Known for its aesthetics, reliability, and performance both on and off-road, the Jeep XJ is unquestionably one of the most famous all-terrain vehicles of all time. The Jeep XJ was manufactured between 1983 and 2001, spanning nearly 20 years and surviving the collapse of American Motors which was subsequently bought out by Chrysler in 1987. The Jeep XJ is often cited as one of the most important vehicles in initiating the modern SUV craze that has taken over the current consumer market.
A big reason why the Jeep XJ was so influential is the fact that it did everything well. Despite being significantly smaller than the outgoing Jeep SJ, the XJ retained most of the interior space of the previous model, making it a popular consumer vehicle. It was also lightweight and used a number of relatively economical engines, a key attribute that helped sell the XJ. Outside of the civilian appeal, the Jeep XJ was the first non-military 4×4 to make use of unibody construction. That was hugely beneficial to the XJ’s offroad capabilities.
Today, the Jeep XJ is an increasingly popular model among Jeep fans and off-road aficionados alike. Despite some XJ models approaching nearly 40 years old at this point, they are still widely respected for their abilities off the beaten path. With their popularity in the off-roading scene, a Jeep XJ lift kit is one of the most common and celebrated modifications to do to your XJ. Not only will a lift kit gain you some more ground clearance, but it’ll also allow you to run beefier all-terrain or mud tires on your XJ.
In this guide, we cover the basics of choosing a Jeep XJ lift kit, along with some of the pros and cons associated with the popular modification.
What Are The Benefits of a Jeep Cherokee XJ Lift Kit?
There are numerous reasons why you’d want to install a lift kit on your Jeep XJ, with most of them revolving around improving off-road performance. With that being said, others also choose to lift their Jeep for aesthetic changes. Either way, most of the same considerations still apply. That is especially true due to the Jeep XJs unibody construction limiting options like body lifts for those seeking a purely aesthetic change.
Off-Road Benefits of a Jeep XJ Lift Kit
If you are seriously considering a lift kit for your Jeep XJ, chances are that you find yourself off of the pavement somewhat frequently. Even stock Jeep XJs are very capable all-terrain vehicles on light off-road excursions. However, more seasoned off-roaders know that there are some obstacles that can only be conquered with some additional height.
The most obvious reason to upgrade to a Jeep XJ lift kit is the additional ground clearance. A factory Jeep XJ has around 7.3” of clearance between the ground and the front and rear diffs. While that is a substantial amount for most applications, some extreme off-road terrain calls for more than a stock XJ can handle. With Jeep lift kits offering as much as an 8” lift, you’ll be able to clear nearly anything easily.
Increased approach angle is another reason why some Jeep off-roaders spring for a lift kit. With the additional ground clearance, Jeep lift kits also raise the front bumper and overhand over the front axle. As a result, a lifted Jeep can climb a steeper inclined surface than a Jeep XJ without a lift. A lift kit also allows for larger suspension articulation which improves traction when one wheel is raised higher than another.
Finally, as a point for both off-road and aesthetic purposes for a lift kit, the increased body clearance allows for lifted Jeep XJs to run larger tires than a Jeep without a lift kit. As most serious off-road tires require a substantial amount of clearance, an XJ lift kit can allow you to run larger tires than you could normally.
Aesthetic Benefits of a Jeep Cherokee XJ Lift Kit
Unlike other Jeeps and other vehicles with body-on-frame construction, the Jeep XJ has a unibody construction. For that reason, one of the main methods of lifting vehicles for aesthetic purposes only doesn’t apply to the Jeep XJ. With vehicles where you can separate the body from the frame, a body lift is perhaps the cheapest and easiest way to gain a few inches for looks. Since the body and frame are inseparable on the Jeep XJ, a body lift isn’t a plausible option. As a result, that leaves those looking for an aesthetic lift with many of the same options as those lifting their Jeep XJ for utilitarian reasons.
With that being said, there are other ways to lift your Jeep XJ outside of short or long-arm lift kits. We’ll cover those in greater detail in a minute. When it comes to the aesthetic benefits of a Jeep XJ lift kit, the higher ride height and ability to run larger tires are the primary draws.
