2020… It needs no introduction. Luckily for us and the entirety of the automotive aftermarket, it’s left us counting our blessings and trying to keep up with unprecedented demand while dealing with the general weirdness the year’s brought. We’ve been all hands on deck trying to fill backorders and expand our operations to deliver our customers more palatable lead times; thus, new product development has taken a back seat.
Through it all, we’ve managed to keep rolling on some shop builds and continue testing prospective additions to our product line. The Jeep Control Arms – we’ve failed you guys, frankly. We started with a high clearance, fabricated arm with internal gussets and stainless ball centers – too expensive for a short arm kit but DAMN, were they pretty. Only set in existence went on the CJC Off Road Rig.
Next, we rolled to our new CUB style joint with a 7/8″ uniball at the center of an in-house machined damping material preloaded into a joint housing retained with safety washers and snap rings aligned with custom spacers and wobble stoppers. Joints are awesome and proven but the assemblies were again, too expensive.
Back to the drawing board – we decided to go with a tubular arm with weld-straps (arm to joint housing) to remain as cost effective as possible and continue with our 100% USA Made, 17-4 stainless spherical joint. At the heart of the joint, an in-house machined 17-4 Stainless Ball center with oversized flanges surrounded with a USA-made bushing WITH integrated grease channels to ensure easy service and proper grease flow – top it with heat treated safety washers and snap rings and you have the best spherical bearing money can buy that’s easily serviceable without any cost-cutting measures where it matters most. Not only is it Stainless Steel, I know it’s said 10x in this paragraph but we’re proud of it, it’s the ONLY damped spherical joint that’s made 100% in the USA.
With this, the arms are DONE! They’ve been sent to production. This isn’t a “release” post for them, that will follow. Hell, even the final set that’s on our JK is a rusty proof-set of the final product. We’ll have them on this when you’re able to buy them for yours. For now, here’s the teaser:
You’ll likely notice another intriguing pile of rust adorns the front of the wheel well; the Torsion Sway Bar Prototype. Rubicons are cool, no doubt. Disconnecting sway bars are part of their impressive quiver offering locked highway performance and unlocked off-road ability. What about the Sport and Sahara buyers OR the people wanting the best of both worlds all the time vs. the on/off feature of the disconnect? Enter, the Carli Torsion Sway Bar.
On highway, there’s some lean. People that drive Jeeps understand the “lean”, it doesn’t take away from one’s ability to control the vehicle, it’s just inherent to a light spring rate, high center of gravity, straight axle SUV. This adds a bit more lean while maintaining full control of the vehicle thanks to the custom tuned shocks BUT won’t hinder articulation. It’s a nice balance between on and off without fussing with the nanny-controls inherent to the factory disconnect (4wd, under 15mph, etc).
Speaking of shocks, yup, these are new.
The addition of the Pathfinder Shock Package took the on and off road capability of this rig through the roof. Truth be told, there was some hesitation to taking the Commuter shocks off the rig in favor of the Kings. My primary use of this JKU is on-highway commuter (around 100 miles per day). It sees it fair share of off-road but wasn’t the “high-speed” rig and the Commuter handled the low-shaft speed Jeep-style wheeling without any sacrifice to it’s on-road prowess.
With the addition of the Torsion Sway Bar, I wanted a bit more high-speed control – it was time for the Kings. These are the OEM Spec King 2.5″ Shocks they offer for the JKU Platform. In them, you’ll find our proprietary Pistons and Valving set to our geometry and spring rates. My fears were unwarranted. Bigger shocks have always come at a cost of on road “plushness” sacrificed for off-road capability. This makes sense, right? Bigger pistons and valve stacks, larger shafts, etc. More effort will be required to move these larger parts regardless of the valving in the shock. Although this is all correct, the additional damping offsets the additional effort required. With the Fox 2.0s, you’d feel less. It was numb on the bumps with its capability AND the rig was not shy about letting you know when you’d outdriven it’s capability.
With the Kings, the suspension feels more active. The body roll is substantially less (even with the torsion sway bar), the small bump compliance is great but different. Opposed to the numb feeling of the Commuters, the Kings allow you to feel everything but it’s a damped feeling providing peace of mind that your suspension is doing what it’s supposed to be doing while begging you to point it at something gnarlier. Once you start pushing it, the Carli-Tuned Kings feel bottomless. I am going to lay off the skinny pedal until i can figure out a way to ensure the front axle is up to the task of testing these Kings.
The wheels and tires have been on for a while now and the 35″ Falken MT have been flawless in performance. On road, they’re civil making minimal noise while tracking as well as any all terrain I’ve driven. Off-road, you’ll rarely find yourself requiring 4wd; the compound is amazing. As expected, the Raceline Beadlocks have been bulletproof and leak free while allowing single digit pressures when the going gets rocky. The 3.75″ Backspacing we elected to run on our Jeeps made easy work of fitting the 35s once we added the MCE Fenders & ACE Inner Fender Liners.
While preparing the rig for more time off the grid, we started the checklist. Winch (and Bumpers), Radio, & lighting are ALL necessary. Bumpers, we found Iron-Cross provided a good value while offering a USA Made product. For something that’ll be dragged over and pushed into rocks, it’ll do.
We set the front bumper up with a WARN ZEON 10S winch to have plenty of pulling-power while minimizing the weight addition to the light-rate front springs. Finishing off the front bumper are Baja Designs Squadron Pros with Amber Flood Lenses. No surprises here – we’ve worked with Baja Designs for many years and we’re now spoiled; they’re the only lights we’ll run.
For communication, PCI Race Radios is our go-to; they offer a premium service we’re willing to pay for. They set us up with the ICOM F5021 Chase package including all programing (Carli channel included), Coax and Antenna. We hooked up the antenna to a sheet metal bracket welded to the rear tire carrier on the Iron-Cross high-clearance rear bumper mounting the radio about the only place one will fit in a Jeep, in the glove-box.
Next up, a bit more high-speed light as the Kings allow you to push the Jeep well past the capability of the factory headlights. Another set of Baja Designs Squadron Pros – this time with combo lenses and A-Pillar mounts for a bit more throw as the amber set handles the frontal fill light.
For when things get dusty as speed picks up, a Baja Designs S1 Pro ensures all those in tow are aware of my position in the dust-cloud.
With all the lights, radio and coming accessories (potential lockers, compressor, etc), a switch system was in order. SPOD 4×4 was who we’ve worked with on our 2003 Ram 2500 build but they’ve gone a bit… digital. The systems are cool and top of the line tech without a doubt but that’s not what we were after here. A tactile switch system, minimum 6 switches, Fuse Box with vehicle specific mounting and high-quality wire and loom led us on a LONG search through a sea of cheap, chinese switch systems. We were about ready to settle on a blue-sea fuse box and custom wiring everything as we did in the early 2000s when we came across S-Tech.
Proudly made in Colorado, they offered exactly the product for which we’d been on the hunt. A call over there and Scott has us lined out with his 6-Switch Systems for our JKU and JLU. The installation was super easy and gave us the clean look and exact function we were after.
For now, that’s a wrap. It’s been a LONG road slowly updating this Jeep and there’s still plenty on the menu. We have plans for axles and sliders; maybe even redoing the bumpers but have plenty on our plate we need to wrap up for you guys prior to continuing the build; namely, get those control arms on the shelf!
Keep an eye peeled for the next update – now that this rig is as capable as it’s become, there should be some dirt-footage coming soon. For now, it’ll stay my Commuter-Rig, Weekend Warrior, Kid and Mountain Bike Hauler. The build has become the swiss-army knife of my vehicles – I can’t wait to report on the next level of progression!