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2003 WJ Grand Cherokee Limited - Minimal Lift, Maximum Performance

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on December 23, 2013 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Alex Kreidl

Does an off-road performance suspension have to mean a lifted-up vehicle and big tires? Certainly not. Prerunner trucks that sit at or near stock height have proven that. But sometimes we associate most bolt-on suspensions with an increase in ride height and a need for bigger tires. That's because most lift kits come with improved (or stronger) suspension parts, and most of us usually start with some sort of lift kit before we start improving separate pieces, one at a time.

But sometimes you don't want to lift things up high. We acquired this '03 WJ Grand Cherokee Limited with Quadradrive for under $5,000, and plan on making it a comfortable freeway commuter and weekend work Jeep. It's going to have to haul the mail, us, an occasional trailer, and who knows what else, wherever we need to be. Occasionally, we have to be miles from pavement. Luckily for us, the Quadradrive WJs are already capable out of the box with Vari-Lok differentials, front and rear link suspensions, and 4.7L V-8s.

Just replace some worn-out suspension pieces with better-than-factory stuff, add an inch or two of height, some better tires, and we could garner ourselves a great luxury daily driver that still gets decent fuel economy and performs better than any stock WJ in the dirt.

While this WJ Grand Cherokee felt okay for a 200,000-mile vehicle, we knew a couple hundred thousand miles is more than any suspension should see. Rusty’s Off-Road has 2-inch tubular replacement control arms that use forged Flex joints, allowing for fine tuning of front and rear axle caster to prevent any unwanted shimmy or vibration when changing ride heights. We also got a Rusty’s adjustable front track bar to help better align the front end. While this WJ Grand Cherokee felt okay for a 200,000-mile vehicle, we knew a couple hundred thousand miles is more than any suspension should see. Rusty’s Off-Road has 2-inch tubular replacement control arms that use forged Flex joints, allowing for fine tuning of front and rear axle caster to prevent any unwanted shimmy or vibration when changing ride heights. We also got a Rusty’s adjustable front track bar to help better align the front end.
The new Rusty’s control arms and track bar don’t add suspension travel, but they do add control to a moving and flexing front end. The new Rusty’s control arms and track bar don’t add suspension travel, but they do add control to a moving and flexing front end.
In the rear, the WJ has no track bar. Instead, it uses an upper triangle and lower control arms to locate the axle forward and backward, and side-to-side. The upper triangle uses a ball joint connected to the rear axle above the rear differential. This ball joint is the worst point of wear on WJ Grand Cherokees. Iron Rock Off Road offers this bolt-in adjustable short upper A-arm that uses a 2.625-inch flex joint to locate the rear axle. But you must have at least 2 inches (up to 7 inches) of lift to use it. In the rear, the WJ has no track bar. Instead, it uses an upper triangle and lower control arms to locate the axle forward and backward, and side-to-side. The upper triangle uses a ball joint connected to the rear axle above the rear differential. This ball joint is the worst point of wear on WJ Grand Cherokees. Iron Rock Off Road offers this bolt-in adjustable short upper A-arm that uses a 2.625-inch flex joint to locate the rear axle. But you must have at least 2 inches (up to 7 inches) of lift to use it.
In the rear, the WJ has no track bar. Instead, it uses an upper triangle and lower control arms to locate the axle forward and backward, and side-to-side. The upper triangle uses a ball joint connected to the rear axle above the rear differential. This ball joint is the worst point of wear on WJ Grand Cherokees. Iron Rock Off Road offers this bolt-in adjustable short upper A-arm that uses a 2.625-inch flex joint to locate the rear axle. But you must have at least 2 inches (up to 7 inches) of lift to use it. In the rear, the WJ has no track bar. Instead, it uses an upper triangle and lower control arms to locate the axle forward and backward, and side-to-side. The upper triangle uses a ball joint connected to the rear axle above the rear differential. This ball joint is the worst point of wear on WJ Grand Cherokees. Iron Rock Off Road offers this bolt-in adjustable short upper A-arm that uses a 2.625-inch flex joint to locate the rear axle. But you must have at least 2 inches (up to 7 inches) of lift to use it.
After hearing good things about the Hercules Terra Trac, this seemed like the perfect time to try a set of new Terra Trac II tires in a 265/70R16 size (basically a 31-incher). This WJ will see tens of thousands of miles over the next year. We mounted the Terra Trac IIs on a set of Pro Comp Series 5029 16x8 wheels. A 16-inch wheel is the smallest that will fit on a ’99-to-’04 Grand Cherokee. After hearing good things about the Hercules Terra Trac, this seemed like the perfect time to try a set of new Terra Trac II tires in a 265/70R16 size (basically a 31-incher). This WJ will see tens of thousands of miles over the next year. We mounted the Terra Trac IIs on a set of Pro Comp Series 5029 16x8 wheels. A 16-inch wheel is the smallest that will fit on a ’99-to-’04 Grand Cherokee.
To make sure the 31-inch Terra Trac IIs didn’t rub at all, we added 2-inch leveling spacers from Daystar to the front and rear coils springs. A couple inches of extra height will help in the dirt and won’t require driveshaft changes. To make sure the 31-inch Terra Trac IIs didn’t rub at all, we added 2-inch leveling spacers from Daystar to the front and rear coils springs. A couple inches of extra height will help in the dirt and won’t require driveshaft changes.
In the front, the Daystar spacers go on top of the coil, but in the rear, they go below the coil spring on a WJ. In the front, the Daystar spacers go on top of the coil, but in the rear, they go below the coil spring on a WJ.
Since every link that locates the front and rear axle has been replaced, the only thing left to address in the suspension was the shocks. We wanted the best thing we could put in the stock shock location, which turned out to be a set of Bilstein 5160 remote reservoir shocks. Front and rear Bilstein 5160 shocks allow us 10 inches of travel, as long as nothing else like a sway bar is binding up the suspension. Since every link that locates the front and rear axle has been replaced, the only thing left to address in the suspension was the shocks. We wanted the best thing we could put in the stock shock location, which turned out to be a set of Bilstein 5160 remote reservoir shocks. Front and rear Bilstein 5160 shocks allow us 10 inches of travel, as long as nothing else like a sway bar is binding up the suspension.
It’s a good idea to replace any old brake line, period. Therefore, we did. Goodridge offers high-performance replacement brake lines that do not flex as much under pressure as rubber lines, and offer added protection to the line with stainless steel braided jackets. Since WJ brake lines run along the control arms, there is no need for extended lines when lifting a WJ with short arms. It’s a good idea to replace any old brake line, period. Therefore, we did. Goodridge offers high-performance replacement brake lines that do not flex as much under pressure as rubber lines, and offer added protection to the line with stainless steel braided jackets. Since WJ brake lines run along the control arms, there is no need for extended lines when lifting a WJ with short arms.
2003 jeep grand cherokee limited

Sources

Bilstein
Poway, CA 92064
858-386-5900
http://www.bilsteinus.com
Daystar
Phoenix, AZ 85043
800-595-7659
www.daystarweb.com
Pro Comp USA
Compton, CA 90220
800-776-0767
http://www.procompusa.com
Hercules Tire
www.herculestire.com

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