JKU suspension upgrade needed - Opinions Welcome

#1
I have a 2017 JKU it has a fairly heavy load in it with an URSA Minor J30, Fridge, and a bunch of other stuff. Looking to add even more weight, bigger rock rails, rear tire carrier with fuel caddy, maybe winch and new bumpers.
Currently, Jeep feels top heavy and it leans in corners a bit. Highway bumps, cause some bump steer or skittish behavior. Feels like the rear axle skips a bit depending on the structure of the bump I hit.
I would like to upgrade my suspension so that I have less leaning in turns and more stable behavior over bumps etc on the highway at speeds up to 80MPH. I do a lot of highway driving on my way to interesting places. I don't mind driving 55, but try that through Montana when everyone else is going 80 and its going to be dangerous. I am not a rock crawler, but like to get off paved roads as much as possible. I have a shortish wife, so a larger/better lift is not possible. I have 33" KM2s and stock Rubicon suspension today. Looking to spend less than $1500 to do this.
1st Q: What is the best choice? 2.5" lift from AEV, Airbags, Timbren active bump stops, or heavier sway bar from Hellwig?
2nd Q: Any other ideas?
3rd Q: What has worked for you?
4th Q: Am I nuts to think that there is a solution that will allow for off-road travel and safe 80MPH highway cruising?

Here are my thoughts so far to the options in Q1:
2.5" lift from AEV,
May improve handling. Springs are stiffer, better shocks. Seems like a lot of people love them. My Jeep won't fit in my garage anymore, which is ok I guess.

Airbags,
Seems low tech. Feels like there would be bounce to it and less give. Difficulty in setting both sides to the same level? It is a cheaper option which is great, but I'll admit I have a lot of questions on how these would actually work.

Timbren active bump stops,
I saw this on an add here. Seems very interesting. I don't want more bounce, but I do think if they supported some of the load that might control some of the leaning in corners and would reduce bottoming out. Curious if anyone else has tried these in similar conditions to what I intend.

Heavier sway bar from Hellwig?
This was recommended to me, and it is a cheaper option. My one fear with this is it might increase the chance of both rear wheels coming off the ground if a large bump is encountered on the highway. I can't improve the lean issue by making my highway driving more unpredictable than it already is.

Thanks in advance for any advice/opinions that you share.
 
#2
I have used the AEV 2.5 it is great but not designed to handle a ton of weight which sounds like you have. OME makes some heavy duty 2" coils that might be better for you and Tera Flex makes some out back 2.5 coils that can handle heavier weight. The AEV 3.5 is more designed to handle heavier weight. I live in Montana and 85mph is pretty common my jeep handles great at speeds of 90 on up. for what you describe I would do the AEV 3.5 it is an awesome over land style lift.
 
#3
I loved the AEV 2.5" in my 2014 JKU. It handled weight much better than stock, and improved handling overall both on and off road. However, I think you are in a different weight class with your Ursa Minor.
 
#4
Here's a reply from Chris Holt at AEV that was posted in a thread I started last year about GAWR and suspension systems:

"Just a heads up, with SEMA behind us, we displayed a new DualSport HC Suspension System that will be coming out in a couple months. This will include higher capacity springs built and tuned specifically with the overland community in mind. We don't have exact numbers to share just yet but these springs will definitely aid the people that run around 100% of the time fully loaded.

With that we also have a Bilstein 8100 shock coming out. It is a fully adjustable dual external bypass (rebound and compression adjustments), remote reservoir shock with AEV tuning and a larger diameter housing to utilize a 60mm piston. Just something to keep in mind."
 
#5
My jeep loaded with rack, RTT, fridge, camping gear, gas can, water, and a family of four worked well enough -- probably close to weight you carrying. Prior to this, I ran with stock suspension and the primary issue i had is essentially loss of ground clearance, and higher chances of hitting those bumpstops harder (not good at all). I upgraded to an AEV 2.5" and my impression is that
a) i lose about an inch, or a bit more with ground clearance fully loaded. Less of an issue with 35" tires.
b) Ride is great the road, i had no issues on the twisty mountain roads in my last trip to UT and CO (other than lacking torque!)
c) Offroad, there is quite a bit of side-to-side swaying which i feel like slows me down more than necessary (to keep my passengers sanity). My suspicion is the Bilstein shocks need a bit more rebound dampening especially with us carrying more weight at top. Either way, this is where adjustable shocks would probably benefit the most.

