Cherokee Suspension Tips
Q: I own a stock '96 Jeep Cherokee XJ and I plan to upgrade to 32x11.50- or 33x10.50-inch (if possible) tires. Should I go with a body or suspension lift to get the clearance I'll need? How much lift can I add before further modifications to the steering, drivetrain, and so on are recommended or required? Is there any particular brand or kit you recommend I use for this project? Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
A: Dennis, The only option for lifting your '96 Cherokee XJ is a suspension lift due to the fact that the Cherokee features unibody construction, which means you can not use a body lift. Other than that, there are a number of quality suspension lifts available from the aftermarket to accommodate fitting 32- or 33-inch tires. Full-Traction Suspension [(800) 255-6464, www.full-traction.com] offers a 3.5-inch kit designed to clear 31- to 32-inch tires, in addition to its new 6.5-inch long-arm kit, which is said to allow use of 33s. Currie Enterprises [(714) 367-2231, www.currieenterprises.com] is another good source for Jeep Cherokee XJ suspension components, as are a number of the suspension manufacturers listed in the Advertiser Index found in the back of this magazine. Most of the companies recommend using a CV driveshaft or slip-yoke eliminator on the NP231 transfer case when equipping a Cherokee with 33-inch-or-larger tires, although some mods may be necessary (fender trimming and so on) with the installation of 32s. Steering upgrades may also be required in order to maintain the factory steering geometry. Your stock axles, however, should hold the stress of tires as large as 35 inches, provided you're not trying to break them by pushing your vehicle beyond its limitations. Good luck.
Q: The May '04 issue of 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility was the best I've seen. I loved it. I have a '98 Sahara with a Dana 44 rear axle. I want to install a lift, but I don't know which one is right. There are so many. I'm very interested in the long-arm kit, but is it really worth all the money? How will it outperform the 4-inch standard-length kit? My friend recently installed a 4-inch Full-Traction lift. It seems to perform well and looks great, but I thought I'd go to the pros for help. Thanks.
A: Chad, The debate over long-control-arm Jeep TJ suspension systems versus standard-length control arm kits is long-standing and far from resolved. While many individuals seeking the ultimate TJ suspension setup will simply invest in the biggest kit available (i.e. long-arm kits), this isn't always the best bet for those after an all-around-use trail rig. There's also a good degree of variation in the standard-length control arm kits; some retain use of all the factory control arms and simply use taller springs, while others replace just the lower control arms. Some replace all the factory components. Technically, long-arm kits do offer advantages in the useable amount of axle articulation, although we've seen this factor disproved a number of times in witnessing standard-arm-system-equipped TJs perform just as equally to those with long-arm kits. Confused yet? Don't be. Basically it comes down to personal choice. Consider how you use your vehicle and how you intend to use it in the future. If easy to moderate trails are on the agenda, perhaps start small and simply install a kit that'll clear 31- to 32-inch tires. If more extreme trails are your cup of tea, then go bigger. Also, most of the suspension manufacturers are aware of the "which lift to buy" dilemma and offer kits that can be easily upgraded to long-arm systems or taller springs without having to purchase a whole new lift kit. Don't forget to ask plenty of questions before purchasing your suspension system to ensure that you get the correct setup for your vehicle. 'Wheel on.