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May 12, 2023May 12, 2023

These modifications not only improve the Jeep Cherokee's structural rigidity, but also make it a confident-handling SUV on any terrain.

The Jeep Cherokee is an iconic off-road SUV famous for its versatility ad ruggedness. While most people only know of the Wrangler or the new Gladiator truck, the Cherokee XJ was the vehicle that catapulted Jeep into the 21st century. It has an unmistakable design and impressive capabilities, making it a great option for off-road enthusiasts.

The Cherokee XJ is among the most sought-after classic SUVs thanks to its reliable engine and unique construction. However, if you plan to take it off-road, there are a few modifications that can give it a trail-ready transformation. These modifications not only improve its structural rigidity, but also make it a confident-handling SUV on any terrain.

While Jeep fitted a few Cherokees with skid plates from the factory, it was still advisable to fit an aftermarket skid place. The factory options didn't offer underbelly protection, making the Cherokee vulnerable on the trails. A mishap on the trails could damage the differential, transmission, gas tank, and other things that are essential to the Cherokee.

Aftermarket skid plates offer full protection for the essentials, giving you peace of mind when you go through a beaten path. Skid plates act as armor for the Cherokee, making it easy to go over all obstacles, including stumps and rocks. They form a sturdy barrier to the Cherokee's undercarriage and absorb impacts. High-quality skid plates feature durable materials like aluminum, steel, or composite materials.

Rock sliders are among the mods that help protect your Jeep Cherokee. If you frequently take your Cherokee through tough trails, the rock sliders will come in handy. Most of the best, high-quality options use steel tubing, making them sturdy. Some aftermarket sellers go to the extent of painting them your preferred color, making them stand out on your Cherokee.

Rock sliders play multiple roles in the Cherokee. They offer great protection to the body panels by acting as a barrier between all off-road obstacles and the Cherokee. In addition, rock sliders offer structural reinforcement to the Cherokee's frame. They can easily distribute the impact of all off-road obstacles across a wider area, thus maintaining the frame's integrity and reducing the risk of deformation or bending.

Related: A Detailed Look At The First-Gen Jeep Cherokee

Upgrading the leaf springs can help improve your Cherokee's off-road performance. These reliable and rugged suspension components are a vital aspect of the Jeep Cherokee. They are flexible and robust, making it easier for your Cherokee to handle heavy loads without sacrificing performance. In addition, leaf springs offer the perfect blend of flexibility and stability.

That's by allowing the Cherokee to articulate the suspension, thus adapting to uneven terrain with ease. Leaf springs can make it easier for the Cherokee to conquer steep inclines by providing the necessary flex to keep all your wheels on the ground. High-quality leaf springs also help offer durability on the trail. They're made from robust steel, allowing them to withstand the punishing impacts of off-road adventures.

If you plan on taking the Jeep Cherokee off-road, it's a good idea to keep it durable and nice. Since it's a unibody SUV, it's not as strong as the body and frame variants of yesteryear. Off-roading with a stock Jeep Cherokee might lead to cracks on the doors and body. The panels might also not line up anymore. Continued use of the Cherokee on the trail will make it crumble in no time.

To avoid this, it's advisable to use unibody stiffeners. They are the secret ingredient to reinforcing the Cherokee's structural integrity. Installing unibody stiffeners reinforces the Cherokee's frame, thus increasing the overall rigidity. These stiffeners minimize chassis flex, making the Cherokee more stable on the trails. In addition, reducing flex also helps improve the handling characteristics of the Jeep Cherokee.

Related: Jeep Cherokee XJ: Prices, Specs, And Features

Taking your Cherokee off-road without lighting is like flirting with disaster. Most aftermarket lights will come in handy off-road, helping you get a clear picture of the trail. Therefore, if you come across rocks, mud, sand, or dirt, you can easily navigate them. Picking the ideal aftermarket lights for the Cherokee will vary depending on the preferred light options.

