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Metal Cloak JK Rocksport 3 1/2

My first exposure to Metal Cloak goes back a few years now with a unique arched fender flare system for the TJ. It was their solution to create tire clearance without cutting fenders and hoods to add uptravel for larger tires. From there they have expanded to a full line of suspension and armor provided for many Jeep models and Ram trucks.


The next industry unique product that you may recognize would be their 6pak shocks. A unique multi-shaft shock absorber that uses less space by adding separate shock shafts top and bottom for the most travel for the overall compressed length of the shock. These patented shocks are also joined by other unique products like their Lock and Load control arms, Durotrak and Duroflex control arm bushings and their new in 2018 DB3 rear control arm realignment brackets.

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Rancho 4-inch Crawler JK lift

I got a call from the Rancho rep that new JK suspension was I the works. That got my interest up and put myself in line for one of the kits when it came available, I can say it was so new – they hand painted the control arms!


If you don’t know the name Rancho and you’re a 4x4 person you have been living under a rock somewhere. Rancho is one of the iconic name plates in the off road segment and have continually produced a vast array of lift kits along with their well known RS 5000, 7000 and 9000 adjustable shocks as part of the larger Tenneco company a major supplier to the OEM car manufacturers.

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BDS 4 1/2 inch TJ long arm system.

When it comes to TJs it seems it’s all about the long arm kits. First up long arm kits are not for everyone. They are time consuming to install, require major mods to your frame and if you don’t plan on running tires bigger than 35s you really do loose a lot of break over clearance. So as we get past the negatives – the positives are worth it. Better ride from the longer arms. Not as much “push” on climbing obstacles with stock length arms on steep angles, and better overall articulation.


BDS had been in the suspension game a long time. If any of you remember back far enough the logo of a long hair bearded red neck with Big Dick Suspension right along side will still make you smile. What they have had from the start and still carry on today is a no questions asked replacement warranty on their components. BDS was also one of the first to start testing their new suspension to meet new federal rules. Here is what takes place from BDS web site:

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Rubicon Express Superflex TJ short arm lift

My current TJ uses a lot of the previous gen Rubicon parts. It is based around an extended long arm kit with the flat belly skid and uses RE YJ spring over conversion leafs in the rear.  Since my build Rubicon Express has eliminated a lot of the custom builder parts I used in the past but still carry all the replacement parts for their kits and a full line of lift systems for CJs-JKs in a wide range of lift heights and short and long arm kits for coil sprung Jeeps. Since then they have built on this brand and added a ton of great new parts. This issue we check out a TJ full control arm short arm system. Click the picture for the full article...

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The CJK8 gets a JK Teraflex long arm system

When I was planning the build for my CJK8 custom Jeep I knew a few things that were going to take place. I was going to use a 4-door Jeep Unlimited frame, I wanted to use as many quality aftermarket parts as I could – the JK has been out for years there was no reason to reinvent the wheel and I was going to install a V8. I wanted it as low as possible; a long arm design for the suspension but I wanted big tires 40s+.  There were other things but these steps truly dictated what I was going to do with the suspension and if you’re into Jeep JKs you know there are tons of options on the market.

The V8 install limited a lot of the choices as I was going to move the engine cross members around and a lot of JK long arm suspensions use a new engine cross member to hang the lower long arm links from. A great choice, but just not a good one for me. I wanted to use a company that covered a lot of bases and had a great Jeep track record.

 It didn’t take long and Teraflex came right into my radar.

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Clayton full belly skid protection - Suspension add-on.

So you have been wheeling your JK, it’s stock – or lightly modified and really haven’t thought much about under it (the hard core guys tend to think a little differently). There is a gas tank skid plate right? And you got the optional transfer case skid plate. You have gotten stuck a couple times been tugged or winched out – no big deal… Ever have a good look under your JK?


Up front your oil pan is probably aluminum or relatively thin steel, then comes the cross member with the exhaust pipe cross over sitting right in front of it waiting to get hit sometimes with a little factory “skid plate” to protect the aluminum transfer case. Moving a little further back is that steel skid plate you know about covering your plastic gas tank – which may already be bent up pushing up on your fuel sending unit reducing the amount of fuel you can put in your tank. Think your mileage is down on your JK? Distance to empty has gone down? Maybe your fuel pump is only pulling 80% of the gas out of your tank… then an Evap canister that’s part of your emissions system dangling nicely around the middle of your Jeep above the driveshaft waiting to get hit…

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Clayton Off Road JK short arm system - its hip to be square

Clayton Off Road. No nonsense, tough, well-built Jeep lifts you will be happy to buy. That pretty much sums up my experience with Clayton Off Road. My first exposure to Clayton was a few years ago now when a beat up $1000.00 XJ out wheeled almost all of us in Naches, Washington. The owner said he throws away an XJ a year but will not let go of his Clayton lift. It just had nice balance, didn’t unload funny, wasn’t too soft. Since then I’ve installed a couple more and while I have heard a couple times people being OK with the lifts we have written about and reviewed I never hear back from the Jeep owners rolling on the Clayton kits I’ve installed. Just happy and out Jeepin.

