Look, it's your Jeep. Do whatever you want. You want to reinvent the wheel? You can spend a year and any amount of dollars sorting out that "custom" spring-over setup where the steering never seems to be on-center and vibration is a constant problem. And eventually, you might end up with something.
Or you can install a system that good engineers already know will work. Truth is, bolt-on suspensions can bring you 80 percent, 90 percent, maybe 95 percent of the performance ... at half the cost ... in a third of the time.
After all, we are living in what is probably the golden age of suspension development. In the past 5 years, more manufacturers have developed better suspension concepts than ever. And with everyone hitting the trails, the most innovation in suspension R&D has been in Jeep applications. You can get great bolt-on suspensions these days if you know how to shop, get a good kit, and get it on right. Why?
Easier installation: One key to success for any suspension kit manufacturer is to reduce installation time and complexity. Time is money, especially to a small business owner. As a result, much development on kits today is done with a keen awareness of the fact that all things being equal, an easier-to-install kit is going to attract more buyers and be carried by more sales outlets. That competition brings tangible benefits for average driveway mechanics.
Proven R&D: We all know it-when you upgrade any one thing, all you do is break whatever is next to it. But with a kit, someone else has already been through the "broke this, fixed that" cycle that occurs every time you do something simple, like run a bigger tire. With a kit, matched and balanced components can all be engineered to the same level. With a kit, there is no guesswork with materials versus stress loads. There will be an absolute minimum of this "well, I guess I shoulda gone to T6" nonsense.
Cost: Kit manufacturing takes advantage of economies of scale, of mass production, and cutthroat industry competition. Assessing value is still important in kit selection, but when you install a kit, you are not at the mercy of a small shop run by one guy who knows everything, except maybe the way you 'wheel.
Talent: Some of the best engineers we know are doing the math and field-testing at suspension companies, large and small. The big ones have world-class talent, and the smaller ones have hard-core, fanatical, hands-on guys 'wheeling like banshees every weekend.
Packaging: Lots of kits now come in staged packages. So you can order all you need to rockcrawl the hairy stuff, or leave out the big-flex parts if all you want to do is run faster down graded dirt roads. These days, Jeep suspension kits are custom.
Here you'll find a sampling of suspension options and contacts. Practically any level of performance is available-the trick is to decide what you need and pick a winner. Check kits for completeness-are shocks included? Is the hardware upgraded where it needs to be? Find out about customer service and support, especially if you are installing your own. Is there someone you can call when two holes don't line up? In the long run, you need to be doing business with people you can trust, who believe in what they do, and who understand the kind of things you do with your Jeep.
To improve a daily driver for occasional trail use, a simple 2-inch lift with a taller set of tires and better shocks will make a big difference compared to stock. Anything that frees the suspension to droop and flex, such as shackle kits or antisway bar disconnects, will also help. This kind of setup will allow you to run at faster speeds down graded dirt roads more comfortably, and address scenic trails in confidence. And installation should not be overly complex or expensive.
To run 31- to 33-inch tires, you'll need more lift and more travel. For most Jeeps, this is in the 2.5- to 4-inch range, close to the limit before driveline angles and gearing issues require more extensive re-engineering. There is a wide variety of extremely well-engineered kits in this area, including kits that bolt on without any welding whatsoever.
And obviously, for extreme trails, these days you need to fit 35-inch tires or bigger. Here you have to expect more cutting and welding. Even in this range, there are advantages to purchasing a kit instead of starting from scratch and going custom. Many of the companies offering kits for this type of 'wheeling are very experienced in the sport and have had enough trail time to know what works, what breaks, and why. By supplying matched components, they can eliminate your R&D, guarantee you get it right the first time, and instantly bring you up to state-of-the-art performance.
