Woodrow's 97 Green TJ Moderate Build

JMT

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Thx. I still have a bunch I'd like to do and I'm not quite ready to dive into the winch yet. But I may see some light at the end of the tunnel. You'll know I'm getting close when I start asking stereo questions.

Oh boy. I’m loving my new stereo setup! I’m sure yours will turn out pristine. All your mods and upgrades do.
 
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NashvilleTJ

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Thx. I still have a bunch I'd like to do and I'm not quite ready to dive into the winch yet. But I may see some light at the end of the tunnel. You'll know I'm getting close when I start asking stereo questions.

Wait - there’s a light at the end of the tunnel? I’ve been wrenching on my rig for 18 years and I’ve yet to see it…

🙂
 
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JMT

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yep, I can see it now, definitely a train.
200.gif
 
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Woodrow

Woodrow

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The rear bumper was the last part of the hind end refresh. Besides stock looks, my stock bumper had the happy advantage of perfectly supporting my 33” tire. So well, that with extended snubbers I felt very comfortable with the weight of it on the stock tailgate carrier and hinges. For clearance primarily, I removed the Curt 2” receiver hitch and hi-lift. A stock jack easily replaced the hi-lift. For the receiver, I had hoped to modify the stock bumper with something stout enough to hold a bike rack:
6E63DCA6-2B4B-4A17-B2EC-A2A567FBC098.jpeg


431836F6-92DE-438D-994D-B1E5330EEF6E.jpeg
However, that was a total fail. A test fit with hitch and my weight on it showed significant twisting of the stock bumper resulting in the hitch sagging towards the ground. So I looked for a minimalistic bumper that could support a bike rack. I settled on one from Barnes 4WD. Here it is test fit before I filled in their logo with weld and ground down a few rough edges:
C33EFEDB-5D63-41D3-9EA4-DB1711510F16.jpeg

It fits well. Their frame tie in brackets did not so I’ll need to fab my own (they did credit me for the poorly fitting brackets very quickly).
20B944BD-B271-4D04-AE94-E420FE845AE4.jpeg


1A908390-196F-47B4-90C1-FB7769EE06DF.jpeg

With the new bumper I’ve lost a crucial support for the spare so I decided to go with the MORryde tailgate hinges and reinforcement that many here seem to like (and @Wildman recommend to me last year). Getting some of the T-40 bolts out of the stock hinges was a bit of a struggle.
A3FD3670-28B0-4AB1-9281-D61F99F61FFB.jpeg
And though galvanized, there is no paint under the hinges.
E4F9BAAE-3D8B-4FB6-B124-484992F35880.jpeg

So some paint (just zinc primer and gloss black Rustoleum as it will be covered):
5C00718C-51BD-4D6D-9F15-213F396301A5.jpeg
After minor mods (welding the logo and back side of the recovery shackle mounts) and clean up, I had the bumper sand blasted and powder coated along with the stock spare tire carrier. All was bolted on and fit pretty well. I also added a 3rd brake light.
6358EBCB-439B-4EB9-9EE0-BE47EAF46DD2.jpeg

The snubbers needed extending and new, longer, stainless 1/4-20 socket cap bolts:
4FB1EA6F-616D-4EDE-94AE-42BA242A026F.jpeg
Hind end refresh done! (OK not really. Still need frame tie-ins for the bumper).
3E814C81-691A-47D0-A560-74975D45AA0C.jpeg

Oh yeah. Here’s that Rugged Ridge 3rd brake light. It’s maybe a little mall crawler-like. I had planned an LED 2.5” round trailer light in the center hole of the spare but I couldn’t find one that fit well and was bright enough. Functionally, this one is great and the look is growing on me.
TJ brake lights.jpg

The last point is weight since one of my build goals is to keep weight down for both on and off-road performance. The MORryde stuff is 1/4" steel and heavy (about 40#). The bumper is 3/16" steel and lighter than I figured (about 26#). The stock jack I added is less than 10#. But the stock bumper is around 20#, the Hi-lift 31# and the Curt receiver hitch I removed at least 25#, so in balance its a push or possibly lost a few pounds.
 
