Jeep JK

Metalcloak announces Dana 30 diff cover for Jeep JK

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Photo courtesy metalcloak.com

Fans of California-based Metalcloak have another product with which to ‘cloak’ their Jeeps. The company announced Wednesday a differential cover for Dana 30 axles, complementing the Dana 44 cover it has offered for some time.

Like its bigger stablemate, the Dana 30 cover is constructed of nodular cast iron and features an embossed ‘M’ logo and ships unfinished. Both versions of Metalcloak’s differential cover retail for $79.

Learn more here: https://www.metalcloak.com/MetalCloak-M-Dana-30-Differential-Cover-p/7212.htm

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Suspension comparison: Teraflex vs. Metalcloak vs. Rock Krawler

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Metalcloak 2.5-inch suspension system, Game Changer pictured (Photo courtesy user NavyCorpsman/Jeep Wrangler Forum)

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Just as we did with our last suspension comparison, this report will compare and contrast the features of three popular 2.5- to 3-inch suspension kits for the Jeep JK. Again, the intended recipient of this suspension upgrade is a 2009 two-door soft-top JK that sees use on both street and trail, with most of the driving, sadly, coming on highways and surface streets. The Jeep currently wears a set of 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs, with 35-inch tires planned as their eventual replacement.

Let’s look at our suspension choices:

The contenders

 

Metalcloak Overland Elite 2.5-inch system: The top of the line in Metalcloak’s overland-oriented suspension systems, the Overland Elite reduces cost by reusing the original-equipment control arms, instead utilizing drop brackets for caster correction. (MSRP: $1,269)

Rock Krawler Overland 2.5-inch system: A smooth on-road ride and improved off-road handling are among the top benefits of Rock Krawler’s 2.5-inch overland system. It features progressive coil springs, front sway bar disconnects and longer rear links, and includes Rock Krawler’s “abuse-proof” lifetime warranty. (MSRP: $1,242.10)

Teraflex 3-inch lift with four control arms & front track bar: To create a lift kit comparable to those from Metalcloak and Rock Krawler, Teraflex took their standard-issue three-inch lift kit and added front lower and rear upper adjustable control arms and a front adjustable track bar. (MSRP: $1,759.99)

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Components & considerations

Coil springs: We’ve only started, and already our three kits couldn’t be more different. Teraflex uses traditional linear coil springs to achieve 2.5 inches of lift and a factory-like ride, then tops the springs with a half-inch spacer to achieve its advertised three inches. Metalcloak, on the other hand, issues two pair of its “true dual-rate” coils, which combines a traditional linear spring lower with a “flex rate” section that remains compressed at ride height. This design ensures the springs stay seated in their purchases, even at the extremes of articulation. Rock Krawler’s approach is more high-tech. Where Rock Krawler once used springs of different designs in the front and back, the company’s Overland lifts use progressive springs front and rear.

While many coil-spring lifts deliver slightly more lift than advertised to account for the varying weight of Jeep and armor, both Metalcloak and Rock Krawler kits are known to give significantly more than the stated height. (This is less an issue now that Rock Krawler offers specific springs for two- and four-door Jeep JKs.) For example, a survey of nearly a dozen owners of two-door JKs like mine reveals the average lift height from a 2.5-inch Metalcloak kit was about 3 3/8 inches!

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Function of Metalcloak’s “True Dual-Rate” coil spring (Animation courtesy Metalcloak)

 

Both the dual-rate and progressive coils provide an excellent on-road ride and trail manners, superior to a linear spring, but progressive springs can sometimes be difficult to pair with a suitable shock. Any shock not specifically valved for the spring will have a hard time adjusting to the progressive springs’ five spring rates (three load rates and two transitional rates). Advantage: Metalcloak

RK Res ShkShocks: None of the kits in today’s comparison include shocks. Each company offers house-branded or third-party standard or long-travel shocks as an option. For Teraflex, that’s a pair of Fox options headlining the available options, with a twin-tube design serving as an economic back-up. Rock Krawler offers monotube or external-reservoir versions of what I suspect is a rebadged Bilstein unit, similar to American Expedition Vehicles’ approach. For it’s part, Metalcloak touts its high-performance Six-Pack shocks, but also offers a long-travel option from Old Man Emu and a Chinese-sourced house brand. All these options are nice, but savvy consumers will look for the best standalone deal. Advantage: Tie

