Friday, December 3, 2010

Jeep CJ and YJ Shackle Upgrade: Selecting the right pair

All Jeep CJ and YJ models came with leaf spring suspensions that have proven themselves to be reliable and effective on hard trails, as well as daily driving use. But over many years scraping over rocks and taking hard hits, the factory shackles can get battered. A bent or broken shackle can lead to poor wheel alignment, vibrations, and poor spring movement, which creates a rough ride and reduced wheel traction.
When you break a shackle, it may be a good opportunity to upgrade them to a stronger set. In fact, upgrading the shackles on Jeep CJ and YJ's is one of the most common upgrades. Most prefer to use a set of greasable, heavy-duty units that are much stronger than the factory shackles. Manufacturers such as Performance Accessories have exceptionally strong shackles that easily bolt-on in place of the thin, stamped-steel factory units that can easily bend or break. If you are also looking to gain slightly more tire clearance, these shackles are available in longer lengths to provide ½-inch to 1-3/4-inches of extra ride height and tire clearance for your Jeep.

If you’ve done your research on shackles, you’ve probably learned that the strongest sets are typically made from thicker steel, and feature an “H” pattern that forms a cross member between the two mounting plates. To many, this may seem like something that can be easily manufactured at home with some steel plate that you can cut, drill and spray with rust-proof paint.

This set of shackles features greasable bolts and
comes with polyurethane bushings.
 The problem with making shackles yourself however, is that you won’t get the same consistency and quality of an aftermarket shackle that’s manufactured using precision stamped steel, CNC laser cutting and that are bent on a press brake. Aside from the risk of drilling improper bolt angles and unevenly cutting the mounting plates, the tendency is to make home-made shackles 3-4 inches longer than stock to add more ride height. This also presents a problem as added shackle lengths will cause havoc with your front and rear axle pinion angles and create many more problems than what you started off with.

For this reason, many CJ and YJ Jeep enthusiasts simply prefer to use a pair of high-quality aftermarket shackles, like those from Performance Accessories, who manufacture its shackles from precision stamped and CNC laser cut 3/8-inch thick steel. Each shackle plate is exactly the same size, length and feature a smooth radius edge at that would take hours to cut and grind if you were making your own set. The shackles are also finished in a heavy-duty powdercoat, that is much stronger than paint, and when installed, look great on your Jeep.

The Performance Accessories shackles also have the stronger “H” pattern design that uses a fully welded steel C-channel center support. This provides a much stronger shackle than those that use a steel sleeve and bolt to connect the two mounting plates together. The welded design makes the PA shackles incredibly strong, and ensures they won’t bend or deflect under a hard hit.

Performance Accessories shackles also use a set of Grade-5, Zinc plated bolts that have been drilled, hardened and fitted with grease fittings. The ability to grease the bolts allows for exceptional freedom of movement of the shackles and leaf springs, so that they operate properly and eliminate any chance of binding.

In addition, Performance Accessories also supplies its own heavy-duty urethane bushings. Not only does this make for a smoother and quieter operation, but the inside of the bushings are molded to spread out the grease evenly across the surface area, providing proper lubrication. In addition, Performance Accessoires uses Nylock nuts to prevent the bolts from backing out or getting loose, and they include a supply of plolylube for the bushings and to make installation much easier.

While a new set of shackles can provide some additional tire clearance, you can easily get more by simply bolting on a body-lift to easily raise your CJ or YJ Jeep anywhere from 2-4 inches. Either way, make sure your shackle kit comes complete. Many low-buck sets seem like a good deal until you realize the bushings and greasable bolts are sold separately. Make sure to also change your leaf spring bushings at the same time. This will ultimately give your Jeep the best ride and trail performance that you can depend on. Performance Accessories heavy-duty shackle sets for Jeeps start at $60-90. They are also available for Toyota and Suzuki applications. For more information, visit
DS Media

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