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Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

Project cars, modifications or other general showoff

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engineerd

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Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostThu Jul 05, 2012 12:51 pm

I have a 2001 Jeep XJ Cherokee. I love it. Utilitarian, reliable and tough. But, like most 11+ year old Cherokees, the suspension was getting a little saggy. Driving up north last winter, MikeTheDog was sitting in the back seat while the rear was riding on the bump stops. I can't imagine that was comfortable. Then, I hit one of our infamous Michigan pot holes and blew out a front shock and busted the right front swaybar mount. Now she sagged and rode like a '70s Cadillac. Not what I like.

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Pre-lift by engineerd, on Flickr

So, I order a lift kit from DPG Offroad. It includes new Old Man Emu leaf springs, coil springs, Nitrocharger Sport shocks, and steering dampener. I also got JKS quick disconnects and a JKS adjustable trackbar. Along with the hardware (new u-bolts, bushings, etc.) it was supposed to be complete kit.

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The kit by engineerd, on Flickr

So, I read about other's experiences installing kits, and talk to the guy at DPG Offroad, and figure I should be able to do this in a 3 day weekend. I tell the boss I'll be off on Friday, cash in some vacation time, and get to work. Oh, I also sprayed everything with PB Blaster for a week before.

Note to self: when everyone says it takes 12-16 hours, and everyone does not live in the rust belt, quadruple that estimate. Rusted bolts were the bain of my existence. Worse, the kit did not come with new nuts/bolts/washers so I was trying to save them. It also didn't come with new shackles for the leaf springs. I ordered a set overnight on Friday, but they would not show up until Monday. As you'll see, that actually kind of worked out.

So, Friday I start on the passenger side rear and start taking out the leaf spring. After screwing around trying to figure out what I was doing, and making a few trips to Home Depot, I got it out and started on the shock. The upper shock mount is two bolts going into nuts welded to the inside of a pocket on the unibody. I learned that these do not budge, and when they do the nut breaks off. It's better just to cut/grind them off and fish a new bolt and washer up into the pocket using fishing line and a magnet.

So, by Saturday afternoon, this is what it looks like:

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Passenger side rear disassembled by engineerd, on Flickr

I got the shock put in and called it a night.

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One Shock by engineerd, on Flickr

On Sunday I was ready to put the leaf spring on. First I had to get the bushings in the eyes. No problem, everyone had said. Freeze the bushing, heat the eye, add some lube and take your anger out with a rubber mallet. Bull crap. After screwing around with it for almost 3 hours in the heat I said enough is enough, sent my boss an email letting him know I wouldn't be in the next day, and put everything away. I then went down to the hardware store (actually, several hardware stores) to get some more bolts. It is very difficult to find 14mm x 100mm nuts/bolts/washers. Just so you know.

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Bushing won't go in manually by engineerd, on Flickr

On Monday I took the wife to work (we were now a one car family) and then took the leaf springs and bushings to a shop so they could press in the bushings. Once I picked them up I got back to work putting things back together. The new shackles showed up and I had all new hardware to work with. It took a while figuring out which order to put things back together in, but I got it figured out and finished that side and started on the drivers' side.

I worked on it every night the following week and took the following Friday off. By the end of the day Friday I was done with the rear.

Image
Rear complete by engineerd, on Flickr

Saturday (now over a week into the project) I started on the drivers front. It actually went pretty smooth and by the end of the day it was back together.

Image
Driver Side Front Disassembled by engineerd, on Flickr

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Driver Side Front Complete by engineerd, on Flickr

On Sunday I go to the passenger side. I pulled out the old shock and spring, removed what was left of the swaybar mount, and decided that was the best time to put the new steering stabilizer and trackbar in. I had debated leaving these to the next weekend to get her back on the road and give my wife some relief from playing taxi for me, but I persuaded myself to just get it all over with. I should have waited.

