upgrades and mods once they get serious about riding outdoors. They want their 4x4s to be as prepared for ruts, rocks, and mud as possible. However, one should never go overly ham with these changes, as they can be detrimental to the overall handling of a vehicle. This article will cover crucial bits and bobs about Jeep Wrangler lift kits – so you can execute them in moderation.
Getting your Jeep Wrangler lifted is not as easy as with other Jeep labels. When dealing with older Jeep Wrangler models, deciding which lift kit to opt for could take a lot of work. Thankfully, there are many aftermarket options – from coil spacers to long arm kits – to choose from.
There is more to a lifted Jeep Wrangler than its rugged, monster-truck looks. Increased pulling power, higher ground clearance, and improved crawling ability are only some of the benefits of installing a lift kit in your wheeler. But which one is the best for your Wrangler? Stick around and read on.
The Truth About Jeep Wrangler Lift Kits
While the Blue Jeans of 4×4 may appear larger than life, its stock suspension components do not necessarily follow suit. This is why getting your Jeep Wrangler lifted entails replacing struts, shocks, and linkages – to increase ride height, improve suspension travel, and boost its cross-terrain capabilities.
But remember, doing so needs to be tempered with practicality and common sense. You would not want to turn your Wrangler into a Grave Digger replica for the wrong reasons.
Getting My Jeep Wrangler Lifted
In choosing a Jeep Wrangler lift kit, you may want to first ask yourself these questions:
- “How will I use my vehicle?” or “What are its intended application/s?”
- “What tire size do I want to upgrade to?”
- “How much am I willing to spend?” or “Do I have any budget limitations?”
In addition to budget, vehicle use, and personal preferences, the following should be part and parcel of your decision-making process (a detailed discussion of these points is found in this Jeep Gladiator Lifted article):
- Condition of stock components
- Driving style
- Ease of installation
- Conflicts with car warranty
- Impact on acceleration and high-speed handling
Do not expect a lift kit to magically transform your driving skills into that of Rallycross Champion Sebastian Loeb or Pro-4 Ace Rob MacCachren. Yes, upgrading your suspension helps tremendously. But what would make your rig’s competencies truly shine are your acuity and command of its drivetrain system.
With that in mind, always go for a Jeep Wrangler lift kit that strikes the perfect balance between off-road suspension flex and on-road drivability.
Entry-Level, Mild, and Extreme Lift Kits
Speaking of the best lift kit for your Jeep Wrangler, you can choose from a handful of available options. While some are OEM-produced kits like Mopar, most of them are aftermarket.
Body lift, budget lift (a.k.a. economy or budget boost), and performance lift kits (a.k.a. suspension lift kits) are covered in this article. To complete the list, I will discuss three more types of lift kits in this section.
Coil Spring Lift Kit (a.k.a. Spacer Lift)
Synonymous with an economy or budget boost due to its price range, this lift kit typically utilizes steel or polyurethane coil springs or spacers to raise a vehicle – in your case, a Jeep Wrangler.
Coil spring kits can lift your 4×4 by up to 3.5 inches, while spacers can do so by an average of 2.5 inches in height. And to ensure everything fits snugly, some kits come with extra parts like Panhard bars (view on Amazon) and longer shock absorbers.
Spacers sit on top of existing coil springs and do not warrant any parts replacement. On the other hand, coil spring kits entail replacing stock components with lengthier, stiffer coil springs. Jeep owners often see a drastic improvement in contact patch and articulation after fitting their vehicles with one, in addition to gaining more clearance for larger tires.
Short Arm Lift Kit
Short arm lift kits consist of shocks, coils, sway bar links, and brake line extensions – parts that attach to your Wrangler’s stock control arm mount. They are popular lift options because they are cost-effective, and their installation does not require welding or fabrication.
Once installed, these kits can raise your Jeep Wrangler by up to 6.0 inches, automatically affording it improved wheel and suspension travel, provision for larger wheels, and more ground clearance. However, they are not advisable for daily drivers.
The effect these lift kits have on vehicles – increased vertical energy, to be exact – makes driving on tarmac and other paved road surfaces difficult.
Long Arm Lift Kit
A more intensive option for serious mechanically-savvy off-roaders and Jeep owners, long arm lift kits are undoubtedly more demanding but impressive. Allowing a minimum of 4.0 inches of lift (which can go up to 6.5 inches), these kits warrant removal of pre-installed control brackets, replacement of driveline and suspension parts, and a lot of fabrication and welding. In some cases, they even require exhaust modifications.
All these efforts are not for naught, though. Because long arm lift kits attach further back on a vehicle, they mostly resemble stock-type geometry and result in a smoother ride regardless of riding condition.
This lift kit’s only drawback is that it increases your vehicle’s propensity to be caught on rocks when traversing slow-crawling sections since the control arms hang down further in this setup than when using a short arm lift kit.
Both coil spring and short arm lift kits are classified as mild lift kits (2.5-4.0 inches lift height), while long arm lift kits are considered extreme (4.5-6.0 inches lift height). However, the use of coil spacers falls under an entry-level lift kit type (0-2.5 inches lift height).
Does Lifting a Jeep Cause Problems?
If done accordingly, the blanket answer to this question would be “No.” However, we would have to put things in context if we respond to this query appropriately. This means coming up with an answer relative to one’s desired lift height.
People who want a bit of clearance under the transfer case may go for coil spacers or a body lift. These lift options are clean-cut and less intrusive, making them less problematic. Meanwhile, coil spring lift kits and beyond are more demanding and could go awry more easily – pretty understandable for a system that can give you at least 4.0 inches of clearance.
