This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue.
Here’s something we typically don’t cover much in our magazine, as our focus is much more on Ford, Chevy/GMC and RAM diesel pickup trucks. However, we figured we’d break away from tradition for a little bit and experiment with a new type of content in our publication by covering the install of a Metalcloak 3.5-inch Game Changer suspension on this new 3.0L EcoDiesel Jeep Gladiator, owned by Alan Nickell of Idaho Falls, Idaho, who owns the Vision Collision repair shop.
The suspension on Alan’s Jeep is Metalcloak’s top-of-the-line kit, featuring patented technology not available anywhere else that truly gives the premium off-road performance he deserves. The innovative kit was installed by technician Jordan Johnson at PowerTech Diesel in Idaho Falls with some help from Alan himself as well as other technicians in the shop.
Step 1: Preparation
Jordan unboxed all the suspension components that were to be installed on Alan’s Jeep, laying them out on a rug behind the vehicle. After doing that, he unhooked the four-wheel-drive (4WD) actuators on the front axle and lifted the vehicle up. He then removed the wheels and unbolted the brake line brackets on the frame in preparation for the suspension work.
Step 2: Install New Radius Arms
Jordan then removed several of the front suspension components, including the passenger side shock, the front sway bar end links, the track bar, and the passenger side upper and lower radius arms. The driveshaft was also disconnected from the differential.
Unfortunately, the EcoDiesel’s diesel particulate filter (DPF) got in the way of the upper bolt on the upper radius arm, so the arm proved to be a challenge to pull off. However, after meddling with the DPF’s mounting bolts and figuring out a way to force it enough with a pry bar, the bolt finally came out of the hole and the arm came off. With both arms off, Jordan put the new replacements in place after measuring them. With help from technician Travis Prouse, he pushed the front axle forward to get the new lower arm in place to insert the bolt. With those in place, he removed the old coil spring and reinstalled the shock to temporarily hold the axle in place. The radius arm installation process was repeated for the driver side, and the DPF mounting bolts reinstalled.
Step 3: Install New Shock Extensions
When Jordan got his hands on axle jack stands, he let the axle sit on them and removed the shocks again before proceeding with the rest of the install so he could bolt in the new shock extensions for lifting the Jeep. Alan then drilled holes in the extensions and into the vehicle frame so they could be better secured with additional bolts. He subsequently put in the bolts. While he did that, Jordan drilled holes in the bump stop bottom mounts and installed the bump stops.
Step 4: Install New Coil Springs
With a new large jack stand in place under the differential, Jordan lowered the front axle and removed the breather tube in preparing to install the new coil springs. He then pushed in the new springs and reinstalled the shocks by first bolting them into the extensions on the top and then bolting the bottoms to the bottom brackets.
Jordan hooked in the new sway bar end links while Alan tightened up loose nuts and bolts around the front end. “Remember to mark the nuts and bolts with red ink,” Alan says. “It’s to show if anything is loose.”
Step 5: Finish Front End
The only component left to replace on the front end was the driveshaft, so Alan unbolted and removed the old one, and Jordan came to install the new one after making measurements. The transfer case end yoke slid into the shaft snug with a rubber seal. The front end was now mostly done, except for some touchup work. Alan pried off the old lower brake line brackets from the brake lines, leaving the lines free-hanging there.
He left the stock upper brake line brackets on and reinstalled those. The front end side of the suspension was now complete.
Step 6: Replace Rear End Components
In starting work on the rear end, Jordan and Alan removed the old sway bar end links, replacing them with the new ones. The technicians then put the rear differential on a jack stand so they could remove the shocks, lower radius arms and coil springs. Upon installing new coil springs, Alan removed the brake calipers on both sides to get them out of the way for the other new suspension components. The technicians then bolted in the new radius arms for the driver side and repeated the same process for the passenger side. Jordan tightened up the bolts while Alan marked them with red ink.
Step 7: Install Rear Lift Brackets And Bump Stops
Alan drilled holes in the bottom bump stop plate on the driver side for the new bump stops while Jordan installed the shock lift brackets for both sides. With those in place, Jordan reinstalled the shocks and the sway bar along with the end links (with the respective bolts being replaced with new ones). After tightening the shock bolts, the wheels were put back on and the Jeep was lowered to the ground. The track bars were ready to be installed, so the technicians started with the front one and then installed the rear one.
Step 8: Finishing Up
All components were now virtually in place, except now the front bump stops needed to have two shims removed from each side, now that Jordan and Alan had a better idea of the ride height. Thus, they lifted up the front end and removed the shims. They lowered it back to the ground; Alan tightened the jamnuts on the track bars along with the bolts on the brake calipers. “I just remembered to get those,” he says. “It’d be a big disaster if you lose those on the road!” After Jordan simultaneously finished the bump stops, the installation was complete.