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Jeep articulation or “flex” is one of the most argued-about topics in the Jeep world. Like everything else, it is best had in moderation, and some need more than others based on what sort of wheeling they do. For instance, Jeep Cherokee lift kits will have different travel needs and capabilities than Wrangler kits and if you rock crawl vs. go-fast driving, you will need different system setups. If you are looking to optimize your Jeep’s flex capabilities for your specific needs, take a look at this recipe for boosting suspension travel.
This is the first step to creating greater flexibility in your Jeep’s axle. Sway bar disconnects are the go-to option for any off-roader, whether your Jeep is a trail-only ride or a daily driver. Here is a splendid representation of the difference between a connected and a disconnected sway bar:
When on the road, the sway bar stabilizes your Jeep and is vital to ride safety. Off the road, however, disconnecting your sway bar allows your axle to articulate more, improving your Jeep’s rock crawling abilities. The newest Wrangler Rubicon are factory-built with electronic front sway bar disconnects, but owners of other models can invest in aftermarket sway bar disconnects, which come with a pin for easy disconnecting and reconnecting.
The bushings in Jeeps are designed with solid rubber linings to absorb some shock and isolate noise while driving. Suspension systems like the Rubicon Express Super-Flex kits incorporate a spherical ball joint on one end of each control arm, which allows for greater flexibility due to not having to flex solid rubber.
Running the wrong sized shocks is one of the most common ways to limit flex. It is important to note that upward and downward travel are directly related
and you need both for good flex. Limit one and you limit the other – sort of like a seesaw: if the kid on one end doesn’t let it drop all the way to the ground, the kid on the other won’t go completely up into the air.
Shocks which are too short will reach their limit and prematurely halt your tire’s droop (downward reach). Not only is this bad for your articulation, it can also damage your Jeep’s shocks. If your shocks are stopping your axle’s downward movement instead of your limiting straps, you stand a good chance of ripping them out of your Jeep on a rough trail.
Taking on the trail with shocks which are too long limits your axle’s upward travel as the shock compresses to its shortest length. Over-compressing your shocks in this way wears them down rapidly, leading to many expensive replacements; which is where extended bump stops come in to play.
Your Jeep’s bump stops are what stand between your axle and the chassis. It is important that your bump stops are proportional to many things, such as shock length, tire size and clearance. Too large and they will prematurely halt your axle’s upward travel, limiting flex and causing unwanted weight transfer. Too small and you risk damaging suspension components, their attaching points and your tire.
We cannot stress enough the importance of running correctly sized tires. When it comes to flex, having tires which are too large can cause them to rub when your axle articulates.
Essentially, you are trying to stuff too much tire into too little space, limiting your suspension’s available travel. Choose a set of tires properly sized for available clearance and your suspension geometry. By doing this you can take full advantage of your suspension’s abilities.