Not everyone needs a top-shelf, high-zoot, whiz-bang, desert-racing-style suspension system for their dirt machine. Some people just need more room for a little bigger tire so they can explore a little farther down that dirt trail. For those people a lift kit with just the right parts and nothing extra is the best recipe. We were there when a nearby shop installed just that on a 1998 Jeep TJ Wrangler.
The suspension kit came from BDS Suspension and went on with ease in a day. Even though it doesn’t have high-end racing parts like coilover shocks and expensive rod ends, it does have offer tough, simple components that improve the ride, cleared bigger tires, and will give the old TJ a new lease on life. For the most part the kit can be installed with basic handtools, some pry bars, a floor jack, and a few tall jackstands.
The stock Jeep TJ lower control arms (LCA) are stamped steel, and when a bigger tire is bolted on they often rub at full steering lock. The BDS LCAs are slightly longer than stock to help with caster angle when lifted and are made of heavy-wall tubing. The benefit is the arms can take abuse from being dragged across rocks, and the round shape won’t damage tires if they rub. The BDS arms are nonadjustable and use rubber bushings, but BDS also offers a kit with adjustable arms and polyurethane bushings.
BDS replaces both the front and rear coils with longer coils to give the Jeep a 4-inch lift. The kit is designed for 33-inch-tall tires. We have seen Jeep owner trim bodywork to fit larger, but we wouldn’t recommend much bigger with the stock rear Dana 35 axle, a notoriously weak rearend when mixed with big tires. Longer bumpstops are added to the axle as well to keep the coils from binding on full compression.
BDS is based in Michigan, and as such the company realizes that a Jeep almost 20 years old could have rusty hardware. Because of this, a lot of the major bolts are replaced with new bolts, nuts, and washers included in the kit, just in case you need to cut rusty old bolts out with a grinder or torch.
The basic kit reuses the stock front track bar, but with the high miles of the Jeep we opted to upgrade to the adjustable track bar from BDS. This gives us all new joints and allows us to adjust the length for easy alignment of the front end. Worn-out track bars can cause in any number of Jeep handling problems.
The rear track bar is retained and a taller axle track bar mount added to keep the track bar level at ride height. The instructions say to just drill some holes and bolt it on; we went a step further and welded it in place for added security.
BDS Suspension is owned by Fox Shocks, which means BDS has the ability to include really good shocks in its kits. We have found that a set of Foxes adds stability and control that basic bolt-on shocks can only wish for. We bit the bullet and upgraded to better shocks in addition to the adjustable track bar to give the little TJ better handling.
A slip-yoke eliminator for the rear output of the transfer case would be the next best upgrade, but since that wasn’t in the card at this point, a transfer case skidplate/mount drop-down bracket lowers the transmission and transfer case enough to keep drivelines happy. There is also a bracket to correct the transfer case shifter mechanism, but we’d suggest a cable shifter as a more permanent fix because the factory setup can be troublesome.
BDS includes longer sway bar links front and rear and has front sway bar links that can be disconnected for smoother off-road articulation. The crew at Hanks Welding in San Luis Obispo, California, had the BDS kit installed in under a day. A beginner mechanic could do it at home in an easy weekend of wrenching. The result is clearance for 33-inch tires on your Wrangler.