I haven't driven an AEV 3.5" which is stated to perform better than the 2.5", but i opted for the lower lift to fit in garage. With that said, it did the Lockhart Basin Rd no issues, other than the side-to-side swaying. Since you won't fit in the garage either way, i would think AEV 3.5" will be a better setup for the weight you carrying on your Jeep.
 
#6
I have a 2013 JKUR with a J30, fridge, Partner stove, drawers, interior rear shelf, AEV bumpers and fuel caddy and a warn winch. I started with air bags on the stock Rubi suspension. It was ok, but not great. I quickly switched to an AEV 3.5 DS suspension and it is alot better, but the rear of my Jeep sits a little lower than I would like and all of the progressive part of the springs are compressed. I have run it this way for 4 years, but I am going to put air bags back in soon. I also had more side to side motion than I wanted, so I added the Hellwig sway bar last year. It helped a lot as did moving from D rated tires to E rated tires. No worries with the heavy sway bar in terms of articulation. As MattJ just posted, AEV has new high capacity springs coming, but I understand they will only be available in the 4.5 size. That is too much lift for me. I have yet to run into anything that made me wish I had a 4.5 lift instead of my 3.5 on 315/70/17 tires.

My advice is to definitely run a beefier rear sway bar, and choose a spring that can handle the weight. In my opinion, the AEV 2.5 does not have the carrying capacity you need. If you are trying to stay around 2.5 inches of lift, you might want to check out OME HD springs. I run OME HD springs on my TJ and have been very happy with them.

You are not crazy to expect good off-road capability and safe highway travel at 80 mph. We routinely travel at that speed on Interstate highways throughout the Western US, and our Jeep is extremely capable off-road.

Enjoy your Jeep and J30 setup. We have loved ours for the 4 plus years we've had it. Below is a shot from our Mojave Road run last winter. I'm happy to chat anytime if you have questions.
DSC01054.jpg
 
#7
If you aren't dead set on AEV, I have a Metalcloak 2.5" lift on mine. It was originally the Metalcloak Overland Elite lift kit with their Rocksport shocks. It was a pretty complete lift with everything except control arms, and rear brake extension lines. (They have change things some since I bought mine)

It came with front and rear adjustable track bars, geometry correction brackets, true dual rate coil springs, front brake line extensions, front and reat adjustable bump stops, Rocksport shocks, front lower shock mount relocation brackets, longer front sway bar links, rear track bar mount axle side relocation bracket.

I have their complete skid plate system, rock rails w/flip step and exo skins. I also have the Maximus-3 stinger hoop, Maximus-3 72" Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform roof rack, Maximus-3 Spare tire carrier with hi lift jack and side rotopax along with high double rotopax mounts, winch plate, winch, factory Hard Rock steel bumpers, 50 quart ARB fridge on a Tembo Tusk fridge slide, 305/70/17 Nitto Ridge Grapplers on 17x9 Worx Beast wheels and various other items on my Jeep JKUHR.

It is a real, heavy, rig. And it still sits level. No sag at either end or either side after about a year.

The Metalcloak lift tracks dead straight at 85 mph, no flighty or washing across the road feeling. It corners flat. And I mean it really corners flat, even with the roof rack. The Rocksport shocks are tuned to the springs and ride great.

I just recently upgraded my Overland Elite lift to their Gamechanger lift by adding their Duroflex control arms and the rear brake line extensions and rear sway bar links.

It is incredible. I am in love with this Jeep now.

This is the lift I started with https://www.metalcloak.com/JK-Wrangler-Overland-Sport-Lift-Kit-RockSport-p/7147.htm
It for some reason doesn't have the rear track bar like my kit did. Not sure why they changed it up. You could probably add the rear track bar to it and still be close to your 1500 dollar budget.

Anyways, just another option to consider.









 
#9
First off, several of your comments lead me to ask what tire pressures you are running and have you considered a more AT style tire?

