When you set out to find the best lift kit for your Wrangler, you can choose from two different types of kits; body lift kits and suspension lift kits. A suspension lift increases the distance between the frame and axles. A body lift increases the distance between the frame and body. Simple – or is it?
Choosing whether to lift your Jeep isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. The wrong lift can seriously affect the way your Wrangler handles.
So ask yourself this: What’s your Jeep for?
Will your Jeep be for commuting on the freeway? Or will off-roading be your Jeep’s main terrain? Maybe you want both? Determining how your Jeep will be used day-to-day is the first key step in deciding what kit will fit your needs.
Find out about the types of Jeep lift kits that can take your ride to the next level!
A body lift will give you the option to add larger tires to your Wrangler, which is alright if you’re looking to lift your Jeep for appearance and for just driving downtown. If you’re after off-road performance though, then a body lift will do nothing to improve your off-road performance.
Body kits are cheaper and easier to install than suspension kits and installation can usually be done in a few hours with basic tools.
An added win to body lift kits is that the Jeep’s handling characteristics will remain almost unchanged since its suspension isn’t being modified in any way. Plus, a body lift will give you that little bit more clearance between your fenders and tires, helping with minor rubbing issues when running bigger tires.
Spacers and bolts are included in body lift kits and are installed between the body and frame to give some extra height. They allow you to lift the body of your Jeep between 2-3” by installing rubber spacers between the body and frame mounts.
However, most folk stick with a 2” lift or smaller, because many stock components on a Jeep aren’t designed with that much extra room in mind. Extensions and new brackets might be needed for everything to fit well and align right back up after installation. Also, taller body lifts can stress the mounts (which can be dangerous), and shifting issues can happen with a manual – unless you cut or buy a solution to get around the shifter hole!
- Dirt cheap
- Enhanced appearance
- Option to add bigger tires
- More clearance between your fenders and tires
- Easier to install
- Handling remains virtually unchanged
- Less change to the center of gravity
- Won’t improve off-road performance
- No increase in wheel travel
- No ground clearance gain
- Visible gap between the frame and body
- Potential shifting issues (manual)
Suspension Lift Kits
If you decide to get a suspension lift kit, then the next choice is how high you want to go. No matter the height, lifting your Jeep will change the center of gravity, making it more prone to tipping. So for new folk, it could be worth starting with a lower lift height to get used to handling your drive – especially if using your Wrangler as your regular car.
A suspension kit is ideal for off-road maneuvering as it gives your Wrangler’s suspension more travel as you climb over rocks and steep inclines. This also gives you the option to use bigger wheel and tire combinations depending on your lift height. However, the higher you lift your Jeep, the more its ride quality and handling characteristics will change.
Coil spring lifts can raise your JK Wrangler’s suspension up an additional 1.5-3.5” by replacing its stock coil springs with longer, stiffer ones. A coil spring lift not only lets you add bigger tires but also improves your articulation, which will enhance your off-road driving experience.
These kits may include additional components, such as an adjustable front track bar, brake line extensions, longer shocks, track bars and brackets – giving you the confidence that everything will fit together nicely.
Suspension lift kits 2.5” or less normally retain a factory-type ride and aren’t as intensive to install. Also, as these kits don’t radically change the Jeep’s steering geometry, you shouldn’t need many extra accessories. These sized suspension lifts offer the everyday Wrangler drivers the ground clearance for not only larger tires, but also increased component durability that will tackle most off-road trails.
Suspension lift kits 3” and above often result in a more aggressive stature and even better off-road performance. Although, the trade-off can be a stiffer ride versus stock, plus increased wear and tear on parts. It’s true that some kits of this size brag a ‘same as stock’ ride, however, a good guideline for this is: the higher you lift the vehicle, the more its center of gravity is raised.
This decreases handling; speedily increases wear on drive shafts; may produce vehicle vibrations; creates a harsher ride, and could result in road-wander.
Adding a suspension lift alters the geometry of how the suspension was originally designed to function. This means that control arm lengths, shock lengths, track bar lengths, pinion angles, caster angles, driveshaft angles, alignment specs, steering geometry, plus roll center will all need to be looked at after you lift your Jeep.
- Looks great
- Ground clearing
- Improves articulation
- Bigger wheel and tire combos
- Navigate trails on challenging terrain
- More difficult to install
- Can be expensive
- Can require custom modification to fit
- More prone to tipping
Is BIGGER better?
Some suspension lifts are known as short arm kits, while others are called long arm kits. This depends on the kit components and how they attach. The differences between them can be essential to the way your JK Wrangler performs both on and off-road.
Short Arm Lift Kit
Suspension lifts are sometimes called short arm lifts, and due to their mid-range price and effectiveness, they are one of the most common lift kits for Wranglers. These lifts range from 2-6” and generally include bigger coil springs, sway bar links, and shocks. Some kits can also use extended control arms and upgraded steering components, depending on the size and manufacturer.