Bump stops: The Teraflex and Metalcloak units include adequate front and rear bump stops, while Rock Krawler requires the end user to determine his or her desired size and make a separate purchase. (Steel bump stops of varying sizes are a $59 option up front or $54 aft.) The two kits with included bump stops, then, take differing approaches. Teraflex boasts a more plug-and-play approach, adding a rubber bump-stop mount between the jounce tube and the factory Jeep bump stop. Metalcloak, on the other hand, requires drilling the front axle’s spring perch, but includes front and rear stops that are height-adjustable, enabling the user to customize his or her available up-travel. Advantage: Metalcloak

Front track bar: Any lift of 2.5 inches or above shifts the front axle a quarter-inch or more to the driver’s side. At 2.5 inches, many choose to overlook re-centering their axle under the Jeep. At three inches or more, however, the shift is a bit more noticeable, and so all three of these kits include a replacement unit. Metalcloak’s track bar is standard steel stock with an adjustment head on one end and, while Metalcloak and Rock Krawler both use a solid steel bar, Rock Krawler’s features adjustment heads on both ends. Teraflex’s Monster Adjustable Track Bar is unique in that it allows adjustment via an adjusting sleeve, providing the option to adjust its length while mounted to the Jeep. Any of these will get the job done, but I prefer the convenience Teraflex provides.  Advantage: Teraflex

Rear track bar: All of these kits include a replacement track bar bracket to raise the Jeep’s roll center. Rock Krawler’s bracket raises the Jeep’s roll center three inches, according to the company website, while a visual inspection suggests the Teraflex and Metalcloak brackets provide a similar, if not larger, increase. Both the Teraflex and Metalcloak brackets mount on three planes, which some say negates the need to weld them in place. Teraflex and Rock Krawler provide powder-coated bracketry, while Metalcloak’s parts ship with a gilded covering of zinc chromate, which affords considerable protection against rust formation. The Metalcloak Overland Elite is the only kit among these offerings to include both front and rear replacement track bars. Advantage: Metalcloak

RK Sway StrapsSway bar links: All three kits include disconnecting front and solid rear sway bar links. The Rock Krawler units are height-adjustable. That inherent advantage is tempered, though, by Rock Krawler’s choice to use nylon straps as a method to secure the links when disconnected. It seems likely these straps will weather, fade and ultimately break over time. When compared to the other companies’ solid metal parking posts, it’s hard to see Rock Krawler’s straps as anything but a cost-saving maneuver. Advantage: Rock Krawler

Brake lines: Two of the three kits include four replacement brake lines to avoid overstretching. Not surprisingly, those two are the companies perhaps most noted in the industry for incredible flex and lifts that exceed their stated height — Metalcloak and Rock Krawler. Teraflex’s three-inch kit does include longer replacement lines for the front wheels. Were they going on my Jeep, I’d prefer Rock Krawler’s more understated steel-colored lines to Metalcloak’s bright red, but that’s a subjective argument, which others may see differently. Advantage: Two-way tie (Metalcloak, Rock Krawler)

TF Monster ArmsGeometry correction: A lift of any height will change the factory caster and pinion angle and, the higher you go, the worse the resulting vibrations and driveline stress. Returning these figures to near-factory settings can be accomplished with aftermarket control arms or with brackets that adjust the mounting point of the front arms. The Metalcloak Overland Elite lift includes a set of brackets that maintain the factory Jeep control arms, while the Rock Krawler Overland kit includes a pair of solid 2″ diameter, 7/16″-wall (0.438″) steel alloy front lowers with impressive rebuildable joints. Teraflex adds a pair of 1.75″ diameter, 0.281 wall rear upper arms with natural rubber bushings to its competitor’s lineup, to replace four of the Jeep’s eight original arms. Hard-core wheelers will no-doubt find Rock Krawler’s arms beefy and resilient against the rocks, while average users likely will only suffer the costs of added weight without any of the gains in ruggedness. In other words, for most drivers, Rock Krawler’s arms are simply overkill. Many find drop brackets abhorrent, as they do reduce functional ground clearance by an inch or two, though Metalcloak’s choice to include them in its Overland kits allows drivers to enjoy corrected caster and pinion angles now, while saving costs that can be applied to a full set of fixed or adjustable arms down the road. In the end, though, Teraflex strikes an interesting balance by offering a half-set of arms at only a moderate increase in cost. Advantage: Teraflex

