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KL Cherokee Lift – A Second Look

KL Cherokee Lift – A Second Look

It’s hard to believe it’s been just over a year and nearly 17k miles since we installed the first lift on Klondike.

If you remember that install write-up (See it again HERE), you will recall that we decided to order and try a Hazard Sky AD2 lift. Upon receipt of this initial lift, we were slightly disappointed with a few things and offered some criticism. It seems the owner of Hazard Sky caught wind of these criticisms and, rather than getting upset, he simply (and quietly) improved the offering.

Today, there are several options when ordering a KL Cherokee lift or leveling kit from Hazard Sky. Whether you have a Trailhawk or any other type of KL Cherokee, there is a lift option available. Beyond the original UHMW (that is now water-jet cut), you can also select aluminum as a spacer material.

While everything has worked rather well for us with our original lift, we haven’t been completely suspension issue free either. The lift itself has been great! It’s keeping a decent alignment that has been an issue and, honestly, this has nothing to do with the lift. While dealing with the alignment issues and when we knew we were in need of another alignment anyway (again not related to the lift), we decided to take another look at the latest Hazard Sky AD2+ lift and give it a review, achieving just a bit more lift in the process.

Initial impressions of the new lift were good. The packaging is more than adequate for the contents and it’s hard to imagine shipping damage rendering it beyond use.

 

Upon opening the packaging I was relieved to see a very nice set of instructions right at the top. While we don’t really need them, we did give them a thorough read and review and feel they are very clear and detailed. It’s nice to see the extra cost put into color pictures. We know this isn’t cheap, but small black-and-white pictures that are all too common on manufacturer instructions are largely useless and leave the installer running to the internet with cruddy hands for clarity.

There really isn’t much to this lift. 4 spacers for the rear, a couple bolts for the front, a temporary jig for the front, and that’s it. Also in the box is a nice little sticker!

 

For the install, we began with the front. As with the initial install, the toughest part is opening/relocating the hole in the strut for the bolt that clamps the knuckle in place. I have seen where many are opting to simply remove this tab altogether rather than deal with opening up this hole. While we can see this as an easier approach, we personally like it there to ensure the toe stays in the ballpark. Below, you can see the material that needed to be removed. Because it was splitting the hole we knew drilling wouldn’t go well. So, this time we used a carbide deburr and a pneumatic die grinder to whittle away the material for bolt clearance.

 

The little jig that Hazard Sky provides really does make setting the front height pretty easy. One thing we’ve noticed is that the radius of the jig doesn’t perfectly match the strut, but it still works just fine. The deburr made pretty quick work of opening the hole and before long the bolts were in, torqued and front was done.

Moving to the rear:

Our original lift that we purchased from Hazard Sky was for an AD2. However, we ended up making our own spacer for the upper spring perch for a few reasons. The spacer we made caused the rear lift to be more like an AD1. Here is a picture of the old spacers (left) alongside the new ones (right).

 

The rear actually went a little easier than the last time we did this. I think this was likely due to some softening of the arm bushings. We also have some new spring compressors that work a little better than our old set. The bottom-line is, about 30 minutes after we began, both the front and rear were done and we were ready to set Klondike back down on the ground.

We worked really hard to get the before and after picture seen below. You can’t see any of it in the picture, but we taped and marked the floor for both the Jeep and camera to do our best to get everything back in exactly the same spot and from the same perspective. Still, the front isn’t represented as well in the after picture as in reality. Keep in mind, this isn’t a before and after from no lift to a lift, this is from an early version of the HS lift to the current AD2+ lift.

 

Now, a little more on the alignment issue. You may remember that we were actually out of spec a little bit after our initial lift install. To compound this, we had trouble holding a decent alignment. While we are still troubleshooting this a bit… We took our Jeep to the dealer for an alignment. What I am sure of is that our previous alignments were not done to current specs and the bolts were not torqued correctly. The bottom line is that we now have not only a totally in spec alignment, but its all darn near nominal. 😛

In summary:

We were pretty happy with our original Hazard Sky lift. While we did have some constructive remarks on it, it is priced very fairly when compared to other lifts on the market for the KL Cherokees. Hazard Sky has improved their products over the last year and they are still VERY well priced. What’s not to like?

For more information on Hazard Sky, please visit their website HERE.

For more information on our initial install write-up you can see it HERE.

Dirty gets new shoes!

