Step By Step
We went down to Ranchos garage in Long Beach, California, to get our kit installed by the Rancho techs. While there, we picked up a couple of tricks and things to remember if you plan on doing a similar install. Plan on spending a few days putting the kit on if you dont have air tools or any experience with putting a lift on a TJ.
Here is the complete kit with everything but the shocks. The RockCrawler Suspension System comes with all kinds of good stuff including new front brake lines, a transfer case lowering kit, and sway bar disconnects.
These dish-shaped doughnuts fit into the new lower control arms, and allow good articulation while absorbing bumps and vibrations from the road. Dont forget the shims and the grease if you are installing this kit yourself. Once you have the calipers off the front axle, use a couple of zip ties to hold them up and out of the way. When you take the original springs out, you may stretch the front brake lines if you lower the axle with the calipers still attached.
Ranchos instructions suggest using a spring compressor to get their springs in, but if you can lower the axle all the way with the sway bar disconnected, no shocks, and the brake calipers off, you can install the new springs without using a compressor. The lower sway-bar bracket on the passenger side needs to be clearanced a bit or the tie rod will hit it at full stuff.
When you install the rear track-bar bracket, hold it in place with one of the mounting bolts or a clamp, mark the holes to be drilled with an awl, and then drill the holes with the bracket still in place. This trick sway-bar retainer setup uses the clips for your sway-bar disconnects when you are wheeling. We usually wasted a couple of perfectly good zip ties doing the same thing. If your TJ has a manual transmission, was made before 2000, and you are using Ranchos transfer case lowering kit, you will probably need to trim the sheetmetal around your shifter per the instructions. Red did not need this trimming possibly because in 2000, Jeep switched manual transmissions from the AX-15 to the NV3550. To do a quick check to see if your 00-02 TJ needs this trimming around the shifter, slowly drive it forward and backwards. If it kicks out of First, Second, or Reverse, grab your files and tin snips cause you need to trim.
After the addition of a couple hundred miles, a few more door dings, and some rocker-guard scuffs, it came time for us to put a lift kit on our project TJ, also known as Red. We decided that the best way to choose a lift and tires was to put ourselves into the shoes of you, the reader. What would you most likely do if you had recently started making payments on a new TJ, had gone through two or three oil changes, and were ready to lift your Jeep? Our answer was to find a quality lift kit that had everything we would need, and a set of tires that would fit into what type of driving we would be doing with Red.
So we started looking for a kit that, A) wouldnt break the already strained bank account, B) would keep the on-road ride good, and C) make Red a lot more capable off-road. We also had to take into consideration that without a tailshaft conversion, a lift much higher than 2 or 3 inches would make Reds mini rear driveshaft vibrate and shake like an overloaded washing machine. Our next concern was that too big a tire might ugly our nice fenders or sap Reds highway power too much. Plus Red came from the factory with 15x8-inch wheels, which was not a cheap option, so why not keep them? After browsing some catalogs we decided to use Ranchos 2 ½-inch RockCrawler kit with a set of RS 9000 shocks. This kit, when combined with RS 9000 or RS 5000 series shocks, provides everything you will need to lift your TJ except for an alignment. The best part is the Rancho kit will allow us to easily clear some 32x11.50-15 Goodyear MT/Rs on Reds factory wheels, plus the kit comes with a transfer case lowering kit to help us avoid those vibrations.