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Month: August 2016

KL Cherokee Budget Boost Suspension Lift Install

KL Cherokee Budget Boost Suspension Lift Install

When the Cherokee (KL) was released for 2014, it was clear that this new Jeep offering was different than almost any vehicle Jeep had put under its badge. For starters, it was built on Fiat’s “Compact Wide” platform which is shared with cars like the Chrysler 200. While FCA did a really good job of reworking the chassis to handle features more becoming of a Jeep, this chassis was never intended for this purpose. Sadly, the resulting lack of flexibility for suspension and drivetrain modification has scared many aftermarket manufacturers from even trying to support the vehicle. In turn, the KL Cherokee was deemed the first un-liftable Jeep.

Luckily, humans (as a species) never like to be told they can’t do something and, thanks to some ingenuity and effort by an enthusiast, a mild lift was born for the KL. Soon after, a variation of this lift was adopted by a company called Hazard Sky and a purchasable kit is now available through them.

The picture below is from Hazard Sky’s website and depicts what is included in the lift. All that is needed for the front is a new bolt and the rear is lifted with spacers (one for both the top and bottom of the coil). Two lift options are available, one for the Active Drive 1 (AD1) and one for the Active Drive 2 (AD2) Cherokees. The only real difference between them is the AD2 can handle a bit more lift in the rear so one of the spacers is a bit thicker. It is recommended that the bolt for the front be replaced and not reused. Aftermarket bolts are included or factory replacement bolts can be selected for a slight upcharge when purchasing the lift. The kit also includes a temporary shim to assist in setting the front height.

We purchased the AD2 lift since we have a Trailhawk. According to Hazard Sky’s website, this variation “gives the most even lift with the front of the vehicle, and maintains a good rake”. We also opted for the factory bolt over the aftermarket one.

The picture below is the kit as we received it. You will notice a few differences we were dissatisfied with. First, the picture on the website clearly shows round spacers for the rear. The ones we received are rather crudely cut into an octagon. As you will see later in the install, this isn’t a very big deal for the lower spacer but, at a minimum, the upper spacer should be cut into a circle to better visually fit the upper spring mount. Based on the website we also believed we would be receiving some sort of instructions or documentation, but none was included in the packaging.

So, with all of the above said, let’s get started with the install…. You will need a method to safely lift and support the Jeep with the suspension at full droop and the following tools:

½” drive ratchet and/or breaker bar
½” drive 19mm socket
½” drive 18mm socket
½” drive 21mm socket (optional)
18mm box end wrench
E-14 External Torx Socket and a ratchet or breaker bar for it.
7/16” Drill Bit and Drill
½” drive Torque Wrench that does up to 120 ft-lb
Coil spring compressor or compressors

If you are a fan of before and after checks, then take a quick measurement of your ride height before you begin. Our before measurements to the center and top of the wheel opening are below. The left is the Front height and the right is the rear height.

We will begin on the front… Lift and support the Jeep in a manner that the suspension can be at full droop (plus about 1.5” to accommodate the lift). While it isn’t necessary, we also removed the tire to make access easier.

Once lifted, release the wheel speed sensor cable and brake line from their mounts on the strut to allow for some movement and add some clearance for the work.

Now remove the bolt that pinches the knuckle assemble to the strut. The head of the bolt is an E-14 external torx and the nut uses an 18mm wrench.

If you do not have an external torx socket, they can usually be rented from a local automotive store.

With the bolt removed, lower the knuckle on the strut until you can insert the supplied shim between the knuckle and the bracket for the brake line and wheel speed sensor as shown below.

This should align a second hole on the strut that is slightly undersized.

This hole will need to be drilled out before the new bolt can be installed. In our case, the hole was off slightly and it was fairly difficult to drill the hole without the bit trying to open the hole in the knuckle. We used a 7/16” drill bit. This bit fits the factory bolt very tightly. This is what we were going for, but if you are using an aftermarket bolt be sure to check the shoulder thickness for an appropriate drill size.

With the drilling done, install the new bolt and torque to 100ft-lbs. Then, remove the temporary shim that held the knuckle in place.

