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first xj build, still some unanswered questions


NAXJA Forum User
nc coast
Hello, new guy here, although I'm not new to wrenching at all, but this is actually my first jeep I'm building (for the wife), usually I stick to chevys and volvo's. I have done a bit of home work, but I have a couple questions left that the searches didn't really clear up.

1. which HD sye. Although this isn't a dd, the wife wouldn't take well to things falling off, and although the hnt is a bit cheaper I think its worth the extra bucks for the hd. The question I have is which hd sye, basically I can't find much comparison between the AA and JB, and I don't find much on any others, the super short isn't an option because she needs the speedo.

2. d44 axles. I'm aware these aren't the easiest thing to find, does anyone have any tips for locating a factory d44 rear beyond just search and prayer? I have had difficulty even finding what the "street value" for one of these would be, anyone have an idea what one would set me back to buy from someone who knows what they have. although sadly I have run across some other forums talking of paching them from under xj's to hack up into their own rigs.

3. The lift. She is set on a ~4" lift that will probably seem mainly sand and some trails, not really any rocks or too much mud. This has left me with a couple questions.
a. What are peoples opinions on shocks, I'm thinking bilstein, probably 5150s, as I have always had good experience with their road products, and I've heard nothing but bad about rebranded edlbrock shocks which seems to be most of the others, any other good options, this is one aspect of the suspension I am fairly intent on getting right to begin with?
b. For the rear leafs what are the opinions of the various full packs (not interested in blocks or adl or shackles)? The reason I ask is that most reviews are either bad in depth or just "yeah, mine work okay", so there was no clear indication for a choice.
c. For the coils, any clear favorites there, and does anyone have any descriptions of ride at the various spring rates, all I have run across is mention of 160 being on the softer side?
d. I'm aware keeping the stock control arms may give bad caster (and death wobble) with 4" lift, but the xj wouldn't be driven more than 5 miles on local roads at 35pmh to a local sand pit or beach, if my wife likes it enough to venture out farther I would be upgrading anyway, is there anyone that would like to offer their opinion on vehicles with stock arms and sye on a 4" lift that they own or have at least driven?

basically all the kits I have run across would either leave me with a t case drop I wouldn't be using, or control arms I would be ditching soon anyway, or other parts I didn't need/want, does someone know of a kit fitting the description I was looking for, or will I just have to piece it together from where ever I find it.

hello, welcome!

1: either one is good to go, get a nice custom real driveshaft for it.
2: theyre not that rare, at least in socal. if i needed one, i could get one from the junkyard, they go for anywhere in $250-$350 if you buy from a 3rd party off naxja/etc.
dont be afraid to build up a 29spline 8.25, they can be just as stout up to 35's! or you can do an explorer 8.8 if you are 220 welder capable/frisky.
3... shocks... 5150's are top of the line for non-rebuildable shocks, for a couple dollars more you can get into the rebuildable shocks, like the bilstein 7100's, or fox 2.0's, etc.
they can be repaired, rebuilt and tuned... definatly the way to go, when a 5150 goes, it's dead.... but a rebuildable shock can be fixed quite often... our current economy has forced a lot of people to sell perfectly good high end shocks.... hint hint.
b... leafs, im kinda uneducated on this, i run a 6 year old set of RE 3.5 leafs... but meh.
c... coils is coils, and you didnt say what youre gonna do with the vehicle.
d... i run a short arm 4" kit, i like it. theres allways room for improvement... but its fine.

you can peice it together, you seem to know what you want, so mull it over, and pick stuff up individually. retailers add stuff like t/case drop kits to add fluff to their kits, to help justify markup. it's just blocks you dont need with the SYE.

hope that helps.
1. I still can believe no one has an opinion about which sye, I planned on going with the junk yard front zj shaft (I have a manual trans), and when AA told me they hadn't ever heard of it, and then JB said it "wasn't possible", but both tried to sell me a new shaft, I was annoyed to say the least. I understand they are trying to make a buck, and down the road when the stroker goes in and the zj shaft may snap I would have bought, but it was disappointing on both counts for them to try and play me so its still a draw for customer service, which will usually win me over to someone.

