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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This thread will show the evolution of my 2009 JKR. I have put a lot of hard work and thought into this JK. It is my favorite Jeep I have owned even though it is slow. I have made some mistakes and/or changes over the 12 years I have owned it. In no particular order I will try to document some of the things I have done along the way.


Oldest picture I can find, back in November 2009.
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First set of major mods; 35s, Bushwacker flat flares, Poison Spyder rocker guards and BFH front bumper, Rock Hard 4x4 rear bumper and tire carrier, and small lift in 2012.
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Finally on 37s with 2.5" lift, 2017
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37s on factory wheels with Tera44 housing, 3.5" lift and Metalcloak Overline flares and 6Pak shocks, Motobilt frame chop bumper, Smittybilt hinged tire carrier. 2019
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Finished with complete redesign of rear suspension with 1.5"-2" rear stretch and wheels with greater backspacing. April 2021
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The redesign of the rear suspension will be my first write-up and the biggest major mod I did that didn't come in a kit.
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
After breaking the UCA mount on the rear axle because I was already playing around with the bracket, it was time to proceed with this project. We had fun on Holy Cross trail but broke going through French creek and decided that was a good time to turn around and call it a day. We drove home on a factory 3-link suspension.

I was initially working out the details. I cut and therefore weakened the UCA mount as I was fitting a bracket over the flimsy factory bracket. I was checking for clearance to decide on feasibility of this mod. It doesn't appear the upper mount will interfere with the frame rail during normal flex but I did recently remove the rear sway bar and increased the articulation in the rear. Removing the rear sway bar gave me a lot more articulation which caused 2 problems; Driveshaft now contacting gas tank skid plate, and need to find better mounting position of 13" 6Pak shock. Consequently, I lowered the rear upper shock mounts another 1".

Before the break, I wanted to make sure the height of the new UCA bracket wouldn't hit the frame rail.
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This is after the break, We drove it gently like this for a few weeks.
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My partner had a lot of fun driving most of Holy Cross trail picking her own lines.
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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
This project took me 10x longer than I had expected.

Things I learned and accomplished:
1. A relatively short arm 5-link suspension is difficult to to design/build that doesn't create link bind.
....A) Don't just articulate axle in a linear fashion when testing mounting locations, this won't necessarily show binding caused when fully articulating an axle on only 1 side.
....B) This suspension linkage was built around MetalCloak bushings which are forgiving; My suspension may not work with unforgiving heim joints and hasn't been tested with heim joints.

2. I honestly don't know my anti-squat and suspension numbers before (lifted stock) or after (newly relocated brackets) I did play with 4-link calculator but my knowledge is weak.

3. It feels good and I doubt that I made it worse than before; although, enough time passed that I can't say I remember how it felt beforehand.
....A) I'm sure a professional or someone more experienced could have done a better job than me.

4. I improved rear roll steer and increased my rear articulation. I need to find a better driveshaft (Probably 1410) due to the extreme operating angles of a 2 Door.
....A) A 4 door may not have the same driveshaft issue that I'm experiencing.
....B) I need a center limit strap to protect driveshaft while still allowing full articulation at the tires.

5. This may not work as well with a 35" tires but I suspect there would still be enough room for articulation except in the most extreme situations.

6. With my increased articulation, I am sure I will accelerate the wear of my MetalCloak joints and any other brand of quality rebuildable joints. I accept that as a compromise to my preference of a smooth and quiet ride. I have no desire to go to heim joints.

7. I have now created a problem where I can unseat my coil springs front and rear based on the near optimal position of my 6Pak shocks.
....A) I have some ideas and been in discussion with others that I will pursue over the next decade of ownership. No coilovers for me! 😁

8. I have greatly improved ground clearance at the rear axle while only losing .75"-1" clearance at the frame LCA bracket.
....A) Based on my current axle brackets, I don't see how a typical long arm would allow for my uptravel without contacting body mounts or more significantly reducing my frame side ground clearance.
....B) At this time I have no interest in relocating my gas tank and going with a properly setup 4-link or 3-link.

