Part I: Suspension & Armor
The Jeep JK is surely one of the most adaptable four-wheelers on or off the road. In its current form it still has the soul of the original military utilitarian, go-anywhere vehicle. Thanks to the aftermarket engineers, there are many ways to enhance the JK, depending on your imagination and your pocketbook.
We recently had an opportunity to add some very cool accessories to a 2011 JK. We knew we were probably not going to tackle the Dusy-Ershim Trail, but setting up a weekend camp at the famed Rubicon Springs was certainly on the list of destinations.
Knowing what kinds of rocks were lurking out there in the backcountry, we first wanted to gain a little more clearance. The Rancho three-inch lift kit for the JK was just the ticket. The instructions were very complete. While some mechanical expertise is helpful along with a good set of tools, the installation was straightforward. We enlisted the help of Bill George, owner of Billy’s Chop Shop in Grass Valley, California. Bill had installed several Rancho lift kits and knew a few shortcuts. There was something in the installation manual about dropping the driveshaft, for example, but Bill saw no reason to.
Disconnecting the sway bar and drag link allowed the axle to drop down far enough to remove the shocks and springs. Then it was just a matter of replacing factory brackets with the Rancho matching components. A little squirt of WD40’s new Specialist Rust Release Penetrating spray made the pitman arm easier to remove from the sector shaft. Using a puller, it slipped off without a big fight.
Upper and lower suspension arms were removed. Getting the upper passenger side off was the most difficult part of the whole install, requiring a bolt to be cut (the Rancho kit supplies a replacement bolt). An air chisel, a Sawzall, and a grinder were helpful tools. This was still an easier option than removing the exhaust. The Rancho drop down brackets for the suspension arms could now be attached. Longer bolts were supplied where needed.
A hole was drilled in the coil spring axle pad to attach the new bump stop spacer. With the new springs installed, the axle was raised back up and Rancho RS9000XL shocks were bolted in place. Final tightening of the bolts on the suspension arms was not done until the vehicle was back on the ground. This prevents the rubber bushings from binding up.
Attaching the replacement track bar bracket, Bill added a small weld on both sides. This was optional but recommended by Rancho. A ratchet strap was helpful to pull the axle over and line up the mounting holes for the track bar. Little parts like brake line extensions were all included in the kit.
With all steering components connected, we moved to the rear. Sway bar drop brackets were bolted to the frame using a spacer and longer bolts and the track bar extender was attached. A spring compression tool was needed to install the longer rear Rancho coils. Brake line extension brackets were installed and Rancho 9000XL shocks were the final touch for the rear. The JK was ready to get back on the road.