While waiting for our lost crush sleeve to show up, we drove around town for two weeks (including a week at Rehoboth Beach) with the rear of the Black Bear 6.5 inches higher then the front. The crush sleeve arrived the day I got back from the beach, so with sleeve in hand, we finally got down to installing the front portion of the Rugged Ridge 4”-5” Coil Spring Lift Kit with Shocks (part#18401.60). While we thought the Black Bear looked pretty cool with its new aggressive stance, we needed to get her leveled out. So we set out on a Saturday morning to complete the job we started two weeks prior. This kit requires the use of the Rugged Ridge drop pitman arm (part#18006.55) separate from the kit, so if you are ordering the kit make sure you add this part to your order.
We also ordered a few additional parts for the front end (adjustable track bar (part#18205.08), inverted drag link (part#18205.23) and a steering stabilizer (part#18475.03)).
The front is pretty similar to the rear, other then the additional steering parts, so we figured the install would be pretty quick. Basically new larger shocks and springs, new stronger lower control arms, and new sway bar extensions. The front sway bar extensions have quick disconnects so that the front wheels can fully articulate when wheeling off-road. Pretty nice feature to have for aggressive off-roading. Just like with the rear, we wanted to see exactly how much lift we were going to get with this kit when we were finished so we measured the front bumper before we started- we had about 25 inches from ground to top of the front bumper which we taped off so we were sure where we ended up.
The front went more or less as smoothly as the rear. There were a few additional steps in the front that we didn’t need to do in the rear which increased our install time a little. For example, you have to disconnect the front drive shaft before you start. The springs, shocks and control arms were a breeze to install. Especially since we had just done these a few weeks ago on the rear. There were a few minor differences with installing the springs, but it was pretty much the same.
The biggest difficulty came with installing the drop pitman arm. First, the nut holding the pitman arm requires a 33m socket or wrench to remove it. Well, that’s not only a pretty big size, its also a fairly unusual size. We didn’t have it. Off to Advance Auto Parts we went. Sixty minutes later and a few dollars lighter in our wallet we had a 33m socket (we also stopped for lunch – a couple of chicken sandwiches from Moby Dicks).
With that huge nut off, we were ready to pull the arm off. You need a pitman puller to get the original arm off. We knew this so we had borrowed one from a friend before we started so we thought that we were all set. When we went to pull the pitman arm, however, the puller that we had borrowed was too big. Trip number two to Advanced Auto. We bought an Autocraft Pitman Arm Puller for $17.99 and went back to work. The original arm was pretty snug and it took some work to get the puller in there but we got it in and got the old arm off. No problem.
When installing the new arm make sure you keep the steering wheel straight. You need to mark the wheel with tape and keep it on center. We were very careful to do this (or at least we thought we were). Unfortunately, when we got done we realized it was moved somehow in the process and we ended up with our steering wheel upside down. Whoops. The huge pitman nut had to be torqued to 190 lb-ft. Our torque wrench just wasn’t big enough to get to 190 – even with both of us yanking on it. So we figured we’d borrow one and get it tightened to spec after the fact.
We installed the adjustable track bar and the steering stabilizer without much difficulty. The inverted drag link required drilling a hole larger at the mounting point. We were concerned about doing this by hand and not getting the hole straight so we didn’t install this part, deferring it until later when we could drill the whole in our friend’s shop. When we went to reconnect the draft shaft we couldn’t find our Loctite so that necessitated our third and final trip to Advance Auto.
Given the difficulty we had with the pitman arm and the three trips to Advance Auto, it took us most of the day to complete the front install. It was a bit longer then the Rugged Ridge estimate, but we made three trips to the store, stopped for lunch, maybe ran a few errands for the wife, etc. so we weren’t surprised it took us a bit longer then it should have. Other then the pitman arm and the giant 33m nut, the install of the front was pretty smooth.
We measured our mark on the rear bumper after we finished and we are at 30.5 inches – an increase of 4.5. The front ended at 29.5 inches, which was also an increase of 4.5 inches. The only real snag, as previously noted, was when we got in to do the test drive, the steering wheel was upside down. Not wanting to remove the pitman arm again ourselves, we drove over to Sunoco the next day and had them throw it up on the lift. We took the arm off, straightened the wheel, put the arm back on and torqued the nut to 190 lb-ft using their much larger torque wrench (I did have to run home to get my pitman puller and 33m socket because they didn’t have either). Wheel straight. Bolt torqued to 190 lb-ft. 4.5 inches higher. Things are good. And the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Black Bear is starting to look Bad Ass!!! Now we just need those 35’s.
As a side note, after driving around for a few days, we are getting the traction control light coming on on the dash from time to time. We are checking with Rugged Ridge – we think the brackets extending the brake lines and the electronics lines aren’t long enough and its tugging on the electronics lines.