Step one is to safely support the Cherokee on jack stands. All the suspension components are removed from both ends. We have already removed the door handles, mirrors, grille, and other trim in preparation for new paint.

This Dana 35 rear differential and the Dana 30 front axle will be cleaned and painted before we reinstall them. We will also strengthen them with axle tube trusses before we hit the trails.

The Skyjacker six inch lift kit comes with everything you need to get a Cherokee up in the air: rear leaf springs, front coil springs and control arms, four Hydro 7000 multi-valved shocks, brake line extensions, and all necessary brackets and hardware. It’s not a complicated installation—just take your time and follow Skyjacker’s instructions.

Since six inches of lift will drastically alter the rear driveshaft angle, we also installed Skyjacker short shaft fixed yoke kit into the NP231 transfer case to keep driveshaft angle closer to stock and prevent drivetrain binding. The kit includes a 1310 series constant velocity U-joint, a cast tail-housing, main output shaft, rear seal, bearing, and speedometer gear.

A Skyjacker Softride rear leaf spring is ready for installation. Made from American-produced steel the progressive-rate multi-leaf springs provide good off-road handling without being too stiff for a smooth ride on the street. Their GVW rating and load-carrying capacity will be equal to or greater than the OE springs, too. These springs and a set of Hydro 7000 shocks are all that are needed to lift the Cherokee’s rear.

Rebuilt and painted, the Dana 35 is ready to reinstall in the Cherokee. You can see the gear and axle shaft rehab we did to this and the Dana 30 front axle in Part One of Big Blue Cherokee.

This is what gets you six inches of lift up front. The Skyjacker Softride coil spring is much taller than the OEM spring. Made from 5160H chromium alloy steel, the springs are preset to enhance strength and extend their life, then powdercoated to resist corrosion.

The front subframe bolts to the original lower arm control arm mount. The new upper and lower control arms bolt to the subframe.

The kit’s extended Pitman arm bolts to the factory steering box.

The Skyjacker coil springs are fitted and the Dana 30 is reinstalled. A new extended braided steel brake line and new Hydro 7000 shocks go on at this point too. In the photo, we are sliding in the new G2 Axle and Gear axle shafts as outlined in Part One of this series.

Since we rebuilt the entire differential, we also added new Moog unit bearings and freshened the brakes with Auto Extra rotors, Centric calipers, and Bendix pads.

With all of the brake lines are attached, it’s time to bleed the brake system.

We used adapters to change the Cherokee’s lug pattern to match the 5 x 5.5 lug pattern of the new wheels.

The massive 35 x 12.5-15 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires have a wraparound tread pattern with extra lugs molded along the sidewall to enhance traction in deep mud, snow, and rocks. The Dupont KEVLAR®-reinforced sidewalls are 35% more puncture-resistant, The tires’ asymmetric tread offers aggressive off-road traction, but maintains excellent handling characteristics for on-road driving. Even with the 6-inch lift, we’re going to need to trim away some body metal to allow free movement of the rear tires. The wheels are Raceline Monster RT233s with a black beadlock.

The front fenders will need to be trimmed as well to allow full steering movement.

Too much toe-out, you think? Actually, we just have to install the rest of the steering assembly and do a full four-wheel alignment.

In this episode of our Big Blue Cherokee series, our recycled 1989 XJ Cherokee (soon to be a superior trail rig) becomes a roller thanks to a new Skyjacker six inch lift kit, new front brakes, and a set of Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires.

The goal of this project is to turn the Cherokee into a four-wheeler that can run most any off-road event, ease over any trail this side of the Hammers, and comfortably prerun any off-road race. The experts at Rock Lizard 4×4 in Kingman, AZ performed all of the work.

Big Blue XJ Cherokee (Part One) dealt with upgrading the Dana 30 front and Dana 35 rear axle assemblies with new 4.56 ring and pinion sets, axle shafts, and differentials. In Part Three, Big Blue will get a custom roll cage, Bestop seats and a Garvin Wilderness roof rack. In the meantime, check out our Cherokee’s new underpinnings and rollers.

Parts List

Skyjacker 6 inch Lift Kit for 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ

Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Tires

Moog Front Wheel Bearing and Hub Assembly

Auto Extra Front Brake Rotors (2 used)

Centric Brake Caliper, Passenger Side

Centric Brake Caliper, Driver Side

Bendix TitaniuMetallic II Brake Pads

Author: Jim Brightly

A former editor of Truckin’ and Trailer Life magazines, and tech editor of Four Wheeler, Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road, and Family Motor Coaching magazines, Jim Brightly is now a semi-retired photojournalist living, writing, and wheeling in northern Arizona. He’s been building and wheeling Jeeps for more than fifty years.