After you have matched the kit to your needs, installation becomes the issue. This is where a well-engineered kit becomes a huge advantage. On a simple lift, if you have the time, the tools, and the expertise, you can order a bolt-on kit and start working. To get a sense of what will be necessary, download the instruction manual or contact a company's customer service line to get one. If you're comfortable cutting and welding, you can also take advantage of the fact that a kit, even if not truly "bolt-on," is part of a package that will work. In cases where tire size is significant, bring into play gearing and driveline issues as well as suspension, an experienced professional installer is a huge asset. But before you address anything else, you have to fit the tires. With that in mind, we took a quick lap through the Jeep suspension market, and this is what we found:
ARB makes leaf and coil springs, shocks, greaseable shackles, steering stabilizers, and bushings for TJs that correct suspension sag and improve ride and performance. Components are designed for durability and improved comfort in everyday use. Contact: 800/761-8196; www.arbusa.com
Energy Suspension's HyperFlex system is a complete master bushing set with integrated 1-inch body lift for TJs. Included are front and rear control-arm bushings, front and rear greaseable sway-bar bushings, front and rear track-bar set, front and rear coil-spring isolators, front and rear bumpstops and body mounts. Contact: 949/361-3935, www.energysuspension.com
Skyjacker's Platinum Coil-Over Rock Ready 8-inch Jeep Unlimited system re-engineers the TJ's suspension geometry via an integrated subframe assembly. An 80-percent increase in the length of the lower control arm produces an unprecedented amount of articulation with no more than 1.5 degrees of caster change. A new driveshaft and replacement CV, as well as modifications to the factory exhaust crossover pipe, will be necessary. Contact: 318/388-0816, www.skyjacker.com
Race Car Dynamics makes a variety of Jeep suspensions, including the 3- to 4-inch suspension system for '87-'96 YJs shown here. The system includes progressive-rate leaf springs that are individually shot-peened and powdercoated for corrosion resistance. The system uses nylon anti-friction pads on all leaves, and open spring clamps to reduce friction and improve flex. Polyurethane bushings provide increased performance and long life. An integrated-degree shim is built into the rear spring for proper pinion angle. The kit also includes front and rear bumpstop relocation pads, extended sway-bar links, front and rear Panhard bar relocation brackets, and four custom-matched Bilstein 5100 series monotube gas shocks. Contact: 619/588-4723; www.racecardynamics.com
Explorer makes kits for the Grand Cherokee WJ and ZJ, Cherokee XJ, and several TJ variants, including the 4-inch Jeep TJ system shown here. The kit includes chrome-moly lower control arms with reverse hourglass urethane bushings. Spring rates are custom tailored to the application. Included is a transfer-case lowering kit. The 4-inch Stage 2 kit adds an adjustable front track bar with matching back bar. MX6 shocks are available for the optimum in handling. Contact: 619/216-1444, www.explorerprocomp.com
Rock Krawler Suspension's new system for Liberty KJ owners will fit 33-inch tires. The system features a unique, long upper A-arm that allows for increased wheel travel from the IFS frontend while minimizing camber changes. The KJ-7UP system includes coil-over shocks for the front and a flexible, durable triangulated four-link arrangement at the rear. Contact: 518/270-9822, www.rockkrawler.com
Currie manufactures the Johnny Joint Suspension system with heavy rear springs for the TJ Wrangler. The kit includes an Anti-Rock Swaybar with a heavier-rate rear spring for hardtop or heavy load applications. The anti-rock kit with aluminum arm option provides balanced performance of front and rear suspension for rugged off-pavement conditions. The aluminum arm is lightweight, adding traction by distributing weight over all four tires. The sway bar is made of SAE 4130 and is heat-treated. It incorporates Johnny Joint rod ends that supply 30 degrees of free movement. Bushings are of high-density urethane. The ball is heat-treated steel, and cross-drilled for through-bolt lubrication. The outer shell is 0.180-inch DOM tubing; retaining washers are heat-treated steel. Contact: 714/528-6957, www.currieenterprises.com
