Installing Rubicon Express RE8003 ZJ Super-Flex Suspension 3.5 inch Lift.

October 2006

Lifted 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ - 3.5 inch plus a 2 inch boost
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 Mansfield Texas. Brian did the lift mostly by himself, occasionally 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 re-situated. 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.

Rubicon Express RE8003 3.5 inch lift kit with ProComp ES3000 shocks 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ pulling into shop, ready to install lift kit 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ with suspension hanging 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ front stock suspension before lift 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ rear stock supension before lift
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.

RE8003 Removed right rear track bar bolt from unibody. RE8003 Bolt showing from right rear track bar bolt unibody bracket. RE8003 Removing right rear shock. RE8003 Showing track bar loose on right side and shock removed. RE8003 Use a jack stand to hold rear end up.
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.
RE8003 Removing the left rear shock. RE8003 Locating lower rear track bar nut, under control arm. RE8003 Use a deep socket with swivel to hold rear track bar nut. RE8003 Showing the lower rear track bar removed. RE8003 Remove the lower rear track bar dust cover. RE8003 Checking fitment of the new lower rear track bar bracket.
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.
RE8003 Removing left rear lower control arm from unibody. RE8003 Removing left rear lower control arm from axle. RE8003 Showing left rear lower control arm removed. RE8003 Showing right rear lower control arm removed. RE8003 Removing left rear sway bar link. RE8003 Showing disconnected left rear sway bar link.
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.
RE8003 Rear track bar bracket. RE8003 Removing left rear lower control arm from axle. RE8003 Showing left rear lower control arm removed.
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).
RE8003 Removing rear bump stop cup. RE8003 Installing rear bump stop spacer. RE8003 Showing rear bump stop reassembled. RE8003 Installing new rear coil. RE8003 Showing new rear coil in place.
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.

RE8003 Installing grease zerks. RE8003 Adjusting length of rear lower control arms to 17.25 inches center-to-center holes. RE8003 Installing lower control arm axle side. RE8003 Showing rear lower control arm in place (backwards).
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.
RE8003 Rear track bar bracket fitment. RE8003 Installing rear track bar to axle side bracket. RE8003 Tighten rear track bar bracket in place. RE8003 Attach rear track bar to unibody side. RE8003 Showing rear track bar installed, not yet tightened. RE8003 Getting the holes to line up may take a little coaxing with a prybar.
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.
RE8003 Installing longer sway bar end link. RE8003 Showing the longer sway bar end link. RE8003 Reinstall rear spring lower clamps. RE8003 Showing longer new rear shocks installed. RE8003 Showing complete driver side rear with shock. RE8003 Completed rear kit installed, hanging lower now.
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.
RE8003 Removing left side front lower control arm. RE8003 Showing installing right side new lower control arm. RE8003 Disconnect steering from pitman arm and end links. RE8003 Showing front lower control arms. RE8003 Removing front shocks. RE8003 Prying out front coils.
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).
RE8003 Installing new right side front coil. RE8003 Force that front coil in with big pry bar. RE8003 Showing both new coils in place.
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.
RE8003 Disconnecting unibody side front track bar. RE8003 Disconnecting axle side front track bar. RE8003 Installing new adjustable track bar on axle side. RE8003 Installing new adjustable track bar tie rod end. RE8003 Drilling bracket for new larger adjustable track bar bolt. RE8003 New front track bar installed on unibody side.
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.
RE8003 Installing new braided front brake line. RE8003 Showing braded brake line installed. RE8003 Showing brake line bracket installed. RE8003 Showing front sway bar quick disconnect links installed. RE8003 New lift with budget boost spacers and 31 inch tires.
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.
Sizing up a 35 inch BFG on 1994 Grand Cherokee ZJ. Bolting a mounted 35 inch BFG on 1994 Grand Cherokee ZJ. With fenders trimmed and 5 inch lift 35 inch BFGs are too big! Perfect fit is the 33 inch BFG on the 5 inch lifted 1994 Grand Cherokee ZJ. Front view of lifted 1994 Grand Cherokee on 33 inch BFGs. Rear view of lifted 1994 Grand Cherokee on 33 inch BFGs.
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.

Happy Wheelin!