With thanks to the members of this forum, I'm happy to say I've got my 6" Skyjacker leafs and coilover conversion done as of last night. Here are a few things I learned along the way, in case it's helpful for others doing the same thing.
Skyjacker FR36S leafs:
- Yes, these fit newer Rangers, except...
- The front eye-to-frame bracket bolts on my 2009 Ranger were bigger than the sleeves in the bushings that come with the new springs. If I had done this the way I wanted, I would have had inner and outer dimensions for a new bushing, which I would have ordered at the same time as the spring.
- Once I had my truck on jack stands, stock bushing all hacked up trying to press it into the smaller FR36 eye and few timely options to get on the road again, I went with the quicker solution of getting smaller diameter bolts (5/8"x6" if I'm not mistaken?) which are the same size as the rear bolts. The fine gentlemen at Hardick Spring in Toronto supplied the bolts and the idea to weld some extra hefty washers to the frame bracket to keep the bolt from rattling around in the larger holes. This is what I did. Tip: buy the bolts and washers before taking the truck apart!
- I was able to re-use my stock U-bolts. Glad I kept them!
- My Superlift shocks seem to be long enough. They weren't holding up the axle at full droop, the springs were.
- The Skyjacker springs locate the axle about an inch forward of where the stock springs did, at full droop. Not a problem! The axle is perfectly centered in the wheel well when they're compressed to ride height.
- Have a good torque wrench and shop manual handy; all the articulated bolts need to be torqued to spec so they don't bind.
- The ride is fine. It feels the slightest bit springier, but not harsh or uncontrolled at all. I might upgrade to an adjustable shock when the Superlifts go, but I'm quite happy with the rear the way it is.
- I removed all the blocks (Superlift 3" and factory 1.5") and the truck rides about 1.5 inches higher than before.
This was really useful:
as was this thread!
- Here's what I had to buy:
me00stepside's excellent coilover bracket kit (all the Grade8 hardware was present and accounted for!)
(From Downsouth Motorsports)
Fox 2.0 Pro Series Emulsion Shock 6.5" Travel Coilover Emulsion shock *-Fox 980-02-001-A
Fox 2.0" Small Parts: 5/8" Shaft C/O Eyelet Black Ano 4.488" Tall *-FFOX 213-01-238-A
King 2.5" I.D. Springs -King 12" Springs 2.5"
Fox 2.0 Coil Over DUAL Pin Spanner Wrench (Small & Large Radius) *-DSM LAS07-100
Large Lock Ring Spanner for Fox 2.0 Shock -DSM LAS07-102
Daystar KU09037BK Front/Rear Bolt-In Extended Bump Stop
Dorman H38894 Hydraulic Brake Hose (93-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee)
(From various hardware stores)
2"x1/2" Grade 8 bolts and various washers for re-mounting limiting straps after gussets welded on.
Black paint to cover the metal you're going to drill/grind
- The order process from Downsouth was awesome. Micah was helping me out and he was very helpful. Apparently, they do a lot of Ranger coilover conversion sales, so he knew most of the details before I read my list to him. He asked a few questions about how I drive the truck; I told him I plan to put a winch bumper on next year. We settled on an 800lb King spring, and they took care of the valving.
- I did all this at home in my driveway ('coz my garage is only large enough for motorbike work) The welding of gussets and washers (from leaf springs, above) was done at Next Level automotive in Toronto. I got the welding done after the rear springs were in place, before the coilovers.
-I had to use pretty tall 12 ton jack stands when I did the back of the truck, to get enough height (under the frame). Normal 2-ton jack stands were OK to hold the front of the truck up when I did the coilovers (under the rearmost Superlift crossmember)
- The longer gussets from the bracket kit go on the back side of the shock towers (thanks, me00stepside!) Thankfully, Bobby at NextLevel figured this out on his own, because I didn't ask in time. He even managed to weld the gussets on without covering the mounting holes for the limiting straps (if you've got a Superlift that came with limiting straps, they bolt onto a hole you make on the shock tower right close to where the gussets go.)
- The first thing I did was to jack up the truck, take the wheels off and do a bit of planning. My first concern was the brake lines. At first, it wasn't immediately obvious how to install the longer Jeep brake lines, so I tried to make the stock lines work with the Superlift relocation bracket. This was a no-go. As soon as you move the bracket enough that it doesn't interfere with the coilovers, the stock lines start rubbing on the tires. It took a bit of trial and error, but I eventually figured out the way to mount the longer brake lines with a twist to them, like this guy did: How To: Install Coil-Overs and ditch T-bars - Ford Explorer & Ranger Resource "Serious Explorations"®
- I had trouble getting the brake line fitting to make a tight seal between factory steel line and Jeep hose. I got it as tight as I could without over-torquing, but still the brake fluid slowly escaped. As soon as the truck was drivable, I took it back to Next Level and they sorted it out by cleaning out the joint (it had looked clean to me, but hey, I'm an amateur.)