The new Full-Traction "Ultimate Jeep TJ 4" suspension provides adjustable four-link front axle mounting for a true and correct front axle caster curve throughout the entire range of linear axle travel. The rear axle is attached to an upper triangulated link bar using an unique bolt-on truss mount, and pivots on a high-misalignment, adjustable Heim joint. This eliminates the need for a rear-axle track bar. The result is substantial linear wheel travel and axle articulation, without binding caused by the rear track bar. The geometry of the rear triangulated link eliminates chassis "yaw" and adds to stability at freeway speeds. Components in this system use 1.5-inch by 0.188-wall DOM tubing for the lower control-arm assemblies for serious rock dragging, and 1/4-inch plate, laser-crafted brackets throughout. Grade 8 quality plated hardware provides corrosion resistance and long service life. It is said to be fully bolt-on, with no welding required. Contact: 661/398-9585, www.full-traction.com
Mountain Offroad Enterprises carries long-travel shock kits, body lifts, shackle systems, and other suspension pieces, available in kits or separately, for a wide variety of Jeeps. Shown is a bolt-on shackle reverse system that incorporates a "buggy spring" to act as a normal shackle mount in everyday driving situations. The springs are mounted so they can pull away from the frame to add as much as 2 inches of articulation. The system provides a 1-inch lift at the front by itself, or can be used with other aftermarket lifts up to 4 inches. Contact: 970/625-0500, www.mountainoffroad.com
Fabtech's 6-inch kit for TJs uses extended-length link arms that mount to a massive one-piece welded transfer-case crossmember that uses the stock transfer-case skidplate. The kit includes adjustable front and rear track bars, shock-mount relocation brackets, pitman arm, oversized sway-bar quick disconnect links, brake hoses, and performance coil springs. The 6-inch system will allow use of a 35x12.50R15 tire on a 15x8 wheel. Contact: 909/597-7800; www.fabtechmotorsports.com
Revtek makes Jeep and truck suspensions for 4x4s, 4x2s, and SUVs. The '00-'04 Jeep Liberty kit creates 2 inches of lift and allows up to 265/70R16 or 245/75R16 tires on a 16x8 wheel, and is said to work within the OEM suspension geometry. Average install time, according to the manufacturer, is under 2 hours, with no cutting or welding necessary. The kit is manufactured using aircraft-grade aluminum and specialty polyurethane.Contact: 877/543-8869; www.revtek.com
The Rubicon Express 5.5-inch Extreme Duty Long Arm kit is designed as a complete replacement suspension system for TJs. It maintains proper control arm and steering geometry for lifted TJs, improving the stability of the vehicle on- and off-pavement. The kit includes brake lines, adjustable track bar, coil springs, extended bumpstops, track bar, shock relocation mounts, upper and lower control arms, swaybar disconnects, and end links. Contact: 916/858-8575, www.rubiconexpress.com
The XJ 4-inch lift shown here accommodates 32x10.50 tires, or up to 33x12.50s with fender cutouts. The system includes new coil springs, lower link arms, rear add-a-leaves, and Superide shocks. Standard or Rockrunner lower links are available, depending on how the Jeep is to be used. (Use Standard links for a "budget build" and/or if your Jeep rarely sees off-pavement use; optional Rockrunner links increase articulation.) An adjustable front track bar aligns the body with the front axle. The kit also includes bar quick-disconnects, transfer-case lowering kit to correct driveshaft angles, and replacement rear springs. XJs equipped with the NP231 transfer case may benefit from installation of a fixed-yoke conversion kit and CV-type driveshaft. Contact: 800/551-4955, www.superlift.com