What Are The Downsides of a Jeep Cherokee XJ Lift Kit
Very few things are truly perfect through and through, and while Jeep Cherokee XJ lift kits boast benefits that can’t be achieved with any other modification, there are downsides to lift kits as well. Most of the downsides associated with a Jeep XJ lift kit are the same downsides associated with other vehicles with a raised center of gravity.
While the XJ featured innovative Quadra-Link suspension from the factory with the explicit reason of limiting rollovers, a lift kit nullifies that safety feature. With a raised center of gravity, extreme cornering can become dangerous if you aren’t careful. On the subject of handling, some Jeep lift kits have the unfortunate consequence of making handling worse on the road. The suspension geometry change from a lift kit can interfere with the factory alignment and steering characteristics. You’ll likely have to solve those issues later down the line.
Another potential downside is decreased Jeep XJ gas mileage. Due to the fact that the vehicle’s chassis is raised, air resistance increases, leading to a less aerodynamic overall shape. That effect is compounded even further for those running larger and grippier tires, increasing frictional resistance with the road. In combination, you can expect to lose a few MPGs.
Jeep Cherokee Lift Types and Considerations
While the overall purpose of a Jeep Cherokee XJ lift kit is pretty consistent no matter the route that you choose, there are specific benefits to different types of lift kits. When Jeep lift kits come up, a coil lift kit is what comes to mind for most people. While coil lifts are the most common and popular type of Jeep lift kit, there are other kits available that provide both more and less off-road functionality. Since body lift kits aren’t conceivable for the Jeep XJ, there are four popular types of lift kits available for the XJ.
Jeep Cherokee Coil Spring Spacers / Budget Boost
The most budget-conscious way to gain a few inches of ride height in a Jeep XJ is by installing coil spring spacers. A coil spring spacer set is not only the least expensive way to raise your Jeep Cherokee XJ, but also the easiest to install of all of the lift kit options. XJ coil spring spacers are simple. In essence, they are small components that sit on top of the factory coil springs. This extends the distance between the frame and lower suspension components. They are typically made of metal, rubber, or polyurethane, with the latter being the most common option.
As with all of the setups on this list, Jeep XJ budget boost upgrades have their pros and cons. As we have already said, a Jeep budget boost has that name for a reason. Ultimately, most coil spring spacers range in price from $30 to $100, making them dirt cheap. That makes them a good option for those looking for a bit of clearance without investing in a new suspension setup. Additionally, coil spring spacers offer a fixed amount of extra clearance that doesn’t change. So, if you’ve dialed in exactly how much extra clearance you need, there is no guesswork associated with changing height dynamics.
Due to the fact that coil spring spacers don’t change the springs, the spring rate of your Jeep XJ will remain the same. That can be considered a negative, especially for those looking to improve the ride quality of their Jeep. With that being said, Jeep XJ coil spring spacers are the best option for those looking to raise their Jeep on the cheap.
Jeep XJ Coil Lifts
Coil lift kits are what most people think of when it comes to Jeep XJ lift kits. Unlike coil spring spacers, a Jeep XJ coil lift kit replaces the factory coil springs with a new set of longer and potentially stiffer springs. That applies primarily to the front suspension of the Jeep XJ, as the XJ chassis uses leaf spring packs in the rear. As a result, most Jeep XJ coil lift kits come with lengthened springs for the front and upgraded leaf spring packs in the rear. Overall, you can expect to gain anywhere between 2-3.5” of additional suspension lift from a Jeep XJ coil lift kit.
There are quite a few benefits of going with a coil spring upgrade compared to spacers. Ultimately, factory Jeep XJ springs are likely on their last legs at this point. A fresh set of Jeep XJ coil springs will refresh the suspension spring rate. It will also allow you to customize your spring rates to match your needs. A coil lift kit can also provide increased suspension articulation, providing additional off-road benefits. To boot, new XJ springs are also relatively inexpensive, ranging between $400 and $850.
