Skyjacker Jeep XJ Cherokee Lift Kit Installation

Jul. 15, 2015 By Jim Brightly, KF7SCT
Although this isn’t stock height—some previous owner had installed a cheap 2-inch lift at some time in the XJ’s 25-year history—the Rubicon wheels and tires are already on the Jeep.

Just as a winch is severely limited in its capability without its accessory kit (tree strap, clevis, snatch block, etc.), a Cherokee is severely limited in its off-road capability without more ground clearance and tires designed for off-road use.

Having worked with Skyjacker suspension systems before on Jeeps and Chevy trucks (for example, see this related story), I knew the Skyjacker suspension kits to be complete and well-documented. My grandson, Cash, did not want the huge high long-arm lift like we installed on Master ‘Kee; instead, he wanted a more modest lift (read: less expensive) with all-around, all-season tires that would work equally well on-road, off-road, and give a good account of themselves in the mileage department. Hence, we chose the Skyjacker JC315BKSH-R 3-inch lift kit and Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S LT265/75R16 tires, which were ideal for Cash’s 1990 Cherokee Laredo.

Cash is enjoying some of the local trails around Kingman, Arizona, and honing his driving skills.

I don’t want to spend a great deal of time and space here on detailed instructions because Skyjacker does an excellent job with that, but I do want to take some time to talk about the Geolandar tires. Cash won’t become the daily driver of Red Banjo—his name for the XJ because of its noisy remanufactured power steering pump—until 2016, at which time he’ll be driving it to high school, jobs, dates, and camping trips (in other words, we have a little over a year to complete the XJ’s refurbishment). Since when that time comes Red Banjo will spend 90% of its time on pavement, Cash, his dad, and I decided its tires should reflect that. Therefore, we chose the Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S LT265/75R16 load range D tire (A/T-S means all-terrain-super—just kidding on the “super,” although they are really good in the dirt!) with white outline letters (OWL) because it is designed for extended highway mileage, quiet road noise, all-weather traction, and better-than-average off-road capabilities (and with the OWL Cash gets to show off the Yokohamas). Also to save some money and weight, we chose to use Jeep OEM aluminum wheels from my own 2005 Rubicon Unlimited. The wheels have the same lug pattern (5x4.5) as the Cherokee and the proper width for the LT265/75R16 tires, which have a 31.9-inch overall diameter and weigh 49.6 pounds.

The two-ply tires provide strength and promote ride comfort. The tire’s internal structure includes a polyester casing and two steel belts are reinforced with spiral-wrapped nylon for extra durability. According to Yokohama’s documentation: “Geolandar A/T-S all-terrain tires have an aggressive design that'll make your light truck or SUV stand tall. But the real beauty lies deeper. With features ranging from multi-stepped Grooves to Dual Interlocking Pyramid Sipes, every Geolandar A/T-S packs the absolute latest in technology. For most light truck and SUV owners, everyday driving is the main use of their vehicle. The design and construction of the Geolandar provides style and performance, delivering an excellent ride, great performance and long tread life.” Yokohama says the Geolander’s dynamic spring control stiffens the lower sidewall as the tire turns and allows the upper sidewall to flex over road bumps to create a comfortable ride without sacrificing steering response.

Kevin Lake is unpacking the kit, which arrives from Skyjacker in just one large container.

Skyjacker’s instruction sheet tells us to block the wheels, use jack stands, etc., for safety, but Kevin’s shop is equipped with an electric lift so we used it.

While the instructions begin with the rear suspension, we started on the front and disconnected the steering.

We then disconnected the front sway bar.

Once we removed the sway bar’s mounting bolts, the sway bar was discarded.

OEM spring on the left and the Skyjacker spring on the right. The Skyjacker spring is both longer and stronger.

We used a ratchet strap to compress the coils for installation.

We also used a ratchet strap from the frame to the axle to align the track bar.

The track bar also necessitated a drift punch for the final alignment.

Skyjacker shock absorber and coil spring installed.

We did use jack stands to support the rear axle while working on the suspension.

The Cherokee had quite a bit of rust on the suspension, so we blasted the bolts with rust cutter to avoid breaking them.

After removing the U-bolts, the center pin has to be removed.

Skyjacker uses an add-a-leaf for its 3-inch lift rather than expensive new leaf springs. That’s why the center pin must be removed.

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