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First things first. How do you decide what path to take in modifying your vehicle? Do you save up a substantial amount of money and then go hog-wild? Do you take baby steps and do it slowly so that it has minimal impact to your bank account? I chose the latter. I studied heavily. When the magazines came out with a suspension comparison for 4" lifts on the JK, I read the article thoroughly. What I found both surprised me and confirmed several things I believed.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR:
Ok. True. But what ARE you paying for? Quality? Gadgets? A name? There are good kits, and then there are GOOD kits. Many of them are household names. Skyjacker, Superlift, Teraflex.... but some of them are lesser known. Poly Performance... Donahoe Racing (they have a lift kit??!!)... quality suspension stories are always worth the read and this one is. JP MAGAZINE.
I did some searching on many web sites. I found that the companies that are producing lift kits are becoming a little more loose when it comes to selling components to their kits. Poly Performance has gotten my attention time and time again. I like the fact that I can add components of their suspension kits as I need them. After looking at the cost of various items, I choose to run with the Black Diamond spacer lift and Poly Performance rear shock brackets. Spacers are spacers. Name means little and Black Diamond is not only a good name, but is a great value. The shock brackets not only allow the use of factory shocks (they can be mounted 1.9" higher than stock.. matching a 2" lift), but they use 3 positions to give some adjustability in the suspension.
Once the parts came in, I jumped on the install. Everything went great with the spacers. Typical Jeep. I was thrilled to find the Jeep used nut-serts... tabbed nuts that dont require a wrench on the control arms. AWESOME! Using one wrench, ratchet or whatever is alot easier. :-)
Ok, ok. Typical stuff. I did find one thing kind of interesting. The large diameter of the JK driveshafts causes an interferance with the factory skid plate on my Rubicon in what would (or could) be the farthest extension of the front axle with the 2" budget boost. Something I'll have to fix later. I'm using stock shocks, so they will inherently limit dropout. When it came to the Poly Performance brackets, I had a very hard time getting in to the welds with my cutoff tool. I finaly resorted to the Ox/Acc torch. I found that the metal used on the JK components seems... um... a little softer than previous models. Lets just say... I have done better work. Anyway. I had to hammer on the tabs for the swaybar brackets in order to get the P.P. brackets to seat squarely. No big deal... also had to grind down some high spots in the welds on the tabs... again no big deal.
Once it was all mounted up, I put the shocks back on. In my usual habit of not leaving things alone, I cut the plastic covers off the shocks. I like being able to see the first signs of oil leakage and also it gives it more of an aftermarket look.
The end result was just as expected. The front shocks currently limit the front suspension, but the rear suspension flexes really well. I already see the need for longer swaybar links front and rear.... and wheel spacers. The swaybar is wide, and mounts just inside the tires. The trackbar tends to allow a shift in the axle as the suspension cycles down. This causes the rear swaybar to come uncomfortably close to the tire sidewall. A mod I plan on doing anyway... and one that I will need to do before I get crazy with the offroad action. A look below and you can see the Poly Performance shock mounts. I like em.
If you look closely at the swaybar link, you can see that if the axle drops out much farther, then the link will be inline with the swaybar. Not a good thing, as this can cause the link to go beyond it's intended point of travel.. and bind the swaybar.
this is a worst case scenario
I have made two mods so far. I have installed a K&N intake and a Flowmaster 40 series muffler. The muffler was removed from Lori's Tahoe... so technically it was free. I chose the K&N because I installed one on Lori's Tahoe. I was pleased with the construction, ease of installation and the performance. Again, I was happy. The K&N certainly brought out the loud demon in the little v-6. The intake resonance under wide open throttle is LOUD and actually trasfers into the dash and interior. Its obvious that you have your foot in it. This is an audio file. I recorded the exhaust with my IPAQ, from the drivers seat and all accessories turned off for the interior startup and the accelleration. The Exterior startup was recorded from about 10 feet behind the Jeep, about 2 feet off of the ground.
Interior startup //// Exterior startup and rev //// Accelleration
Above, is the photo of the K&N intake that I had on my JK. I removed it and sold it. This intake did seem to help performance and mileage, however the intake caused an interior resonance that was essentially annoying. When entering the Interstate, you might as well hush, because you couldnt carry a conversation due to a resonance from the engine's intake. The dash and floor would vibrate with it. Top on or off. I reinstalled the stock airbox.
For the curious, I also removed the cover over the radiator. You can see how much of it is covered by the plastic.... and from experience. If you get mud in there, the only way to get it out is to remove the cover. I took it off and left it.
Here is the Flowmaster 40 Series that I pirated from Lori's Tahoe