While coil spring spacers are unquestionably the easiest lift solution to install, coil lifts are only slightly more difficult. Overall, if performance is of primary importance compared to aesthetics, a Jeep XJ coil lift is the best and least expensive option.
Jeep XJ Short Arm Lift Kit
Now we’re getting into slightly more extreme territory. In comparison to a Jeep XJ coil spring lift kit, short arm lift kits provide a few performance benefits. Jeep XJ short arm lift kits generally utilize the factory control arms and connect to them directly. As an overall rule, a Jeep XJ short arm lift kit can handle around a 3.5” lift without affecting the daily drivability of your Jeep. Short arm lift kits can tolerate a more extreme lift than that, but suspension and control arm geometry start to become an issue beyond the 3.5” mark.
A Jeep XJ short arm lift kit provides additional articulation and even more ground clearance than a coil lift alone. Despite having additional components like sway bar brackets and fixed lower control arms, Jeep short arm kits often also include upgraded coil springs and rear leaf springs. Short arm kits are a popular option as they don’t require any welding or fabrication.
As lift increases, additional strain is put on the suspension components as the vertical forces acting on the control arm and surrounding components cause additional strain. This often translates to extremely poor pavement drivability and decreased ride comfort. There are ways to circumvent this issue. Installing a drop bracket will allow the short arm kit to be attached at a lower point which decreases the angle from the axle.
Jeep XJ Long Arm Lift Kit
Long arm Jeep XJ lift kits are the most extreme type of kit that you can install. Not only do they increase the overall amount that you can lift your Jeep, but they also provide the highest amount of articulation. Jeep XJ long arm lift kits are similar to short arm kits in terms of how they function. The main difference is how they are mounted. Compared to a short arm kit, long arm kits mount further back on the vehicle. That decreases the overall angle of the arms and allows for better suspension geometry. For that reason, long arm kits are more comfortable during daily pavement driving.
Jeep XJ long arm kits are really only suited for those looking for a major lift and extreme off-road performance. With a long arm kit, lifts between 4” and 7” are attainable. That figure is pretty unique to long arm lifts. Despite the additional ground clearance and articulation, long arm suspension kits can get in the way of off-road adventures. Due to the longer length of the control arm components, they can snag on debris on the ground. That is especially the case when there is a lot of suspension flex.
There are some other downsides to a long arm lift as well. One of the most significant downsides is the fact that there is fabrication required to run a Jeep XJ long arm lift. In order to install one, you’ll have to cut the existing factory brackets. You’ll also have to weld new ones further back on the frame. They are also significantly more expensive to purchase than the other options as well. Due to their price, they are less obtainable than most of the other lift options on this list.
Jeep Cherokee Lift Kit Recommendations
Due to the fact that the Jeep XJ is such a popular vehicle to modify, the XJ community has a pretty established list of lift suggestions that they generally stick to. There are certainly some Jeep lift companies that are more established in the space than others. Since there are so many types of lift kits available for the Jeep XJ, we’ll be recommending one of each type.
Rough Country Coil Spring Spacer Jeep XJ Lift Kit
Purchase Here: roughcountry.com
We’ll start our list with the least expensive and least intensive Jeep XJ lift option. Rough Country is one of the leading brands when it comes to aftermarket Jeep parts and modifications. Specializing in lift kits, Rough Country will be making repeat appearances on this list. That goes to show they truly are one of the best. When it comes to Jeep XJ coil spring spacers, quality materials are of utmost importance. Rough Country spacers are made of high-quality polyurethane which is guaranteed to have good longevity.
Since coil spring spacers are such a rudimentary part, it’s hard to say very much about them. Most customers who purchased the spring spacers say that installation takes around an hour if you know your way around a basic set of tools. Everyone seems unanimously satisfied with the spacers too, claiming that they raised their XJs to the stated amount. For $49.95, it is impossible to beat the value of the Rough Country Jeep XJ spring spacers. If you are looking for a cheap and easy way to raise your Jeep by 1.75,” there is truly no better solution.