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Wildman

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The rear bumper was the last part of the hind end refresh. Besides stock looks, my stock bumper had the happy advantage of perfectly supporting my 33” tire. So well, that with extended snubbers I felt very comfortable with the weight of it on the stock tailgate carrier and hinges. For clearance primarily, I removed the Curt 2” receiver hitch and hi-lift. A stock jack easily replaced the hi-lift. For the receiver, I had hoped to modify the stock bumper with something stout enough to hold a bike rack:
View attachment 362357

View attachment 362358However, that was a total fail. A test fit with hitch and my weight on it showed significant twisting of the stock bumper resulting in the hitch sagging towards the ground. So I looked for a minimalistic bumper that could support a bike rack. I settled on one from Barnes 4WD. Here it is test fit before I filled in their logo with weld and ground down a few rough edges:
View attachment 362367
It fits well. Their frame tie in brackets did not so I’ll need to fab my own (they did credit me for the poorly fitting brackets very quickly).
View attachment 362368

View attachment 362369
With the new bumper I’ve lost a crucial support for the spare so I decided to go with the MORryde tailgate hinges and reinforcement that many here seem to like (and @Wildman recommend to me last year). Getting some of the T-40 bolts out of the stock hinges was a bit of a struggle.
View attachment 362371And though galvanized, there is no paint under the hinges.
View attachment 362378
So some paint (just zinc primer and gloss black Rustoleum as it will be covered):
View attachment 362373After minor mods (welding the logo and back side of the recovery shackle mounts) and clean up, I had the bumper sand blasted and powder coated along with the stock spare tire carrier. All was bolted on and fit pretty well. I also added a 3rd brake light.
View attachment 362374
The snubbers needed extending and new, longer, stainless 1/4-20 socket cap bolts:
View attachment 362375Hind end refresh done! (OK not really. Still need frame tie-ins for the bumper).
View attachment 362376
Oh yeah. Here’s that Rugged Ridge 3rd brake light. It’s maybe a little mall crawler-like. I had planned an LED 2.5” round trailer light in the center hole of the spare but I couldn’t find one that fit well and was bright enough. Functionally, this one is great and the look is growing on me.
View attachment 362444
The last point is weight since one of my build goals is to keep weight down for both on and off-road performance. The MORryde stuff is 1/4" steel and heavy (about 40#). The bumper is 3/16" steel and lighter than I figured (about 26#). The stock jack I added is less than 10#. But the stock bumper is around 20#, the Hi-lift 31# and the Curt receiver hitch I removed at least 25#, so in balance its a push or possibly lost a few pounds.

The only thing I can say I don't like about the bumper is that it's not full width so you run more of a chance of dingin up the bottom of your corners when dropping off a ledge or rock. And this isn't a ding against what ya did. I think it looks great.
 

JMT

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The only thing I can say I don't like about the bumper is that it's not full width so you run more of a chance of dingin up the bottom of your corners when dropping off a ledge or rock. And this isn't a ding against what ya did. I think it looks great.

That was my only issue with the Barnes bumper too, it leaves that corner exposed and I know my driving tendencies too well. @Mike_H extended his to fix that issue. If I ever do another build I'll go that route. This really looks good @Woodrow. Every little detail is so finely thought through. Really nice, and your welding looks ok! 😉
 

Wildman

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That was my only issue with the Barnes bumper too, it leaves that corner exposed and I know my driving tendencies too well. @Mike_H extended his to fix that issue. If I ever do another build I'll go that route. This really looks good @Woodrow. Every little detail is so finely thought through. Really nice, and your welding looks ok! 😉

I have the dings in my tub too from not knowing/thinking about this. But I've learned and evolved over the years too.

It is still a awesome build and woodrow has done great job.
 
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Woodrow

Woodrow

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The only thing I can say I don't like about the bumper is that it's not full width so you run more of a chance of dingin up the bottom of your corners when dropping off a ledge or rock. And this isn't a ding against what ya did. I think it looks great.

