Many stock Jeeps are fantastic off-road vehicles. But sometimes, you want to take it a step beyond and pull out all the stops to create the ultimate rig. One of the ways that can help obtain more performance is by lifting your Jeep. Lifts can do a lot of incredible things. You can use bigger tires, have more ground clearance, and completely transform your suspension setup. But does lifting a Jeep cause problems?
Table of Contents
- What are the cons of lifting a Jeep?
- Lifting a Jeep Problems: Geometry Changes
- Lifting a Jeep Problems: Additional Weight
- Does Lifting a Jeep Cause Problems? Wrap Up
What are the cons of lifting a Jeep?
There are some downsides to lifting a Jeep. Most are related to changes in the geometry or the increased weight, which can affect the steering, suspension, and drivetrain. Lifting your Jeep makes it more top-heavy, which increases the likelihood of a rollover.
In this post, we’ll cover all you need to know about the potential downsides to adding a lift to your Jeep.
Lifting a Jeep Problems: Geometry Changes
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or automotive engineer to figure out that adding a lift changes a lot of the structure of your Jeep, including the angles at which various parts come together.
When lifts are done well, they usually account for these changes and replace the necessary parts. But some changes are going to be there regardless.
Steering and Suspension
A vehicle’s steering and suspension components are designed for stock parts. Does lifting a Jeep cause problems for these systems? While the issues aren’t always catastrophic, there can be some undesired consequences to the steering and suspension.
First is the general steering and drivability. When you add large tires and larger wheels, the weight change might be dramatic.
This adjustment requires more force to move around, and when it comes to steering, a lifted Jeep is likely to perform worse than a stock one.
Things like the tie rod ends could wear prematurely. They’ll still be able to turn your wheels even if they are heavier, but an extra push is needed at every turn of the wheel. This additional force could add friction, harming the part in the long run.
The suspension components also can have problems with a lift. While the best lift kits address most issues, some parts might remain in place. The angle they meet other components could be dramatically different, putting stress in a way they weren’t designed to handle.
You’ll see changes to aspects like ball joints, control arms, and steering knuckles.
Overall, well-designed and properly installed lifts mitigate the steering changes and suspension issues. But they’re something to be aware of and can come with premature failure in specific parts.
Another geometrical change caused by lifting a Jeep happens to the drivetrain and its main components. These are vital pieces to your vehicle that allow it to move. This list includes things like the driveshafts and CV joints.
Both of these components can work to a certain degree. But if you take extreme measures and add a gigantic lift to your Jeep without adjusting the drivetrain components, it might take it too far.
The result could be a premature failure of CV joints, driveshafts, and the associated components. It could even cause issues with seals near the transmission and differential.
Quite often, the best route for extreme lifts is to use customized drivetrain components. Some people choose to replace driveshafts, while others opt to ride it out until failure.
CV joints are miraculous inventions that allow four-wheel drive to be possible on many vehicles. But they’re also notorious for failing on many vehicles that regularly go off-road. If you increase the angle used, it could result in even earlier failure.
A final consideration of changes in geometry is the chance of a rollover accident. There’s just no way around it. Increasing the center of gravity increases the chances of rolling over.
Does lifting a Jeep cause problems with rollovers? In some ways, it absolutely will make it easier to roll over.
But in other ways, if you are highly concerned about rolling over, you’re likely to avoid getting an SUV or large truck. The difference between a slightly lifted Jeep and a regular Jeep isn’t going to be as extreme as a lifted Jeep compared to a Honda Civic.
Nonetheless, it is worth keeping in mind that a lifted vehicle of any sort will roll over easier than its stock counterpart.
For all these geometry-related reasons, some enthusiasts choose to go for a more modest lift than a giant one. It retains the drivetrain’s original geometry a little bit better and is more likely to be reliable without increasing the risk of a rollover too much.
Lifting a Jeep Problems: Additional Weight
The second major group of problems caused by lifting a Jeep is related to the additional weight. The lift kit itself might not add that much weight, but the oversized tires and wheels that most people use will.
For a lot of people, the increased weight is not a deal-breaker. You can even take steps to reverse some of the downsides to the extra heft.
Going to the fuel pump these days can be almost comical, in a bad way. Thankfully many cars have come a long way in their ability to use fuel efficiently, Jeeps included. But as prices continue to climb, it’s worth considering the impact of a lift kit.
Does lifting a Jeep cause problems with fuel mileage? Unfortunately, most lifts will cause your Jeep to drink more gas or diesel.
This change is mainly attributed to the weight of the lift kit and the oversized tires and wheels. But the type of tires also impacts fuel economy. Tires with large nubs, as seen on mud or all-terrain tires, have more resistance than highway tires.
But what’s the fun in highway tires on a lifted Jeep? Unfortunately, just as your tires will likely be costing you more money, your stops at the fuel pump will do the same.
Lifted cars can also change their aerodynamic characteristics. While the impact on fuel mileage might be insignificant, it can cause dramatically more noise from the wind rushing through areas that used to be not as exposed.
You could argue that most of what we’ve gone over so far is not that big of a deal. Sure, parts might wear out quicker, and you’ll need to fork over more cash. But does that stop you from adding a lift to your Jeep?
Braking power is one area that’s a big deal.
The ability to stop is a critical component of any car on the road. And you’re not removing that aspect. But adding a lift and extra weight that comes with it and tire and wheel changes can seriously impact your braking ability.
This adjustment means when you are on the highway, and you need to slam on the brakes because someone in front of you lost control, it will take longer for you to stop.
Many times the results aren’t catastrophic. Especially if you drive with an appropriate gap in front of you and don’t drive distracted. But sometimes, the need to stop quickly is unavoidable. That little bit of difference can be all it takes.
Just like you can add a lift kit to use different suspension, you can upgrade your brakes to improve braking power. You can increase the size of your rotors and replace your calipers and pads with parts that provide more braking power.
Does lifting a Jeep cause problems with braking? If you consider increasing your stopping distance a problem, then yes, it does. But you can reverse this issue with the right parts.
Now let’s turn that in the other direction. When you add more weight to any vehicle without increasing performance, the result will be slower acceleration.
When lifting a Jeep, you’re also likely to add on tires with more resistance too. Once again, this is not ideal for acceleration.
But for the most part, the impact done to acceleration is not a complete deal breaker for most people. Does lifting a Jeep cause problems regarding acceleration? It might cause a slightly slower ability, but you can still move easily.
And just like the braking power situation, this is another one that you can overcome with additional modifications. You’re already breaking out the big bucks for a lift, so why stop there?
You could go with a basic engine tune, which some people say is their favorite modification in nearly any car on the road. You can purchase and install modified intake or exhaust systems to increase performance. Or you could install a high-performance ignition system.
Simply put, there are a million ways to get back the lack of acceleration caused by adding a lift. But it is something you might want to factor into your decision-making, especially if acceleration is meaningful to you.
Does Lifting a Jeep Cause Problems? Wrap Up
There’s nothing like seeing a lifted Jeep conquer the trails. It’s like watching a bear hunt for salmon, or a pro surfer hit the waves. But does lifting a Jeep cause problems?
Yes, there are some downsides to lifting a Jeep. These are mainly related to changes in the geometry of your steering, suspension, and drivetrain, which can cause premature failure and an increased chance of rolling over.
The second set of problems caused by lifting a Jeep is increased weight. This extra weight relates to worse fuel mileage, decreased braking ability, and slower acceleration.
But if you take the time and care to have a well-designed lift added to your Jeep, many of these downsides aren’t going to be a major issue. This is especially true if you leave some room in the budget to add increased performance.