We started off with this 1989 Jeep Cherokee that was picked up for 900 bucks, so we were not into this new off-road toy for very much money. With 200,000-plus miles on the odometer, the engine and transmission were in surprisingly good shape. The suspension, on the other hand, was not. Death wobble was terrible, too, so we started looking into optionsto fix the suspension.
We had to get lower control arm bushings, shocks, and other suspension parts that a lift kit would come with, but we didn't want to spend a lot on an XJ that didn't cost us much in the first place. In fact, we put our cap at $500. We were only running 31s and didn't need some big lift, so when we found Rough Country's 3-inch Series II kit for $345 with control arms and nitrogen-charged shocks, it was an easy choice.
This XJ can get away with a 3-inch lift without doing a slip-yoke eliminator kit. If we want to move up to 33s or even 35s, we can chop enough fender metal to make do with only 3 inches of lift. We also wanted to replace the track bar because of the death wobble issue. Rough Country's optional track bar is much larger and adjustable, allowing for lateral front-end alignment—something not possible with the factory track bar.
For around $500, we were able to make our XJ handle off-road adventures better than it did when new, with more off-road prowess.
Step By Step
The Rough Country kit is a great way to lift your stock XJ without breaking the bank. All it takes to get the job done is about a day in the garage and a good set of wrenches and sockets. The Series II kit comes with four RC N2.0 nitrogen-charged replacement shocks, new front coil springs and lower control arms, and add-a-leaves for the rear. Sway bar drop brackets are included, but we ditched our sway bar.
1. We placed the XJ on jackstands and made sure the vehicle was stable. With the washer bottle out of the way, we were able to remove the 15mm nuts off the topside of the front shocks.
2. The track bar was removed from the axle and top of the frame near the steering box. This is a good time to make sure the bracket for the track bar is tight. On the axle end, we TIG-welded a small washer to the track bar bracket because the stock hole had wallowed out and no longer held the track bar to the axle.
3. We removed the lower coil clamps from the axle and replaced the coils and shocks with the Rough Country 3-inch coils and N2.0 shocks. Make sure not to stretch the front brake lines when lowering down the axle. You can either remove the caliper from the mount and hang it or take the bolt out of the hardline-to-soft-line bracket that is mounted on the body.
4. The lower control arms were removed and replaced with the tubular Rough Country arms. The stock lower arms were so bad that the rubber bushings were no longer there. The new tubular control arms should help keep caster under control and help with stabilizing the front axle while on the street and off road.
5. The optional steering stabilizer was added to replace the rusted stock stabilizer. This makes a big improvement and helps with the combination of other parts to get death wobble in check.
6. Rough Country adds an arched leaf to the main spring pack to lift the rear. The kit also comes with matching RC N2.0 rear shocks to control the bumps.
7. We drove the Jeep to some local off-road spots after a professional alignment and were surprised by how well the kit performed—especially for $345. Now it’s time to start thinking about adding a rear locker to help us get up to that fishing hole with the family.