Three years ago, I dropped $1,000 on a lift kit for my daily-driver, a 1992 Jeep Cherokee. And while I initially loved the way it turned out, I’ve grown to detest almost everything about my new suspension. Lifting my daily driver was a dumb idea.
The main reason I lifted my Jeep was because it was starting to look a bit pathetic with its saggy rear leaf pack, heavily-scratched paint, rusty rocker panels, and off-color driver’s side fender. I figured I could lift the Jeep out of its Pathetic Old Junker status and turn it into something actually kinda badass, and I think I was right. Look at that muscular stance. Those beefy 31-inch tires. All that extra ground clearance for off-roading. It is beautiful.
But I had to sacrifice a crap-ton for that look, and in retrospect, it totally wasn’t worth it. Never mind the initial $1,000 price tag for all the parts, or the days of labor trying to remove rusty upper shock bolts and leaf spring eye bolts. Never mind trying to cure driveline vibrations, or adjusting the track bar to keep the 31s from rubbing.
Never mind all that. What I do mind, however, is when I’m headed home on a quiet night after a long day and BAM, I hit an expansion joint. Two seconds later: BAM, I ran over a grasshopper. A second later: BAM, I ran over an endoplasmic reticulum. Three seconds later: BAM, I ran over a fermion.
You get the point: the ride quality is abysmal, even with my Bilstein 5100 shocks. And that’s the issue with a lot of these lift kits, including my relatively-pricey Rubicon Express one: the springs are often too damn stiff.
Of course, my peril doesn’t end with just poor ride quality. The handling also got much worse thanks to the higher center of gravity, the braking got a crap-ton worse thanks to the larger diameter tires, and my god, the acceleration. This Jeep’s grunty four-liter motor makes 190 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque, which was great with the original 215 75 R15 tires. But with the 31s and factory 3.55 gearing, the Jeep is now downright slow. And that makes me sad.
Wind noise is also up, thanks to more exposed suspension parts, steering parts now wear out faster, and fuel economy is drastically reduced. I used to score about 19 MPG highway, and now I’m at about 14 or 15. That’s almost a 20 percent reduction in mileage because of four inches of lift, and three-inches of extra tire diameter.
As someone who drives total shitboxes regularly, you’d think I’d be comfortable in a loud, inefficient, poor handling, poor braking, slow vehicle. And I totally am. But in this case, looking at the data, this lift kit just wasn’t worth it.
If this weren’t just a grocery-store runabout, but instead an actual off-road rig, maybe I’d say it was worth it. But I’ve got a purpose-built green Jeep XJ at home that I’m not at all afraid to hammer on off-road. As such, this red Jeep rarely sees mud or rocks, rendering my lift kit all but useless, and the negative consequences of the install all the more annoying.
I kinda just want my old springs back. But man that rear three-quarter profile. Whew, it makes me weak.