- Cutting steel with a 5" angle grinder is wicked fun, but wear eye and ear protection. I started without the ear protection and found out what it feels like to have ringing from the noise and hot steel particles land in your ear canal after they bounce off the inside of the wheel well. I think I'll be OK.
- The Daystar bump stops are a great fit after you take grind the factory bump stop brackets off. Note that on the passenger side, you'll need to grind through the Superlift bracket that helps locate the front diff in its lowered position. I'm going to watch this over time to make sure the bump stop is holding this end of the bracket firmly enough.
- Buy a couple of 3/8" cobalt drill bits before you get started. You'll probably break or wear out one of them during the project. I broke my first bit halfway through the last hole, but it was pretty dull by that point.
- The 1/2 holes in the powder-coated brackets probably need to be re-drilled before you get started. Try your bolts on the brackets before you take your truck apart; this is easy workbench prep work.
- The fellow from the Explorer forums suggests to put a piece of wood or steel behind the shock tower on the driver's side so you don't punch through brake lines when you drill. Excellent idea. Perfectly sized for this is the torsion bar bushing that you can remove before drilling the shock tower if you're feeling confident of not having to drive the truck.
- You may want to figure out a way put new holes off to the side of the shock tower for the plastic brake line bracket that you'll have to move for your top coilover bracket. I was too excited to mount the coilover bracket, so I didn't do this, but I tied all the brake lines down with a large zip tie to keep them from rattling about.
- The top hole in the shock tower is fairly large. The spacer provided in the bracket kit fills the hole from the bottom, but the washer from the kit doesn't really cover the hole from the top. I took one of the washers from the Superlift shock and enlarged its hole to 1/2", and inverted it under the washer that came with the brackets.This provides better coverage of the hole and seems pretty solid to me.
- The passenger side lower control arm bracket was a perfect fit for the factory-drilled shock mounting bolt hole, which let me enlarge the hole to 3/8" and put that bolt in to hold everything steady while I marked/drilled the other holes.
- Because I didn't take the UCA or the spindle apart , the frontmost hole on the brackets couldn't be reached easily. But it was pretty easy to take the sway bar links out and push the sway bar up and out of the way so I could fit my drill into position.
- The driver's side was offset from the factory shock bolt hole by about 1/4". I found it tricky to get all the holes perfectly positioned because the bracket tended to slide down as I was holding it in place by hand. I used a small bolt to hold it in place, but this still allowed more play than I would have liked while drilling. If i were to do this over again, I'd find a way to clamp it in place before marking my holes and drilling.
- Once the top and bottom brackets were bolted up, I proceeded to installing the coilovers, starting at the top. The powder coated brackets don't provide much room for the provided spacers, so at the top I used one wide spacer and one narrow spacer for a perfect fit.
- To get the coilover eyelet bolted into the bracket, you need to hold the spacers in the coilover eyelet as you slide it into the bracket, and then have the bolt handy with a washer on it so you can push it through the hole when everything is aligned. It's a bit tricky.
- Getting the bottom bolt through bracket and eyelet was an exercise in strength, patience, and planning. First of all, the bracket (at least powder-coated) is too narrow to fit the shock eyelet and the spacers, so I had to grind a wide spacer down to a narrower size. After grinding, its hole needs to be re-enlarged to a full 1/2".
- The gas-charged shock takes a fair bit of force to compress and at full extension, it's a couple of inches too long to fit into the bracket. Without anyone to help, here's how I got i all in:
- I loosened the pre-load adjustors on the coil spring to keep them as far away from the shock's travel as I could. I used a big rubber bungee cord to hold the spring up out of the way.
- I used masking tape to hold the spacers in position on the eyelet because it was too damn difficult to muscle the shock to the right length for mounting while pinching the eyelets in place AND trying to push the bolt through the hole. The masking tape came away pretty cleanly after everything was in place. It took a couple of attempts to get it all in to place, but it worked.
- I torqued everything down and put everything back together. I put my jack under each LCA to compress the suspension enough to re-attach the limiting straps. I used 2" bolts and a bunch of washers of various sizes to manage the indirect angle through the old bolt hole caused by the new gussets. (I'm still not 100% sure this will work long term, I'm monitoring it.)
- I didn't go very tight on the initial preload adjustment, just a couple of full turns past snug with the Fox spanner wrench. This netted a similar ride height to what I had with the coilovers (7 1/4" from 33" tire to fender).
- I'm going to drive it for a couple of days, let the springs settle a bit and then adjust my ride height the way I want it. I'll probably go another .75" to 1" taller at the front because of the newfound height at the back, then go for an alignment.
- The ride with the new 800lb springs and coilovers is remarkably similar to stock. I have noticed a bit of a clunk when going over speed bumps, and I suspect this is the limiting strap pulling on the angled bolt, because all the pieces otherwise seem to have good clearance.
That's about all I can think of right now. There's probably some details I left out, but I'm happy to answer any questions. I was so busy working, I only took one pic of the install (attached) but after I get the height adjusted and the truck washed, I'll post some final result pics.