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Q What's with the high cost of TJ/JK lift kits? It's just a couple springs and some bushing ends welded onto some tubing, right? How much do I really need to spend to get a good lift?
A Aside from all the money the company is trying to recoup from its research, development, and design stages when producing a quality suspension system, a surprising amount of steel and manufacturing effort goes into a good suspension system.
It's old news by now, but the price of steel has pretty much doubled over the past couple years and it only seems to keep going up. Most of the name-brand suspension companies don't skimp on the quality or quantity of steel they spec for use in the springs and links. Skimping on spring materials and manufacturing will result in a suspension that sags after the first or second time off-road. Likewise, skimping on the control arm tubing thickness, diameter, and material can result in bent control arms. This can be true even if the arms aren't dragged over rocks. The control arms, especially the lower arms, have to contend with some crazy forces. And because of leverage, the longer the arm, the more force is exerted on the tubing. That's why you see long-arm suspension systems that use heavy-wall tubing on the lower control arms. It's pretty standard for 0.188-wall and even 0.250-wall tubing to be used since 0.120-wall and thinner can fold.
What do you really need? Look for components like adjustable upper control arms so you can dial in the pinion angle, adjustable track bars and reinforced track bar brackets, monotube shocks, progressive-rate coils, and any necessary steering correction components like dropped pitman arms and track bar relocation brackets. And don't forget the small stuff like longer brake lines and plan on getting a front-end alignment to adjust the toe settings and center the steering wheel.
Q I want to install some tires on my Jeep that will give me good off-road performance in the mud and rocks, but that won't wear out too fast. I can't afford to be putting a new set of tires on my Jeep every other year.
A Well, get cozy with the phrase "There's no free lunch," because the generous tire voids and large, aggressive lugs that make a tire work well in the mud and rocks often lead to quicker tire wear.
Many modern mud terrain tires feature computer-designed tread patterns that not only evacuate mud and water efficiently, but incorporate small grooves or siping on the tread blocks that allow more tread flex on the road and more biting edges in the rocks. The increased on-road flex allows longer wear and increased tire life. Bottom line? Your chances of mixing longevity and performance are better with a newer, more modern tire design as opposed to some of the old standbys.
Q I want to lift my XYZ Jeep XYZ inches. Will I need to install a CV rear driveshaft?
A This is one of those questions for which the answer can vary on a case-by-case basis, but there are some general rules of thumb. Remember, vehicles with longer factory rear driveshafts can get away with more lift before a double cardan (commonly referred to as a CV) shaft is needed. Assuming the drivetrain is left in the stock position, meaning the engine is not raised and the transfer case is not dropped, here are some general rules of thumb governing at which lift heights a double cardan rear driveshaft becomes a necessity.
JK: Over 3 inches (2 door);over 4 inches (4 door)
Wrangler: Over 3 inches (TJ/YJ); Over 4.5 inches (Wrangler Unlimited TJ)
XJ: Over 3.5 inches
Flattie/CJ-5: Over 2.5 inches
CJ-7: Over 3 inches
FSJ Wagoneer/Cherokee: Over 6 inches
FSJ Pickup: Over 8 inches