Reinstall the wheel speed cable and brake line into the strut bracket. You will likely find that they are pulled a bit tight. To correct this, pull both the cable and brake line though the grommet. Both WILL slide through their grommets, but it is fairly difficult to get them to free up. In all honesty, this was the most difficult part of the entire lift.

This side is now complete; repeat the steps above on the other side.

When you have completed the front, you can move to the rear. Before you begin, ensure the Jeep is securely lifted and supported in a manner that allows the rear suspension to be fully drooped with at least three inches of ground clearance. Like the front, the rear can be done with the tires on but it is much easier if they are removed.

You can start on either side. Use your spring compressor(s) to compress the spring for removal. Take the time to make sure they are properly seated and aligned. The stored energy in a compressed spring is very dangerous.

An optional technique to allow for less spring compression is to support the lower arm with a jack and remove the lower shock bolt (21mm socket). Once the shock bolt is removed, lower the jack. You should get about 0.5 to 1 inch of extra down travel with the shock unbolted.

Once the spring is removed install the lower spacer under the spring alignment and retention perch. Note: At least two of the spacers have a hole in them. This hole is for the alignment pin on the perch. The pin should just barely reach through the hole in the spacer and allow alignment in the lower arm.

The upper spacer goes between the factory rubber isolator and the perch. Note: The one pictured will look different that the one you likely have. This is because we made a new upper spacer. We will discuss why later.

With both the upper and lower spacers installed, check to make sure both the lower perch is still aligned correctly and that the upper rubber isolator is oriented as it was and properly seated. If you removed the lower shock bolt, replace it prior to carefully releasing the coil spring and removing the spring compressor(s).

That’s it! One side done, just repeat on the other to finish your lift….

Now, back to that upper spacer we remade for our rear coils. Well, as we mentioned, we purchased the AD2 lift. This means it came with one thick spacer and one thin for each coil. The thick spacer meant we would get a bit more lift on the rear than the front and, since we began with 1” of rake, we didn’t want any more. Compound this with the fact that we didn’t want a poorly cut octagon spacer on the top. (The upper perch is somewhat visible from looking at the side of the Jeep.) We decided to make our own upper spacer that is the same thickness as the lower.

The bottom line is… unless you are towing a heavy trailer or tons of gear in the back all of the time, we recommend just getting the AD1 kit regardless of what type of KL you have.

Having said all of that, below is the after lift measurements. Notice that even with an equivalent AD1 lift we have roughly 5/8” of rake and after some driving and the alignment it is more like 3/4”.

It is important to get your KL aligned after installing this lift. We were surprised to see how far off some of it was given such a mild lift.

There are several sources of information for lifting a KL as we have done that advertise or state that the alignment will still be (or be able to be adjusted) back into spec. I personally was skeptical as the only adjustment that is possible for the front is toe, but camber will be impacted with any lift.

Sure enough… Camber was (and is) out on the front right. Granted it really isn’t enough that poor tire wear should happen or anything, but it isn’t “in spec” either. So, if you are concerned about your alignment being perfect, you have been warned. 😕

Here is how our alignment turned out. (Before and after)

Now…. How about some before and after shots of the Jeep?

So far, we are exceptionally happy with the new stance we have given our KL. We aren’t ready just yet, but Hazard Sky claims larger tire sizes 245/70r17 and 264/65r17 fit without any trimming and we have seen some run up to a 32” tire with trimming of the inner liner and pinch seam.

We have noticed absolutely no adverse effects in handling or anything…but will update should anything change.

We hope you find use in this article and if we can help or clarify anything let us know.


Update 8/25/2017:

An update on this lift along with a review can be read HERE


Fox 2.0 Reservoirs with CD Adjusters

Fox 2.0 Reservoirs with CD Adjusters

After much deliberation, we decided to go with Fox 2.0 Shocks. Since we seem to be hard on shocks, the extra fluid in the reservoirs seemed like a good add. We also sprung for the CD adjusters. This was largely because Fox shocks are generally perceived as a “firm” shock on the road and we wanted to be able to dial them in to our preference. We also wanted to be able to tune the front and rear differently.

