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Jeep Cherokee XJ - Cherokee Tricks

Posted in Features on December 1, 2001
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Contributors: Mark Nobles

There's an old saying about wanting what you can't have, and this certainly seems to be holding true for XJ Cherokee enthusiasts. Since Daimler Chrysler ceased production of the classic four-wheeler last year, both the aftermarket and four-wheelers have focused on the old breadbox Jeep with renewed interest. The result has been a renaissance of sorts for the XJ. Off-roaders are looking for more parts to build their Cherokees, so fabricators are building more parts to meet the demand. It's the perfect catch 22.

TJM Bumpers
When it comes to bull bars, the Australians have a real handle on what works and what doesn't. After all, the Outback provides a tremendously huge testing ground for building real-world products. Although TJM isn't a household name in this country, the bull bars and bumpers it makes are some of the best built and best looking we've found.

The T15 bull bar is a testimony to design and construction. It's flat out one of the nicest looking front bumpers you could put on your Cherokee, and it matches the lines of the XJ perfectly. But it's also built to be used.The plate steel bumper is fully welded and internally gusseted, so it will take some serious abuse without flinching. For those given to form over function, though, this bumper is also available in aluminum. However, it's our professional opinion that once in the rocks, you'll wish you'd stayed with steel.

In terms of installation, the only thing about the TJM bull bar that requires any serious thought is the winch mount - obviously, it's internal. This means the winch has to be bolted to the bumper before the bumper is bolted to the vehicle. Aside from making the install at least a two-man job, it also means the clutch shifter has to be clocked (i.e. repositioned) so that it emerges through a small opening in the top of the bumper. Now, if you have the patience of a saint and you follow the directions to the letter, you may eventually get the shifter aligned just right, but it's been our experience that it is far simpler to clock the shifter about 130 degrees so you can actuate it by simply reaching under the bumper. Some 'wheelers worry this exposes the shifter to danger from rocks and such, but we've never known anyone to do any damage.

The TJM rear bumper is every bit as nice as the front one. Again, it's made of fully welded and gusseted plate steel, which makes it tough enough for the most serious off-road abuse. Although not shown here, TJM also offers a swing-out tire rack and a jerrycan rack. Each of these swivel on races that are built into the bumper at each end, making for very smooth operation and good durability.

Acos: Adjustable Coilover SpacersHave you ever looked at something and said, "I should have thought of that?" The ACOS system is such a simple, elegant idea that it's hard to believe no one thought of it before now. What these spacers essentially do is allow you to fine tune the height of the frontend on XJ Cherokees, ZJ Grand Cherokees, and TJ Wranglers from a minimum of 1-1/4 inches to a maximum of 3 inches.

If your springs have settled at different heights, you can use the ACOS to get the frontend level again. But when these spacers really come in handy is right after you bolt a new bumper and winch to the front of your rig. Hanging a couple hundred pounds from the nose of your Jeep is going to make it sag; the ACOS will bring the nose right back up where it should be.You can get the ACOS setup through Off Road General Store or any one of a number of distributors, such as Sun Performance.

Front Shock Mounts
On stock Cherokees, the upper shock mount is essentially the sheetmetal body. Over time, and with enough off-road punishment, the sheetmetal can begin to distort and become a weak link on your rig. That's why the guys at T&J Performance developed these upper shock mounts for the XJ. They are made of fully welded 1/8-inch plate steel and easily bolt into place. No matter what kind of shock you run, these mounts will evenly distribute the force created by cycling the suspension.

Heavy-Duty Diff Covers
When you're on the trail, your diffs are frequently the first things to come into contact with hostile elements. And while the housings themselves are pretty tough, the stock covers can easily get bent or crushed as they are dragged over logs, crashed onto rocks, and just generally thrashed.

Offering much greater protection and resistance to trail damage are these heavy-duty diff covers from T&J Performance. The 1/8-inch steel plating along the bottom protects against all kinds of abuse and also acts as a skidplate to make gliding up and over obstacles a little easier. These covers are currently being built for Dana 30, 35, 44, and 60 axles.

Orgs Nerf Bars
Because of its unibody design, the Jeep Cherokee is particularly susceptible to rocker panel damage. And worse, because the frame and body are an integral unit, any damage to the rocker panels can actually weaken the unibody construction. If there is a vehicle on the trail that absolutely needs rocker guards, it is the Cherokee.

Off Road General Store has been designing parts for the XJ for years now, and its nerf bars are a product of that experience. Made of 2-inch DOM steel, the bars mount against the frame using two 1/8-inch steel plates and under the factory pinch weld just beneath the rocker panel. Although they take a couple of hours to install, when you're done you have rocker guards that will hold up under serious abuse in the rocks. And just in case you're wondering, the answer is yes, you can use them with a Hi-Lift to jack up your XJ.

Steering Box Brace
Stock steering box mounts on Jeeps are notorious for not holding up under harsh trail conditions. Eventually, the bolts will simply sheer away, leaving the steering box banging around. One way to avoid this experience is to use a steering box brace like the one from T&J Performance. One end bolts around the neck of the box, while the other end bolts to existing holes in the passenger side frame. It does not interfere with any other parts and only takes about 10 minutes to install.

Sources

Off Road General Store
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
www.offroadgs.com
Sun Performance
Santa Ana, CA 92704
T&J Performance
714-633-0991
www.tandjperformance.com
TJM Products
Knoxville, TN 37931

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