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Old 02-21-2013, 03:42 PM   #1
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Lifting in steps.

Like many of you, my Jeep mods are typically on a budget. That means properly planning out mods is critical to avoid replacing things as I upgrade. With that in mind, I want to talk about lifts. I know there are hundreds of posts in regards to lifts, but I want to steer the conversation in a different direction, with a focus on upgrading down the line. In effort to further focus the discussion, I want to stick within the 2”—2.5” lift kits.

There’s a huge variety of lift options, but overall there are a solid few that are consistent in terms of quality and positive reviews, while giving you the ability to easily adapt most of the items to other kits later on, so I'm going to break this up into 3 price point sections. Each section will have pros/cons and the items that could be used later on.

Also, since the focus is on building up the kit and using the most number of parts, I’m just going to list kits that have items you could use later on. I’m aware that there are dozens of other options, but most of those are finalized sizes and no option for upgrading later on.

$100—$500


Teraflex Leveling kit: $130


Lift: 2" front 1" rear
wheel clearance: 33-34"
Pro: This is a simple spacer leveling kit. You retain your stock springs and shocks. This will allow you to run your stock wheels and does very little to the Jeep's suspension geometry.
Con: This kit will give you a lift in clearance but does not improve handling.
Upgrade Path: You might be able to retain the swaybar links, but the spacers will be useless. The links are not adjustable so that might limit your ability for use in certain kits.


Rock Krawler Budget Based L.T. System: $199


Lift: 1 3/4" front 3/4" rear
wheel clearance: 33"
Pro: This is also a simple spacer leveling kit. You retain your stock springs and shocks. This will allow you to run your stock wheels and does very little to the Jeep's suspension geometry.
Con: This kit will give you a lift in clearance but does not improve handling.
Upgrade Path: Similar to the Teraflex kit, you can keep the swaybar links but the spacers will be useless. The links in this kit are adjustable and can be used in most other lifts later on.


Rancho 2” RS66109BR9: $375


Lift: 2-2.5" front 2-2.5" rear
wheel clearance: 33-34"
Pro: This kit from Rancho steps things up by offering the legendary RS9000XL firmness adjustable shocks, new springs for the front and a spacer for the rear. By introducing new shocks and springs to the front, the Jeep’s handling is improved. You can still use your stock wheels and brake line extensions for the rear avoid the need to upgrade brake lines.
Con: This kit increases the suspension geometry a bit past 2” if your running stock bumpers. This will cause your axle to shift enough to possibly need a trackbar. Your swaybar will go a bit past parallel and require a set of slightly longer links. If you can find stock rears, you can minimize the expense.
Upgrade Path: The most attractive part about this kit are the shocks. They allow you to adjust the firmness of the ride and could be used in most upgraded kits later on. The shocks used in this kit are RS999326 (Front) and RS999330 (Rear). They are 25.75" Extended and 16" Collapsed, so you’ll have to check with your final kit company to see if they will work later on. That’s all that is retained from the kit. But if the shocks will work for you later on, typically they run $100/each so you would be within the expense down the road.



$500—$999


Rock Krawler Stock Mod: $549 (+$400 shocks)


Lift: 2.5–4.25" front 2-2.5–4.25" rear
wheel clearance: 33-37"
Pro: This kit introduces springs on all 4 corner (Progressive front and Linear for the rear), a trackbar for the front, trackbar bracket for the rear and new swaybar links, greatly improving the jeep’s handling.
Con: The kit’s price point is misleading, you need to take into account the need for new shocks as well (an additional cost of about $400) because they don’t provide shock extensions and specify the need to upgrade. In some cases you will also need front lower control arms to correct axle positioning and help with caster adjustment (an additional $295). RK is notorious for varying lift increases due to their choice of springs. Their advertised lift sizes take into account a fully loaded Jeep, with aftermarket bumpers and winch. Running on a Jeep with stock bumpers, the height can fluctuate as high as 4.25” in some cases. This could lead to the added expense of new brake lines ($100+) possibly drive shafts ($450+), also bump stops ($138+). You will also need spacers for your stock wheels ($200+) or aftermarket wheels with at least 4.5” backspacing. This elevates the risk of additional unforeseen expenses that go beyond its initial $549 price point.
Upgrade Path: The great part about this RK system is that everything can be used later on, including the shocks you will need to purchase.