9. I have enjoyed the learning experience and I would recommend others look into alternative solutions. But be honest with your intentions and make your decisions based on the characteristics that are most important to you and not others.
....A) I like a quiet and easily drivable Jeep. I prefer easy and predictable maintenance. I can substitute a crappy stock shock in a worst case scenario.
....B) This Jeep will not be on 40s and I'll probably never do an LS swap. The next tire size may progress to a true 37" tire but I still have at least 20K miles on this set of tires.
....C) I enjoy the characteristics of the MetalCloak springs matched with the 6pak shocks. I have my own charging kit and understand the required maintenance of this style shock.
........1. I didn't want to cut into to the body for a longer shock. I enjoy the packaging of the 6Pak shock.
........2. These shocks, for me, are better than typical shocks included with the majority of the kits. They don't compare to race shocks or custom tune/valved shocks.
........3. I enjoy a spirited drive on dirt roads and moderate trails but I have no interest in getting air. Sadly, 95% of my miles are on paved road.
....D) I don't trailer my Jeep and I doubt that I will ever be in the position where I will want to trailer it.

10. 6Pak shocks are great for me but they require alternate mounting locations even when following MetalCloak recommendations. If you aren't utilizing the 13"-15" of travel, there is more than likely a traditional shock that will work for you.

11. Long-arm kits will not necessarily get you more articulation than a properly set up regular-arm suspension. The long-arm may offer smoother ride or better suspension numbers if done correctly. Don't assume that a long-arm kit is the best solution for your intended use of the vehicle.

12. My welding is not the best but so far it seems functional.😬

13. I have enjoyed what I have learned and I will continue to improve my Jeep to the best of my skills and knowledge.

14. I am open to discussion both good and bad but may not always follow it. 😉


After breaking things, I started ordering parts in August 2020. I was going to combine parts from Teraflex, Artec, RuffStuff, and Barnes 4wd, and wide open designs. I still haven't added truss as that will go on when I finally install my Teraflex 8-lug full float kit and new 8 lug beadlock wheels. I hope that will happen late this year or before 2022 wheeling season.


I ended up using the Teraflex track bar bracket because it was one of the few that raised the track bar 6" like an early Metalcloak bracket. This combo has worked well and allows for maximum uptravel while still allowing for an exhaust pipe and a relocated Evap canister. I did have minor contact with the frame crossmember and axle track bar bracket in the most extreme articulation when I was at 2.5" lift. I used this time to rotate the new Teraflex bracket to a better location after rotating the axle for pinion angle. I also did grind a little on the upper frame crossmember to make sure I have room for error. The Teraflex UCA bracket is good quality and offers 2" of additional height over factory. But I wanted even more height so I went with a RuffStuff bracket that offers 3" over factory height and 2.65" bushing width instead of 2 5/16" bushing. The wider bushing was a spare MC bushing I had from the rear LCA. It swaps easily between the joint housings with a pair of snap-ring pliers.
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This bracket worked well but due to the extra width and height and not specific to rear UCA mount of a JK, it did require more work. I had to grind the back of the bracket to give room for the rubber bushing to fully articulate. This mod wouldn't have been necessary for heim joints and something that the Teraflex bracket took into consideration. It needed grinding on the base to make it fit the axle bearing retainer flange. I will eventually add the lower reinforcement bracket after some mods that will come with the Full-float kit and axle truss. I also had to come up with a counter-sunk M14x1.5 100mm bolt so that the bolt head didn't dig into the frame or hard brake line at the limit of articulation. I am happy I went with this bracket for me;but, it would be easier to use the Teraflex bracket at the cost of some axle clearance to maintain the proper amount of joint separation.
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This is the RuffStuff bracket installed and tested on trail. It is hard to see but the upper bolt is counter-sunk into the bracket with an additional washer.
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Showing what I needed to grind on the bracket to allow the rubber bushing to flex and my first discovery of link bind during articulation. This bind was due to me increasing the joint separation based on the idea that I wanted to minimize axle wrap. Reducing the extra joint separation at the axle gave me more ground clearance than originally planned. This is when I realized my project was going to take way longer than anticipated and be more involved.
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This is when I started to realize I needed to come up with a better UCA bolt solution.
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Experimenting with a spare bracket, this was the solution for the bolt. I ended up using countersunk bolts in track bar which I will show later in this thread.
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
An additional note on the UCA bracket.

