Lift kit

First look: The (never) finished product

It’s been a long time coming, but Smokey looks good with the addition of her three-inch Teraflex lift. Admittedly, the difference is less dramatic since I was removing a 1.5-inch leveling kit and taller-than-original springs and already have beefy front and rear steel bumpers, but there’s clearly room now to fit some 35s by early next year.

Here’s how the ride-height results break down by corner after letting the springs settle in over a couple of hundred miles:

img_6361-1Front left: 3.5”

Front right: 3.5”

Rear left: 2.165”

Rear right: 2.415”

Baby steps: Installing the Teraflex leveling kit for Jeep JK

Followers of Smokey’s painfully slow build-up know I have many fun things planned for this go-anywhere dual-purpose Jeep. Why, then, one might ask, would I spend time and money installing coil spacers — and only going up an inch and a half, at that?

Good question. Here’s the answer.

Teraflex's leveling kit includes four one-inch spacers for the front springs and a pair of similar spacers out back. (Not pictured are the longer front sway bar end links, which were unnecessary for my application.)

Teraflex’s leveling kit includes four one-inch spacers for the front springs and a pair of similar spacers out back. (Not pictured are the longer front sway bar end links, which were unnecessary for my application.)

I’m going to need tires early in 2016. (From the three new punctures I pulled when rotating the tires yesterday, I may need them a bit sooner!) When I replace those tires, the last thing I want to do is replace a worn set of 32-inch rubber with more 32-inch rubber. I’m well aware the Jeep JK will accept 33-inch tires, at least the skinny 10.5-inch wide models, without a lift. But, since only half a larger tire’s diameter translates to extra height, I really want to move to a 34-inch tire next. To do that without risking my fender flares under trail extension, I needed some kind of height boost.

The good folks at Teraflex had the answer I was looking for. They offer a 1.5-inch leveling kit that lifts the front of the Jeep two inches (four one-inch pucks) and the rear one inch. This not only will clear a slightly larger tire, but it eliminates that annoying nose-down look Jeeps come with from the factory. And, while Teraflex sells their kit for about $160 (prices will vary slightly by retailer), I was able to save some cost by ordering just the six coil spacers. (I installed a set of Teraflex quick disconnects, which are part of the complete leveling kit, about a year ago.)

Installation was a simple affair, though I do recommend the following:

  • Don’t install your kit outdoors on a 99-degree sunny day
  • Don’t attempt your installation if you’re still recovering from bronchitis
  • If you are recovering from bronchitis — and are asthmatic to boot — do remember to keep your inhaler handy

Yeah, you can guess how I learned these oh, so obvious lessons. This guide is a little light on photos, as I quickly became less concerned with taking them as I was with (a) completing the job and (b) breathing.

NOTE: I owe a huge thanks to my friends Jeff L. and Don H. for helping with this install!

Materials/tools needed:

  • 4 Teraflex 1″ front coil spacers (Part No. 1953075)
  • 2 Teraflex 1″ rear coil guide & spacer (Part No. 1954100)
  • 18 mm box wrench or socket
  • 18 mm deep-well socket
  • 19 mm box wrench or socket
  • 10 mm box wrench or socket
  • 10 mm deep-well socket (optional)
  • Torque wrench
  • Automotive grease
  • Floor jack
  • Lug wrench
  • Flat-head screwdriver or trim puller
  • Spring compressors (optional)
  • Shop towels (optional)

Front spacer installation

With the wheel removed, use an 18 mm socket and wrench to remove the lower shock bolt.

With the wheel removed, use an 18 mm socket and wrench to remove the lower shock bolt.

Taking the installation one wheel at a time, loosen all five lug nuts and jack up the front axle to remove the wheel. Teraflex’s prudently cautious instructions call for the removal of any wiring harnesses (absent on my non-Rubicon) and of the hard brake line from the frame. We removed the brake line from the first wheel, only to realize Jeep accounted for plenty of slack. Use your best judgment on your own installation. Next, use an 18 mm socket and wrench to remove the lower shock bolt to allow the axle plenty of droop.

