How to install a Skyjacker 6” lift and more!
Project Silver Lining, as part of a massive makeover for SEMA, received a Skyjacker 6" suspension lift, to give it a better stance and more visible appeal, as well as to perform better off-road. At the same time, we replaced idler arm, tie rods, ball joints, and many bushings as ours were worn out from over 100,000 miles of use!
The Skyjacker 6” lift is certainly not the easiest lift I've worked on, but it's not the hardest either. It's always a good safety reminder to make sure you are working with stable equipment, and that you have some helpers, you can try to do this project by yourself but it will take you a lot longer. You should also ensure that you have the tools handy to do the job before you start, or you may be making some trips to the auto parts store. As with any job, its good to read through the instructions several times before proceeding.
Many of these steps come directly from Skyjackers installation instructions, located here: Skyjacker lift instructions. Typically when writing a how-to, I go off some vague instructions provided by the manufacturer with little or no pictures, and make it into something more readable. However, Skyjacker has done some excellent work with their instructions, with detailed photos and good step-by-step instructions. As a result, the instructions I wrote will tie in closely with Skyjackers provided instructions. However, when installing on this project vehicle, we found some differences that we've included in our instructions. There were also several steps that Skyjacker had combined into one, that really deserved their own step. We also chose to do some additional work at the time of our installation, which we've included here.
The major complication for our project was our installation vehicle has 110,000 miles on it, and many of the bolts were extremely tight and/or rusted. Because of the mileage on the vehicle, we also chose to install Moog Upper Control Arms with Moog Ball Joints, Moog lower ball joints, Moog inner and outer tie-rod ends, Moog Idler Arm, and Energy Suspensions lower control arm bushings. Because many of these components are known to be weak and fail after 100,000 miles, especially with larger tires, we decided this would be a good time to replace them, while things are being taken apart anyway. The Moog items are all greasable and known to last a lot longer then stock parts. Believe it not, they are also less expensive then the Ford OEM parts and can be purchased at most auto parts stores. Because the brake rotors were starting to warp and the pads wearing down, we also replaced the existing brakes with Wagner Thermo-Quiet rotors, calipers, and pads.
For our installation, we chose to replace the rear springs with Skyjackers 6” rear springs, for the same reason (we had over 100,000 miles on our springs were probably sagging so to ensure a good, even, long-lasting lift). If you choose the version of the lift without the replacement rear springs, the lift kit will include blocks for the rear, allowing you to raise the rear while reusing your stock springs.
The ideal environment for any suspension lift is a garage with a vehicle lift and a plethora of tools available. If you don't have this capability, you will want to have at least one good jack (lets leave the bottle jacks at home, ok boys?) and good jack stands. No whimpy jack stands, you'll want to make sure you have a good tall set of jack stands. Make sure you are working on a flat, level surface, anything else will only complicate the lift. Because some frame cross-members are removed as part of the suspension, if the frame becomes “tweaked” during install it can equal a lot of extra work to get the new cross-members installed. Some other “specialty equipment” you will need includes a torsion bar loading/unloading tool, and a transmission jack or transmission adapter for your existing jack to support the front differential when it is being dropped. If you don't have a transmission jack, its similar to a regular jack, with the exception of having a larger base, and straps to hold the transmission (or differential, in this case) to the jack for stability when raising and lowering into place. A pickle fork (for tie rods), and a press may come in handy if you are doing extra parts like we are for this project. If you are replacing ball joints, a ball joint remover/installer can be rented from most auto parts stores and will make things a lot easier, as can torsion tools and other specialty tools. If you are going to be doing a lot of work on your vehicle in the future however, just buy the tool, you'll probably need it again.
As with any other vehicle modification install, safety should be your primary concern. If you are modifying anything electrical, disconnect your battery first, and be sure to wear safety glasses to protect your vision. Even a few specks of dust can cause permanent damage to your vision, so be careful! You will also want to refrain from wearing clothing that can become snagged or caught, whenever possible. It is recommended that the vehicle be allowed to cool before proceeding with the suspension install, to prevent any burns. As always, when using power tools or hand tools, ensure you are using them according to specification, with an emphasis on safety.
