Lift kits are one of the most popular, and functional, modifications for Jeep Wranglers. More ground clearance is the most obvious benefit of lift kits. Another is better articulation.
Articulation is also referred to as “flex” and basically just refers to how much a wheel can travel up and down. With better ground clearance and articulation, lift kits make it easier to get over off-road obstacles.
But of course, that depends on whether you have a good lift kit. Bad lift kits can fail to account for factors like driveshaft operational angles. Which means they can cause major axle damage in some situations.
Here’s what you need to know to pick the right type of lift kit and how to select a good one.
Types of Lift Kits
The first thing to determine is what type of lift you’re interested in.
Body Lifts - These inexpensive lifts can give your Jeep 1-3” without extra modifications. But are more for cosmetic appeal than serious off-roading.
Budget Boost or Coil Spacer Lift - While still mostly cosmetic, these give you a more stable lift than a body lift.
Coil Spring Lifts - Provide some actual off-road benefits but require replacing your coil springs.
Short Arm Lift Kit - Same as a coil spring lift, but they include adjustable control arms.
Long Arm Lift Kit - These kits have longer control arms which creates a smoother feel than the short arm kits.
Types of Jeep Lifts
|Lift Type||Lift Height||Pros||Cons
Easy to install
Can add great tires and wheels
|No real performance benefit
Added height for great tires and wheels
Typically includes more features to preserve ride quality
|No real performance benefit
||Improves off-road performance
Some kits improve road manners
Includes extra components for better performance
|More involved installation than body lift or budget boost kits
||All the benefits of a coil spring lift, but can add more height
Great off-road improvements
|More expensive than coil spring lift
Rougher road feel than long arm
||All benefits of short arm, but with longer control arms
Better road manners
Most involved installation
Will almost certainly void your warranty
How Much Lift Do You Need?
One of the biggest differences between coil spring, short arm, and long arm lift kits is how high they can lift your Wrangler.
Having a Wrangler that’s high off the ground is great on trails. But having a higher center of gravity makes you less stable on the road.
If your Wrangler is also your daily driver, then you may want to top out around 4” for better safety and comfort on the road. Anything greater than that also runs the risk of voiding your warranty.
Body Lift Kits
If your main reason for lifting your Jeep is that you’d like a larger tire, then a body lift kit is probably perfect for you. These kits are by far the least expensive, and they’re easy to install.
Though these kits don’t come with many parts, they’re capable of lifting your Jeep by several inches. Enough that you’ll be able to put a 35” tire on a JK Wrangler.
Unfortunately, because of how they’re situated, you won’t gain more range of axle articulation. You may also notice a rougher ride. This loss of ride quality is more pronounced on larger lifts. Body lift kits work by lifting the body off the frame. Some people dislike the gap that’s visible because of this.
Budget Lift Kits
Coil spring spacers go between your spring and its mount, creating a little extra clearance. Though you still won’t get a lot of off-road performance improvement, you will get a much nicer-looking lift. Because the spacer lifts from the suspension it won’t produce an unattractive gap.
As coil spring spacers get larger, they may also come with brake extensions, larger shock absorbers, and sway bar links. These kits are necessary for larger lifts and tend to be more expensive as well.
Coil Spring Lift Kits
The first tier of suspension lifts is a coil spring lift. Unlike coil spacers or body lifts, coil spring lifts improve your articulation and off-road performance. They are also more complicated to install. You’ll be changing out stock suspension pieces rather than just adding spacers.
The coil springs included in these kits are longer and stiffer than the stock ones. This means more suspension travel, and often a better ride.
Coil spring lift kits include new shocks and coils, and usually bump stop extensions and track bar relocation parts. All these parts factor into the price. A kit that comes with Fox Monotube Shocks will be more expensive than one with stock-quality shocks, even if they provide the same lift.
Short Arm Lift Kits
A short arm kit takes a coil spring lift and adds control arms. With the addition of adjustable control arms, you can lift your Jeep several inches and preserve ride quality. In many cases, you can buy a coil spring lift and add control arms later.
The major draw of a short arm lift kit is that it offers many of the benefits that a long arm lift kit does. And it costs less and is easier to install, two major pluses.
Long Arm Lift Kits
If off-road performance is what you’re looking for, long arm lift kits are the gold standard. The longer control arm isn’t to add suspension travel, but rather to create a flatter operational angle. By staying close to your suspension’s natural operating angles, long arm kits can offer better handling and ride quality. They also won’t hinder your suspension travel.
These are the most expensive lift options, and they’re the most difficult to install. But once you’ve got your long arm kit installed you’ll have the best lift option. Better handling, better off-roading, and a lot of space for great wheels and tires.
Best Lift Kits by Generation
If you’re trying to figure out what the best Jeep lift kit is for your Wrangler generation, here are some year-specific recommendations.
Since one of the main reasons people lift their Jeep is to add larger off-road tires, here’s about how much lift you’ll need for the most popular tire sizes.
Needed Lift for Tire Size by Wrangler Generation
|Generation||31” Tires||33” Tires||35” Tires||37” Tires
||Consult a Professional
||Consult a Professional
Sources: The Pitfalls of Jacking Up Your Pickup, Driving | Off-Road Basics: Axle Articulation-Got Flex?, DrivingLine | Coil Spacer Lift vs Body Lift?, Wrangler Forum | Long Arm vs Short Arm Lift Kits: Which Is Better?, Offroad Aussie | Long-Arm vs Short-Arm Suspension, MotorTrend
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