1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo (ZJ)
Installing Rubicon Express RE8003 ZJ Super-Flex Suspension 3.5 inch Lift.
In choosing a lift I researched quite a few long-arm kits. I was leaning towards Kevin's Offroad ZJ Long Arm kit, but finances
being as they are, I settled for a much cheaper 3.5 inch Rubicon Express kit. Including shocks it cost around $1000 bucks!
Earlier I popped in a Rusty Budget Boost 2 inch lift, which helped squeeze 31 inch tires, but to go larger I needed to go a little higher
(even with trimming the fenders). Ideally I would be able to run 35 inch tires, but what happened was 33 inch was as tall as I could still
go without further trimming. 33 inch is about the minimum for rock crawling, it'll do. I wasn't looking forward to installing
this lift, with compressed extra long coil springs laying on my back on my garage floor... uh, no thanks. So a big shout out goes to my
friends at Meineke in Manfield Texas. Brian did the lift mostly by himself, ocassionally one of the other techs or myself lent
a hand. We did have one scary moment when my jeep jarred loose from the lift. This was when they were strong-arming one of
the front coils into place. A couple of guys stabilized the jeep while the lift was lowered and resituated. Other than that it took
an afternoon to get it all done.
Having driven the jeep for a while now, I'm happy with the lift, the look, and the ride. I haven't taken it off-road just yet but look forward to
testing it's flex. It did develop a death wobble shortly after the lift because of a broken OEM suspension bolt, after using a beefier version it drives just fine now.
Click on any image for a larger view.
I bought the Rubicon Express kit from a local 4 Wheel Parts Wholesaler store. At their recommendation I also bought the
ProComp ES3000 shocks. They actually didn't have the kit for the ZJ in stock so it had to be ordered. In a day or two it
arrived packaged in two boxes, within each box were more boxes. Each box was clearly marked with the contents. The above
picture shows everything all at once. Basically it includes the front and rear coils, bump stops, brake lines, rear track bar
extension bracket, lower control arms front and rear, rear sway bar end links, front adjustable track bar, and front sway bar quick disconnects. It
calls for basic hand tools, however having access to air tools and a drill did make it much easier. Not to mention having
a vehicle lift, getting the jeep off the floor was also a huge help. My last experience was when I lifted my 1983 Suburban, it
was leaf sprung and the parts much heavier, but about the same concept... swapping parts. I also threw in a few photos of
before the suspension parts were swapped in. Notice how far down the rear end is hanging with stock suspension, and later down
the page you'll see it hanging much lower.
Brian jumped right in and start disassembling the suspension. On the passenger rear he pulled off the upper track bar
bolt (this can stay in place, doesn't have to be removed), and the shock. Figured this would be a good time to put
a jack under the rear end before pulling anything else off.
Off goes the driver side rear shock. Next we removed the rear track bar from the axle (drivers side). The nut will need to be
held from under the lower control arm with a socket. If you're wondering why my lower control arm "dust cover" looks like
it's been melted... well, because it was. That was from an earlier attempt at running dual exhaust. Lets just say that pipe
ran a little too close. After a few days of rattling around against my axle I went back to a single exhaust, sigh. Anyway,
this plastic dust cover can be thrown away, it won't be reinstalled. You can see the new rear track bar axle bracket sitting
in place. It will be bolted down in the place of the dust cover.
Next the left and right rear lower control arms were removed. Also the left and right rear sway bar end links were
removed as well.
To propery attach the new track bar bracket will require drilling through the existing axle bracket as shown. One new hole in
the lower angled bracket and one on top (shims and bolts are provided in kit). Also provided is a spacer that is used in the place of
where the old track bar mounted (to keep it from collapsing). A bolt is provided, simply run the bolt through the new bracket
and through the spacer and tighten (we used the original torx bolt for this, and the new bolt for the track bar install). After this
was in place we lowered the jack and removed the rear coil springs (no picture, they will simply fall out).
Remove the rubber insert from each bump stop cup, left and right side. The cup can then be removed. Using the supplied
longer bolts reattach the bump stop cup with a block spacer. Push the rubber inserts back into the bump stop cups. The new
coil springs go in as easily as the old ones fell out. You may have to lower the jack a little more to make this easy. You
will also notice in the picture that I chose to leave my budget boost 2 inch spacers in place for added total lift.
Find and install all the grease zerks. With a 3.5 inch lift Rubicon Express recommends setting the length of the rear lower
control arms to 17.25 inches. My lift is closer to 5.5 inches, so I'm guessing the length should be 17.75 inches. According to a
PDF file found on Rubicon Express website, they recommend a length of 17.50 inches for their 4.5 inch lift. I'll need to
remove the lower control arms and lengthen before my first off-road trip. This will also give me the opportunity to put them on
in the recommended direction (they are shown mounted backwards in the photo). RE recommends the rubber bushing is mounted on the
unibody side with the zerk near axle pointed upward. Snug up all bushing bolts, but don't tighten until vehicle is lowered with full
weight on wheels.
