I've never done a build thread and I'm writing a lot of this from memory.
I've wanted a Jeep since I was in high school, but never had the money for one. The ones in my price range were always fixer-uppers and I wasn't handy with a wrench and neither was my father. When I was 30, I got divorced and lost my car in the settlement and got stuck with a piece of junk Chevy Barretta. It died and my grandmother gave me her Mercury Topaz. It wasn't my type of car and had a boat load of problems. I had been working at a new job for about 4 months making a lot more than the one before it and decided I was going to get my Jeep.
All I knew about Jeeps is I wanted one that was black and it had to have a 4.0 motor. I bought the only one on the lot that fit that bill. It was a 2000 Jeep Wrangler Sport with 17 miles on her. It had pin strip accents and faux chrome grill inserts which i wasn't fond of, but the salesman assured me they'd leave marks if removed.
I dreamed of lifting and putting big tires on and all that stuff for a long time but I could barely afford the payments as it was and didn't know of anywhere to wheel anyway. I daily drove her bone stock for the first ten years of her life. My shocks were 10 years old and the ride was getting rough. I talked my wife (Finance Dept) into letting me get a SkyJacker BB kit that included shocks for not much more than I'd pay for 4 new shocks.
So here she is, with 2" BB and 235/74R15 (29") geolanders. The dorks at Mr Tire assured me that it was the metric equivilant to my stock size of 30x9.5x15.
I also remove the pin striping and inserts. Barely noticable except for the hood where the stripping was baked into the finish.
I still didn't really know much at this time and I had just joined WF. I did find out that I was lucky to have a D44 rear and 3.73 gears for my 5spd. AWESOME!
A friend of mine told me about a local club having a newbie trail ride at Rausch Creek and I decided to get her ready. Now, I've never been to Rausch Creek and had no idea what to expect. I suspected we'd get muddy and stuff and not like the guys out west rock crawling. I figured the first thing I'd need to do would be new tires (mine were nearly bald at the time) and a 1" body lift to allow me to fit some 33" tires under her.
I got the tires a day before my body lift came in the mail. It was scary close for clearing the fenders but I made it to work and back without rubbing. I even took a group of 3 others out to lunch with me.
The following day, my body lift came in the mail. This was my biggest Jeep wrenching job I'd ever done so far but I managed to slap it on in a few hours.
Yeah buddy! Now I'm ready to go get muddy at Rausch Creek. Yeah. I didn't realize that Rausch Creek was a dumping ground for glacial rock during the ice age. There is a LOT of rocks up there! I scraped up my skid, axles, and gas tank on a lot of them. But I was hooked on wheeling now.
Time to get serious. I had a blast at RC but I also got a chance to see what I was missing. We went on mostly green trails with a few blues and one long blue/black. I needed more and I could see even from the pictures that I lacked flex. I heard about using ZJ front springs and read up on them a bit. A guy at my local club was selling some for $20 so I figured it'd be worth a try. That netted me an additional inch of clearance up front so an additional inch of up travel. It also flattened out the factory forward rake.
I also saw that I lacked armor and when you wheel in rocks, you need armor. I didn't take the advice that I should have in getting an engine skid before rocker guards, but they looked so sexy. I had to get me some. Especially after seeing so many rocks come so close to my rocker panels.
So now I have a half of a lift. About 2.5-3" up front and still the 2" BB in the rear. Not enough for me. Plus knowing that I had those stupid red pucks ticked me off. By this point, the finance dept. (wife) was less restrictive and even agreed to let me buy myself new 3" springs for myself as a Christmas gift. I also got a motor mount lift to ensure I didn't have any driveline vibes. I still had vibes though and dropped the skid using washers.
I wheeled that summer with that setup with the WF crew that GoldenSahara organized. I had a boatload of fun wheeling with everyone and got plenty dirty.
I even posed for a flex shot with my stock control arms. Not too bad I don't think
And I wheeled a few times with my local club (Maryland Jeep Club)
After one of those trips, my gas tank skid was looking pretty knarly. It was beat to hell and rusted just as bad.
I fixed it with this
Still wanting more, I installed an Aussie locker in the front. Holy moly is that a difference maker. By far it is the most bang for the buck at $250 plus a couple bottles of diff fluid. when I felt like I was slipping I'd tap the gas and crawl right up on the rock in front of me. this allowed me to do black trails all day long with no worries (other than I still did not have an engine skid).
But before the skid (I was being stupid admittedly), I wanted new control arms and needed adjustable trackbars. I did my research and found that for about the same price as buying separately, I could get a full kit with CAs and trackbars along with new springs and an antirock sway bar system. I liked my 3" springs but opted for the 4" kit. Why? Because with 4" I could easily fit 35s with them Any yes, I installed an SYE finally to rid myself of the small TC drop.
