In my opinion, Jeep should include a 3-inch lift and 33-inch tires in the Rubicon option package. After all, the package already includes a heavier-duty transfer case with a 4:1 low range, heavier-duty Dana 44 differentials with 4.11:1 gears, selectable lockers, and a front sway bar that can be disconnected on the fly from the driver's seat. So why not include even larger tires and a lift, as well? (Actually, now that I think about it, the Mopar Jeep option package includes a dealer-installed lift and taller tires, so it's a good start for Jeep.)
People who are buying Jeeps for the occasional ski trip, a backcountry picnic or having "the Jeep look" can be satisfied with a Sport or an X model, but those of us who enjoy Jeeping the way it's meant to be enjoyed, want a Rubicon. And most of us will raise and re-tire our Rubicons sooner or later.
This was Robert Foster's thinking when he decided to reward himself with a 2008 Rubicon Unlimited. Having served three tours in Iraq as a U.S. Naval chief medical corpsman in combat with the Marines, Robert wanted to explore and camp in the backcountry without anyone shooting at him for a change. The maroon four-door JK in these photos was just the thing to allow that—except for the scraping, screeching, and sliding over the Arizona rocks that he experienced on any trail rated higher than a 3 on a scale of 5.
Frustrated at not being able to take the trails he really wanted to see — and having a rather restricted budget — forced Robert to explore the Internet instead of the more technical trails. With criteria that included price, quality, warranty, and ease of installation, Robert eventually discovered Daystar (also located in Arizona, which saved on the shipping charges, too) at www.daystarweb.com.
For a bit of background here, Daystar's lift kits combine the same technology found in the company's leveling kits but with the addition of a rear lift and four Scorpion shock absorbers. According to factory literature, Daystar was the first to enter the leveling kit market in 1995. Although many companies have entered the market since, Daystar's lift and leveling kits offer many advantages that the others cannot.
For one, there's no metal-on-metal contact — Daystar uses polyurethane material in its kits to act as an insulator. It absorbs the noise, vibration, and harmonics that come from the suspension and avoids transmitting them to the passenger compartment (if you take apart any factory suspension, you'll find rubber, polyurethane, and often both). Daystar also offers a lifetime warranty with its kits. In the unlikely event you experience a problem with a Daystar kit; they'll take care of it.
All of Daystar's lift and leveling kits are manufactured at its manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona. In-house manufacturing ensures a high level of quality control, and Daystar has an ISO9001 certification.
The JK kit does not preload the factory coil springs, so factory ride quality is maintained, and installation requires only simple hand tools. The Daystar JK kit works within Jeep's original suspension design, meaning that it works within the factory's design parameters to achieve an increase in ride height. Also, additional modifications that add complexity and expense to the kit are not necessary. Everything you need is included in the kit and nothing you don't.
Daystar's instructions are top-notch and include a listing of the tools you'll need to perform all the tasks. We found, however, that a second floor jack really helped with raising and lowering the axles during the installation while the Jeep was supported with jack stands. You may require some pry bars and very large screwdrivers, as well.
Using the Jeep's original equipment (OE) coil springs along with the Daystar 3-inch-thick polyurethane spacers for the increase in height, we expected the ride to be exactly like that of the original Rubicon. However, we were pleasantly surprised to feel the Jeep actually has a better off-road ride after the lift kit installation than before. There's no change in the on-road ride that we could notice. Other than the taller, heavier-duty (and heavier) LT285/75R17 Toyo Open Country M/T tires ("285" translates to approximately a 34-inch diameter), the only change to the OE suspension are the longer Daystar Scorpion shocks.
Once we completed the installation and took a test drive to settle all the components into place, we measured the Jeep's increased height. Here are the changes in inches: LF - 22/27; RF - 22/26-3/4; LR - 28-3/4/32; RR - 28-1/4/32. So, the Daystar 3-inch lift kit and Toyo 34-inch tires raised the Jeep 4 to 5 inches.
It was time to explore Lost Canyon, which is an excellent trail near Kingman, Arizona. The shocks seemed softer initially (so the smaller bumps and ruts aren't felt as much as before) and then they dampened down on the bigger dips, rocks, and ridges in a progressively stiffer manner. The scraping and screeching have been greatly reduced (almost completely eliminated on all but 5-rated trails) by the 3-inch lift and taller Toyo tires. And the Toyo tires really grip the terrain, allowing the Rubicon's lockers to take it over the most technical trails in northern Arizona.
Once the JK had traveled 200 miles on the new Daystar lift kit, all of the suspension component bolts were re-torqued and an alignment job was completed. Additionally, the speedometer was corrected with an AEV ProCal module. Check out the photos and captions for the installation details.