Zone Offroad 3” Jeep XJ Coil Spring Lift
Purchase Here: Zoneoffroad.com
When it comes to Jeep XJ coil spring kits, there is no shortage of options. As the most popular type of lift kit, the sheer amount of choices can be daunting. Of course, the right kit really boils down to the amount of lift that you’re looking for. As we said previously, coil spring lift kits are typically good for around 3” without additional issues. Of all of the 3” coil spring lift options out there, the Zone Offroad lift kit seems to be the best blend of performance and price.
The Zone Offroad kit will unquestionably provide better offroad performance than the spacers listed above. In addition to providing more flex and suspension travel, Zone Offroad claims that the kit allows enough clearance for 31” tires. That really opens up some doors for some quality off-road tires. For just $417.98, the Zone Offroad kit comes with everything that you need to get going. Included in the kit are two heavy-duty coil springs, rear leaf springs, and u-bolts for installation.
Jeep XJ owners who own the kit claim that the Zone Offroad kit is a solid option when it comes to off-road performance, but also say that it is a bit stiff on the road. Be wary of that if you spend more time on the road than you do on trails.
Rough Country 4.5” Short Arm Jeep XJ Lift Kit
Purchase Here: Roughcounrty.com
Once again, Rough Country makes a reappearance. When it comes to short arm lift kits, there’s the inexpensive route and the quality route. For this guide, we opted to go for the quality recommendation. There are certainly less expensive XJ short arm kit options. However, Rough Country does it best, providing much more than a basic lift kit. In addition to providing their very popular XJ X-Flex control arms, the Rough Country kit also comes with a transfer case drop kit, an adjustable track bar, stainless steel brake lines, and sway bar disconnects.
In combination, all of the Rough Country kit’s inclusions make it one of the most versatile kits on the market. That goes for both on-road and off-road performance. Upgraded N3 shocks eliminate many of the handling concerns that are typically associated with a short arm lift kit. The included shocks have 10-stage variable valving and are nitrogen charged, smoothing out pavement vibrations without sacrificing offroad performance. If you are looking for a short arm kit that doesn’t skimp on performance, the Rough Country 4.5” short arm kit is the best option for you.
Rusty’s XJ Cherokee 4.5” Long Arm Suspension Kit
Purchase Here: Rustysoffroad.com
Rusty’s Offroad is another brand that is well-known and loved in the Jeep community. Like Rough Country, Rusty’s is known for their impeccable build quality and the longevity of their lift kits. That certainly rings true for their XJ Cherokee 4.5” long arm lift kit. While there are long arm kits that can achieve nearly twice that amount of lift, that is usually overkill. The Rusty’s 4.5” long arm kit is aimed at those who want a properly built long arm kit and aren’t concerned with maximum lift.
The included adjustable upper and lower control arms in the Rusty’s kit are some of the most durable on the market, made from 2.0” diameter D.O.M. tubing. As such, they can take extreme abuse. That is a big deal, as long arm kits have a tendency to make contact with the ground. Unlike many other long arm kits, the Rusty’s kit is bolt-on, utilizing a three-piece cross member. It also makes use of reinforcement brackets located on both the inside and outside of the unibody, linking them together.
While the Rusty’s XJ Cherokee long arm kit is definitely pricey, most owners claim the expense is worth it. Due to the kit’s unique bolt-on design, it is more durable and practical than many other long arm kits on the market.
Jeep XJ Lift Kit Guide Summary
The Jeep XJ is unquestionably a legend. Cementing the Jeep as a household name and the go-to option for affordable off-road capability. In most cases, a stock Jeep XJ will get the job done just fine. However, those that are looking to run larger tires or want a striking appearance might want a lift kit. Jeep XJ lift kits are available in multiple different forms, each with their own pros and cons.
For an inexpensive and easy lift solution, coil spring spacers are your best option. A coil spring kit is the go-to for those looking for more off-road performance on a budget. For those looking for serious suspension articulation, go for a short arm or long arm kit. Regardless of the route that you choose, there are plenty of trustworthy XJ lift kit suppliers. Rough Country, Zone Offroad, and Rusty’s Offroad are three of the XJ community’s most trusted brands who we also recommend.