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Make Your Jeep Grand Cherokee Ride Better Off- and On-Road

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on April 22, 2015
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I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I convinced my parents to buy a WJ Grand Cherokee (yay!). They got a 2004 Overland Edition with the High Output 4.7L engine, QuadraDrive II four-wheel drive system, and factory rock rails. These vehicles were the last of the solid-axle Grand Cherokees and are incredibly capable right out of the box.

The bad news is that my mother made an ultimatum that I’m not allowed to lift her new Jeep. No lift? OK, but she didn’t say that I have to leave it stock. I just needed to get creative about how I could upgrade the suspension to blast down washboard roads and explore ghost towns on the weekend yet still be tame enough for Mom to drive to work on Monday morning. Instead of seeing it as a problem, I saw this as a challenge and set out to source components that make no compromises.

The WJ Grand Cherokee uses a five-link front coil suspension similar to the TJ, XJ, and ZJ, while out back, it departs from the norm with a triangulated three-link coil suspension straight from the factory. The three-link provides excellent articulation but less roll resistance than a more traditional four-link and trackbar, so we upgraded the sway bars to heavier Eibach units. The front is a larger 34mm diameter hollow bar, and the rear is an 18mm solid rod. Both have multiple mounting points that can be used to adjust the stiffness of the sway bar.

These are the parts we used to upgrade the suspension. They were all installed at home with simple hand tools in a single afternoon. No cursing or throwing tools required.

While the sway bars have improved handling on the road, it is not surprising that they decrease articulation in the dirt and actually hurt not only trail prowess but ride quality as well. To combat that, we added a set of JKS Quicker Disconnects to take the front sway bar out of the equation when off-road. The Quicker Disconnects use greasable spherical bushings and tapered mounting pins that make them easy to get on and off, although there isn’t a lot of room to access them on a stock-height WJ.

Keeping with our “no lift, no compromises” theme, I added adjustable Rancho RS9000XL shocks that can be firmed up for added control on the pavement and dialed back to smooth out the bumps in the dirt with the turn of a knob. Complementing the suspension modifications is a set of Cooper Discoverer A/T3 tires in the stock 235/65R17 size. These tires are not as aggressive as Cooper’s Discoverer STT or S/T MAXX, but they are well matched to the capabilities of my parents’ Grand Cherokee and the terrain they intend to use it on. The A/T3s are whisper quiet, balanced with very little weight, and have generous siping for excellent wet weather performance.

While Mom and Dad’s Grand Cherokee looks the same as it did before, it now handles and rides better on the pavement for daily commuting and is more capable on the trail when the weekend comes. Maybe that isn’t such bad news after all!