Using a spring compressor to aid in installation, return the front springs to their perches. Make sure the bottom coil wraps into its proper groove.

Using a spring compressor to aid in installation, return the front springs to their perches. Make sure the bottom coil wraps into its proper groove.

Using the floor jack, lower the axle. The front springs, in turn, should be easily removable. Next, remove the factory upper spring isolator and stack it at the bottom of the front Teraflex spacers. Use both spacers to remove the factory rake or only one to maintain it. Without the convenience of a floor lift, we used spring compressors to aid in getting the springs back into place.

Rear spacer installation

First impressions

While spacer lifts like this one won’t typically fluctuate in real-world lift height like a coil spring lift, here are the measurements from flat, level ground to the bottom edge of the fender flare (rounded to the nearest hundredth). Note, Smokey does wear a 69-pound aftermarket front bumper, which adds 43 pounds to the factory front-end weight, and that she has recently begun to exhibit a little “JK lean” to the right side.

Left front

Before: 35.75″     After: 37.88″     Net gain: 2.13″

Right front

Before: 35.75″     After: 37.75″     Net gain: 2.0″

Left rear

Before: 35.75     After: 37.31″     Net gain: 1.56″

Right rear

Before: 35.88″     After: 37.25″     Net gain: 1.37″

On the road, the differences are minimal, if noticeable at all. From the driver’s seat, I noted just the slightest decrease in steering wheel input at highway speeds, though in town driving was as normal. The low-speed ride also felt just a little less jarring on potholes or other sharp suspension changes, though my wife could not identify any change in ride quality. The suspension does squeak now over significant bumps, which I suspect is simply the springs rubbing against the new poly spacers. I’m hoping this diminishes over time as the spacers get broken in.

Total time to complete

About 4 hours (including a couple of lengthy breaks)

Total project cost

$127.24 (w/free shipping from Northridge 4×4)

Teraflex leveling kit: before & after

I’ll post a full write-up in the near future, but here are some quick before-and-after shots. At only 1.5 inches, it’s not a huge difference, but it definitely improves the stance. I look forward to hitting the trails with an extra inch of clearance!

Now, if only that rear bumper/tire carrier would arrive …

Before:

After:

 

A little pick-me-up

Teraflex's leveling kit includes four one-inch spacers for the front springs and a pair of similar spacers out back. (Not pictured are the longer front sway bar end links, which were unnecessary for my application.)

Teraflex’s leveling kit includes four one-inch spacers for the front springs and a pair of similar spacers out back. (Not pictured are the longer front sway bar end links, which were unnecessary for my application.)

Consumables. The word refers to products or supplies which have a given life span, after which they are depleted and must be replaced.

In Smokey’s case, the most notable consumable is her tires. I’ve watched as her 32-inch BF Goodrich mud-terrains slowly but inevitably wear away. At their current rate of wear, I anticipate needing to replace them in about nine months. That’s plenty of life left, and plenty of time to plan and prepare, but there’s no way my Jeep budget could absorb a lift, wheels and tires at one time. Then, a little online research got me thinking.

At current market prices, I could move up to a 33- or 34-inch tire for about the same price as purchasing new 32s. (My current tires are Rubicon take-offs, and I’ve decided not to risk buying used tires again.) But, if I were to move up in tire size, I’d risk rubbing Smokey’s fenders when running disconnected on the trail. Oh, a smaller 33-inch might be OK, but a large 33 or 34 definitely could rub.

Fortunately, I found a simple solution that will allow me to increase tire size when the time comes without first installing a full coil spring lift — a 1.5-inch leveling kit.

Teraflex offers an inexpensive leveling kit that consists of four one-inch spring spacers for the front and two one-inch spacers for the rear, along with longer front sway bar links. The end result is a rake-eliminating two inches of additional height out front and a single inch in the rear. Since I already run a set of Teraflex sway bar disconnects, I had no need for the links, and saved money by just ordering the kit’s spacer components.

Look for an installation write-up in the coming weeks. For now, here’s Teraflex’s own installation video: