4WDrive - - Contents - By Bryan Irons

Skulk­ing around the in­ter­webs (when the boss isn’t look­ing) is one way we get story ideas and project di­rec­tion. But what we get asked the most from read­ers is along the lines of “I re­ally want an off-road rig I can drive to work ev­ery day, what should I do?” In an ef­fort to an­swer that, our buddy Zo­ran of­fered up his new-to-him 2015 JKU Sahara as fod­der to our trans­mu­ta­tional in­spi­ra­tions in an ef­fort to get a Jeep that handles great, looks good, wheels like a champ and doesn’t re­quire any spe­cial care. If you, or a friend, are ask­ing this same ques­tion, you’ve come to the right place.

The ba­sic JK Un­lim­ited plat­form is a great start­ing point for step­ping into the murky waters of lake “Ad­dicted to Dirt” with a plethora of sup­pli­ers with qual­ity parts and up­grades de­signed to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence. With the big man be­hind us calmly stat­ing “Don’t f#%k up my Jeep. Or else.” We went with what we KNOW works. End goal; just enough lift to fit new 35" tires and wheels and prop­erly mount a spare, fender flares to get am­ple tire cov­er­age, a quiet ex­haust sys­tem that keeps the vi­tals out of harm's way, bumpers to de­flect rocks and keep the sheet metal in­tact, and new peep­ers so we can ditch the hor­rific fac­tory

lights. Over­all, a tall order. The best part? Zo­ran wanted to be able to do the work him­self to learn his rig first hand.

Clay­ton Off Road re­ceived the first shot across the bow and we or­dered a 2.5" Pre­mium lift com­plete with FOX Ad­ven­ture se­ries shocks. The ba­sic kit de­sires noth­ing and we have great past ex­pe­ri­ences not only in deal­ing with the guys at Clay­ton Off Road but all of their prod­ucts as well. They are known in the in­dus­try for us­ing “un­con­ven­tional” heavy wall square tub­ing con­trol arms in­stead of the typ­i­cal round tub­ing. Clay­ton didn’t go the square route for aes­thet­ics or to re­duce costs, as it’s more ex­pen­sive to ma­chine and cre­ate the weld bungs, but it is much stronger. Those weld bungs carry ei­ther Cur­rie En­ter­prises “Johnny Joints” or an OE style rub­ber in­sert for a fac­tory like feel. The boxes that ar­rive also con­tain beefy re­lo­ca­tion brack­ets for the rear track bar, a com­plete set of Crown Steel Braded brake lines and JKS sway bar end links. No welders re­quired.

What we re­ally en­joy about Clay­ton Off Road and their prod­ucts is the com­plete lack of BS and hype. In a world where ev­ery­one is try­ing to rein­vent the wheel, they do as we do and use what they KNOW are top shelf com­po­nents and de­signs. This is why you see many other man­u­fac­turer's parts in their de­signs without the need to cover that up.

The prop­erly se­lected springs in­cluded with the kit have a slightly stiffer coil rate then the stock units and al­low for the ad­di­tion of some heav­ier equip­ment like bumpers and ar­mour to be added without wear­ing out the springs pre­ma­turely.

For proper tire cov­er­age, we went to Rugged Ridge for a set of Hur­ri­cane flares with a smooth fin­ish. Here on the west coast, pro­vin­cial laws re­quire that we cover ex­posed tread with flares and/or mud flaps and in our ex­pe­ri­ence, ar­gu­ing with an of­fi­cer is not how to plead your case… EVER! The flares were dropped off at White Stag Au­to­body in Kelowna, BC for a fresh coat of gloss black paint. The flex­i­ble and easy to in­stall flares fit our re­quire­ment to a “T”. Un­like solid flares made of steel or alu­minum, these will flex out of the way if bumped on the trail as op­posed to trans­fer­ring the force into the ex­pen­sive Jeep sheet metal, but to en­sure the paint will last through these move­ments, they need to be prepped and painted prop­erly, which White Stag did.

Tires and wheels were an easy pick for us; we have been rid­ing on Nitto tires for a num­ber of years in dif­fer­ent rigs and Trail Grap­plers in a 35X12.5X17 were our match for this ex­ploit. A tough and proven car­cass with 3 ply side­walls pro­vide the strength, and a tread de­sign with enough sip­ing to keep the sur­face cool for long life and de­ter hy­droplan­ing and chunk­ing hit the mark. We’re al­ways amazed when it comes time to bal­ance a set of Nitto tires, as they never seem to re­quire much weight. This can be at­trib­uted to the fac­to­ries fully au­to­mated man­u­fac­tur­ing process that cre­ates such uni­form tires. Keep an eye out for a full re­view once we beat on these a lit­tle more. The red let­ter­ing on this par­tic­u­lar set was done by the ar­tis­ti­cally de­prived Edi­tor Irons with the use of a Tire Penz paint pen we scored at Cana­dian Tire for peanuts. We’ll see how well it lasts, but it was a fun art project that we’d be proud to mount on our rig.

For wheels, we went back to Rugged Ridge for a set of 17X9" XHD wheel in Gun­metal Grey. The wheel is de­signed specif­i­cally for the JK plat­form with a -12mm off­set, which widened our track width slightly, but al­lows full move­ment without any rub­bing. We or­dered the pow­der coated “Rim Pro­tec­tors” as a sac­ri­fi­cial lamb should Zo­ran get bash­ing the wheels into the rocks and chew­ing up the alu­minum. For around $75 CAD, com­plete with stain­less hardware, it was a no-brainer. For a lit­tle added pro­tec­tion and some colour, we took the rings to Liq­uid Venom Hy­dro­graph­ics for a colour match­ing spray and a dip in the tank. We chose a de­sign called High Com­pres­sion and the fin­ished prod­uct speaks for it­self. Now if/when the wheels get some trail scars, it will be much harder to tell and the Jeep won’t look like a rolling red dump­ster.

A few other small, but very im­por­tant items made their way into the shop­ping cart. A heavy-duty cast alu­minum tire car­rier from Rugged Ridge was an easy bolt on and a great way to se­cure a meaty 35" tire without bend­ing the rear sheet metal. Rugged Ridge also drew us in with an in-dash phone holder for the JK to al­low Zo­ran to keep his GPS track­ing in sight at all times.

An­other MUST is a way to ad­just the JK com­puter to com­pen­sate for the larger tires' size and also be able to al­ter other fea­tures. We have used AEV’s ProCal mod­ule in the past, and will again in the fu­ture. Easy-to-al­ter pa­ram­e­ters and sim­ple op­er­a­tion make the Pro-Cal the most cost ef­fec­tive mod­ule on the mar­ket. From ad­just­ing TPMS alarm set points to al­ter­ing your day time run­ning lights; the com­pact mod­ule and sim­ple in­struc­tions are per­fect for a grow­ing project.

The very last list item this time around is the ex­haust sys­tem. Per­son­ally, we HATE that the en­gi­neers de­cided to mount the beer keg sized muf­fler to the very back of the JK’s. It’s noth­ing more than a rock mag­net and has to go. Most of the sys­tems we see on the mar­ket for the JK are too noisy and sound hor­rific. Dyno­max had the an­swer with the “Quiet Crawler” de­signed to keep the 2.5" man­drel bent sys­tem out of the dirt and your eardrums. A sin­gle stain­less muf­fler and res­onator re­place the fac­tory JK sys­tem from the cat­alytic con­verter back to the sin­gle pol­ished 3" tip. The in­stall took less then 20 min­utes with the hard­est part be­ing re­mov­ing the old scrap iron out from un­der the Jeep.

With all the parts in Edi­tor Irons' shop, we went to work on a cold win­ter week­end to get all this in­stalled. Here are the high­lights, and watch out for a fu­ture is­sue where we ditch the plas­tic bumpers, lose the pli­able rocker guards and fi­nally get rid of the worst head­lights ever in­stalled in a Jeep. We can’t wait! >>>

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