We got them all mounted up and will have just a bit of tweaking to optimize the travel, but they are good enough to let us play this weekend. 😀

Tales of the Trailhawk

Tales of the Trailhawk

I just found a really cool series of videos produced by Jeep that show the KL Cherokee’s capability… Thought I would share, I think they are pretty cool 😛 😎


How to Install Wheel Spacers (KL Cherokee with lug bolts)

How to Install Wheel Spacers (KL Cherokee with lug bolts)

We recently posted an article on how to properly install wheel adapters or spacers. This article is great for most vehicles that have lug nuts and studs, but when we recently wanted to widen the stance of our KL Cherokee that has lug bolts, we recognized there are some differences. We will cover them here.

Because the process is largely similar to that already covered in the other article, please review it HERE for general information on the process. This article will focus on the differences.

There aren’t many manufacturers making spacers for a lug bolt design. We purchased ours from BORA (Bulletproof Off Road Adapters). They offer the most diverse range of adapters we have found and, if you don’t see what you want, contact them because they can do custom adapters, too. All made right here in the USA!

Using these spacers will also adapt the wheel mounting from a lug bolt to a lug nut and stud while retaining hub centricity. In our opinion, this is an improvement. It is important to note however, that the spacers come with bolts to mount them to the vehicle but not the lug nuts to mount the wheel to the spacer. BORA offers lug nuts at a very reasonable price or you can source your own. We chose to do the latter.

One negative we found was that the replacement bolts supplied require a different socket than the factory bolt. They use a 17mm socket versus the factory 19mm. This isn’t really a huge deal and we understand the reasoning. The replacement bolts offer a much shallower head which allows for the diversity of thicknesses BORA offers.

Here is a picture of the bolts. On the left is the BORA replacement that will mount the spacer to the Jeep. On the right is the factory lug bolt. You can see that while the threads and taper are the same the heads are very different.

For most cases, you should not need to remove the bolt that holds the adapter for road-side maintenance. So, if you get a 19mm (3/4”) lug nut, the factory tools will still work for swapping a tire should you get a flat.

While the hub-side hardware is the primary difference to the previous install article, you will also notice that there are no retaining clips with this type of design. Instead the rotor is held in place with a small bolt (shown below with the red arrow).

Nothing needs to be done with this bolt; it is fine left as is. However, you may want to add some anti-seize to the center lip of the hub. The spacer will fit tightly on this and we have seen the dissimilar metals get seized. This is especially prevalent where roads are salted in the winter.

Beyond these slight changes and notes, the “How to Install Wheel Adapters or Spacers” article should get you through the process. If not, feel free to comment or post your question and we are always happy to help.

Now, how about some before and after pictures or the finished product?

post lift alignment done…

post lift alignment done…

I got the alignment done this morning and was surprised to see how far off some of it was given such a mild lift.

There are several sources of information for lifting a KL as we have done, they all advertise or state that the alignment will still be (or be able to be adjusted) back into spec. I personally was skeptical as the only adjustment that is possible for the front is toe and camber will be impacted with any lift.

Sure enough… Camber was (and is) out on the front right. Granted it really isn’t enough that poor tire wear should happen or anything, but it isn’t “in spec” either.


The KL got some lift!

The KL got some lift!

More to follow, and of course we will do an installation article, but we wanted to share that our little Klondike got some lift today thanks to a Hazard Sky / Homemade kit. It’s not much, but it’s a start!

Shocks AGAIN!

Shocks AGAIN!

It’s been awhile since I posted any updates here and, for the most part, this is because not much has changed…

If you caught the recent review we did on the Metalcloak RockSport shocks you know that we are in the search for a suitable replacement to them. We aren’t really in a place to get the ones I want right now. But I fear that procrastination may cause premature and poor tire wear and (sadly) we think the tire we have will need to go another season. Oh, what-to-do….

Metalcloak RockSport Shock REVIEW

Metalcloak RockSport Shock REVIEW

Not long ago, we broke a rear shock rod on our JKU while wheeling. Since we had another trip planned in short order, we had to get it repaired fairly quickly. While the easiest thing to do (especially since we had optimized our shock mounts for the Bilstein 5160s we had) would be to just get replacements of the same, but instead, we opted to try out Metalcloak’s recently released “RockSports”.

