Project Jeep Therapy: Suspension II
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By: Jeff Layton - 5/2000



Wrangler Springs
The 4" YJ springs arrived, and sure enough, the fronts needed the add-a-leaf.
M.O.R.E. shackles
As you can see, the M.O.R.E. shackles (bottom) are quite a bit thicker than the popular boomerang shackles from another vendor (above)
Shackle set
Here's the full greasable shackle set. Note that the front shackles for the shackle-reversal kit don't have cross-bracing - this is to allow clearance for the strong through-the-frame mounting method. You can clearly see the 3/8" plates - super-strong!

In the long time since Jeep Therapy got new springs and shackles were installed, a lot has happened...unfortunately not much of it has been on the Jeep! I got a new job and a new uhhhh...Jeep Tow Vehicle, which has taken up a little time of it's own. Nevertheless, some work has progressed, and like most projects, some of it has been re-doing what was just completed.

After installing the new springs and shackles in the last chapter, I wanted to check suspension travel to see just how tall to make the shock towers. Being that the Jeep isn't driveable just yet, a RTI test isn't quite practical. Forklifts aren't easily available, so a little improvising was in order. Only I may have improvised a little too much.

With a Hi-Lift on one front corner, I put a strap between the frame and axle on the other front corner, compressing it not quite to the bumpstop. After taking some measurements and removing the strap and Hi-Lift, the Jeep wasn't exactly sitting level anymore side to side. Looks like I just sprung one leaf. Bummer. Removing it and loosening up the suspension didn't help. Swapping side to side didn't help. Bouncing madly on the bumper didn't help. Crying didn't help. I think I may have blown it. Oh well, if it sprung that easily, I guess I need to replace it, which started a whole list of suspension tweaks.

Although I wanted a really great suspension system with miles of articulation, I wasn't willing to pay for the new coil suspension kits and wasn't ready to work out the axle-wrap problems of a spring-over. I sure wasn't ready for an ultra-trick 1/4 elliptical or other state-of-the-art system: with all the delays this project has seen (going on 4 years!), I wanted to get it on the road and work out the tweaks that will make a great suspension system. So, a good set of off-the-shelf springs were in order.

I compiled a list of all the leaf-spring buzzwords: shot-peened, tapered leaves, bolt-clips, pre-set, etc. and started calling. After researching all the major manufacturers, I settled on Skyjacker. One of the benefits was that they offered a factory-designed add-a-leaf made for heavier Jeeps with all the added steel on Jeep Therapy, that may be helpful. The other benefit was that the people I could get on the phone actually knew what all the terms I asked about really meant! I was surprised at the low level of knowledge at most of the other manufacturers.

While I was replacing the springs, I replaced the shackles as well. I was never very happy with the boomerang-style shackles I had used on the rear and wanted a simpler, stronger shackle. Once again, Chris Overacker at Mountain Off-Road Enterprises (M.O.R.E.) came to the rescue.

U-Bolt Spring Plates

Now that the replacement springs and shackles were installed, the next order of business was spring plates. Typical U-bolt spring plates lose about 1" of ground clearance below the spring (on SUA setups). Since I wasn't doing a SOA conversion (just yet anyway ;-), I wanted to save some ground clearance. As you can see here, it came out pretty well. The spring perches are not yet welded to the tube. They will not be weled in place until the Jeep is mostly completed and all the weight is on the frame, so that the pinion angle can be set correctly.

For the "zero-clearance spring plates", I wanted to avoid simply welding angle iron to flat steel due to the weld at the corner stress point. First I tried two pieces of 7" long by ~ 1.5" steel square stock parallel to the springs and welded to a piece of 3/8" flat under the springs, but that just didn't work - way too heavy and not enough room to get a socket over the nut (holes bored into the 1.5" square stock). That prototype is now scrap.

The next step was to get some steel bent up. While they were at it, I had some gussets cut out for no extra charge. A local fab shop did the bending, and a buddy provided the AutoCAD drawings to ensure all was done to spec.

u-bolt plates u-bolt plates u-bolt plates
The spring centerbolt holes are already drilled in this picture. Next, it was simple to weld the gussets in place. A steel 1" cube was welded to the corners to provide a shock mount essentially at the same height as the springs. (Shock mount is for the rear - front is a swaybar mount point)
u-bolt plates u-bolt plates u-bolt plates
After cleaning up and paint, they look pretty good! Installed, they save quite a bit of room and don't appear to restrict spring movement any. U-bolt plates on the rear spring

The problem is, on the right front, the Dana 44 pumpkin was too big and close to the springs to fit this style spring plate. This low-profile spring plate puts the U-bolt nuts a little wider, beside the spring, rather than closer, below the spring as with conventional spring plates. With the nuts alongside the springs, it's just too wide to fit alongside the pumpkin. So, instead of buying one regular spring U-bolt skid (and many I've seen are flimsy), I decided to make my own.

u-bolt plates u-bolt plates u-bolt plates
Here's the factory Wagoneer Dana44 spring plates, with the shock mount cut off of one and it's holes welded up. With internal braces welded in place, it's almost ready to sandwich the two together. Welded together, with side gussets welded on and holes drilled for U-bolt nut (and socket!), it fits really well, is very strong, and doesn't sacrifice any clearance (below the pumpkin anyway).

Steering Stabilizer

The next step was to fabricate a zero-clearance steering stabilizer mount I wasn't happy with the bracketry that bolts to the axle tube. I bent up a small piece of steel and welded it together this mount:

steering stabilizer steering stabilizer steering stabilizer
As you can see, it holds the stabilizer up out of the way nicely. See a problem here? The tie-rod mount wont clear the sway-bar . Bummer - another thing needs re-done! Here's the second attempt.
steering stabilizer It doesn't hold the stabilizer up quite as high, but it's still up higher than the axle. You can also see the AGR power steering box and brace, the Skyjacker springs, and the zero-clearance spring plate. You may notice the swaybar mount is on top of the spring plate this is to more closely match the mounting height of the opposite side. Even still, it didn't line up perfectly - I had to shorten the swaybar disconnect a little to avoid preloading the bar on level ground.

Shock Towers

The last order of suspension business was shock towers. This time I measured compression with a tape measure and just let the other side droop (with a little help). To get the tallest shocks that would fit, I little taller shock tower was in order.

So as not to make huge modifications for a temporary suspension system, I wanted to avoid a front shock tower that would require fender trimming. With the M.O.R.E. 1" body lift, there was a little room to raise the front towers:

shock towers shock towers shock towers
With a piece of 3/8" plate, an extra couple inches of front shock travel is added without adding too much leverage on the extension plate. Here's a close-up. Due to the body lift, the rear shock towers had a little room for extension also. Here's the new one sitting alongside the original Jeep tower before welding.
Shock towers Shock towers
The towers actually weren't that tough to make with a little geometry, measuring (twice!) and bending, a right and left mount were fabricated. Here you can see the simple yet beefy construction of the rear shock towers. The bolt-in mounts were ordered mail-order.

Well that's a lot of work for the 2nd time the suspension was done!

Sources

Mountain Off-Road Enterprises
Dept. ORN
P.O. Box 843
Rifle, CO 81650
(970) 625-0500

Skyjacker
Dept. ORN
212 Stevenson Street
West Monroe, LA 71292
1-800-763-8743

Rocky Mountain Suspension
(Skyjacker dealer)
Dept ORN
P.O. Box 1009
Bayfield, CO 81122
1-800-521-4908


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