By now you've read all about the new Rubicon edition Wrangler with 4 to 1 low-range, 4.10 gears, and dual selectable lockers. There's no doubt in your mind that it's a killer combo, but at the same time you're bummed because you're still making payments on a '97-'02 Wrangler and can't afford to buy another new Jeep right now. You may be looking at your daily driver/trail rig/chick magnet TJ and think it's a bit lacking in comparison. If you've been reading 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine your rig's already got a locker (or two), probably some bigger tires, and maybe even a winch. So don't even think about trading it in. Keep building it!
To prove this point we wanted to see how a 60,000-mile '97 Wrangler would respond to a 6-inch dose of Superlift altitude. We headed over to Tri-County Gear in Pomona, California, to follow along as Mike Montana installed this 6-inch lift kit with optional Rockrunner suspension links, quick disconnects, and 35-inch Goodyear MT/R tires on the Tri-County Gear shop truck.
This test Wrangler is asked to do everything from commuting to trail use, and even spends time as a tow vehicle for those crosstown trips. Compared to the previously installed 4-inch lift kit, the Superlift-equipped TJ has less brake dive, rides smoother, and corners flatter in the turns thanks to suspension links that are almost parallel to the ground. We were also surprised how well the shocks that Superlift sends with the kit are tuned to the new suspension. This old TJ on 35s is ready to hold its own against any Rubicon Wrangler-and for you guys that are saving your money for the new '03, well, the Superlift kit will work on those Jeeps too!
Things To Consider
The first $600 you spend on your lifted TJ should go toward a slip-yoke eliminator kit and new CV-equipped rear driveshaft. We know that sounds like a lot of money to front even before you buy the lift, wheels, and tires, but you're going to need to do it. We found that with an automatic transmission (it's 2 inches shorter than the five-speed) and 3.55 gears in the axles we didn't feel any driveshaft vibration-so we didn't use the Superlift-supplied brackets to lower the transmission and transfer case. If you have the five-speed, or lower axle gears, you won't be able to skip this step.
Don't be scared, but there is a lot of parts in the 6-inch Superlift suspension kit for '97-and-up TJs. In this photo we still haven't unpacked the springs, shocks, or track bars. To boost your confidence, a 22-page instruction booklet comes in the Superlift box and is written in terms that the do-it-yourselfer can understand. Nonetheless, it's recommended that a professional mechanic install the kit, hence our trip to Tri-County Gear.
On TJs with automatic transmissions and 6 inches of lift you may find the front driveshaft will hit this crossmember at full droop. If it does, grind a small radius into the crossmember to avoid clearance problems.
Also make sure to leave room in the budget for a minor exhaust modification. This upper Superlift bracket on the passenger side will probably hit the exhaust downpipe as shown on this 4.0L-equipped Jeep. This isn't a big deal, and any exhaust shop could handle it, but make sure it is included in the price you pay for having the lift installed.
Mike Montana began the installation by supporting the Jeep from its frame and removing the driver-side upper and lower suspension links. He worked on one corner at a time, and temporarily installed each bracket with the supplied hardware to mark and drill all the extra holes required to properly attach the new brackets.
The boxed frame on a TJ can make it difficult to bolt on new equipment, so Superlift provides a few special fasteners to make the job easier. This plate holds two bolts together that attach the bracket which Montana drilled the frame for in the previous photo. Other hardware tricks can be found in the form of self-tapping bolts and nuts that need no wrenches.
Superlift offers these optional Rockrunner series suspension links that replace the stock pieces and work with most 3- to 6-inch TJ lift kits. Instead of using rod ends that can transmit noise and vibration, these arms use conventional bushings and permit twist through their two-piece design. This is made possible because the arms incorporate a threaded section that allows them to twist without binding. We found their design also helps to dial in proper pinion angles.
Here you can see how the new Rockrunner arms mount in the new drop brackets on the frame and the stock mounts on the axle. To make it easier to bolt the arms in place, Montana recommends you unbolt the track bar and front driveshaft for maximum axle droop.
The Superlift kit includes new adjustable track bars for both the front and rear axles. Set the front track bar length to 3211/42 inches (the rear bar gets set to 3251/48 inches) for starters, but expect to fine-tune the length to center the axle in the vehicle. In most cases it will be easier to bolt in the track bars once the Jeep is back on the ground. A word of caution: We couldn't find any jam nuts included with the kit, so make sure your kit has them and you install them on the rod ends (arrow).
Next Montana installed the new 131/44-inch coil spring spacer (A), urethane compression spacer (B), coil spring (C), lower compression stop (D), new Superlift shock (E), and brake-line drop bracket (F). We left out the original coil isolator that would go between "A" and "C" because it was too worn, but to get the full 6 inches of lift you'll need to use it up front. With the driver side done you can now move on to the passenger side.
The rear suspension goes together much like the front with new drop-down brackets that are indexed off of the original suspension attachment points. Be sure to install the included sleeves (arrows) to keep the factory frame brackets from crushing when you bolt in the new parts.
A lot of time and research went into developing this kit, and it shows with subtle touches like the lower rear shock mount extensions. Twin-tube gas shocks tend to hit the lower coil bucket on TJs, and these bolt-on brackets extend the shock mounts away from the axle to eliminate this problem. Tri-County Gear has a few TJ tricks too, and added its $50 rear housing brace that ties the lower track bar mount to the differential housing. This reinforcement keeps the mount from getting ripped off the axletube during off-road use.
Just when we thought there was nothing new in the world of sway-bar disconnects, Superlift sent us these optional quick disconnect links to try on the TJ. The simple design of the links lets you screw them together for road duty and unscrew them for trail work. They should be easier to reconnect than typical quick disconnects because the threaded portion does all the alignment work for you.
Superlift Suspension Systems