The steering stabilizer wasn't bad, but getting the old trackbar out did not go as smooth as everyone said it should. Why would it? Nothing else had. The chassis-end mount is a ball joint that goes into a bracket on the unibody. There is a small hole in the bracket to reach the castellated nut inside. Of course, everything is rusty and I can't get the cotter pin out. No worry. The internet said I should just be able to bust the ball joint with a pickle fork. The internet lies. It just started cracking and mangling things. Finally, I just bust it off and grind off a flat end so I can try to punch it up into the bracket. No luck.

I finally cried uncle. I got everything put back together on the passenger side, minus the trackbar, and backed her down to the street. The next day, Monday, I called my mechanic, told him what I needed, he said no problem, and I got the Jeep towed there. They fought with it a few days (see, it wasn't just me!) and finally got it out and the new trackbar in. They did a front-end alignment and charged me for the pleasure.

Image
Lift complete by engineerd, on Flickr

I've learned a few things:

1. Everyone is a lying sack of poo.
2. My next project won't be nearly as adventuresome.
3. Everyone is a lying sack of poo.
4. Make sure I have all the hardware I will need, make sure I have all the parts I will need, and make sure anything that needs to be pressed either shows up that way or is taken care of ahead of time.
5. Everyone is a lying sack of poo.
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LeftofLucky

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostFri Jul 06, 2012 5:02 am

Well done. It may have been a pain in the ass, but at least you can take solace in the knowledge that you didn't pay some knuckle dragger a stupid amount of money to do the work. There's a guy here in town who makes a living just installing lift kits on various vehicles. He charges a reasonable amount, say $500-$600 on top of the kit, but still.

Now the next obvious question is: what are you going to do for wheels and tires?
"Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you." ~Chuck Palahniuk
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skitter

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostFri Jul 06, 2012 7:45 am

As far as the nuts and bolts, if you don't have a self service junkyard for when one little bitch strips, always remember McMaster or Fastenal or whatever you have. It's worth the cost, and you can get exactly what you need. Try not to kiss the employees, but a hug may be OK.
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johnf1979

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostFri Jul 06, 2012 8:07 pm

If you are in the metro Detroit part of MI there is a great place called ACME nut and bolt in southwest Detroit on Oakwood Blvd just east of Schaefer and the Dearborn border. They have every type of fastener you could ever want in stock, and in grade 8 and grade 10.9 form. They supply a lot of fab and prototype shops so they have automotive grade stuff. As a former dealership parts guy in Dearborn they got me out of a few jams. Another place that is pretty good is Tradesman Fasteners on 5 mile just west of Telegraph in Redford.
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engineerd

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostSun Jul 08, 2012 8:44 am

johnf1979 wrote:If you are in the metro Detroit part of MI there is a great place called ACME nut and bolt in southwest Detroit on Oakwood Blvd just east of Schaefer and the Dearborn border. They have every type of fastener you could ever want in stock, and in grade 8 and grade 10.9 form. They supply a lot of fab and prototype shops so they have automotive grade stuff. As a former dealership parts guy in Dearborn they got me out of a few jams. Another place that is pretty good is Tradesman Fasteners on 5 mile just west of Telegraph in Redford.


I'll have to remember ACME Nut and Bolt. I live in west Dearborn, so it should be just down the road! Thanks for the tip!
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pj134

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostSun Jul 08, 2012 9:58 am

Maybe he'll do some sawzall work on the fenders and put on some flares so that he can snugg some 32x11.5s on there (the below picture had only light sawzall work and stock fenders, I just rubbed)...

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They look pretty. See?
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engineerd

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostSun Jul 08, 2012 12:48 pm

I'll be running the stock rims and the current tires for a while. Once these tires (225-75R16s, which are a size larger than stock) show enough wear to justify new tires, I'll probably go with 30" BFG All Terrain A/Ts. I'd rather not cut if I don't have to. If I do cut, I will do some minor cutting and use the stock flare.
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pj134

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostSun Jul 08, 2012 5:46 pm

31x10.5s should fit without cutting. You went 3" right?
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engineerd

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Re: Lifting a Jeep XJ...Trials and Tribulations

PostMon Jul 09, 2012 6:39 am

2.5", so 31s might fit. Another driver of the tire size is this is my DD and I don't want to destroy fuel economy too much.

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