If you plan on installing larger tires as part of your suspension lift you will also want to look into speedometer recalibration. Theres a few ways to do this, but perhaps the best is with a Superchip or other programmer, which can be programmed to account for the larger tire size. Failure to recalibrate will result in a speedometer and odometer that are both off.
BEFORE INSTALLING, measure and record the heights from the floor to the center of the fender above the axle, above all four tires.
- The first step is to lift the front end with your floor jack, and use jack stands along the frame to ensure the vehicle is safely off the ground. Remove the front tires, and begin with the disassembly.
- Find the torsion bar adjusting bolt, and measure/record the length of the exposed part of the bolt. This will be used later, when re-loading the torsion bar. Once recorded, remove this bolt completely.
- Following the instructions included with your unloader tool, unload the torsion bars. Keep in mind that there is a LOT of pressure in these, and unloading them improperly can be extremely dangerous. The idea of unloading in this step, is to allow removal of the torsion bar itself safely.
Unloading the torsion bar
- Once unloaded, the torsion bar may be forced forward until the torsion bar key drops loose. Because our torsion bars hadn't moved in years, it required some force to remove it. We used a large punch with a big hammer to knock it free. We used the punch through the hole in the back cross member, to force the torsion bar forward, toward the lower control arm. After moving about 3” forward, the torsion bar adjuster will drop loose. Do the same on the passenger side so the bars are still present, but the adjuster keys are removed.
Pounding the torsion bar free of the adjuster key
- Because the torsion bars have been pushed through the rear cross-member you should be able to safely remove the rear cross-member. Keep safety in mind here, as the torsion bars may drop and these are heavy, sharp at the edges, and can do a hefty amount of damage if your not watching it! If space allows, have one person holding the torsion bar while the other is removing the cross-member.
- Once the rear cross-member has been removed, the torsion bars should drop free. Even though it may be tempting to use these as baseball bats or javelins, please handle these with care. Label which torsion bar is which (passenger side/drivers side) for reinstallation, as they are just slightly different.
- Remove the front shocks by removing two nuts from under the lower control arm from each side, and removing the nut/washer from the top of the shock.
- Remove the front sway bar links. These should use 15 and 16mm sockets. Unless you are replacing the sway bar bushings with Energy Suspension bushings, set these aside for future use. The Skyjacker 6” suspension kit replaces the sway bars with longer versions, but the bushings are reinstalled later.
- The Skyjacker kit requires you remove the brakes. Because the brakes on our project vehicle were worn, we chose to replace them with Wagner calipers, rotors and pads. We disconnected the brake lines and removed the calipers, but if you aren't planning on replacing them you can simply remove the caliper brackets, and tie the caliper out of the way.
- With the caliper removed, the rotors should slide off. Because the F-150 uses a hub-centric system, the connection between the hub and the rotor may be extremely tight and rusted. Use penetrating oil and/or heat to dislodge the rotor. Certain models of F-150 may also use “clips” securing the rotor to the axle assembly by the lug nuts, and these should be removed before the rotor can be removed.
- We will literally be taking apart the whole front end to practically nothing before we can lift it, and this starts with the axles. After the rotor is removed, you can take off the main axle nut. To do so, remove the cotter pin from the axle shaft, in the center of the hub. This will allow for removal of the nut cover.
Removing cotter pin from axle nut
- Remove the axle nut. This uses a 1 7/16” socket, and will best be removed with a high-pressure impact wrench. On our project, this nut was extremely tight, and removing it required blocking the axle from moving (using a pry-bar across the lug-nuts to keep them from rotating) and loosening with a breaker bar with a pipe attached for additional leverage.
- The six nuts holding the CV Joints in should now be removed. These use a 12-point, 12mm socket, which isn't included in most socket sets, but Ford uses this particular socket for not only the CV Joints but also u-joints. Failure to use the proper socket may result in stripping and a much more lengthly extraction process. Because our CV joint had so many miles on it, these bolts were extremely difficult to remove. Again we had to block the axle from spinning by using a pry-bar across the lug nuts, and each bolt took a great amount of penetrating oil and heat before they would be removed. It is a good idea to mark the joint connection before completely disconnecting, so it can be re-aligned properly. If you suspect your CV joints are becoming worn, this would be a good time to replace them as well. Because most of the cost of doing CV Joints is labor, you can replace them while doing the lift with no additional labor required.
