Archive for February, 2007

On my back again, this time saving money!

I spent the majority of the day on Sunday on my back in the garage installing a lift kit on the Jeep. I did however save about $700 on installation. However, before we get to that let’s reflect on Mike’s stay here over the pas couple of weeks. Last weekend he was here for Friday and Sat, and this weekend for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This was our first opportunity to play host to a guest and I am afraid that on the “feeding the guest” part of the program we failed miserably. I guess we just don’t realize that our fridge is mostly empty and our cupboards contain a hunderd bottles of condiments and no actual food. This came to light most acutely on Friday when Mike showed up several hours before we thought he would. In the culinary panic that ensued we decided it would be best if we just ordered pizza unless of course mike was in the mood for a bread sandwich or a banana with some garlic sauce. Saturday was much better since we headed out to Red Lobster which unfortunately resembled a Tokyo train station platform at rush hour. We decided to head across the road to The Friendy Greek which, as usual, was very tasty and incredibly filling. Nicole has promised to do the restaurant review so I will leave it to her. That brought us to Sunday and after the 3 hours I spent on Saturday cleaning the garage, breaking cardboard boxes and sweeping the place I was ready to start the install.

The first question Nicole asked after I was done was “why?”. My response shoudl probably preface this section so that you can understand my motivation. Each Jeep Grand Cherokee that you see on the road looks pretty much the same. They are beautiful machines however they are rapidly being painted with the same “Soccer Mum” brush that most SUV’s are. The point is that there is a difference between someone who buys a Jeep because it is an SUV and someone who owns one because it is a JEEP!!! Part of the reason behind putting in the lift is to separate my Jeep from the others on the road and to point out to people that it looks different because it is different, it is owned by a Jeep owner, not an SUV driver.

That being said, what exactly is a lift anyway? Well, the cheapest way to get more ground clearance under your truck is to put spacers on top of the springs. What springs? What are spacers? Yes, I know some of you will not understand some of this so I will take it slowly.

Simply put there are several ways to control the ride of your vehicle. Each component does something to control either the bounce, the bump, the roll or some combination of those. The vehicle is built on a frame to which the body shell is welded. This is basically one piece which then is attached to the axles to which the wheels and tires are attached. If the axle was connected directly to the axles, every bump and dip in the road would be transmitted through the vehicle. This is where the suspension comes in. The suspension, as the name suggests, suspends the body and frame above the axles enabling some absorbtion of the rough terrain by the suspension components.

The components are very simple even in the most advanced of vehicles. At each corner there are springs that provide a soft rebound component to the vehicle and are maily responsibe for the “comfort” factor of the ride. If you have ever seen a car on the road that seems to bounce a great deal it is likely that the shock absorbers are dead or missing and the car is resting on the springs alone. Which brings us to shock absorbers. As the name suggests, they are meant to dampen the effect of quick and violent changes in the road surface. They are the muscle of the suspension and provide both ride comfort and the ability of the vehicle to survive rough terrain by absorbing the shock transmitted by the road. These two components are the basics of suspension and both come in a variety of types and sizes. The other component of suspension basics are the sway bars. These are also pretty self explanatory they tie the two sets of suspension together side to side to prevent body roll. This is the feeling going round a corner that makes you feel like you are about to roll over as the body squishes the suspension on the outside wheels. This body roll is combated by the sway bar which essentially ties the two opposing wheels together (the two front together and the two rear together) preventing them from moving independently. It means that as an axle compresses to the side during a corner, that the other side will compress by an equal amount, thereby keeping the vehicle level. In practice there are many other components that allow for flexing of the body and you will still feel the body roll, just not to the same degree.

This brings us to the 4×4 enthusiast or off-roader. In off road driving you do not want the sway bars to do their job since you want the wheels and tires to articulate as much as possible. This enables you to go over large obstacles with one wheel while the other is able to maintain contact with the ground. If the sway bar was connected then the opposing wheel would be suspended in the air, a feeling we have all had at some time while navigating curbs, sharp hill crests and so on.

That being said, the install of the polyurethane spacers on top of the spring mounts gives you an additional lift of up to 3″ without having to also go with longer shocks and changing various other suspension parts. I ordered the 4 spacers off the internet (http://www.rocky-road.com/index2.html ) and since I already had all the tools I needed I set about to do it myself. Of course, I investigated how much the install would cost to have it done for me, and most quotes came in around $500 to $800. All I needed to do was go and get spring compressors and I would be set. The compressors, as it happens are free for rent at Auto Parts.

