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No Cutting Required 4.5-inch JK Lift

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on May 24, 2017
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Shopping for a new JK requires some planning, especially if you want it exactly “your way.” You will likely not drive away from the first dealership with your new Jeep, if you’re picky about what you want. We were looking for a Rubicon Unlimited in Billet Silver, with matching hardtop and fenders, along with a saddle-brown leather interior, so being patient was a must. Since we planned to install things like a custom high-end sound system, rear bumper with hitch, wiring, gears, better spare tire carrier, and more on down the line, we didn't require extras like the factory tow package (Trailer Tow: AHT code) that add a Class II hitch, wiring, and a four-pin connector. The max tow group (AHQ) would have added a 3.73 rear axle to the aforementioned list. No added cooling functions though, but we’ll take care of that later. Not choosing those two options alone saved us close to $3,000—money we could drop back into upgrades later.

Shopping smart and placing our order meant we had to wait, but it was not long after taking delivery of the ’16 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon that Phase One was kicked off. We wanted to focus on the basics in this first upgrade: suspension, tires, wheels, and a spare tire carrier.

After much study, we opted to go with the 4 1/2-inch Rubicon Express Super-Flex Short Arm Lift Kit to maximize articulation, while avoiding any cutting and/or welding to relocate the control arm brackets. With a brand-new Jeep, we chose a direct bolt-on product that would require no cutting, drilling, or welding. If we later wanted to make changes, we weren’t dealing with a rig that was hacked up.

The 4 1/2-inch Rubicon Express Super-Flex Short Arm kit came with everything needed for the install, including Rubicon Express adjustable upper and fixed lower control arms, with serviceable Super-Flex spherical ball joints, replacement lift springs, extended bump stops, and longer front and rear stainless steel brake lines. You choose the shocks you want separately, and the manufacturer recommends upgraded front and rear drive shafts to span the new distance between the transfer case and the axles.

The Rubicon 4 1/2-inch Super-Flex Short Arm kit fits Jeep JKs. It incorporates adjustable upper control arms, fixed lower control arms with serviceable Super-Flex spherical ball joints, and replacement springs specifically tuned for this vehicle and suspension system. New PT-Meg Super-Ride bushings designed for on- and off-road performance are part of the package, and the lifetime warranty on the bushings gave us a little extra peace of mind about our decision. You choose the aftermarket shocks to go with the suspension lift kit; Rubicon Express offers suggestions for shock options. The manufacturer also recommends the replacement of front and rear driveshafts to accommodate the increased distance from the transfer case to the axles created by the suspension lift.

When it came time to choose tires, we knew the 4 1/2-inch lift would easily accommodate 37-inch rubber without having to trim anything, so we decided to run the brand-new Nitto Ridge Grapplers. These tires represent the best of both worlds by falling right between the company’s AT and MT.

Here’s a closer look at the factory and aftermarket front driveshafts side by side for comparison. We went with the Rubicon Express RE1810 adapter and RE1883-365 driveshaft shaft in front and the RE1805 adapter and RE1887-430 driveshaft in rear. These are specifically designed to work with the 4 1/2-inch Rubicon Express Super-Flex Short Arm kit, they are smaller in diameter for necessary clearance but have a thicker tube wall for added strength.

Next it was rims, and in this category, you can definitely get lost down a rabbit hole, as there are options as far as the eye can see. After a search that saw us going through almost every manufacturer’s catalog, we came to the Pro Comp Rockwell’s. The wheels have a very clean look (satin black and not too flashy) that seems to echo the factory rim styling but then expands upon it. The Rockwell fits the style we want for this build, and they are available in a variety of sizes. We chose the 17x8.5-inch Rockwell with zero offset and 4 1/2-inch backspacing, which should keep the 37s from rubbing on anything even when turned to full-lock.

We partnered up with the Redondo Beach, California, 4Wheel Parts retail store for the Phase One installation labor, as it made things so much easier and quicker than doing it in our garage. However, all the work shown here could be done with the proper tools if you want to go the DIY route. Take a look at how easily Phase One came together.

You can see the difference between the factory and Rubicon Express front coils designed to provide the best in ride quality with the 4 1/2-inch Rubicon Express Super-Flex Short Arm kit without sacrificing durability or load capacity. All Rubicon Express coils are powdercoated silver.
When it came to shocks we figured we would keep the kit uniform and go with the Rubicon's Extreme-Duty mono-tube shocks. For the front we are running the recommended RXJ703B that have an extended length of 23.5 inches, a collapsed length of 14.9 inches, and a travel length of 8.6 inches. As for the rear shocks, the RXJ714 is recommended and features an extended length of 25 inches, collapsed length of 15.3 inches, and a travel length of 9.7 inches.
Here’s a look at the factory setup and the nearly completed frontend. All that was left to do was install the provided longer stainless steel brake lines to button this all up and start on the rear. It came together very nicely, and we were happy with how quickly the install progressed.
Next, we installed the new brake lines and the anti-sway bar end links with Gen 2 disconnects.
The rearend components of the 4 1/2-inch Rubicon Express Super-Flex Short Arm kit includes a replacement track bar bracket for the rear axle that raises the pivot point on the axle to bring it more in line with the frame pivot to get the track bar as level as possible for best performance. Replacement upper and lower control arms and new coil springs are also part of the rearend upgrade. The Rubicon Express control arms are much beefier than the factory units, are adjustable, and offer zerk fittings for bushing lubrication.
Tires and wheels before (right) and after (left). The new Nitto Ridge Grappler (left) has two options for sidewall patterns: one falls in line with Nitto’s more traditional designs, the other is a new aggressive block pattern. We chose to go with the new aggressive block pattern for our build. We love the looks of the Pro Comp Rockwell rims mounted up to the new tires.
We chose to go with the TeraFlex HD Hinged Carrier with Adjustable Spare Tire Mounting Kit for our JK. This tire carrier takes the full load off the gate and spreads the weight across multiple points for maximum strength, retains the factory look (obviously much beefier), and allows for the gate to open in a stock fashion with only one step. The secret is the massive replacement hinges that come with the TeraFlex kit.
TeraFlex also makes a nifty license place eliminator kit that really cleans up the rear corner of the JK, and it’s simple to install. The included instructions walk you right through the easy process.

Sources

Nitto Tire
Cypress, CA 90630
714-252-0007
www.nittotire.com
Rubicon Express
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
866-533-7706
www.rubiconexpress.com
Rock Hard 4x4 Parts
St. Paul, NE 68873
844-762-5427
www.rockhard4x4parts.com
TeraFlex
801-713-3314
teraflex.com
Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015
800-543-9276
www.warn.com
Pro Comp USA
Compton, CA 90220
800-776-0767
http://www.procompusa.com
4Wheel Parts
800-257-5629
www.4wheelparts.com

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