Loosening CV joint bolts, while keeping axle from spinning with prybar
- Remove the cotter pin holding the castle nut for the tie rod on, and remove the castle nut. The castle nut should use a 21mm nut.
- To remove the tie rod end itself, press the pickle fork between the steering linkage and the tie rod and use the pickle fork to separate the two. If you are re-using your tie rods, use extreme caution to not damage the bushings or the tie-rods themselves. You may be able to pound underneath the tie rod on the connecting bolt to dislodge it, but this will most certainly damage the tie rod, so only use this method if you are installing new tie-rod ends.
Removing tie rod from steering linkage
- Locate the ABS line, and disconnect it from the frame and the bearing knuckle.
- Disconnect the upper and lower ball joints. The pickle fork will make this much easier and will allow for safer disconnection. Because we replaced the stock ball joints with Moog greaseable ball-joints, we didn't have to use the same level of protection, but its still a good idea to remove damage if possible. Once disconnected, remove the steering knuckle.
- Removing the steering knuckle should be an easy task. This was one of the complications of our project, because to loosen the axle shaft from the steering knuckle required a great amount of brute force and the use of a gear puller that we attached to the lugs, while forcing the axle shaft though.
Removing the axle shaft from the steering knuckle, which in our case required a puller tool
- The upper a-arm can remain in place if you are reusing. Since we replaced the upper a-arm with the Moog greasable ball joint/a-arm, we removed it and installed the Moog at this time.
Replacing the stock upper a-arm with Moog greasable upper a-arm
- With the steering knuckle apart from the vehicle, remove the bearing assembly from the knuckle. You will want to remove the inner seal. The steering knuckle is replaced with a Skyjacker unit, but the bearing assemble is re-used. If you sense any wobbling or difficulty with 4-wheel drive in your vehicle before the lift this can be a good time to replace the bearing/hub assembly, but be advised, this will be pricy so if you don't have to replace it, don't!
Removing bearing assembly from factory knuckle
Factory vs. Skyjacker steering knuckles
- The lower A-Arms should now be removed by disconnecting the bolts attaching it to the frame, then removing the A-Arm. Because we replaced the ball joints as well as the lower a-arm bushings, we took this opportunity to perform the A-Arm maintenance.
Removing the lower a-arm
- Using a press, we pushed out the old used bushings. If a press is unavailable, a vise with some large sockets can also be used to push it through. A smaller inner socket could be used to push it through and a larger socket used to 'catch” the bushing.
- After greasing the Energy Suspension bushing, we installed the new bushings using a bolt technique. We found a long bolt, and used a method of tightening the bolt to suck the bushing into the lower a-arm.
Installing the Energy Suspension A-arm bushings - tightening the bolt installs the bushing!
- Using a ball-joint removal and installation tool (similar to a c-clamp with large rings on the clamp arms) we pressed out the stock ball joint, and pressed in the Moog aftermarket ball joint. These ball joints were extremely tight and without the removal tool, would have required a lot of force to remove.
- Mark the mount points of the front drive shaft to the front differential and disconnect the driveshaft. These bolts are the same as the CV joint, 12-point 12mm bolts. Failure to use the proper socket can result in stripping and a much more lengthly extraction process. This would also be a good time to replace the U-joints if you haven't done so. Moog makes greasable u-joints which will last much longer than factory, non-serviceable u-joints. You don't have to disconnect the drive shaft completely, but it should be tied out of the way.
Removing the front driveshaft connection
- Remove the actuator cover from the front differential. Actuator lines, etc. should also be disconnected.
- Using the transmission jack, support the front differential. If possible, attach straps from the transmission jack to the differential, to ensure it won't be knocked over. Dropping a differential can potentially damage not only the differential exterior but also the internal bearings and components, so use caution! Remove the bolts holding the front differential, and remove the differential. If you are planning on re-gearing your vehicle, this is the perfect opportunity to re-gear the front, since you can take it wherever needed, and its already apart.
