I purchased a 1997 Jeep Cherokee Sport equipped with part-time, shift on the fly, four-wheel drive. My sons are anxious to go four-wheeling in an area of our county that is ideal for off-road activities.
I have two questions. The ground clearance on the Cherokee is not as high as I would like it. Can the vehicle be raised without a large monetary investment? The off-road area in question is mostly dirt and sand. What is the risk, if any, to the drivetrain while the four-wheel drive is engaged in these types of conditions?
There are some cheap, slipshod methods of raising a truck off the ground, but the best way to go, without building a monster truck, is with a quality off-road suspension kit. Explorer Pro Comp makes a Stage 1 suspension kit that will increase a Cherokee's ride height by three inches and improve off road stability while having little effect on highway ride characteristics.
The kit includes front coil springs, an add-on leaf spring for the rear, four heavy duty shocks, and all the necessary hardware. The cost is about $400 plus the eight hours labor required for installation, allowing for a labor rate of $70 per hour leaves us with a grand total of about $960 plus tax. If that fits your budget, then go for it!
Your Cherokee is equipped with the part-time Command-Trac system as opposed to the optional Select-Trac full-time 4WD. This is good, because according to the Tech people down at Explorer Pro Comp the Stage 1 kit doesn't work with the full-time setup due to driveline angle problems.
The advantage to full-time four wheel drive is the fact that it can be used in normal road conditions without causing unnecessary damage to the drivetrain. That's why you should not be driving your Jeep with the part-time 4WD engaged on dry pavement. On the other hand, the sand and dirt which you and your boys want to go four wheeling on is exactly what this vehicle was designed for.