A few more photos showing the final install of the included rear track bar bracket. And the track bar being reinstalled.
Again, snug these bushing bolts for now, tighten when jeep is back on the ground.
Just about done with the rear end. The longer rear sway bar end links will now bolt right up. Reinstall the rear
coil lower clamps. Install the new longer shock absorbers. Done. Except for tightening all bolts when on the ground,
the rear install is complete. You can see the rear end now hangs a little lower than stock. The tires can go back on.
Now for the front-end. First, let me apologize for a lack of photos. The front install was a little more intense and fast moving
than the back. I grabbed the camera every chance I could, a lot of times after the fact. One tool that would be helpful for this
would be an outside spring compressor. Brian's spring compressor was the style that worked from the inside, it turned out to be
useless for our purposes. AutoZone will loan most of these tools with a deposit, return it and get your deposit back. First we
removed the front lower control arms and attached the new control arms to the axle. Be sure to use the original factory eccentric
bolt and spacer (needed to align front end). The rubber bushing side is attached to unibody side, be sure the grease zerk side
is up on the axle side. Next we disconnected the
sway bar links from the top. Disconnected the steering arm at the pitman arm. And the lower bolts from the shocks. At this point
you would think the axle would hang loose like the rear and the springs would fall out... nope. We still had to pry the existing
coils out (don't forget to remove the small coil retainer bracket before prying).
The first picture shows the first attempt and installing the front coil with an inner coil compressor. Like I said, this didn't
work. The 2" spacer was retained from my budget boost lift. Right about the time I was snapping the second picture was when my
jeep just about took a swan dive off the lift. Yikes! All hands jumped on deck as the jeep was spun on the rack and barely hung on.
After a few tense minutes we got it rearranged and back in the air. So this might be another reason to get the outer spring
compressor instead of strong arming (er using a huge cheater bar to dislodge the entire jeep) the coil into place. In all the
excitement we noticed the lower bump stop was never installed. Ooops. I told them to forget it, I wasn't doing that all over
again! I'll let you know if that was a mistake when I compress the suspension out on the trail.
Removing the old track bar was easy, one side is attached to the unibody the other to the axle. The original axle side bolt seemed a
little weak, but nothing was mentioned to change it so it was reused. Eventually it did break and caused some serious death wobble, so
if you're doing this lift, now is the time to change this out. To change the lower bolt you will need to drill out the bushing. I also
welded a large washer to the attaching bracket for a little extra support. The upper bolt was provided and drilling out the unibody
side bracket was necessary as shown in the picture. We did have a little trouble with this bolt, for some reason we cross threaded it
and didn't feel comfortable usinging it. I went to Tractor Supply Co supply store (which just happened to be in the same parking lot) and bought a
new Grade 8 bolt.
The kit includes new braided brake lines. They are simple, remove the old install the new. It comes with a small bracket
to keep them from flopping around. Don't forget to bleed the brakes before you take off down the road. The kit also contained
quick disconnects to replace the original sway bar links. These were also easy and straight forward in installing. Again, sorry
there weren't enough detailed pictures, hopefully you've learned a thing or two to make your lift project a little easier. Before the jeep was lowered
we walked around ensuring all small brackets were in place, no extra parts (except the front bump stops), and just one last
sanity check in general. Once lowered don't forget to tighten all the bushing bolts and double check all other installed
components for tightness. First think after all this we drove it up on the alignment rack to be sure it drives straight and
true. The steering wheel was way off, so the alignment took a few minutes longer than normal. The
final picture shows it lifted in my driveway sitting on my old BFG 31s.
Now it needs bigger tires! See below.
The next day I drove down to my local Discount Tire store. Earlier in the month I had bought the wheels because they were deeply
discounted (no on wants the old school 15 inch wheels any more). I though about moving up to 17 inch or even 20 inch... Naw! I
have 20's on my daily driver Dodge Ram and they look good, but I just can't get used to them on an off road truck. In my mind I
like the extra rubber between the wheel and the rocks, after all I run them really low on air pressure. I'm seeing bigger
wheels on 4x4s every day so maybe next time... for now, cheaper is better! I really wanted to stuff the BFG 35s, but it
was just too tight. I had to settle for the 33s but I'm not entirely disappointed, I like the look of the 33 inch, I'll get a little
more wheel travel and 33s are plenty big enough for the trail and any rocks I'd ever tackle.