Q I want to get rid of my 2-inch suspension lift and 3-inch body lift that came with my '99 Jeep Wrangler. I purchased this as my first vehicle that I drive daily and wheel often. I am really wondering if I should go with a 4- or 6-inch suspension lift, and if I should spend the extra on a long-arm kit?
A I agree you should ditch the 3-inch body lift as I would go with a 1-inch body lift or none at all. However, I would keep the current 2-inch lift springs. I assume you want to stuff taller tires under your Jeep, but check out this photo of Chris Durham's TJ. Chris runs 40-inch tires with a 1-inch body lift, front spring spacers, a set of long-arm suspension links and a fiberglass high-clearance hood he sells through Chris Durham Motorsports (864.420.1274) along with liberal rear body tub trimming. I think this is a better way to go because it keeps your center of gravity low, making it great for steep climbs, sidehills, and high-speed wheeling. His Jeep is limited in the amount of uptravel it has, so it's no desert race truck. It has Dana 60 axles to hold up to the big 40-inch tires, but the same recipe could be applied to a Jeep running smaller tires and still work well.
Q I recently purchased a set of AAM axles out of an '05 Dodge 1-ton truck. I am going to put them under a '98 Jeep TJ. Are there any aftermarket suppliers that offer gears and lockers for these axles?
A There are gears and lockers available for the front axle. I know ARB offers a selectable locker as it is the same used in the GM 9.25 IFS I installed in the Red Sled Project. I also know that you can get 3.73, 4.11, and 4.56 gears from Randy's Ring & Pinion. Currently no one is offering a rear locker for the rear AAM 11.5 axle, though there is a limited slip from both General Motors and Randy's Ring & Pinion and rumors of a rear locker coming from ARB and a Truetrac coming from Detroit/Eaton in September. Rear axle gear ratios being offered are 3.42, 3.73, 4.11, 4.56, 4.63, 4.88, 5.13, and 5.38.
Q I know a body lift is helpful when it comes to making room for a bigger motor or a different transfer case, transmission, and so on, but when you're out wheeling and flexing on some of these unforgiving trails, doesn't this give you a higher risk of damage due to the increased amount of space between the body and frame itself?
A Yes, you are exactly right. Every body-on-frame vehicle must deal with frame flex, especially when a 4x4 is off-road and the suspension is all twisted up. Though most frames are designed as a rigid structure, few to none are completely flexproof. This is why there are bushings between the body and frame. If you use taller bushings and attach the body with longer bolts you are giving more leverage to both the body and the frame. When you're off road you'll be giving the bolts and body or frame mounting points a real workout, and if they fail you're in for a serious mess when your cab falls off your frame. This is why I recommend using a suspension kit and body trimming to clear taller tires rather than a body lift. I feel you want the suspension to do all the flexing and the body and frame to work as a solid base. If looks are all you're after, then body lifts over 1 inch are fine, but even at highway speeds there are significant forces acting on body and frame so I would never recommend over 3 inches of body lift.
Q I have a '76 Chevy with engine trouble. I thought of rebuilding the 350 that it has in it now and then my attention turned to the '88 plow truck in the yard with a blown transmission. The '88 needs more work than it's worth but has a relatively new 350 General Motors crate engine in it (under 50,000 miles). This engine runs great and is a TBI 350. It sounds like a great swap with improved performance and better fuel economy, which is obviously more important than ever. I wonder why I haven't seen this swap more often. Is there a reason that it's not more common? Is there a wire harness kit to make the swap easier and more dependable than the standard backyard hack-fest.