For example, you can install a lightbar easily on the roof rack. With this, you can have better lighting of the trails during the night drives. In addition, you can opt for additional lights, including fog lights and spotlights. All these options make it easier to see hazards and obstacles. They also help make the Cherokee more versatile, allowing you to handle different off-road situations.

Installing a lift kit on your Cherokee will have multiple advantages. First, it will help raise the Cherokee's suspension, giving it better ground clearance. This translates to better approach, departure, and break-over angles. All these aspects help make the Cherokee feel at home when on the trails. Secondly, the lift kit makes it easier to fit larger wheels and tires on the Cherokee.

This modification offers a larger contact patch, thus better traction. Lastly, installing a lift kit on your Cherokee will improve its aesthetic appeal. It gives the Cherokee an undeniable sense of rugged style, making it stand tall among the sea of ordinary vehicles. When choosing a lift kit for the Jeep Cherokee, you need to consider the provider and ride quality. Some aftermarket options provide the best balance between ride quality and off-road performance.

Related: The Real Reason Why Jeep Killed The 50-Year Old Cherokee Nameplate

Your Jeep Cherokee is only as capable as the tires it wears. A wheels and tires upgrade is one of the most critical mods you can make. If you want to maximize the Cherokee's off-road ability, installing some all-terrain tires will do the trick. These tires offer a wide contact patch off-road without completely compromising the pavement experience.

When choosing an all-terrain tire, you should opt for an aggressive option with deep treads. This makes it easier to handle all types of trails, even sand, mud, rocks, and tree stumps. As for the tread pattern, look for one with interlocking sipes. This helps offer predictable highway performance. Reputable manufacturers like BFGoodrich, Michelin, Falken, and many more have a great selection of all-terrain tires.

There's a reason why most off-road rigs have a roof rack. Adventuring requires a lot of gear, ranging from spare tires to jerry cans to hand tools and everything in between. Fitting a roof rack on the Cherokee is one of the most practical modifications. The roof rack helps offer increased cargo capacity, freeing up the cargo space in the Cherokee. It also offers a convenient and secure platform to transport all your items.

Most aftermarket providers are available in multiple configurations, allowing you to fit cargo boxes, cargo baskets, and crossbars. The versatility ensures you can customize the roof rack depending on your needs. For example, you can fit a cargo box if you want weatherproof storage for your delicate gear. In addition, most Cherokee options are easy to install thanks to using a standard rack mounting system.

Related: Here's Why The 2023 Jeep Cherokee Is Better Than Any Mid-Size SUV Today

Off-road protection is just as important as performance. When aiming to make the Cherokee trail-ready, you can install an off-road bumper made from either steel or aluminum. These bumpers help ensure that the Cherokee is well-protected from front or rear-end damage. They also make it easier to mount additional accessories, including lights and winches.

When choosing the ideal aftermarket bumper, you should always look for options with straightforward installation. Most aftermarket sellers with Cherokee-specific offerings provide all the essential mounting points, making the installation a breeze. They also give you multiple customization options, including welded-on D-ring shackles and winch plates.

Upgrading the air intake for your 1984 to 2001 Cherokee can help make it a trail-ready SUV. Most aftermarket air intake systems work with the OEM cold air intake box, making the installation process quick and simple. Upgraded air intake system filters down to smaller microns, helping ensure that the engine has a larger surface area to suck through.

If you plan on taking the Cherokee off-road, the upgraded air intake system can come in handy, ensuring the engine doesn't get water, dust, or dirt. Most systems feature rubber strips for improved sealing capabilities. These seals allow the filters to work effectively and improve the filtration efficiency of the Cherokee. With the increased airflow, the engine can breathe easily, resulting in enhanced performance.

Brian is a husband, father and freelance writer. He's also a tech and automotive junkie passionate about cars and motorcycles. Brian is also an F1 fan - team Mercedes (LH). When he's not writing, Brian goes for impromptu drives and walks.