98 Jeep ZJ "SHTFV"


Please tell me that laser isnt going for an aircraft.... I got hit with a handheld laser coming in for a landing the other night.....otherwise that is a great pic

Ok, that laser isn't pointed at an airplane. For the record, not all people are morons and give into the desire to point them at airplanes.... lol. My wife is majoring in astronomy, so I am constantly asking her about the stars and if I am lucky, I learn a thing or two.

Did you start having overheating issues recently? All of those lights just scream "radiator blockage".

Of course, it is a jeep with a V8 afterall :) I aim to change that shortly. Truth be told, it isnt that bad, only heats up when doing very steep and long climbs.... especially when towing!


Time for suspension

We spent lots of time going back and forth about the different suspension options that are available for the Jeep ZJ. I kept going back to the old suspension system I had on my last ZJ, the Rubicon Express 4.5" short arm system. This suspension was for lack of better words, amazing. The amount of flex that this soccer mom rig was capable of was incredible. It would go just about anywhere I was willing to take it, even with open diffs. Now that we are leaning toward the "Overland" style of travel we were concerned about the amount of lift and whether or not it was the proper way to go. Everyone we talked to had a different opinion, expressing that their option was the best. I finally consulted a good friend of mine over at Icon Vehicle Dynamics, Mr. Dylan Evans. I have worked with Dylan many times over the years on many different race projects, if there is one thing I know, it is that this man knows suspension. I am recently working with him on a Marketing partnership with Axial Racing and Icon, so we were discussing some scale suspension at the same time :)


He expressed that he would like to build me some shocks for the ZJ and that I should contact him when I decide on what kit I would be going with. We had the usual chat about the importance of spring rate, which brought me back to my original thought, the Rubicon Express kit. One thing I remember quite well about the Rubicon kit was the spring rate. It was a great compromise between street and off-road performance. It was settled, I would secure a Rubicon Express system.... now I just had to find the funds!

Well my wife decided to become my hero (again) and worked with my family to get me the suspension for my birthday. I was floored, as I know we dont have the funds for it. Appearantly, she had been saving a little money here and there, and decided this was the best way to spend it. I love this woman!

I brought my vehicle over to Ranch Muffler and Truck Accessories for the install. This is the family business run by my parents in Temecula, California. Part of my birthday present was help installing the kit, and use of their shop and tools, awesome! Here is the Jeep out front right before rolling into surgery!



Suspension Continued

The first thing I did after dropping the truck off at Ranch Muffler was inspect the entire suspension kit. I took the springs, threw them in the old work truck and headed to Icon Vehicle Dynamics to let Dylan measure them and make a decision on the valving for the shocks. When I arrived at Icon, Dylan immediately said to meet him at the spring rate measuring tool. We checked the front and rear springs from the 4.5" Rubicon kit. The fronts came in at 180lbs. per inch, and the rears came in at 170lbs. per inch. He expressed that it was very similar to most of the springs used on the Jeep JK, and that he had a good idea where to start with the valving. Dylan entered the info into the computer....


For the next half hour I saw the entire shock building team from Icon round up the parts and throw together a new set of their new VS. Series aluminum shocks for me. check out the Icon VS series aluminum shocks here http://www.iconvehicledynamics.com/...-Shocks/V.S.-Series-%2d-2.0-Aluminum-Shocks-/
I felt like a rockstar with all this service!

They put the finishing touches on them, and I was off and running!


These should work great on the ZJ, the best part is they are completely re-buildable and re-valvable!


Just add some branding flavor, and I am off!



By the time I made it back to Ranch Muffler, they had the SHTFV torn apart and ready for the kit to be installed.


Suspension Comparison

So with all the stock parts on the floor, I couldn't help but take pictures of all the standard components versus the new Rubicon parts. Take a look at what gets replaced with this kit...

Here are the front springs, which appear to be a bit more heavy duty than stock. I would have liked to have them measured as well, but no time this time around!


The rear springs look to be heavier duty as well...


The control arms appear to have the most significant effect of the function of the suspension. As I understand it, the standard control arms are meant to flex torsionally. This can actually be done by hand, making my eye balls about pop out of my head. I can't believe these are this weak from the factory!! The new front Rubicon arms are stout, and offer twist in the ends where it should be!


The Johnny joint in the end of these control arms should allow tons of flex and allow the arm to retain its integrity!


The bushing end that bolts to the chassis should help to keep road noise to a minimum!!


