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Need help fine tuning XJ leaf springs for "overlanding"


NAXJA Forum User
Hey there NAXJA, long time no see.

I posted this over on ExPo but the Jeep forum over there has turned into a Wranglerfest, no real help so I a turning back to my NAXJA roots for this one.

I travel all over the the west, mostly fishing, camping and exploring. Call it camping, car camping or overlanding, that's how the Jeep gets used. The Jeep is a 2000 2 door, AW4, NP231 with 200K on it.

As my Cherokee gets closer and closer to having most major modifications addressed (HA!), I'm finding myself in need of some leaf spring tuning. The Jeep has changed a bit over the years and so has what I typically carry with me. I have no intention of letting this Jeep go any time soon, another DD will be purchased so this isn't going to see as much drive time as it currently does.

The current issue at hand is the factory shackle bottoming out on the rear cross member behind the bumper, severely limiting my shackle swing and suspension travel, also, resulting in an annoying clunk every time I roll over a bump.

I'm currently running a used set of OME leafs with the added leaf for increased spring rate. These have worked well for a long time and they've kept my Jeep at exactly the ride height I like with a slight rake to the front end. I'm sitting around 3.5-4" (I think), running 245/75s and I have no intention of going taller or to a larger tire. I've been able to avoid an SYE and replacement driveshaft by using a transfer case drop and after crawling all over Moab, I will probably keep it this way for a while. Overtime, I've added a roof rack, rear bumper w/ tire swing, awning and a heavy roof top tent so the springs are a bit soft and sagged under the additional weight. The Jeep also leans to the passenger side but I think that is due to the awning and the offset spare tire.

I also carry a 12v fridge and a variety of camping/fishing gear on most of my trips. All of this combined with my gal and a 70lb dog and we're loaded down pretty heavily most of the time. Also worth noting, this Jeep regularly tows a drift boat throughout the Rockies. I usually try to put as much of the gear in the boat but the XJ feels like it drives better with the boat kept light with gear in the Jeep. I like the slight front rake so the Jeep sits level when the boat is hooked up (boat and trailer shouldn't weight much more than 1000lbs.

There are lots of options out there; another AAL, shackle relocation brackets, new leaf springs, extended shackles, etc. My two primary goals right now are; addressing the shackle bottoming out and increasing the spring rate of the leafs for carrying trip weight. There will be times when the Jeep is empty of gear and the tent might get taken off during winter so I can pull it in the garage but I'm not overly concerned with a plush ride when unweighted

I'm pretty well versed in who makes what but I'm always open to suggestions. I'm not real interested in cutting up my factory shackle hangers if I don't have to but if that is my best solution, so be it.

I've used shackle relocation brackets on past XJs, really liked them, really improved my ride but I'm afraid that running SRBs with factory shackles will limit their functionality/benefits and I don't want to add height by combining SRBs with longer shackles. I've been looking at the Ironman4x4fab SRBs for an additional 1" and sticking with the stock shackle.

I'm happy to add another OME leaf but I suppose I will still run into the issue with the factory shackle hitting the cross member.

I really like the Iron Rock Offroad 3.5" spring pack with the military wrapped bushings but these are longer than average springs so a longer shackle is needed, meaning more lift. These can also be purchased with an additional leaf for increased spring rate/height.

If this was your XJ, how would you go about addressing these issues? Are there any other good options I have not yet thought of? Any suggestions or thoughts would be much appreciated.

Jeep for reference:


Thanks a bunch, stay well!

Are your bumpstops the correct length ?

I run JKS dog leg shackles on RE 3.5" leaf springs and have no issues with shackles contacting the rear cross member.

If the suspension is saggy when fully loaded, an add a leaf should help.
I would say being able to set the correct shackle angle with a shackle relocation bracket and run a longer shackle would be the first two things I would look at. Check out Dallas's stuff over at Stinky Fab - https://www.stinkyfab.com/collections/suspension/products/sfr-xj-shackle-relocation-brackets


I was just looking at their new brackets, look stout and reasonably priced. I will have to cut the factory shackle box out of the way but this would be a nice no lift option which could be combined with a shackle of my choice to fine tune the height. Thanks for the recommendation.

Are your bumpstops the correct length ?

I run JKS dog leg shackles on RE 3.5" leaf springs and have no issues with shackles contacting the rear cross member.

If the suspension is saggy when fully loaded, an add a leaf should help.

Currently running no rear bumps. I pulled the factory bumps out a long time ago and snapped a few of the bolts. Been meaning to drill and re-tap them for a long time, just haven't gotten around to it. Regardless of the bumps, the shackle sits around 1/2" from the rear crossmember at a stand still. Seems like I'd already be sitting on the bumpstops if they were longer. Maybe that means these springs have sagged out beyond saving. They were used when I bought them, previous owner had two AALs in them trying to keep up with the weight of his bumper and spare tire. That's what he sold them to me.

Maybe time for some new springs. I'll probably go with the IRO 3.5" packs and adjust from there if I go the new spring route.

Thanks for the advice, much appreciated!
Oh yeah!
don't forget to hand tighten all rear leaf bolts. get it off the jackstands and on its own weight, then torque them to spec
I guess, now that I think about it, the lack of rear bumpstops could have contributed to the deterioration of the spring packs, correct?

Yes, that is a fact. Flexing a leaf spring to inverted will lead to early failure.
Unless IRO has changed their rear leaf springs in the last few years, I would suggest that you 100% expect to buy shackle relocation brackets at the least. I would recommend shackles too, but I suppose you could get away without them. It was my experiences that the length of their leaf springs put the shackle in an undesirable vertical position. I can’t give you a whole lot more info, since my XJ has been sitting for long enough to collect mountains of dust, but that was my experience. They seem beefy enough, and they were stiffer than my worn-out stock pack with an add-a-leaf lift, but I never did put them through their paces.