Mom won’t notice just a little lift, right? We slipped in these Rough Country coil spacers that are only 3⁄4-inch tall to level the stance of the WJ. Mom won’t notice just a little lift, right? We slipped in these Rough Country coil spacers that are only 3⁄4-inch tall to level the stance of the WJ.
They just slide on to the factory upper coil mount on top of the stock rubber isolator. They just slide on to the factory upper coil mount on top of the stock rubber isolator.
The Rancho RS9000XL shocks are better than the original shocks in so many different ways. The larger, 23⁄4-inch shock body results in increased fluid capacity to keep the shocks cool over rough terrain, and the twin-tube construction ensures that the shocks continue to perform no matter what they are subjected to. The Rancho RS9000XL shocks are better than the original shocks in so many different ways. The larger, 23⁄4-inch shock body results in increased fluid capacity to keep the shocks cool over rough terrain, and the twin-tube construction ensures that the shocks continue to perform no matter what they are subjected to.
The nine different valving positions on the RS9000XLs allow us to dial in the perfect shock damping for any situation. The only bummer is that mom isn’t that excited about climbing under her new Jeep to adjust the shocks. The nine different valving positions on the RS9000XLs allow us to dial in the perfect shock damping for any situation. The only bummer is that mom isn’t that excited about climbing under her new Jeep to adjust the shocks.
Eibach’s Grand Cherokee sway bars are available either individually or as a set. We bought the set, concerned that just stiffening up the front or the rear of the Jeep would result in understeer or oversteer, respectively. Eibach’s Grand Cherokee sway bars are available either individually or as a set. We bought the set, concerned that just stiffening up the front or the rear of the Jeep would result in understeer or oversteer, respectively.
The rear Eibach sway bar had two different mounting options, and the front had three mounting options. Using the shorter mounting option results in increased sway bar stiffness. We felt that the thicker, larger-diameter bars were enough of an upgrade on their own, so we used the mounting holes closest to the end of both the front and rear sway bars. The rear Eibach sway bar had two different mounting options, and the front had three mounting options. Using the shorter mounting option results in increased sway bar stiffness. We felt that the thicker, larger-diameter bars were enough of an upgrade on their own, so we used the mounting holes closest to the end of both the front and rear sway bars.
Those stiffer sway bars are great on the road, but in the dirt, they can hamper articulation and degrade ride quality since any bump that one corner of the vehicle encounters gets transferred through the chassis. The solution came from JKS with their Quicker Disconnects. Those stiffer sway bars are great on the road, but in the dirt, they can hamper articulation and degrade ride quality since any bump that one corner of the vehicle encounters gets transferred through the chassis. The solution came from JKS with their Quicker Disconnects.
JKS Quicker Disconnects use tapered posts and spherical bushings along with grease zerks that make them easy to connect and disconnect. They also have threaded bodies that allow for adjusting the length to account for up to 31⁄2 inches of suspension lift. JKS Quicker Disconnects use tapered posts and spherical bushings along with grease zerks that make them easy to connect and disconnect. They also have threaded bodies that allow for adjusting the length to account for up to 31⁄2 inches of suspension lift.
The silica-based tread compound and generous siping on the Cooper Discoverer A/T3 made them an easy choice for a vehicle that sees a lot of snow and ice in the winter. I got a set of A/T3s in the stock 235/65R17 size, and they came with a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty, so we won’t need to worry about tires again for years. The silica-based tread compound and generous siping on the Cooper Discoverer A/T3 made them an easy choice for a vehicle that sees a lot of snow and ice in the winter. I got a set of A/T3s in the stock 235/65R17 size, and they came with a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty, so we won’t need to worry about tires again for years.
Adam Carrion at 4Wheel Parts mounted and balanced our Cooper Discoverer A/T3s and reset the TPMS sensors in our wheels. The tires ran very true, only requiring 2 ounces each on average to balance. Adam Carrion at 4Wheel Parts mounted and balanced our Cooper Discoverer A/T3s and reset the TPMS sensors in our wheels. The tires ran very true, only requiring 2 ounces each on average to balance.
While I was at 4Wheel Parts getting the tires mounted, I also had them perform a four-wheel alignment. This is a good idea after you do any suspension work, and we did not want to take any chances of premature wear our brand-new Cooper tires. While I was at 4Wheel Parts getting the tires mounted, I also had them perform a four-wheel alignment. This is a good idea after you do any suspension work, and we did not want to take any chances of premature wear our brand-new Cooper tires.
While the factory sway bars were bearable on the trail, the stiffer Eibach sway bars result in a lot of getting tossed back and forth over rough terrain. Disconnecting the JKS sway-bar end links made a world of difference in ride comfort. While the factory sway bars were bearable on the trail, the stiffer Eibach sway bars result in a lot of getting tossed back and forth over rough terrain. Disconnecting the JKS sway-bar end links made a world of difference in ride comfort.
After installing all of the components, we headed out to the dirt with our folks to get their feedback. They were all smiles, and I earned a pat on the head and a gold star from Mom and Dad. After installing all of the components, we headed out to the dirt with our folks to get their feedback. They were all smiles, and I earned a pat on the head and a gold star from Mom and Dad.

Sources

Rancho Suspension
Monroe, MI 48161
734-384-7804
www.gorancho.com
Eibach Springs
Corona, CA 92879
800-507-2338
www.eibach.com
JKS Manufacturing
Alliance, NE 69301
308-762-6949
www.jksmfg.com
Rough Country Suspension Systems
Dyersburg, TN 38024
800-222-7023
www.roughcountry.com
Cooper Tire
Findlay, OH 45840
419-423-1321
www.coopertire.com
4Wheel Parts
800-421-1050
www.4wheelparts.com

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