The lower control arm (LCA) brackets on a Jeep JK are just about the most vulnerable point of contact with the terrain on the entire vehicle. Although there are other parts and pieces that are also in the line of fire, most of them are either larger or sturdier and therefore less prone to bending or breaking when struck by an immoveable object in the trail. The front LCA brackets on the Jeep JK are separate from the lower shock mount (which is tucked up behind the axle tube). The rear LCA brackets incorporate the lower shock mount and lower anti-sway bar link mount. In addition, the rear driver-side LCA bracket bears the mount for the lower track bar mount.
You have a choice. The thin (practically sheet metal) factory front and rear LCA brackets can be replaced before or after they get damaged or broken off. With this particular 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited, we didn’t have the time for preemptive protection—the strike and damage occurred very early in the rig’s wheelin’ life. During a UFC-magnitude battle with a rather large rock, a front LCA bracket was mangled and a rear LCA bracket was bent, so immediate replacement was called for.
You can see how hard a punch the driver-side factory front LCA bracket took during its fight with the rock-hard trail obstacle. It was bent so badly that it had begun to tear free from the axle tube at one of the top corners. The rear passenger-side LCA bracket was just slightly deformed, but all four LCA brackets were replaced then and there.
After doing some research, we decided upon the replacement LCA brackets from Artec Industries. These beefy beauties are made from 1/4-inch-thick boxed steel plate, feature a 2.625-inch interior width to accommodate cartridge joints such as Johnny Joints, wrap around the axle tube more than the factory unit to help strengthen them from damage, offer an integrated skidplate to protect the LCA mounting joint, and allow room for a grease fitting on the top of the LCA mounting joint.
For this job, you will need a cutting torch and/or wheel, welder, and a variety of wrenches and sockets. If your welding skills are not up to snuff, you may want to consider having an off-road shop with a professional welding tech do the work, as this is not the place for mickey-mouse welding. The lower control arms have to be disconnected from the front factory LCA brackets; the lower control arms, shocks, and anti-sway bar endlinks must be removed from the rear LCA brackets. Additionally, the lower track bar mount must be disconnected from the driver-side rear factory LCA bracket before any real work can begin. Here’s how we accomplished the replacement of the factory LCA brackets with a set of Artec LCA brackets on a 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited.
The Artec JK front LCA bracket (driver-side shown) is a single pre-formed piece with an integrated skidplate lip to protect the LCA mounting joint. No welding other than when attaching it to the front axle tube is required.
On the other hand, the Artec JK rear LCA bracket (passenger-side shown) comes in three pieces that must be welded together prior to attachment under the rear axle tube.
We found that in order to lay flat against the rear LCA bracket pieces, a bit of the lower corner of the anti-sway bar link brackets had to be sliced off to make space for the welding bead on the shock mount bracket piece.
Pre-fitting the pieces of the Artec JK rear LCA brackets (passenger-side shown) before tacking and final welding made sure the parts were all correctly oriented to accept the shock absorbers and anti-sway bar links for their respective sides of the axle. If you weld on the anti-sway bar link bracket first, it can create a problem properly fitting the shock mount bracket. Other than that, the three-pieces that make up the entire Artec JK rear LCA brackets fit together perfectly.
No installation instructions could be found on the company’s website for the Artec rear JK LCA brackets, so prior to removal we had a conversation with Artec techline personnel to get directions. We measured the distance from the inside of the rear axle flanges to the centerlines of the two holes that exist in a vertical pattern on the backside of the rear factory brackets on each end of the axle so we would know exactly where to mount the new Artec rear JK LCA brackets, which also have the two holes centered in a vertical alignment on their backsides. We also measured the angle of the backside of the rear factory bracket (passenger-side shown) so we could match that angle with the new rear LCA brackets. This angle measurement will only be accurate if the axle is not moved from its position between the removal of the factory brackets and the installation of the Artec brackets.
After carefully cutting and/or torching the factory brackets away, we used a padded grinding wheel to clean up the sections of the front and rear axle tubes where the new Artec JK LCA brackets were to be attached. Instructions were available on the company’s website for the new front Artec JK LCA brackets. We horizontally aligned the tops of the squared-off tabs on the outboard sides of the front Artec LCA brackets (driver-side shown) with the undersides of the coil bucket brackets, and positioned the inside face of the squared-off tabs a 1/2-inch toward the ends of the axle from the coil bucket bracket. Once they were tacked into position, and their proper positioning double-checked, the Artec LCA brackets were completely welded to the front axle tube.
We positioned the rear Artec LCA brackets (passenger-side shown) according to our measurements made prior to removal of the factory rear LCA brackets. Once they were tacked into place under the rear axle tube, and their proper location rechecked, the rear Artec LCA brackets were welded into place.
Rattle-canned with anti-rust black paint, the new front and rear Artec LCA brackets are ready to have their control arms; and in the case of the rear LCA brackets their shock absorbers, anti-sway bar endlinks, and on the driver-side rear bracket the rear lower track bar mount reconnected. The heavy duty Artec JK LCA brackets we installed with the help of South Bay Truck & 4x4 will help keep this 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited, and its driver, out of trouble on the trail.
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