I started at about 10am, even though it was -10 outside, they had promised it would climb to about 1 degree. Besides, I was in the garage so it was probably at least 0 when I started. I decided to go with the rear springs first since I had read that if you raise one side of the axle, the springs would just pop out. I loosened the lug nuts on the wheel and jacked up the Jeep. Some of you may be surprised to hear that you can actually jack up a vehicle by the differential which is the large round part of the axle between the wheels. I recall being horrified at the thought of this when I first started working on my previous Jeep. I took off the wheel, after a LOT of manhandling and brutal pressure I managed to get the bolts out of the shock mount and the sway bar end and at that point the axle sagged on my side and the spring did indeed pop right out. I used a large flathead screwdriver to get the top spring mount gusset (rubber thingy) out, and placed the new spacer against the truck body, put the gusset back and replaced the spring. I jacked up the axle until I could attach the bolts that I had fought with for almost 1/2 an hour. Once this was done, I duplicated the other side and replaced the wheels.

At this point I was in two minds at to whether I should continue or not. It was 2pm and I was tired as hell. So I decided to take it for a spin and see how it felt. As soon as I started out I heard loud clunking sunds coming frm the rear of the truck and I have to admit I panicked a bit. I was afraid that I was going to need more parts or that I was just going to have to give up and take the spacers out. However, a quick look on the internet revealed that it was most likely due to the bolts not being tight enough. So I once again ventured under the truck and with as much muscle as I could, tightened everything down. A second test drive revealed that indeed the bolts were simply not tight enough. The truck felt like a dream and at that moment I decided to press on and attempt the front units.

Before I could begin, however, I had to go back to PartSource and get the other type of spring compressor since the ones I had rented were apparently (despite the description) the wrong type to use. The Jeep felt fine driving there and back so I was confident that the rest would go as planned.

The fronts were a little more complicated due to the fact that I did in fact have to use the compressors however if you jack up the wheels while the vehicle is on jack stands then you can actually compress the spring to the point where all you need do is hand tighten the compressor and let the wheel down. Once the shock bolts are out and the sway bar is disconnected (quick disconnect swaybars would have been a good idea at this point) the procedure was the same as the rear. You do have to make sure that the spring goes back in the same way it came out because apparently if you change the orientation it will rebound unevenly and throw off your alignment. Bolts out and spring out the spacer was again added between the body and the top mount gusset and the whole unit reassembeled. The fronts took me about 4 hours total and that was including the inconvenience of having to fetch all the tools myself and having to squeeze into a very tight garage space with a bad back and a large unforgiving belly.

All in all, it had taken me about 9 hours including trips to PartSource and all the difficulties with figuring out the jacking and the time wasted at the beginning trying to figure out if I could do it without unbolting the necessary parts. The moral of that part of the story is to us WD40 and get to it because there is a reason you have to do things that way…

Since it was dark outside once I was done I can only give you pictures of other Jeeps to give you an idea of how she now looks. Here are the before and after shots that pretty much match mine, these Jeeps are the same year, the one at the back is stock with stock tires, the one in the front has the same lift as mine plus slightly bigger tires.

Jeeps before and after

 

 

Flu Time

Well I guess I am back on track after all my physical difficulties over the past 4 years, I am back to having my yearly flu attack during February. I actually went into work on Monday but as soon as I got there I knew it would not be for long. I was still suffering with a very sore throat that had bothered me since Friday and now my head was pounding and my breathing was getting increasingly shallow. I went to Occupational Health and the guy took one look at me and sent me home. Today was worse, not only did I not feel any better, but now I have explosive diarrhea and my coughing makes me increasingly nervous.

Nicole pointed out that today we are only 199 days away from the wedding, and at this rate I am going to be the same size as I am right now, it seems like no matter what, something happens to prevent me from getting those first few days started.

Excuses excuses. I mean I wouldn’t take that from my girls at gym, so why do I tolerate it from myself when it is SO much more important that I perform well than they do. Well, we are going to see how well we do at Weight Watchers and then maybe I’ll find something to finally motivate me…