We get asked this question all the time and we continually have to educate our customers on why we will not touch a Rough Country lift kit or install parts by this company.
No, we do not have a personal vendetta against Rough Country. They have been around probably longer than any other lift kit manufacturer but they use questionable practices in their Jeep suspension geometry which we'll cover below in a minute. We have also seen numerous quality control issues with their parts such as shocks failing, coil springs sagging and unsafe welds that were not fully welded but somehow made it through the Quality Control process then powder coated anyway!
It's worth noting that we've replaced more failed parts from this brand than any other. In fact, customers have shown up at our shop with failing or broken dropped pitman arms, failing or cracked raised track bar brackets, worn out control arms, blown shocks, sagging springs and more which cause the Jeep to operate in an unsafe manner. On more than one occasion our team declined to perform a road test on some of these Jeeps simply due to how unsafe they were when they arrived at our shop for an inspection.
Let's start off with one of our biggest gripes about their Jeep JK lift kits, the dropped pitman arm and raised track bar brackets. Rough Country includes a new dropped pitman arm and a raised track bar bracket for the front axle with their 3.5" JK lift kits. The problem is that the pitman arm and the track bar see a great deal of force which causes the bolts securing these two components to work their way loose over time.
One may argue "You should properly maintain your lift kit in order for it to give you years of use..." but for someone with no mechanical experience or aptitude, this could seem pretty daunting. (Our lift kits from MetalCloak, TeraFlex and Evo Mfg that we install require little to no maintenance for the end user.) Because of the added leverage a dropped pitman presents to the sector shaft of the steering gearbox, the nut that secures the pitman arm often works itself loose over time (even when using red Loctite to secure it) causing unsafe steering or loose steering characteristics. We have had customers arrive at the shop with the pitman arm nearly hanging on only by a few threads. Meaning if the nut had fallen off on the way to the shop, the Jeep would have lost total steering controls and a serious crash would have happened injuring or killing the driver and others in oncoming traffic.
Above is an actual video from our shop showing the excessive movement in the Rough Country Jeep JK pitman arm. The pitman arm is worn, the nut has started to back off and created a steering "wander" in the front of this Jeep JKU.
Why Does Rough Country Use Dropped Pitman Arms?
When you're talking about steering geometry in a Jeep, you want the drag link and the track bar to be as parallel as possible so that they operate on the same arc throughout the movement of the suspension to prevent "bump-steer" while driving. Raising the track bar with a raised track bar bracket and aligning the drag link using a
dropped pitman arm is their solution to this. The problem is the amount of force that the pitman arm sees causes the larger pitman arm to add additional leverage to the sector shaft which eventually works the large sector shaft nut loose. It's absolutely unnecessary and not needed since you can use an OEM pitman arm with a stock track bar location for kits up to 3.5" on a Jeep JK or JKU. Anything over 4.5" would require a High Steer setup which is beyond the scope of this blog post.
To Raise the Track Bar Bracket or Not?
Another reason why we don't favor Rough Country lift kits is because they use a bolt-on, raised track bar bracket in conjunction with their dropped pitman arm. If having a major component of the steering system come loose inadvertently such as the pitman arm isn't enough of a reason, they also have issues with their raised track bar brackets coming loose causing death wobble.
We are firm believers that you DO NOT use bolt-on front track bar brackets because that's the fastest way to introduce death wobble into a Jeep's steering system. Bolt-on components do have the tendency to work themselves loose over time and will cause major issues with the steering of a Jeep over time.
We prefer to WELD ON track bar brackets due to the amount of force that a track bar sees during steering. For kits up to 3.5" we will use an Artec JK4407 OEM height, HD track bar bracket if we have to replace the stock track bar mounting location due to a wallowed out bolt hole or other issues. If the OEM bracket is in good condition, we'll use that bracket to install the lift kit with an adjustable track bar to center the axle.
If we're performing a high steer conversion on a Jeep JK or JL that has a lift height of 4.5" or greater, then we'll use an Artec JK4406 Raised HD track bar bracket that
gets welded on. The reason why we prefer a weld-on bracket vs. bolt-on bracket is simple.
Weld on brackets stay put and will not work themselves loose over time so its one less item that can introduce death wobble into a Jeep's steering system. We like to do it right, not do it twice.
Dual Steering Stabilizers - Are they Worth It?
The short answer is NO. Dual steering stabilizers add complexity to the Jeep's steering system with additional brackets and two stabilizers which do absolutely nothing to cure death wobble or steering issues on a Jeep. In fact, if your Jeep is setup correctly with enough caster in the front end alignment, none of the bolt holes are wallowed out for your rod ends, pitman arm or track bar the Jeep will drive perfectly normal without a steering stabilizer in the mix. These dual steering stabilizers are gimmicks and simply aren't worth the scrap metal they are made of.
The video above shows the bushing failing in Rough Country steering stabilizer. In fact the customer has had the stabilizer on his Jeep for less than a year and the bushings are already failing. You be the judge, here.
Do You Even Quality Control, Bro?
We're not sure who works in the QC department of Rough Country but we've seen our fair share of quality control issues with their components. From failing bushing to components not being fully welded (extremely unsafe) we've seen it all. Below is an example of a failing bushing on a Rough Country
control arm on a Jeep. Now the control arm is rubbing the frame of the Jeep causing a metal on metal scraping noise as well as a loud clunk noise each time the Jeep accelerates.
Here is another example of a Rough Country control arm that went through the QC process but obviously should have failed. These are A arms for a pickup truck lift kit which the shop declined to install due to the poor quality and workmanship of the product.
So as you can clearly see there are many issues with the quality of these components. We choose not to install parts which are clearly going to fail sooner than later. It's our shop's goal to provide years of enjoyment out of your investment by using quality parts out of the gate from manufacturers with a proven track record of not only withstanding the abuse of off road use but also having higher standards for quality in the production of their parts.
We firmly stand behind our work and the products we install so if you're looking to build your Jeep with parts that are going to last a long time and provide you with years of use without issue, contact us today. We'd be happy to build you an estimate for work with one of the leading brands that we carry here at our shop. Feel free to send us an Estimate Request or give us a call at 703-468-1750.