Build Advice Needed: Overland build of a 2006 Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) Rubicon

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Embark With Mark

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Good looking LJ. I my self have an 2006 Tj! Ive done a lot with my jeep build wise from the ground up. I've also learned alot. Ive been on long overland trips and ive also done lots of hard rock crawling. My rig is going through another build stage so that we can continue the hard core rock crawling but also overland. Here is my advice.

To run a 33" tire you need at least a 3" lift. If I where purely overloading or just exploring I would go no bigger than a 33" tire and i would go narrow. 10.5 wide max. Narrow tires handle better and you dont have to buy new rims. Also narrow tires are lighter and don't put as much strain on the drive train.

Stay away from Rubicon express. Go with OME if that is your choice. Other lifts that are very nice are Metal Cloak and Currie. I currently run a metal cloak lift but in your shoes I would look at the Currie 3" lift . Also you can buy OME lifts in the 3" range with new control arms for pretty good deals. Rocky Road Offroad has some very good options for TJ/LJ OME suspension setups. Jeep Wrangler TJ Lift kit, body lift, suspension system. 1997-2006

Also, dont pay full price for disconnects get used or get an antirock. Disconnects are not need unless your wheeling harder. Yes they do allow more travel in the front but if your not on hard trails than it really doesn't matter with a good lift kit and tires, and they can be annyoing to get hooked back up at the end of the day. If you do want something that allows the front to flex. Get an Antirock from Currie. I have had my jeep setup every way. The antirock is the only way to go. (Note the currie 3" lift can be purchased with the antirock already)

With a 33x10.5r16 you can get away with not re-gearing though you will feel it a bit.

As far as the long range on the tires, it doesn't matter enough when you start airing down for what your doing. in fact the higher load rating would be a slight benefit as they are a bit tougher. As long as they are C rated or better you are fine. More importantly thought, get a 3 ply side wall. Duratracks are great tires but a 3 ply side wall is the only way to go, duratracks are known to be great tires but have weak sidewalls. BFG, Falken, General tire, and more all make good 3 ply All terrain tires. Ive personally run BFG's, Mickey Thompson, and currently General Tire. All in the 3 ply and have never had an issue.

Stay with all terrains and don't go with mud terrains unless you really plan to wheel hard.

You also want to do something with the tailgate if you get a bigger tire.

If you have any questions let me know. Like I said I have done a lot of work to mine and it has to do everything for me. Just for reference, I have a 3.5" metal cloak lift, 1.25" body lift, tummy tuck, 35" tires, 4.88 gears and electric lockers front and rear. I am also fully armored with aluminum armor.

Here is a photo for reference, if your curious you can check out a few videos I have on this jeep at Embark With Mark. Luckily 90% of parts are interchangeable between TJs and LJs
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Embark With Mark

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Thanks for the replies!

So I'd like to see what kind of foot print I could get out of about 15psi given that's probably as low as I would want to go in normal conditions. One of the people I was off-road with this past weekend has the 285/75-16 (E rated) KO2's and when he dropped to 18psi, there was barely any visual change in his tire and I noticed they didn't flex much over rocks. My junker C rated tires were also at 18psi and there was a very visible change in foot print. It also made the ride significantly smoother on the pit-run.

I've read a number of threads on different Wrangler forums where people really raved about the OME ride quality. I'm not really jazzed about a highly lifted ride and I found a picture on FB of my exact LJ with a 3" lift and 33" tires. It looked okay but a little taller than I really want. I just want enough lift to be capable yet not so much that it starts to feel top heavy. One of my friends has a 99 TJ with a 2" lift and 32" tires and I've wheeled with him off-road and in the snow. He has an e-locker in the rear and a lunchbox locker up front. That TJ is quite the animal with only 2" of lift. I'll take a look at those Falken's as well.

This feedback is helping me with the decision.

Thanks,

Aaron
Also a note about PSI in tires. Each rig is different depending on the weight of the rig. As mine sites right now. If I am doing any crawling I drop to 8PSI. if I am cruising on dirt roads and such I will go bewteen 15-18. Even at 8 PSI my tires does not show that much squat compared to others but the traction is there. Tires get longer not wider when you air down. If you want a truly durable tire, go with a 3 ply side wall. Ive wheeled with many rigs that had duratracks and wanted them myself untill I wheeled in Johnson Valley. I whitness someone put a hole in every tire to the point that he was stitching sidewalls together. Duratracks are great for the street and very light wheeling, otherwise get something with a stronger side wall.
 

