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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey Guys new here, anyways I had some questions for some of you veterans. I want to lift my xterra so I can do some of the trails and keep up with my buddies in their jeeps. I do a lot of highway driving and also want to be able to do some trails, should I go for a PML? Or a SL? I've been looking at some of the true 3" lifts. Please let me know what you guys think. Thanks, Trevor

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As with most things, it depends on how much you want to spend and how you plan to use it!

Addressing things specifically about lifts:

1) A suspension lift uses the suspension to lift the vehicle: think springs, control arms, leaf springs and shackles. The front suspension uses a torsion bar spring that has limited height adjustment built in. The rear axle uses leaf springs. A suspension lift raises the frame (and everything attached to the frame).

2) A PML is when you add a taller shackle to the rear of the leaf spring to lift the rear, and use the stock adjustment on the front. A PML is a suspension lift, although it is a short one.

3) A 3" suspension lift kit includes front control arms, which add some more adjustability up to 3"...and leaf springs for the rear that boost up the rear end higher than a shackle alone. It also includes some extended shocks, maybe an idler arm brace, or extended brake lines, etc. You can go the kit route...but a lot of things you can piece them together and slowly build it up.

4) The higher you lift, the more the angles of the different arms change. This also means it may be easier to break parts off road. Don't think you can slap on a lift kit and go bomb around off road without beefing up your tie rod, idler arms, center links, etc. You can for a while...but it will be a matter of time before you break something, or wear out your alignment and wear your tires unevenly. The lift kit is the sexy modification everyone loves...but don't ignore the utilitarian aspect of beefing up vulnerable parts that can leave you stranded.

Some other thoughts on offroading on trails:

The best modification you can make is in the driver. Watch some youtube videos with good tips and how tos...follow and talk to more experienced off roaders. Read online, and watch others from outside their vehicle. A good driver can find the proper line that matches their vehicle capability. I used to follow an Xterra on 37" tires with a custom solid axle front end. I followed him by not following him! AKA, I took easier lines than he did, but ultimately got to the same place.

Larger tires are the ONLY way to lift your axles up. When you get larger tires, you raise the axle taller off the ground, and also the frame (the frame sits on top of the axles!).

Good tread tires are the best thing to help you that keeps your traction and lets you keep moving forward. A suspension lift with highway tires is worse than a stock Xterra with mud tires.

The rear axle has an open differential. This means power is only going to go to the rear tire with the least traction. This means if one rear tire comes off the ground, it will just spin freely while no power goes to the other rear tire. That means the name of the game is keeping both tires on the ground as firmly as possible. Remove your rear sway bar is a great, free thing to do. Revolver shackles have great flex, and will keep your tires on the ground.

For reference, I have a couple of thousand dollars in my set up with front upper control arms, rear lift shackles, heavy duty tie rod adjusters, idler arm braces, heavy duty center link, idler arm bushings, gusseted steering arms, 33" BF Goodrich mud tires, front diff Lokka, etc...the list goes on.

You can also go pretty far with a PML using revolver shackles, a $100 body lift, and 33" tires with an idler arm brace and heavy duty tie rods.

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Here is another response I had typed up to an earlier post:

Searching is very helpful, there is a lot of stuff covered here already...but here is a quick noobs guide to modifying the xterra

1) Remove the step rails from the truck. They are VERY thin and if ever hit on a rock or tree stump etc off road, they crumple into the bottoms of your doors. Plus, even without a lift, the truck LOOKS higher to the eye with less stuff hanging down off of it.

2) Remove the mud flaps hanging down if you have them. Couple screws and maybe a razor blade to get them off. Same concept...they look better without them, and with less stuff hanging DOWN close to the ground, the truck LOOKS higher!

3) Avoid Brush Guards/bull bars or any kind of front bumper bar that bolts on. The problem is the way they mount. They have to go below the frame horns, which reduces your ground clearance and your appraoach angle. ALso, if you ever rear end someone or run into something, they will immediately crumble and fold over on top of your hood, head lights, grill, etc. They WILL cause more damage and provide no real protection.

4) Avoid any engine chips that advertise crazy horsepower gains. They are a scam. There is no real way to get A LOT of power out of these engines.

5) Do go for the stock air box mod. You can easily modify your stock airbox so that it works about like a cold air intake. Plus it still has the air box which protects the air filter from dirt and water.

6) Remove your rear sway bar (FREE!). The link to the How To is in my signature below.

7) PML is a cheap and effective (~1.5") suspension lift for ~$70. Link to the How To is in my signature.

8) If you are mechanically inclined and not afraid of a bigger task, you can get a 2" body lift for ~$70 if you are resourceful.

9) If your plastic bumpers and grills are dull and gray, you can paint them with a few rattle cans of spray paint or spray on bed liner. Looks great.

Essentially, for under $200 and a bit of labor and desire to learn, you can have a 3.5" lift, a better intake and a bad ass looking truck.

On the stock 1.5 generation Xterra, you can fit 32" tires with minor trimming of the plastic around the front wheels.

With a 2" body lift and some minor trimming, you can fit 33" tires.

Note: Any Suspension Lift does not allow for bigger tires. The extra room disappears once the suspension flexes on a bump.

Also, decide what it is you want your truck to do. Don't just do a mod because you were told to. Kinda think about what you want to do in your X that you can't do yet, and figure out what you need to do to get there :)
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