If you own a Jeep JK Wrangler (any Wrangler from 2007 to current) then you may be new to off-roading and 4x4 owning. It’s a fact that many new Jeep Wrangler owners are also new to the whole four-wheeling thing; we see it every day as veteran off-road guys. Lots of new Jeep owners buy a JK because it can fit the whole family and is sporty and adventurous, and they’ve always wanted a Jeep. Also, as a new Jeep owner you may not know that it’s cool to wave at other Jeep owners, take your new Jeep off-road, and work on it yourself.
There are plenty of 4x4 shops that will gladly work on your Jeep for you, and we fully support you doing that, but we also want new and old Jeep owners to realize that there are a lot of things they can do themselves in their garage or driveway. For example, we just installed a Jeep lift kit in two days in our driveway with minimal hand and power tools, and so can you. Don’t feel bad if you’d rather support your local 4x4 shop, but also don’t be scared to try and wrench on your junk at home. (By the way, junk isn’t derogatory; it’s an affectionate term for someone’s 4x4).
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If you are going to work on your Jeep in your driveway, you’ll likely need at the very least a floor jack and four jackstands. We like the overkill of 6-ton jackstands since we’ll be crawling around under the Jeep. As for floor jacks, get the best one you can afford. As much as we like the idea of aluminum floor jacks, we’ve had better luck with a big heavy 3 1⁄2-ton steel floor jack.
The Old Man Emu (OME) 4-inch suspension kit we installed from ARB 4x4 Accessories has very good instructions, with the basic premise being “Do one end of the Jeep at a time and then switch to the other.” Of the three type of lift kits available (body, spacer, and suspension), this is the latter and will replace all the factory shocks and coils, so those items were removed first.
The OME kit does not replace the stock control arms, but it does require modifying the factory mounting holes on the axles to adjust the mounting location by about half an inch. This in turn keeps the driveline angles and caster in check when the vehicle is raised. These small tabs are clamped in place on the axle mount so the new holes can be marked with a scribe. The metal showing in the bolt hole needs to be removed.
We used an Ingersoll Rand IQV rechargeable die grinder with a carbide tip to open up the lower link mount hole into a slot. This is the only step requiring a specialty tool, a die grinder. You could do this with a file, but it would take a long time.
Another power tool you’ll need is a hand drill in order to drill out the factory axle bumps’ stop pad for the taller OME bumpstops. Using a step bit for this job helps keep the drill and bit package shorter and fits between the frame and axle easier. The instructions call for installing the front spacers before the coil springs, but we found it easier to put the spacers in the coils, then install the coils first, and afterwards add the bolts to the spacer.
The track bar keeps the axle centered under the frame at ride height. The front axle uses an adjustable OME track bar to recenter it after you lift the suspension, but the rear has a new axle bracket to raise the track mount and keep the track bar relatively flat at ride height. Using a ratchet strap to pull the frame centered over the axle makes installing the track bar much easier.
The rear axle also needs the link mount holes elongated and the new tabs installed. This step is irritating unless you have a long shank bit in your die grinder since the outer part of the bracket is up against near the brake backing plate. The instructions do not call for any welding, but we feel that tack-welding these tabs to the axle brackets would add strength and reliability.
The front and rear suspensions also get longer sway-bar links. If you do not have a Rubicon (with the factory disconnecting sway bar) you can install the included sway-bar disconnect kit. There are also extension brackets for the brake lines, parking brake cables, and longer Nitrocharger shocks.
The kit is a 4-inch lift, but we added the included heavy load spacers for an additional 1⁄2 inch since this Wrangler has a hard top, rock sliders, and a winch bumper and is often used for camping where additional people and gear are hauled around. The suspension easily cleared the 35x12.50R17 Pit Bull Rockers on American Expedition Vehicles 17-inch Pintler wheels and could clear 37s with aftermarket high-clearance fenders. These tires are much more aggressive than the factory rubber, and the wheels have an inch less backspacing than stock to help clear all the suspension arms when turning.