Dirty gets new shoes!

This post is a little late, but we’ve been pretty busy prepping for our overlanding trip so time has been scarce. You may be wondering why Dirty is getting the love when the plan is to use Klondike for this trip… Well, there are a few reasons but the largest being we return from our overlanding trip for only a few days and then head out for Topless for Tatas 9 in Dirty. With laundry and gear to repack, we need her ready. Second, we had a scare with Klondike and were worried she might not be able to make the trip. Thankfully that has passed, but we still wanted Dirty ready in case she needs to step up and bail her sister out.

The very first thing that needed attention was the tires. The 37″ Goodyear MTRs we have ran on Dirty for the past ~2.5 years have been absolutely amazing. They have seen about 32k miles of fairly regular and hard use. They have been across the country several times and not only performed well on the trail but the pavement as well. Still, there is some room for improvement and one of them is in the sidewalls. The MTRs don’t have an overly aggressive tread on the side of the tire and this leaves them vulnerable to sidewall damage. In our case, the small cuts and chunks of missing rubber leave us uneasy with the often long interstate travel we have between destinations. With that said, what started as a tire cleaning and inspection resulted in the last time these MTRs would be mounted on Dirty.

 

Here is where things get interesting… We knew this time was coming and really wanted to try the Maxxis RAZR MTs. So much so, we reached out to Maxxis to discuss our uses and see if we could work together. Maxxis was interested in us using/testing their tires and after some paperwork, we were “sponsored”. We are not talking about full on sponsorship here, but rather we just have access to their tires at a discounted rate. In trade, we would review the tires, provide some media pictures, and of course, run their logo. Unfortunately, once the pricing was evaluated there was still far too much of a gap in tire cost to justify running them. We were literally able to go to a local tire shop and get 37×13.50r17 Cooper STT Pro tires mounted, Road-Force balanced, tax and everything for less than our tire purchase price from Maxxis. With shipping and mounting/balancing still to be added, running the RAZR MTs would mean spending nearly $80 more per tire and we couldn’t swing it.

With 5 Cooper STT Pro tires on order we went to work on a few other things I’ve had on the “to-do” list.

The first was something I’ve wanted to do ever since Poison Spyder came out with their body mounted tire carrier. We love our aluminum Genright tire carrier, but adjusting it for an easy open/close is kinda tricky. I’ve long thought it would be pretty easy and worth it to add an eccentric washer to the upper bolt and a jack screw to allow similar adjusting to the Poison Spyder and I finally put that idea into fruition. I gotta’ say…. It works GREAT!

 

Another thing that I’ve been needing to do ever since we got the Fox Shocks was make a little tweak to the rear sway bar. Dirty has a lot of down travel and the result is the sway links not being long enough to accommodate this. The thing is, if the links get any longer they will hit the brake lines that are along the frame at full stuff. The simple fix is just to lower the sway bar a bit and a $6 block of aluminum I ordered to fab some spacers did the trick.

 

Since Dirty was on the lift, I put Road Runner to work on transporting the new shoes. This ended up being pretty funny looking. The hitch shelf thing we have is made for the Jeeps that have a much higher hitch mounting point. When you compound this with the soft springs the 4-Runner has, she was sagging butt pretty bad all the way home!

 

Once the tires were home it wasn’t long before we had them on and, I have to say, the little bit of beef that was added by the inch of tire width is pretty nice looking! 😛

 

 

 

With the new rubber on, I wanted to verify the ball joints were still in good shape as I thought I found a little movement on the last inspection. Luckily, they are just fine… Unfortunately, the movement was in the unit bearing, so we have one of those on the way, and hopefully a maintenance write-up on the swap will follow. Honestly, the latter will come down to time. It’s WAY faster to just do the job versus taking video and/or pictures for a write-up, but we will see.

 

 

JK/JKU Parking Brake (E-Brake) Adjustment

JK/JKU Parking Brake (E-Brake) Adjustment

If you own a JK or JKU, and especially if it happens to be a manual transmission, you know how crappy the factory parking brake is. There are a few factors to this. For one, it seems the lever and activation mechanism is prone to breaking and, even when it is working “correctly”, seems to not reset well. The other major factor is in the drum itself. While it is supposed to auto adjust (we don’t see how), we have never seen one that does so. Thus this write-up on how you can manually tweak them in and get your JK/JKU holding again.

