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Long Travel Suspension Parts - The Flex Factor

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on August 1, 2002 Comment (0)
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Long Travel Suspension Parts - The Flex Factor

Suspension flex is in, and whether you're a fan of rockcrawling or not, there's no denying that this facet of truck-building has played a significant part in opening people's eyes to the benefits of long-travel, articulating suspension systems. Even flatlanders in the Midwest have come to realize that getting traction on the uneven terrain of the back 40 is more easily accomplished when all four tires are in contact with the ground.

As you can see in this issue of the Sick & Twisted Suspension guide, there are a number of suspension manufacturers that are filling the demand for articulating systems. However there are many of you who prefer to design your own super-twisty suspension system. Clearly, you can't just throw on a set of long-travel shocks, or install a couple of Heim joints, and expect to have a jaw-dropping flexy system. The fact is that a long-travel system is the sum of many components that all work in unison. It's the 'ol domino effect: if you change one thing, then you have to change something else to compensate, or in this case, allow for movement.

There has been huge growth in the number of components designed to create (and solve problems created by) more suspension travel. Here's a sampling of the parts you'll need to create a flexy suspension from mild to wild.

Currie Enterprises
What they are: Johnny Joints
What they do: A Johnny Joint is a Currie product that gives 30 degrees of unrestricted movement in any direction. Currie says that their benefits include the articulation capabilities of a Heim joint and the insulating qualities of a conventional rubber bushing. Johnny Joint rod ends are made with a high-density tough 88 urethane-encased ball that is durable and impervious to weather. This ball is heat-treated steel for extra strength and cross-drilled for through-bolt lubrication. The outer shell is 0.180-inch-wall DOM tubing. Currie says that its Johnny Joint control arms will work with any lift kits on the market. They also install these joints into an adjustable front track arm that fits '97-'02 Jeep Wranglers.
More info: Currie Enterprises, Dept. FW, 1480 N. Tustin Ave., Anaheim, CA 92807, 714/528-6957, www.currieenterprises.com.

Skyjacker Suspension
What they are: Coilover shocks
What they do: Adjustability, travel and ride are some of the notable benefits of coilover shocks, and Skyjacker offers its new Skyking shocks for a number of applications. They feature a massive 2 1/2-inch O.D. steel cylinder, a 1-inch-high carbon-induction-hardened, micro-polished steel shaft, 7075 aluminum alloy rod ends fitted with Teflon-lined stainless spherical bearings and a 7075 aluminum alloy piston fitted with a high-temperature Viton wiper seal. Each coil is made from 5160H alloy material and is 100-percent load and dimensionally tested, CNC wound and preset to eliminate settling. Each coilover features a bracket design that features a Heim-style spherical rod end at both the upper and lower mounting positions, which allows the coilover to pivot or rotate smoothly through the whole travel cycle.
More info: Skyjacker Suspension, Dept. FW, 212 Stevenson Street, West Monroe, LA 71292, 318/388-0816, www.skyjacker.com.

Currie Enterprises

What it is: Antirock Sway Bar Kit
What it does: This system replaces the stock front antiroll-bar assembly in '97-'02 Jeep TJs. Its benefits include the fact that it doesn't have to be disconnected like the stock front antiroll bar when more suspension articulation is desired. It is positioned through the front crossmember and attaches to the stock mounts on the axle. The antiroll bar itself is constructed of SAE 4130 heat-treated steel for strength. By the time you read this, this kit will be offered in universal applications to fit a variety of vehicles. The arms and links will be modified, and the antiroll bar itself will be available in different lengths and diameters.
More info: Currie Enterprises, Dept. FW, 1480 N. Tustin Ave., Anaheim, CA 92807, 714/528-6957, www.currieenterprises.com.

Rancho Suspension
What they are: Long-travel shock absorbers
What they do: A long-travel suspension system must have a shock that's long enough that it won't hinder articulation, and that's where Rancho's new RS 5000 long-travel units come into play. They are available in 34- and 36-inch extended lengths. Like the standard RS 5000, they feature a twin-tube cellular gas design with 10-stage valving. They include universal mounting hardware so you can adapt them to fit your application. Pricing is the same as a standard RS 5000. The 34-inch shock boasts 14 inches of travel while the 36-inch shock boasts 15 inches of travel. Soon to be released are long-travel versions of the adjustable RS 9000 shock.
More info: Rancho Suspension, Dept. FW, 1 International Drive, Monroe, MI 48161, 888/GoRancho, www.gorancho.com

Avalanche Engineering
What they are: Quarter-elliptical Springs
What they do: When it comes to extreme flex, quarter-elliptical springs are where it's at, and manufacturers like Avalanche Engineering offer bolt-in units for the Jeep CJ, YJ, and Toyota FJ-40. Avalanche can also custom-fit quarter-elliptical springs to other applications, should you desire. Because of their potential for extreme flex, these springs require limiting straps to maintain the desired suspension droop as well as to prevent driveshaft damage. Most often, these springs are used only on the rear of vehicles, because unless the truck uses a custom frame specifically designed to permit extreme suspension articulation, most don't offer enough room for the tire to travel completely in the front of the vehicle during full compression. Pat Boggess at Avalanche Engineering says that they use custom-made 10-leaf quarter-elliptical springs, and the rear of the spring is boxed so it can use the original spring hanger in the Jeep CJ, YJ and Toyota FJ-40 applications.
More info: Avalanche Engineering, Dept. FW, 40039 Highway 160, Bayfield, CO 81122, 303/777-4820, www.avalancheengineering.com.

Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts

What it is: Long-travel driveshaft
What it does: Whether or not you have to replace one or both of your driveshafts depends on a number of criteria including what type of suspension you're running, how much lift you have, and the overall length of the driveshafts. On a longbed fullsize truck you can actually install a 10-inch lift and only change the driveline angle by 7 degrees, while a Jeep TJ can change that same amount of degrees by installing only a 2-inch lift. This is due to the differences in driveshaft length. The pros tell us that a super flexy suspension can sometimes only create a couple of inches more travel at the splines, while some tell us that they actually use less spline travel on the rear driveshaft since the axle swings forward during extreme articulation. No matter what your needs, the folks at Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts can build you a high quality custom shaft created from the finest components. The shaft in the accompanying photo is the unit supplied with the Jeep Wrangler tailshaft conversion kit. It illustrates the beefy and clean construction of a Tom Wood's driveshaft.
More info: Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts, Dept. FW, 306 E. 31st St., Ogden, UT 84401, 877/497-4238, www.4xshaft.com.

Avalanche Engineering
What they are: Heim joints
What they do: Many suspension builders use these joints at the control arm mounting points as well as on steering components. They allow for significantly more twist and flex than a standard rubber bushing while still providing the strength needed for high-stress applications. Avalanche Engineering offers some of the toughest Heims available. The ball is a precision-ground, hard-chrome-plated unit made from heat-treated 52100 bearing steel. It features a Teflon/Kevlar self-lubrication race, is self-sealing, and is set in an alloy steel housing that features increased cross-sectional thickness for greater tensile strength. They're available in a number of sizes, and Avalanche can create Heim-jointed links built to your specifications. They also offer the do-it-yourselfer a full line of jam nuts, tube adapters, misalignment bushings and tubing to complete the install
More info: Avalanche Engineering, Dept. FW, 40039 Highway 160, Bayfield, CO 81122, 303/777-4820, www.avalancheengineering.com.

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