A Low-Buck Leaf-Spring Lift Solution
In a perfect world, all Jeep vehicles would come with a super-flexy suspension right from the factory. And though the world today is far from perfect, you can pick up a brand-new Wrangler JK, which, if properly equipped, will out-flex anything else in stock form. However, this was not always the case with Wranglers, particularly pre-'97 leaf-sprung YJs and CJs. Leaf-spring technology, even at its best, was less than impressive by today's standards. For those of you who own a Jeep on leaf springs, it is necessary to significantly alter your suspension system to have the benefits of ample articulation.
Let's talk about ride quality too. Every leaf-sprung Jeep ever made had a silly forward-mounted pivoting shackle arrangement for the front axle. Looking back, we're still wondering why the factory didn't wise up and put the shackle behind the axle, where it could react naturally as the suspension cycled going down the road. This trick is called a shackle reversal, and it enhances ride quality while offering vast improvements in durability over forward-mounted shackles. Simply put, reverse-mounted shackles are superior.
That is why we decided to show you an affordable way to convert a Jeep CJ-in our case a Scrambler-to the superior setup. Along the way, we decided to show off an affordable way to add lift and axle beef at the same time. No single setup is perfect-this one happens to emphasize trail performance, yet the same parts we used in this particular project can be set up to provide gains in street ability too. Follow along now as we super-size a Jeep for cheap.
This is the hot ticket for Jeep builders who want to run full-width axles under a CJ or YJ. This kit is twice as nice because you get a front bumper and a shackle reversal from one product. It's called the Full Width Axle Kit from Blue Torch Fab Works (BTF). The kit includes all the necessary hardware to convert a leaf-sprung Jeep over to a shackle reversal and full-width axles. Made from 3/16-inch sheet steel, the material is laser-cut by Blue Torch Fab Works and then CNC-formed into parts that get welded and finally finish-ground for good looks. The kit is sold for the low price of $529.99.
What Else To Consider
To achieve what we've shown you here, you will also need to address the following:
Even if you use the stock spring packs and axles, you're going to have to lengthen your existing driveshafts to make a shackle reversal work. In some short-wheelbase applications, this may require installing a slip-yoke eliminator at the transfer case.
Shocks And Mounts
In most cases the factory shocks and mounting locations will need to be addressed once the shackle reversal is complete. Sometimes you can get away with running a slightly longer shock up front, but if you plan to go full-width, shocks mounts will have to be altered.
Steering linkages, pitman arm, and possibly steering-box location may require re-engineering to work properly. In our case, we converted the front axle to high-steer to help minimize the angle of the drag link.
Any time you lift a vehicle, the brake lines must be replaced with lines that will reach the brake caliper throughout the entire range of suspension travel.
If you run a sway bar, it will likely need longer end links at the very least.
Depending on how tall you go and what axles you use, you may need to address pinion-angle issues. In our case, Dustin Chernoh ordered a pair of 6-degree steel shims to correct the front pinion-angle misalignment.
Chances are you will need to get a different set of U-bolts to bolt in the new axle/spring configuration.