The weather is finally warming up and it’s time for Jeep sales to once again start climbing through the roof as we head toward summer. As the proud owner of one of these new Jeeps, you’re probably planning to treat it to a fancy aftermarket suspension system in preparation for off-road adventures. Because a body lift doesn’t improve off-road capabilities, a hardcore off-road driver will want a suspension lift, which does more than just allow for larger tires. But which type of suspension lift you need will depend on your intentions and circumstances. To help you navigate the battle between the short-arm suspension lift and the long-arm suspension lift, here are three distinctive characteristics of each and a summary of how they compare with each other.
Short-arm Suspension Lift:
1. In your research, you may come across the phrase “stock geometry” and wonder what exactly it means. The short-arm suspension lift retains the original (or “stock”) control arm brackets, because this enables easier installation. However, it also jacks the control arms into a more intense angle (the term “geometry” refers to this angle), which puts more stress on them while operating.
2. Because it’s a suspension lift, short-arm provides a smoother, higher-quality ride than body lift would. But because of the added stress on the control arms, it doesn’t give quite as smooth a ride as long-arm does. It’s seen as a good middle ground by many off-road enthusiasts.
3. Because the components are simply bolted in and fewer of them are being replaced, the short-arm kit is inexpensive compared to the long-arm. It also requires a less detailed and intensive installation procedure.
Long-arm Suspension Lift:
1. The long-arm lift keeps control arms at a more horizontal angle. This corrects the problem with the “geometry” of the vehicle seen in short-arm. Consequently, there’s more flex when hitting bumps and the overall ride is smoother and less jarring.
2. The long-arm option is more expensive because it includes more parts and, to correct the aforementioned angle problem, it requires removing the control arm brackets and welding on new ones in a different place. This also makes the process more labor-intensive, so it’s not something you can do at home unless you happen to have welding equipment lying around.
3. Because the arms are longer, this type of lift has the potential to raise your Jeep higher off the ground. This allows you to use larger tires and traverse extreme obstacle courses. But if you do opt for a tall lift, especially four inches or more, it can require replacement or extension of other parts (such as the drive shaft) for some vehicles and can also make your Jeep top-heavy.
To summarize, the short-arm suspension lift is more budget-friendly, less invasive, and great for moderate terrain, while the long-arm lift can improve your ride the most but is more expensive and more labor-intensive as well. Extreme and competitive terrain may call for the long-arm option, or you may choose it if you have the cash and just want a better ride. But no matter which kit you end up with, remember that raising your vehicle will change the center of gravity so that it handles differently. Drive carefully until you get the hang of it, and stay safe this summer!
Contact a local store, such as Wildside Motorsports, for more information and details.