What’s the #1 job of any lift kit? To make room for big tires, of course! By lifting the main body of the Jeep, they make it possible for larger wheels to fit. But what if you don’t have a kit? Maybe you’re on a tight budget or don’t want any “foreign invasion” into your four-wheeled friend. Will you be able to install Jeep Wrangler biggest tires without a lift?
Is there a way to make do without spacers? I’ve had my fair share of upgrades and will be more than happy to help you figure it out. In this guide, we’ll go over the concept of lifting and see what it’s all about. Next, we’ll try to put a set of really bigger tires and make it work without a lift. Let’s begin!
What’s the Deal with Lift Kits?
The most important thing to know about lift kits is that there are three different lift types available for a Wrangler driver. Here’s a quick look at what each kit has to offer:
- Leveling Kit. You won’t be able to do much with this one. Essentially, with a leveling kit, you get a set of spacers for the front wheels. Why the front, though? Well, because in most vehicles, the rear end sits a bit higher. And the spacers help to balance that. Decent-quality leveling kits are available for 100-150 US dollars.
- Body Lift Kit. With this next kit, the package includes spacers for all four sides. As a result, you get to lift the entire vehicle, not just the front end. With a body lift kit, you can go for larger tires to beef up the Jeep. Plus, it will automatically increase clearance – make it much safer to drive on bumpy or rocky terrain. The average price tag is $300.
- Suspension Kit. Not very happy with a bunch of spacers? Then go for a suspension kit! It includes a long list of gear, including control arms, steering wheel stabilizers, shocks, and springs. This package will cost you big bucks, of course ($2-3K, or more). Plus, these types of kits aren’t very easy to install. But, again, if you want the best of the best – a Jeep with big tires – this is it.
So, you don’t have a Kit. What’s the Lift Limit?
Can you upgrade to a larger set of tires with the stock suspension system and no spacers? Is that a realistic scenario? Yep, it is! And it depends on your Jeep, actually. Say, the LJ model can only accommodate 31-inch tires without any kits. The JLU, the JK, and the JK Unlimited, in contrast, work with 33-inch tires, which is pretty cool. Now, stock Jeeps come equipped with relatively big tires.
The JK Wrangler features a set of 32” tires. I’m talking about the Sport trim. With Sahara, you’ll get a pack of 29” tires. So, while you can, indeed, go for a bigger set, the difference won’t be very dramatic. Keep this in mind when deciding whether you should buy new tires or not. There will be an improvement, of course; but, again, it won’t be a game-changer. Wait, is that it? Not quite – read on to learn more!
Cutting the Fender and buying Smaller Wheels
You heard it – to make the Jeep work with bigger tires, you can go a bit extreme and trim the fenders. There’s nothing hard about this. Fenders make sure the tires sit in place and keep the dirt and snow at bay. With the stock fenders, a set of large tires will leave tons of scratches. That’s why we apply the trimming technique. Start by lifting the Wrangler with a jack.
Next, remove the fender, and only then cut it. This can also be done while the Jeep is on the ground. For trimming, use an angle cutter. Or, just grab a saw, a hot knife, or whatever you’ve got around. That’s pretty much all there is to it. As for the smaller wheels option, it’s as simple as it sounds. The factory Wrangler wheels are 17-18”. Thus, switching to 15-16” should help you upgrade up to 35-inch tires!
More Options: Fender Rolling + Adjusting the Torsion Key
If you Google something like “Jeep Wrangler big tires no lift”, I bet this one will come up. Here’s the deal: every single fender has a so-called lip. And, there’s a way to roll it and switch it from an L-like shape into a V-shape. When done properly, this will open up some room for bigger tires. First, get a heat gun – it will be doing most of the job. Secondly, find a long and sturdy piece of metal or wood (a baseball bat will do).
To make the fender flip, push the bat hard against it and fire up the heat gun. And what about the torsion key trick? It’s much simpler. Again, start by lifting the Wrangler. You should see the keys on top of the torsion bar. Also known as the “big bolts”, the torsion keys are usually somewhat loose. Tightening them will allow you to install a set of big tires. In some ways, this is like a free alternative to a leveling kit, because it will only raise the front of the Jeep.