2007 Jeep Wrangler JK Winch and Suspension Buildup - JK TechPosted in How To on January 1, 2010
The Jeep Wrangler JK is not perfect. Don't get me wrong, it's a great vehicle in many ways, but it has a laundry list of problem areas that aren't up to the task of repeated trail use. Some of these problem areas have already been addressed on one of our current project JKs, a Rescue Green 2007 model. This month we continue the process with the installation of upgrade parts from JKS Mfg., Old Man Emu, ARB, and Smittybilt.
In stock form Wrangler JKs suffer from inadequate bracing of the factory track bar axle mounting brackets, which can lead to cracked brackets and ultimate failure. We've seen stock brackets welded up at the seams on the axle tube for a temporary fix and even quite a few that have been gusseted with steel plates for "industrial-size" strength. Welding up cracks is a temporary fix and gusseting requires the fabrication of accurately-sized plates so as not to interfere with other suspension components. We found an easier method, however, using the front and rear JK track bar braces from JKS Mfg.
The front and rear JKS track bar braces weld directly to the factory track bar brackets and axle housings at multiple points to create a very strong mounting location. The braces are CNC-cut and formed using high-strength 7-gauge steel and fit over the stock mounts perfectly. Both braces effectively connect the stock mounts to the axle tubes to combat the track bars' inherent lateral force that is compounded in lifted JKs. The front track bar brace also includes a secondary mounting location for high-clearance steering conversions and relocates the steering damper for increased ground clearance.
The front brace is available for JKs equipped with 3 inches of lift or more. We installed the mounts using OME heavy rate springs in front and medium rate springs in the rear, which actually gave us the needed rise provided we don't let the JK get too much heavier. The JK was previously using a set of 2-inch spring spacers to achieve the needed rise for the 33x12.50 Mickey Thompson Baja MTZs. The OME springs create more space in the fender wells and the 33s are much more effective on the trail as a result.
Along with the JKS track bar braces we also installed the company's front and rear adjustable track bars. The adjustable track bars are bent to OE specifications for proper geometry and clearance and feature zinc plating and a powdercoat finish. The bars are easily adjusted to perfectly center the axle beneath the vehicle and use OE rubber bushings for smooth, squeak-free operation. The rear bar is manufactured from 1.25x0.250-inch DOM tubing and the front from 1.25x0.375-inch DOM tubing. JKS adjustable track bars are compatible with most aftermarket suspension systems and allow constant adjustment as vehicle modifications require.
With the taller Old Man Emu coil springs in place our JK required extended sway bar links. Being that JKS is the leader when it comes to sway bar disconnects we didn't have to look far. The company provided a set of its new Quicker Disconnects, which offer a variable length design that will allow us to adjust the sway bar to the proper position. We'll also be able to retain use of the JKS Quicker Disconnects should we opt to increase tire size anytime down the road. The Quicker Disconnects for Wrangler JKs are offered to accommodate 0 to 2 inches of lift or 2 to 6 inches of lift. Applications are available for most Jeep vehicles.
The qualified crew at Jeep Solutions in Long Beach, California, completed the installation of the JKS and Old Man Emu components.
Armor & Recovery
The Wrangler JK has a handful of vulnerabilities and its massive yet delicate plastic bumpers and thin rocker panels are perhaps two of the largest. We've yet to see a stock bumper emerge from a challenging trail unscathed and just one hit to the rocker can create an ugly reminder that your JK is not as beefy as you'd like to think it is.
Well known for its exceptional Air Locker, ARB also makes some very stout, bolt-on body armor for a variety of 4x4s and SUVs. The Rockbar winch-compatible front bumper features tapered sides to permit increased tire movement and an improved approach angle which make tackling large obstacles much easier. The ARB Rockbar also offers removable auxiliary light brackets as well as Hi-Lift jacking points and recovery points.
Along with the Rockbar we also installed ARB's rear bumper and a set of the ARB rock sliders. The rear bumper is essentially a direct replacement for the factory bumper yet it's made from steel and won't fold under pressure. It bolts to mostly factory holes and will fit up to a 35-inch spare tire mounted in the factory location. The ARB Rock Sliders are manufactured from 0.25-inch-thick x 2.4-inch OD Australian 250-grade mill steel tubing. The sliders bolt up to the JK at factory hole locations in the frame and control arm hangers and are coated with a satin-black powder-coat finish. The ARB sliders are available for two- and four-door JKs and include hardware and instructions.
Adding atop the ARB Rockbar we installed a Smittybilt Comp-Series XRC8 winch. The Comp-Series unit is essentially the same as the standard XRC8 winch yet it includes an aluminum fairlead and a 94-foot, 21/64-inch-diameter synthetic winch line that includes a protective sleeve and a replaceable hook. Both winch models use a 5.5hp, 12-volt series-wound motor and a planetary gear system with a 172.8:1 gear ratio. The XRC8 winch offers an 8,000-pound line rating.
To complete the installation of the ARB and Smittybilt components we headed to our local 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers in Santa Ana, California.