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Old 02-21-2011, 02:00 AM   #1
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1990 Islander minor build / rebuild thread (first jeep)

Alright, so after picking up this 1990 YJ back in August for $1000, I've been saving and planning. After getting my bonus at the first of the year I began ordering parts. First things first, here she is as I got her:


102k miles, blown head gasket because PO put the thermostat in backwards but ran decent. I had to go get her muddy after getting her home, of course.


It had already been nuttered and the carb was the older version of the carter with no stepper motor. The entire tub had already been professionally rhino-lined, inside and out. And, given that I live in the desert, there was exactly 0 rust. Frame and body are in great condition, aside from the dry-rotted fiberglass flares. She did great at 80 mph on the highway home too, no death wobble.

She has 235/75/15 Bridgestone Dueler AT tires that were brand new when I got her, a full set of 5 with matching wheels to boot.

For the first few months it was mostly maintenance to be done to keep her running. Given that it was my first jeep it was primarily thanks to all of you that I made it through most of that. First thing I did was to get a traditional bikini from a CJ7 for it. It was a bit snug but fit great and didnt snap against the top of my head on the highway either. This is the only pic I got of it, coming out of work during our freak snowstorm.



Following that, ironically, my new Bestop soft top arrived the day following the storm.




At the top of my list was rebuilding the top half of the engine after I did some testing and (once again, with the help of some of you) determined what was wrong with her. That started about 2 weeks ago and has been a slow process as I work the night shift (2:30 to 11:00) so only get about 4 hours a morning to work on her plus weekends and nobody around to help. Here is the motor prior to tear-down, and for the record, that air filter worked a lot better than what the PO had on there!



Pics of the cylinders from front of the engine to the back (i did spill oil in the last 3 when pulling the head):







Any thoughts here? I've never touched the bottom half of an engine but they all look pretty clean to me.

At this point, I'm starting re-assembly however the PO apparently stripped the crankshaft snout so I'm on my way to sears in the morning to buy a tap and die set. The threads look like they could be repaired. Wish me luck! If that doesn't work, I'm not sure what I'll do from there. I dont feel comfortable drilling and tapping the crankshaft myself, and dont have the tools or capability to pull the block.

Here are the pics of the head after I got it back from the local machine shop ($153.87 total, no cracks, just a valve job and flattening it):



Anyways, I have an MC2100 carb, HEI ignition upgrade and electric fan kit from Ibuildembig to install as she goes back together. Will post more pics and info as I go along. Any and all thoughts, tips and suggestions are welcome!

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Old 02-21-2011, 01:00 PM   #2
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looking nice. Depending on which HEI ignition u have u can remove most of the wires under the hood and on the passenger side inside

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Old 02-21-2011, 02:45 PM   #3
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on the bottom end what you want to see is that there is still crosshatching on the cylinder walls. You don't want vertical lines on them. Thats called scoring. Looking at your pictures it seems you have some scoring on the walls indicating now would be a good time for a rebuild. When you rebuild it you should get a general overhaul kit. All new bearings rings pistons some come with a stock cam too. Also now would be a good time to replace the valve stem seals to prevent you from burning oil. When you rebuild the bottom end you must hone the cylinders to get rid of the scoring. Read up on engine rebuilds youll learn a lot from it.
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Old 02-21-2011, 02:52 PM   #4
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I'm not going to say its absolutely neccesary to rebuild but it would be a good thing. Also if you dont. Before you put the head back on get every little thing out of those cylinders. They need to be spotless. A good thing to do would be to get some atf +4 damp a paper towel with it and clean out each of the cylinder walls with it. Turn the motor over by hand to get every cylinder. And wipe the top of the piston as well. Use Scotch brite pads to clean each gasket surface for the head gasket to. Also check to see if you need new head bolts. Some motors head bolts dont strectch like on small block 350s I dont know about the 4.2's you may need new ones.
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Old 02-21-2011, 09:37 PM   #5
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I was hoping I could avoid rebuilding the bottom end. The bonus wasn't quite large enough to cover that at this point. All the gasket surfaces have been cleaned meticulously. That's one mistake I've made before, though it was with a thermostat gasket. What I've done thus far is pushing my budget. Will it cause problems with just the top end rebuild? They put new valve seals on it when they rebuilt the head for me.
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Old 02-21-2011, 09:51 PM   #6
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It sounds like you were driving it. If you didnt hear any noises from the bottom end, you will probably be fine to just bolt it back on for now, but be ready to eventually do the bottom end.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:50 PM   #7
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Since August I've put 3k miles on it. It gave no indication of bad rings. I never was able to have a leakdown test performed but it was not burning oil. My primary concerns were the blown head gasket, crappy carb, bad radiator and the insufficient cooling. That's what I intended to address with this rebuild. It was impossible to find a stock fan shroud around here. All the junk yard ones were dry rotted. Thus the electric fan. I also got sick of replacing fan clutches after playing in the river. I know its hard to say, even if you could see the motor, but any idea how long the bottom end will hold out? Just wondering if that's something I need to be planning for within the next year.
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:32 PM   #8
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Alright, I'm a little confused with the timing portion of this. The old timing chain had A LOT of slack and several of the nylon teeth coverings were missing from the camshaft sprocket. With the engine at TDC and the harmonic balancer pointing at 0 on the timing marks, and the dots aligned on the timing sprockets, the distributor points 180* out from the #1 plug wire. As seen here:





Is that normal? Or did I fubar something here? Am I going to need to put the head on so I can watch the valves to determine compression stroke? Which valve should be the intake and which the exhaust?
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:53 PM   #9
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Alright, so I finished the motor. The MC2100 runs GREAT!! Haven't installed the electric fan yet, waiting for time to get that on there, but everything else is done and she's running great.





Not quite a full TFI upgrade (I should have read the directions a bit better, I thought it required a higher quality canister style coil). Oh well, all I need now is the TFI coil so that will come down the road a bit.



My question is, my leaf springs are nearly flat. I have about $1000 left in my budget for the time being and am trying to decide whether or not to go ahead and get a 4" Rough Country lift, or a small trailer and have a hitch installed. The trailer is desperately needed for work around here, and would be great for camping trips. My question is: how bad are these springs really? Do i need to replace them ASAP, or are they going to be ok for a while longer? The trailer I'm looking at is simply a 4x6 single axle trailer from lowes. It has a 100lb tongue weight, perhaps 250lb fully (and badly) loaded. Is that going to be too much on my already nearly-flat springs? At this point I cant afford both the lift and trailer, so if the new springs arent 100% necessary and I'll be ok with a small trailer like that, I would rather wait. The jeep is a daily driver and occasional off-roader, so I really dont even want 4" of lift. 2.5" seems perfect but for the same price, I get the added peace of mind of having the t-case drop already. What thoughts and/or suggestions would you guys make?

Here's some pics of my springs:



Thanks again folks!!
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:29 AM   #10
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I hate to do it, but I have to bump this. Could really use some thoughts and/or suggestions on the springs.
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Old 03-02-2011, 06:46 AM   #11
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I'm sure you'll be OK. Mine were fairly flat before I installed my lift. Just keep the stock tires on it and use common sense, don't push it beyond what it's capable of.

Here's a picture of mine when I went to pick it up. You can see the front spring looks fairly flat.

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Here's a picture of the stock spring VS 4" spring off the vehicle. It still had some arch to it. It's not like it had failed.

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Here it is right after the lift was installed with the original tires. It gives you some idea of the difference.