Instructions: How many shade-tree Jeep mechanics have been frustrated — or, worse, had their planned modifications delayed by — poorly written or incorrect instructions? Moreover, instructions must be written not only for expert installers, but for the first-timer, who’s figuring it out as he goes in his driveway. The choice by Metalcloak and Rock Krawler to provide a single set of instructions for all their suspension systems, in my view, is simply lazy and sloppy. More than one or two statements to the effect of “if your kit includes X, then do Y” can easily confound a novice Jeeper. In today’s world of computers and do-it-yourself desktop publishing, there’s simply no excuse for this approach.

Teraflex, on the other hand, includes thorough instructions (though I would prefer color photography or at least higher-quality black-and-white photos) specific to the product at hand. Additionally, the company’s online video collection, surely intended more as a marketing tool than a customer resource, is in fact a tremendous help when installing their products. Advantage: Teraflex

Customer service: The “Teraflex Advantage” wins again. While all three of these companies produce great products and offer satisfactory support after the sale, I’ve found Teraflex’s support staff easily accessible and eager to help. Advantage: Teraflex

Price: In the final MSRP category, the Teraflex entry in today’s roundup is burdened by the fact it contains more components than the Rock Krawler or Metalcloak kits. More components means a higher price and, at a penny shy of $1,760, the Utah company’s suspension system is the costliest of today’s bunch. In a true, apples-to-apples, part-for-part comparison, though, the Teraflex kit comes in more on par with its competitors. In an unusual twist, the Rock Krawler kit edges out Metalcloak in the price department by a scant $27. I’ve always suspected Rock Krawler kits were a little overpriced for their contents, so this comes as a very welcome surprise. Advantage: Rock Krawler

 Summary

Each of these companies caters to a unique audience, each with its own specific needs. The important thing to remember about selecting parts for your Jeep is that within a large group of high-quality parts manufacturers, you really can’t go wrong. I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to do business with Rock Krawler, Metalcloak or Teraflex. Each offers a variety of products suited to a number of driving styles and environments. Hopefully, comparing these products side by side is helpful in making a decision.

FIRST LOOK: New Poison Spyder fender liners for Jeep JK

Poison Spyder Customs has just joined the growing number of manufacturers to offer replacement front fender liners for current-generation Jeep Wrangler owners.

While the design does lack the added ventilation offered by some of their competitors, Poison Spyder’s aluminum inner fenders bring two key innovations to the marketplace. First, the Poison Spyder fender liners are the first to offer a true one-piece design, eliminating the need to bolt two pieces together in the fender well. Further, each 16 gauge 5052 aluminum sheet is bead-rolled for added strength, and the beads lend an added element of style to the design.

These sharp-looking inner fenders are compatible with both factory plastic fenders and most aftermarket fender armor.

But, the most exciting news may just be the price. Poison Spyder is opening up orders for these at $199 in unfinished form. American-made competitors’ prices range from $179 to $329.

Check out this exciting new product here!

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More Poison Spyder Customs content:

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All photos courtesy Poison Spyder Customs

Weighing new suspension options …

Metalcloak's 2.5-inch Overland Sport kit for Jeep JK. (Photo courtesy metalcloak.com)

Metalcloak’s 2.5-inch Overland Sport kit for Jeep JK. (Photo courtesy metalcloak.com)

Followers of this site know my long-range plan is to install a 2.5-inch coil spring lift, and that I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of Teraflex’s more off-road-oriented lift and American Expedition Vehicles’ long-drive road-friendly kit.

Like most Jeep owners, most of my time behind the wheel is spent on pavement. While I want maximum capability on the trail, I don’t want to pay for it in terms of ride quality when my family and I are taking a long highway trip. I’ve struggled to decide between these kits, as AEV’s progressive springs hold the promise of a better-than-stock ride, but Teraflex’s more affordable option might offer better articulation.

I now wonder if I haven’t stumbled upon a best-of-both worlds solution. But, is this too good to be true?

