Dick Cepek 4" Suspension Lift - Series I
The Dick Cepek 4-inch Series I Suspension lift was already installed on our Jeep Wrangler as part of a dealership promotional package. The Oman4x4.com TJ Wrangler was one of the select few that came off the showroom floor pre-modified. As a result, this will be more of a review as to how well the kit works, and what problems it solves, rather than an install guide. If you haven't got much time to read this, I'll tell you now it's a very nice piece of kit!
One thing you always have to be aware of when lifting a vehicle and installing larger tires is "How will this affect the way it drives?". Modifications to ANY part of your suspension can have dramatic effects on the performance both on and off road, and a lack of consideration can result in negative effects on your vehicle. Before we continue, you should be aware that lifted Sport-Utility-Vehicles have a raised center of gravity and your driving style should be adjusted accordingly. Don't expect to have the same stability on side-slopes as you did before, and use care when cornering. Fortunately, speed limits on public roads are very conservative with todays standard of automobiles, so you have to be an idiot to be pushing it that hard anyway. Lift your vehicle at your own risk, and you have full responsibility for what you do and how you drive it. That's the disclaimer over.
Now, following on from the above, changing your vehicle's suspension and making it taller not only raises your center of gravity but also affects how the vehicle HANDLES. You may be aware that racing cars are adjusted and "dialed in" for each track or circuit they race on to change the vehicle's handling to suit. The same can be done with a normal on or offroad vehicle. Swaybars, Springs, Shocks, and Control Arm Geometry all have a big effect on the way your vehicle drives. The Cepek system addresses the geometry of your control arms in a rather unique and affordable way.
Your Control Arms on a Jeep Wrangler are the links that go from the axle to the chassis, in a front-to-back direction. On a stock suspension set up, you will have 4 on each axle, 2 "uppers" and 2 "lowers". These keep the axle in place and control how it moves. You also have a TrackBar, which is the diagonal linkage from one side of the chassis to the other side on the axle. This keeps the axle centered under your vehicle. When you compress or extend the suspension, the wheels do not move vertically in relation to the body, they follow a circular path, an arc. Now when you lift a Jeep vehicle, you will be forcing the axle to follow that arc in a downwards direction.
At around 4 inches of lift, your control arms are at a pretty steep angle. The side effects of this are pretty numerous. Your wheelbase will be shortened due to the axles swinging down to meet each other. When the suspension is flexed (as seen in the picture on the right, where opposite wheels are compressed into the wheel arches, while the other side is allowed to droop), standard short arm suspension systems encounter a situation called "Flex Steer". This is when the drooping tire swings to the center of the vehicle following the arc path, and causes the entire axle to steer to one side. The same effect happens when you face body roll in cornering. As the body leans over, "Flex Steer" happens and makes the Jeep want to turn tighter, as both axles are drooping on the inside of the corner. This can lead to erratic handling around corners.
Another serious issue is an extremely rough ride that comes from the shocks being transmitted directly to the frame, rather than being absorbed through your Springs and Shock Absorbers. Rather than letting the wheel move feerly vertically, when you hit a bump, the force exerted travels straight through the control arm to the chassis. In some cases, a large rock may want to cause your chassis to rise up as the axle is pushed back under the vehicle. With flatter or longer control arms, the wheel is able to move up much easier, sending the forces through the springs and shock absorbers. All of these effects that come from lifting a Wrangler higher than around 3.5-4 inches on short arms are definitely undesireable. However, there is a way around it!
There are many companies now making Long-Arm Suspension systems for Jeep vehicles. These involve cutting off the existing control arm mounts, and mounting much longer arms to a new transfer case skid plate. The vehicle on the right is equipped with this system. This in a way looks like a monster truck with the control arms meeting in the middle! These systems ride beautifully and handle well, some say better than stock, and their owners are all happy with them. The only downside however, is the cost. Most of these Long-Arm systems are in the region of $2,500, which is not in everyone's budget!
Dick Cepek's 4" Lift comes in with a different approach designed to produce a great handling vehicle for a very nice price, and they succeed in doing just that. The Cepek system retains the stock factory geometry of the Suspension by moving the control arm mounts down. This is achieved by using brackets on all 8 control arm mounts that cover your mounts and extend down under your Jeep, and the control arms are then attached to them. With the mounting points moved down, the Axles still follow an arc, but when one side moves up, and the other side moves down, the difference in movement horizontally is minimalised. As a result, Flex steer is almost eliminated and handling is greatly improved.
The flatter control arms also allow for a better ride enabling the shock absorbers to do the work, rather than transmitting shocks directly to the drivers seat! The diagram to the left shows the difference in the angles between the stock and dropped positions. Also, below you can see some pictures of the Cepek control arm drop-brackets fitted to the front and rear upper and lower control arms. All of these images are thumbnailed, so clicking them will enlarge them.
When it comes to value for money, the Cepek kit is very good. For $499 + Shipping and Handling you get new springs, new shock absorbers, all 8 drop-down brackets, Swaybar Disconnects, Rear Trackbar Bracket, and a Transfer Case Drop. All that is needed to finish the kit off is an adjustable front trackbar allowing you to fine tune your steering and eliminate bump steer, add your tires and you're good to go. On most Jeeps, the Transfer Case drop will be enough to eliminate drive-line vibrations but you do lose clearance by doing this. You can choose to go with a Slipyoke-Eliminator kit and a low-profile skid plate later on to increase your clearance even more, yet keeping the same great handling. The nice thing about this system is that the parts are not dependent on each other so if you find the ride is too harsh, you can upgrade to more expensive shock absorbers or different swaybar connection systems and so on. You're free to mix and match if you choose to do so. If you're looking to improve the handling of an already lifted Jeep, you can get the kit purely for the drop brackets, and experiment with shock absorber and spring selection between the Cepek parts and your existing parts to find a solution that suits you.
As for the strength and quality of the parts, they were installed in mid-2001, and the first problem occured in December 2003 with a worn out shock absorber. Normal wear and tear from abuse. The bracket system is very well built and I expect it to last a long long time. We mainly play on the sand, however a friend in the USA running the same kit has bashed the drop brackets on countless rocks, and he says the brackets suffered no damage, and in some cases split the rocks! No concerns whatsoever about the strength of these parts.
Would I do it again? Definitely!|
Score: 9 / 10
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