Need some advice/reality Check


Jeep Newb
Ok, after 18 year gap without a Jeep, I am now the proud owner of a Jeep TJ.
00 TJ, with 4.0 1-6 with 5-speed manual. Sport edition. Stock.

Needless to say, I want to start building out my rig and would love to throw $$$ at it and upgrade it to the hilt. Given I have 1 kid in college, 1 starting next year, and 2 more to come I still want to be prudent (and stay married :))

Ideally, I would like to lift her and do it right so, I'm looking at the 3.5 short arm MC lift with 35s.

Unfortunately, I am running into a multitude of opinions on what MUST be vs. what needs to be upgraded at the onset when I put in the lift. So, I'm reaching out to see what would be the recommended upgrade path in order of priority.

SYE with new DC Driveshaft
Regear (4.88)my Dana 30 with chromoly axles.
Rip out my Dana 35 and replace with a D44 or Ford 8.8 (with 4.88 gears)
Upgraded steering
Tummy tuck?

Please help a n00b


Staff member
My 21 year old 97 TJ has been thru all of that...and those mods...a few times. Here's what one old timer told me about builds and upgrades: You can either drive it til it breaks and fix it; or slap a bunch of money into now -- and maybe still break it depending on how you drive. The key is to have a purpose for the build or mod. Why are you doing this or that? I would call the shop guys at Metalcloak and ask about your idea. Seems like a 3.5 for 35's would be nice. And not something that would start breaking things right off the bat.
If you are going to re-gear just to get lower gears (with the 35's), then you should consider beefing up the rear pumpkin. There's nothing like a good 44; well, again, my old TJ has sported a Ford 9 all these years (Currie).
But....forget all the gears and pumpkins; are you thinking you will want an Atlas twin stick t-case some day? Maybe start there. Drive it till it breaks.
Just thinking out loud here..

Todd Ockert

I agree with Del about thinking what you want from the build, and the kind of trails you want to run.
Rocks, dirt trails/roads, mud?
Each needs a different build in my opinion.
I have the short arm kit from MC, and love it. Running 35" tires also.
I have done a tummy tuck and installed a Currie F9 in the rear end.
We installed an Atlas after we broke our stock transfer case.
I am running the stock D30 up front with stock axles and not had any issues. I am pretty easy on the gas and let the low gears help the Jeep just crawl along in the rocks.
We are running 4.56 gears to give us some highway speed, and they allow us to slow down pretty good on the trail with the 4.0 Atlas.
You should be able to find a D44 from someone that upgraded their axle from their TJ so you don't have to be cutting and welding brackets on and worry about angles and all that.
I have also upgraded the steering components and went with the Currie correct link system. I have bashed it on the rocks and it stays straight.
As far as brakes go, I have disk brakes that came on the F9 that I ordered from Currie. We have upgraded pads and rotors up front, but they are still stock size.
Find folks with a built TJ, and ask them what they did right, and what they would do different.

Good luck, and welcome to the MJ family.



Wrench guy
Welcome back to the Jeep world nOOb!
Like Todd asked, what type of off-roading do you plan on mostly doing? Obviously, a good quality lift such as Metalcloak is a great start. I wish I had a Metalcloak lift, I hope to one day. I have riden and driven a lot of MC lifted TJ’s and hands down the Jeeps ride is great and flex very well!
I recently swapped out my 30-35 for 44’s and got extremely lucky finding the 44’s. 44’s have become the unicorn’s of finding affordable diffs for TJ’s. Of course they are available new, just depends on how deep your pockets are. I installed 4.88 gears and I also run 35” BFG’s and a stock 231 T-case. I kind of wish I had gone 4.56 gears being my highway RPM is pretty high now. But for crawling slower it’s pretty good.
Steering upgrade from the spindly stock linkage is a good idea to upgrade sooner than later.
And also consider recovery stuff. A winch and bumper to handle it. And if you’re running 35’s, a good rear bumper with tire swing out mount will be a must. The tailgate will thank you lol


Jeep Newb
If 35's are the goal, then the first thing I would start thinking about doing is upgrading that rear axle. A D35 isn't much more than a boat anchor with any type of larger tires.

My LJ is on 35's with a D44 rear and a beefed up D30 in the front. That combo will hold up to 35s if you don't get too crazy. I would upgrade the rear axle first, even before I put a lift on it if it was mine. I actually did that once to a Jeep Cherokee, ripped out the d35 and replaced it before doing anything else.

mac 'not a 35 fan' gyvr


Jeep Newb
Your list looks perfect to me. I wouldn’t leave out one of those modifications except for the Dana 30. I wouldn’t waste a single dime putting money or effort into a Dana 30 if you’re planning on 35s or bigger. If you know for sure you’re staying at 33s then it’s be okay but still not ideal. Get yourself a D44 for the front.


Jeep Newb
Thanks everyone for the advice.... Follow up question.

Deal or no Deal???

Ran into a guy who is offering the following.....

Rear D44 out of a 06 TJ Rubicon.
ARB lockers
Chromoly axles
4.88 gears.
Black Magic Reverse Parking Brake Brackets


Should I snag it or pass it up?

Todd Ockert

I would check to see what a Ford 9 inch would run new or a D44 new from someone (Currie, G-2 or Carbon) with the same setup.
I installed a ford 9 inch from Currie in the rear of my Jeep years ago.
It was more than the D44, but I already had a semi-built 44 that I was breaking.



Jeep Newb
there is a guy about 50 miles away from me with a 44 that's got 4:56 and running a yukon zip wanting $1400 for his so with the upgraded brakes and the ARB I'd say you're not too far off. I wouldn't go over 2 for it if it were me... but then again, I'm not familiar with the local Florida market.


Jeep Newb
That's a pretty good deal considering the ARB, gears and chromoly shafts. Did you get it? Remember though, ARB means you're gonna need a compressor ($$$). Also you cant install it until you have 4.88's for the front, so do you wanna spend the money and upgrade the front to a D44 first? And throw an ARB locker up front too? Or have to regear twice?

Your list for running 35s looks good. Id want a 44 up front too though. And Id buy lockers before a tummy tuck. Only point I'd make is about not having to buy things twice like with regearing the front axle. When you do the lift you'll need the SYE and DC driveshaft. If you wait and do the tummy tuck later you're gonna need a longer drive shaft, so if you can swing it, do those at the same time. Although you can always lower your stock skid with spacers until funds allow. And remember depending on which tuck you go with, it might require a body lift.

I run Currie Currectlync steering and Black Magic Brakes with my 35's in my LJ with a Metal Cloak 3.5" lift. Luckily my rubicon came with 44s front and rear. Its nice having the piece of mind that you're (probably) not gonna break something when you hit the trails. Buy once, cry once.