Jeeps Don’t Stay Stock For Long

Gear going on today:

A Jeep, in stock form, is a very capable vehicle. Straight off the showroom floor, they can do some pretty amazing things. In fact, their capability exceeds what most Overlanders will actually need. That being said, every vehicle can be improved upon.

Jeep Needs

The biggest “need” for an otherwise stock Jeep is tires. Unless your Jeep was a Rubicon, it comes with some pretty lame all terrain tires. My Jeep is no Rubicon and that is not a bad thing. I do not plan on doing any rock crawling, so a Rubicon would be total overkill for my needs. But, this of course means that I need a tire upgrade.

Tires look pretty small don’t they?

So, the first thing on my list is a new set of tires. Luckily, Jeep has made it pretty easy recently for us to upgrade their vehicles with larger tires. On an otherwise stock Jeep JK, you can easily fit 33 inch tires. I myself set my goals on 35’s. That extra inch of clearance will be nice and, quite frankly, the 4 door JK just looks better sitting on 35 inch tires.

The trick is fitting those tires on the Jeep without altering the factory ride. It is fairly common for people to throw a 2.5 to 3 inch lift on a Jeep but that changes the factory suspension geometry quite a bit. With Overlanding, especially being based in Texas, I will be doing quite a bit of highway driving. I want to keep things as close to stock as possible.

Jeep Mods

My original plan called for a 1 inch suspension lift and a 1.25 inch body lift. That is 2.25 inches of lift and should have been plenty to clear the 35 inch tires.

A 1 inch suspension lift is practically nothing and can be carried out with just the addition of some 1 inch coil spring spacers. Cheap, easy and it makes barely a difference in the factory suspension geometry.

As for the body lift, I know that many people do not like them but a 1 inch body lift is practically impossible to notice. I had one years ago on a former Jeep and loved it.

Ultimately I decided to nix the body lift idea because of the manual transmission. Too many stories of people having problems with transmissions popping out of gear because of clearance issues.

Without the body lift, I was going to have clearance issues offroad, so I opted to go with a set of flat fender style flares. I found a smoking deal on a set of Rugged Ridge Hurricane Flares so I grabbed them. They provide an extra 2 inches of clearance without lifting the Jeep at all.

Overall, I got about 3 inches of extra clearance while only lifting the Jeep 1 inch. With the tires and the tiny lift, the Jeep would ultimately only be 3 inches taller.

Let’s look at some pictures after the install.

Making The Mods

Spacer Lift

First up was the 1 inch spacer lift. This is a fairly easy modification and took about 2 hours with me taking my time.  If you have even some basic mechanical skills, you can pull off a spacer lift on a Jeep.

The trick is making sure that you have room to flex the suspension out. This means disconnecting sway bars and brake line brackets. Then it is just a matter of letting one side of the axle drop while jacking up the opposite side. You can then pop out the spring, insert the spacer and put the spring back in.

I am not going to get into the specifics of performing a spacer lift, there are lots of good Youtube videos that go over the subject.

 

Here it is with the 1 inch lift and new wheels and tires. I went with a 15 inch 15×8 steel wheel which is a bit of a tight fit on a JK Jeep. The wheels have 3.75 inches of backspacing and just barely clear the brake calipers. I chose 15 inch wheels because the tires are much cheaper and I like the look of more rubber and less wheel. A bit old school.

For tires, I got a great deal on some Cooper AT’s. Discover ST Maxx is the specific tire and, although technically an all terrain, they have a much more aggressive tread design. On the road, they are great. Minimal noise and they are great in the rain. We will see how they do offroad but I have high hopes.

As you can see from the picture above, the tires fit well but they could use a bit more clearance. On road they are fine but with a little bit of flex, I would be tearing up those fenders.

Next came the fender flares.

Fender Flares

Installing the Hurricane flares was a pretty straight forward modification. Simply remove the stock fender flares and bolt on the Hurricanes.

There were, however two modifications that need to be made.

In front, you are required to drill one hole in the sheet metal. Simply line up the flare, make a mark and then drill. Just be sure to paint or use some silicon on the hole to prevent rust.

The other modification is cutting the inner fender liners to match the new flares. That is another great thing about these flares is that you can reuse the inner liners. This is once again fairly simple modification and all that you have to be sure to do is take your time.

Here is a picture of how it turned out. Not too bad. I also took the time to name the Jeep.

Jeep Wrangler with Hurricane fender flares.