Teraflex 2.5” lift kit: $730


Lift: 2.5–3" front 2.5-3" rear
wheel clearance: 33-35"
Pro: This kit introduces springs on all 4 corner, shocks, swaybar links, rear trackbar bracket and bumpstops. Overall it’s a somewhat complete kit.
Con: The springs used in the kit are all linear and could lead to sagging later on. Linear springs are also on the lower end of handling performance and don’t offer that much of an improvement in handling. The kit doesn’t provide an adjustable front trackbar that will be needed if you’re your running stock bumpers. You might also need control arms to correct caster and pinion angles.
Upgrade Path: The shocks in this system are the same in their higher end kits. Everything else is tossed if you start looking to go with a bigger lift. If you want to retain the same height but just improve the handling, you can keep all the components and just add things like trackbar and control arms building the system out that way.


AEV Dualsport XT 2.5”: $899


Lift: 2.5–3.5" front 2.5-3.5" rear
wheel clearance: 33-35"
Pro: AEV offers progressive springs for all 4 corners. The kit also comes with properly matched Bilstein shocks and offers a huge improvement in handling.
Con: The kit doesn’t offer control arms to correct axle position and caster angle, they offer geometry correction brackets (+$100) to re-use your stock lower control arms and correct the axle positioning and caster, but this reduces critical ground clearance by positioning the control arms 3” lower. It also does not offer new swaybar links, rather just brackets to use your stock links with.
Upgrade Path: If your sticking with the height, then you can retain mostly everything in the kit and just add control arms, rear trackbar and swaybar links.


Metal Cloak unlimited dual-rate 2.5”: $899


Lift: 2.5–3.5" front 2.5-3.5" rear
wheel clearance: 33-35"
Pro: This kit comes with “Dual-Rate” coil springs for all 4 corners. It also gives you the ability of using your stock shocks through the use of shock extensions. It also comes with Upper front control arms to correct caster and pinion angles. Swaybar links, Extended brake lines and bump stops. This is a great entry level option that offers incredible handling and at a minimum cost
Con: Its only available for 4-doors. This is really disappointing because it leaves a significant amount of owners out of the entry level segment. In talk with Metal Cloak, they are considering a 2-door option but for the moment this is exclusive for just 4-door models. Metal Cloak admits that the lift will be 3.5” on Jeeps running stock bumpers. At that lift increase a trackbar for the front and bracket for the rear is critical in order to re-center the axles.
Upgrade Path: If your sticking with the height, then you can retain everything in the kit and just add aftermarket shocks later along with trackbars and control arms. If you’re upgrading the height, the only elements that can be transferred are the control arms, brake lines and bump stops.


Rock Krawler 2.5” Flex System: $969 (+$400 shocks)


Lift: 2.5–3.5" front 2.5-3.5" rear
wheel clearance: 33-35"
Pro: This kit builds up from the stock mod kit and adds front lower control arms which is critical for axle positioning and adjusting caster. You also get front brake lines, which are the same length as stock but provide the advantage of a braided lines.
Con: I debated about adding this kit to the sub $1k list because its misleading. Like their stock mod kit, you’ll need to purchase shocks.
Upgrade Path: If your sticking with the height, then you can retain everything in the kit and start adding additional control arms and a rear trackbar.


$1,000—$1,700


Rock Krawler 2.5” Max Travel: $1,349 (+$400 shocks)


Lift: 2.5–3.5" front 2.5-3.5" rear
wheel clearance: 33-35"
Pro: This kit builds up from the flex system and adds rear lower control arms, rear swaybar links and rear brake lines.
Con: Like their other lifts, you’ll need to purchase shocks, an additional $400 expense pricing this kit into the $1,700+ range.
Upgrade Path: If your sticking with the height, then you can retain everything in the kit and add upper control arms and rear trackbar.


