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Skyjacker’s 5” Suspension System for Early Broncos

 Skyjacker 5 inch suspension for early Ford Bronco

 Lifting your truck is virtually a rite of passage for you and your rig to progress to the next level, especially if you do the work yourself. Most lift kits for solid axle vehicles are pretty easy to install and can usually be finished in a weekend or two. Early Bronco’s are a bit more difficult in comparison with their goofy radius arm design – requiring you to all but completely disconnect the front axle and shove it forward several inches – but I digress. Installing a lift kit yourself on an early Bronco can be done and there is a great deal of pride in accomplishing any major task like this – we’ll show you how in this article.

When it was time to lift project Buckshot, we did a bit of research first. We knew our Bronco would ride on 35” tires and it needed a lift kit that would clear them. But, we also wanted a kit that would provide a stable ride on the road, and flexible off the road. Lastly, we wanted a kit that would be as complete as possible, and reposition the radius arms to keep the caster Energy Suspension Poly kit for Broncocorrect. Our research led us to the good folks at Skyjacker Suspensions, and they suggested a 5” Skyjacker Softride suspension system (Part # 174EBKS) for our truck. The kit we ordered came with:
  • Front coil springs
  • Rear leaf springs
  • 4 ea. Skyjacker Hydro 7000 twin-tube shock absorbers
  • Drop pitman arm
  • Radius arm drop brackets
  • Misc. parts (u-bolts, nylock nuts, etc.)
The Skyjacker Softride kit for our Early Bronco will give us not only the on and off-road ride that we’re looking for, but it will also give us enough room to safely mount our 35” Goodyear MT/R tires. Plus, as with any other suspension lift, it will raise our vehicle, giving us the extra ground clearance we need. Adding larger tires give us the added ground clearance for our axles too.
While we were upgrading our suspension, we knew we would have to replace the bushings at the springs, the radius arms and in other steering components. We put a call into Energy Suspension and ordered a Hyper-Flex body and bushing kit, as well as a caster-correction kit. This is the most complete kit available as it has every single bushing you could possibly need for your Bronco. The kit comes with their flexible, yet durable polyurethane bushings, anodized metal sleeves, a large container of special lubricant, and individual instructions for each section of the truck.

Installation – Skyjacker’s 5” Suspension System for Early Broncos
Time: 1-2 Days
Tools Needed: Welder, floor jack, extra-tall jack stands, screwdrivers, pry bar, wrenches, sockets, ratchet, torque wrench, pitman arm puller
Difficulty:
 

Installation

NOTE: You will need to order extended brake lines and new drive shafts (front and rear) for your Bronco when installing this lift kit.

Start your installation by ensuring that you have all of the right parts when your kit arrives. Then, read the instructions a few times not only to familiarize yourself with the task, but to ensure you have all of the needed tools.As with any suspension lift that you’ll be performing, you will need to raise the vehicle and secure it upon jack stands, place the vehicle in park and chock the wheels. With lifts that are more than 2-3” in height, you will typically need to have extra-tall jack stands, or access to a lift (we don’t have a lift, and if you’re reading this, you probably don’t either). Our extra tall jack stands were still too short and we needed to raise them with blocks of wood. If you are installing one end of the lift at a time, you can get by with jacking up and securing one end at a time – this is how we did our lift, starting with the front suspension.

Front Suspension Installation

Skyjacker five inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosWith the Bronco secured on jack stands at the frame, and supporting the front axle, we removed the front tires.

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosRemove the front shocks by removing the upper nuts and lower bolts.  
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosLower the front axle enough to ensure there is no pressure on the front coil springs. You may need to remove the front track bar and drag link to accomplish this. Then, remove the upper coil spring retainers.   

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosRemove the lower coil spring retainers. We found that a flex-head ratchet works wonders here and allowed us to make short work of this typically-long task.   
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosRemove the front coil spring by rotating it and pulling outward. If this is difficult to do, you may need to lower the front axle a bit more. The coil springs should come out pretty easy.   

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosNext, you will need to remove the radius arm. To accomplish this, you will need to remove the four bolts at the front of the axle that hold the radius arm “C” to it. Then (assuming you’ve disconnected the track bar, drag link and tie rod), move the front axle forward several inches (about 5-7”) and remove the large radius arm nut from the back of the radius arm. You can now slide the radius arm forward enough to remove it from the vehicle. As seen in the photo, our radius arm bushings were completely shot and will be replaced with Energy Suspension poly bushings. 
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosFollowing the instructions, place the Skyjacker radius arm bracket into place, and mark it with a marker or chalk. You will need to clean the frame and grind away any paint or rust, ensuring that you have a good surface on which to weld the Skyjacker supplied brackets. Make note of the areas that you will be welding, and grind away the paint on the Skyjacker brackets too. Now, place them on the vehicle per the instructions and tack weld them into place. Use a c-clamp or two to pull the plates tightly to the frame. Make sure everything is straight and then lay in a few stitch welds on opposing sides. Then lay in the rest of the welds.   

 

Skyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosSkyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosIt’s now time to reinstall the radius arms onto the vehicle and reattach the front axle. Most of the suspension bushings on Buckshot were rotten and splitting, so we replaced them with a set of high quality Energy Suspension bushings at this point. You can also order a set of caster alignment “C” bushings from Energy suspension too. We took a day to scrub and clean the axle and frame, and lay on a few coats of paint too. 
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosSkyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosWith the front axle attached, you can install the new, longer Skyjacker front coil springs and the new Skyjacker Hydro 7000 front shocks. You will likely need to lower the front axle a bit more to get the new longer springs into the upper and lower buckets.   