Pretty much caught up to this point of my build. Today I sprayed the inside of my frame with internal rust inhibitor and ordered a new exhaust system. Mine is still stock and it is smashed and rusted through. I lost all my mounting hooks for it due to rust so I have been using a universal hanger only on the tail pipe for a few years. I also ordered new cool white LEDs for the dash, HVAC, and dome/courtesy lights. I'm sick of the red stuff that's been in there for the last few years.
Other stuff going on is I'm eyeing up a possible 78 ford axle set to swap in so I can run a 5.13 gear instead of my planned 4.88 gear in the spring. The set will be with the heavier HP44 front with HD steering and already has the brackets for a TJ. I'll find out more on the possibility tomorrow.
This is how she sits now minus the front tree magnets I took off. I never used them anyway.
4" suspension, 1.25" BL, 33x12.5x15 tires, aluminum CAs, aluminim tie rod, antirock swaybar, auto locker in front, chopped front bumper, deleted rear bumper, bedlined interior, etc. I need new tires and a regear!
The last two days have been a challenge. Yesterday, I was driving home from the store and just before I got home the Jeep was pulling to one side when I hit the brakes. I drove the last 1/8 of a mile home and smelled burning brakes when I got out of the Jeep. Yup, stuck caliper. I went to the parts store and ordered a new set to replace them. I don't want to have to worry about them sticking again, and don't want to invest too much at this time and don't have the mullah for Vancos yet.
I did decided to also order some Timken bearings since the ones I'm running are original and my spare axle set only has one which is in pretty bad shape. I'll use the ones coming off to put on my spares.
Good news is my new exhaust system came yesterday too so I planned on a quick install. Two bolts. Easy peazy right? Nope. Two out of three nutserts on each side of the skidplate were worn out and I had to cut the bolts to get them off to drop the skid. I'm thinking I may have overdone it with the impact wrench the last time I re-installed them. So now I have a nice sounding exhaust on something I can't drive.
I picked up my calipers today and ordered new nutserts from Blaine. He gave me a few tips so I'm hoping for an easy install. I'm going to the stealership for 6 new bolts tomorrow.
Anyway, I did a video in case anyone want to hear what a Dynomax cat-back system sounds like compared to stock.
Today's project was to swap out the red LED lights I had for the last 3 or so years. I grew bored of them and they didn't turn out as good as I had hoped. I still stayed with LED, but this time I went with cool white and I really like how it turned out. With all red, it was impossible to find anything at night without the assistance of a flashlight. Also, I didn't have much luck with the HVAC lights. The red was so dim I'd have to look at it a while until my eyes adjusted to make out a little bit of the display. Not a good thing to do while driving. I had to put a single white one in the middle which washed out a lot of the red.
Anyway, here is how it was:
And here it is now:
Tomorrow I'm going to replace the front calipers so I can stop, but I still can't go because I won't get my skid plate nutserts from BMB until Monday.
Nice thread man. Toss some grease on the skid bolts next time you install them. Easy in/easy out after that.
Everytime I dropped that skid I thought to myself, "Ya know, I should stop and go get me some a dat silver stuff I have in the basement before I put this junk back together." I'm a victim of my own laziness.
I built my nutsert tool today and ordered new skid bolts from Morris4x4. I should just pick some up from the stealership but I think I have enough work to do that waiting for them to come in the mail won't be a problem. I'm going to try to get the nutserts done tomorrow.
My newly built nutsert replacement tool. I took blaine's advice and cut grooves into the nut instead of using a star washer. I can't wait to get this Jeep fixed back up. I've been working from home and have been driving the Jeep daily until now. Now I'm stuck with the commuter Hyundai.
Everytime I drop my my skid I apply fresh antiseize to the bolts. I'm installing an 1.25" body lift this winter and kinda nervous about those bolts. Next year I'd like to make a trip to Rausch Creek and check it out. Nice Jeep, our builds are very similar. I'm looking for replacement axles myself.
Whoo hoo! All done. It wasn't so bad. I f'd up the first one because the article I read said it would be hard to turn until it collapses. I ended up stripping that one out and had to run to the stealership for another one. For the next time and the remaining nutserts I used the torque wrench set at 80-ft/lbs once the nutsert started collapsing. I also picked up 2 bolts so I can at least have 2 per side until the ones I ordered come in the mail. And you can believe that I was very liberal with the use of anti-seize when I put the bolts back in.
I had a heck of a time getting my skid lined back up with the holes because it is so beat up from Rausch Creek. I really need to tummy tuck this thing. But first things first. Tomorrow I'm replacing the calipers, unit bearings, and front u-joints. Anti-seizing every dang bolt too. I may as well keep the stuff in my glove box.
Old nutserts ground off. You can see a nutsert remnant in there that I eventually got out along with the rest of them with a magnet and string. You can also see my recent Eastwood Internal Frame coating in the picture. Yummy green!
