By: Jerome Dziechiasz
A 2016 MetalCloaked JKU
If you’re like me and you wait for the major industry events–luckily there are plenty throughout the year–to do your maintenance on your rig, then welcome to the club. Now I’m not proud nor condoning this type of bad behavior, especially when it comes to necessary vehicle maintenance, but it’s a reality with many, considering the balance of work, marriage, kids, and most of all, the ongoing maintenance that comes with owning a Jeep.
Despite popular belief, a Jeep is a high-performance vehicle with so many moving parts that are used and abused for our pure enjoyment, so keeping it in tip-top shape should be a priority.
With regards to manufacturers and products, the term “industry leader” gets thrown around quite a bit these days. The meaning has become somewhat diluted and misleading to most average consumers, so do your research from reputable sources, and don’t hesitate to call each manufacturer and ask them as many questions as possible. Swapping out a full suspension system is time-consuming, so you’ll be stuck with your decision for many years; take your time and choose wisely.
In preparation for Moab’s 2020 Easter Jeep Safari, prior to it being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a couple of important maintenance items that needed to be addressed before making the 750-mile trek to Moab, UT.
First on the list, I had been putting off a mild chirping noise coming from one of my drivelines, and since I just hit 40k on the odometer and the u-joints being the serviceable type (greaseable) typically that’s about how long they last from my experience. This time around, I plan on going with non-greaseable u-joints, and as for brands are concerned, there are plenty of options, but personally, I prefer a very proven company such as Dana Spicer. To perform a full front and rear driveshaft rebuild, that requires six u-joints in total, one at each axle end and two for each double cardan joint. The great thing about this repair is that it doesn’t require you to jack up the vehicle and remove the tires and wheels, which saves a ton of time. Having a 4.5” lift with 37’s, we are easily able to slide under and carefully remove each drive shaft, but be sure you’re parked on a flat surface with the parking brake engaged.
Here we have everything we need for the job. As mentioned, we went with non-greaseable Dana Spicer u-joints for their proven long-lasting durability.
As you can see, the old u-joints were pretty worn, but we were lucky enough that the centering ball and needle bearings were still in good shape.
A little tip we like to do to ensure your needle bearings stay in place; use a piece of cardboard from the new u-joint box, roll it up and place it in the centering ball. When removing it, be careful that you don’t take any needle bearing with you.
Having a ball joint press is very helpful and will speed up this task, but the service can easily be done with a hammer and appropriately sized socket to coax each u-joint out of their housing. A bit of advice, be sure to mark how each piece comes off with either a grease or a paint pen so you can realign the same way when reassembling to avoid possible vibration.
The end result: a beautifully rebuilt driveshaft.
Next on the list is the full suspension system install. We are swapping out the old for the new! Once we had all the items unboxed and laid out in front of us, we had to take a step back and admire how awesome looking this kit looks.
Since MetalCloak did a fantastic job of going through the entire install in great detail on their site, we will spare you all the step by step. For the install instructions, please go to: MetalCloakInstructions.com
Since we weren’t going from a stock rig and we’re just swapping out the previous lift, we went a little out of order but wanted to give a few bits of knowledge that might help. We started with the tie rod and draglink, and personally, we’ve never had the good fortune of the hammer-to-the-knuckle trick to get it to drop, so we used a puller for the job, and it saved us quite a bit of headache. Another bit of advice, keep the nuts on by a few turns, so when they pop off, they don’t fall to the ground and stays secure.
Next, we started to tackle the front control arms, one at a time to make it easier. MetalCLoak offers a recommended spec sheet for the lengths of each arm. Still, every rig is a little different, especially when you factor in that each tire manufacture has a different “true measurement” for their tires. We are running the Dick Cepek Extreme Country’s in a 37, and they seem to run a bit larger than most 37’s. The recommended setting of 19 1/4 for the front uppers and 23 9/16 for the rear lowers, did the trick for us.
Getting each axle to drop far enough down to install the much longer springs is key here, but the small details are what need attention the most. For instance, brake line bolts on the frame (especially on the rear) need to be removed, axle electrical clip on top of each axle to avoid damage to your lockers, and lastly, pay attention to the ABS lines so you don’t stretch them.
As previously mentioned, keep in mind when lowering the rear axle far enough down to get the longer springs in place. Remove the 10mm bolts that secure the brake lines to the frame rail, and second, unplug the electrical connector for the locker on the very top of the axle to avoid damaging the wires.
Here are great views to show how beefy the MetalCloak control arms and components look once installed.
At the end of the day, we came out with a step up in quality, smoother ride, and best of all, maintenance-free joints, which we found to be most annoying with the last set up, especially with the amount of wheeling we do. The next step is to get the heck out of Dodge and do some wheeling. Stay tuned.
Photography: Jerome Dziechiasz
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