Once the camper was ready to go I switched directions and turned my focus to my Jeep. The Jeep Cheerokee is a good all around utilitarian vehicle, but it is by no means an ideal choice for pulling a 4,000 pound camper full of motorcycles around the continent. There were a few pressing issues that needed to be addressed.
Jeeps are notorious for weak suspended rear ends. They sag over time and mine was particularly sagged low due to me being a bit brutish to it over the years. After weighing options about buying different rear spring packs or scrounging used parts I ended up taking my measuring tape down to the junk yard. Mixing and matching Chevy S-10 leaf packs is a common way for off-roaders to lift their rear end a few inches. I measured up packs from a number of different vehicles and ended up snagging some from a GMC truck (blanking on the model).
Ripping out the rear suspension and stuffing the mix-matched GMC leafs into the Jeep turned out to be a real hassle. But I took my time and did a reasonable job. The GMC leafs were significantly thicker gauge steel and also bowed quite a bit more. I used several large clamps to hold everything together while putting the new u-bolts and center pin into place.
In the picture below you can see the stock Jeep rear leaf pack. And below that the MUCH beefier packs I was swapping in.
(Just to note. No, the swap was not a direct bolt in. I saved the Jeep main leaf and mounted the full GMC leafs below it.)
Doing this sort of job takes a lot of trial and error. I ended up pulling the rear end out three different times to get everything adjusted properly. Below is a photo of me sometime around 2am after lowering the Jeep for the second time and realizing it wasn’t quite right . . . . . so I jacked it back up and dug in for round three.
The end result: Before I updated the suspension the rear of the Jeep sagged to the point where the wheels practically rubbed inside the wheel wells.
Now that it’s updated the rear end sits about 3″ higher than stock even with the heavier second camper attached.
There are a few remaining problems with this setup because my rear driveshaft is now MAXED out and I get some driveline vibes under heavy load. But it can hold a tremendous load now without stressing the rear end too badly.
I also installed a large transmission cooler (I could probably use and even bigger one). If you’re going to be towing a heavy load like I am make sure to install the transmission cooler inline with the existing radiator cooler POST radiator.
The third pressing requirement was installing an electronic brake controller. Jeeps have weak brakes from the factory. Many upgrades exist, but I figured since the camper had 4 wheel brakes it ought to be enough, and that has proved accurate. The brake controller was a simple install, but it’s important to take care in routing all the wires correctly. You have to route some to the battery, some through the firewall, and some underneath the vehicle to the 6 or 7 pin trailer wiring connector in the rear.
It took me 3 or 4 days to get the Jeep ready – but once it was, I was finally ready to head out!!!
(somehow this picture was before the Jeep upgrades . . . hrm)