Agreed, but my stock bumper without milk jugs had the same problem. Hopefully I won't regret my decision to forgo most armor.
 
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Woodrow

Woodrow

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That was my only issue with the Barnes bumper too, it leaves that corner exposed and I know my driving tendencies too well. @Mike_H extended his to fix that issue. If I ever do another build I'll go that route. This really looks good @Woodrow. Every little detail is so finely thought through. Really nice, and your welding looks ok! 😉
Yep. Its a calculated risk for sure. I'm not too proud of my welding at this point but thx. I need a lot more practice 😬
 

Wildman

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Agreed, but my stock bumper without milk jugs had the same problem. Hopefully I won't regret my decision to forgo most armor.

I went a long time without armor too. And my tub has the love marks to show it. 99% of the time you'll be fine. As they say it only takes that one time...
 
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Woodrow

Woodrow

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This weekend I had to go to the big city for work which required a multi hour freeway trip each way. My planned vehicle for the trip was unavailable so I took the TJ. I‘ve had it for 3 1/2 years and mostly daily drive it despite the ongoing maintenance and upgrades. Even though it routinely sees 60-65 mph on country roads as well as in town traffic duties, I haven’t ever taken it more than 10 miles on an interstate. So multiple hours at a continuous 80-ish mph was new.
7AC33840-93F7-46A2-A220-C2A66EFFFAFB.jpeg

I thought it would be worth recording my thoughts for myself while they’re fresh:
1. I enjoyed the trip, but its not the ideal vehicle for this type of driving (duh).
2. It’s loud. Motor, tires and particularly wind at speed (quite an increase from 65 to 80). I‘ll take ear plugs next time.
3. Tire balance which is slightly noticeable at 60-65mph isn’t prominent at 80 but mild driveline vibes are noticeable (a subtle cyclic thrum).
4. I was glad to have 4.11 gears. 4.56 is the recommendation for the 4.0/AX-15 combo on 33s but 4.11 gives plenty of freeway power with the stroker motor and my exhaust, while pleasant around town, would be too annoying at 3000+ for long periods of time.
5. Mileage was about the same as around town (lack of aerodynamics doesn’t help at speed)-Also duh…
96E2A5FE-DAE6-4006-84BD-E172AB0129F0.png

6. Although I generally like a firmer ride and my Bilstein shocks feel great to me at home where the roads are good, bigger cities have bumpy roads and softer shocks would be nice if I lived there. At least I never worried about scuffing a rim or splitter on a curb :)
7. I wouldn’t be comfortable with a soft top (or no top) in a city for vey long. I used a seemingly secure garage to park in overnight but it was expensive and around town I never went far from the parked TJ.
D133A4E0-E0FA-468C-8E0E-2E619AC19466.jpeg

7. The maneuverability of a small vehicle like a TJ is great in the city.
8. No mechanical concerns were uncovered! I took an IR thermometer to check axles, hubs, brakes, and various engine compartment temps and all looked good. In particular, the recently rebuilt rear axle temps at the differential cover and pinion were usually around 140-150 and never above 180 deg F.
3300739F-24FB-4161-99C3-D985E018C78C.jpeg

So no real surprises but that’s OK, good really…
Que no haya novedad.
 
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TJX02

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7. I wouldn’t be comfortable with a soft top (or no top) in a city for vey long. I used a seemingly secure garage to park in overnight but it was expensive and around town I never went far from the parked TJ.

You sound like me with my TJ in San Francisco 😅😂 I think it's still worth paying for garage parking to have the soft top
 
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Woodrow

Woodrow

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Yeah. SFO would be tough. Nice town. My daughter loves it there. Not so great to drive in, though. I’m SO spoiled in my current rural spot: roads are smooth, un-congested and beautiful. 10 mile commute takes 10 min. Parking is free and easy. Restaurants are less than ideal, however😀
 
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Woodrow

Woodrow

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Next project; tweaking the front suspension.
Several things have been piling up to do:

1) finish going to all Johnny Joint suspension links
2) mini-skids
3) diff cover to match rear
4) stance adjustment

