Skyjacker vs Rough Country: Lift Kits, Shocks & Steering Dampers
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A few weeks ago we discussed this with a friend who slaps a 6” lift on every new truck he gets.
Why did RC become so popular over the past 15ish years? And why did Skyjacker lose some recognition?
We think it’s more about successful marketing than a decline in quality. But first, let’s do an overview of Rough Country vs Skyjacker lift kits and shocks.
In general, here’s what we recommend:
- Rough Country: Their spacer-based kits like this lift kit are the perfect bang for your buck. Warranty, components, and customer service are all top-notch for the price.
- Skyjacker: If you need a coil spring-based lift kit (see example), choose Skyjacker. Their coil springs are extra durable and provide better ground clearance.
- Shocks: Skyjacker BlackMax is the best option. Better heat dissipation, improved multi-stage valving for terrain changes, and others. Older Skyjackers (Nitro 8000) have equal to worse performance than the RC N3 shocks!
Quick comparison tables and then we can continue to the meat of the article:
Rough Country vs Skyjacker:
Lift kit comparison
When talking about lift kits, it’s usually good to elaborate on the type of lift you’re looking for. Some people dislike the metal spacer (blocks) lift kit options.
On some vehicles – take F-250 trucks, for example, you’re limited to leaf spring lift kits if you want optimal performance.
There are also coil enthusiasts, showcasing their suspension of beastly coil spring-based lift kits. My friend is one of these with his 6” lifted Toyota Tacoma.
As elaborated earlier, Rough Country offers the perfect option for entry-level lift kits on blocks. The main reason for that is the blocks. I talked about this in my RC vs Superlift review:
Rough Country takes extra care of how the rear blocks of their lift kits are manufactured.
What do I mean by this?
Their blocks have an anti-axle-wrap design. With the included clamps on top of that, Rough Country gives you performance paired with increased, firm control over your truck’s rear.
When you throw in all the hardware, the affordable price, and great customer service? RC fully deserves its spot as the #1 entry-level suspension brand out there.
You can see that in forum surveys too; this one’s from this topic on 4-inch lift kits at WranglerForum:
The RC weak spot compared to Skyjacker are RC lift kits with shocks. As I mentioned, Skyjacker BlackMax vastly outperforms even the updated N3 shocks. More on that, later.
Instead, let’s talk where Skyjacker excels: coil springs.
Coils can really be hit or miss; sometimes you get a product that doesn’t provide enough ground clearance. Or, alternatively, the coil overs shatter in 2-3 years after battling extreme terrain.
Skyjacker coils are mid-level than RC’s entry-level options in terms of manufacture and performance.
In addition to this, Skyjacker puts BlackMax shocks on coil spring lift kits. Springs tend to be firmer, some even say they have a ‘jarring’ feel to their ride.
Unlike Rough Country’s N3, Skyjacker BlackMax has more intricately calibrated valving. With an adjustable compression damping as core design, these shocks provide soft compression on a firmer, stronger rebound damping.
In other words, just the shock you need to run on a proper coil spring (or leaf spring) lift kit. Especially if it’s a 4”+ one. Skyjackers feel smoother on highways too.
Skyjacker vs Rough Country shocks
Continuing from above, let’s dive deeper into the shock absorber options from both brands.
Both Skyjacker and Rough Country have introduced different shock lineups over the years.
A few years ago, Rough Country upgraded their nitro shocks from N2 to N3. Now they have a 10-stage valving, a 54mm shock body with increased gas capacity, and improved rubber bushings.
In many ways, they’re better than the Skyjacker Nitro 8000 shocks. The 8000s haven’t received technological updates for a while and are, frankly, outdated in my opinion.
Now, if you don’t care about extreme off-roading, you might consider the Skyjacker Hydro 7000.
These are hydraulic, instead of gas-charged. This effectively means you get a way smoother ride, with a soft, slightly bouncy feeling perfect for the highway. The Hydro 7000 is also dirt cheap for what it offers. Just don’t take these on anything else than light off-roads.
Cheap hydraulic shocks for extra smooth ride. Not for serious off-roading, but a smooth and cushy feel for highway driving.
However, there’s one best shock option: the Skyjacker BlackMax.
In many aspects, this is a buffed Nitro 8000 spun off as a new product. This shock has a better fluid capacity and enhanced body to better deal with heat dissipation.
The multi-stage valving is there too, with extra sensitive calibration so it reacts to road conditions faster and more potent.
A huge improvement is the 180-degree directional mounting. This helps with installation on different vehicles from Jeep Wranglers to Ram, F-150/F-250/F-350, Tacomas, whatever comes to your mind.
With a limited lifetime warranty thrown in the mix, the BlackMax shocks are a top-notch mid-range absorber:
Skyjacker or Rough Country steering stabilizers?
While different than shocks, I feel it also makes sense to mention steering stabilizers. Both Skyjacker and Rough Country have either single steering stabilizers or dual damper kits.
Generally, I recommend the Skyjacker options here. There’s more performance value found for the price.
This is especially true for the Skyjacker 9100 dampers. With a more resilient and damping-ready monotube design, you get almost Bilstein levels of wobble control at a cheaper price.
Skyjackers are especially great as Jeep Wrangler dampers if you’re looking for an affordable option. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to throw them on a Tundra or Silverado, either.
Rough Country steering stabilizers are a decent budget pick. However, I feel they really fall behind when there’s serious rattle or death wobble going on.
Finishing our beer, with my friend we pretty much agreed that Rough Country is the better choice for your generic lift kit needs.
Their block kits (check a high-rated one) are sturdy enough to deal with extreme terrain, include all the hardware, and have convenient design improvements.
In that, RC fully deserves its top position as a suspension beginner’s favorite. Cheap doesn’t mean a lack of quality with this brand.
However, when shocks or steering dampers enter the scene, Skyjacker is an overall better choice. Yes, even with the update on the N3 shocks or dampers. At their price range, Skyjackers also vastly outshine other options like Pro Comp shocks.
And, as far as coil spring lift kits are concerned, a Skyjacker bundle will provide a better performance, firmer control, and more longevity.
By the way, don’t forget you can mix components. On many lift kits, you can swap out the shock absorbers for other options.
Most Rough Country lift kit applications – be it 2.5’’, 3’’, 4’’ or 6’’, should allow you to put Blackmax shocks on them if you want to. The same applies to other competitors like the mid-grade ReadyLift kits, too.
You might need to do some DIY accommodation depending on your application. However, it might be worth a try if you dislike how the N3 shocks feel on anything else than spacer lift kits.
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