On The Low: JL Wrangler on 40s with 2-Inches of Lift
Low lift and big tires. It’s a proven combination for the Jeep Wrangler. With one of the biggest draws of the 2018 and newer Jeep Wrangler Rubicon JL platform being the fact that you can run a 35-inch-tall tire with no lift, we knew it wouldn’t be long before JL owners would push the limits on just how large of a tread set you could squeeze on with a modest amount of lift.
Recently, we got a chance to hang out at Hazzard Fab Worx in Spokane, Washington. While there, one particular Jeep Wrangler Rubicon caught our attention as it might be the lowest JL we’ve ever come across running a 40-inch-tall tire. The 2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon belongs to Chris Corbett. No stranger to wheeling or complex vehicle builds, Corbett entrusted the Hazzard crew with two very important jobs. First, he needed his Ultimate Dana 60 axles put under the Jeep. Secondly, he wanted the Jeep to leave the shop with the same amount of lift it rolled in there with: two-inches.
On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a hard ask, but the reality was, making room for a 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler with such a small lift isn’t exactly commonplace in the JL world at the moment. Intrigued at just how this was accomplished, we spent a little time digging into the details of how this setup works.
American Adventure Labs
The JL’s wheelwells are extremely roomy. Even more so with the Rubicon model as the entire fender is moved up a few inches higher than other models. An easy way to gain even more room is to remove the inner fender completely. While this is a simple task, up front it leaves you without a corner marker and turn signal. The easy solution for this was to use a fender brace and lighting kit from American Adventure Labs.
Out back, the Hazzard crew enlarged the wheel opening by trimming back the sheetmetal. Surprisingly, very little needed to be cut.
Moderating the suspension up travel was critical to ensure the tires wouldn’t peel off the fenders as soon as it hit the trail. Up front a set of 2-inch-tall bumpstops rest between the coils. For the rear, a 2-inch bumpstop extension was mounted on the axle. While this does abbreviate some of the up travel of the Fox 2.5 shocks, the fact that they are equipped with the dual zone compression adjusters means Corbett can optimize the travel he has.
Corbett had witnessed enough axle failures of guys running 40-inch-tall tires on stock axles to know that staying with the OE Dana 44’s wasn’t going to cut it. This is why he specifically opted for a set of Ultimate Dana 60s. At 68.5 inches wide, they are only ½-inch wider than stock. However, pairing them with KMC Machete beadlocks with 4.75-inches of backspacing proved to be a good combo of clearance and wheel offset. To ensure steering the 40’s wouldn’t be an issue, he swapped out the stock steering system for a full replacement hydraulic-assist kit from PSC Motorsports. This setup removes the electric pump for an engine-driven one and the HD replacement gearbox now powers a set of Synergy Mfg. steering bars. Those skidplates you see are an all aluminum set from Artec Industries.
Not all 40’s are alike. The 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler is one of the few that run true-to-size, meaning you are getting a tire that specs truer to 40 inches tall. This made it all the more impressive to see the tire cycling within the fender. Given that this Jeep still plays on-road more than it does off, it was important to have a versatile tire that could roll smooth and true on the highway. Speaking of highway, Corbett states that on his five hour journey home from Hazzard Fab, the Jeep netted 15 miles per gallon. Not bad, all things considered.
The Jeep is currently running 2-inch lift springs, along with a full control arm upgrade from Synergy Manufacturing. We say currently as there are future plans to increase the suspension travel, while keeping the Jeep as low as possible.
The Low Down
The big takeaway here is something that all Jeep Wrangler JL owners should be excited about. You don’t need a lot of lift to run a sizable tire upgrade. The key is primarily removing the inner fender liners. Having a low center of gravity equates to a better handling vehicle on-road and off. It’s also means you have a more practical Jeep, as getting in and out will be a bit easier.
|MODEL||2019 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited|
|ENGINE||3.6L Pentastar V6|
|TRANSFER CASE||NVG241 OR|
|AXLES||Ultimate Dana 60s, ARB Air Lockers, 5.38 gears|
|SUSPENSION||Synergy Mfg. 2-in lift springs, front track bar, and control arms, Fox 2.5 shocks w/DSC adjusters|
|TIRES||40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler|
|WHEELS||17x8.5 KMC Machete Beadlock|
|ARMOR||Casey Currie Motorsports bumpers, Rock Slide Engineering step/sliders|
|MISC.||Warn winch, American Adventure Labs, AFE air intake, MBRP exhaust, PSC Motorsports hydro-assist, ZAutomotive Tazer JL, Artec aluminum underbelly skidplate system|
(Photos Courtesy of Hazzard Fab Worx)
Want to see a JL with Ultra4 DNA? Check out Loren Healy’s race-inspired Wrangler.