1) My front UCA axle side bushings may have been original 1997 units. Even if they weren’t, the bolt size was slightly smaller than the 7/16” hole in the Savvy front upper arms. Also, my JKS HD track bar came with a poly bushing on the axle side and, chasing ever better steering, I decided to change all 3 to Currie Johnny Joints. The UCA joints are CE-9102K for the 7/16” bolts. The track bar end is RJ-305301-102 and fit perfectly in the JKS HD bar.
JKS:
36B50493-8A16-4DB2-81BC-1DD17EE898C4.jpeg

Currie:
4BED782F-132B-45DC-989A-42A8AD69C533.jpeg

The UCA mounts were a little more work. Removing the old on driver’s side:
0CEEAFA9-5B8D-49A3-8939-0B140A2707B1.jpeg
Old vs new:
EBF5952D-E925-49B0-A592-FD05BF4790A2.jpeg

Installed:
97A3CDE6-D25E-44BA-AA9A-58D3F3D58D0F.jpeg

Now for the passenger side. After cutting the 10 ga. tower, the new piece doesn’t sit flush because the angle of the tower isn’t 90 degrees to the axle.
A16658BC-03D6-483D-AD88-E04BABA9C4F5.jpeg
So some contouring with a 40 grit flap disc ensued:
58F5D345-C9E6-4F65-98C7-E221D3DA47D2.jpeg

better:
4767BC7E-1101-442B-82CF-EF6B4BAD3598.jpeg
And welded in:
87675A15-2213-4BDE-9698-B7881A92EFA3.jpeg


F15895DA-8547-4732-9970-42DD1713946B.jpeg

Thanks @AndyG for the idea to plug weld the back 👍.
Painted and installing the bushing removed to prevent over heating while welding:
3175235C-D7FD-40BA-B9CC-879E69A720E5.jpeg

2) I‘ve had these mini-skids on the shelf for ever. So since I had the welder out, on they go (I ground these because I wanted them smooth but also my welds were ugly 🙄)

53DCBA50-D3D7-4D22-A5D6-E51B25C8D62D.jpeg

3) Next, the new Dana/Spicer Dana 30 diff cover and lube locker went on to match the rear. A good opportunity for cleaning:
FFFB99C3-6BE3-4A59-BA1E-5256DD3F3F34.jpeg


992DF5A6-C0D0-43DA-85DE-92D760BA2FEB.jpeg

4) Last, and really requiring the most thinking, this TJ has always had a rake since I bought it in 2019 w/ the po’s 3” lift. Originally, the spring ride height was 11” rear and 15” front, so the rake was like the factory angle. After the hind end project recently, the rear got higher (either due to weight reduction in the rear and/or sandblasting and powder coating the rear springs which may have stiffened them?) Which ever, the rake was much more pronounced (+1.5” tire to fender rear vs front):

5566C8FF-6D8D-40F3-9CAE-8CE6E1431662.jpeg

So I decided to go to taller springs in front and got Currie 9132F (supposedly 4” lift). However I got 5.5”; They that took it from 15” to 17.5” at ride height
(rake to squat☹️)

5479D4F7-B78F-4089-B508-EA4B12174911.jpeg
So I tried Currie 9132F1 springs (they list them as 3”). That worked. Now it’s at 16.75” (4.75” lift) front and 12.25” rear (4.25” lift) with a full tank.

D63085F9-CD55-4AA7-ADA3-B96C0C9D9748.jpeg


9456FDE1-8877-4411-AD68-39EA99D608E7.jpeg

Looks level and tire to fender is a uniform +/-7.5” at all 4 corners. Clearance is increased; ground to T-case skid is 17.5”
290504F5-B9A0-49DC-8238-E481B47D6C89.jpeg

New front shocks were also in order to better utilize the extra free length of the Currie springs. Here are the 3 springs. Left to Right: original 3” spring (19“ free length), Currie 9132F spring (22” free length) and the 9132F1 spring (21” free length)
274388FB-DB6A-4C53-8C81-9E877804A83E.jpeg