The Metalcloak Overland “Sport” kit (http://www.metalcloak.com/JK-Overland-Preferred-2-5-3-5-Suspension-Syste-p/7123.htm) offers the 2.5-inch height I’m looking for, the comfort of a dual-rate coil spring (as opposed to AEV’s progressive springs) and significantly raises the Jeep’s roll center, just as the AEV kit does. The Metalcloak kit also boasts loads of down-travel, though, giving it an edge over the AEV lift and matching, if not exceeding Teraflex, in terms of articulation. The Metalcloak kit also includes geometry correction brackets, which eliminate the need for aftermarket control arms to adjust caster and pinion angle. (These are a $99 option with the AEV kit.) The kit’s adjustable bump stops would allow me to dial in exactly the amount of bump stop I want to run without buying additional parts post-lift.

In my mind, the drawbacks to the kit (and AEV’s), aside from a slightly higher cost (when compared apples-to-apples with the other manufacturers’ kits — see chart below), is the question of using a variable-rate spring on steep inclines. Could the front springs’ push-back really lead to a flop when climbing the steep hills along the nearby Canadian River? The fact is, I don’t have enough experience to say. This sounds like a competitor’s fear mongering, but I want more information to make an informed decision.

So, how about it, my fellow Jeepers? Lets hear your experiences with Metalcloak suspension systems, the good, the bad and the ugly. What do you like and dislike? Are their coils, which hold the lighter rate at coil bind in normal driving, all marketing, or do they really make a difference? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!

Lift Comparison

What a diff-erence! Changing Jeep JK differential fluid

According to Jeep, the gear oil in Smokey’s front and rear differentials should be changed about every 15,000 miles, based on the “heavy driving” maintenance schedule. (Here’s a helpful hint: Unless your vehicle only leaves the garage for a weekly Sunday afternoon drive around the block, you should be following the heavy-use schedule.) Based on that schedule, I was more than 15,000 miles overdue for this maintenance and wanted to get it done in advance of a planned summer highway trip.

After a recent unplanned venture into some deep mud, I decided to be safe rather than sorry. There was no evidence my breather tubes had become dislodged, allowing in the muck, but, at less than $60, the necessary four quarts of gear oil were simply cheap insurance.

Materials/tools needed:

  • Four quarts, 80W90 gear oil (A full-synthetic 75W90 is an acceptable substitute and contains the friction modifier that otherwise would have to be added to the limited-slip rear differential. Use a heavier grade for towing.)
  • Fluid pump
  • 3/8-inch ratchet
  • Ratchet extension
  • Torque wrench
  • Fluid drain pan
  • Shop towels

OEM fluid capacities

  • Dana 30 front: 1 quart (approx.)
  • Dana 44 front: 1.4 quarts (approx.)
  • Dana 44 rear: 2 quarts (approx.)

Jeep claims the differentials, as listed above, will hold 1.2, 1.4 and 2.4 quarts, respectively. Even with Smokey’s stock covers in place, I found these figures to be completely unrealistic, as fluid was pouring out of the fill holes at the capacities listed in the bulleted list above this paragraph. Based on Internet research, it appears there’s several tenths of a quart difference from Jeep to Jeep. Use your best judgment.

Step 1: Drain old oil

Place the drain pan below your differential. Attach the ratchet extension to the 3/8-inch ratchet and insert the head of the extension into the bolt hole on the front of the differential cover. Turn counter-clockwise to loosen and remove the bolt. Repeat the process for the drain bolt, located on the bottom right side of each differential. Allow the fluid to completely drain before proceeding.

Step 2: Refill the differential

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Use a couple of shop towels to wipe clean the drain plug, which will be covered with a gritty, dark grey mass. This is normal. The magnetic drain plug catches tiny metallic filings floating in the fluid. If noticeably larger shavings are present, consider removing the differential cover to give your gears a thorough visual inspection.

Replace the cleaned drain plug and tighten to about 25-30 ft. lbs. Attach the pump to the bottle of gear oil and route the length of hose into a secure location inside the fill port. Begin pumping oil into the hole. If your pump will not completely empty the bottle, it may be necessary to transition to a second bottle, eventually pouring the remains of the first bottle into the second.

If you have stock differential covers like Smokey, you’ll know the differential is full when fluid begins to overflow the fill port. Replace the fill plug, tightening to 25-30 ft. lbs., and wipe clean the cover.

NOTE: Do not attempt to overfill the differentials, as doing so may force excess fluid out of the axle’s breather tube.

Total time to complete

About 45 minutes

Total project cost

$56 (Using mid-priced Mobil 1 synthetic gear oil. If you do not have a bottle pump, add about $10.)