Suspension. It’s what separates the capable rigs from the ones that get parked at the trailhead. It’s also the single biggest factor in whether you’ll have a fun backcountry experience or not. That’s a pretty sweeping statement, but all other things being equal, virtually all of us would rather experience a smooth ride instead of feeling pounded and pummeled over every irregularity.
Aftermarket suspension has become more sophisticated over the years as the ’wheeling public and the off-road industry have collectively become more performance-savvy. We used to measure suspensions almost solely by the lift height they produced. These days, lift height is seen as one factor, but it’s far from the only one. Facets like ride quality, geometry, and center of gravity are better understood. Who wins? Everybody! Today’s suspensions work better, ride more smoothly, and are more durable than their ancestors. It all results in a better ride.
Here we’ve assembled a collection of sorts. It highlights several different vehicle models and crosses a broad spectrum of intended uses. We’ve found off-roaders could be described that way, too. Our common thread: We all enjoy fresh air, exploration, and dirt under the tires.
AEV 2.0 JK Spacer System
If you need just a little more height from your two- or four-door JK Wrangler, the AEV 2.0 spacer system is an ideal solution. Gain clearance for slightly larger tires, and continue to enjoy factory ride quality.
- Two-inch polyurethane spacer system is easy to install and easy on the wallet.
- The kit includes polyurethane coil spacers, front and rear bumpstop extensions, extended sway bar links, shock extension brackets, and front brake line drop brackets.
For more information, contact:American Expedition Vehicles
(877) 685-0278, aev-conversions.com
Stable Steering for the WJ
The 1999-2004 WJ Grand Cherokee uses a solid front axle just like the classic Jeeps that came before it. Like many rigs with solid front axles, it is prone to front-wheel shimmy under certain driving conditions. Adding larger tires and altering the suspension can exacerbate this situation, making the shimmy (a.k.a. “death wobble”) more common. BDS Suspension has a solution in its dual stabilizer kit for the WJ.
- Stabilizer kit uses a pair of hydraulic shocks mounted end-to-end. Choose from BDS-5500 and BDS-9500 shocks.
- Bolt-on kit offers quick and easy installation.
For more information, contact:BDS Suspension
(517) 279-2135, bds-suspension.com
Clayton JK Long-Arm Kit
Clayton Off Road offers a long-arm kit for the JK Wrangler that features bolt-in installation. The front suspension is converted to long radius arms, while the rear four-link arms are stretched substantially compared to the short stock arms. The Clayton long-arm kit may be used as an upgrade or can be purchased as a complete 3.5- or 4.5-inch lift system.
- The center of the front crossmember is removable, so the transmission may be pulled without disturbing the suspension components.
- The system was designed using the latest SolidWorks computer software. Plate parts are CNC laser cut, and CNC bending is used for the formed sections of this kit. High-quality welding and heavy-wall materials are used throughout.
For more information, contact:Clayton Off Road
(203) 691-8593, claytonoffroad.com
Fox Steering Shox
Fox Racing’s shocks are found on some of the most high-tech trucks in Baja, but you don’t have to race the Baja 1000 to appreciate Fox’s innovation and quality. Fox produces a steering damper that gives high performance, efficient heat dissipation, and complete adjustability.
- Through-shaft design provides consistent damping force, whether you’re steering left or right. Piggyback-mounted nitrogen-charged reservoir keeps damping force consistent over a wide range of operating temperatures. The heat-dispersing aluminum damper body is hard anodized to resist wear.
- Both axle-end and tie-rod-end damper mounts contain spherical bearings to eliminate slop in the mounts and transfer all steering forces into the damper. An external adjuster features 24 possible settings. Damping can be very light, very stiff, or somewhere in between.
For more information, contact: Fox Racing Shox
Metalcloak Covers the JK and TJ
Metalcloak’s products span generations and iterations of Jeeps. Today, we offer you a JK product and a TJ product, which are samples from the extensive Metalcloak product lineup.