Front differential resting on transmission jack, after removal from vehicle
- The Skyjacker front cross-member should now be installed, into the lower a-arm mounting holes on the frame. Use the provided 5/8x6 fine-thread bolts, nuts, and washers in the upper holes. At this point, simply finger tighten, but do not torque. Tightening these connections can greatly affect aligning of the torsion bars and differential, so allowing some “wiggle” space is required.
Installing the Skyjacker front cross-member
- Install the Skyjacker rear cross-member into the lower a-arm mounting holes on the frame. Install using 5/8x6 fine-thread bolts. Be sure to not disconnect the factory rear cross-member until the Skyjacker rear cross-member has been put into place, otherwise this can lead to a tweak in the frame that can make it very difficult to install the Skyjacker cross-member. Once the Skyjacker rear cross-member is installed, the factory rear cross-member can be removed. For our vehicle, the rear cross-member actually had to be torched off, as it didn't connect with bolts as suggested in Skyjackers instructions.
Installing the Skyjacker rear cross-member
- Once both cross-members are in place, attach the front differential to the two cross-members using the factory nuts and bolts.
- Attach passenger side differential bracket using the factory bolt at the bottom, and 7/16x4 fine thread nuts, bolts, and washers in the upper hole.
Reinstalling front differential
- Attach the bracket to the lower control arm mount on the frame using 1/2x1 ½ washers and lock nut.
- Reconnect the front driveshaft to the differential, ensuring the marking points you made earlier line up again. This is a good time to replace the U-joints if you plan on doing so (we would have, but mine were just replaced about 20,000 miles ago).
- Install the lower A-arms to the new cross member using 5/8x6 fine-thread bolts, washers and lock nuts.
- Remove the bump stop from the lower a-arm and reattach it to the rear cross-member.
- Install the factory seal into the Skyjacker heavy-duty steering knuckle. To avoid damage to the seal, it is recommended to place a wood block over the seal and hammer it in, rather then hammering directly on the hammer.
Installing factory seal into Skyjacker steering knuckle
- Attach the hub/bearing assembly to the new steering knuckle. The dust shield does not get re-used. It is recommended to use thread lock on the bolts, as these will hopefully hold for the rest of your vehicles life (unless CV's etc. need to be replaced again).
- Attach the steering knuckle to the upper and lower ball joints.
- Move the ABS clip to the hole on the knuckle, using the provided bolt.
Relocating ABS clip to Skyjacker knuckle
- While everything is apart, this is a good time to install the Moog idler arm. The idler arm connects to the frame on the passenger side and is a major steering component. The old idler arm is held in place by two bolts connecting it to the frame, and one bolt attaching it to the steering components. After replacing the idler arm, we greased the zerks provided. It's a good idea to re-grease these zerks at each oil change, to ensure they last a lifetime.
- Reinstall the passenger side CV Joint using factory hardware.
- Use provided CV joint spacer on the drivers side to reattach the CV joint. Failure to use the spacer will result in improper steering alignment and steering/wear issues. Be sure the male end of the spacer is closer to the differential. Install with thread locking compound, using the 12x65mm provided bolts.
CV Spacer, shown installed
- Disconnect the brake line bracket located on the frame rail behind the steering knuckle. Install the new Skyjacker brake line bracket. Attach upper hole using the factory bolt. Line the middle hole in the bracket up with the lower hole that is already in the frame. Drill the hole to 9/32 and install the 3/8x1 thread cutter bolt. Attach the brake line to the new Skyjacker bracket using the 5/16 x 1 coarse thread bolt, washers, and nuts.
The new brake bracket in place
- We now begin reassembling many of the steering components and starting to make the suspension lift “complete”. The first step is to reinstall the brake rotors and calipers using the factory hardware. Because we are replacing many of the braking components, we used the Wagner Thermo-Quiet calipers and pads. These calipers use the stock mounting points and brake line holes so no further modifications are required.
- Reinstall the outer tie rods. We are using Moog tie rods, so we chose to install them at this point. Once tightened down, install cotter pins to ensure the nuts won't work themselves loose. This is a good time to install the zerks into the Moog tie rod ends, and grease them properly. Even though the instructions don't call for it, we also replaced the inner tie rods with Moog tie rods. It's a good idea to regrease these zerks at each oil change, to ensure they last a lifetime. They are not maintenance free, as Ford OEM tie rods are, but they will also last a lot longer.
