Summary and Evaluations: Springs, shocks, mounts, lifts and 35's...
Swapping out springs is easy. I was a bit worried that it would be time-consuming, but after having put them all in and pulled them all out a few times it doesn't bother me in the least. This was a much easier job than I first assumed it to be. The biggest obstacles are nothing more than problematic fasteners...if all of the bolts come out the way they're supposed to, one will have little to no problem. Air tools help a lot in this regard...before I contemplated a suspension installation, I'd want to have a good compressor and impact wrench. A good torque wrench is also an absolute requirement.
Coil spring and link suspensions are both much more simple and much more complicated than they look. The simple aspects lie in the aforestated direct replacement of existing parts, but the complicated portions lie in understanding the movements and forces that those parts acts within. There's nothing that is incredibly hard to bolt on or modify, but understanding the "why" behind any given change in geometry can be more difficult than it may first appear. With that said, I'm thinking even harder about working on a true four-link for the rear...I've got enough tools to do the fabrication, so the only lacking portion is my knowledge. This, I can remedy.
Shocks are supposed to be a potential horror story because of the upper bar pins, but I simply don't see the issue, here. It's nothing more than the matter of a hard-to-reach fastener, but any minimally-equipped shop is going to have the tools required to successfully extract these bolts. Like most times, penetrating oil and an impact are your best friends, and following the simple sequence of work that I outlined will make shock changes nothing special.
Having a softer, road-quality shock is crucial on a vehicle that's going to go...well, anywhere. Thus, it logically follows that any improvement that can be made to this shock's ability to function will be - pound-for-pound - one of the best modifications possible. To this end - and, after getting some experience with working around the shocks and seeing how they actually move - I am more convinced than ever that I need to move them outboard. Anyone considering this type of build would do well to consider this type of modification, as well.
This is the oft-mentioned one-banana job...however, it's also a two-gorilla job. Having a buddy to run a jack while you pull and replace parts makes this go much, much faster.
I don't see why Jeep didn't give the TJ a body lift from the factory. So many things are so much easier when you have that small extra bit of space. Crawling underneath, the clearances go from "eh..." to "oh, I've got bags of room, here!" To that end, I seriously don't understand why I see so many people that want to do a tummy tuck without a body lift: the body lift is just too easy and too convenient, and it doesn't even cost much! A tummy tuck without a body lift is going to have more time invested in clearancing the tub than in the installation of the lifted body mounts. To me, doing this is working against oneself.
Motor Mount Lift
I can understand why people shy away from these at times; changing them looks more involved than it actually is, in reality. But this one is an easy, vital necessity. To relocate the fan shroud, I would have needed a right-angle drill that would have cost me more than the $85 nukeproof motor mounts...and my fan shroud wouldn't have been in the right place, even then. Better driveline angle, better mount in general, easier time with the fan shroud...there's no reason not to do this. If you have the tools to do any of the other work that I've done thus far, a motor mount lift is easy.
One of the biggest benefits of a lifted motor mount is also one of the least-mentioned, and one of the most important for surviving in the wasteland: lifted motor mounts move your oil pan further away from the ground. A punctured oil pan can be a very difficult repair, so getting it away from danger is some of the best protection you can give yourself.
Tires are the single point of contact between your Jeep and the ground beneath it, so you have to be absolutely f****** honest with yourself when you select them. You also want the biggest tire that you can reliably and safely control...remember those two words: reliably and safely.
I wanted a more aggressive look to the tires I chose, but I didn't want to deal with a mud tire on the street. I don't go in mud. I don't even like mud. If I see mud, I drive away from it. I stay on pavement a LOT, and I stay on gravel and dirt paths more than any other type of off-road terrain. Because of these factors, an all-terrain was the correct choice, and the 35" Falken is a great selection. After testing and consultation with Falken, I keep this tire at 22 PSI and it does phenomenally well.
However, 35" tires come with a price, and it's not just in the parts I've mentioned thus far. They must be steered, and they must be stopped. The TJ's factory steering and brakes are NOT up to snuff in this regard. When you go to 35's, plan on upgrading your brakes and your steering linkage along with them. Trouble comes up fast in the wasteland...and sometimes, you can't just mash the gas and drive over it. Sometimes, you're going to have to go around it, or just come to a screeching halt. Keep that in mind.
If it's worth doing, then it's worth over
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The build, the gear, and the mileage: The Wasteland Survival Guide