I love that about my new skid. It fits and I slightly slotted a pair of the holes to allow it to line up easier. Since it doesn't actually support anything structural now that I have the separate crossmember and truly only functions as a skid it can shift a little and not hurt anything. But 6 bolts at 100 ft/lbs or so holds pretty tight!
The tummy tuck isn't bad now, I could probably have one fabbed and done in 1-2 days of hard work. Just a lot of planing and measuring. If I had better tools for cutting even faster. Notching my ends for the x member for DOM and cutting everything out including the skid all with an angle grinder/saws all and grinder was fun
How was the Eastwood? I will probably do it this summer to preserve this baby. The outside it already gorgeous.
Ryan - A good eye, a light foot, and a smart rig. Bolt-ons are boring
I just pulled the trigger on a Rokmen rear bumper and frame tie-ins as an Xmas gift from the wife. I like the clearance of it and have been running without a rear bumper for a while since I mashed up the stock one. However, running completely bumperless exposes the rear crossmember which wasn't good either. My plan is to install the Rokmen and eventually get a Genright tire carrier to weld to it or see if my welding buddy can DIY something similar. I don't think he has a tubing bender though. I had thought of the OR-FAB carrier but it is only rated for up to a 35" tire. I may be going 36-37 down the line.
New calipers went on today. Yippee! No snags on the install. Seems that lately every job turns into an adventure with something else popping up from stripped nutserts to broken bolts. This install went well and I even had my wife help me bleed the brakes. I have one of those one person bottles for brake bleeding but I don't trust them for some reason. Now I can drive my Jeep again!
I still have the unit bearings and ujoints to install, but after beating up my spare axle I want to get a ujoint tool so I can put the old joints on the spare without f'ing them up. I might put the spares on and use the ones I have on the Jeep as spares.
Nice man. I really like their bumper but I just modded the stock to be lo profile to save some cash. Down the road I wana do a back half and all that fun stuff so why spend $ on a nice bumper? My spare will most likely go in the tub or ill have to fab up a carrier. But smart move on your part holding off. Glad your calipers went on easy. We need a break every once in a while! Haha.
Ryan - A good eye, a light foot, and a smart rig. Bolt-ons are boring
My Rokmen bumper showed up today. This thing is heavy duty! I can't wait to get this guy prime/painted/installed. The weather here is cold and rainy so no bueno today and the highest temp for the next 10 days is 40. I'll try to dry fit it tomorrow if there's no rain though.
I also got my axle parts in the last few days. I need to pick up a few new cotters for the hubs and get them thrown in.
Next up on my list is ball joints. ECGS has a crazy low price for spicers so I'll probably get them from them.
Very nice looking TJ.
How do you like your aussie? I'll be putting one in within the next week and can't wait for it
Also, I really like those wheels. I've been considering painting mine black just because every TJ I see with black wheels looks nice.
Thanks. I like the Aussie, but the Aussie didn't like my axle ujoints. I blew one out the second time out wheeling. I'm going to say that was more my fault than anything though. Never try to crawl up a big rock with the wheels turned. U-joints hate when you do that.
The wheels are ehhhh. They aren't made in the US and the aluminum on them is soft as hell. Hence my custom wheel rings you can see below. Beadlocks with rock rings are in my future plans. I believe MT's classic lock series does use interchangeable rock rings though. If you wheel, I'd look there if you are into Mickey T's. Most likely they are the same butter-soft aluminum.
I got the Rokmen bumper installed today. Well, 1/2 way at least. I still have to drill 4 holes and put the bolts in and I still need to install the frame/bumper reinforcement brackets. It was a lot more work to install than I thought it'd be, but I like it. It fits the crossmember like a glove. The hardest part was inserting the new gas tank support bolts. I refused to drop the tank since I just filled it up 2 days ago. I somehow managed to fish the new bolts through and get them to drop in where they needed to go using a magnetic parts retriever. Those four bolts took me probably an hour by themselves.
It's nice having that extra clearance for sure. Love that bumper. Will probably copy it eventually for my rig. But once I do a frame back half. I angled the top out a little so I have a small step and left some crush room so it will actually function as a bumper in a small fender bender. About 1/2 inch. Just modified cut and welded the stock bumper.
Ryan - A good eye, a light foot, and a smart rig. Bolt-ons are boring
I finally got around to installing the frame tie-ins today. It was a PITA to have to pull the bumper off to get it done since it involved having to drop the gas tank. I didn't take any pictures because my driveway is all muddy from the snow and it is now all over the bumper. I might give her a bath tomorrow and take a few updated shots.
I probably won't do any serious mods for a while. I'm getting close to needing new tires soon and since I'll be jumping up to 35s I also need a regear. And since I'm going to regear, I also have to save up extra for lockers to be installed at the same time. Until then, I'll be mainly doing much delayed maintenance stuff like finally changing my tranny fluid, changing plugs, and maybe even put in a new sensor for the 4wd light that has been inoperable for the last 8 years.