Based on the choice of bracket, rotated pinion angle, and minor rear stretch, the UCA length is now approximately 21" as compared to a factory length of 17 7/16" and sits at approximately 3 degrees. I was no longer able to use the Metalcloak upper control arm so I swapped to using the straight MetalCloak rear lower control arms. This works well for me and I just swapped the frame bushing as the upper mount requires a narrow bushing. I'm currently running 2.75" Backspacing based on the wheels and spacers. I hope to be able to get that down to the 3.25"-3.5" range when I change wheels.

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A good picture of the bracket trimming to allow the flex of the rubber bushing and the improved clearance of a countersunk bolt.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So now onto the LCA brackets.

I discovered that I needed to maintain roughly 9" of joint separation at the axle with only a small margin of variance before I ran into link bind even with the rubber/flexible Metalcloak joints. This worked well because It was close to the 25% of tire diameter rule. It also positioned the axle side lower control arm mount below the axle centerline and almost flush with the bottom of the axle tube. I looked into a couple different axle mounts and decided on the RuffStuff angled brackets because they offered the closest spacing to the axle. This allowed me to get more length in the LCA without moving too far forward on the frame. I wish I could have been closer to the original factory frame mount but I didn't want to go shorter than a factory length LCA. It is possible this could have netted me better suspension geometry but only someone with more experience than me would be able to respond to that. I could tell that if I could have raised the frame side LCA mount the 4-link calculator was trending in a favorable direction to the best of my limited knowledge. I couldn't tell if improving rear squat numbers at the cost of shorter control arms was worth the trade off. I would enjoy having a conversation about this. I selected the current position based on being able to use a factory or near factory length front LCA in case of repairs. I feel that I got the bolt hole as close to the frame while still allowing full flex/articulation of the MC Duraflex joint. Again it is possible that a heim or smaller bodied joint may have allowed a little more room to move up the bolt hole. The final reason was that I was concerned with the control arm contacting the frame during full uptravel. Without knowing any better, I am happy with the LCA position. I also like the fact that at least the frame LCA mount is level with the gas tank skid. The current LCA measures 22 5/8" which is length of factory front LCA as compared to the orginal length of 19 3/4".

Summary of decision for bracket locations:
1. I am able to use relatively common adjustable aftermarket front and rear LCA in case of damage/failure.
2. Maintained close to 25% of tire diameter to axle joint separation.
3.LCA mounts are no lower than gas tank skid and almost level with bottom of axle tube.
4. I didn't seriously compromise frame bracket clearance.
5. Greatly increased bottom of axle clearance. Some of this gain would be lost if I wasn't using MC 6Pak shocks.
6. By reducing the angle of the control arms and increasing the length I was able to significantly improve the problem of rear roll steer. With some additional trimming, I no longer have contact with gas tank skid plate.
7. Unintentional gain of wheelbase to approximately 97" which I see as a minor improvement. I hope to eventually achieve a wheelbase close to 100" if I can do a small front stretch to my satisfaction.
8. Although not drastic it does seem to absorb bumps better and feels good on the street.
9. I haven't noticed any loss of off roading and it appears to climb obstacles similar to before. I have already noticed the improved ground clearance at the axle.


This is what I hope is enough space to allow full flex and compression of the MC Duraflex joint. So far it seems good.
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I chose to go with Barnes 4wd JK LCA mount with some trimming to fit in new location forward on frame.
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Some trimming of the brackets.
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Testing various locations.This was not the final location.
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The final LCA location.


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The LCA is 22 5/8" long and angled approximately 4 degrees
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Track bar, bump stop pad, and coil spring write up.

