Fitting 33s on an XJ requires a bit of a lift. No stock Jeep Cherokee XJ manufactured from 1984 to 2001 features 33 inches (83.82 cm) tires, nor do the Grand models released over the years, which you may be aware of already. So, you will have to figure out how much lift is needed for fitting 33s on your XJ.
You may use a 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift for 33s on XJ if you are willing to trim the fenders, cut and fold the quarter panels, and make other significant modifications. A 4-inch (10.16 cm) lift will need less trimming, but you must still review backspacing, fender flares, bump stops, end caps, etc.
A 2-inch (5.08 cm) lift for 33s on an XJ is a nonstarter for off-roading. A 4.5-inch (11.43 cm) lift or higher requires nominal to no changes. Still, your Jeep Cherokee XJ will have a substantially raised center of gravity. So, opting for a Jeep XJ 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift on 33s is a balanced and safe choice— read on to learn more.
You Need at Least a 3 Inch Lift for 33s on XJ
The most common stock tires on Jeep Cherokee XJ models are the following:
- 205/75R15: 27.1 inches (68.83 cm) outer diameter and 8 inches (20.32 cm) width
- 215/75R15: 27.7 inches (70.36 cm) outer diameter and 8.5 inches (21.59 cm) width
- 225/70R15: 27.4 inches (69.6 cm) outer diameter and 8.9 inches (22.61 cm) width
- 225/75R15: 28.3 inches outer (71.88 cm) diameter and 8.9 inches (22.61 cm) width
The biggest tire you can use with a Jeep Cherokee XJ 225/74R15 model is 29 inches (73.66 cm) without a lift and other modifications. However, even 29-inch (73.66 cm) tires may rub in a few road conditions and most certainly on off-road terrains, so you can’t use 33s on an XJ without an adequate lift.
However, 3 inches is usually enough, and it’s safer than choosing the higher options, especially on the Jeep Cherokee XJ, since it has a rollover risk.
Should You Choose a Higher Lift?
Theoretically, you need a minimum of 4 or 4.5 inches (10.16 or 11.43 cm) of lift to have sufficient clearance for 33-inch (83.82 cm) tires on a Jeep Cherokee XJ. If you opt for 5 or 6 inches (12.7 or 15.24 cm), lift, or anything higher, that will provide more than enough clearance for 33s on an XJ.
You don’t have to make significant changes to the unibody of a Jeep Cherokee XJ with such a high suspension lift. However, you will still need to add fender flares for the wider tires.
5 inches (12.7 cm) or a higher lift will probably make your Jeep Cherokee XJ relatively unsteady in challenging off-roading terrains. A high center of gravity will likely affect your XJ’s driving experience and performance.
Considering all these pertinent factors, a 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift for 33s on an XJ is the least you need and the safest option.
Modifications Needed for 33s on XJ
Of course, you will have to account for and make several modifications when adding larger tires to your vehicle.
Here’s what you’ll need to check and consider making changes to.
Trim All the Fenders
A 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift will require trimming all the fenders. Otherwise, the 33s on the XJ won’t have enough clearance. This necessity is also why you can’t use a 2-inch (5.08 cm) lift for 33s on your XJ. The fenders will need extensive cutting, not just minor trimming, for a 2-inch (5.08 cm) lift.
If you have to cut and trim more than an inch off the fender, you will probably go beyond the bolt holes and seams. You must drill new bolt holes to mount and secure larger fender flares.
Furthermore, 33-inch (83.82 cm) tires don’t necessarily have that exact diameter every time. These tires may have a +/- 0.5 inches (12.7 mm) difference, mainly due to the tread. No worries if your 33s on the XJ are smaller than 33 inches (83.82 cm). Otherwise, you may have to trim a little more off the fenders.
A 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift for any edition or year of the Jeep Cherokee XJ should be sufficient for 33-inch (83.82 cm) tires with minor trimming of the fenders. You won’t have to eliminate the bolt holes, so you can easily install the necessary fender flares.
There are different ways to modify the fenders of a Jeep Cherokee XJ. You may use an angle grinder or Sawzall to cut and trim them. Also, slitting and hammering to fold these portions along a fender’s edge is an option. Use a rubber mallet hammer to avoid damaging sheet metal.
