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