Hi guys, I figured I'd start a build thread on here so people can see my progress and so I can keep track of what all I've done. I got my TJ during my Junior year of high school. Got a really good deal on it from a guy that just had a kid and needed a sedan. It had about 133k miles on the 4.0 and a 5 speed trans. It had a 2" BB, some alloy wheels, bald 31s, and tube bumpers. That wasn't really my style and I had big plans for it. Luckily, it had a factory D44 rear axle, which would save me a lot of time and money. Here are some pics from the day I brought it home.
The Jeep had spent a lot of its life in the mountains, so road salt had taken a bit of a toll underneath. Luckily, it was just a bit of surface rust. My dad and I put it up on a lift and sanded down everything underneath, pressure washed, and repainted.
After finishing, I soon figured out that the PO had left all the drain plugs out because my carpet now smelled like wet dog. So I yanked it. It hasn't been back in since.
I also started looking on Craigslist for things I could use. I came across Delta Quadbar H4 headlights, still in the Quadratec box for $40. I jumped on those. They are a big upgrade over stock and look better, IMO.
Warm weather came and the first time with the doors off was awesome.
I eventually removed the tube bumpers and had them powder coated by my dad's friend for cheap. I put them up on Craigslist for $350 and sold them a few days later.
I knew I wanted a lift and bigger tires, so I did a lot of research to figure out what I should get. I ended up settling on a BDS 3" lift with quick disconnects and 3/4" spacers in the front. I was and still am happy with the lift. I just wasn't happy with the massive, ugly t-case drop. I started researching how I wanted to go about addressing that issue. I also replaced the tie rod and some steering components with the ZJ V8 pieces after noticing my stock tie rod was slightly bent. I figured it would be a solid upgrade to better run my future 33s. Also pictured is a new soft top, since the one it came with was very worn.
I had a little scratch on the rocker panel and always liked the look of rocker guards that cover it, but wasn't sure what I wanted yet. So bought some of the vinyl "rocker protectors". The offer no real protection from anything other than maybe scratches, but they were cheap and looked good. It also gave me a good reason to remove those dumb side flares.
I kept looking on Craigslist for stuff that I could use and found a set of Olympic Rocker Bars that needed a little TLC for $80. They were too cheap to turn down so I got them and had them powder coated. I had to call up Olympic since they came without hardware and they sent installation instructions and a parts list. Great customer service. Here they are installed. I still like the rocker-mounted kind better, but these work for now. I have debated on putting them up for sale and getting different ones but I still don't know what I want yet.
I was having a tough time shifting into certain gears with the stupid t-case drop so I removed the foam pad under the shifter boot. I will be replacing the rubber boot with a leather one soon.
I decided on 33x12.5 Duratracs for tires. I went through Discount Tire and highly recommend them. Their customer service is great and the free lifetime rotations is sweet. Here is a comparison between almost bald 31" Pro Comps and new 33" Duratracs.
I kept my old tires and put them on Craigslist. Sold 4 for $80 and the factory spare for $40.
Also had an impulse buying decision and got tail light guards (pictured below). That money could've been better spent somewhere else but oh well, you live and learn.
I needed bumpers and ultimately decided on the Smittybilt SRC. It was pretty cheap and it looked cool. I wish I would've done more research and got something better the first time. But I ran it for a while and it did alright. It was super heavy and I didn't like that. It was good for running over saplings though lol. I also painted the fogs that came with the Jeep black.
Next, I got an Engo 9k winch and winch plate. I tend to go wheeling alone sometimes and figured it was cheap insurance. I've used it a few times and it has more than paid for itself. It's not a Warn, but it hasn't let me down yet (knock on wood).
I decided to get a 1" body lift and went with the Prothane kit, which replaces the factory body mounts and is all one piece. Along with that, I got Brown Dog 1" Motor Mounts. They helped alleviate some of the driveline angles so I could take out some of that nasty t-case drop. I still have about .5-.75" still in currently but I can live with that for now.
Also put in a new radio since the factory unit was lacking.
The Jeep performed and looked better after the body lift.
I decided I wanted to make my rig smarter and lighter so I started making changes. I pulled off the pocket flares, repaired them, and sold them for about what I had in them. I did the same with the Smittybilt bumper. I sold it for what I had in it to a local guy. I turned around and bought a Poison Spyder Trail Stinger. It was cheaper and only weighed 20lbs. I used primer and Rustoleum Textured Black to paint it.
Cleaned her up really nice!
Went down to Tampa over the summer and stopped by Jeff's Jeep Yard. There were so many awesome rigs there.
I decided to drop the winddshield for the first time. It was really fun and everyone should do it at least once. I don't think I'll do it again until I have a front cage though.
Tested my flex on a homemade "RTI" ramp. My bumpstops are a little old and worn, so they probably need to be replaced soon. My tires didn't touch the fender, but it was within a fraction of an inch. I'm happy.
I went wheeling at Richland Rd this past Friday. It was lots of fun and a lot better than expected based on some people's opinions on the internet. Lots of creek crossings and rocks. Some pretty crazy hill climbs in there too. It got dark about half way through, so the pictures are from the first half only. It's a really old fire road that's ended up being about 7-8 miles long I think. I'm getting a group together to go again before I go back to school.
Got some Trek Armor seat covers for Christmas! These things are super nice. Waterproof and made in the USA. Put the front pair on this morning and will get to the rear one later on. They are a little wrinkly at first until they form fit then I will tighten them down for good. I'm super impressed with the quality on these things. Would definitely recommend. They also came with a MOLLE bag per seat cover. There are two hidden zipper compartments per seat.
I'd like to get rid of my Smittybuilt SRC as well. At 74 pounds (minus the winch and cable), I'm sure my ball joints would last a little longer.
It is a pretty good looking bumper and plenty stout, but it was just overkill IMO. I just didn't like that much unnecessary weight on the front end. I'm sure it couldn't have been good for it either. I'm 50+ lbs lighter up there now. I'm thinking of getting a synthetic cable after this one wears out to drop more weight. The SRC is a desirable bumper though. Shouldn't be too hard to sell if you decide to go that route.
Went wheeling again at Richland Rd with some friends and members of our Offroad Club at NC State. Had a blast out there. Things were a bit more difficult due to the rain a couple days before. I further realized my rig's weaknesses. A front locker is and has been a top priority. I've been researching and looking at Aussie's and am pretty confident that is what I'll go with. It will be able to transfer over to my HP30 once I find one and get started on it, which is good. My Duratracs did very well out there for an aggressive AT. Of course they caked up in the clay, but everyone's did. At the end of the day, I'm very pleased. Here are obligatory pics.