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosTo complete your front Skyjacker Softride suspension, you will need to remove the old pitman arm and install the new dropped pitman arm. If you don’t have a pitman arm puller, you can rent one from your local auto parts store, but they’re usually pretty cheap to buy (about $20). Reattach your track bar, drag link and tie rod, then torque all nuts and bolts accordingly. Our Bronco had a previous lift kit installed, so we retained the track bar lowering bracket. If your kit doesn’t come with one, you should order one. 
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosLastly, double-check your installation work, then install your wheels and tires, remove the jack stands and lower your vehicle to the ground.   

 

 

Rear Suspension Installation

As with the front suspension, you will need to raise and secure your vehicle on extra tall jack stands and block the front tires with chocks to keep the vehicle stable. Secure the axle on jack stands as well.   
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosRemove the rear shock absorbers by removing the upper and lower nuts and bolts.   

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosRemove the 4 nuts from the u-bolts that hold the rear axle to the leaf spring. Carefully lower the axle from the leaf springs.  
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosNext, remove the lower, rear-most bolts that retain the spring shackle. Then remove the front-most bolts that retain the spring to the mount on the frame. Remove the leaf springs from the vehicle.   

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosIf your vehicle has the original rubber bushings in the spring shackles, they will no doubt be rotten, splitting and fused to the shackle. An easy (but dirty and smelly) way to remove the fused rubber is to burn it out with a torch (propane, MAPP, etc.). Have a fire extinguisher handy of course. You can do this with a screwdriver and hammer, but the torch method is much faster. Depending upon your replacement bushings, you may have to remove the metal sleeve from inside the shackle like we did.   
Skyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosNext, install the new shackle bushings into the shackle, along with the anodized metal sleeves. Add poly lubricant per instructions. We used high quality polyurethane bushings from Energy suspension for our kit.  

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosTo install the new leaf springs, you should start by installing the spring shackle onto it first. Then, place the leaf spring into the front-most spring hanger and slide the bolt through it. Next, rotate the spring up into place and attach the shackle to the rear-most spring hanger.   
Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosRaise the axle up to the leaf spring with your floor jack and align the spring’s alignment pins with the holes in the spring perches, then apply enough upward pressure with the jack to keep the axle in place. Install the u-bolts through the spring plates and attach using the supplied Nylock nuts. One of our Nylock nuts spit out the nylon insert, which meant a trip to the local hardware store to replace it – this seems to happen on about 1 in 3 lift kits that we install, regardless of manufacturer. Torque to spec. 

 

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosSkyjcaker 5 inch suspension lift kit for Early Ford BroncosAttach the new Skyjacker Hydro 7000 shocks to the truck’s frame and axle using the supplied hardware.
NOTE: Check out the permanent degree shim installed on the Skyjacker leaf springs. A nice feature that aligns your rear axle to correctly set the pinion angle.
 

 

Torque all nuts and bolts to spec, reinstall your tires and wheels, and then lower your truck to the ground.   

The Verdict

Skyjacker 5 inch Suspension System for Early Ford BroncosWe’ve used Skyjacker Suspension systems on several 4X4’s in the past and have always been impressed with the quality of their product and their support. The Skyjacker Softride suspension is stable, yet supple and about as close as you will come to a stock suspension’s feel. In comparison, most other lift kits are stiff, but the Softride suspension is not. 
While our truck isn’t quite ready for the trails just yet, we did drive the truck for a several mile test run and we are very impressed with the ride quality. With the Skyjacker Softride springs, Skyjacker Hydro 7000 shocks, and the Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings, the truck rides like it just came off of the show room floor – probably even better. 
What didn’t we like?
The supplied instructions are adequate enough for the do-it-yourselfer, but they do not provide step-by-step details. If you are familiar with how simple suspension systems work, you will have no problem installing this lift kit. If you don’t know how a radius arm suspension works, then you will want to call their support line or talk to someone who has experience here. The kit we ordered did not come with extended brake lines (these are definitely needed for a lift of this height), nor did it come with a track-bar drop bracket. Both are available from Skyjacker, but we would like to see them come with the kit.
What we did like?
The rear leaf springs come with permanent shim pads affixed to the springs to auto-correct the pinion angle – very nice. The leaf springs also sport a built-in over-load spring, another nice feature. The springs at all four corners offer a very stable ride for our Bronco, yet provide a soft, flexible suspension that works well on and off the road.This is often a combination that most suspension companies cannot achieve – well done Skyjacker! The Hydro 7000 shock absorbers work very well. Their twin-tube design and multi-stage, velocity-sensitive valving makes for comfortable cruising, again, on or off the road.
Overall we are quite impressed with the quality of ride that the Skyjacker Softride suspension has given project Buckshot. Stay tuned for off-road testing.

Skyjacker Suspensions
212 Stevenson Street
West Monroe, LA 71292
Phone: (318) 388-0816
Fax: (318) 388-2608
Web:
www.skyjacker.com
Energy Suspension
1131 Via Callejon
San Clemente, California 92673
Toll Free: (888) 913-6374
Phone: (949) 361-3935
Fax: (949) 361-3940
Web:
www.energysuspension.com
Email:
hyperflex@energysuspension.com

 

 

 

 

About Rick Webster

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