We like to call it "tough love." Like any member of the Jp family, Red has been abused, used, and pushed to its limits more times than we can count. As of this writing, we have had our '01 Wrangler in the fleet for seven years and seven months and racked up almost 150,000 miles for just under 20,000 miles per year. Like any other Jeep that was lifted early on in its life, Red has seen a lot of trails, and taken us all over the southwest.
Through all those miles and all those trails, Red hasn't left us stranded. This Jeep has seen three lift kits, four pairs of shocks, four sets of springs, countless sets of tires, a supercharger, numerous air intake kits, rear bumpers, and MPG adding devices. In addition to all the testing we used this Jeep for, it has been a daily driver/weekend warrior for most of its life.
Way back in November of 2002, Cappa installed a 4-inch Currie Enterprises lift kit and 35-inch tires on Red. Well, that lift kit worked fine for five years and roughly 80,000 miles. The Johnny Joints were a-knocking, so we took it down to Currie Enterprises for a 100,000 mile checkup. Currie rebuilt what needed rebuilding and replaced worn out parts with the new-design parts, but basically the 4-inch lift kit we put on the Jeep back in '02 still clears our 35-inch tires, and still works well off-road for what we want it to do.
Right now, Red still has the original 4.0L engine coupled to the factory NV3550 Five-speed, and an NP231 transfer case with a Currie Enterprises slip yoke eliminator. The stock Dana 30 and Dana 44 are still underneath with 4.56 gears, an ARB Air Locker in the front axle and a Detroit Trutrac in the rear. Dick Cepek Crusher tires in the 35x12.5R15 flavor are wrapped around 15-inch steelies and it all works great.
Should we do an AEV Brute conversion to Red or maybe a long-arm-lift conversion? Maybe lower it 3 inches, stretch it 5 inches and keep the 35-inch tires under it? Or, should we lift it another 5 inches, put 44-inch tires under it and some kind of V-8 under the hood? We haven't decided what is next for Red, but whatever it is, we aren't in a big hurry to tear apart a Jeep that has given us a long and reliable service.
We wanted to make sure Red could go for another 100,000-plus miles, so when it came time to rebuild the suspension, we went through everything to return the Jeep to that fresh, just-lifted quality. This is a list of what we replaced and why.
*Four new Rancho RS9000 XLs (old shocks were shot)
*New Currie Antirock Sway bar end links (old ones had some play in them)
*New Johnny Joints and urethane all around for the control arms (old Johnny Joints mentioned above, and urethane was dried out and wouldn't have lasted much longer)
*Rebuilt the rear track bar with a new Johnny Joint and new Urethane bushing
*New front track bar installed (old one was bent in addition to needing a Johnny Joint rebuild)
*New Currectlync steering linkage (two of the four tie rod ends were hanging on by a thread, and the new linkage has a stronger design than the old)
*New rear progressive-rate springs (the old standard-rate ones were sagging, and cornering on-road was suffering)
*New front springs (to keep it level with the rear and replace sagging front springs)
*New Rancho steering stabilizer (the old one had minimal resistance)
*New rear bumpstops (the old ones were caught in the sagging springs and unrecoverable without spring cutting)
*Replace busted-off zerk fittings in control arms (this very likely led to the dead Johnny Joints)
*Build track bar brace (see above)