Just as a winch is severely limited in its capability without its accessory kit (tree strap, clevis, snatch block, etc.), a Cherokee is severely limited in its off-road capability without more ground clearance and traction-enhanced tires.
Having worked with Skyjacker suspension systems before on Jeeps and Chevy trucks (for example, see our Project Master Kee Cherokee build), we knew the Skyjacker suspension kits to be complete and well-documented. For this project (owned by the author’s grandson, Cash), we did not want the huge high long-arm lift like we installed on Master ‘Kee. We wanted a more modest lift (read: less expensive) with all-around, all-season tires that would work equally well on-road, off-road, and give a good account of themselves in the mileage department. Hence, we chose the Skyjacker JC315BKSH-R 3-inch lift kit and Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S LT265/75R16 tires, which were ideal for our 1990 Cherokee Laredo.
We don’t want to spend a great deal of time and space here on detailed instructions for the lift kit. Skyjacker does an excellent job with its instructions, and we’ll cover much of the installation in the slideshow below. However, we do want to talk more about the Geolandar tires. Cash won’t become the daily driver of Red Banjo—his name for the XJ because of its noisy remanufactured power steering pump—until 2016. At that time he’ll be driving it to high school, jobs, dates, and camping trips, so we have a little over a year to complete the XJ’s refurbishment.
When the time comes, Red Banjo will spend 90 percent of its time on pavement; therefore, we chose the Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S LT265/75R16 load range D tire. This all-terrain tire is designed for extended highway mileage, quiet road noise, all-weather traction, and better-than-average off-road capabilities. Also, to save some money and weight, we chose to use Jeep OEM aluminum wheels from my own 2005 Rubicon Unlimited. The wheels have the same lug pattern (5 x 4.5) as the Cherokee and the proper width for the LT265/75R16 tires, which have a 31.9-inch overall diameter and weigh 49.6 pounds.
The two-ply tires provide strength and promote ride comfort. The tires’ internal structure includes a polyester casing and two steel belts that are reinforced with spirally wrapped nylon for extra durability.
According to Yokohama’s documentation: “Geolandar A/T-S all-terrain tires have an aggressive design that’ll make your light truck or SUV stand tall. But the real beauty lies deeper. With features ranging from multi-stepped grooves to dual interlocking pyramid sipes, every Geolandar A/T-S packs the absolute latest in technology. Get ready to experience on-road manners and off-road attitude with our latest, greatest generation of all-terrain tires.
For most light truck and SUV owners, everyday driving is the main use of their vehicle. The design and construction of the Geolandar provides style and performance, delivering an excellent ride, great performance, and long tread life. Something called dynamic spring control stiffens the lower sidewall as the tire turns and allows the upper sidewall to flex easily over bumps on the road. This results in a comfortable ride without sacrificing steering response. Large shoulder blocks provide strength and stiffness for outstanding cornering. And grooves around the circumferential improve water evacuation while cross grooves provide more biting edges for better winter traction.
As it turned out, the overall lift provided by the Skyjacker 3-inch kit and Yokohama 32-inch tires was a shade over four inches. That’s ideal for the type of traveling and exploring Cash plans for the Red Banjo, and the complete installation wasn’t too bad either.
Check out the installation in the slideshow below.