The following Monday we called up Metalcloak and luckily they had a set in stock. We had them rushed to us, but to be fair, normal freight would’ve likely been fine. The main reason for the rush was we needed time to repaint them. I know this sounds trivial, but I hate the red (stock Rubicon looking) shocks.

They arrived exactly when promised and were packaged fairly well. Unfortunately, and like every other bar-pin style shock, the rears had some box damage from the pin. This said, the damage seemed only to be to the box itself, so this wasn’t really a big deal.

After a quick painting of silver to match our Jeep, the installation went well and is very easy. We did notice that the pin widths seemed wide and we actually had to do a little bending of the mounts and/or grinding of the pins to make the switch. Initially, we thought this was due to the Bilstein pins being narrow, but when I compared them to a set of OE shocks I had at the shop, we did in fact find them to be about 1/16” wider.

For the travel, we totally lucked out and no adjustments were needed. The Metalcloak Rocksport front shocks had nearly identical collapsed and extended lengths as the Bilsteins we removed. The rears were just a bit longer in both the collapsed and extended lengths but our set-up was fine with this and we welcomed the additional 3/8-1/2” down-travel we would gain.

Here you can see one of the old Bilsteins in the rear and the new Rocksport replacement. If you look hard enough, you can see the Rocksport side of the axle is just a touch lower.

Before we dive into our testing and performance review, we wanted to share just a bit about our test rig and set-up. We are running Metalcloak 3.5” True Dual-Rate coils and all eight Metalcloak control arms. For several reasons, we do not run Metalcloak steering or roll correction components. We run 37” Goodyear MTR/Ks. Our set-up has a pretty low center of gravity with about as much down-travel as you can pull off while maintaining front driveline angles (pictured below). The Jeep had about 35k miles on it at the time of the shock change. This Jeep is not daily driven, but does see plenty of highway miles and heavy trail use at the end of those miles.

We understand that ride and handling are completely subjective and are very much a perception item. But remember, we have used this Jeep pretty diversely with very few changes over the past 20k miles. So, any recognized differences will be completely attributed to the shock change.

Having said the above, our only real measure will be in comparison to how the Jeep was with the Bilsteins.

We mentioned early on that we had another trip planned in short order. The destination was the first Nitto/Discount Tire/EVO Jeep Experience in Texas, so we would have 1800 miles of pavement, two days of epic wheeling, and another 1800 miles home… all in four days. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this type of weekend warrioring, but the distance and trail types would be perfect for testing.

Pavement performance was exactly what we expected. Ride is smooth; unfortunately, this is at the sacrifice of stability in the curves. Large bumps also seemed to create more instability than we had expected. We had never previously experienced the rear of the jeep hopping sideways after a bump or pot-hole but have on several occasions since the change.

My biggest concern on the trail was their ability to control the tire in mixed traction with loose soil. If you are not sure what I’m talking about watch the video below.

There are lots of variables that can cause this wheel-hop. But it is one of the toughest things to control and it’s all of the shocks responsibility. We actually did this very hill and, while we watched the tires as much as we could, we experienced very little hop. This came at a bit of a surprise given the much lighter compression valve rate that we knew the shocks had. Overall, our trail and even road opinion was pretty favorable.

Unfortunately, as our testing has continued, our opinion has changed. We have now put close to 5k miles on these shocks. Our recent adventure was a mix of terrain and their stability and control over miles of dirt/gravel was pretty bad. What’s worse is when we returned to the pavement, they have never returned to form. We now experience poor control and stability over the smallest of bumps. It’s almost as if the Jeep has no shocks at all.

It is important to recognize that these shocks are very inexpensive. All four can be had for under $300 directly through Metalcloak. Still, ours are almost completely used up and we need to replace them very soon. So, while they are inexpensive, replacement at every 5-10k miles adds up quickly. Running them with lighter/smaller tires or on more pavements may add to their life, but who knows by how much. Adding a second $300 for replacements and you could’ve bought a much better shock to begin with that is sure to last much longer.