Jeep Wrangler JK Suspension Lift Kit - Flexing Your Jeep JK's MusclePosted in How To on September 1, 2008
Many owners of the four-door Jeep JK Unlimited are discovering that the vehicle is capable of more than just picking up groceries and taking the kids to school. The Unlimited has proven itself as a true trail-ready vehicle and is just as at home on a rocky ledge as it is in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
When JK owners are ready to go to the next level, the vehicle can also become a serious rockcrawler with some modifications to the suspension. Most short-arm kits for this vehicle offer improved ride height and travel, but the JK's weak points are its front and rear driveshafts, as well as its longer wheelbase that adds additional leverage and stress to the control-arm joints. For this reason, many aftermarket suspension kits limit the JK's lift height to 3 inches. When we saw that Trail Master designed a 5-inch lift kit for the JK, it caught our attention.
Trail Master's 5-inch Flex-Joint suspension solves all of the problems associated with adding a greater amount of ride height to the Jeep JK. Aside from allowing the use of 37-inch-tall tires for maximum ground clearance and traction, the suspension system gives the JK much better trail performance by improving articulation and suspension travel.
Trail Master uses a unique rod end in the company's control arms called a Flex-Joint. Flex-Joints replace the standard urethane bushings that connect the control arms to the frame where added stress typically damages the bushings over time. According to Trail Master, the Flex-Joint material is as hard as steel yet forgiving enough to allow full articulation without excessive wear.
Five inches of ride height also adds some serious pinion angles to the factory driveline. In order to avoid premature wear of the Jeep's dual driveshafts, Trail Master decided to replace them by including heavy-duty units with its system. If you've already replaced your JK's driveshafts with sturdier units, the kit is also available without them.
The Trail Master 5-inch Flex-Joint kit can be installed by the seasoned driveway mechanic. But we observed a few tricks to make it easier by following the guys at 4West 4 Wheel Drive Store in Colton, California, who installed the suspension on their '08 Jeep JK Unlimited in about five hours.
The kit consists of new front and rear control arms and coil springs along with all of the necessary hardware to replace the factory suspension. Trail Master also supplies a set of its SSV shocks and Kevlar-lined, braided stainless steel brake hoses to make the kit as complete as possible. All of the components feature a rugged crinkled black and gray powdercoat finish, and because the company makes all of its components in-house at its facility in Chino Valley, Arizona, each piece fit like it was supposed to.
Although the kit allows the use of 37-inch-tall tires, 4West 4 Wheel Drive Store decided to use an aggressive set of Dick Cepek 35x12.50R17 Mud Country Radials mounted on 17x10 Dick Cepek DC-1 wheels that feature a black and machined finish. This combination would allow the Jeep to handle both daily street use and some serious off-road crawling while looking good doing both.
The Trail Master suspension system for the Jeep JK Unlimited retails for just under $3,000. It is also available for the two-door Wranglers and Rubicons for slightly less and can be purchased with or without the upgraded driveshafts. Although the price may seem slightly higher than other suspension systems available for the JK, the Trail Master kit is one of the most complete on the market. Considering that you will avoid costly disasters on the trail, such as a broken driveshaft or Heim joint, the added benefit of knowing your suspension can handle whatever situation you can steer it into is well worth the extra cost.