For a unibody crossover, the Jeep Cherokee XJ enjoys a tremendous amount of support from the off-road aftermarket who manufacture a plethora of Jeep Cherokee mods. Since its release, off-roading enthusiasts were quick to pick up on the XJ’s unique construction, which pairs a ladder-boxed chassis with a car-like monocoque structure, resulting in something far more strong and rugged than a typical unibody vehicle. Factor in the XJ’s longitudinal powertrain configuration, with a choice of either rear- or all-wheel drive, and you end up with one of the most adventure-ready crossovers of all time – something capable of holding its own against traditional body-on-frame SUVs.
Because of its solid design, with just a handful of carefully selected accessories, you can turn your XJ into a real trail-worthy off-roader. We’ve rounded up some of the best, most affordable and effective Jeep Cherokee mods on the market today, covering everything from tires to auxiliary lighting to off-road protection, and while most of these mods are targeted at the classic Jeep Cherokee XJ, we’ve also included products for later Cherokee and Liberty models, and even the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Choice: BFGoodrich T/A KO2 Tires
- 2. Best Cargo Rack: Rhino Rack Roof Mount Cargo Basket
- 3. Best Lighting Upgrade: Rough Country 40” Dual-Row CREE LED Light Bar
- 4. Best Front End Protection: EAG Steel Front Bumper
- 5. Best Rocker Panel Protection: EAG Steel Rock Sliders
- 6. Best Basic Lift Kit: Rough Country 3” Lift Kit
1. Editor's Choice: BFGoodrich T/A KO2 Tires
Any vehicle is only as capable as the tires it wears, making them one of the most critical Jeep Cherokee mods you’ll ever install. And if you’re looking for a tire that can maximize your Cherokee’s off-road capability without completely compromising the ride on clear pavement, there may be no better option than the BFGoodrich T/A KO2. The T/A KO2 is an aggressive, deep-tread all-terrain tire with interlocking sipes that give the tread everything needed to provide smooth, predictable highway performance making this tire upgrade one of the best Jeep Cherokee mods you can do. But much more impressive than its on-road behavior is the T/A KO2’s off-road ability, delivered by serrated shoulder lugs, scores of staggered biting edges, and split- and bruise-resistant sidewall rubber developed to withstand the punishment from the toughest off-road terrains. The Baja-proven BFGoodrich T/A KO2 is the quickest way to take your Jeep Cherokee from mall crawler to trail conqueror.
2. Best Cargo Rack: Rhino Rack Roof Mount Cargo Basket
There’s a reason that most of the off-road vehicles you see have a roof rack or roof-top cargo basket fitted: adventuring requires a lot of gear, from hand tools to jerry cans, to spare tires, and everything in-between. That makes the Rhino Rack Roof Mount Cargo Basket one of the most practical, utilitarian Jeep Cherokee mods you could ever have. With a 41-by-27-inch footprint and a near-universal roof rack mounting system, it’s a great fit for everything from the classic Cherokee XJ through the current KL model, and it’s a well-designed, high quality product to boot. The basket is made from heavy-duty steel tubing with a durable black powder coat finish, and it boasts two built-in thru-axle bike carriers in the event your next adventure takes you to the mountain bike trail. An included aerodynamic deflector keeps wind noise to a minimum, and at less than 40-pounds when fully assembled, you might even forget it’s there when not in use.
3. Best Lighting Upgrade: Rough Country 40” Dual-Row CREE LED Light Bar
Going off-road without auxiliary lighting is just flirting with disaster, so if dirt, mud, sand, or rocks are in your Cherokee’s future, you’ll want to get a Rough Country 40” Dual-Row CREE LED Light Bar installed on your Jeep Cherokee. This light bar combines the perfect blend of affordability, performance, and build quality in a single unit. The 40” Rough Country light bar is perfectly sized for Cherokees from XJ through KL, and packs more than 19,000 lumens of light output, making it around 25 times more powerful than your factory halogen low-beam lights. All that light is focused into a practical combination of an 8-degree spot and 90-degree flood pattern, casting just where you need it most, and sealed within an IP67-rated dust- and water-resistant die-cast matte black finish aluminum housing. The Rough Country 40” Dual-Row CREE LED Light Bar is among the most cost-effective Jeep Grand Cherokee mods, as well.
4. Best Front End Protection: EAG Steel Front Bumper
Off-road, protection is every bit as important as performance, and while there aren’t too many unibody crossovers with a host of available off-road bumper options, the XJ Cherokee tops the list. That’s why we highly recommend taking a look at this: the EAG Stinger Front Bumper. It’s a seriously heavy-duty unit, formed from 5/32” sheet steel with a 2” by .120” steel tubing stinger or pre-runner bar that both looks the business and keeps your Cherokee’s front safe from damage. Installation is a straightforward, bolt-on matter on most Cherokees, and the bumper even includes welded-on D-ring shackles and a winch plate for winches rated up to 12,000 pounds, allowing you to add still more off-road Jeep Cherokee XJ mods. The whole unit is finished in a textured black powder coat finish that resists damage from bumps and scrapes, helping prevent corrosion.
5. Best Rocker Panel Protection: EAG Steel Rock Sliders
Speaking of off-road protection, if your Cherokee ever sees rocks, it would be wise to get a good set of rock sliders – like these tubular steel rock sliders from EAG. They’re made from the same 2” by .120” steel tubing and 5/32” sheet steel as the manufacturer’s XJ front bumpers, featuring the same textured black powder coat finish over the top. They bolt right in with some light drilling, and they help to keep the underside of your Cherokee protected from scraping. But even if they see minimal use in rock-crawling, these sliders are worth a look, not only because they boost your Jeep’s appearance, but because they double as side steps, making climbing into and out of your Cherokee a breeze – especially valuable if your Jeep has been lifted.
6. Best Basic Lift Kit: Rough Country 3” Lift Kit
The benefits of a lift kit for off-road vehicles are, potentially, three-fold. For one thing, raising your Jeep’s suspension gives increased ground clearance, better approach, departure, and breakover angles for more off-roadability. For another, it allows you to fit bigger wheels and tires for more contact patch and superior traction. And third, lifted Jeeps just look cool. For all those reasons, this Rough Country 3” Lift Kit is one of the best, most cost-effective Jeep Cherokee XJ mods around. The kit includes everything you need to add a full three inches of extra ride height to your Cherokee XJ: front coil springs, rear leaf springs, a full set of four Rough Country N3 Nitrogen-charged performance dampers with 10-stage variable valving, heavy-duty tubular front control arms – the works. Best of all, it offers all this at a price that won’t break the bank.
And if you’re shopping for Jeep Grand Cherokee mods, Rough Country has put together a similar kit for the 1993-’98 Grand Cherokee ZJ, offering 3.5 full inches of lift with front coil springs, front and rear control arms, extended sway bar links, and the same excellent N3 performance dampers.
How do you lift a Jeep Cherokee XJ without mods?
If you want to lift your Jeep Cherokee XJ you’re going to have to make mods of some sort. The obvious would be springs and shocks since those components need to be taller to lift your XJ. Of course there are going to be some lift kits that will be more involved than others, but they are likely going to be for a specific customer who knows what they’re getting themselves into.
Is there any one mod more important than another?
That really depends on the owner. Some may not take aggressive trails but stay out later and require more lighting for better nighttime vision. Others may take on tougher trails during the day and enjoy relaxing at night, so upgrades like better tires and body protection are their preference. You just need to gauge what your most important needs are before you start making your purchases.
Updated 9/27/2021: Ranked products, updated product descriptions, updated product links, added FAQ and Additional Resources
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