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Brian1's Suspension Upgrades


Elite Explorer
February 2, 2000
Reaction score
City, State
Albuquerque, NM
Year, Model & Trim Level
1991 XLT
For over 8 years now I have been running a Skyjacker 2" lift kit. During this period of time I have replaced too many radius arm bushings since the kit does not have radius arm drop brackets and they wear out rather fast. My current bushings were getting worn and I wanted to do something different. Last summer I scored a set of 4 new Trail Gear Creeper Joints off Ebay for basically the price of 1. Since then I have given alot of thought on how to proceed and done research of whats out there and what has been done for extended radius arms. So I planned to build new radius arms with frame brackets and a new transmission cross member, graft F250 shock towers onto my coil buckets, build new front sway bar links and add shackles or rebuild my rear leaf packs (or both!) to gain some height that has disappeared over the years. I spread the work out into a few phases at a time. On to the work-

PHASE 1 Building the frame brackets

I liked the looks of the Camburg kit so mine is loosely based off of it. I drew up my brackets in Solidworks which mount using the factory bolt holes of the transmission cross member and tuck up as high as possible. Using a CNC plasma cutter I cut the pieces out of 1/4" steel


I used a press brake to bend the plate to form the top and side and then welded it up


Welding time


Checking fit on the frame


Tbars gave me some good advice on drilling the frame using step bits and they worked awesome!


Brackets with the transmission cross member tabs welded on and all painted up


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PHASE 2 - Transmission Crossmember

I had planned on a simple tube and tab crossmember but discovered it would not allow easy access to my trans. mount bolts so I drew up in Solidworks a little more elaborate crossmember using 1/8" steel sheet and cut it out on the cnc plasma.

It uses solid steel bushings on the ends and will be open from the bottom to access the trans. bolts. Here it is towards the beginning of being built:






and installed:



The bottom of the crossmember is above the bottom of the t-case skidplate so ground clearence was not affected too badly. The nuts are easy to install on the trans mount as well.

PHASE 3 - Radius Arms

Some time ago I picked up some beams with diff and radius arms from a 95 Ranger on Craigslist for $20 :thumbsup: I used these beams as my mock up beams while I drove my Explorer around.

Cereal box fabrication :D


I transferred the dimensions again to Solidworks and then cut it on the CNC out of 1/4" plate


I got the plate work welded together and then put the Explorer on jack stands to fit the 2"x.25 wall DOM tube. Tacking everything in place


New arms ready to be welded together next to the old junk


I used some 2"x6"x3/16" rectangular tube for the gussets and got the 1.25" thread weld in bungs from Ruffstuff Specialties. fully welded and ready to put back on


Shock mounts will come later...

PHASE 4 - F250 Shock Towers

I bought the F250 shock towers and some used coil buckets from Jon with intentions of doing this mod at some point in the future and then transferring the buckets when I had an opportunity. Well the new beefy arms didn't want any part of the stock shocks so new upper shock mounts were in order. I guess it was as good as time as any while the Explorer was up on jack stands with the coils removed.

Coil buckets cut off. FYI - the rubber bump stops are bolted to the bucket itself and not through the frame. I used a grinder and air chisel/hammer to remove the rivets.


I used a laser level that projects a straight line and traced my cut mark onto the buckets.


I cut the buckets with a porta-band saw and then finished the job with a vertical bandsaw since the throat depth of the porta-band maxes out about 2/3 of the way though the cut.

Mock up of the 2 pieces with an old shock. I went conservative compared to others on here. The upper hole in the shock mount I aligned with the lower rivet hole in the frame. I did have to slot it over a 1/2 hole on the mill to line it up with the hole in the frame. The center of the shock eye is about 3.75" above the top of rim around the coil bucket. It just barely hits my inner fender and I do have a 1" body lift.


There was a slight gap I had to fill so for a trick I used a small diameter steel rod to fill it and then weld over. After laying some good weld beads down you never knew there was a gap.


Welded up


I got them painted nice and then uncooperative brake lines resulted in a messed up paint job :( Oh well

I bolted them back on the frame using 7/16" grade 8 bolts. I did not use 1 of the rivet holes on each side as I think it should be plenty strong. The angle of the shock mount would have required a wierd mounting of the bolt so I just left it alone.

...Glad to be of some help...:salute:

...Since I'm away from home and can't work on my trucks, this will let me make it thru the fabrication withdrawals I'm going thru..:biggthump

looks great and well thought out

You and your fancy CNC! :cool: That is coming out sick!

The above brings me to where I currently am. I did get a shock mount on the radius arm. I wound up using a stud mount that came with my Rancho 9000s I bought for my Jeep along time ago. I was going to use tabs but after cycling the beams up and down it resulted in a bad shock bind.

I also had to modify my brake line as it hit my shocks. I took the porta-band (set on precision mode :p:) to the banjo fitting while still attached to the caliper to "trim the fat" and then rotated the block 90 degrees. There is not alot of room but just enough!

Dont know what shocks to go with. I wanted Bilstein 5150s but there will be no room for the reservoir. Im thinking now about the Bilstein 5100s. Any suggestions? I can fit a 10" travel shock. I had been using Rancho 5000s and I know there is better out there.

Maybe. I run the 9000s on my rock crawler but never adjust them so I am leaning towards something that is an all around shock that doesnt have any settings. Im looking for something that will be good for bombing over washboarded fire roads, sandy canyons and rocky shelf roads. I think anything with a remote reservoir is out or the tire might eat the hose for lunch. Also hope to stay under $120 a shock.

Awesome everyone is gonna hit you up for a lift kit:p:

You and your fancy CNC! :cool: That is coming out sick!

Thanks Section! Not a fancy CNC, just a normal one. It needs a water table bad, Im tired of all the smoke it makes. Once I build a water table then it might be fancy. I think Section525s fab shop needs one :thumbsup:

Awesome description... Looks great...
However, you wouldn't happen to be willing to share the dxf files of your build would you. I use ProE otherwise I'd ask for the solid work files... I run a cnc water jet machining center on a daily basis and it would sure be nice to use these files and duplicate your build... I would really appreciate it but at the same time I understand how much hard work it took to do this...

Finished and installed coil buckets with new F250 shock towers


Put on the J-hooks sourced from a F150 in the junkyard


Lower shock mount on the arm. Nothing fancy and far from what I had planned but it works good and was simple.


Just test drove it to run some errands and it works good. Took it over some large speed bumps going fast and the front end wasnt as harsh as it had been before. A little more tire rub at full turn than I wanted but I will deal with it. The old arms rubbed as well.


sign me up for a set of r.a.'s and the crossmember would go great on my ranger!!!

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