- For many models (including mine) the tie rods had to be modified in order to work properly. In their standard form, they are too long and they bottom out before they can be adjusted properly. To resolve this, install the nut and tighten it all the way to the last part of the threads. Starting from the beginning of the threads, measure 3/8” and mark the tie rod. This can be cut with a die grinder, sawzall, dremel, etc. The reason the nut should be installed first, is so when you remove the nut it will “re-thread” any of the damaged threads on the tie-rod. The drivers and passenger side should have the exact same amount removed from the tie rod.
Measuring tie-rod end 3/8" to remove from end of threads
- Install new Skyjacker Extended Links. Install new link using the factory bushings and the 3/8 x 14 coarse thread bolt. Be sure to place a 1/2 SAE washer between the extension tube and the inside bushing.
Skyjacker extended link attached to factory sway bar
- Install the new Skyjacker shocks into the factory holes on the bottom.
- Install the torsion bar drop-down brackets into the factory holes on the frame rail. Use 5/8x1 ½” fine thread bolts on the under-side middle, and 1/2x1 ½” fine thread bolts on the under-side front and rear. Tighten these bolts.
Underside bolts of Torsion bar bracket
- For the outside torsion bar drop-down bracket holes, drill 15/32” holes, and install 7/16x1 ½ fine thread bolts.
- Attach the drop-down bracket cross-member, and then install the other side torsion bar drop-down bracket using the same technique.
Torsion bar bracket installation complete
- Install torsion bars into new brackets.
Reinstalled torsion bar
- Reinstall the tires, and let the vehicle down from the jack stands, to rest on its own weight.
- Re-tighten everything, including differential covers, all bolts that were previously only finger-tightened, etc. This is a good time to have another friend double-check all your bolts, often a bolt will get overlooked by one person, but not by two. Any looseness can cause substantial problems down the road.
- Attach the skid plate to the front and rear cross-member using 3/8x1 ¼” bolts, washers, and self-locking nuts, but don't tighten.
- Attach skid plate to rear cross member and side braces using 3/8x1” bolts, washers, and self-locking nuts. Once all bolts have found there holes and are finger-tightened, tighten them completely.
Attaching skid plate to cross-members
- In the holes where the skid plate meets the frame, drill three 5/16” holes and install the self-tapping bolts.
The front is now complete, and you will begin working on the rear. Don't worry, 95% of the lift is the front, the rear is relatively easy. For our installation, we replaced the rear springs with the Skyjacker 6” springs, the other option is to install a block to raise the stock springs up to even the height of the vehicle.
Skidplate in final position, with frame holes drilled and bolted
- Raise the rear of the vehicle and support it with jack stands under the frame.
- Remove the factory shocks. The top bolt is a little tricky as you have to have one wrench to keep the shock from spinning, and one to loosen the bolt.
- Remove the factory u-bolts. If you are using a vehicle lift to work on your vehicle, ensure something is supporting the rear axle as it will drop otherwise.
- Remove the rear springs bolts, and remove the spring.
- Place the new Skyjacker springs into place. Because of the new arch of the shocks, we had to lower the axle/raise the truck a bit to allow it to fit. Be sure the thickest degree shim is installed toward the rear.
- Reusing the factory block and bolts, install the spring. You may have to rotate the axle, as it may have shifted slightly when it wasn't hooked up to anything. Don't tight spring bolts just yet.
- Install Skyjacker replacement u-bolts with provided lock nuts.
Rear springs in place, u-bolts attached
- Once all spring bolts are in place and u-bolts installed, torque down all the nuts.
Your lift is now complete! You should be good to get an alignment to factory specs, and drive your vehicle away! In some situations, such as mine, camber adjusters are required if your camber is out of spec after the lift.
To accompany the lift, we installed some Centerline Falcon 17x9 wheels and BF Goodrich 315-70/17 tires. These can be acquired off Hummer H2's, which is how I ended up with mine. Because of the change in tire size, the speedometer required correction, which was done with the help of a custom-programmed superchip.
We also had to re-aim the headlights. Because our project vehicle has Sylvania HID's installed, this was slightly easier to do (HID's leave a definite line against anything and are very easy to align because of their brightness).
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