Q: I have an '04 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and have been trying to get my dad to let me put a lift on it. Nothing more than 4 inches, but he's worried about the center of gravity being changed and the risk of rollover being significantly increased. Just wondering what your thoughts on it would be and if there are any lifts you would suggest putting on it. Thanks.ChipArkansas
A: Chip, lifting your Rubicon just 4 inches should keep the vehicle's center of gravity fairly low. A variety of standard-length and long control arm systems are available to meet your needs, and provided you keep tire size to an acceptable size for the lift you install, you shouldn't run anymore risk of rolling over than you would if the vehicle was left stock. One thing about Jeep TJs is that even in stock form the coil suspension will actually allow the vehicle to lean quite a bit in off-camber situations. Throw on bigger tires and taller springs and it will of course lean over even a bit farther, but for the most part it's just a scare factor. Your rig can actually capably navigate most tricky off-camber sections without too much worry. You'll feel the vehicle lean over a good bit, but if you keep a cool head and drive through with finesse and confidence you shouldn't have a problem. If your dad is still on the fence about a lift, explore what trails you can with the vehicle in stock form and work on developing your driving skills on smaller obstacles. When he sees that your skills have outgrown the ability of your 31-inch tires, maybe he'll be willing to take your Rubicon to the next level. Thanks for reading. Wheel on.
Q: I have an '04 Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ with a 3.5-inch Old Man Emu lift. I would like to protect my front Dana 30 differential when I go off-road. I've seen several different styles and would like to know which one will offer the best protection. The four I've looked at are a Rockcrusher differential cover, a Poison Spyder Rock Ring, a Warn differential skidplate, and a Rock-It Gliders differential glider. I really appreciate all the great help you give us off-roaders. Thanks.Tim Fribleyvia e-mail
A: Tim, the Rockcrusher differential cover is a completely new cover made from heat-treated, 100-percent ductile Australian steel. It has a lifetime guarantee against failure and increases fluid capacity. The Poison Spyder Rock Ring features a billet outer ring and a laser-cut, 1/4-inch plate guard. Countersunk holes keep the mounting hardware from becoming damaged. Poison Spyder Customs also offers its Bombshell diff cover to replace the stock cover. Bombshell covers are forged from a steel alloy mixture and include sealant, stainless hardware, and fill plugs. The Warn differential skidplate is 3/16-inch steel and attaches to the bottom five diff cover bolts over the stock cover. The Rock-It Glider is made from 1/4-inch steel plate and 1/2-inch solid steel rod. It bolts to the underside of your axle pumpkin and acts as a skidplate.I personally like the idea of the most streamlined approach of incorporating the skidplate into a completely new cover, and you'll often pay a higher price for such a design. Considering the order in which you listed the diff protection you're considering, it appears you may share this opinion. Each product will function as intended and protect the diff cover to some degree, so it essentially comes down to which style you like best and how much you want to pay for it.
Q: I have a '97 Jeep Grand Cherokee and I would like to know what you consider the best long-arm lift kit for this vehicle? Also, are Super Swamper TSL tires better than the BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains?Richard Dalevia e-mail
A: Richard, these are some very definitive answers you're looking for, but I'll do my best to provide. To say that one long-arm kit is better than another would require me knowing how it is you use your rig and what size tires you're after. I would also need to have personally installed and tested each of these systems. Since I have only experienced a few of the available systems, I can't rightly say which is the "best," but I can fill you in on what I like about some of the particulars of each.Most of the available kits share a basic design and all are manufactured to create the same effects. Most kits use a triangulated four-link rear, which calls for elimination of the rear track bar and also for removal of some of the factory bracketry from the axletubes and unibody. This indicates that welding will be necessary for installation. Some of the kits, such as that available from Full-Traction, offer a bolt-on installation, and this will often help reduce installation costs. Kits are also available from Rubicon Express, Rusty's Off-Road, and Rock Krawler Suspension. I have seen the Rubicon kits in action and have also explored what parts are included and like what is offered. They seem to offer a very complete package, and the price of the system reflects this. I haven't used the Rusty's kit but have tested other Rusty's equipment and usually find it to be of stout construction. Rock Krawler is also known to produce quality lift systems. You can explore the installation of one of this company's short-arm kits in the article, "Grand Plan" in this issue.As far as whether Super Swampers are better than BFG Mud-Terrains, to me that's like comparing red to blue. Both are very capable tires for off-road use, though the street manners vary. If I were to compare a Swamper to any BFG tire it would the BFG Krawler, since it's intended as the company's more extreme offering. The BFG Mud-Terrain will typically last longer under normal use on the street and trail compared to the Swamper, but the Swamper will certainly offer more off-road traction and ability. Also, most Super Swamper tire models are not radials, so pavement use will be restricted compared to the Mud-Terrain. Thanks for reading.
Q: I'm curious about Ford Explorers and why you never see them in 4WD&SU. Comparing them with a Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, this is what I see: Explorer has a real frame, in stock configuration it will take 31" tires (at least mine does with no rubs), and it comes with an 8.8-inch rear differential (I understand some Jeep owners are going to this). Jeep does beat Ford's 4.0L pushrod engine with its 4.0 inline, and Jeep's solid front axle is also a plus in the rockcrawling world. Otherwise, I don't see why you can't do all the swaps that are done with Jeeps with an Explorer. I'd appreciate your comments. Thanks.Tedvia e-mail
A: Ted, we don't chime in on the Ford Explorer so much because quite simply, we just don't see that many of them on the trail. The coil front and leaf-spring rear suspension is similar to the Cherokee but the solid front axle was only used in '91-'94 Explorers - compared to Cherokee, which was always offered with a solid front axle. This leaves a small pool of easily buildable models, since 1995 brought an independent front suspension that sits the vehicle significantly lower than previous models. Also, while 31s may fit your Explorer without rubbing, most find that 30s are the largest they can go with the stock suspension in place. On top of that, I've stuffed 31s under a lot of stock vehicles with minor to no rubbing so this isn't a huge feat in my mind. The Ford 8.8-inch rear axle is in fact a popular swap for Cherokees and is a good axle under the Explorer as well. But aside from the Cherokee's unibody construction, which really doesn't seem to stop many from making major modifications anyway, I still prefer the Cherokee to the Ford Explorer in terms of parts availability and ease of building a capable vehicle.
Q: I just picked up the latest edition of 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility Magazine, which had a yellow FJ Cruiser on the cover. Can you tell me whom I could contact about the tires/rims on this truck? I just bought an FJ and would like to put more aggressive tires on it, and those in the photo look pretty good. Thanks.Jerry via e-mail
A: Jerry, the wheels and tires on the yellow FJ Cruiser pictured on the cover of the Jan. '07 issue are from Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels [(800) 700-0394, ext. 2301; www.mickeythompsontires.com]. The vehicle is equipped with a 3-inch lift system from Revtek Industries, which permits fitment of tires up to a 285/75R16 size. The tires shown are Mickey Thompson Baja MTZs mounted on M/T Classic Lock wheels. Wheel on.