World's Longest 2" Jeep Lift
This has got to be the world’s longest 2” lift installation. Since the Jeep was a daily driver at the time, it had to be available for modifications over the weekend and back on the road Monday. I started this lift in August 2001, and didn’t complete it until Dec 9, 2001. The plan was to lift the stock 96 XJ a few inches to get away from the rocks and make room for the new rubber that was intended to replace my BFG AT 235/75R15s.
After 60,000 trouble-free miles, I replaced those tires with another set of BFG AT KO's, sized 30x9.50x15" However, in order to keep some of my current 19mpg I didn’t want to go overboard on the lift, so after a bit of research I decided on a Rubicon Express 2" Budget Boost. The lift install is really pretty straightforward, so the toll so far has only been:
Ilovejeep.com's Tiffster offered to help me out with the installation, and it’s a good thing considering some of the lessons learned that day. The procedure is pretty easy, and requires only minimal hand tools. I would rate it about a 2 or 3 on the 1-5 banana scale of simplicity, since other than a strut compressor and possibly a flared brakeline wrench, the tools needed should be found in most average toolboxes.
Block the front tires and remove the rears. Why block the fronts, you ask? 'cause the emergency brake and drivetrain only influence the rear wheels. I watched a friend make this mistake once when pulling his driveshaft out of an old CJ5. He put the Jeep in gear and crawled under to remove the rear driveshaft. Once he had loosened the yokes, the CJ began crawling slowly away from him (he was still underneath!). I was a few stalls over working on my own CJ5 so we were able to stop the Jeep, but I really don't recommend that you screw around underneath a multi-thousand pound vehicle like that.
Carefully remove the four nuts holding the u-bolts and lower the axle on one side. The spring clips will hold the spring pack together, but will need to be removed to separate the pack and insert the AAL. Removed spring clips also allow more flex, so this had additional, hidden benefits. We had to use two large c-clamps to squeeze the spring pack back together. DO NOT try to use the seriously long centering pins supplied by RE to clamp the pack together. You WILL strip them if you do. Trust me on this... The center pins do need to be cut shorter though. Once you've determined the new thickness of the springpack, you can either remove and cut the pin, or just cut it in place.
Only do one side at a time, this lets the other side keep the axle in place so it won't roll. When reconnecting the u-bolts, leave the rear swaybar disconnected, when both sides have been removed you can pull the entire swaybar. Don’t worry about losing it, Up-Country Cherokees don’t have a rear swaybar from the factory. The heavier spring rate of the AAL makes up for the loss of the swaybar.
At this point I still had the front to complete, but considering it had taken me 6 1/2 hours and a few painkillers to get that far, I decided to put the front on hold for awhile. Little did I know that it would be almost 4 months before I would finish the job.
Part II – The Front
One fine winter day, I decided I had put off the job long enough. I decided to clear a little space in the garage so maybe I would be able to park inside for a change, and that meant putting the spacers on the XJ to finish the lift. Seeing how quickly this was done, I am surprised I didn’t do it any earlier.
Start by parking on a level surface, in gear or (P). Although it sounds like overkill, block the rear tires. Where my safety is concerned, there are very few shortcuts I am willing to take. I jacked up the front axle and placed a good pair of jackstands under the frame right behind the control arm. When the tires were removed, the axle drooped almost to the floor, but I still had enough room to maneuver a floorjack underneath. This becomes very important later on when you need to jiggle stuff in place and also to put your wheels back on.
Don’t forget to disconnect your swaybar about this point as well. It would go even better if you did that before getting the tires off the ground. Swaybar diconnects aren't really needed with a 2" lift, but this would be the time to add them if you wanted. If you need a brake job, this is also a good time to do that since you will have the wheels off anyway. I had to take a quick break about this point to “rent” a strut compressor from Checker Auto. If you aren’t familiar with the program, you pay for a tool from the parts counter, they loan it for so many days, and when you are done you get a full refund if the tool is returned in the same condition you got it. I lucked into a brand-new compressor this way. Get the strut compressor, since they hook up to the outside of the coils. If you ask for a spring compressor, you will get an inside-the-coil assembly that is almost impossible to use.
Remove the shock and the lower coil retaining clip. I lifted the axle until the coil was about as compressed as it goes, and then connected the compressor. This way, when you lower the axle, the spring pops off nicely. However, if you LIKE turning a 7/8” box wrench a few hundred times then feel free to compress the coil manually. The drivers-side coil slid out to the rear, just watch the brakeline as it is sliding out. My passenger-side coil actually fit out the front better.
The spacers gave me a little concern. At the bottom of the bump-stop tower, there is a considerable lip in the metal, making it a good ¼” larger than the spacer. However, if the spacer is angled onto the lip and then persuaded with a small mallet it will slide right over the lip and up the tower. There is a small flat spot on the spacer, just make sure it faces the engine as the spacer is raised into position.
For obvious reasons, the axle needed to be about 2” lower than it was when I first dropped the coil, so take this into account when deciding how high it needs to be lifted on the jackstands before you start. I also used a little extra time to crank down the compressors about another inch or so, which helps during the reinstall. The driver’s side drooped very nicely, and reinstallation of the coil was very straightforward.
Reinstalling the spring on the passenger side was slightly more challenging. Either because of bushing problems or due to the trackbar still being connected, I didn’t get nearly as much droop on the passenger side. The steering stabilizer mounts right in front of the coil, and that bracket made reinstallation a bit more "fun". I ended up standing on the hub assembly with one foot while stretching all the leverage I could with the other. This meant I was reaching under the fender blindly installing the coil, but the added weight on the hub was needed to get it that much lower. A second pair of hands would have made this a much easier step to complete.
Part III - Conclusion
The Rubicon Express kit uses an RE1415 half-length add-a-leaf (AAL), which I am not thrilled about. Since this writeup, I've learned that RE also offers a full-length AAL (RE1410) that I highly recommend in lieu of the shorty.
I wrapped up just as the sun started to touch the mountains to the west. The temp drops about 10 degrees right there, so I timed that perfectly. The Jeep drives beautifully, and I have very little vibration from the rear driveshaft. After 4 months of "stink-buggin" it felt pretty good to sit in a level (and slightly taller) Jeep again. Many thanks go out to Tiffster for volunteering to help me out for Part I while she had time. I know it doesn't seem like we made much progress the first day, but it went faster with four hands than it would have with just my two. Even if you decide to finish your lift installation up in the same weekend, I would recommend installing in the sequence I did. If for any reason you are unable to finish both ends, at least you will still have a drivable Jeep. If the front is the only end that gets lifted, you will have a hard time seeing the road and your low-beams will be shining right in oncoming traffic.