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Pedders Jeep Gladiator’s Lift Kit Adds Head Room For Off-Road Duty and Street Performance
BY Mike Maravilla //
April 5, 2024
Photography: Brandon Cody
  • For nearly 75 years, Pedders has earned an influential place as Australia’s aftermarket leader with a focus on ride quality through engineered suspension solutions.
  • Because of its engineering proficiency, the company has struck valuable partnerships with other powerhouses—like General Motors, Lingenfelter, and Saleen—to bring its suspension to larger markets.
  • Pedders offers a full range of light to heavy-duty lift kits for Jeep owners that have all been designed to improve the ride and handling characteristics of each platform.
  • The Gladiator-specific plug-and-play kit offers a 38mm (1.5”) lift for additional wheel, tire, and ground clearance while also helping fix the JT’s factory shortcomings.

My best friend and his wife were expecting their first child and were eager to trade in a sensible Mazda 3 for something more utilitarian. He’d wanted a Jeep Wrangler since high school and I think his wife’s affinity for SUVs gave him the “in” he needed. As the resident “car guy” amongst us, he asked me whether I thought Wranglers were a good car. I put it plainly: absolutely not. My sentiment didn’t seem to affect his tune whatsoever, and the next day, I begrudgingly helped him mull over trim levels, options, and colors before he signed all the paperwork and started his new Jeep for the drive home. By the time he dropped me off at home, I had to admit that my opinion of Jeeps had changed.

Maybe it was all the time I spent researching Wranglers for him or the dozens of enthusiastic waves we got on the way home, but after that day, my tune for the brand was decidedly different. You see, I’ve always gravitated towards cars that have community. And I had to contend that, even beyond the fanatical BMW, Porsche, or S-chassis faithful, Jeep people trounced us all in the community department. In other words, “It’s a Jeep thing” definitely meant something, and they have earned the right to exercise their wave and even their rubber duck quirk. And today, I have another confession to make: I really dig the Jeep Gladiator.


The Gladiator is the result of in-breeding the Wrangler’s chassis with a pickup body style. New Jeep fans may have thought that the Gladiator was a relatively new model for the brand, but the moniker is actually more than 60 years old. Still, there is one key difference between the resurrected name and the original: the new one is built on the Wrangler platform (instead of the Wagoneer previously). The modern incarnation pivots away from the Wagoneer’s underpinnings in favor of the Wrangler’s. This means that the Wrangler’s long-loved, familial visual cues are all over this pickup and help bolster its appeal.

The Gladiator you see here sits at the top of its food chain. The Rubicon trim, as we’ve mentioned before, is equipped with 33-inch tires, a low-range transfer case, stronger axles, 2.0-inch FOX shocks, and more. The factory shocks are what brings us here today. They are, singlehandedly, the Gladiator’s Achille’s heel, the rear suspension considered to be under-valved from the factory. The universally accepted solution? A suspension lift kit.


Of course, not all suspension lift kits are created equally. Considering all the available options, the Pedders TrakRyder lift kit (PED-803512) is one of the most attractive, budget-friendly options. The company has been focused on crafting well-suited suspension solutions since 1950, and that experience has translated into products that perform. While other manufacturers have also managed additional performance in the same realm, Pedders has done so without side effects. Indeed, balance—even across other off-road applications—has been a mantra for the Australian-based company, the country’s Outback being the perfect testbed to tame the rugged outdoors. As I’ve alluded to, the signature Pedders feel is characterized by civility and performance handling all the same.


Part of achieving that balance is down to the Pedders TrakRyder lift kit’s foam cell shocks. These twin-tube dampers have a huge 40mm bore—meaning each shock has vastly more fluid capacity over OE—and more precise valve settings, which contribute immensely to their unrivaled performance and comfort.Pedders TrakRyder Foam Cell shock absorbers are engineered to virtually eliminate shock fade by allowing full oil contact with both the inner and outer housings, similar to a Cellular Foam Membrane. This provides larger cooling areas to improve shock performance and durability,” commented Reid Yoken, Sales Manager for Pedders USA. The shock bodies are no slouches either, which are constructed with heavy-duty double-welded mountings for long-term durability. The result of all this hard work is improved articulation on uneven road surfaces and more confident tractability at each corner, even in the most difficult off-road scenarios.


On paper, 1.5” may not sound like a lot. But in the real world, that improvement matters. Compared to its Wrangler counterpart, the Gladiator is almost three feet longer. The extra wheelbase means that a factory Gladiator has a less favorable breakover and departure angles, which means there’ll be higher changes of impact at the underside of the pickup while at the crest, or the rear while descending from one. The Pedders TrakRyder lift kit, even with the Rubicon’s factory wheels and tires, helps circumvent these problems. It will also provide additional headroom underneath the truck, should you need to fit even bigger 37” tires for more serious off-road work.


We were back at our trusted stomping grounds, R/T Tuning in Montgomeryville, PA for the work. Pedders takes plug-and-play seriously and its commitment to quality components is clear right out of the box. Pedder’s fit and finish, even down to the rubber grade in the damper eye, are miles above the factory grade. This observation set the tone for the rest of the installation.

Since the Gladiator has solid front and rear axles and no electronic suspension, there’s no need to take the wheels off or consider any special coding for the procedure. From here, it was largely a plug-and-play endeavor as Pedders advertises, but we did go through a few pro steps to make our lives easier. First, we disconnected the front and rear sway bars. This dropped both axles down further to give us better access to the stock springs and shocks. Secondly, pulling back the fender liner gave us more direct access to the top mounts. Some choose to cut a portion of the liner away to expose the shock hardware to save time, but our method is far less destructive. Lastly, we dislodged the front and rear brake lines from their mounting brackets. This provided extra slack to safeguard against any line damage since the affixed wheel assembly is hefty.

Before going too far, it’s worth noting that both the front and rear OE shocks were inverted. While the Pedders front replacement shocks can be mounted normally, the rear should mirror stock to prevent the shock body from hitting the flange on the axle. The last pro tip that’s best to consider is easy to miss. There’s a small nub on the rear spring pad that needs to be lined up with the spring.You have to go up and down on the lift to make sure it’s set right. You have a better view between the frame and the body to make sure the spring is seated correctly when the truck is down and the spring is compressed,” Pat, our trusted tech from R/T Tuning revealed.


After logging a few hundred miles on the Gladiator, we were confident to report that the Pedders TrakRyder lift kit is one of the best hybrid options available right now. It doesn’t ride markedly different from stock but is crucially firmer to defeat the stock Gladiator’s biggest shortcoming. Firm is an important descriptor—it isn’t stiff or unbearable—and points more toward extracting more precision from the chassis than any negative connotations. The happy side effect of this improvement is a vast reduction of body roll and increased proficiency in dealing with load-bearing duties. I didn’t expect to consider this kit transformative when we started, but I think the Gladiator’s new performance ceiling—on both the street and off the beaten path—warrants that claim wholeheartedly.





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