Traveler I

My OME lift gave me 3” with the HD springs. I ran 33s and stock fenders for 3yrs with a 1.25” body lift. Did the body lift because I knew I would be doing the tummy tuck. I run metalcloak double adj control arms. I had the jks quick disconnects at first but then went with the antirock. 33s you’ll want at least the ZJ tierod upgrade but the better option is the Currie just more expensive. I also had the JKS front adj trackbar and since swapped to metalcloak front & rear.

As you can tell, Ive done alot of upgrades (the list is much longer) everything myself and I will say, do it right the first time, it’ll end up costing you less in the long run.
 

Embark With Mark

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My OME lift gave me 3” with the HD springs. I ran 33s and stock fenders for 3yrs with a 1.25” body lift. Did the body lift because I knew I would be doing the tummy tuck. I run metalcloak double adj control arms. I had the jks quick disconnects at first but then went with the antirock. 33s you’ll want at least the ZJ tierod upgrade but the better option is the Currie just more expensive. I also had the JKS front adj trackbar and since swapped to metalcloak front & rear.

As you can tell, Ive done alot of upgrades (the list is much longer) everything myself and I will say, do it right the first time, it’ll end up costing you less in the long run.
I wouldn’t even waste the money o. The ZJ tie rod. I did it and it lasted 6 months.

Go ahead and get a Currie or do what I did and go with the savvy upgrade on a Currie steering system.
 

Vinman

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Here’s mine with a TJ heavy duty OME lift, Savvy 1-1/4” bodylift running 33x10x50R15 BFG KO2 tires on stock TJ rims.
It actually isn’t too bad with the stock 4.10 gearing as well, if I make the jump to 35’s I’ll defintely regear to 4.56 or 4.88’s.

I couldn’t be happier with how everything performs, the on road ride is firm but not harsh. I initially regretted getting the HD kit but after the first trip offroad I am pleased I did, especially if loaded for camping. If I ran the soft top with no rear seat I would probably get softer shocks.

The combination above is absolutely dramaless on road, no following the cracks or twitchiness and it drives about as good as relatively stock TJ can be.

DD5389E0-6FD3-4EC9-AD58-F1617DB9DC6D.png100B4F74-D793-4653-BE70-7D48D7FDD915.jpeg
 
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deadspot

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Well, hard not to add to a thread on LJRs.. plus another solar yellow just posted... just joined this forum as I was looking for ideas for more overland type Jeeping and also for ideas on roof racks... I haven't don't much of anything to mine since I got it a couple years ago now. Just picked up a used Kargo rack (a slight nightmare to get all setup) and looking forward to watching this and other threads.

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Gabriel Bozeman

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Hey there! I'm pretty new to the OB community but I love what I've seen so far.

My wife and I just purchased a 2006 Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) Rubicon. This Jeep is basically bone stock other than slightly wider than stock tires. It has 144000 miles and from the looks of it was never used for anything beside highway or occasional snow travel. Needless to say the frame, suspension, and drivetrain are immaculate and it drives like it's new.

Having been long time RV campers, my wife and I are not new to what's now called "overlanding" but we are looking to take a bit of a different path with this Jeep. One of our goals is to be able to explore the mining and home steads of eastern Oregon. Also we went to Alaska for our 25th anniversary and we were unable to get into the Arctic Circle due to time and vehicle constraints. We want to get back up there and explore north of Fairbanks and other areas in Alaska someday.

Where I need some guidance and opinions, is in the area of suspension and tires.

Understanding that all lift heights and tire choices are compromises, I'm trying to gather as much information from those who spend their time in the overland world.

My goals include building a rig that is dependable and functional while maintaining good on-road manners. With that in mind, I've already decided that I don't want more than about a 3.5" lift and I don't want more than 33" tires.

I'm trying to decide now between the following:
- Old Man Emu 2" heavy duty lift and running 265/75-16 KO2s.
- Rubicon Express 3.5" lift and running 285/75-16 KO2s.

OME Lift:
- The OME lift and smaller tires helps keep the center of gravity down
- Lift includes just springs, shocks, steering stabilizer, and hardware - no control arms or track bars.
- Sway bar disconnect not included and would have to be added
- The smaller 265/75-16 (approx 32") tire size allows me to choose a Load Range C tire for greater off-road flex at low pressures.
- Lower cost means more money for other items right away

RE Lift:
- The RE lift is a complete lift that includes all new upper (adjustable) and lower (fixed) control arms along with everything else that would be needed to support this much lift.
- Sway bar disconnect included in the lift
- Increased center of gravity may affect off-camber stability slightly over the 2" OME lift
- The larger 285/75-16 (approx 33") tires are only available in Load Range E
- Although the E rating means the tires are tougher, it also makes for a stiff ride all the time and making it harder for tire flex at low pressure.
- Higher cost means less money for other items right away

I spent the day yesterday at an OHV park in the Tillamook State Forest (Oregon) and was able to really get a sense of what this Jeep is capable of in stock trim. Let me say that I think Jeep did it right. I was extremely impressed. That's the main reason I'm now torn between the smaller lift and the bigger one. It is so capable as-is.

