Tech: Clayton Off-Road Jeep Lift Kit

Tech: Clayton Off-Road Jeep Lift Kit

Story and photos by Albert Vandervelde

Clayton Off Road. No nonsense, tough, well-built Jeep lifts you will be happy to buy. That pretty much sums up my experience with Clayton Off Road.

My first exposure to Clayton was a few years ago now, when a beat-up $1000.00 XJ out-wheeled almost all of us in Naches, Washington. The owner said he throws away an XJ a year but will not let go of his Clayton lift. It just had nice balance, didn’t unload funny, wasn’t too soft. Since then I’ve installed a couple more, and while I have heard a couple of times people being OK with the lifts we have written about and reviewed, I never hear back from the Jeep owners rolling on the Clayton kits I’ve installed. Just happy and out Jeepin.

While there are more bling kits out there than this JK short-arm kit – you really need nothing else. It’s cool and strong to be square, their signature square tough-as-nails links are 2 inches 1/4 wall-thick and slide nice over trail obstacles, and come with a lifetime warranty. They are supplemented by a pair of round uppers in the back, so they can curve around the rear tires, Clevite rubber bushings are found on the large lower links to help reduce vibration, and genuine fully rebuildable Johnny Joints are everywhere else for the twist required for a flexy suspension, while still providing a quiet suspension with no metal-on-metal with the Currie “tough 88” urethane inserts.

This 3.5-in. lift can be packaged with either Bilstein shocks or Fox shocks, Fox being the premium, stiffer for more control, choice, and Bilstein for better ride quality. Coils are single-rate wound and made in the USA, as are all of the Clayton parts with a 188-lb spring rate perfect for the weight of a Jeep. Both will come with the needed extended brake lines and brackets to relocate and finish the install for a complete kit.

In a world filled with many choices for Jeep lifts, Clayton Off Road has stood its ground with their best-in-class unibody Jeep lifts to the most modern, and their developing JL lifts slowly filling their web site – yup, it’s still hip to be square! If you have installed a Clayton lift or not, also check their site for their great skid plate systems and accessory parts. We swear they are bulletproof quality as well!

Clayton Off-Road makes some great Jeep lifts. Their lifts come with their signature square links made from .250 wall material. Their claim is that square is stronger than round – and I can say I have not destroyed one yet, so who am I to disagree?

Up front, both the upper and lower links are square tubing with Currie Johnny Joints for the articulation end, and Clevite bushings on the frame end to reduce road vibration through the chassis.

Johnny Joints were the original articulating rod end creation of John Currie of Currie Enterprises, and while often copied, I still feel they are some of the best on the market.

Clayton lifts can be packaged with Bilstein or Fox shocks. The Bilsteins are a little less aggressive and have better road ride, while the Fox shocks offer a stiffer and more off-road feel.

The Suspension kit comes with everything you need to complete the install, including extended brake lines, JKS sway bar links, and also some of the best-in-the-business bump stop extensions, assorted brackets and hardware.

When taking any vehicle apart that uses wheel sensors for ABS systems, you need to make sure you take care with the ABS wiring.

The front links are “kinked” to mimic the stock arms for tire clearance, but as you can see, they are longer to compensate for the steeper angle of the links, are adjustable and just plain beefy.

As the Clayton control arms are so large, a little trimming needs to take place on the axle brackets.

While the upper links are a smaller diameter, they are still far stronger than the stock upper arms and again are adjustable with Currie Johnny Joints.

The control arms use all the factory attachment points for an easy install, and the longer brake lines allow room for the new-found suspension flex.

Bump stop extensions are installed both front and rear. Longer coil springs have more wraps and will not compress as far as stock coils, and will go to coil “bind” if extensions are not installed, which could damage the springs.

If your JK came equipped with the transfer case skid plate bar, it needs to be removed to avoid damaging the driveshaft. You may notice here that the JK drive shafts have already been removed and converted to standard design slip joints from Pat’s Driveline.

The lift comes standard with the well-built JKS quick disconnects so you can loosen the front sway bar to take advantage of the new-found flex off-road, but still attach the bar when on-road for stability.

Clayton uses a single-rate coil set up for predictable ride quality. You may also notice we removed the shock boots from the shocks – less dirt accumulates around the shaft this way.

With the front suspension done and the new brake lines in, we use the brake line to route the ABS wire.

The finished product.

The rear install goes similar to the front. Loosen the stock control arms – detach the rear track bar and the suspension will swing down low enough to remove the coil springs.

The rear gets bump stop extensions like the front. Due to some tricky bending, the rear upper control arms are made from round material.

For the rear track bar, a bolt-in extension bracket is used to keep the rear axle located properly with the new stance.

The rear suspension looks great just like the front, but no removable sway bar links are needed.

Categories: Off-Road Plus, Tech