Metal Cloak 2.5”/3.5” ARB Edition: $1,599


Lift: 2.5–4.5" front 2.5-4.5" rear
wheel clearance: 33-37"
Pro: This kit offers dual-rate springs for all 4 corners, OME nitro sport shocks, front upper control arms, front trackbar, rear trackbar bracket, sway bar links, bump stops and longer brake lines. For 4-door models no price difference with either the 2.5” or 3.5” lift. Metal Cloak also offers the same kit without shocks for $1,199 which gives you the ability to upgrade to this kit from a lower level one that included shocks
Con: 2-door models are only offered 3.5” lift, which results in a 4.5” if you are running stock bumpers. At that height the drive shafts will need to be replaced also.
Upgrade Path: If your sticking with the height, then you can retain everything in the kit and add additional control arms and a rear trackbar.


AEV 3.5” Dual Sport SC: $1,674


Lift: 3.5" front 3.5" rear
wheel clearance: 33-37"
Pro: This kit offers mostly everything needed for a well-rounded lift, in addition to their 2.5” system, the kit includes a bilstein steering stabilizer, high-steer drag link, and geometry correction brackets, swaybar links, procal and jackbase.
Con: The kit does not include control arms and the front trackbar is not adjustable.
Upgrade Path: If your sticking with the height, then you can retain everything in the kit and add adjustable control arms and trackbars.

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Old 02-21-2013, 05:28 PM   #2
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OK, I'll ask the first question.

For a modest lift, the rancho $375 kit appears to be a good bang for the buck but will require new sway bar links & longer brake lines.

What do you mean by "If you can find stock rears"? Do you mean to put stock front links in the back??? Stock rear links in the front???

Will the JKS quick discos work to set the sway bar parallel.

The coils look like they are linear correct?

Is there an affect on the pinon angle: are adjustable LCA's required / desired.

Nice thread.

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Old 02-21-2013, 05:59 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enjerhoo
OK, I'll ask the first question.

For a modest lift, the rancho $375 kit appears to be a good bang for the buck but will require new sway bar links & longer brake lines.

1. What do you mean by "If you can find stock rears"? Do you mean to put stock front links in the back??? Stock rear links in the front???

2. Will the JKS quick discos work to set the sway bar parallel.

3. The coils look like they are linear correct?

4. Is there an affect on the pinon angle: are adjustable LCA's required / desired.

Nice thread.
Good questions, here are a couple of answers for you

1. The rear sway bar links are longer than the front. Some guys swap the links from the rear to the front and some kits require this step. Picking up used rear links is sometimes the cheapest option if you can find someone willing to part their old suspension.

2. The JKS links will work fine but are a bit overpriced. Metal Cloak sells adjustable quick disconnects like the JKS for a lot less ($69)
http://www.metalcloak.com/JK-Sway-Ba...-25-p/7014.htm

3. Yes, the rancho coils are linear just like the factory ones.

4. There is minimal affect on the pinion angle with the rancho kit. Not enough to warrant LCA. you can certainly add them to the rancho kit and slowly build it up.

I like the Rancho kit a lot. I feel it's the best sub $500 option simply because of the shock. It's the option with minimal loss as you progress because of the price point. At $375 it's within the same price you would spend for a set of Bilstein and less than a set of Fox. And it allows you to run a lift as you slowly build it up.

Personally I would build the system out in the following steps
1. Rancho kit
2. Sway bar links
3. MC control arms
4. MC front track bar and rear bracket
5. Brake lines
6. Springs and bump stops

Building it out this way minimizes the affect on the suspension geometry, until your last step of adding springs. You'll slowly be fine tuning the system. In the end the only part that will be left over from the Rancho kit will be the two front springs and rear spacer, which you could consider as free items for the price you paid on the shocks.
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:07 PM   #4
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Dang brother... Well done.