I'm in a nearly identical situation as you minus the J30 (would love one). I've been running the AEV 2.5" for roughly 50,000 miles and have really loved it...in a low to no added weight situation. In the last 5,000 miles I've recently started using the Jeep more for exploration and adventure...mild offroading. In full load-out I've got an ARB 50L fridge, Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform, drawer system, solar setup with Yeti 1000, Oztent RV5, along with various other items for camp setup. I'm pretty heavy aside from camp stuff, full skids, sliders, AEV rear tire carrier with 35"s, front steel bumper with winch. I've probably sagged a little over time (who hasn't) but I've never taken any true measurements. I've recently started working backwards with my suspension: swapped out the AEV tuned Bilsteins for Fox 2.0 Performance IFPs and added a Hellwig Heavy Duty Rear sway bar. I cannot recommend the Hellwig Sway Bar enough. My biggest complaint was the bobble-heading and swaying over rollers and off camber terrain. So far, it is a major improvement and one that I wish I'd done a very long time ago. So of the best money I've spent. Highly recommend the Hellwig!
I was recently told by a trusted shop that the AEV 2.5 springs weren't designed to carry all this additional weight we are adding to the JKUs. And I have to agree after years of use. In working backwards I plan to test the shock and sway bar change first...if I still need more stiffening I'm going to the OME 2.25 Heavys. Supposedly they'll net more than 3" and help my loaded rig ride smooth and level without much sway. We shall see. I'll be watching this thread.
Photo for reference:
 
#12
First off, thank you to everyone for your great answers. They were all very helpful.
I really appreciate all of the first hand experience you were able to provide.

So it sounds like the general consensus is that the AEV 2.5” lift has springs that aren’t up to the task. A 3.5 or 4.5” from AEV would be better, and the AEV 2.5” could be augmented with OME 2.25 HD springs. I’ll be honest I haven’t looked at the OME options. I will look at them now. Also The Hellwig Sway bar seems to be highly recommended.

KellyM, thanks for the opinion on the airbags. Your Jeep and top look great.

HKLover please tell me about that ladder. I’m thinking I could adapt that to my J30 with great results. It would be nice to have a second way out if the weather is nice. Also does the additional light onto of your brake light tie into the reverse light? I could definitely use more light behind the jeep.

St8ton, How do you like the Recon Rock Rails. Those are on my short list. We had the hard rock rails on our last jeep, and we loved them. Figure these would be even better as a step and from keeping the rocks from chipping all of the paint off our door hinges.

Thanks again,
Tom
 
#13
So it sounds like the general consensus is that the AEV 2.5” lift has springs that aren’t up to the task. A 3.5 or 4.5” from AEV would be better, and the AEV 2.5” could be augmented with OME 2.25 HD springs. I’ll be honest I haven’t looked at the OME options. I will look at them now. Also The Hellwig Sway bar seems to be highly recommended.

St8ton, How do you like the Recon Rock Rails. Those are on my short list. We had the hard rock rails on our last jeep, and we loved them. Figure these would be even better as a step and from keeping the rocks from chipping all of the paint off our door hinges.
The 2.5" AEV Lift is an awesome lift, I want to make sure that is understood as well...but the addition of the OME2.25" coils may be the ticket.
The Recon Rock Rails have been a good addition. Once I added my roof rack and was up and down getting things from it I realized I needed a step. These have served that purpose well. They are stout and the finish matches my bumpers. I don't do any heavy rock crawling so the protection and function they provide is great for me. I also managed to get a killer deal on them locally from someone that just bought a 2018 and wanted automatic steps.
 
#14
A good suspension setup should be solid at any speed. You carry some extra weight up high, but not enough to make a drastic difference.

There are many good lift companies out there, one that I like is Teraflex. They have the Outback Overland Suspension System LINK which is similar to the Alpine CT3 we installed on our '18 JK.
Paired with their Falcon 3.3 shocks it will give you plenty of options for ride firmness depending on how you're loaded down. LINK

Even on 37" mud tires and heavy steel wheels our '18 is solid at any speed and corners extremely well. Here's a link to that build LINK

Good luck!

 
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#15
Having an aev 2.5, i wont say it is not up to the task unless you are seriously loaded causing it to hit bumpstop, which i never experience. The 3.5 is admittedly better in terms of looks and performance on technical trails but i would say 2.5 works, and a good choice on a budget.

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