The redesigned 4-inch long-arm system incorporates the Tera heavy-duty modular end assemblies and 1.75-inch DOM arms. The control-arm bracketry allows for easy installation and access to the transfer case without disassembly of suspension components. Sway-bar disconnects and a steering-box skidplate complete the system. The kit is said to fit all Wrangler models including the Rubicon and Unlimited. For custom applications with high-pinion, high-performance axles (Dana 60, T60R, CRD60R, et al), a custom component system can be assembled for your needs. Contact: 801/288-2585; www.teraflx.com
BDS Suspension manufactures Jeep suspensions with a wide variety of applications. Shown is the BDS Ultimate 4.5-inch kit for TJs, which includes adjustable upper and lower control arms, front and rear; plus bumpstop extensions, front alignment cam bolts, front adjustable track bar, a bracket for relocating the rear track bar, front sway-bar disconnect links and rear extended links, rear adjustable track bar, and rear sway-bar disconnects. DOT-approved, Kevlar-lined stainless steel brake lines are included. Recommended accessories are the BDS coil springs, shocks, steering stabilizer, and slip-yoke eliminator. A slip-yoke eliminator kit and CV-style rear driveshaft are required; on the Rubicon model, skidplate modifications may be necessary. Contact: 517/279-8807, www.bds-suspension.com
The new Rock Krusher 3-inch suspension kit for Wranglers and Cherokee XJs is designed around Daystar's Progressive Polyurethane technology. Utilizing the stock coil springs, this system provides excellent ride and superior articulation on- and off-pavement. The kit includes front spacers, specially designed rear spacers with progressive helix (for TJs), front and rear lower control arms, track-bar mounts, extended screw-in bumpstops, transfer-case drop kit, add-a-leaves and shackles (XJ), quick disconnects, and all necessary hardware. Contact: 800/595-7659, www.daystarweb.com
Rancho's Jeep TJ Rubicon Suspension system is available without coil springs for the customer who wants to run at max GVW, but still wants to retain the original Rockcrawler system height. This allows for on-road/off-road performance regardless of load for highly accessorized vehicles like the Rubicon and Unlimited. The bolt-on system includes a heavy-duty front track bar with adjustable rod end, front and rear greasable lower suspension arms with double-cushion, high-articulation bushing design, heavy-duty quick-disconnect front sway-bar end links, rear track-bar relocation bracket, premium extended brake lines, transfer case/skidplate relocation mounts, and forged dropped pitman arm. Allows use of up to 35x12.50 tires. Contact: www.gorancho.com
Tuff Country makes suspension kits for YJs, CJs, XJs, and ZJs. Shown is the "EZ-Ride" YJ Wrangler kit, which is designed to provide 3.5 inches of lift in a reliable and durable package. The kit includes new leaf springs, U-bolts, transfer-case drop kit, sway-bar end links, track-bar relocating brackets, and brake-line relocating brackets and hardware. Contact: 801/280-2777, www.tuffcountry.com
Rough Country has suspension kits for a wide variety of Jeeps, including CJs, M38A1s, TJs, XJs, Comanche pickups, Wagoneers, J-trucks, Liberty KJs, and Grand Cherokee ZJs, among others. The 4-inch YJ kit shown here includes front and rear leaf springs, transfer-case drop kit, front and rear track-bar drop brackets, front sway-bar links, bumpstops, power-steering pitman arm, brake-line relocating brackets, four Heckethorn 8000-series shocks, U-bolts, and polyurethane bushings. Contact: 800/222-7023, www.roughcountry.com
At press time, was working on a revised line of Jeep and truck suspension products and a new Web site. Contact: 928/894-6631; www.tmsuspension.com
Carries a broad array of Jeep suspension products and components, also including complete 4-inch kits for TJ. Contact: 503/691-8915; www.warriorproducts.com
Sells body lift kits for a wide variety of trucks and Jeeps, and also complete Smooth Ride Suspension Systems for Jeeps. Contact: www.performanceaccessories.com
Rusty's Offroad Products
Sells a large selection of suspension kits and other accessories, including a number of kits for Jeep vehicles. Contact: 256/442-0607; www.rustysoffroad.com