Basically I'm looking for input and rational on the following:
- 2" vs 3.5" of lift
- 32" vs. 33" tires
- C load rating vs. E load rating

I greatly appreciate your input and advice.

Thanks!

Aaron Lee - AG7FW

View attachment 92465
What you have there is a great opportunity! So many ideas just popped into my head.

Maybe build a slide out cooking area out of the back and store your stuff on top of it?

Maybe get a winch bumper and rock sliders?

Maybe a lift with bigger tires?

Good luck!
Gabe
 

Aaron Lee

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I'll be starting my build in earnest in about 2 weeks. I'll be ordering my lift and getting that installed first. Once I've done that, next will be tires. I'm still trying to decide on front and rear bumpers but I'm not sure I'm going to get past the front bumper before the budget is exhausted. I already have a winch so the front bumper is a must-do item. I also plan to pick up a soft top for the summer. Love to see all the pictures of LJR's ready for adventure! Thanks for posting those! BTW, what kind of rook rack systems are you using?

Thanks,
Aaron
 
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Vinman

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I'll be starting my build in earnest in about 2 weeks. I'll be ordering my lift and getting that installed first. Once I've done that, next will be tires. I'm still trying to decide on front and rear bumpers but I'm not sure I'm going to get past the front bumper before the budget is exhausted. I already have a winch so the front bumper is a must-do item. I also plan to pick up a soft top for the summer. Love to see all the pictures of LJR's ready for adventure! Thanks for posting those! BTW, what kind of rook rack systems are you using?

Thanks,
Aaron
Not sure who your are asking but I have the Garvin Expedition roof rack and couldn’t be happier with it. Very solid and doesn’t extend beyond the side of the body so little chance of it catching on anything when I’m wheeling close to trees or rocks. Last wheeling trip I had it loaded with about 200 lbs without issue.
 
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Aaron Lee

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I was basically curious what you had @Vinman but also @deadspot. Thanks for the info on the Garvin. I like how that one hinges back for access to remove the hard or soft top. I would expect removing the soft top would be far simpler with the rack on than the hard top.
 
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Embark With Mark

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I'll be starting my build in earnest in about 2 weeks. I'll be ordering my lift and getting that installed first. Once I've done that, next will be tires. I'm still trying to decide on front and rear bumpers but I'm not sure I'm going to get past the front bumper before the budget is exhausted. I already have a winch so the front bumper is a must-do item. I also plan to pick up a soft top for the summer. Love to see all the pictures of LJR's ready for adventure! Thanks for posting those! BTW, what kind of rook rack systems are you using?

Thanks,
Aaron
You can forgo the aftermarket front bumper and just do a winch plate.

The rear bumper is more important if you don’t have a tire carrier of some sort. That tailgate is going to need extra support of some kind with bigger tires.
 

Cort

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I had a pretty extensive LJ build that went a little beyond overlanding but some of my lessons learned can translate very easily. Check out my build here: Boosted LJ Build - JeepForum.com

Priorities for your Jeep:
ODPA should be changed immediately, these are known to explode at the worst times possible and usually around 60K miles.
Transmission is horrible! I strongly suggest a heavy duty auxiliary transmission cooler.
IF you are going to bigger tires you have to regear. Not just for get up and go, but also for transmission life.
Brakes suck, especially with bigger tires and tons of gear in the rig, VANCO or Black Magic is where it’s at.
Sway bar disconnects suck, get a Currie anti rock and never look back.
Savvy/Currie HD correct link steering system is amazing and worth every penny if you lift.
Do not, I repeat, do not use anything but stock diff covers, you will hit them at full droop.
Do not mess with power adders, this Jeep just isn’t the vehicle for this unless you do a full engine/trans swap.
Do not buy load range E, your Jeep fully loaded will not meet those requirements and you will have a much heavier tire than needed and a much rougher ride.

I bought the DPG off-road OME ultimate kit if I remember right(very detailed write up in the link I shared).

