Installed and Tested: Trailmaster Stealth 3 link 4.5" long arm with Fox Shocks
Recently, Trailmaster asked if I would install, test, and review their new, 3 link, 4.5" long arm with Fox Shocks on my 2 dr.
I installed it on my 07 2 door Rubi over a couple weekends in August. Then, I headed off to Moab and to Colorado to test it.
This thread won't include all the steps. The first version of printed instructions with pictures are pretty good. However, like any long arm install--especially on a jeep that already has other upgrades--some fine tuning and adapting typically needs to be done along the way.
The local 4x4 shop that does my regearing, welding, and occasional custom work for me, was gracious enough to let me use one of the lifts in his garage for the install. He did the welding and used his plasma cutter. I did the rest of the install with an occasional extra hand from him or my brother.
Pre-install, these were the suspension and steering specs for my JK:
OME 3" springs, with OME LT shocks, Currie arms (but stock front uppers), and Teraflex trackbars, with 0.75" rear axle push/stretch.
JKS front and Teraflex rear bumpstops.
Full Traction rear HD swaybar with Teraflex rear swaybar links.
Currie drag link and PSC hydro assist.
Northridge4x4 front swaybar links.
EVO RockStar rear shock relocation skids.
Crown extended brake lines.
1" M.O.R.E. body lift.
On 37s, it would RTI at 1000+ with 1.25" front and 2.5" rear extended bumpstops--which I could run due to a 1" body lift and flat flares.
On 40s, it would not RTI as high because I had to run 3.25" front and rear extended bumpstops.
Using the grinder with a new flap wheel to clean up what was left over of the stock control arm brackets:
After cleaning up, shooting some primer on the frame, then anti-rust paint on the frame, I marked them using the new brackets for holes to drill:
Then, I followed the instructions to drill the holes, install the front control arm brackets, and install the front control arms.
Trailmaster recommended a larger than stock bolt for the front upper control arms. So, I drilled out the stock bolt sleeves (using some oil to avoid overheating the sleeve and damaging the bushing):
Then, it was time to work on the drag link flip.
Trailmaster will include a trackbar relocation bracket and drop pitman arm for the steering correction that is highly desired for lifts over 3.5" on a JK.
I have a very negative opinion of drop pitman arms on JK steering boxes--unless you also install a sector shaft steering brace at the same time. I've seen several JK steering boxes fail just this summer--they were all running drop pitman arms without a sector shaft brace. The combination of large tires and the additional leverage on the steering box from a drop pitman arm is more than the JK box can handle for those who offroad their jeeps.
So, I decided to do a flip. The Currie drag link can be run in the stock or flipped position. The end just has to be screwed out the bottom and re-installed the opposite direction. Currie has a special tool/wrench for their end. Without that tool, you can just use a bench vise. However, that end is in there very tight, and you may need to use a pipe for leverage to be able to flip the end:
Then, after drilling out the top of the knuckle to accept an insert for a flipped installation, I re-installed the Currie drag link:
Then, as I installed the springs, I reinstalled my JKS front extended bumpstops at a 3.25" height. Trailmaster included 4" front extended bumpstops. However, the bolt diameter for their bumpstop was much smaller than the holes I had drilled and tapped for my JKS bumpstops. A drag link flip generally requires a minimum of 3" front extended bumpstops. Trailmaster recommends closer to 4" so that their front arms don't reach a binding point on a full stuff. Here are my bumpstops:
Then, I installed the frame side of the new Trailmaster adjustable trackbar, an axle side trackbar relocation bracket to keep the trackbar parallel to the drag link after the flip, and my new front shocks:
To install the passenger side front control arm bracket, I had to remove the gas tank (easy to do, but helps if your tank is close to empty):
The lower control arm brackets bolt to both the frame and to the crossmember:
There are support brackets behind the crossmember. You can either bolt or weld them to the frame. Trailmaster suggested they be welded because it is much faster:
The clearance between the driver side bracket on the front side of the crossmember and the exhaust was too close. So, I had the shop modify the exhaust slightly to create more clearance.
Next, I removed 3 of the 4 rear control arms, the rear trackbar, springs, shocks, lower bumpstops, rear driveshaft, and coil retainers.
Here is what my rear axle looked like before I removed the driveshaft. I had Teraflex rear weld-on coil perches and a modified JKS rear axle side trackbar brace (Trailmaster includes rear lower weld on perches to be correctly rotated forward on the axle tube for the lift, but I did not need them due to my Teraflex lower perches.):
The kit uses an axle side trackbar relocation bracket with the intent of being able to retain the stock trackbar and having a better roll center. However, with my JKS rear trackbar brace, I had to bend one of the tabs for the bracket and have it welded to the axle. I also preped the axle for welding on the rear truss:
Next, it was time to cut off the stock rear lower control arm brackets:
Then, the rear truss, the rear axle side trackbar bracket tab, and the rear lower control arm brackets needed to be welded.