Now, this write-up begins with the assumption that you are already fairly familiar with auto maintenance and are comfortable with safely jacking and lifting the Jeep, along with removing the wheels and calipers.

With the above said; this video should help you with everything else…

 

A few additional points you may want to focus on a bit more are pictured below.

The red circle depicts the actual wheel that spins like a nut to extend the screw and spread the shoes apart (this is the fixed side). The lever in the cab pulls on a cable that spreads the opposite side to engage the brake. When the fixed side is too loose there isn’t enough throw in the lever/cable to spread the moving side far enough to make the brakes grab.

The green arrow is the access port where you can adjust the parking brake without taking the drum/rotor off. Our issue with doing this is the missed opportunity to clean and inspect the area.

Here is how this inspection/adjustment port would work. Note: The spring not only holds the shoes in place and tight to the adjuster, but also works as a prevention method to keep the adjuster from free spinning.

 

I know this may have been the Cliffs notes version for many, so if there are any questions please post them as we are happy to help. 🙂

FCA Extends Warranty on JK/JKU Clocksprings

FCA Extends Warranty on JK/JKU Clocksprings

Does your airbag light come on and chime at you? Has your horn or steering wheel buttons stopped working?  If you haven’t experienced your clockspring going out, you probably have heard about someone else’s as it is a common failure on JKs/JKUs. Clockspring failures are not an all or none situation. Some of the below symptoms can have other causes if they are occurring by themselves. However, if there are multiple things going on like you have little electrical gremlins. (BTW…Don’t give the JK a bath or feed it after midnight…) Look to the clockspring as the culprit.

  • horn stops working
  • cruise control stops working
  • radio control buttons stop working
  • airbag light on and chimes many, many, many times
  • windshield wipers and/or washer fluid sprays suddenly while driving
  • horn suddenly goes off while driving

It is important to note that if your airbag light is coming on, even if it is randomly happening, it is important to have it looked it as soon as you possibly can. There have been instances of the airbag not deploying during an accident, as well as, airbags deploying while driving without any impact or accident occurring. I don’t know about you but that would be one serious pucker moment if the airbag deploys spontaneously! 😯

Given the number of complaints from JK/JKU owners about the airbag issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed multiple investigations. In the end, FCA issued a recall in May 2016 for certain 2011-2016 right hand drive models but it is only for the airbag failures. FCA has decided to take the situation a step further and extended the warranty coverage on the clockspring from the normal 3 years/36,000 miles to 15 years/unlimited miles.

We received the letter below advising of the coverage change.

 


 

 

 


 

They included with the letter a claim form for those that have already experienced issues with their clockspring outside of the original warranty period and had to pay for the repair.  One thing to note is that they say “you may be eligible to receive a reimbursement” in the letter. You will need to complete the online form (www.fcarecallreimbursement.com) or mail in the completed claim form shown below and include the original receipts, invoices and/or repair order. I am guessing they know they will be inundated with these and state that your claim will be acted upon within 60 days of receipt.

 


 

 


 

What I find interesting is that they are only extending the coverage on this item IF the air bag light is on or if the air bag circuit is compromised. I guess it’s back to the old school way of tuning your radio and maintaining a constant speed of travel. Oh and don’t mind the wipers and washer fluid spontaneously blocking your view while driving. 🙄

 

What do you think? Let us know by commenting below.

 

 

JCR Offroad JK Inner Knuckle (“C”) Gusset Review

JCR Offroad JK Inner Knuckle (“C”) Gusset Review

With every Jeep generation release there has been improvements when compared to it’s predecessor. Unfortunately, sometimes these improvements create weaknesses in other areas. This is exactly the case with the JK’s inner knuckle or “C”. The JK Inner knuckle is larger than previous Wrangler generations which allows for larger u-joints. The larger u-joints are great, but it seems opening this knuckle up to make room for them increased the leverage just enough that the “Cs” themself are now a weakness and are prone to bending.

To compound the issue, JKs are able to fit pretty large tires with very little modification. Trimming fenders and widening the stance is about all that is needed to clear 35s. The added tire mass and lower wheel backspacing (stance) only makes this already venerable area more prone to bending.

Once bent, which can be detected by negative camber during an alignment or often visually, there is little that can be done. Upper offset ball joints can bring the camber back into spec, but they are often weaker and more prone to wear versus a standard ball joint. Since JKs (especially ones with large tires and/or a wide stance) seem to eat ball joints as is, most are either faced with poor tire wear and handling or shopping for a new housing.