2. the stock D44 was attractive to me simply because it was a factory option, so replacement parts are easy, and I know its going to fit, I'm all for custom whatever but I have no desire to reinvent the wheel with her rear axle, thanks for the heads up though.

3. and thanks for the heads up on the 5100, I didn't know anything about remote res shocks before you set me looking further, now the 5100 res seems a bit gimmicky since the travel is the same as a standard shock, although I've still seen nothing but good about them, the 7100s seem very nice.

as for coils, mainly sand and some lighter trails, I don't actually see too much crawling or mud bogging either, although go figure the first time I have a jeep is years after I leave the mojave, its just that I've seen a few reports (and one in particular recently) that made me think a bit with spring failures and such, and I know enough about metal that the pics I've seen weren't due to salty roads or the like, just flawed metal or improper tempering and winding

as for the arms, can stock arms even be lifted 4", I have seen ultra-cheapo junk yard lift write ups that don't even mention the arms, but they also don't mention the vehicle moving at all either, just pics before and after, are there any problem besides bad caster and binding with stock arms?
First off, If you want to keep a decent ride stick with 3" or shorter lift or bite the bullet and go long arms.

1. I run the JB conversions SYE, I'm sure the AA is just as good. Both are quality manufactures. Pick one and carry on.
Buy a proper driveshaft, If you are considering true SYE and High end rebuildable shocks, you can afford a true driveshaft that will be the right length/strength for your vehicle.

2. Unless your rig currently has the D35 I would not be concerned about the rear axle strength for a mild trail and sand use. A lot of folks would agree that for mild wheeling the D35 will be just fine. Given that an 8.25 should be easy to find and are plenty tough up to a 35" tire, I don't see the need to pine for a D44.

3. shocks, since "I" have no desire to rebuild shocks, I would stick with Old Man Emu or 5100's. Either will last for years and provide a smooth controled nide.

4. coils, don't get sucked into running coils for a V8 rig or a full size rig... same goes for leafs. When it comes to springs, run a properly designed units from a repuatable manufacturer. Personally I like Old Man Emu but hear a lot of good thinks about Rubicon Express and BDS.

Again, "I" would not run over 3" on short arms.
I have the JB conversions SYE on my XJ and it's a stout unit. Been on there for 9 yrs with no issues. Another good option is Tom Woods unit, and he makes some of the best drivelines on the market. You could kill two birds with one stone there; http://www.4xshaft.com/index.html.

X2 on the shocks, hard to go wrong with Bilsteins. The 5100's or even 5125's should be suitable for your needs. OME shocks are also very good and I would highly recommend them right along side the Bilsteins.

As an FYI, if you upgrade to an SYE kit and new rear drive shaft, there is NO NEED to drop the t-case, so don't let anyone sell you a T-case drop kit with the lift.

As for the rear axle, I'll echo what's already been said. For tires up to 35" the Chrysler 29 spline 8.25 is just fine. You'll find it in some 96's and in many 97's through 2000. I've run 33's on mine for 9 yrs with an ARB the last 5 yrs and have had no issues, and I wheel it pretty good. You never mentioned what year your XJ is, or what tire size you intend to run? And what is your current rear axle?

Lastly, a word on the control arms... my first lift was a Rubicon Express 3" and I loved it. BUT, it only came with fixed lower arms and I had major death wobble issues and could not get the alignment dialed in. I upgraded to adjustable upper and lower arms and it allowed the alignment guy to get it dialed in and I had no further problems. I would strongly recommend, especially at 4" of lift, that you go with ADJUSTABLE arms upper and lower. OR, go long arm as has been suggested as well. Just something to think about. A great 4" kit that I would recommend would be the DPG Offroad kit. Dirk is a sponsor here on NAXJA and a great guy. You can call him and bend his ear about all kinds of stuff, he's very helpful. http://www.dpgoff-road.com/site/REXJhybridkits.htm

Hope this helps.