Rubicon Express 4.5" RE6130 Super-Flex Lift Installation
Wow, I'm not even sure where to start on this; it feels so good to be DONE finally and yet I've already noticed a case of 'Inch-itis' coming back. If you read my 2" lift saga, you may notice it took more than three months to finish the lift. I had that in mind when I bought the RE6130 4.5" Super-Flex lift, so it actually sat in my living room taunting me for a good month until I could set aside enough time for the installation and post-install corrections. My biggest beef (and it really isn't a worthy beef) with this kit is that there was no instruction sheet or guide saying "replace this first to make life easier" - that's not a big deal though.
I took the Jeep and all the parts over to my friend Tiffster's garage about 1pm; it was later than I wanted to start, but what can I say? Following my philosophy of 'keep it drivable if needed' we tackled the rear lift first.
RearThe rear involves a 3.5" spring pack and a 1.75" extended shackle to give the 4.5 advertised inches from this lift, so we were going to have to remove the old pack and shackle. People will tell you repeatedly to spray everything down with PB Blaster a few times in the days prior to removal, and I'm one of them. If only I would have listened to myself better this job might have been done sooner; I never got around to that and only had a few hours of Blaster on the bolts.
I learned on my first lift (a 1987 Toyota 4x4 X-Cab) that removing both spring packs at the same time means the axle isn't supported, so we did one side at a time. Blocking the front wheels is a good safety precaution since the rear wheels and e-brake are going to be off the ground. Remove the wheels for easier access; if you have enough sturdy jackstands or a lift you may consider putting the entire Jeep up in the air. My u-bolts were semi-loose on one side which I'm sure wasn't a good thing, so it's a good thing they were getting removed. Keep the original mounting bolts for the spring pack and shackles, as you will need them to mount the new pieces. This task is a LOT easier if you remove the shackle while the old spring is still mounted to the Jeep.
With that said, there really wasn't much involved with the rear. Remove spring pack and shackle, add new one, repeat on the other side. If you want to separate the pieces for re-sale later, it's easier to unbolt the lower shackle bolt first, then remove the front spring bolt before removing the upper shackle bolt.
I received some feedback awhile ago about this page; it seems that I got lucky with the springs on mine. The writer had a similar Cherokee but because he lives near the Great Lakes, the underside of the Jeep is a nice, even rust color. The Jeep engineers use a sleeved rubber bushing in the front end of the spring, and the bolt through the hanger often rusts to that metal sleeve. When this happens, the bolt cannot be removed without cutting it off and prying the spring out. If you have to do this, be careful not to cut into the spring mounts themselves. There are numerous recurring threads on NAXJA that describe this procedure, and I'll see if I can grab a writeup for future use here.
One of the additions from the 2" Budget Boost was 18" long RE1515 Stainless extended rear brakeline that I wrote up separately, so there was no need to mess with that. The bolts on my JKS Bar-Pin Eliminators were seized, so I left the earlier Doetsch Tech shocks in place until I can remove them. This is one reason I highly recommend soaking everything with PB Blaster, from multiple points in the days before installing, and even then sometimes you will need to use a SawZall to cut the bolt out.
If you are doing this lift from stock, remove the rear swaybar and discard (or eBay) it at this time. Keep the mounts though, as they can be used to relocate the shocks if desired. The swaybar will need to be threaded out toward the drivers side, so having the wheels off and the spring pack out of the way will definitely help. The rear end definitely feels different without the swaybar and body roll will more pronounced, but remember that Up-Country XJs came from the factory without a rear swaybar because they used a stiffer springrate in the rear. Use good sense when driving without the swaybar, as the Cherokee is a top-heavy vehicle.
As I said, we didn't know any better at that time, so I decided to remove the center pins and discard the spacer. Clamp the leafsprings with c-clamps on either side of the center pin, and unbolt the center pin to remove it. The threaded portion of the pin was chucked into a drill, and while Tiff spun that I hit the head of the pin with a grinder. This did short work of reducing the diameter and we were able to reconnect the pin and mount the springs. Had I really been thinking about it we would have drilled out the axle pad to fit the pin...that's what RE really intends anyway.
This whole debacle with the spring pins should have been a simple thing. It wasn't until I installed a Dana44 rear axle that I really knew there was a problem, since the D44 already had a larger hole in the axle-side spring pad. Although they were a snug fit in the Chrysler 8.25" axle, my custom-ground spring pins were now too small. Unable to locate any nearby, I ended up buying another set through RE.
