It’s not so much that we are total cheapskates—we hope. We will spend our hard-earned dough on expensive, high-quality parts, but only if we can’t find a cheaper alternative that works almost as well. Can you relate? Generally we shy away from super-inexpensive suspension, steering, and braking components because, well, we want those things to work without a doubt. Spending money there is an investment in living a little longer, but there are exceptions to nearly everything in life. One such case revolves around a pair of front ZJ coils that we literally picked up at the “you-grab-it” junkyard a while back. These springs were on the ground next to a wrecked ZJ that someone else had pulled the front axle out of. They are a little rusty and super cheap at about $20 for the pair. Rumor had it that they would provide a little lift over stock on our beater ’97 TJ with a nose-low stance, and we had to test it out. Follow along as we show you the super-cheap budget result.
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Here are the two coils next to each other. The ZJ coil, static, without any weight on it is about 21⁄2 inches taller than the TJ coil. Otherwise the dimensions are very similar, with the top uppermost coil slightly smaller than the rest of the spring’s coils on both. Our Rubicon Express budget-boost shocks are long enough to allow the springs to be changed without unbolting the shocks. We did, however, have to disconnect the drag link from our passenger-side TeraFlex high-steer knuckle (“Shrink Ray TJ: Part 1,” Nov. ’12). If your TJ is more stock, you may have to disconnect your sway bar, the lower shock mounts, and possibly one end of the track bar to swap front coils.
Once in place and with the weight of the vehicle on the springs, the ZJ coil added about 13⁄4 to 2 inches of lift over our tired stock TJ coils. The diameter of the ZJ coil wire is slightly thicker (the TJ coils are 0.48-inch, while the ZJ coils are 0.52-inch). This should cause the ZJ coils to have a higher spring rate, and the ride on the ZJ coils is a bit firmer than it was with our old TJ coils. The end result is that our TJ now sits more level, and the front bumpstops are not constantly bottoming while on the trail. We have more usable uptravel with impressive flex.