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Rancho’s 3″ Cherokee Lift Kit

     A friend of ours recently asked to go wheelin’ with us. He brought along his 1997 Jeep Cherokee with an Up Country Package. This package includes a variety of options, but most importantly a 1 to 1.5 inch lift kit from the factory. We took him to one of our favorite wheelin’ spots in the Rincon Mountains of Arizona called Chiva Falls. He assured us that his rig was more than capable and sure footed enough to tackle this run. Now for the most part, Chiva Falls isn’t too hard or technical but there are about a dozen or so spots that rate 4 and 4+ and require some good suspension and at least one locker. Well, about 1/2 way into the run, we had already hooked up the yank ’em strap at least twice due to the poor stock articulation and weak positraction in the rear axle. Now don’t get me wrong, these are great rigs for easy to moderate trail runs, but of course, beyond that they need a little massaging. After a few ribbings and another few yanks Tom decided that enough was enough. A lift kit and a locker was definitely on order. In fact, the very next day Tom said, let’s do it!

So begins the adventure…

We searched around for different lift kits and finally decided on the Rancho 3″ lift kit with the following components:
red dotNew Front coils
red dotNew greaseable lower locating arms
red dotNew Brake Line Brackets
red dotNew shocks all the way around
red dotNew add-a-leaf’s for the rear


Note the wheel travel before the lift
BEFORE… Note the lack of wheel travel at the front passenger tire. Tom’s even hanging a front tire on this small dirt mound.
  Note the wheel travel AFTER the lift
AFTER… Now, note the wheel travel at the front passenger side tire.

Ensure all parts are present and not damaged.
Remove shock bolts As usual, always inspect your kit and all parts for damage and their presence before beginning any project…
The first thing we did to start the lifting process was to secure the vehicle on jackstands and support the axles. Next we pre-greased the poly bushings for the locating arms and pressed them in. We then inserted our bolt sleeves into the bushings and then greased the locating arm through the zerk fittings provided at the front and the rear of each lower locating arm. We then removed the stock shocks and the coil spring keeper.

Remove coil spring keeper bolt and tab Once the shock was removed and the coil spring was unbolted, we then scribed the location of the lower locating (link) arm bolt to ensure that the front end alignment was the same as before the lift. NOTE: If you are installing this lift kit on a Grand Cherokee (ZJ) you must scribe the bolt location on the caster adjustment cam and the bracket reinforcement on the axle end of the lower link. We then loosened all of the lower link arm bolts and removed them. With them out of the way, we removed the coil springs from the vehicle. Next we installed the lower link arms and inserted the proper spacer washers. Remove lower locating arms With the new link arms in place, we installed the new coil springs and ensured that the last coil was in alignment with the groove on lower control arm and bolted the keeper in place loosely. Next we installed the new Rancho 5000 shock absorbers. Once all was in place, we snugged up all of the nuts and bolts. Finally, we relocated the brake lines to accommodate the new droopage.

Finished front-end with coils, shocks, and lower locating arms.
This is what the final product looks like on the front axle of the rig.

Using C-Clamps and medium screwdriver, align the leaf packs. Moving to the rear of the Cherokee, we unbolted the shocks, leaf spring plates and unbolted the leaf packs. We then removed the u-clamp and caps (leaf spring wraps) and set them aside. With the leaf packs unclamped, we separated the pack and inserted the new add-a-lead in between the top and second leaf spring. (NOTE: Our stock leaf pack bolt (runs through the middle of the leaf spring pack) was not long enough to make it through the pack with the new add-a-leaf in place. With a grinder and two new bolts and nuts, we crafted our own. Just make sure the when you grind the head of the bolt round, that it isn’t too small to cause play in the leaf pack and force it to loose rear-end alignment.) Next, using two C-Clamps and a medium sized phillips head screwdriver, we aligned the springs, inserted and secured the new leaf pack/alignment bolt and then lowered the leaf pack to it’s final resting place. Once all was in place, we then removed the C-Clamps and bolted the leaf pack plates snugly back into place to secure the axle. NOTE: We couldn’t get the spring wraps back in place due to the thickness of the leaf pack so we made our own. Finally, we relocated the rear brake line at the frame (drivers side) to accommodate for the new and increased wheel travel.

Once all was finished, we went around the truck and torqued all nuts and bolts to specification. Be sure to re-torque all nuts and bolts within 100 miles of normal driving and you should have your front end checked for proper alignment too.


Description Notes Rating
Ease of Install Probably the easiest lift we’ve ever installed. Took all of 3 hours to install.
Ease of Use What a difference ground clearance and articulation can make.
Performance Axles articulated well even though the sway bars were still disconnected. Shocks were just perfect for the dampening and allowed for much more compression and droop.
Durability Needs further testing, but so far so good! N/A
Appearance The bright red coils and cadmium plated lower locating arms looks great on the white Cherokee.
Driveability The 3 inch lift kit provided us with 2 inches overall (Don’t forget, it was already lifted 1″ from the factory) and the axles articulated well.
Comfort The Rancho springs up front are a bit on the stiff side and made for a slightly more bumpy ride. Spring rate aside, the vehicle handles as if it were bone stock.
Overall Quality of Product Greaseable lower locating arms were a nice touch. Everything was either cadmium plated or painted well. The springs were a bit stiffer than we expected.
Price in comparison to related products Lowest price compared to other name brands.
Was it worth it??? Aside from the stiffer ride, this kit was definitely in order!
Tools Required 1/2″, 3/8″, 9/16″, 3/4″,7/8″ and 18mm wrenches and sockets. 2 C-Clamps (3″ or better opening), various phillips and blade tip screwdrivers, one large pry bar, 4 jack stands and a good sized floor jack. The one metric socket is needed for the front track bar removal. Lastly, you’ll need a hammer and some lubricating pary such as WD-40®.
Editors Notes This was a great install. You could just about complete the install by yourself if you had to. The front and rear brake line brackets needed to be bent down slightly but that was the only thing that needed to be altered in any fashion…RW

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