Saturday, August 9, 2014

Installing the Lift Kit

After reading all kinds of things on IH8MUD forums, various vendor websites and overlanding journeys of others, it finally came down to...what do I want to try? Noteably, I read multiple forums suggesting that lift kits greater than 1.75" will create maintenance and wear issues for the vehicle that ordinarily wouldn't occur. I went with a 2.5" heavy duty lift kit from Slee Offroad. Considering the heavier ARB front bumper, Slee back bumper, the planned rooftop tent, single axle off-road trailer and secondary fuel tank, with the help of Christo Slee, I planned for no-road, logging road, creek and small river terrain, outback in the middle of nowhere camping with the family.

I initially ended up with the following parts list by considering the following questions:

  • Will the vehicle be a daily driver? Or overlanding/off-road only?
  • Will the off-road experience be paved, gravel, dirt, logging, mud, no-road, etc?
  • Water? No water?
  • OEM curb weight? Modifications that will add or remove weight?
  • Towing? No towing? If towing, what?
  • Where do you plan to travel? Domestic US? International? If international, what kind of travel?
  • How many people will be transported in the vehicle?

Out of this I chose the 2.5" lift, heavy duty believing that at some point I'll get a different daily driver and save this mighty giant for overlanding/outbacking alone. In all fairness, from my time in Zimbabwe and South Africa, I was already familiar with Old Man Emu suspension systems and knew they had a great reputation for dependability out in the bush. Yes, it influenced my choices. Resultantly, my parts list looked like the following:

  • OME 2864 Old Man Emu rear coil springs - 80 Series LC
  • OME 6000 Old Man Emu Sport Shock - 100 Series Front Comfort Shock
  • OME 6002 Old Man Emu Sport Shock - 100 Series Rear Comfort Shock
  • 303001 Torsion Bar Set - 100 Series LC
  • SOF - Diff Drop Kit for UZJ100, with fit kit
  • SPC Adjustable Upper Control Arms - 100 Series LC

Because I personally have neither the tools, nor the experience, to install springs, and particularly the torsion bars, I decided to go with a local shop who told me they have experience doing multiple lift kits on off-road vehicles. Two days of work and BAM! I now have a bit of a jump to get into the vehicle.

Overall, I'm pleased with the work. Having no experience here, I've driven been driving, testing, listening and learning to understand how a lift kit changes the vehicle's harmony to original OEM design. I hear noises here and there, look for leaks (finding none so far), have noticed a different behaviour when making tight turns and so forth. It handles differently for sure given the center of gravity is higher. I have more learning to do. No argument. And basically don't know what I don't know about lift kits and OEM performance evolution. However, I'm having a great time and look forward to more experimentation and learning.

Two things of note: a) if I have an issue with bottoming out after attaching a loaded off-road trailer, I'll likely change the bump-stops in the rear springs; and b) I was particularly impressed with the solid upper A-arms. They were a seemingly huge and valuable upgrade from the OEM arms. I like the work Slee Off-Road is doing to compose solutions, not just parts.

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