Best Shocks for Jeep XJ

by | Auto Tools, Best Of (Cars)

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Cherokee. The stock grille and headlights design. The cool, retro looks…We’re talking about a Jeep classic here.

What’s not cool is having suspension problems. Unfortunately, that happens to everyone – especially if you’ve been hitting the offroad paths often.

If your OEM shocks have died out, I have a few recommendations for the best shocks for Jeep XJ. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, however:

  • Мid to heavy offroad rides & medium-lift (up to 3.5”): Bilstein 5100

  • Improved OEM replacement, balance between street/offroad: Bilstein 4600 or Rancho RS5000X

  • Extreme off-roading & higher lift Cherokee (4.5”+): Fox Shocks, Icon or KING shocks.

As you can see, things heavily depend on a) your driving preferences and b) how much of a lift do you want to see with your Cherokee buddy. Let’s take a more in-depth look why I picked exactly these shock absorbers for Jeep XJ.

Feel free to navigate to the ride style/lift height that interests you the most.

Heavier offroad use and medium lifted Jeep XJ (3.5”)

In this case there’s nothing more fitting than a set of Bilstein 5100 shocks. Monotube design paired with digressive valving means you get a better ride and control than any twin-tubes.

Firm (but not stiff) dampening and toughness optimized for offroad performance. Very easy installation too and they come with all the hardware included.

Check this video to see how well they cope with uneven terrain:

I think the 5100 series makes sense for most XJ owners who want to play in the dirt and take things off the beaten path. You don’t need to spend too much for Fox, King, Icons etc. to get a decent, smooth offroad experience.

If you’re looking for some serious Jeep XJ long-travel shocks, however…Nope, not sure they’re going to make it. Either read my thoughts on Fox shocks below, or check my comparison between the 5100 series and Bilstein 5160. The extra reservoir attached to the 5160s makes them better for long-travel.

Back to the 5100 series:

If you don’t need a whole set, you can always buy a pair of front or rear shocks – or even single ones.

Improved factory replacement (OEM) shocks for XJ

The Bilstein 4600 is like a 5100 without the improved offroad performance and lifted vehicle support. Same technology, similar approach to shock absorption.

The big difference here is the 4600s aren’t zinc coated for extra protection. Also, they require a stock height XJ – they do not fit with lifted vehicles.

The design is also a bit different – instead of the metallic shine you’ve got a yellow/blue shock here. Here’s how the rear shock is designed:

Best shocks for Jeep XJ: Bilstein 4600 if you don't plan on running a lifted Cherokee.

An advantage is that these will ride smoother on the pavement than 5100s. Ready to conquer any road imperfection and even deal with mild offroad adventures.

I repeat: Do not get them if you plan to mod a lifted Cherokee!

You can check the 4600 front shock here.

Looking for a budget options?

Well, you have Rough Country, Rancho or random white can shocks. Most of these are twin-tube (less oil capacity, smaller piston, not as long-lasting) though. If you decide to go this route, I think the Rancho RS5000X is the best option.

Best Jeep XJ shocks for extreme offroading & a high lift Cherokee

Things are getting expensive here. However…if you plan on conquering some hardcore offroad paths or want to go full sport drive:

Well, you need something special.

I’m very partial to Fox shocks, but other high-grade shock absorber options are King or Icon.

Unlike Bilstein or other general brands, Fox shocks are made of aluminum. This helps tremendously with heat dissipation which is the #1 problem you’ll encounter with extreme offroads. Also, standard shocks just don’t have the right valving to cope with ultra rough terrain.

Fox shocks cover these two bases, but they go beyond:

Not only do they run on nitro (not gas), but they’re also rebuildable/rechargable.

Throw the enhanced monotube design with additional coating to prevent damage and you have a premium solution.

Additionally, the Fox Performance series can support some monstrous lifts. This set, for example goes up to a 8” front lift and 6.5” in the back. It also keep the slick Fox design, very cool:

For a high lifted Jeep Cherokee, Fox shocks should be an amazing solution. Here's why I think so.

If you don’t care about extreme roads, but want to run a lifted monster you can try Rubicon Express. Their shocks for higher lift XJ are twintube and steel-constructed, but fit 4.5” to 5.5” lifted Jeep XJ snugly. A step above the white can shocks for sure – but don’t expect magical wonders from them in the very long term.

Wait, what about KYB or Skyjacker shocks for a Cherokee?

Can you grab a set of these? Yes, you definitely can.

Should you? I’m not sure.

KYB Monomaxes are more than decent, true. However, as I’ve pointed out in my KYB vs Bilstein comparison, Bilstein’s series simply perform better on 4WD vehicles and in offroad conditions.

I guess if you want an exact OEM replacement to your shocks you can go with them. After all, KYB are the kings of imitating the performance and feel of factory shock absorbers.

As for the Skyjacker Hydros – I feel that they’re in a bit of a tricky spot. Somewhere between higher grade white can shocks and Bilstein’s, they make sense until they don’t. Any relevant Bilstein shock or Rancho’s later series will outperform the Hydros. The difference in price doesn’t justify this gap in overall performance and ride control, in my opinion.

Share your experiences with Cherokee shocks – street or sport

I’m curious about your own experiences with different brands that offer shock absorbers for our good old friend, the Jeep XJ.

What setup worked the best for you? Anything you particularly liked (or didn’t like)?

Let me know in the comments below. Always looking to talk more about Jeep stuff and as I said, the XJ holds a special spot in my 4WD-loving heart. 🙂

Founder of ToolingFun. Couldn't even change a lightbulb in my teenage years. Discovered the joy of DIY projects during my 2nd year in college. All about tinkering around, trying fun tools and projects, and giving my opinion on industry brands!