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Old 03-02-2011, 11:23 AM   #12
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Interesting. I appreciate the response. If that's the case I'll probably go with the trailer for now, for a little more cargo room when we go camping or go to the lake. Also, as it stands the Jeep will do 85 on the highway without even the slightest vibrations. I have a feeling that even a 2" lift is going to give me a vibration that's going to require substantial shimming in addition to the t-case drop to get it back to where its at now lol.
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Old 03-02-2011, 11:43 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tslroper View Post
Interesting. I appreciate the response. If that's the case I'll probably go with the trailer for now, for a little more cargo room when we go camping or go to the lake. Also, as it stands the Jeep will do 85 on the highway without even the slightest vibrations. I have a feeling that even a 2" lift is going to give me a vibration that's going to require substantial shimming in addition to the t-case drop to get it back to where its at now lol.
That's the direction I would go in. Sounds like the trailer will make it more usable to have some fun with. Once you lift it even a couple inches you're altering the driveline angles and they will have to be dealt with.
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:29 PM   #14
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Alright guys, could use some help. Didnt want to start a new thread, so I figured I would post it here. I've been having issues with the jeep idling rough, it keeps fouling the plugs within 500 miles of driving on one side of the plugs. It seems to be ash buildup, though is more black colored. They're not wet at all, with either oil or gas, just accumulating build-up pretty quick. Today the jeep died on me altogether. I replaced all 6 plugs with new champion plugs gapped at .035 and it seemed to run great. Drove it 12 miles home at 55MPH tops, some stop and go and it was idling rough again when I pulled in the driveway. I started pulling plug wires off each plug one at a time and the #1 and #2 cylinders apparently weren't firing. Those were the only two that gave no change when the wires were pulled. So, I threw the standard rotor, cap and wires back on as I knew they were good and tried again. Same result, the number 1 and 2 cylinders still werent firing. Pulled the plugs (12 miles of driving on them) and they were black on one side and the number 1 and 2 cylinders had gas on the plugs. So apparently its running rich, but what would cause the two cylinders to stop firing? I tuned the MC2100 with a vacuum gauge to where it was a 1/4 turn back from peak vacuum (21 inches). Any thoughts, tips, or suggestions? I'm at my wits end trying to get this thing to run right. The timing is set at 9* BTDC and has been triple checked, I quadruple checked my firing order, and spent an hour with a can of carb cleaner looking for vacuum leaks and could not find any in the engine compartment.
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:40 PM   #15
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I should add that I did a compression check and all 6 cylinders were between 115 and 119.
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:43 PM   #16
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well remember, trailer=more stress and strain on the leafs..those leafs look pretty flat to me. but if you need the trailer then go for it and as stated dont push it
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Old 03-30-2011, 10:38 PM   #17
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Hey the fact that they're flat means nothing I have four brand new stock leafs i bought from the jeep dealer and they look flat And they looked arched when it was in the air and once I lowered it from the jack stands they looked flat
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Old 02-10-2013, 08:46 PM   #18
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Wow, I havent updated this in quite a while. I figure its time I do so.

To begin with, I drove the Jeep as you see there for quite a while with only minimal problems. I eventually had to ditch that intake and the canister-style ignition coil. For the ignition coil, i went with a ford TFI style coil that has worked pretty well for the last year or so.

I then began ordering parts for a lift. After debating for quite a while as far as what I wanted to do, I chose a 2.5" lift with 31" tires for the time being. The jeep is still a daily driver, so this seemed a good compromise.

Bottom of the rocker panel prior to the lift:

Bottom of the rocker panel after the lift:

Yes, I got nearly 3.5" out of a 2.5" lift.




I was quite happy with the stance and it's capabilities, but I wasn't done yet.

Custom built rear bumper, including frame tie-ins that are welded on. Wanted to make sure it was strong enough to pull our little off-road camping trailer.



Which reminds me, I also procured an off-road camp trailer. Nothing super special at the moment, but it works perfectly for what we like to do. Rims match the jeep and soon enough so will the color and tires.




This Christmas I received a set of gauge faces from my wife. They may have been for a 92+, but with a little bit of modification they worked perfectly.




Aside from that we've been enjoying the jeep as-is.

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Old 02-10-2013, 08:58 PM   #19
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Looks great and fun
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:07 PM   #20
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Something I forgot to add:

Since I was pulling the camping trailer up into the mountains with the little 3 speed auto, I decided it would be best to install a transmission cooler. On Jerry's recommendation I chose the derale cooler and let me say, it's worth every penny.


I also participated in last year's Chili Challenge, serving as a tail gunner on several runs. Sorry, I didnt have too many opportunities to take pictures.



Here's a few obligatory shots of the extreme trails:



Here's a pic of the style of hitch on our camp trailer:


I've been driving the jeep as-is for quite a while. The bottom end is still extremely worn out, as you can see above (those pictures were taken 2 years and ~22k miles ago). About 2 months ago I began to develop a wrist pin knock and I had to limit how much I drove the Jeep. That brings us to today.

I purchased a known-good engine (heard it run, though it has 114k miles on it) from a friend to completely rebuild.


I'm going with upgraded valves, a light port job, and bored .30 over. I'm also considering cam options. Any suggestions here?

I've also ordered new fender flares, some KC lights for the windshield and a DUI distributor to get rid of the whole ignition system (I'm still having issues with the ignition module over-heating once in a while).

Over the next month or so I will update this page as the work is done.

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