The Trailmaster instructions were to place the rear lower control arm brackets at the seam on the frame:
The rear upper 3rd link bracket bolts to frame brackets with crush sleeve type spacers:
After some primer and paint on the frame and lower control arm brackets, it was time to re-install my rear gas tank. Notice I put the stock gas tank skid to good use:
Also, you can see on the back corner where my Tom Wood pinion flange somewhat frequently would hit the thin stock gas tank skid when the suspension really compressed:
Since I already had Rock Hard engine and transfer case skids, I decided to use this opportunity to install a Rock Hard gas tank skid to complete the set (below you will see that I put the Rock Hard transfer case skid to good use and it was bowed up compared to the edge of the new gas tank skid):
I found that I would need to cut/trim my Rock Hard engine skid to provide clearance for the front upper arms:
The driver side would be fine:
Next, it was time to the install the rear arms, driveshaft, trackbar, springs, shocks, bumpstop extensions, and swaybar link brackets (designed to run with stock rear links):
My existing rear Crown brakelines were longer than the ones included in the kit. Because of my EVO RockStar rear shock relocation skids, I decided not to install the Trailmaster rear brakelines because they would not be long enough for the extra droop allowed by the skids.
I quickly discovered that the rear lower arms were too long for the lower control arm bracket mounting points.
Before this install, I was running a 0.75" stretch/push.
With the install, my rear axle was pushed back more than 1", possibly 1.25".
I would need to adapt, or I wound need to have Trailmaster send me shorter rear lower arms. I decided to adapt.
I had rear spring bowing and several other issues.
I was fortunate that I had already modified my rear trackbar bracket back.
I was fortunate that I had an extra Rubicon Express adjustable rear trackbar I could use because it would not have been possible to run the stock trackbar as instructed because the driveshaft pinion flange would have been in constant contact with the gas tank skid.
The included rear swaybar link brackets combine with stock rear swaybar links would not work.
Rear spring bowing due to the push/stretch:
The brackets with stock swaybar links would not work:
Without the trackbar bracket modification, the springs would not have cleared:
So, I reported back to Trailmaster with pics and measurements so they could respond to JK owners who had similar issues of a push/stretch:
Side view of the jeep on 37s with the new stretched wheelbase:
Then, it was time to test it out on the RTI ramp (right away, I removed the rear swaybar links):
Even with my longer Crown brakelines, due to the EVO RockStars, I needed to install brakeline relocation brackets:
The push/stretch meant that my rear bumpstops would only about 1/2 way hit the lower extended bumpstops:
With flat flares and a 1" body lift, the 3.25" front extended bumpstops is more than enough for 37s:
The extended bumpstops ended being almost perfect for the travel in the Fox shocks at full compression. In this pic, you can see where I ran the JK up the RTI ramp to compress the passenger side rear bumpstop.
I would need to cut/trim more of my Rock Hard engine skid:
Again, Trailmaster was very responsive and offered to get me shorter rear lower arms.
I declined because I like the push/stretch.
Another side view pic with 37s:
And, one with 40s:
So, scheduled to leave 2 days later to go to Moab, I had to get busy on more fine tuning.
Using the recommended control arm lengths from Trailmaster, my alignment was almost right on.
I relocated the rear swaybar mounts back on the frame by one bolt hole by using a drilled and tapped hole. I also needed rear spacers to drop the swaybar from the frame so it would clear my Woods rear enlarged trunk:
I did some additional trimming/cutting of the back end of my wheel wells, installed the Full Traction rear swaybar with Northridge4x4 swaybar links, loaded the jeep with tools and spare parts, loaded everything on the trailer, and headed to Moab for testing :-)
I met up with a friend from Colorado (fourplyn) who has a 4 dr on 40s with a Rock Krawler long arm with a rear 3 link. I thought it would be a good comparison for testing.
We decided to run Fins & Things first to flex things out and see if we needed to do some more adjustments and/or cutting before more challenging trails.
We found a place to flex things out a little:
The 3.25" front extended bumpstops seemed to be good for the front springs:
And, I knew it was the right amount of front bumpstopping for the 40s:
Here are pics of the relocated rear brakeline brackets and the relocated rear FT swaybar and Northridge4x4 links:
Looks like I just barely clearanced the engine skid enough:
Another pic of the 3 link:
Partial bumpstop contact due to the push/stretch:
Rear clearances are tight with the 40s and the push/stretch, but only on full stuff:
I did finally get around to installing the front swaybar disconnects that came with the kit. They work okay, but reconnecting them can be a 2 person job if your jeep is not on very level ground. Unlike something like the JKS disconnects that have room for error, the Trailmaster disconnects use a cotter pin that results in less tolerance for uneven ground to reconnect.
Since I am running PSC hydro assist, I didn't install the steering stabilizer relocation bracket.
In all, I would say that the performance of the Trailmaster long arm is very good. It performed flawlessly during my testing and compared very well to the Rock Krawler long arm.
Trailmaster was very responsive to my questions and concerns. Had I not wanted the push/stretch, they would have sent me shorter rear lower arms.
In my opinion, even if it does not result in a push/stretch on other JKs, the Trailmaster system should be supplemented with:
a drag link flip kit
ditch the rear swaybar brackets and install longer rear swaybar links
be prepared to need an adjustable rear trackbar
If you have other modifications to your jeep like I did, as with any long arm, you may need:
longer rear brakelines or relocation brackets
trimming of skid plates or other armor
adaptation/modification of brackets--including the axle side rear trackbar bracket
I will probably do some sort of modification to make sure my rear bumpstops have full contact with the rear bumpstop extensions.
The last thing that I am doing to adapt for the push/stretch is to install Ruff Stuff Specialties rear lower coil perches. They will look something like this: