Project Sahara: 3″ Black Diamond Lift Kit Install

Lifted Jeep Sahara Lifted Jeep Sahara

Here is my write up on installing a Warn Black Diamond 3″ lift kit on my 1998 TJ: (As performed by a friend (Dustin) and Myself.


This was done in my garage with your ordinary toolbox tools. Tools that are a good idea to have around when doing the lift:

  • 3/4 inch of metric and SAE sockets
  • good set of box end wrenches (metric & SAE)
  • Pitman arm puller (rented from Pep Boys)
  • 3lb mallet to beat the pickle fork (great for separating pitman arm)
  • Pickle fork (tie rod/ball joint separator)
  • Hydraulic jack capable of lift the Jeep high enough. I had to go out and buy and SUV jack (19″-21″ lift) ($39.99 WalMart special)
  • Tall enough jack stands to let the suspension droop.

Here are some pictures of the install:

(Click on picture to enlarge)

Lift kit install.           Remove the Jeep's tires

Remove the Jeep's shocks          Remove the Jeep's springs

Install new shocks and springs          Put tires back on and lower Jeep

Take Jeep off-road


We started on a Saturday morning. Overall, the install went pretty easy, with only a few snags:

Snag #1: Just about every single damn bolt and nut stripping. I ran into a lot of that. First off, I had a problem with the sway bar discos. We were trying to get the links off, and couldn’t. So with out thinking we took a hammer and started beating on it. This of course, got the pieces apart, but damaged the threads. (Dustin said no problem, he had his) So we cut the bar in half to make the disconnects. Then we had to get a tap set to try and rethread it. That didn’t work. So my buddy Jim (’97 4Runner) took a grinder and ended up getting it to the point where we could get a nut on it.

Snag #2: The ball joint that connects to the pitman arm. Trying to get the damn pitman arm off was probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. We got the one end off, but trying to get the smaller end off was a bitch. I stripped out a rental puller from Pep Boys, then bought a tie rod separator. Oh yeah, this thing kicks ass. Just put it around the joint and beat it with a BFH…popped right off. That was just the beginning. Well in the process of getting that off, I fu&%ed up some of the threads so now the bolt wouldn’t go on. Ok, back out comes the tap set…but it didn’t work. So again, this time Dustin pulls out the grinder to taper the end of the bolt. He then proceeds to tap out nut. Well that’s cool, and works. However, it wouldn’t tighten down since it was too stripped out. This caused the steering to be sloppy and loose and wheel wasn’t exactly centered. I played around with the adjusting sleeve quite a few times and finally got it straight. But the steering was still sloppy, it had a “loose” feel to it.

The overall idea behind the lift was to replace all shocks and springs. The way the Warn kit corrects the control arm is to drill a hole 1/4 inch over. This took care of the the front easily, but in the back it ended up pulling the whole axle to the passenger side. (We didn’t know this at first) Another snag is the typo in the install manual. It said to torque the shock bolts to 74ft/lb, we found out this was wrong when the bolt sheared in half. I had extra nuts and bolts sitting around, so this was no big deal. We got it all back together and running, it was just a matter of fixing a few minor details. I made an appointment to get the tires put on.

So I finally take it one night to NTB to get the tires put on. I get the tires on, get a little ways up on 440, and the rear passenger tire blows out just before Jones Franklin Road. At first I thought it was a bead that popped. I called NTB from a cell phone and they sent a kid over to get the tire, they were going to take it to their place and re seat the bead. But when the kid got there, he realized that the tire was gutted. (Ripped all the way around)

They mounted a 32″ AT to get it back over to the shop. Once we got it over there, we found that it was rubbing against the rear spring perch. They realized THEIR salesman never checked the back spacing over my rim. There was nothing we could do, I had to get the 30″ tires remounted. I was completely stymied about why the tire was so close to the spring perch on the one side, but not the other.

I told Dustin all about this, and he said to bring it over. So I stopped over his house the one night and he looked at it. He noticed that there was about an inch between the rear spring perch and tire on the passenger side, and about 2 inches on the drivers side. The rear axle wasn’t centered underneath the vehicle. After some playing around, we found out that the rear track bar was pulling it off center. This was due to the relocation that Warn has you do. They have you drill a hole 1/4″ over to compensate for the 3″ of lift. I had my buddy Jim (an engineer) look at it. he said that was a really hokey way to do that. So Dustin says “take it off” and Jim looks at it and says that it isn’t needed since there is 4 control arms. So off it goes. Now the rear axle sits straight and centered under neath.

Snag #3: I called up 4 wheel hardware and ordered the new pitman arm ball joint. So I go to install it, and pull the old one out. I go to put the new one in, and it is about 1/2″ too skinny. The one on the Jeep now is much thicker. So I call them back up and they tell me that that’s the part. Ok, fine, I get a RMA number and ship it back. I call Cary Auto park, they got their part (same part #) in, and measure it….too small. So I stop over there and ask about a different piece. They don’t have it in stock. But David O’neil has one in. I called there and the kid measured both pieces. Sure enough, the 52005739 part is thicker, but its the wrong piece according to the diagram on the Jeep computer and in the 4Wheel Drive Hardware catalog. I ended up getting the 39 part number and it works. So that was now taken care of.

Snag #4: So I was still looking for a way to get the tires on. I explored several options, the most expensive was new rims. I didn’t have the cash for those, so I opted to trim the rear spring perches off. (I found out from Marty Fan that Tarheel 4 Wheel Drive did this on a lifted Sahara that retained the stock rims) I spoke extensively with then on how they did this) I borrowed Dustin’s jig saw, and bought 10 blades. Took the rear tire off, and loaded up the jig saw. I attacked the rear spring perch, and after snapping 4 blades, gave up. I made it no where…a few little cuts, that was it. I realized I needed something more. So I was talking with a guy that I work with that has a compressor and grinder. He told me to bring it over. I went to his house, and less than 2 hours later, they are both off and there is black spray paint on it.

Snag #5: I go back to NTB to get the tires put on. I left the Jeep and come back about 45 minutes later, and the tech says that the tires are rubbing. I almost shit myself. WHERE? Well, now under extreme turning, they rub the lower control arm and the sway bar discos. I quick whip out my cellphone and called Dustin. He tells me that we can easily adjust the steering stops and tells me to tell them to just put the tires on. I begin to think that I am nuts. So I have them do it, and the whole way home I am worried as shit that the tire will blow out. It doesn’t.

Snag #6: Now I have been riding around with the rear track bar off for quite awhile, and I look at the back of the rear passenger tire and see a line around it. What it was on occasion, the passenger tire was rubbing the rear control arm bracket. It wasn’t really damaging the tire, but it wasn’t right. So I called up Warn and told them that the tire was rubbing and that their “fix” was pulling the axle. The guy asked me if I installed the bracket that came with the lift. I told him that no bracket came with the kit and that the instructions said to drill a hole. He said that it must have been an old revision and said they would send me the bracket out right away. Then send it UPS red (overnight) and I had it the next afternoon. Let me just tell you, their customer service kicks ass! I put the bracket on, and it hasn’t rubbed since, and I even ran Tellico!

The Sahara after being lifted.

The Sahara after being lifted with the Black Diamond lift kit.

After all of the snags were worked out and the BF Goodrich Mud Terrains were installed, the result was pretty nice!

Snag #7: The spare tire didn’t fit the carrier now. I came up with an ingenious plan to raise the carrier 1″. I used some flat pieces of steel I got at Lowe’s, some washers, and grade 8 bolts. The main problem was that the tire was hitting the rear bumper. So I used the flat pieces of steel and drilled 2 sets of holes in them. The one set of holes I used to bolt it into the holes in the tailgate that the spare tire carrier would mount into. Then bolt the spare tire carrier to the other set of holes in the flat piece of steel. The result, it raises the whole spare tire carrier up about an inch and a half. Then I bought some steel 2″ cylinders and some more grade 8 bolts to raise the 3rd brake light up to see over the 33″ spare. I had to trim some of the plastic from it so the tire would nestle into it. All fixed. Eventually I would like to get a rear bumper / tire carrier combo because the full size spare is a little too heavy for the tailgate. Occasionally it will squeak.