The track bar also required some consideration during this build. I really enjoyed the feel of the 6" raise track bar bracket and I wanted to retain that height even though it had slight contact with a frame crossmember and an earlier configuration of the exhaust. I like the Metalcloak track bar as it seems to clear everything during articulation while being one of the highest ones. In fact they later reduced the height of their bracket to a more common 5" height. I chose the Teraflex track bar bracket as it is beefy and one of the few that offers 6" raised height while also being a stand alone complete bracket. I did trim the track bar bracket as I will eventually be installing the Artec Apex truss. There is still plenty of strength in this bracket and I probably didn't need to trim it this much but I will find out later. Originally MC used a countersunk bolt on the axle side of their track bar bracket to provide clearance to the 6Pak shocks. I decided to continue this trend even though I did relocate the shocks further back and rotated the bracket related to increased pinion angle. I have plenty of room on the driver's side but I believe I will try to improve on my shock position so I want to leave as much room as possible.

The frame side track bar area required some additional work as I was running into clearance between shock, Synergy track bar bracket brace, and factory located bump stop pad. The Synergy brace added thickness and a longer bolt in an area that didn't have a lot of room to start when you compressed the suspension on the passenger's side. It also did help that I now had a mini-stretch making matters worse. Moving the shocks back both at the axle location gave me the extra room that the shock needed in regards to the nut on the rear of the frame track bar bracket. I was still having problems with the bolt head on the front of the bracket contacting the axle tube/bump stop pad area. I carefully cut the top of the bump stop pads off and rotated them 180 degrees and shifted them as far forward as possible and this helped. The final step was to use the countersink bit to ream the track bar bracket and brace to allow a flush countersunk bolt. By doing these 3 things I got the room I needed without having to redo the factory track bar bracket on the frame. This also position the bump stops in a better location. Not necessarily related to the track bar but I also moved the springs forward using Artec Lower spring perches. A long time ago I had relocated and rewelded the factor spring pads to reduce the coil bend that is exaggerated on lifted 2 doors.

New position of spring pads and bump stop pads.
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Early position of shock clearance issue with frame track bar bracket.
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Getting closer to final solution.
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Ugly shock mounts but final solution with countersunk bolt
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It is blocked by the shock but at this point the axle track bar bracket contacted the crossmember. It was minor but I want to leave some wiggle room so I clearanced the crossmember.
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Crossmember clearance in case it is needed.
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
MetalCloak 6Pak shock write-up.

I really like these shocks but they are not for everyone. They are a high quality rebuildable shock that have some very unique features that may or may not be useful for some people. I usually check and top off the Nitrogen charge once a year at the recommended 150psi.

Pros:
13" or 15" travel depending on shock.
Most compact shock based on stroke
4 shafts make it stronger than many "typical" shocks
Shaft speed is half a normal shock for same travel so should be resistant to fade compared to "typical" shock.
rebuild price is reasonable at $75 normal rebuild and $150 if damaged.
I have heard there can be some minor revalving done when sent for rebuild (haven't done it myself)
Can be used in other applications if you know what you are doing
Price is fair if you like the features and the way they feel.
Don't have to cut holes in frame or body to get long travel shocks.
Due to short collapsed length they have the potential to offer increased ground clearance compared to traditional shocks.
Even when damaged, they may still work in a limited capacity.

Cons:
Can be expensive if comparing traditional shocks.
Require annual check/recharge to 150psi of Nitrogen (some tuneable shock may require something similar)
Generally don't offer adjustments or valving choices. (???possible options when rebuilt???)
Most likely won't perform compared to similar priced custom valved/tuned shocks or racing shocks.
Application specific if following recommendations
Require rebuilding roughly 1-3 years depending on usage (this is similar to most high end tunable shocks).
Sensitive to orientation if custom mounting.
Are specifically meant to run with MetalCloak springs.
In JK application if bolting in stock position and not running overline flares and 35" tires you may not be maximizing potential travel.
Shock body is larger and may require more planning when installing.