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Air Lift 1000 - Ram 1500 towing support

Having a light truck in the family fleet is very common these days. Vehicle manufacturers have made the 1/2 ton class very attractive to active families. Single, quad and crew cab trucks can haul up to 6 people in some cab designs, haul your toys in the box and tow your trailer or RV to your favourite camping spot come summer and still offer a very comfortable commuting vehicle for work. A wide array of engine choices also make these trucks far more fuel efficient than ever before. I come from a line of diesel trucks in the past 10 years but even I couldn’t justify the inflated cost of the diesel power train for the 4-5 times per year I want to tow my Jeep on an extended trip. Last year I purchased a 2012 Ram 1500 crew cab to replace a very city unfriendly 3500 series dually diesel. Like most 1500 series trucks, when properly equipped, are rated to tow up to 10,000lbs – plenty for the average Rv’er or someone who tows only for pleasure. My Jeep on an open deck car trailer, tips in above 7000lbs not unlike many of today’s larger tow behind RVs. While the 400HP Hemi in my Dodge combined with 3.73 differential gears and factory trailer brake controller has plenty of power to tow, the suspension that makes it so nice to drive on the highway feels soft and despite sway and traction control. There tends to develop a tail wag from the trailer above 100KMH on the highway when towing a heavy load, which can be very dangerous if it gets out of control.

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Bilstein remote res TJ shock upgrade

For our TJ Project we started with a high wheel travel RockKrawer triangulated 4-link system. Combined with the 3-link front the suspension provided superior wheel travel to other suspension designs. This meant that we needed to maximize our shock length in the same space as a standard shock. The Bilstein 5160 series features a remote reservoirs canister, which enables the valving to be moved to the canister and added shock shaft length can cycle inside the mono-tube shock body. This gave us almost 2 additional inches of travel in the same length shock body. Also by moving the valve stack into the canister and adding fluid capacity, the shock has added cooling capacity for those days that hauling down your favorite pot hole filled gravel road is more in your taste. Like the 5100 series; the 5160 is application valving specific. This shock series covers trucks, SUV’s, Jeeps, and custom applications from 6 inches to 14 inches of wheel travel.

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CJK8 gets Teraflex JK torsion bar sway bars front and rear.

I’ve used torsion bar sway bars on a few of my builds in the past and wanting to keep all of my suspension components matching I went with Teraflex bars for the CJK8, Teraflex actually expands on the “twistable” style swaybars by offering three versions of their sway bars. The trail rated, which is what I chose which has a single rate and is not disconnectable in any way. The center bar twists with articulation while providing side hill stability, as the bar can’t bend in the middle. Typically these types of sway bars offer better roll control but no as stiff as say a stock fixed sway bar.


The next Teraflex swaybar is called their single rate. It has a stiffer rate for street and fully disconnects with a knob on the end for trail use to get maximum articulation off road when disconnected.

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The CJK8 Gets Fox internal bypass shocks

I will be the first to admit, even though I have build some cool rigs over the years I pretty much cheap out on shocks – which are almost the most important part of any suspension system. I know I shouldn’t but it seems I do anyway. So for the CJK8 I decided to step it up as we now hit the sand dunes in Oregon several times a year and love speed blasting in the winter in the snow. The best part is there is no lack of options if you want to open your wallet.

Fox, King, Radflow, Sway-A-Way, Bilstein and more all offer higher end shocks that pretty much bolt into anything you want to lift or modify these days and we plan to show you a few different shock options on projects we are working on in the next year so give you price point upgrades that might work for you.

For the CJK8 I turned to Fox and their JK specific smooth body bypass shocks, along with their IFP bumps up front and a more conventional hydraulic air bump in the back.

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Custom Hardox 450 skids for the CJK8

I had to dig deep into the fab skills for the skid plates on the CJK8, I simply made to many mods to create ground clearance on its JK Unlimited frame for anything aftermarket to fit. And with such a long rig at 120-inch wheelbase, skid plates were required.


The first change was raising the entire JK fuel tank so I could flat belly the frame. Little do most know but the JK fuel tank sits a full 3 inches at its lowest point under the frame rails. That’s a pretty valuable 3 inches that would take a lot of lift to gain back and means you spend a lot of time knocking on that gas tank skid plate. If I were to use a stock positioned tank the Clayton Off Road skid system is a perfect solution, which fits together seamlessly for a full flat skid area – and stretches up under the engine as well as utilizing a beefy new cross member that can act as the mounts for an upgraded front long arm lift. Check out the past article on their system here:

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RockKrawler TJ Triangulated X Factor lift

RockKrawler suspension is a pretty innovative company when it comes to extreme Jeep lifts. We have installed several over the years from a YJ coil over stretch to a XJ 3 link front system. This time around we are working on a TJ with a triangulated rear suspension and a 3-link front. Known as their X-factor kits these long arm systems come in regular wheelbase length like what we are going to install but also in 5, 8 and 12-inch stretch versions if keeping your tires under fenders isn’t your biggest priority.

The 4 versions of the X-factor 5.5 inch lift kits can also be order in standard (no shocks) Stage 1 with single tube shocks and Stage 2 with remote reservoir shocks. All of these kits can be upgraded to RockKrawers Prodigy coil overs as well

The basic install doesn’t change with length however for the stretch versions you will need to move your fuel tank and get at your body with the trusted Sawzall to stick the tires out the back.

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