Edit: forget that.

Sticky area ?
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:15 PM   #5
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Adding another twist: 100 lb bumpers front & rear. No winch yet but it is in the stars so another 100++ lbs up front.

Are the trackbar & rear bracket still necessary since there will be some more spring collapse from what stock load would be?
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matador View Post
Like many of you, my Jeep mods are typically on a budget. That means properly planning out mods is critical to avoid replacing things as I upgrade. With that in mind, I want to talk about lifts. I know there are hundreds of posts in regards to lifts, but I want to steer the conversation in a different direction, with a focus on upgrading down the line.
Nice job, Matador.
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:28 PM   #7
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^^^^ agreed.

not only subscribed but bookmarked in browser favorites
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:43 PM   #8
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Bravo mate.

Job well done on this thread that will most definitely get placed in my tool pouch as a suggestion for the n00bs.


I second Ken's sticky nomination. You gots the powah brother.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:36 PM   #9
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Thank you Matador! I was debating between the AEV and Metal Cloak for when I get my new 4 door but after reading this I'll mostly likely go with Metal Cloak. Thanks for putting the work in!
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:48 PM   #10
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Thanks guys. I was looking to put all my thoughts down in hopes of developing a clear plan for myself. Along the way, I thought someone else could benefit from my compulsive obsession.


Quote:
Originally Posted by enjerhoo View Post
Adding another twist: 100 lb bumpers front & rear. No winch yet but it is in the stars so another 100++ lbs up front.

Are the trackbar & rear bracket still necessary since there will be some more spring collapse from what stock load would be?
If your asking about adding bumpers to a stock Jeep, no you don't need a track bar to correct anything. Initially the drop will be minimal. Over time your springs will start to sag and you'll start to have some issues.

If your asking about adding those bumpers to one of the options i listed, the good news is that most of these companies are starting with the assumption that your running aftermarket bumpers. So the lift amounts advertised are generally spot on if you do have aftermarket bumpers. In my description I give general ranges for each option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SullyRock71 View Post
Thank you Matador! I was debating between the AEV and Metal Cloak for when I get my new 4 door but after reading this I'll mostly likely go with Metal Cloak. Thanks for putting the work in!
Not a problem. The AEV kit is a good kit but I feel limited in terms of expansion. I feel it's better suited for onroad or overland use. Not so much for offroading. It can do it but its not in the same level as RK or Metal Cloak. The lack of control arms and adjustable track bar hurt the ability to properly articulate. Metal Cloak is the new kid and comes with a bunch of new ideas that I think are really well thought out. You should be in good shape.
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:04 PM   #11
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Lou is the man, that is all.

I'm proud to say he'll be helping me lift my Jeep in a few weeks
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:10 PM   #12
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Thank god. Now we don't need to do this via text Lou
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:21 PM   #13
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it pisses me off that Lou's Jeep is still at stock height..
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:38 PM   #14
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Old 02-22-2013, 03:15 AM   #15
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Nice write-up. Ugh I'm a bit nervous about how much lift I'm going to end up with out of my Metal Cloak 2.5" since the only extra weight I have is the Ace sliders. Though I think I got the upper end of the factory spring stiffness so I may not have as much of an increase over what I have now compared to someone with the really soft springs. I actually debated for a minute whether to stuff a couple bags of concrete mix under the back seats to simulate the added weight of a couple of 90lb bumpers lol.
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Old 02-22-2013, 03:50 AM   #16
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Thanks Matador. I now have a clearer view of what I am looking for.
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Old 02-22-2013, 05:15 AM   #17
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Great post Matador. As I am a new JK owner, I have been jumping between posts doing research on lift kits. Having all of this in one place is a huge help.

