One of the first orders of business for Jeep was to violate the factory warranty and the best way to accomplish that was to mess with the suspension. In my head I have a mental image off what the final transformation of the JK would look like and in every incarnation thereof it includes a lift. We also ran into another JK in the parking lot of the grocery store that was sporting a 2.5" spacer lift and 285/75-17 tires on Procomp wheels which had the right stance.
The vast hours spent on the forums also cemented that 2.5" lift is the right lift to avoid needing drivelines and other mods. Since I am not unlike most people, I am building the JK on a budget and the extra $500 for a driveline, $300 for adjustable control arms, and so on was a deal breaker for a Prius crushing lift. However, I also knew that I wanted a spring lift and not a spacer lift. Thus, more forum research ensued.
If there is one thing that clouds the selection process it is the vast array of offerings for Jeeps compounded by 10-times the number of opinions on the forums. One lift that seemed to rate high in the opinion category was the Rock Krawler 2.5" Stock-Mod lift and this is what I ordered. However, the forums and even RK themselves say that the 2.5" lift actually nets closer to 3.5" lift in the front WITH bumpers and a winch. Also, based on the vast abyss of forum opinions the 3.5" would put it into the range of drivelines (not really a matter of IF but WHEN). Moreover, I was busy piecing together aspects of the lift that the stock-mod kit doesn't include like shocks, bump stops, brake line brackets, etc. In a impulsive moment I cancelled the RK lift and went with my second choice (which was actually my first choice before being swayed to the RK kit).
AEV 2.5" Dual-Sport Lift
Enter the AEV 2.5" Dual-Sport lift. Since the Jeep will be primarily a daily driver, I wanted good street manners but with a competent sense of off-road capability. I have been very impressed and happy with the AEV lift have no regrets with my decision. The kit is very complete and includes almost everything you need: Bilstien shocks, bump stops, rear track bar, brake line relocation brackets, etc. Installation was straight forward with the the biggest challenge being the installation of the the front shocks that everyone complains about.
Here are the AEV progressive rate springs compared to the stock JK front springs:
I started with the rear and everything went according to the instructions. The front proved a bit more challenging. AEV snuck in a bit of humor into their instructions when it came to opening up the brackets for the front brake lines. This bracket is fairly beefy and was in no mood to cooperate. Fighting it for sometime proved futile and only enhanced the risk of damaging the brake line itself. Using a Dremmel with a cutoff wheel, I carefully scored the back side of the bracket, taking care not to cut through and damage the brake line. This allowed the bracket to be coerced into giving up its death grip on the brake line.
AEV's development of the kit apparently ran out of R&D budget and the finish detail was to zip tie the brake line to the shock... seriously. Instead I used a p-clamp bolted to the original bracket and reinstalled the bracket to the spring perch. This provides better retention of the brake line while still allowing sufficient slack for full axle articulation while using the stock front brake line brackets.
Lastly, the sway bar linkage extension brackets are the same and are NOT a right and left pair. The instructions are a bit of vague here (apparently the tech writer took an extended smoke break during this operation). It took a couple of trials to get the brackets mounted such that BOTH linkages were as close to vertical and parallel as possible. The driver side bracket is mounted inboard of the axle mount tab while the passenger side was mounted outboard of the tab.
It is stated that the 2.5" lift doesn't need a driveline or exhaust mods. This is probably technically true. At full droop, the driveline boot rubs ever-so-slightly on the exhaust crossover heat shield. The actual probability of occurrence in the wild is highly unlikely, though the thing that would more likely do it in would be jacking the front while hot and letting the axle reach full droop. This might burn the boot on the exhaust. I will just have to be careful. I did buy the Terra Flex exhaust spacer but have opted not to install those at this time.
Having been swayed by the forum gossip, I ordered a the AEV Geometry Relocation brackets. I did not install these initially, as I wanted to see how it drove first. The shorter wheelbase of the 2-door has a reputation for being a bit more flighty or squirrelly with the reduction in caster that the lift yields. I found that the driving characteristics did in fact change and steering input is definitely more sensitive, but not unmanageable. In fact, being used to driving performance cars, I like the improved responsiveness and the stock jeep seemed to need to be coaxed away from tracking straight. The suspension is definitely stiffer and you feel the road while bigger bumps are nicely absorbed without any spine jarring. Overall, I couldn't be happier and will not be installing the Geo-brackets--though i will keep them just in case I change my mind down the road.