After only one year installed in the Jeep my center pins were rusty hunks o'junk thanks to the Colorado Department of Transportation and the decision to spray our roads with Magnesium Chloride (MgCl). I guess that's a hint to waste more water in the middle of our drought by rinsing the underside more often during the winter.
Since it has 2/3 of the parts, we knew the front end was going to take longer simply because of the complexity. We removed the shocks early, knowing that they will be in the way. Replacing the brake lines would have been a good idea for early on as well just to allow more room for movement later on when replacing the coil springs. When installing other lifts including that 2" Budget Boost, a set of coil spring compressors can be invaluable, but in this case we didn't need them since the Upper and Lower Control Arms were going to be replaced and the axle is able to drop far enough to insert the coils.
The first step is simply to remove enough of the old parts that the lift installation can proceed. this meant removing the Trackbar, swaybar, and old springs to allow the new control arms and springs to fit. Once they were in place, reassembly of the Trackbar, brakes and swaybar can take place.
ALWAYS keep at least one control arm pair or a trackbar connected at any time, as the axle will try to roll out and can cause serious bodily damage!
I opted to upgrade the adjustable RE1600 trackbar to the adjustable RE1660 Heavy-Duty trackbar. This new, larger trackbar also requires a new mount instead of relying on the stamped steel of the stock piece. Rubicon Express also includes a brace to go across the frame to better keep the new RE1665 Trackbar mount in place, but that's another story.
The stock trackbar needs to be removed, and since I was replacing the bracket I pulled the whole unit as one piece. There are four bolts holding the stock trackbar mount in place; two underneath and two on the side. We reinstalled the mount but left the trackbar itself off until the rest of the installation was complete.
Although they appear to have a Torx head, the lower swaybar pins on the axle are pressed in place, and would not come out with a socket/c-clamp press. I installed JKS Quicker Disconnects later on, and wrote that installation up separately.
Springs and Bumpstops
Replacing the springs is done in conjunction with the Control Arm replacement. Once you have the Arms in place, the springs may need to be compressed in order to fit between the coil tower and axle. Instead of that, you can either insert the coil while one of the control arms is off, since the axle will move very freely at that point. As another option, you can force the axle down either by hanging body weight on it or by using a small jack to push it down. I opted for the first method (control arm off) since the Jeep was already up on tall jackstands and I didn't want to bring it down on me. Be sure that the coil is turned sufficiently to seat it in the pocket in the mount, and if you still have them, tighten the coil spring retainers.
Once the spring is in place, cut the tape holding the bumpstop in place and position the bumpstop with the recessed portion facing up. Insert the self-tapping bolt and tighten it down. The new bumpstop itself looks like little more than an overly-thick hockey puck, but it helps keep the front axle from compressing so far into the wheelwell that larger tires get stuck. Since it's held in place by a self-tapping screw but completely enclosed by the coil it can be hard to get at.
Brakelines and Final Touches
Trackbar, Part II
Actually, at this point you can torque everything down. Unless otherwise specified, use the factory torque specs but don't torque ANYTHING while the Jeep is in the air!.
Final ImpressionsThe whole process took the two of us almost 15 hours including a few trips to AutoZone and McDonald's. About 3am I actually fell asleep under the Jeep while torquing the trackbar mount. I wouldn't recommend that... One thing I did notice originally and griped about in the original writeup was that many of the components had a brief install sheet that listed torque values, but there was no Master Install sheet. RE has changed that recently, as the instructions are available online.
On my first 70-mile drive home I had no problems with "Death Wobble", although the steering wheel was about 90 degrees off-center. It turns out I was actually pretty lucky during the first trip home, since the trackbar mount had been overlooked in our zombified torquing session. I had a few shakes when hitting uneven road surfaces, but nothing major. Oddly, when I headed back to Tiff's a few days later I had horrible Death Wobble at about 55mph, forcing me to slow to 45mph or less and take the backroads down to her house. I had just had the 30" BFGs rotated and balanced and wonder if that may have aggravated existing problems. Swapping the 32" BFG All-Terrains onto the Jeep helped, but I still needed an alignment to correct toe-in problems.
So how much lift did it give?
It looks like this lift netted the advertised height; it seems common for many of the RE lifts to provide a bit more than advertised amount. I keep a large box of gear in the back, which may account for some of the settling already. The good news is that even now, 18 months later it's still sitting just about that tall. I think the rear lost about 1/4" to 1/2" in that time.
Almost finished (for now).
This picture shows the black AR767 Rock Crawlers and 32-inch Dunlop Mud Rovers as well as the BPI Front bumper.
Both were added after the lift.