I really like the look of that MC 2.5" kit...
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Old 02-22-2013, 06:04 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyinion
Nice write-up. Ugh I'm a bit nervous about how much lift I'm going to end up with out of my Metal Cloak 2.5" since the only extra weight I have is the Ace sliders. Though I think I got the upper end of the factory spring stiffness so I may not have as much of an increase over what I have now compared to someone with the really soft springs. I actually debated for a minute whether to stuff a couple bags of concrete mix under the back seats to simulate the added weight of a couple of 90lb bumpers lol.
Why not Teraflex with the extensions ?
Upgrade shocks later.

I don't totally agree with "linear" springs sagging. There's more to it then progressive/linear ie rating/coils/thinkness/etc.

I like the Teraflex for a beginner because its all there. The coils are 2/4 door specific.
I would probably add a front track bar but at 2.5 is not that important. Plenty of folks running the TF lift w/o LCA's.
Bumpstops/shocks or extensions/brake line ext./ sway bar links.

This is from my own experiences. Very good customer service.

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Old 02-22-2013, 07:49 AM   #19
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........Over time your springs will start to sag and you'll start to have some issues........
Any spring, including aftermarket, will compress when enough weight is added.
Some will compress more than others. But unless you gave testing to back up this claim, it is pure speculation.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:10 AM   #20
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Nice write-up. Ugh I'm a bit nervous about how much lift I'm going to end up with out of my Metal Cloak 2.5" since the only extra weight I have is the Ace sliders. Though I think I got the upper end of the factory spring stiffness so I may not have as much of an increase over what I have now compared to someone with the really soft springs. I actually debated for a minute whether to stuff a couple bags of concrete mix under the back seats to simulate the added weight of a couple of 90lb bumpers lol.
Metal Cloak estimates an additional 1" if you don't have aftermarket bumpers or winch. The majority of these systems plan their height estimates around a somewhat loaded Jeep.

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Any spring, including aftermarket, will compress when enough weight is added.
Some will compress more than others. But unless you gave testing to back up this claim, it is pure speculation.
True all springs will compress when weight is added, depending on the spring technology and quality, you will have different results in terms of how they react to that weight. Lets take a Jeep loaded to gills, aftermarket bumpers, winch, armor etc., a good couple of hundred pounds of constant weight. Now, lets look at how each spring technology deals with that weight.

Linear springs will distribute the weight through all of its coils evenly, this is fine if its a higher end spring with a high enough rate to sustain the extra weight, but a higher spring rate results in a stiffer spring. Factory linear springs aren't designed with that extra weight in mind, they are designed to balance the factory weight with ride comfort. So what you have is a substantial amount of constant weight that it wasn't designed to deal with, overtime the springs start to deteriorate and lose the ability to rebound as quickly and eventually sag.

Progressive springs are slightly better, offering the advantage of two different spring rates fused into one coil. The top portion is softer and allows the Jeep to settle in better for everyday driving, the weight is still being transferred throughout the spring but the bottom portion with stiffer coils come more into play as the driving gets more agressive. The coils will collapse within each other and under more compression the ring of coils gets bigger and firmer. The only negative thing about cheap progressive coils is that the majority of the stress is placed on the bottom couple of coils. These bottom coils take a beating and eventually also deteriorate and you start to sag.

Dual rate are like two totally separate springs. Similar to the progressive, the top coils are softer and designed to take on most of the weight and everyday driving, offering a soft controlled ride. The difference being, the weight isn't distributed throughout the entire spring length. Imagine that the top coils compress into each other and react independently from the bottom, when fully compressed they form another "Virtual" spring perch, allowing the bottom (Stiffer) portion to come into affect separately. Metal Cloak has a great image illustrating this...


I hope that helps explain the difference between spring technology.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:15 AM   #21
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Lou is the man, that is all.

I'm proud to say he'll be helping me lift my Jeep in a few weeks
Thanks Mike, I look forward to the install.

