The JK Wranglers are great. Add some coil spacers and a few other trinkets and you can be tearing up the trail with 35s in less than a day. Jp’s ’07 two-door Rubicon is a perfect example. Our 80,000-mile JK is typical of most new Wranglers you’ll encounter on the trail. Instead of whiz-bang long-arms, coilovers, or other crazy stuff, we cobbled together a simple lift that works extremely well and rides like a cloud. By saving on suspension parts, we could focus our budget on more-necessary components like an aftermarket front axlehousing, better rocker armor, a good winch, beadlocks, and stuff of that nature. But even though the JK suspension and underpinnings are good, they’re far from perfect.
Increased leverage from big tires and a raised suspension puts added stress on certain components and will quickly highlight any factory or aftermarket areas of inadequacy. Our JK is used hard, so this isn’t just a theoretical story. We needed fixes to real problems, so we tapped JKS Manufacturing for the parts to make our JK a solid performer for the next 80,000 miles. Normally we like to do all of our own installs, but with deadlines looming and the lure of a nice lift, clean shop, and professional help only a few miles away, we headed off to our local 4 Wheel Parts Performance Center in Temecula, California, where our old buddy, Jay Miller, once again put wrench and welding wire to one of our Jeeps.
Problem: Yeah, this is a two-part problem, but it seems that lifted JKs with larger-than-stock tires experience death wobble and sloppy handling more than other models. Along with prematurely worn ball joints, incorrect toe settings, or wasted tie-rod ends, a contributing factor is often a worn steering box. The JK’s extra-long sector shaft imparts more leverage on the sector shaft bearings inside, especially when a dropped pitman arm or big tires is thrown into the mix. The framerail can also flex under heavy steering input and the track bar frame mount, located directly under the steering box, can flex, crack, or completely break with hard use.
Solution: JKS has developed a unique reinforcement kit that beefs up the track bar and steering box mounts, and also adds a double-sheer pillow block bearing on the bottom of the sector shaft. This prevents any play inside the steering box under heavy use. A weld-on brace mounts a support strut featuring right- and left-hand rod ends to tension the mounts and equally distribute steering and track bar loads to both framerails. The system can be purchased complete (PN OGS166) for $375, or as separate components comprised of the Front Track Bar Chassis Brace (PN OGS163) for $130, the Sector Shaft Brace (PN OGS165) for $140, or the Front Chassis Brace Connector (PN OGS164) for $120.
Problem: Raising the chassis increases the track bar angles, which imparts more leverage on the track bar mount. Some suspensions add a dropped track bar bracket for the rear, but often these brackets bend, break, or cause damage to the track bar bracket at the frame. With only a moderate 13⁄4-inch lift out back, our rear track bar bracket had already torn away from the axle. We pounded it back in place and rewelded it, but it’s always been a source of concern.
Solution: JKS manufactures a very nice weld-on rear track bar reinforcement bracket built from sturdy 7-gauge (0.1875-inch) steel that wraps the bottom of the axletube and sandwiches the factory mount perfectly to add several additional areas of triangulated support. If you’ve damaged your factory bracket beyond repair, JKS sells a replacement track bar brackets as well.
Problem: Once you lift a two-door JK more than a couple inches you’ll need to rotate the rear pinion angle up: especially if you’re going to run an aftermarket CV rear driveshaft. The same holds true for the four-door models, although you can generally get away with more lift before requiring pinion angle changes. Slotting the mounting holes for eccentric bolts isn’t a great solution, as the holes can egg and wallow with heavy off-road use. And many of the aftermarket adjustable control arms employ polyurethane, spherical bushings, or cheap quality rubber bushings that normally don’t hold up. Once the bushings go, you’ll get lots of clunking, wandering, and plain old funny handling.
Solution: Ideally the factory upper and lower control arms will have the best longevity, but they don’t offer any adjustability and can limit flex to a degree. We’ve found that JKS makes about the best short-arm adjustable control arms on the market with OE-spec rubber bushings featuring big, heavy-duty sleeves. The arms use greasable brass bushings inside a threaded body that allows no limit to articulation and give up to 3 inches of length adjustment. A powdercoated and zinc-plated finish keeps ’em nice in all kinds of environments.
Jp JK Combo
Wondering what our bastardized lift kit is currently comprised of? Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of what our ’07 Rubicon is built with.
• 17x8.5 AEV Pintler wheels, 4.7-inch backspacing
• 305/70R17 Goodyear MT/R tires
• Daystar 3-inch coil spacers w/bumpstop extensions
• Rubicon Express front shock extensions
• Black Diamond brake line extensions
• Factory control arms, front shocks, track bar, pitman arm, drag link, tie rod, steering stabilizer, sway bar end links
• Daystar 1.75-inch coil spacers
• Bilstein 5100 shocks
• Black Diamond brake line extensions
• JKS upper control arms
• Factory lower control arms, track bar
• Daystar sway bar lowering brackets
• Black Diamond extended sway bar links
• JE Reel 1310 CV rear driveshaft
• Dynatrac ProRock Dana 44 front housing
• Factory 4.10 gears/ lockers