One of the tenets of owning a truck is that you lift it at some point. You don’t just want higher visibility and added ground clearance; for off-roading, it’s a necessity, and will make a difference when the rubber meets the dirt.
MaxTrac Suspension has been in the business of lifting, lowering, and leveling trucks for a decade now, and one of the latest to enter the scene has been the Jeep JT Gladiator. Recalling the glory days of the Scrambler and Comanche, Jeep fans are jazzed about the JT, and MaxTrac’s new lift kit is a surefire way to amp up the styling and performance.
We recently saw one of these kits installed on a 2020 Gladiator owned by Joel Hernandez of Fifteen52 Wheels. The install took place at MaxTrac headquarters in Anaheim, California. Just as Joel was parking his Jeep in the shop, we were speaking with MaxTrac’s Operations Manager, Jeff Simpson. He taught us more about the kit.
The 4.5-inch lift kit (PN K949942F) consists of everything required to raise and level out a Gladiator. What’s special about this kit is that includes a set of front and rear FOX Factory shock absorbers.
“Our base Jeep Gladiator kit lifts the truck 4.5 inches up front and 2.5 inches out in the rear,” said Simpson. “It includes four coils, four shocks, four bump stop extensions, an adjustable front track bar, rear brake line brackets, and rear sway bar end links.”
On top of this, MaxTrac always takes great care (and pride) in testing its products before it hits the shelves to ensure the fitment is on point. “This kit is a very easy install that does not require any drilling, grinding, or welding,” explained Simpson. “It includes the essential components for the proper amount of lift without throwing in a bunch of unnecessary extras.”
To round out the lift, Hernandez supplied a set of his company’s own 17-inch Turbomac HD Classic Asphalt Black wheels (PN THCAB-78557-00) combined with 37-inch Toyo Open Country R/Ts (PN 350700). With the space to fit them and the intentions to turn his Gladiator into a full build, Hernandez was off to a great start.
With the Jeep off of the ground, it was time to get going. Simpson took command of the installation, starting with removing the stock wheels and tires. Since the install called for swapping out suspension components and other things, this gave him easy access to the pertinent parts.
Simpson took care of the stock sway bar end links. He then went after the brake line brackets, front driveshaft, and track bar. He also loosened the upper and lower control arms. With those tasks out of the way, the axle drooped sufficiently to remove the springs on either side. Since the new springs were an additional four inches longer than stock, Simpson needed all the droop he could get from the axle, and he got it.
Before installing the new springs, Simpson slid the provided extended-length bump stops inside and installed the assembly between the spring perches. He used a socket wrench to bolt down the bump stops and moved on to the track bar, which needed lengthening to work with the new geometry. Afterwards, he reinstalled the track bar, installed the new longer sway bar end links and FOX shocks, and buttoned the front suspension back up.
Now it was time to tinker on the rear axle. Here, Simpson removed the stock shock absorbers and sway bar end links, as well as loosened the control arms, mirroring what he did to the front axle. Now that he had enough droop, the springs came out easily.
Simpson installed the new shocks and springs. He also installed new bump stop extensions to match the increased distance of suspension travel. New, longer sway bar end links were installed, too. All that was left now were the new Toyo tires on fifteen52 wheels. These completed the job and afforded the Gladiator a brilliant new stance.
A New Look
The Gladiator now rode four inches higher and possessed a rugged presence. It looked like a totally different Jeep than the one that had arrived a few hours earlier. Hernandez was excited about its new appearance. “I’m in awe with how the Gladiator came out,” he said.
“I’m stoked about how MaxTrac’s kit has improved the Gladiator’s looks and height,” he continued. “When I bought the Gladiator, it wasn’t all that impressive just being bone stock. Now that I can see the difference in stance, it’s a whole new vehicle.”
Hernandez commented that this is just the beginning for the Gladiator’s transformation. “It’s an awesome start to this build and I’m eager to keep it going,” he said. “Eventually, the Jeep is getting a Maximus-3 safari rack, Hammerhead bumpers, Decked storage system, and more. It’s going to be a badass overlander when all is said and done.”
Now that it’s equipped with MaxTrac’s lift kit and new wheels and tires, this 2020 Gladiator is ready to do battle in off-road arenas. Be sure to visit MaxTrac’s website to find out more about their lifting and leveling kits. Also, follow MaxTrac on Facebook to stay up to speed on their latest developments.