An alternate solution is prevention… A whole host of manufacturers make off-the-shelf gussets that are ready to be welded on to strengthen the Cs. We have personally installed Teraflex, EVO, Synergy, Rock Krawler (Upper only), and now JCR. They all do the job but each has their own little differences. There are essentially two types of gusset designs. Teraflex and Rock Krawler use a single piece of metal that is fairly thick to support the center-line of the knuckle (“C”). EVO, Synergy, and JCR use a plate design that supports the sides of the knuckles. We prefer this latter design.

While similar in design, there are a few things that make the JCR Offroad gussets different. For one, the upper knuckle is supported slightly lower than with the EVO or Synergy variants. This is nice if you are trying to install these and save the ball joints but does offer slightly less support as a result.  Another difference is in the lower gussets. The JCR lower gussets are not ambidextrous. There is one that is specifically made for each side. This is nice as it allows for more welding surface on the back of the axle, but could be an issue for those running some coil-over or lower shock relocation brackets.

While somewhat trivial, JCR also takes the time to weld the seam on the lower gussets. It’s not that big of a deal to do with the EVO or Synergy ones, but it’s nice to have this done out of the box.

One thing I didn’t care for with the JCR gussets was their fit. There were larger gaps in multiple places where a fair amount of filling had to be done. While this is also common with the EVO and Synergy installs I’ve done, it was much more pronounced with these. This is best seen post install by the gap at the bend, near the top of the upper gusset. This is a normal spot I leave open, but usually this is only a 1/4″ or so. These were closer to a 1/2″.

If you have installed (or inspected) other similarly designed gussets, you will likely notice how much further down these sit on the upper “C” near the ball joint.

We were also replacing the ball joints while installing these gussets and the biggest issue I came across was when reinstalling the knuckle. It is pretty common for the wheel-speed sensor bracket to rotate while installing the castle nut. For the driver’s side the direction turned the bracket toward the gusset and actually caused a pretty bad interference, so much so it bent the bracket when turning the knuckle to lock.

To correct this I had to get a helper to hold the bracket in place with a small pry bar (rotated the opposite way) while I tightened the castle nut. Again, no biggie, but if you are working solo or miss this it could lead to a damaged sensor cable. This has not been an issue with any of the EVO or Synergy gussets we have installed.

In summary:

There is nothing wrong with these gussets, they are cheap insurance for a known weakness on the JK housings. Having installed other variants, these are not my preference, but I wouldn’t hesitate to install these again should a friend be in need and this is what they had.

 


 

Other notes on Installing Inner Knuckle “C” Gussets:

  • Not all welders (the people or machines) are the same. I have seen a ton of people get these installed at a muffler shops. Most muffler shops have small welders that are designed to weld fairly thin metal. The result can be poor penetration and a weld that is literally just sitting on top or the metal making the gussets look cool, but be totally useless. If you can’t weld yourself look for a shop that does fabrication work. They will be better prepared for this type of job.
  • While the install looks really simple and quick, the preparation is a bear. Welding quality is as much about the preparation as the welding itself. The paint/rust is tough to clean and lots of consumables and time go into it. I used a small die grinder and used a course wire brush, two 2″ paint removal disks, and a 2″ sanding disk. They are not cheap…. Keep this in mind when shopping for someone to install them for you.
  • Be prepared to install ball joints as part of the install or shortly thereafter, especially if you still have the stock ones. A great deal of heat is put into the knuckle around the ball joints and it damages the them. While we have successfully installed them and not damaged the stock joints, it greatly increases the time of install and usually means another person needs to be present. The second person is used to cool the series of small welds (~1/2 to 3/4″) with a wet rag immediately after completed. Most shops are not interested in adding the labor and/or time.
A leaf sprung JK?

A leaf sprung JK?

I came across this on the interwebs today and while I was trying to stay more focused on other things, was completely captivated. I must admit… I kinda want to do this (just because). What do you think?

FULL STORY HERE

How Internal Bypass Shocks Work….

How Internal Bypass Shocks Work….

Lots of rigs have them… and while I’m sure many are for looks or to brag about having them. Many don’t really know how they work. This video by Fox does a great job at describing what’s going on inside. If nothing else, we can all sound smarter at our next swap meet or Jeep event after watching it 😛 😎 😉