The Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited is arguably one of the most iconic 4x4s ever built. The ability to handle extreme challenges, such as the Rubicon Trail in factory trim, always impresses us. More so when you add the ability to haul the kids to practice, grab groceries on the way home from work, and even take grandma out to the local disco with four of her senior-diva cohorts, you have a vehicle that truly does it all.
However, even with its trail-friendly demeanor and savvy ability to handle that day-to-day runaround, something simply looks wrong about a four-door JK in stock form-and we're sure grandma's diva friends would agree. The stock tires are just too small. So, like any diehard automotive enthusiasts would, we turned to the aftermarket to solve the problem. We wanted to clear a 37-inch tire to achieve a balanced look while also improving approach, departure, and breakover angles at the same time. We settled on a Trail Master 4.5-inch short-arm suspension lift. Trail Master has been in the lift kit business for nearly 30 years, and despite the trend that so many others have succumbed to in recent years (moving manufacturing overseas), Trail Master has remained profitable on U.S. soil, keeping Americans working in their hometown of Chino Valley, Arizona. Follow along as we highlight the attributes of Trail Master's latest product offering, and improve the look and functionality of Jeep's legendary JK Unlimited.
How It Works
We drove our lifted JK back to California from Utah to evaluate the kit's road manners. On the highway the ride felt firmer than stock, but not too stiff for everyday use. On the way home, we took a two-day detour over the Rubicon Trail during the annual Jeeper's Jamboree. This gave us a good chance to understand how the kit handled high-flex events, general rock rash, and deep water crossings. One of the things we noticed immediately after arriving in Rubicon Springs was a slight tear in the factory upper bumpstop jounces. This damage was caused by the edges of the aluminum bumpstop extensions cutting into the foam at full compression. Luckily, the engineers at Trail Master are also avid Jeepers and were present at Jeeper's Jamboree. We spoke to the Trail Master lead suspension engineer and explained the issue. The next week, we had a pair of redesigned bumpstop extension in our mailbox. All it took to correct the problem was a slight chamfer or radius to the inner and outer dimensions of the tops of each aluminum puck. We were impressed with how quickly Trail Master took our input, addressed the issue and made changes to the product. After nearly 12,000 miles of pavement, four additional trail runs, and a weekend of sand dune running at Pismo State Beach, we have no issues to report with the Trail Master suspension system. The kit is free of noise and continues to perform as expected.
Get the Shaft
Trail Master offers their JK lift system with upgraded driveshafts to complete the kit; however, since we were up in the Salt Lake City area for this install, we hooked up with our good friends at Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts to photograph the process of manufacturing a pair of heavy-duty replacement drive shafts from scratch. We plan to show you how these awesome shafts are made in a coming issue, so stay tuned.