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1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ 4x4 Lift Kit Install - Project Steal J Part 5

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 19, 2006
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If you tuned in last month, you saw us outfitting the exterior of our '97 Wrangler with some serious body armor from Kilby Enterprises along with a Superwinch winch and a M.O.R.E. rear bumper and tire carrier. We also upped the tire and wheel package to some Rubicon 245/75R16 rubber. While we're digging the look and functionality of the modifications, the added weight caused the stock suspension to sag. Plus, the factory control-arm bushings have been clunking since we bought the Jeep.

Although the tires don't rub, our plans will eventually call for some 33-inch 285/75R16 rubber. To give us the flexibility of anywhere between 2.5-3.5 inches of lift, we ordered a Fabtech 2.5-inch adjustable system, comprised of four adjustable coil spacers. The spacers slip over the factory bumpstop brackets and employ billet adjusters that can be turned up or down with the included spanner wrench.

To cure our control arm clunk and allow for up to 3 inches of adjustment, we ordered a full set of upper and lower control arms from JKS, as well as two of the company's adjustable bumpstop kits. The adjustable arms are incredibly sturdy, have a rotating design that won't bind when articulating, employ quiet rubber bushings, and allow the pinion angles and front caster to be dialed in without the need for eccentric cam bolts.

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To handle the install, we visited our official shop of the Steal-J buildup: TAG Motorsports in Escondido, California. Since TAG pumps out several dozen Jeep lifts a month, we were confident head wrench Jay Miller could handle any eventuality that may arise during the install. In our next installment we'll be adding an overdrive so we can eventually ditch the pathetic 3.07 axle gears we're running.

Driving ItAs you may expect, since the spacer lift uses the stock spring, the ride is very similar to before. Our biggest differences on-road is the clunk-free control-arm bushings and the superb Bilstein 5100 shocks. The 5100s have excellent rebound characteristics that make for a much more controlled, jerk-free ride on- or off road. The biggest bummer is if you hit a bump pretty hard at speed, the rear will hit the bumpstop with a noticeable thud because of Fabtech's lowered bumpstop location. It doesn't hurt, but it does get your attention over severe dips and bumps.

Off-road, the huge amount of droop makes it pretty easy to keep all four tires on the ground. Even with open diffs, we were able to get up climbs that the stock suspension was stopped cold on. The biggest bummer is, once again, the rear suspension. Because of the increased amount of droop afforded by the 4-inch lift Bilsteins, the coils become unseated from their buckets and clang on the billet adjuster threads. The springs go right back in their seats, but the rattle and clank may ultimately be enough to make us swap to a longer, soft rear spring to eliminate the rear coil spacers or swap to a shorter shock.

PhotosView Slideshow


Poway, CA 92064
JKS Manufacturing
Alliance, NE 69301
Tag Motorsports
Escondido, CA 92029
Fabtech Motorsports
Brea, CA 92821

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