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Choosing the Right Jeep Lift Kit: Long vs. Short Arm Lift Kits

Jeeps are incredibly versatile vehicles that can take a lot of beating on the roughest terrains. This is what they’re built for and they handle exceptionally well, regardless of what you throw at them.

In order to get over large obstacles and traverse through tough muddy, rocky or even wet terrain, your

Jeep needs to have adequate ground clearance and the right kind of tires. Without good clearance, you risk shredding your vehicle’s undercarriage on sharp rocks or snagging it on rocky ledges. Your Jeep’s clearance will also save the engine from flooding if you’re going through streams, rivers and other kinds of wet terrain.

Besides, there’s something special about a Jeep that sits high above the ground. It commands attention and you’ll feel like the king of the world cruising down the highway.

Why do you need a Jeep Lift Kit?

Now, while your Jeep’s standard factory suspension will provide good ride quality and handling on paved roads, it might not cut it out on the trail. To improve your ride’s off-road capability, you’ll need to upgrade its suspension by installing a Jeep lift kit. This will give it extra height which will, in turn, allow for greater ground clearance and better wheel articulation. It will also improve your approach and departure angles over the obstacles you encounter.

Like any custom modification done to your off-roader, getting your Jeep lifted isn’t something you do on a whim. You have to ensure that you get the right lift kit to suit your vehicle, your driving style and needs as well as your budget.

At Dixie 4 Wheel Drive, we’ve worked on hundreds of custom Jeep builds and one of the questions we’re often asked is whether clients should go for long or short arm lift kits. We decided to clarify the difference between the two to help you make an informed decision.

Long and Short Arm Lift Kits

Suspension lifts are termed short or long arm kits depending on how they attach to your vehicle and the kit components they come with. The difference between these two kits can determine how your Jeep performs on and off-road.

Short Arm Lift Kits

Short arm lift kits are quite popular due to their affordability and ease of installation. They mainly attach to the factory control arms of the Jeep and don’t require any welding or fabrication during installation. The kit will normally come with everything needed like shocks, sway bar links, coils, brake line extensions etc.

A Short arm lift kit can comfortably handle up to 3.5” suspension without affecting the vehicle’s ride quality. Installing a larger lift than that will necessitate the addition of other aftermarket suspension components like drop brackets, which might reduce ground clearance.

The biggest downside to short arm suspension kits is that they make for a less smooth ride on pavement. This is because the shorter arm translates into a shorter length of wheel travel, which in turn increases stress on the suspension by constantly pushing up on it and ramming it upward with every bump encountered. So instead of a gentle up and down motion, you get choppy movement with plenty of rattling and shaking as you drive.

Pros

  • Easy installation

  • Increased ground clearance and wheel travel

  • Mid-level price makes it more affordable

  • Can change to long arm suspension system if you wish

Cons

  • Results in a bumpy ride on paved surfaces

In summary, a short arm lift kit is ideal if your Jeep isn’t being lifted more than 3.5”, isn’t your daily driver and you’ll be doing a lot of rock crawling.

Long Arm Lift Kits

Although they are more expensive than short arm suspension systems, long arm lift kits are still popular among Jeep enthusiasts. This type of suspension lift uses longer control arms that attach or mount further back on the vehicle and end up taking more space in order to reduce the overall angle of the arms and bring them closer to factory-type geometry. The better angles make for a smoother ride than short arm lift kits.

The long arm lift kits are suitable for those looking for big lifts of 4 inches or more. However, they are a bit more difficult to install since they need complete removal of stock Jeep control brackets and welding on new ones as well as the replacement of several driveline and suspension components. Because of this, it’s recommended that you get qualified Jeep experts and a specialized 4x4 shop to take care of the welding, fabrication and installation of long arm lift kits.

The downside to this suspension system is that they have a tendency of getting caught on rocks when crawling since their control arms hang down further than short arm ones.

Pros

  • Greater ground clearance, wheel travel and articulation than short arm lifts

  • Provide a much better ride quality even on difficult trails and extreme obstacles

Cons

  • More likely to get stuck on rocks

  • Usually quite expensive –both for the kit and labor for installation

  • Harder and more complicated installation that needs welding and fabrication

  • Once installed, it’s almost impossible to go back to a short arm suspension

Basically, a long arm lift kit is ideal if you’re looking for a lift of 4 inches or more and you want a Jeep that rides smoothly both on and off-road. This is also the best suspension system if you plan on doing a lot of fast off-roading over rough terrain.

Which one is right for your Jeep?

Choosing the right Jeep lift kit comes down to your needs and preferences. your Jeep needs to feel right to you so make a point of test driving both long and short arm lifts to get a feel for their differences before choosing one to install on your ride.

If you’re wondering whether to go for a long or short arm Jeep lift kit, get in touch with Dixie 4 Wheel Drive. We’ll be more than happy to help you out.


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