It is the same story with the rear arms, accept all of them are adjustrable


The zerk fittings are a nice touch, it will help to keep all the joints well lubricated and free of squeaks! I hope :) You also notice the adjustable tension that can be placed on the bushings. If it starts to wear, simply tighten them up by turning the spanner and its back to tight as new, awesome feature!


The front panhard bar is night and day. It gets rid of that cheasy ball joint in favor of a proper heim joint.


It looks like it was about time to replace it anyways!!


The rear panhard bar is mounted higher via a new panhard bracket


Here is the bump stop spacer installed


Here is the rear suspension installed


I just zip tied all the accessories that used to attach to the upper control arm, I wish this kit had provisions for this..


And here is the front suspension installed.... Holy droop batman!!!


The front sway bar link kit is awesome. It includes secondary posts to mount on the chassis so you simply slip the pins out and swing up the links to the chassis when off-roading




Rubicon Express installed!

Since the Jeep was already in the shop, I started to think about the other little issues that are on my list to sort out. My battery and the mount can only be considered epic fail. Truth be told, it did death valley like this.... :yikes:


I headed to the local auto parts store and picked up a bracket, and then proceeded to negotiate for a red top Optima I noticed in stock at Ranch Muffler. They offered to sell it to me for a fair price, and I jumped on it!!


While I was deep in negotiation mode, I noticed a full set of 5 brand new Jeep JK tires and wheels sitting in the back of the shop. I asked my dad, who had just secured and lifted his new JK, what he wanted to part with them. He promptly offered them up for a "Favor in the future". I am not exactly sure what I will be on the hook for, but at that moment, anything would have been worth it!! I did have to purchase adapters to bring them out full width and make the lug pattern correct.

The result isn't half bad looking! I actually like the size of the wheels and tires :)

Here is the front fender clearance


Here is the rear fender clearance


as a reminder, here it was stock....


and here it is lifted...


Before I left, the guys at Ranch Muffler and Truck Accessories insisted that I run the Jeep up their articulation ramp, so I disconnected the front sway bar, and had at it. It sure stuffs a 32" tire pretty well!


I am definetely amazed at the flex of these ZJ kits, even the short arm versions


Holy front droop!!


Holy Rear bump!!


Even my dad approves!! Its a good day for the ZJ :)



this is what happen to my rear axle with that relocation bracket, sheared the whole mount off and it wasn't abused either, just food for thought.
but on a good note those shocks are :drool:



this is what happen to my rear axle with that relocation bracket, sheared the whole mount off and it wasn't abused either, just food for thought.
but on a good note those shocks are :drool:

View attachment 98160

oooooooo, thats no bueno!! Ok, that's it. I am going to have to do something about that. I think I need to do something about these axles anyways, This aluminum center section 44 and weak sauce front end aren't going to cut it anyhow once this is weighted down. Time to put the thinking cap on. Good looking out!! Thanks :)


OH man, I love that track bar.. Heim (sp?) joints are the ****..... I have a TRE on the end of mine and It worries me.
All in all that lift is beautiful... the zerk fittings are so nice, with that 90 degree bend to actually be able to grease the damn things when Its installed... It is a PITA when they are straight like mine.


Oh ya, this kit is a tremendous improvement over the earlier version I had! The shocks are valved so perfectly! I love Icon.

So the next mission is a drawer system, front, rear bumpers, sliders-ish, roof rack and a host of ther goodies funds permitting! Thanks for checking out my thread!


Expedition Leader
This is how the ZJ's should have rolled off the assembly line.. looks great.

Keep an eye on the rear unirail attachment points for those upper control arms, they are another weak point with short arms and moderate to heavy wheeling/flexing.

I'm working on a 98 ZJ also.. your encouraging me.


This is how the ZJ's should have rolled off the assembly line.. looks great.

Keep an eye on the rear unirail attachment points for those upper control arms, they are another weak point with short arms and moderate to heavy wheeling/flexing.

I'm working on a 98 ZJ also.. your encouraging me.

I guess I have a few things to keep an eye on with this vehicle. I am well aware of the Uni-Body factor here and know that it will not be happy with excessive use and abuse. I am hoping to only experience moderate articulation regularly, especially because of the extra weight that is about to be thrown at it.

I am glad to be a source of inspiration!! Thank you!!

I have been working full throttle to make the next steps come to fruition. Stay tuned for s storage solution post, but first... a little upgrade to the Transmission!

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