After many emails, phone calls to Adam at Claytons, payment of shipping and arrangements, Claytons Offroad sent Ausjeepoffroad.com their XJ Hard Arm conversion to have a look at and test for the Australian market place. Now as some of you may know, the AJOR Cherokee was running a 5.5" Rubicon Express kit, which then went a further 1.5" with spacers and Pro Comp Shocks. Now with this added height, the drop down brackets and upper and lower front control arms were look very steep and the ride was a little less than desirable.
Enter Claytons Offroad. The products Claytons produce a designed for exactly this type of application. They build custom components that are designed for veicles that already have a level of modification. These components are truely Hard-Core! They cater for the XJ, TJ and WJ that we have here in Australia. If you have a TJ or XJ with 4" or more lift, these guys would be well worth a look.
Install at M.O.A.T in Brisbane
Given the Jamboree is coming up so quickly, and the fact that the kit required some welding, I thought what better to do that twist Brad from MOAT's
arm and spend a day in his workshop just behind Footos installing the long arm. Well I initially thought it would have been at most a three hour job, well we started at 7.30am and finished close to 3pm. And heres why.....
After looking through the kit, both Brad and I decided it is a very well thought out and extremely tough kit. We did however see what we felt would been one major drawback in the whole system. This was the fact that in the kit is a replacement cross member and the lower control arms hang off that. This said the new cross member is designed to mount straight onto the factory mounting points. Some concerns were raised here with the type of wheeling that the Ausjeep XJ goes through so we started to work out how we could reinforce this.
First thing to do in the install was to remove the factory cross member. A jack under the gearbox and removal of all the bolts seemed easy until one of the bolts into the chassis did not want to come lose. Given at this point we had already decided how we were going to change the mounting design it was simple enough to just cut the bolt out.
For the process of measuring everything up we used two of the factory mounting holes to put the cross member in and started to then remove the right control arm. The new arms for the right hand side went in without any problems, with the lower arm fitted we then mounted the upper arm and hey presto, one side was fitted. Then onto the left hand side and again no real dramas.
Now that we had the arms on, we could go back and re-evaluate the cross member. We ended up deciding that we would use a hole saw and cut a hole in the side of the chassis just above where the cross member mounts so that we could access inside the tunnel. With that Brads skills came to fore and he fabbed up a metal plate with nuts welded to it that slid into the hole and lined up with the cross members bolts. This in effect sandwiched the two together and added what we felt was extra strength.
Then the problem of the hole from the hole saw to deal with. Again looking to reinforce the whole cross member, Brad cut a steel plate and bended it to shape to cover the hole, and also weld to the side of the cross member. This plate was bolted through the chassis and also used to remount my rock rails.
Working on using your pinion angle as a guide, we were able to adjust the control arms to a length that both suited the pinion and also the spline in the front driveshaft. The only time consuming part here is that you will need to remove one end of the lower arm and wind it out to the appropriate length then remount. Because you now have the upper arms mounted to it, refitting is a two man job.
Thanks to Brad with the plasma cutter, we then moved onto cutting the factory upper control arm mounts from the chassis. This kit is real commitment. There is absolutely no going back once you finish the install. The upper mounts need to be removed or at full flex they will foul up the movement of the new arms.
Time to test it out
The main downfall of using Brads RTI ramp is that before the long arm, the Ausjeep XJ already made it to the end of the ramp. So what we were looking for in the test was that everything looked to be lined up correctly and if it would function like we expected.
Once on the ramp, we found that the lower arms needed to be shortened a little as the pinion angle wasnít to our liking. Back off the ramp and a bit of adjustment saw us at the top of the ramp, straight and clean pinion angle so all was good.
All in all its a simple install, easy to understand and will give you the extra confidence that the steering will remain in place when you are wheeling.
On the road
Why didnít we do this sooner? All I can say is itís a 200% improvement with onroad handling. The bump steer that was experienced, as well as the bouncy front ride is now gone. It actually in my opinion feels nicer to drive than a stock XJ. Offroad, well we will have to wait until the Jeep Jamboree in Melbourne in two weeks to test it out to its extreme.
Interesting things in the Kit
As said above, this kit is very well thought out. All the moving bolts are all set up with greasable nipples which feed into the bushes. The serviceability of this kit is fantastic. It is also noted in the design that the ends of the crossmember actually bolt to the centre section. This is done so if you need to remove your gearbox, you can leave the longarm kit in place and just remove the centre of the crossmember. It is suggested though for added strength to weld these companents together. Lets face it, how often do you have your gearbox out.
A massive thank you to Brad from MOAT in Brisbane, for use of his workshop and also for his extensive experience with both Jeeps and welding.
To Claytons, you guys keep up the Jeep product development, from where we stand at the moment, I think we are going to have to look seriously at getting a distributor in Australia for you guys. The workmanship is second to none, and from what we have seen of other companies designs, this kit is a real winner.
At ausjeepoffroad.com we are only to proud to promote your product and give extreme thanks for letting us test it out in the Australian Competition scene. Looking forward to giving more feedback in this story as its gets a bit of a workout.
Please visit www.claytonoffroad.com
and see whats available for the TJ, WJ and XJ