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How To Lift a CJ... Correctly!
 
1) Determining Height
  There are many questions to ask when you want to determine how high your Jeep is going to be lifted. What size tires do you want to run? How much room do you want in the fenderwells for flex?
2) Determining Lift Type
  There are a couple ways you can lift your vehicle. You can lift the body or you can lift the frame. Lifting the body requires a body lift kit. Lifting the frame can be done with a suspension lift consisting of new springs, a shackle lift, consisting of shackles, or moving the springs from under the axle to over the axle resulting in what people call a SOA lift, which is Spring Over Axle. This is in contrast to the stock SUA, which is Sprung Under Axle.

All Lift Types have their pros and cons. This also gets into a personal view debate over which to use. This is one of the most debated issues on the forums. You hear things that shackle lifts suck, or 3" body lifts suck, etc. etc. I have a combination of lift types on my vehicle, some people think that it sucks. It is all what you want to get out of your vehicle.

The most consistent stuff I have heard over the years is no more then a 1" body lift, as that will make you top heavy if you go higher, it will require some changes to shift linkage and lengthening of some other parts and generally shows a lot of space between the frame and the body. I have also heard that there should be no more than 1" shackles. This is due to camber situations that allow for axle wrap or steering issues, I can't remember which goes with which, but there are tons of articles written on it as you start to increase the shackle length.
3) Lifting the Body
  In order to lift the body, you have to actually lift the body off the frame. When it comes stock from the factory, there are spacers between the body and the frame, this distance is about 1/2". This is how the Jeep was designed to be and when you "lift" it, you are going above that 1/2" value. There are 1", 2", and 3" kits available to do this. Most made today are of polyurethane. Some people have been known to use old hockey pucks. Either way it gives you the desired effect. You have now moved the body up and above the frame by the distance of the material you put in there. You will need longer body bolts to accomplish this as well as possible modifications to any wires, lines, linkages, etc. that you have affected by the body move.

From personal experience, you need to unhook the gas tank when you do this. The rubber hose on Jen's Jeep was so tight that it pulled the filler neck upwards causing the original tank to crack and the filler neck seam. This was not a good learning experience.
4) Lifting the Frame
  In order to lift the frame, you have to lift the frame from how it sits on the axles. When it comes stock from the factory the axles have a spring underneath them, this is called SUA or Spring Under Axle.

When you want to lift the Jeep, you can either go with larger arched springs in 2.5", 3.5" or 4" designs, or you can go SOA which is Spring Over Axle.

Using larger arched springs for SUA allows the Jeep to be lifted without a lot of modifications when you do a 2.5" lift. This lift height is common and allows for 31-32" tires to be used under the Jeep. If you want to go with 33-35" tires on a SUA, a 4" lift is normally required without any trimming or rubbing. For 35" tires, a body lift is normally put on as well. Please don't say well you can do this and this and this, etc. as I am just outlining some of the basics for people that haven't done this and are trying to learn. Yes, there are a LOT of combinations that will give you similar results. A couple issues can result from a 4" SUA. The first is the steering. Usually a drop pitman arm is used. If you don't want to go this route, people have been known to bend a drag link to get it over to the stock pitman arm. I think some people refer to this as "Scary Steering"! The other thing that people tend to talk about is rear drive line vibration. This is fixed with a Transfer Case drop, although most people say you don't need to do it as it reduces ground clearance.

SOA is the other way to give you lift height with springs. The process involves moving the spring from "under" the axle and moving it "over" the axle. This allows for the lift to be as wide as the axle tube utilizing the same stock springs. Sometimes people go with larger arched springs here as well, this provides for A LOT more lift, but also some drawbacks in the steering department. You have to remember that when you change the location of stock parts, there is a good chance the stock engineering has to be changed as well. Usually this pertains to steering.

SOA setups have also been known to utilize Wrangler Springs as they have been said to perform better then the stock CJ springs. I have no personal experience with this, but you will see this listed as a question when it comes to SOA talk.



  Conclusions
  I wanted to outline a few things that you can do to lift a Jeep. There are a ton of combinations of lift that get you different tire sizes for different applications. I refer back to the first paragraph, which asks a lot of questions. Basically WHO?, WHAT?, WHERE?, WHY?, WHEN? If you answer all those questions, you can figure out what you want to do with your lift.

A lot of people ask to see pictures of different setups. Each one is a personal choice and usually it gives the requestor a way to see what his/her Jeep might look like. If I have missed anything or misstated anything, let me know and we can fix it up.

cb (07/12/07)

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