How do they work? Typically, by increasing track width, moving your (bigger) tires safely out of the inner fenderwells, and by using control arms and coilovers designed to provide up to 14 inches or more of suspension travel. Our own "Range Runner" and "Con Artist" projects both run these setups, and believe me, they offer all the flex you could want for slow-speed crawling, the softness to absorb high-speed desert whoops, and the ability to do it all with a level of stability you'd never experience with a conventional lift. And to top it off, since these vehicles' ride and handling characteristics are virtually unchanged from stock, you can drive them home-yeah, on the Interstate-at the end of your wheeling day. Yes, they're more expensive, and yes, you'll need to trim your fenders-or order up some replacement flares-to clear the tires and preserve uptravel, but for versatility on the trail and sensibility on the street, it's darn near impossible to beat long arms and low elevation.-Douglas McColloch
Gears are expensive and can be tricky to install. Skip the misery, save yourself a few bu
No Need To Regear, Just Power Up
So you just installed that new lift kit under your rig, which allowed you to fit bigger meats. Life is good. Instead of rollin' on those stock 29s you're livin' large on a set of 37s. But there's a problem. During your first testdrive, you notice that your rig seems sluggish on acceleration. Your engine, which in the past threw down enough power to smack down your buddies' rigs every time, seems to be laboring. As a matter of fact, things only get worse when you get out on the highway. You used to be able to cruise along at 65 mph and your rig would easily climb that long grade outside of town without downshifting from Overdrive. Now your transmission exhibits signs of Alzheimer's. It can't seem to remember what gear to be in, so it shifts in and out of Overdrive continuously, sometimes even dropping two gears. What the heck?
The deal is that with the increased diameter of the larger tires you've effectively changed your driveline gearing ratio. Your rig isn't rolling along at the same rpm as it used to because of the increase in tire diameter. Your rig now rolls at less rpm at a given speed. Not only that, the larger tires have added weight to your truck and the lift has changed the aerodynamics, and not for the better. What to do?
You could go in and regear the differentials in your axles to a lower (numerically higher) ratio. If done correctly, this would not only return your transmission to its happy place, but it would also help compensate for the added weight. Problem is, gears and install kits are expensive, and if you're not well-versed in installing gears you'll probably have to pay someone to install them. Matt Dinelli at Attitude Performance says that on average he charges $1,500 to regear both axles on a rig. A more cost-effective way to solve the problem is to upgrade your engine so its makes more power.
Obviously, the smartest move here is to increase power as inexpensively as possible, so start with an aftermarket performance computer chip. They're easy to install and provide an instant increase in horsepower and torque. A quality after-cat exhaust, combined with a free-flowing intake system, is another option. Both are relatively easy to install and provide an increase in power. Not only will you improve your engine's output, but depending on how your rig is geared, you might even improve your highway fuel mileage.
Before we ever touched the engine on Project 'Con Artist, we regeared the Jeep to 4.88s.
Power Down And Do It Right With Gears
I have to go with gearing on this one. I'd rather have the proper mechanical advantage working for me, rather than adding power to compensate for big tires and stock gears. I am as willing as the next guy to use an intake, chip, and exhaust-or even a blower-to get the most out of my engine, but not until I address what is more important: Gears.