My TJ is light (about 3500#). This makes it difficult to set the ride height right in the middle of shock travel (I end up with more up than down). My current shocks were Bilstein B5100 24-185257. They have 9.12” travel and are 24” at full extension. However the original 19” free length springs would unseat by an inch at full droop. I decided to bump up travel only a little with Bilstein 24-188180 which have 9.65” of travel and are 24.63” at full extension. With these shocks, the Currie 9132F1 springs come within about 1/2” of their free length at full droop. I did consider the longer Rancho 5000x 55255. They have 10.73” travel and is 26.53” at full extension. However, the Currie 9132F1 springs don’t have enough free length to prevent unseating with those Ranchos. Here are the previous and slightly longer new Bilsteins:
2B607D42-6CA8-4338-99FD-C39B12F79F88.jpeg

Note, Bilstein also makes another shock with the same specs as the 24-188180 (9.65” travel, 24.63” ext, 14.98” comp). It’s the 24-185429. It has stiffer valving and is apparently for TJs with long arms.
Suspension cycling shows I’m leaving about 1” of shock travel on the table with bumps set to tire at fender:
4450916F-8C0B-4DED-A850-22597CF4C146.jpeg

At present therefore, I have 5” up travel and 3.75” down travel in front. In the back, its 4.5” up and 3” down).

Once ride height/stance was satisfactory, it was time to reset the front pinion angle/caster and adjust the steering. At the new ride height, I had to adjust out 1 degree of caster bringing it from 5.2 degrees to 4.2 degrees to put the front pinion angle (9.2 degrees) within 1 degree af the front driveshaft angle (10.2 degrees). I set the toe at 1/8” in. Note: earlier in this thread, I measured my caster incorrectly and came up with a higher number (7degrees). The error was not ensuring the angle cube was perpendicular to the axle when sitting on the upper ball joint. It’s pretty touchy and therefore a difficult measurement to do.
8D4E8973-D75D-4704-B2E3-BF486EEC2AFD.jpeg

With all adjustments done and everything lubed and torqued to spec, a test drive showed improved steering feel which I attribute to the new Johnny joints and no noticeable loss of stability with increased ride height and decreased caster. Also no vibes and looks better.
8CD8CFFB-3B85-41B3-A604-38F6554B3713.jpeg

Done. For now…😀
 
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JMT

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Next project; tweaking the front suspension.
Several things have been piling up to do:

1) finish going to all Johnny Joint suspension links
2) mini-skids
3) diff cover to match rear
4) stance adjustment

1) My front UCA axle side bushings may have been original 1997 units. Even if they weren’t, the bolt size was slightly smaller than the 7/16” hole in the Savvy front upper arms. Also, my JKS HD track bar came with a poly bushing on the axle side and, chasing ever better steering, I decided to change all 3 to Currie Johnny Joints. The UCA joints are CE-9102K for the 7/16” bolts. The track bar end is RJ-305301-102 and fit perfectly in the JKS HD bar.
JKS:
View attachment 378380
Currie:
View attachment 378379
The UCA mounts were a little more work. Removing the old on driver’s side:
View attachment 378367Old vs new:
View attachment 378368
Installed:
View attachment 378369
Now for the passenger side. After cutting the 10 ga. tower, the new piece doesn’t sit flush because the angle of the tower isn’t 90 degrees to the axle.
View attachment 378370So some contouring with a 40 grit flap disc ensued:
View attachment 378371
better:
View attachment 378372And welded in:
View attachment 378373

View attachment 378374
Thanks @AndyG for the idea to plug weld the back 👍.
Painted and installing the bushing removed to prevent over heating while welding:
View attachment 378381
2) I‘ve had these mini-skids on the shelf for ever. So since I had the welder out, on they go (I ground these because I wanted them smooth but also my welds were ugly 🙄)

View attachment 378376
3) Next, the new Dana/Spicer Dana 30 diff cover and lube locker went on to match the rear. A good opportunity for cleaning:
View attachment 378377