The Metalcloak JK Adjustable Rear Bumpstop system recognizes you want as much bump travel as possible, but not so much that your rear tires crash into places on your Jeep where they shouldn’t. This bolt-on, modular system lets you extend your rear bumpstop strike pad height from 1 to 4 inches over stock.
The Metalcloak TJ/LJ adjustable aluminum suspension control arms feature 1-1/2-inch extruded aluminum hex bar stock, and Metalcloak’s exclusive Duroflex joints. The hex stock looks great, but the utility is that it provides full-length wrench flats that make for easy adjustments. Dial in your U-joint angles and steering geometry exactly the way you want it.
For more information, contact: Metalcloak
(916) 631-8071, www.metalcloak.com
Rough Country Track Bar Options
Rough Country offers different solutions for different Jeep vehicles, such as the XJ Cherokee and the TJ Wrangler.
- The XJ track bar kit includes a complete replacement track bar made from heavy-wall DOM tubing. The length is adjustable, so the axle can be perfectly centered under the vehicle at ride height. Compatible with any lift kit height between 4 and 6 inches, and every XJ model year.
- The TJ track bar kit consists of a track bar drop bracket and a dropped pitman arm. Use the drop bracket and dropped pitman arm with your stock track bar in conjunction with a 4-inch lift kit, and add an adjustable-length, factory-style track bar for use with a 6-inch lift kit. Quarter-inch-thick steel plate construction is used for the bracket, and the pitman arm is forged. It’s rugged stuff worthy of the Rough Country name.
For more information, contact: Rough Country Suspension
(800) 222-7023, roughcountry.com
JK Long Arm, Rubicon Express Style
Did we mention that JK owners have options? Here’s a great way to go from Rubicon Express.
- Choose from lift heights of 3.5, 4.5, and 5.5 inches. Adjustable chromoly upper and lower control arms offer superior strength and inspire confidence. Rubicon Express’s own Super Flex joints are used throughout.
- Adjustable chromoly track bar and drag link. The kit is available with mono-tube or twin-tube shocks and is backed by the Rubicon Express Advantage Lifetime Warranty. Made in the USA.
For more information, contact: Rubicon Express
(877) 367-7824, rubiconexpress.com
Skyjacker XJ System
The XJ Cherokee has got to be the most affordable option if you’re looking for a trail-worthy Jeep vehicle. We’d suggest finding a ’97-or-later model because the unibody structure was stronger than that of the previous model years. Skip the four-cylinder if you can, as the inline six is a much better match to the XJ’s size and weight. Skyjacker’s Value Flex 3-inch suspension kit installs easily and replaces the rear leaf spring packs, as well as the wimpy stock front lower control arms. You must decide which shocks you want to add to the kit in order to make a complete suspension system. This system works well with up to 31-inch tires. We used 32s on this ’91 XJ, and they rubbed a bit. Bushwacker Flat Style fender flares helped mitigate the rubbing.
- Pleasant ride quality at a friendly lift height. Complete replacement rear leaf packs minimize axle wrap.
- Lower front control arms are made from heavy-wall tubing and feature adjustable flex joints, as well as long-lasting urethane bushings .
For more information, contact:Skyjacker Suspensions
(866) 4-A-DEALER, skyjacker.com
Simple Sophistication from Superlift
It’s tough to combine simplicity and sophistication, but Superlift has done just that with its new 2.5-inch lift system for the JK Wrangler. Providing clearance for 33-inch tires or 35s when used with bumpstop extensions, the Superlift 2.5-inch system features coil springs specifically selected for the two- and four-door JK Wrangler models.
- In addition to the tuned coil springs, this lift system includes custom-valved Superide shocks.
- Other details like brake line relocation brackets and steering alignment correction plates are also included. The system is backed by a limited lifetime warranty and 100-percent satisfaction guarantee .
