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Unread 06-27-2013, 08:57 AM   #1
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2001 XJ Cherokee 
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XJ suspension/towing question

A friend of mine has an '96 XJ Sport and recently purchased a travel trailer that he intends to tow around on weekends. He tried it out last week and took it to a few campsites, but was unhappy with how much the tongue weight affected the rear suspension. I don't know the exact numbers on the tongue weight, but do know that between that and the aged rear leaf springs the XJ was quite nose-up during the drive.

What would be a good course of action? He's looking for a compromise between proven and thrifty if you catch my meaning. New leaf packs? Air kit? The bracketed inverse helper spring kits? The XJ doesn't need to have great articulation for off-roading as the beach is the only place off-road he intends to take it.


*I'd like to add that the current leaf springs don't seem to be sagged at all and the Jeep rides level when not towing the trailer. But I can see the trailer affecting them quickly if he doesn't do something to reinforce them*

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Unread 06-27-2013, 10:08 AM   #2
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In looking recently at this same sort of issue for my '98 XJ I have found a couple options. Mine was sagging quite a bit though. SO you may make some other choices.

1- Get a new set of leaf springs, and possibly even make it into a bastard pack with extra leafs being added. This may help.

2- Get the clamp on leaf spring helpers that will increase the load rating of the springs.

3- Monroe makes the SensaTrac shocks with a "coil-over" spring. These are meant to also increase the load capacity. I read good reviews about them and increasing the load capacity while not negatively affecting ride quality to bad.

For me, with sagging rear springs, I chose to do a replacement. It is in the shop today to get installed. But in this case, the Monroe shocks might be a good option that would work and not break the bank. Hope this helps.
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Unread 06-27-2013, 10:29 AM   #3
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The monroe shocks work pretty well at least on my old commander, but they get loud after while because the springs end up rubbing on the shock body. I would never notice it on my XJ but on the quite riding XK it was annoying.
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Unread 06-27-2013, 02:06 PM   #4
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Silly question: How much does the trailer weigh ? Maybe he is over the Jeeps capacity .
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Unread 06-27-2013, 06:12 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by sAe23 View Post
Silly question: How much does the trailer weigh ? Maybe he is over the Jeeps capacity .
Good question.
He needs good springs and shocks all around. OME HD leaves, coils and shocks would be a good start. Keep the rear sway bar and consider upgrading both sway bars.
A weight-distribution hitch might also be needed for safer towing. It transfers some of the weight to the front wheels.
Going cheap on a tow rig is a good way to get yourself killed, set it up right or take a tent.
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Unread 06-27-2013, 08:16 PM   #6
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I have to say I am impressed with the bds springs I installed. ( I installed lift springs) but they do Handel the weight I put in the Jeep well and it does ride nice. Don't try and cheep out on this kind of upgrade when towing. Air helpers are nice, just make sure you don't over load the Jeep.
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Unread 06-28-2013, 01:33 AM   #7
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Being a truck driver by trade, my first question is how big is this trailer?? What is it's gross weight. He might have a lot more to worry about than just suspension.

A stock XJ without a tow package is only rated for 2400 pound trailers without modifications. Those would include a trans cooler (VERY IMPORTANT, MORE THAN SPRINGS!!) rear end lube change to 80w 140 and of course "spring help." The manual also calls for a load distributor hitch beyond 2400# (everything listed minus hitch if it is an enclosed van type trailer less than 2400#.) AND EVEN AFTER THE UPGRADES 5000# is the high end on weight.

So what is this trailer? If it is a tandem axle say 16 feet long, then he needs all of the above for certain. If it just a popup then he is ok.

I am in the same boat here in Michigan with my 2000. After much thought I think I am going to go with air bags on the rear. Mainly because you can dump the air, less enough to hold their shape, and still maintain all the stock ride (both on and off road) characteristics when you don't have the trailer behind you. If you end up pulling several different trailers, you can tailor the spring assist for each one just by changing air pressure. They can also be a big help when the truck is loaded down and no trailer is present.

What turned me off to other options.
1. I have seen helper springs actually bend the ends over of the top leaves on spring packs permanently damaging them. The top leaf was intended to carry only so much weight. Even though you might have a add a leaf increasing the load rating of the spring, it doesn't make the top leaf any stronger at the ends (eyelets). So basically the spring is not able to carry any more weight, it just now gives a harsher ride.

2. air shocks, shocks with springs: My problem with using either of those is that the shock mounts were never designed to "carry weight." They were only designed to take the stress of controlling the spring's rebound. Even a 2 way shock I feel puts stress in the wrong direction on the mounts (compression.) The stock XJ can handle 2400# trailers with roughly a 240# tongue weight. Lets say you added air shocks (and a trans cooler) so you could pull a 5000# camper with a 500# tongue weight then added air to get the ride height close to stock. NOW your shock mounts are carrying that entire (or close to it) 500# in the wrong direction.

I like air bags not only because of their adjust ability, but because how they are mounted on the vehicle. The stock springs are not even touched. The additional weight they carry is transmitted straight from the axle into the frame.
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