View attachment 378378
4) Last, and really requiring the most thinking, this TJ has always had a rake since I bought it in 2019 w/ the po’s 3” lift. Originally, the spring ride height was 11” rear and 15” front, so the rake was like the factory angle. After the hind end project recently, the rear got higher (either due to weight reduction in the rear and/or sandblasting and powder coating the rear springs which may have stiffened them?) Which ever, the rake was much more pronounced (+1.5” tire to fender rear vs front):

View attachment 378350
So I decided to go to taller springs in front and got Currie 9132F (supposedly 4” lift). However I got 5.5”; They that took it from 15” to 17.5” at ride height
(rake to squat☹️)

View attachment 378351So I tried Currie 9132F1 springs (they list them as 3”). That worked. Now it’s at 16.75” (4.75” lift) front and 12.25” rear (4.25” lift) with a full tank.

View attachment 378352

View attachment 378353
Looks level and tire to fender is a uniform +/-7.5” at all 4 corners. Clearance is increased; ground to T-case skid is 17.5”
View attachment 378354
New front shocks were also in order to better utilize the extra free length of the Currie springs. Here are the 3 springs. Left to Right: original 3” spring (19“ free length), Currie 9132F spring (22” free length) and the 9132F1 spring (21” free length)
View attachment 378355
My TJ is light (about 3500#). This makes it difficult to set the ride height right in the middle of shock travel (I end up with more up than down). My current shocks were Bilstein B5100 24-185257. They have 9.12” travel and are 24” at full extension. However the original 19” free length springs would unseat by an inch at full droop. I decided to bump up travel only a little with Bilstein 24-188180 which have 9.65” of travel and are 24.63” at full extension. With these shocks, the Currie 9132F1 springs come within about 1/2” of their free length at full droop. I did consider the longer Rancho 5000x 55255. They have 10.73” travel and is 26.53” at full extension. However, the Currie 9132F1 springs don’t have enough free length to prevent unseating with those Ranchos. Here are the previous and slightly longer new Bilsteins:
View attachment 378363
Note, Bilstein also makes another shock with the same specs as the 24-188180 (9.65” travel, 24.63” ext, 14.98” comp). It’s the 24-185429. It has stiffer valving and is apparently for TJs with long arms.
Suspension cycling shows I’m leaving about 1” of shock travel on the table with bumps set to tire at fender:
View attachment 378364
At present therefore, I have 5” up travel and 3.75” down travel in front. In the back, its 4.5” up and 3” down).

Once ride height/stance was satisfactory, it was time to reset the front pinion angle/caster and adjust the steering. At the new ride height, I had to adjust out 1 degree of caster bringing it from 5.2 degrees to 4.2 degrees to put the front pinion angle (9.2 degrees) within 1 degree af the front driveshaft angle (10.2 degrees). I set the toe at 1/8” in. Note: earlier in this thread, I measured my caster incorrectly and came up with a higher number (7degrees). The error was not ensuring the angle cube was perpendicular to the axle when sitting on the upper ball joint. It’s pretty touchy and therefore a difficult measurement to do.
View attachment 378365
With all adjustments done and everything lubed and torqued to spec, a test drive showed improved steering feel which I attribute to the new Johnny joints and no noticeable loss of stability with increased ride height and decreased caster. Also no vibes and looks better.
View attachment 378366
Done. For now…😀

Looks good! You knocked a lot out. You’re getting a ton of lift out of those springs. My caster is 4.4 and 4.9. (The driver and passenger should be clocked about 0.5*. You can also measure caster from underneath. I find this location much easier. Machined flat portion.

Edit: did you send the 4” springs back? I need a set. 🙂

42EB6F33-0867-452C-9F59-2A766773A396.jpeg
 
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Woodrow

Woodrow

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Looks good! You knocked a lot out. You’re getting a ton of lift out of those springs. My caster is 4.4 and 4.9. (The driver and passenger should be clocked about 0.5*. You can also measure caster from underneath. I find this location much easier. Machined flat portion.

Edit: did you send the 4” springs back? I need a set. 🙂

View attachment 378383

I did send them back. But they are in stock (9132FP) and they gave me a full refund ($275) even though they are slightly scuffed from installation so you'd be better off getting new ones from RockJock.
 
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