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Hello all, new Jeep ZJ owner here.

Last week I bought a 96’ ZJ 5.2 V8. I bought the jeep as a range vehicle/project. My daily driver is 2wd ford ranger and makes trips to the gun range a gamble on whether or not I’ll be able to make it into and out of the trails on the way to the range. I also work 3rd shift and wanted a project to tinker with on my nights off.

In high school I was into some minor trail riding/off roading, however I’m not a mechanic and I don’t know much about lifts/ suspension and what all is needed for my project and the direction I’m trying to go.

I only paid 3k for the ZJ, so I don’t intend on dropping 15k into parts and making a super capable rock-crawler. A budget build would be an accurate term to describe what I’m going for. I have decided to get a 3”-3.5” lift, and run 31 inch tires on it eventually. I have no intentions of fully kitting out the ZJ, I just want a slightly more capable ZJ than what stock can offer. I do however want the vehicle to perform and handle on-road just as well as it does off-road.

Im conflicted on what to do. Buy a cheap rough country lift and figure out what else I need afterwards? Or is there a 3”-3.5” kit on the market that can provide the lift as well as solve the common steering/bump issues at the same time? Do I need long arms or not?

I don’t mind spending more money up front opposed to tearing the vehicle apart multiple times and piecing together a lift/suspension system over time. I just want a smooth ride on road, and the ability to hit some minor trails on occasion.

I appreciate any advice in advance, and apologize for my ignorance. I’ve done my due diligence reading but I’m a hands on kind of person, so not everything is clicking.

If someone is willing to mentor me on the side, I can provide my phone number to text. I’m sure I’ll have more stupid questions in the near future. You can also reach me on Instagram, username is provided below.

Thanks again- Bryce

IG: brycetyork
 

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A 2 inch lift is sufficient for 31s. I had the OME HD 2.5 inch springs and bilstein shocks on my 5.9 and it rode excellent. Top quality springs for sure. Kolak can get them for you.


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Agreed, 31" tires will fit with a 2" lift with minimal trimming on the front bumper. With a proper offset wheel even a 32" tire wilms till stuff into the rear wheel wells. Going with spring lift may net you a little more than 2" of lift, as the stock springs have likely sagged some by now. Extended sway bar links will be necessary with any type of lift. 3.5" is on the borderline of long arms for driveability. At 2" everything should work fine and be able to be properly aligned with the stock components. I've had a 2" spacer lift with longer shocks on mine for 3 or 4 years, now. Never had a driveability concern until the front trackbar went bad earlier this year. Control arms are a good idea at this age, but stock replacements ahouls be fine. You really don't even need adjustable arms with a 2" lift, just fresh bushings.
 

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Welcome to the forum. x2 on what Polka said about the ride with the OME HD 2.5 lift + Bilsteins on 31’s. Since you’re new, OME (Old Man Emu) is a 4 spring lift.

The 3.5“ lift you’re considering has other consideractions. For instance, adjustable track bars are usually used at that height. Here’s why: As lift height increases, the track bars rotate around their attach point on the frame. Which means the axles will move laterally. Front tb attach point is on the drivers side, rear tb point is on the pax side. Therefore, front axle will move left, toward the drivers side. The rear axle will move the opposite way, right, toward the pax side. With lifts up to 2.5“ or so, the sideways axle displacement isn’t that big a deal. Larger lifts need adjustable F and R track bars to get the axles centered back under the vehicle. So there’s another $350 or so in adjustable track bars.

Another 3.5” lift consideration, adjustable control arms (CA). As lift increases, you’re more likely to run into the geometry problem of not being able to get caster within spec. Front adjustable control arms, properly adjusted, can bring caster back within limits. There are 8 CAs. Not saying you’d need all 8 adjustable CAs at 3.5”. But, at a minimum, the front lowers should be adjustable. More $$.

Not trying to talk you out of 3.5”, just describing the considerations. One thing u said in your OP
I do however want the vehicle to perform and handle on-road just as well as it does off-road.
The OME HD + bilsteins will do that for you. On road ride is very nice!
 

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Thanks for mentioning me! I agree you'll really be impressed with the ride and handling of the OME/Bilstein combo. I run it myself on my ZJ :)

You may also want to consider replacing your rubber spring isolators and steering stabilizer shock if they are the originals.

I'd be happy to assist with your lift project - you can PM me here on the forum or email me at [email protected] and we'll chat.
 

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Welcome to the forum. x2 on what Polka said about the ride with the OME HD 2.5 lift + Bilsteins on 31’s. Since you’re new, OME (Old Man Emu) is a 4 spring lift.

The 3.5“ lift you’re considering has other consideractions. For instance, adjustable track bars are usually used at that height. Here’s why: As lift height increases, the track bars rotate around their attach point on the frame. Which means the axles will move laterally. Front tb attach point is on the drivers side, rear tb point is on the pax side. Therefore, front axle will move left, toward the drivers side. The rear axle will move the opposite way, right, toward the pax side. With lifts up to 2.5“ or so, the sideways axle displacement isn’t that big a deal. Larger lifts need adjustable F and R track bars to get the axles centered back under the vehicle. So there’s another $350 or so in adjustable track bars.

Another 3.5” lift consideration, adjustable control arms (CA). As lift increases, you’re more likely to run into the geometry problem of not being able to get caster within spec. Front adjustable control arms, properly adjusted, can bring caster back within limits. There are 8 CAs. Not saying you’d need all 8 adjustable CAs at 3.5”. But, at a minimum, the front lowers should be adjustable. More $$.

Not trying to talk you out of 3.5”, just describing the considerations. One thing u said in your OP

The OME HD + bilsteins will do that for you. On road ride is very nice!
Good advice stated above, especially with consideration to other needed parts.
On my previous ZJ, I was considering kits with 2 inch taller springs at 4 corners from other companies. Even some of those pricier kits would also need other parts, like upper arms, track bars etc...
Since it was my first lift, and not planning to do any crazy wheeling, I decided to go with RC kit. Also purchased adjustable uppers and extended sway bar links front and rear.
I believe adjustable uppers, front and rear, are really important to aid with driveshaft/pinion/caster angles. Unfortunately not many kits include or even suggest them.
 
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