For more information, contact:Superlift
(800) 551-4955, superlift.com
Synergy Manufacturing Stage 4
Dave Schlossberg of Synergy Manufacturing recently paid a visit to Phil’s locale for a photo shoot. The story ran in our January issue. Dave’s two-door JK featured Synergy’s Stage 4 Long-Arm suspension, as well as Synergy’s 8-inch stretch kit, which is specific to the two-door JK. As you can see, the Synergy JK works well and ’wheels confidently.
- Available in 3-, 4-, and 4.5-inch lift heights. This is a bolt-on system with no welding required. Long-arm system flexes well, rides smoothly. Lower control arms are made with 2-inch-diameter, 1/4-inch wall tubing: heavy-wall, rock tough.
- Do you live in Australia or another country where right-hand drive is standard? The Synergy system is also available in a right-hand drive version .
For more information, contact:Synergy Manufacturing
(805) 242-0397, synergymfg.com
LCG stands for “low center of gravity,” something you want when you’re in tippy terrain. Dozercon, also a recent feature shot by Phil, rides on 37-inch tires, yet is lifted only 4 inches. The suspension is a TeraFlex 4-inch LCG Elite system coupled with SpeedBump bumpstops.
- The TeraFlex 4-inch Elite LCG incorporates improvements to the suspension geometry, and thereby, the handling characteristics. Improved areas include front anti-dive, rear anti-squat, and front and rear roll centers.
- Dozercon also uses TeraFlex’s Baja-inspired SpeedBump bumpstops. They come into play only during extreme articulation or at high speeds over big bumps. SpeedBumps add control that smooth-body shocks alone cannot .
For more information, contact:TeraFlex
(801) 288-2585, teraflex.biz
Total Chaos Stock-Length Control Arms
Total Chaos Fabrication is famous for race-proven long-travel IFS suspension systems. These systems use extended control arms to gain track width and wheel travel. Many off-roaders would like the ruggedness offered by Total Chaos control arms, but do not need extra track width and would also like to retain their stock fenders. If that describes your situation, Total Chaos has Race Series stock-length control arms that offer several advantages over stock arms, but retain the stock track width. Fitments include the ’05-and-newer six-lug Tacoma, the FJ Cruiser, ’03-and-newer 4Runner.
- Upper and lower control arms are much, much stronger than stock control arms. Urethane bushings (which include grease zerk fittings) are used at the frame pivot, while the stock ball joints are replaced with much-stronger spherical bearings (a.k.a. uniballs). The urethane bushings and uniballs are replaceable; stock rubber bushings are not. Wear a stock rubber bushing out, and you’ve got to replace the entire control arm.
- Unique lower uniball configuration maximizes ground clearance. Lower arms are configured for use with one or two shocks. Using a 2.5-inch coilover and a 2.5-inch bypass shock will maximize damping control and expand the vehicle’s capability in high-speed, rough terrain. Dual shocks require a Total Chaos add-on dual shock hoop.
For more information, contact:Total Chaos Fabrication
(951) 737-9682, chaosfab.com
The YJ Zone
One of our favorite YJ-themed T-shirts says, “It’s hip to be square.” We agree: The YJ, with its distinctive square headlights, has a lot of potential and is an affordable way to get into a Jeep Wrangler. Zone Offroad lets you maximize your YJ experience with a value-priced suspension system that’s simple to install.
- Four-inch lift springs are a direct replacement for factory leaf packs. The Zone leaf packs feature urethane bushings and anti-friction pads. The system is designed to increase articulation and to provide clearance for up to 33-inch tires.
- Complete system includes U-bolts, shocks, sway bar end links, forged pitman arm, track bar bracket, brake line brackets, bumpstop extensions, and a transfer case drop kit that allows retention of the factory drive shafts. Complete instructions allow many DIY ’wheelers to install this kit at home. As always, if you lack the tools, jack, jack stands, patience, or experience, take your Jeep to a professional shop .
For more information, contact:Zone Offroad Products
(888) 998-ZONE, zoneoffroad.com