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Originally Posted by kurtz265 View Post
Thank god. Now we don't need to do this via text Lou
I'm still waiting for that spreadsheet

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Originally Posted by ilikeguns View Post
it pisses me off that Lou's Jeep is still at stock height..
All good things come to those who wait. I have been lucky enough to install a variety of lifts and see first hand what each option has to offer. The next question is, when are we doing your lift? The Mud runner needs a bit more clearance.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:26 AM   #22
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I will add that if all you want to do is level your Jeep, you can do it for less than $75 bucks. I purchased the Daystar 3/4" spacer kit for $39.95. Then I purchased two factory isolators for the front coils from my dealership for about $20 bucks. So I've got $60ish invested.

I stacked the spacers in the front in this order: OE spacer--->Daystar spacer--->OE spacer. This has worked GREAT for 12,000 miles with zero issues. I got 1.5" of lift in the front.

Then I just used the Daystar spacer addition in the rear for 0.75".

Now my JKU sits perfectly level for $60 bucks. Screw those expensive kits.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:31 AM   #23
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Nice write-up.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:31 AM   #24
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Soooo...if I get a 2.5 inch lift.....will I NEED to get longer sway bar links? I've been told I should be ok without them from a 4x4 shop. ??????? Also....is the rear trackbar bracket NEEDED? Thanks in advance
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:40 AM   #25
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Nicely done Matador

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Old 02-22-2013, 09:57 AM   #26
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My Jeep is a daily driver, but would love to lift a little. What are the chances that you will experience death wobble in a Jeep with the Teraflex leveling kit? How about the Teraflex 2.5 inch kit? I want to do a small lift because this is how I get to work every day and secondly I don't want hassles with my warranty.

Thanks for posting the article and thanks for any replies to my question.

Paul
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:08 AM   #27
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Matador,

Is there a reason why you left off OME? Just curious of your comments on this one:

Old Man Emu 2" Suspension Systems for 07-12 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited JK 4 Door - Quadratec
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:11 AM   #28
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I'm a fan of the OME equipment. We put OME springs on my dad's TJ and they're great.

You don't find them on JKs as much, but I classify them as a quality manufacturer on par with TF and RK.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:23 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melor
My Jeep is a daily driver, but would love to lift a little. What are the chances that you will experience death wobble in a Jeep with the Teraflex leveling kit? How about the Teraflex 2.5 inch kit? I want to do a small lift because this is how I get to work every day and secondly I don't want hassles with my warranty.

Thanks for posting the article and thanks for any replies to my question.

Paul
Death wobble has little to do with height. Yes it may cause contributing factors ie alignment/steering angles/wear on parts.

Just make sure the bolts-specifically front track bar--are torqued to the proper specs.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:27 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 00TJSport View Post
Soooo...if I get a 2.5 inch lift.....will I NEED to get longer sway bar links? I've been told I should be ok without them from a 4x4 shop. ??????? Also....is the rear trackbar bracket NEEDED? Thanks in advance
If you have a 2004, you're posting in the wrong section for this question. You need to ask this in the TJ section (here).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melor View Post
My Jeep is a daily driver, but would love to lift a little. What are the chances that you will experience death wobble in a Jeep with the Teraflex leveling kit? How about the Teraflex 2.5 inch kit? I want to do a small lift because this is how I get to work every day and secondly I don't want hassles with my warranty.

Thanks for posting the article and thanks for any replies to my question.

Paul
Have you read the JK section sticky on Death Wobble (here)?

If you do, you'll realize that--unless you're installing an inferior trackbar--the brand of kit basically has nothing to do with DW. DW is almost always trackbar related, usually affecting or originating with loose or worn bolts or bolt holes on the axle side mount for the trackbar. Whether you have loose or worn parts isn't related to whether you're installing a TeraFlex kit, an AEV kit, a MetalCloak kit, etc.

The warranty impacts of modifications are simple to understand. The jeep as it comes from the factory is covered by the factory warranty. Anything you change is no longer covered, and anything damaged by what you change is no longer covered. The rest of the components (i.e., the original components that are not damaged by any of your changes) remain covered.

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