A short arm lift kit is widely viewed as one of the most popular suspension systems, because of its cheaper price and simpler installation. Basically, a short arm lift attaches to the stock control arm mount and as the length of the short arm lift increases, the downward force of gravity and the angle made by the arm gets smaller.
These kits usually include everything you could need like, new coils, bump stops, shocks, brake line extensions, track bars, and sway bar links. Sometimes new adjustable control arms are included to retain the factory geometry.
Short arm kits range from 2-6”, however, the main benefits are found in kits under 3.5”, as there is normally not a noticeable difference in drivability below that threshold. Plus, you do not need to make any driveline modifications, nor incorporate welding and other fabrication to the installation.
Short arm kits are renowned for providing generous ground clearance, suspension travel, and wheel articulation, as well as a pretty simple bolt-on installation. However, if you plan to install larger lift kits over 3.5”, you might encounter drivability problems and may have to add other aftermarket suspension components to the short arm system.
If you just plan to go on the occasional trail-riding trip, then the short arm lift kit might be a better, more affordable option.
- More affordable
- Simpler installation
- Fewer driveline modifications needed
- Less likely to get stuck on rocks
- Lower wheel travel and tire clearance
- Lower ride quality
Long Arm Lift Kit
A long arm lift kit is a special form of suspension lift which uses longer control arms that mount further back, to try and bring the suspension angles closer to the original. This type of kit provides a better ride quality than the short arm due to the better angles. Although, a drawback of long arm kits is they’re usually quite pricey.
They can also get caught on rocks when crawling because the long control arms hang down further. As part of the installation for most long arm lifts, modifying your exhaust and welding on new mounts for the longer control arms could be needed.
Not only is the long arm lift more labor-intensive to install, but it also requires complete removal of the factory control arm brackets when installing. This is because the kit’s new longer control arms need heavier aftermarket brackets.
These kits usually require a lot more suspension and driveline component replacement – including fabrication and/or welding – in order to maintain factory-type geometry. These lift types also attach further back on the Jeep and take up more room so as to reduce the overall angle of the arms, despite the lift’s size.
The main downside of these taller suspension lifts is that anything over 2.5” will demand a slip yoke eliminator and a CV driveshaft to prevent driveline vibrations. 4.5-6” lifts are best suited for off-roading because they provide massive amounts of ground clearance, articulation, and will allow you to hook your Wrangler up with whacking-great tires!
Don’t fret though, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be driven on the road. Just keep in mind that it could be less comfortable and not as safe from the increased center of gravity.
Long arm lift kits can add an additional 3-6.5” to your JK Jeep, keeping the same factory-type drivability. So for those who plan on doing some serious off-roading and are looking to attack much more difficult trails and extreme obstacles – while still maintaining a smooth ride – then the long arm kit may just be the best Jeep lift kit for you!
- Increased ground clearance
- Greater wheel travel and tire clearance
- Doesn’t require modifications to shift linkage
- Better ride quality than short arm lift
- Can handle tricky terrain
- Lifts greater than 4” require modifications to driveline
- Higher center of gravity, increasing tip hazards
- Usually most expensive form of lift kit
- More likely to get stuck on rocks
- Complicated install
Ready to Choose Your JK/JKU Wrangler’s New Lift Kit?
Lucky for you there are some awesome Jeep Wrangler JK lift kits to choose from that will work with a varied budget and style.
Some of the top brands are:
Rough Country is synonymous with the suspension world, offering amazing quality, competitive pricing and outstanding service. Specializing in all suspension components, Rough Country has pretty much everything you can think of, ranging from full suspension lift kits right the way through to small accessories.
All products and services are geared to make your install easier – so replacing that part you bust when you speeded your drive over that aggressive terrain will be simple! Rough Country has been in the suspension game for quite some time, so you can trust their products and the testing that’s been done!
TeraFlex keep their stronghold on the Jeep market, offering a seriously comprehensive line-up of performance components for the JK Wrangler and JKU Wrangler. TeraFlex manufactures components, including premium suspension systems and performance shocks and lift kits with necessary hardware.
With their roots stemming back to the 1950s – beginning as a Military Equipment Parts Company, distributing Jeep parts and accessories – TeraFlex have gained a huge knowledge of the various CJ/Wrangler platforms.
Founded in 1996, Rubicon Express has consistently been a company of dedicated and passionate off-roaders. Their goal has always been to provide Jeep enthusiasts with the highest-quality suspension components at the greatest value possible.
Today their focus hasn’t faltered, and Rubicon Express offers the industry standard in aftermarket Jeep suspension. They have a range of Wrangler lift kits including, standard coil kits, short arm kits and suspension kits with mono-tube shocks.