There is another thing you must bear in mind while cutting, slitting, or trimming the rear fenders or quarter panels of a Jeep Cherokee XJ. These rear edges have a few pinch-welded points. Do not cut across or through these pinch-welded parts that have two separate metal sheets fused.
Consult a pro if you aren’t familiar with trimming fenders or quarter panels so that you don’t end up with a mess beyond convenient patching.
Install Fender Flares
In most cases, using 33s on an XJ requires flares because these taller tires are also wider. 33-inch (83.82 cm) tires using a 15 inches (~38 cm) wheel have different widths, including but not limited to the following:
9.5 inches (24.13 cm)
10.5 inches (26.67 cm)
11.5 inches (29.21 cm)
12.5 inches (31.75 cm)
13.5 inches (~34.3 cm)
15.5 inches (39.37 cm)
The standard fenders on a Jeep Cherokee XJ won’t provide the necessary overhang and, thus, protection against all kinds of debris and splashes, whether on the road or off in any terrain. You will need the likes of Bushwacker fender flares to cover these wider tires.
Using fender flares is necessary regardless of the lift. But if you don’t have a sufficient lift, the new fender flares might come in the way of the full range of motion of the new 33s. This is another reason you can’t go for a 2-inch (5.08 cm) lift for a Jeep Cherokee XJ if you use 33-inch (83.82 cm) tires.
Review Other Specs
Apart from the outer diameter of the 33s, the lift you choose and the tire width will necessitate a review of a few other specs. The least you need to do is check the following:
- Bump stop
- Bumper end caps
- Quarter panels
Suppose you have a 33-inch tire (83.82 cm) with a tread width of 12.5 inches (31.75 cm) on a 15 inches (38.10 cm) wheel. In such a scenario, you can’t have more than 4 inches (10.16 cm) of backspacing. 3.75 inches (9.52 cm) is better to avoid any rubbing against the control arms.
The original Jeep Cherokee XJ models have 4.25 inches to 5.5 inches (10.8 cm to ~14 cm) of stock backspacing. 33-inch tires (83.82 cm) with 11.2 inches to 12.5 inches (28.44 cm to 31.75 cm) width or wider may be too close to the control arm, sway bar, and other components, so they might rub.
This backspacing issue applies to a 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift because it has more to do with the tread width of the 33s on the XJ than the outer diameter.
33-inch (83.82 cm) tires with their wider treads can bump into and rub the fenders and other parts of the body and frame of your Jeep Cherokee XJ, especially when you traverse rough terrain. This can happen after you use a 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift or so and trim the fenders.
On a Jeep Cherokee XJ, you will probably need a bump stop for 33-inch (83.82 cm) tires. A 1 to 2 inches (5.08 cm) bump stop should work for most 33s on an XJ with a 2-inch (5.08 cm) lift to 6 inches (15.24 cm) unless your shock length or something else has a distinct demand. You should always get an appropriate bump stop for a lift.
Bumper End Caps
You should review whether or not you can have the stock bumper end caps with 33s on your XJ. You may eliminate the bumper end caps if you choose a 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift. A higher lift, i.e., 4 inches (10.16 cm) or more, might necessitate cutting or trimming the Jeep Cherokee XJ bumper end caps.
Like the bumper end caps, the lower parts of the quarter panels may also be an issue in off-road terrains. You don’t want the fenders or quarter panels bumping or crashing onto rocks and other stuff. Thus, you should modify the quarter panels by cutting and folding the sheet metal parts.
Most Jeep Cherokee XJ variants require the bottom parts of the rear fenders or quarter panels to be cut and folded after a 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift or higher for 33-inch (83.82 cm) tires.
My Closing Thoughts
You need at least a 3-inch (7.62 cm) lift for 33s on an XJ. A 4-inch (10.16 cm) lift or higher reduces the extent or need of trimming the fenders, but you may still need to add fender flares. You must also review backspacing, the requirement of a bump stop, modifying bumper end caps, and cutting/folding quarter panels when adding lift to your car.
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