If you do maximize the travel of these shocks, it can cause other issues;
Accelerated wear of suspension joints/bushings.
Need for better suspension geometry at the extremes of articulation (Increased roll steer)
Can cause additional clearance issues based on uptravel, droop, or cross articulation.
Increased chance of dropping or unseating a coil spring.
May need longer sway bar links, brake lines, sensor cables, hoses, etc.
May need different driveshafts


I originally designed the rear suspension around my 13" travel shocks but along the way I acquired a set of 15" travel shocks. The 15"s are currently installed while I have the 13"s boxed up to send in for a rebuild. The rears have taken a lot of abuse and I accidently blew a seal when I put them into a bind position while testing articulation The problem was corrected but the seal was already blown. The current position of the 15" travel shocks isn't optimal at the moment and could be improved just by adding spacers to the upper mount. I'm too lazy to optimize the 15" shocks as I just want to wheel and not kill my new driveshaft.

When I did the suspension work these shocks suited me well as I am able to run a 13" or 15" stroke rear shock (I have 2 sets) while not compromising ground clearance and not cutting holes in frame or body. I already had Synergy long travel upper shock mounts from when I had traditional style shocks. The addition of these brackets allowed me to run either 13" or 15" travel shocks without being more than 1" below the axle tube. I am sure that I could probably even increase the ground clearance by 1"-2" depending on chosen shock if I completely redesigned both upper and lower shock mounts not following factory constraints. My main problem at this moment is the limitation of my current 2 door 1350 driveshaft. My current driveshaft can't handle full droop from either shock. However, with a center mounted limited strap I could protect the driveshaft while still allowing independent articulation at the wheels. I haven't figured out how much droop/articulation I would gain by going with a 1410 or better driveshaft. I'm not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze.

It was difficult finding the best position during my mods but I also would have ran into similar issues if I had a traditional shock and was trying to maximize ground clearance. I feel I probably would have only been able to get away with a compact 10" travel shock if I wanted to maintain same current ground clearance. I will admit that it would have made some of this project a lot easier and I wouldn't have been so concerned with many aspects.

My lower mounts are ugly and I questioned the integrity of them long term, particularly if I drive fast on some forest roads. I also am trying to figure out a nice skid plate for extra protection. Luckily I haven't damaged them off road since they are already higher than stock but now I am trying harder stuff and I am increasing the risk of hitting them even in their higher location. The upper heim style mount and the combo of Synergy bracket gives me 2 different and easily adjustable mount locations. I can easily alter height of the upper location by using readily available spacers and bolts from Ace Hardware.

15" shocks installed and having fun wheeling.
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The upper position of the Synergy bracket provides about 2" of addition shock length based on the 6Pak mounting.
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13" shock almost full droop and brake line almost at its limit. Time for longer brake lines.
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Playing with union nuts and spacers to maximize articulation. May look shady but I have been doing various combo of these for the past 3 years with no problems..
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
some random build pics and testing articulation in no particular order.

Early testing and failure when trying to maintain factory LCA mounts.
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Trying to figure out LCA mount
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What a mess!
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Early flex test
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Not bad, may trim more if I go to a true 37" tire
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No coil springs installed, Just enough room for Truss and Track bar if I can achieve this much full compression. More than likely I would reach coil bind or bump stop contact by then
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eBay is a good source for new or used bits
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Ugly but testing parking brake cable routing and function.
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Finally got out to play without any major issues.

Me and partner out having fun in mountain snow.
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She likes her new to her ShitBox. lol
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Both of us having fun flexing and taking pictures.
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Maxed out brake line
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Preview of the front
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Just enough room for driveshaft
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Back home, dirty and safe.


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Hard days work that inspired me to gut interior for cleaning and sound deadener.
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This was a great read for me on my lunch. Awesome looking rig and amazing work! A lot of it was far beyond me but it sure was entertaining and interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
This was a great read for me on my lunch. Awesome looking rig and amazing work! A lot of it was far beyond me but it sure was entertaining and interesting.
Thanks for the compliment!
The only work I didn't do myself was gears and paint matching the the armor. I would guess I have 120 hours of work and research into this particular project. This was the 1st major suspension mod for me that didn't come as a kit or following someone's idea. I learned a lot along the way and made mistakes and fixed them; I look forward to doing similar stuff in the future.
 
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