I absolutely loved my LJ and perhaps one day will build another. What a fun Jeep that was.729141D7-9DA3-40F9-BCD3-62120332E267.jpeg
 

Aaron Lee

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I had a pretty extensive LJ build that went a little beyond overlanding but some of my lessons learned can translate very easily. Check out my build here: Boosted LJ Build - JeepForum.com

Priorities for your Jeep:
ODPA should be changed immediately, these are known to explode at the worst times possible and usually around 60K miles.
Transmission is horrible! I strongly suggest a heavy duty auxiliary transmission cooler.
IF you are going to bigger tires you have to regear. Not just for get up and go, but also for transmission life.
Brakes suck, especially with bigger tires and tons of gear in the rig, VANCO or Black Magic is where it’s at.
Sway bar disconnects suck, get a Currie anti rock and never look back.
Savvy/Currie HD correct link steering system is amazing and worth every penny if you lift.
Do not, I repeat, do not use anything but stock diff covers, you will hit them at full droop.
Do not mess with power adders, this Jeep just isn’t the vehicle for this unless you do a full engine/trans swap.
Do not buy load range E, your Jeep fully loaded will not meet those requirements and you will have a much heavier tire than needed and a much rougher ride.

I bought the DPG off-road OME ultimate kit if I remember right(very detailed write up in the link I shared).

I absolutely loved my LJ and perhaps one day will build another. What a fun Jeep that was.View attachment 95087
I'm looking at a modified version of the DPG OME 2" Ultimate kit. I'm glad to hear that's a decent kit. I was looking over your build thread and it looks really solid. I plan on going to 32" tires, nothing larger at this time. As such, I'm going to drop the body lift for now. I will be adding a transmission cooler soon. I know these transmissions don't live long when they get warm. This LJR has 144,000miles on it and I believe the transmission is original. It was a commuter with lots of open highway miles so the wear was minimal but I need to take steps to help extend it's life as long as possible. I do plan to regear at some point but that will be dependent on how it acts with 32" tires. Good point on the OPDA. I haven't done it and don't have anyway of knowing if it was ever done. I also understand I need to look at the cam gear when I do the replacement. The dealer I bought it from did the brakes but they put the cheapest pads they could find. I'll be replacing them soon.

Thanks for all the info.
 
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Embark With Mark

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Do not, I repeat, do not use anything but stock diff covers, you will hit them at full droop.
You can run aftermarket diff covers without any issues. Almost everyone who runs there rigs off road do. I have never seen/heard of this issue with a wrangler. I have a thicker cover and a Cuirre correct link with the bigger Savvy upgrade and still have plenty of room and not once have I had it contact anything at full droop. I think you need to check your axle alignment because this is simply not an issue.
 

Embark With Mark

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I'm looking at a modified version of the DPG OME 2" Ultimate kit. I'm glad to hear that's a decent kit. I was looking over your build thread and it looks really solid. I plan on going to 32" tires, nothing larger at this time. As such, I'm going to drop the body lift for now. I will be adding a transmission cooler soon. I know these transmissions don't live long when they get warm. This LJR has 144,000miles on it and I believe the transmission is original. It was a commuter with lots of open highway miles so the wear was minimal but I need to take steps to help extend it's life as long as possible. I do plan to regear at some point but that will be dependent on how it acts with 32" tires. Good point on the OPDA. I haven't done it and don't have anyway of knowing if it was ever done. I also understand I need to look at the cam gear when I do the replacement. The dealer I bought it from did the brakes but they put the cheapest pads they could find. I'll be replacing them soon.

Thanks for all the info.
You most likely will not need to replace the Cam gear. There might be some wear on it but the likely hood that's it's enough to cause an issue is a very small chance. If it was worn enough to cause an issue, you would have an issue right now. Just replace the ODPA and you will be fine. The only time you will really need to replace the cam gear is if you drove on a bad ODPA for a length of time and this would be evident as they scream when it starts to seize.
 

Cort

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You can run aftermarket diff covers without any issues. Almost everyone who runs there rigs off road do. I have never seen/heard of this issue with a wrangler. I have a thicker cover and a Cuirre correct link with the bigger Savvy upgrade and still have plenty of room and not once have I had it contact anything at full droop. I think you need to check your axle alignment because this is simply not an issue.
This is actually well documented by many established TJ owners and is a real thing. ARB, OX, Riddlers, and solids to name a few. My ARB front cover hit with the JKS and the Currie correctlinc. Google it and find out for yourself.
 

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Aaron Lee

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You most likely will not need to replace the Cam gear. There might be some wear on it but the likely hood that's it's enough to cause an issue is a very small chance. If it was worn enough to cause an issue, you would have an issue right now. Just replace the ODPA and you will be fine. The only time you will really need to replace the cam gear is if you drove on a bad ODPA for a length of time and this would be evident as they scream when it starts to seize.
Sounds good. The only noise I hear from the engine now that I need to address is a whistle on deceleration with my foot off the throttle. Got a vacuum leak to locate. Replaced the throttle body gasket but no change. Hopefully not a cracked intake. I suspect it’s a bad intake/exhaust gasket but a little starting fluid should help me find it.
 
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