Now deeper into the subject, going for a minimal lift height does not necessarily mean safety from hiccups in vehicle performance. Coil spacers, for instance, give an average lift height of 2.5 inches without needing fabrication or welding. But if you install coil spacers giving that amount of lift without getting corresponding shocks, then ride quality will suffer.
Because your shocks are sitting extended most of the time, they will not be able to offer the same travel and possess the same damping qualities as stock.
Compatibility of stock components with lift kits and their inclusions becomes a problem beginning with 2-3 inches of lift height. That said, you will have to install a slip yoke eliminator (view on Amazon) on 1st and 2nd generation Wranglers and extensions or brackets for vehicle components like the shifter, fuel filler tube, steering linkage, and radiator if you want to avoid suspension issues.
These extensions are non-negotiable, as non-installation will result in correct steering angles not being met and failure of factory components to engage properly.
Specific Jeep Wrangler models and configurations reportedly incur problems following the installation of a lift kit. 2012 models with the Pentastar engine given a considerable lift tend to affect the exhaust pipe’s front part and the driveshaft.
Consequently, the rubber boot may come in contact with the hot exhaust pipe and melt or rub against it, resulting in damaged components. You can purchase an exhaust spacer or a thinner aftermarket driveshaft to create enough clearance for the latter.
Apart from component compatibility and problematic Wrangler models, the only other thing you may need to worry about is increased rollover tendencies due to your Jeep’s higher center of gravity. You should not encounter any other problem with a lifted Jeep Wrangler – unless you do not heed these other pointers:
- Do an engine mount lift and remove the fan shroud where applicable.
- Extend brake lines for Jeep Wrangler lifts 2.5 inches or higher.
- Correct your Jeep Wrangler’s geometry with front and rear track bars, and realign the front axle with upper or lower front control arms – especially when upgrading to 35s or 37s.
- When combining a 1.5-inch lift with 33-inch tires (or a 2.5-inch lift with 34-inch tires), modify existing fenders or replace them with flat aftermarket alternatives to prevent tire rubbing.
- Lift heights measuring 4.0 inches or higher warrant driveline modifications.
How to Lift a Jeep Wrangler
The installation of Jeep Wrangler lift kits can go two ways. The process is pretty straightforward if you choose to do a body lift. But if you opt for any suspension lift kits (coil spring, short arm, or long arm), things can get tricky.
Below are the steps on how a body lift is typically performed (source: Extreme Terrain; applies to JL, JK, and TJ Jeep Wranglers):
- Take out the front lower shock bolts, brake line bracketry, and any other harness that could drag while lifting/dropping the axle.
- Take off the track bar bolts and sway bar end links.
- Remove the coil springs by lowering the axle. Check to make sure nothing is damaged under the suspension.
- Use a pry bar to remove the factory spring spacers gently.
- Add new coil spring spacers and add the front suspension back.
- The rear and front are the same, except you have to take out the transfer case breather in the rear and put it back, in addition to the parking brake lines.
Lifted Jeep Wrangler Cost
Depending on your desired lift height, you can expect to spend between $100 and $3,400 (long arm kit extras included) for a quality lift kit. However, actual expenses in getting your Jeep Wrangler lifted will vary based on the generation of your vehicle.
YJ models are the most costly of the lot due to their more complex stock suspension system. Note that estimate values in this section do not include the price of new tires and rims. Hence, it would be better to list down different Jeep Wrangler lift kits and their corresponding prices to give you a clear picture of probable expenses.
Top Picks for Your Jeep Wrangler
- TeraFlex 1251002 JK 2-Door 2.5″ Lift Kit (view on Amazon)
- AEV 2.5” Dualsport XT Lift Kit with Bilstein 5100 Shocks
- Rough Country 2.5″ Suspension Lift Kit with N3 Shocks (view on Amazon)
- ReadyLift 69-6025 2.5″ SST Lift Kit for JT Gladiator
- Skyjacker Tj25Bph Hydro Shocks Suspension 2.5″ Lift Kit with Shock (view on Amazon)
- Superlift 5803 2.5″ Dual Rate Coil Spring Lift Kit (view on Amazon)
- Rough Country 4″ X-Series Lift Kit with Premium N3 Shocks
- Rough Country 4.5″ Suspension Lift Kit
- TrueTwo Jeep Wrangler JK 2.5″ Coil Spacer Suspension Lift Kit
- Skyjacker 4″ Lift Pallet Kit (Jeep Wrangler TJ)
- Mopar 2″ Lift Kit (Jeep Wrangler JL V6)
- Skyjacker 3.5 Inch Softride Lift Kit with Black MAX Shocks
- Rugged Ridge 18415.50 Suspension Lift Kit, 2.5 Inch, Shocks; 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK (view on Amazon)
Conclusion – Lifted Jeep Wrangler (Guide, Cost, Lift Kits)
A thought that often comes to mind for new owners is this, “Is lifting a Jeep worth it?”
Whatever your choice of lift kit is, the answer to this question is definitely a yes. Of course, you will need to be very intentional with your desired lift height and ensure that your lift kit will augment your vehicle’s performance on or off-road once installed.
A lot of research goes into determining the most ideal lift kit for your wheeler, so seek help from more experienced peers or consult a professional.
Finally, take into account any long-term plans for your vehicle. If you intend to go off-roading occasionally or for a limited period, you may want to install a kit that you can reverse after some time. But if off-roading has become a lifestyle and you are in it for the long haul, do not hesitate to go for long arm lift kits sure to boost the trail capability of your Jeep Wrangler.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.