Monday, May 17, 2010

Up up and away...

Day 2 of lift kit install. I had high hopes today the work would go quickly, but alas that was not to be the case.

Once I had it on stands and the wheels, shocks, sway bar off, I started on the leafs. Unbolted the u-bolts on one side and after putting a couple of clamps on, started taking the nut off the center pin. All was going well until the pin started turning...tried to hold it with some channel locks to no avail...Then I remembered I have vice-grips... They worked great and I had the spring pack apart. I put the add a leaf in the correct location and then decided I needed to deviate from the directions. The directions said to pull the springs back together with clamps... Well the AAL had some crazy arch compared to the stockers, and my little clamps weren't going to work out. So I just inserted the new center pin in the bottom two leafs and the new AAL and put them in place on the axle and jacked the axle back into place, compressing the springs and lining the other two springs up as I went along. Once it mostly together, I clamped it up good and tightened the center pin and put on the spring retainer clips.

The other side went very smoothly and pretty quickly. Now it was time to work on the shackles. I had overlooked this as a trouble spot, but this was quite the time consumer. The first "problem" I ran into was the fact that I couldn't get the impact wrench in there. The ratchet obviously wasn't going to touch it, so it was time to pull out the hand tools. I used my new torque wrench with it's 18" handle for some leverage and started working. The passenger's side was tough, but I eventually got it off. The drivers came a little easier, but still required some grunt.

Once the shackles were off, there was another caveat. There is a protruding bumper bolt the instructions recommend cutting/removing. My grinder currently had an almost worn away disc on it, but I managed to get the job done. After that it was a cakewalk buttoning everything back up. Left the axle drooped down and jacked up the rear of the jeep to align the leafs with the extended shackles. The bolts dropped below the body, so I just hit them with the impact wrench to tighten...

That pretty much left installing the shocks and brake line bracket extension and the rear was done.

At this point, I decided to take a spin to see if I could get by without the transfer case drop... Definitely a no-go as I got bad vibes before getting up to any speed, turned directly around and brought it back home. Also noticed the added toe in from the lift made it handle ridiculously bad. So transfer case drop went in. Used a welder for the first time ever. Won't say I actually welded as that would be an insult to welders everywhere, but I did burn enough metal on a nut to allow me to back out the studs on the crossmember.

After that was in place I started trying to adjust the toe, but here my ancient hand me down vice grips failed me. I just couldn't get the tire rod to budge on one end. So I'm going to pick up a pipe wrench today at lunch and try again tonight. Then evaluate the vibes with the TC drop and see if I will need to get some shims to correct the pinion angle caused by the shackles...

Overall, I think it went fairly well. No real major snafus, zero broken bolts. Took me well over the estimated 5-6 hours, but this was the first time I've ever attempted something like this. Still have to get it on the road to give driving impressions, and still have to get tires to give offroad impressions...but we're making progress now...

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Real Progress

After spending quite a bit of time getting things mechanically sound it's now time to make the fun changes. Started today installing my 4.5" lift kit from Zone Offroad. Got started at around 10am with a final sweeping/straightening of the garage and then everything was ready to start...

Started off by putting the bushing and grease fittings in the lower control arms. Should have done this earlier, but it didn't take too long.

Next it was bye-bye to the old shocks and starting to disconnect the sway bar and brake line brackets.

Next removed the sway bar links and then ran into my first snag. The instructions said to separate the pitman arm from the steering linkage...and it said to do so by striking the pitman arm to release the tapered seat. Well I struck and I struck and I pried and I struck some more...nothing. Seems like I needed a ball joint separator/pickle fork type tool to get this apart. So I was left with two options. Load three kids up and head to town to rent the tool or skip this step and hope it wasn't too important. I chose the later...probably not the best decision of the day.

So after breaking for lunch to feed the hungry masses at the house, I continued on. Removed the old springs and drilled and tapped a couple holes to install included bumpstops.

Next was the part I was dreading the most for some reason. Installing the new coils. The old coils came off easy by just drooping the axel, but the new springs are obviously much we just installed a bumpstop we have to get over. I already new I needed a coil spring compressor and so had it on hand. The last time I compressed coils I had a tough time with it. This time it all went well though. Took a little bit to get the compressors off as obviously there is less room to work when the spring in in place, but overall it went rather smoothly.

The next part...not so smoothly. Had to attach the new lower control arms and it appears my axle found it way rearward an inch or so. I think this just might be the reason to disconnect the steering linkage as would allow more free forward movement of the axle. After messing with it for a while I got the driver's side connected, but the passenger's side just would not line up...raised the axle up, lower it fully down, tried everywhere in between. Finally I was struck with a winning idea. I took a strap hooked it to the axle and the sway bar and pulled the axle forward the needed distance. The control arm slide into place after that. Put the shocks in place and was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Installed new brake line brackets, new sway bar links, drilled hole to relocate the track bar and started torquing everything down.

Put the tires back on and by this time it was time to head in and make supper, so I called it quits for the day. I'm sure it will settle in, but currently the front is sitting at 5.5". The process continues tomorrow.

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