The first thing I ask anyone who approaches me about lifting their Jeep is “What are you going to do with it?” I then follow that up with several more questions:
- Will this Jeep be a pavement princess or a weekend warrior?
- Will you be the primary driver?
- Will you take it on a few hunting trips a year, or do you want a rock-climbing monster?
- Will you use it for towing?
- Do you plan to add a roof rack?
- Do you have car seats for the mini Jeepers?
Most people expect their daily driver to be very similar to what the Jeep was prior to any modifications. Most of today’s high-quality, 2- to 4-inch lift kits will allow a JK to run a 35-inch tire-and-wheel combo depending on the wheel offset. Going to a 35-inch with the 3.73 or 4.10 gears makes the Jeep very
drivable without greatly affecting the power.
Nuts and Bolts
Mike Hughes is the parts and service director at Ferman Chrysler Jeep Dodge of New Port Richey (Fla.). He recommends a 2- to 4-inch lift with 35-inch tires to improve your Jeep’s off-road capability while maintaining its street cred.
We have found that lifting a JK past 4 inches makes things interesting. The added height improves the off-road capability, but it also affects street-driving characteristics. With that much lift, Jeepers generally want to run bigger than a 35-inch tire. Thus begins the slippery slope of where to draw the line.
Running a large tire, such as a 37- or 40-incher, will most likely require a regear of the differentials to bring the Jeep back to factory power feel and RPM range. (See “Regearing and Lockers: 6 Things to Consider”) The larger tires add stress to the ends of the axles, causing the so-called “JK smile,” where the end of the axles flex, pushing the camber out of spec. Bracing and sleeves can help, but these modifications can get pricey.
Some lift kits have heim-joint ends, some have rubber-bushing ends, and some have poly-bushing ends. Heim-joint ends require more care and maintenance than other rod ends. These ends are known to cause noise, but they allow greater “flex.” Rubber ends offer factory-style characteristics and economy. Compared to rubber, poly-bushing ends are stiffer and transfer more vibration. But they will outlast the rubber and hold up to the elements better. Some kits come with nitrogen shocks and some come with oil-filled shocks.
The best approach is to do your research and then do some more. Ask a few professionals their opinions before deciding what’s best for your Jeep. Take your time and make a better decision. Happy trails, Jeepers, and keep it rubber side-down!