Express Extreme Duty 5.5 TJ Lift Kit
By Chad Crowell
Take a look
at the amazing clearance you now have! We immediately measured the
height of the Jeep:
of front bumper
of rear bumper
The height difference
is incredible. Allowing for some break in, the height gain should
be about 2 over the 4.5 kit. Keep in mind with these
after pictures that I removed the 1 body lift in between installing
the rear end and the front end. The above measurements include 1
for the body lift.
provides a dropped pitman arm to help with bump steer. The angle
at which the drag link and track bar operate should be equal, or
very close. Rubicon Express states that the modified geometry of
the new track bar bracket requires a drop pitman arm to eliminate
bump steer. They also say that with this increased lift height,
in some off-road situations the factory tie rod ends will be over-extended
and could be subject to increased wear or failure.
the pitman arm, my angles are very close, and after driving it I
feel no bump steer at all. I will not be installing the new pitman
arm. Your results may be different. The pitman arm is notorious
for being a pain to get off. You may want a 4x4 or transmission
shop to replace it for you.
It was nice to have a quiet suspension again...new bushings
and joints make all the difference.
out the clearance under the front fenders, no rubbing with 35"
I also found
that at full lock, my tires were rubbing my Currie AntiRock links.
I had to place a few washers under the steering stop in order to
keep this from happening. Unfortunately, this will lessen your tight
turning circle, but it is the safest way to avoid this type of rubbing.
the vehicle, be sure to go back and double check all suspension
hardware, jam nuts, and clearances. Take a test drive and see how
plush it is. Go off a curb or two, or over a pothole
reacts very nicely. Listen for any strange noises and feel for any
out of the ordinary quirks. Adjust as necessary. Also set your toe-in
and steering wheel alignment.
Now take it
on a real test drive, gun it, brake it, turn it, bump it
was extremely pleased with the results, even before the springs
had a chance to break in! What was interesting was that it finally
helped me realize how to describe the feeling the old lift gave
me as well. Its not that the new lift makes the bumps feel smoother,
its that you just dont feel them. Small bumps are completely
absorbed by the suspension, and larger bumps feel small.
good shot of the front fender clearance.
|| One side
stuffed, one side stretched. There is still plenty of room all
around the long arms.
The TJ does
not squat when you stomp on the gas. The entire vehicle simply moves
forward. Side to side movement is predictable. The Jeep leans in
corners, to be sure, but it feels no different than it did with
the 4.5 lift. I always thought the TJ cornered very safely
with the old lift and feel the same now. Even with the AntiRock,
which allows more body roll than the stock swaybar, it is solid
when taking corners at reasonable speeds.
is free from coil spring cycling. Ever hit a large bump with the
4.5 lift? Some people call the result Death Wobble
it is not fun. I cant reproduce the effect with this lift.
Thank God. And what of the tire pick issue? Again, I cant
make it happen now. Fine with me.
driving the Jeep for a week, I am very impressed with the results.
The Jeep is comfortable and stable. I can feel the springs breaking
in already, so I expect it to only get better. I also found that
I can sit up completely straight under my rear axle and not hit
my head on the tub floor. I am 61. Cool.
I took the TJ up to Bassi Falls, near the Rubicon, to test out the
suspension off-road. I have yet to get the track bars completely
adjusted to center the axles under the Jeep, but that did not come
The only issue
that did concern me was the Tomken gas tank skidplate hitting the
rear track bar bracket. I decided to let it go for this testing
trip, and there were no ill-effects. I will be cutting up the skidplate
a bit to allow more clearance in the next few weeks.
So how did it
perform? Quite well I must say. The extra clearance under the entire
vehicle was noticeable. Having been to Bassi more than a few times,
I attempted obstacles that I knew, and found that many of them could
be navigated now without scraping a rocker panel or the gas tank
skid. I have yet to use the long arms as a rock slider
as some would suggest, but I am sure that will happen before long.
I have full faith in the arms to support weight as they are ¼
thick 4130 chromoly tubing.
A view of the front end from underneath. Again, one side stuffed
and the other stretched.
|| With the
Antirock disconnected, I found that the front axle drooped only
about 3" more.
itself felt amazingly similar to the old 4.5 kit. What made
a difference was the Currie AntiRock. More on that in a future article.
I wheeled for a bit with the AntiRock disconnected and really felt
confident with the feel of the TJ. It lived up to the off-road reputation
I have come to expect from a Rubicon Express kit.
One item that
may need to be addressed is the cut-out on the new crossmember for
the driveshaft. While thoughtful, the cutout needs to be a little
wider. Here you can see a brand new score on the shaft from the
edge of the crossmember. Perhaps another ½ on each side would
help. Of course, this may not be an issue once my axle is 100% centered.
Otherwise, I looked at every piece of the suspension at every angle
and found no clearance issues at all.
The best part
of the whole trip was the ride home. After stretching and stuffing
the springs while playing on the rocks, they broke in and softened
up even more. The ride home was smooth and relaxing.
| The front
driveshaft hit the skidplate at some point. Notice the mark
on the shaft.
|| Even with
the rear swaybar connected, there was plenty of droop in the
has done it again. I have always spoken well of the 4.5 kit
based on my good experiences with it, and at this point, I must
speak well of the long arm kit. As promised, the road ride is much
better than with the 4.5 kit.
The new suspension
geometry allows even taller springs to be used, yet the Jeep still
feels stable and not top-heavy. Bumps are felt as with any vehicle,
but the difference is very noticeable. Corners are not scary, provided
a safe cornering speed is used (No one should be driving a tall
Jeep around like a CRX anyway).
is at least equal to that of the older lift kit. Combined with the
Currie Antirock swaybar, the 5.5 lift is spongy, yet predictable
on climbs, side hills, rocks, and ledges. And knowing how your Jeep
will react when you drive it is part of being a good driver.
| The rear
end had no clearance problems. Even the exhaust turned out to
fit ina ll the right places.
good shot of the long arms.
The final question
is value. Is this worth $2500? After all, I was a prime candidate
to simply change out a few components and be happy for another few
years. And I was also quite content with the on and off-road performance
of the old kit.
If you are starting
from scratch, absolutely, yes, buy this kit and you will have excellent
results. But remember, you can also start smaller and upgrade to
it later as your Jeep grows.
help but say that if you have the 4.5 kit, and dont
have a specific reason for the upgrade, you should stay with what
or perhaps buy just the long arm upgrade to improve
your road ride. Changing out the entire kit is not necessarily worth
However I am
glad I did it, as I have ridded myself of the demonic heim joints
and have the newest technology and hardware available. While I am
sure improvements will be made, I will surely be able to use the
TJ comfortably and reliably until the next big trend in TJ suspensions
comes to light (adjustable magnetic field springs, anybody?).
The front trackbar bracket does not interfere with the suspension
at any point.
|| A view
of the entire underside skidplate and long arms.
Intro | The
Plan | Skidplate | Rear
End | Front End | Impressions