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Jeep Suspension and Jeep Lift Kit Guide

So now you own a Jeep. You have experienced the fun of open-air driving, the universal Jeep wave, and the cult like following this unique vehicle entertains. You have taken your Jeep places that you never thought a vehicle would go, but now you want to take it even further. This is where the abundant aftermarket support and seemingly unending upgrading and accessorizing take off.

Jeep Parts - Jeep Lift Kits Although there are many factors and a sea of jeep accessories that will help you conquer that next off-road obstacle, improving your suspension setup or lifting your Jeep is possibly the most common and most popular. Providing additional clearance and improving your suspension can be as easy or complex as you want it to be. Thanks to companies such as Daystar, Mopar, RevTek, Rough Country, Rugged Ridge ORV, and Trail Master, a wide range of upgrades are available for your Jeep.

Depending on the model and suspension setup your Jeep is equipped with, a variety of Jeep lift kits are available. Early CJ and YJ Wrangler models are equipped with very common and simple leaf spring setup while the later TJ and JK Wranglers feature a multi-link coil spring setup. Each suspension setup has its pros and cons as well as its own variety of upgrades.

Leaf Spring Suspension

Shackle Lifts

One of the easiest and least expensive lifting techniques for leaf spring suspension setups is a shackle lift. A lift shackle simply replaces the stock shackle with a longer unit that increases the distance the shackle end of the leaf pack is from the frame. Most commonly available from 0”-2”, this upgrade is a perfect when you want to fine tune your setup or just need an inch or two to level out your rig. Also, shackle lifts reuse your existing springs and shocks, so your ride quality is retained. On the down side, the longer shackles can cause an increase in the amount of stress on the frame mount as well as the shackle itself. The amount of stress increases as the length of the shackle is increased.

Add-A-Leafs

Another simple leaf spring lift method is an Add-a-leaf kit. Add-a-leafs are simply additional leafs springs that are inserted into your existing leaf packs. Usually available for 0”-2.5” of lift, Add-a-leafs can be more complicated to install because each leaf pack has to be disassembled in order to add the additional leafs. Add-a-leafs can be a cost effective solution to lifting your Jeep without the complexity of a full leaf spring replacement kit. Although, Add-a-leaf kits reuse all of the existing suspension components ride quality is often more harsh than before due to the added stiffness of the additional leaf.

Spring-Over Lift Kits

From the factory all CJ and YJ Wranglers are setup with spring under leaf springs. This means that the leaf pack mounts underneath the axle. A spring-over lift kit simply relocates the leaf pack from under the axle to on top of the axle. Usually inexpensive, this lift will instantly provide you with roughly 5.5” of lift or the thickness of your axle tubes and spring mounts while using your existing springs. Although the lift is easily achieved, the installation and the modifications needed to ensure all of your suspension and steering components work can be cumbersome. When completed correctly, a spring-over lift can be a great setup, but it is not a simple upgrade.

Full Leaf Spring Lift Kits

The most expensive and complete method for lifting a leaf spring Jeep is a full leaf spring lift kit. This kit is basically what it sounds like, replacement leaf springs and all the components. Most commonly available in 1.5”-6”, leaf spring kits provide you with the lift you want while making sure all of the other suspension components are in proper working order or replaced with an upgraded component in the kit. These kits can be more involved as far as installation, but usually have a good outcome. In most cases, leaf spring lifts usually have an increasingly harsh ride the taller the lift. This is due to the amount of arc each leaf pack is required to have to provide your Jeep with the designated amount of lift. All in all, when you are lifting a leaf sprung Jeep more than an inch or two, a complete leaf spring kit will provide you with everything you need for a complete installation and upgrade.

Multi-Link Coil Spring Suspension

Spacer Lift Kits

Possibly quickest and easiest lifting method for your TJ or JK Wrangler is a spacer lift. Available in 0”-3”, spacer lifts simply increase the distance between the top of the coil springs and the spring mount. This method basically has the same effect as replacing the springs with taller units, except the factory ride characteristics are retained. Available in a variety of materials, spacer kits can be a simple kit with just front and rear spring spacers or a more complete kit with spacers, shocks, adapter brackets, and hardware.

Coil Spring Lift Kits

For a more complete lift, a coil spring lift kit will provide your Jeep with 2.5”-6” of lift while ensuring all of the other suspension components are in proper working order or replaced with an upgraded component in the kit. These kits usually come with new springs and shocks as well as all of the necessary installation hardware and brackets. Depending on the manufacturer and spring rates, these kits can provide a softer or stiffer ride than the factory springs. Installation is usually very similar to the spacer lifts since both styles require removal of the OE springs. Coil spring lifts often include more components than the spacer lifts mainly due to the amount of lift achieved with the kits.

Short Arms and Long Arms

The multi-link coil spring suspension setup uses control arms and track bars to locate the axle under the Jeep. The control arms locate the axle front to rear while the track bar takes car of side to side motion. As the axle moves, the control arms act as a pivot point allowing the axle to move toward the center of the vehicle or the direction of the control arms. When taller springs are used, the location of the axle is lowered from the frame, causing the axle to move in the direction of the control arms. The taller the lift, the more the axle is moved. This is why many lift kits include replacement control arms. These arms are usually a small amount longer than the OE arms to help move the axle back to the OE location. These stock and stock replacement control arms are considered short arms.

Long arms are significantly longer than the stock and stock replacement control arms and require new frame mounting locations. The long arms with the new mounts help restore the geometry of the control arms to the stock setup while allowing taller springs to be used. This setup not only provides factory like driving characteristics, but it also provides additional clearance and suspension travel.

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