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GT500 02-24-2013 11:45 AM

Project: Fix it til it's broke!
I've been wanting to start a thread for a while but I've been a bit busy making a perfectly good jeep not drive any more. :)

I have 97 TJ 5 speed with the tenacious but under powered 2.5L motor. I bought it 5 years ago and have slowly been working towards transforming it. I will post some catchup posts over the next few weeks to show what I've done thus far. Here is a synopsis of some of the modifications I've made.

1. On the cheap winch mount
2. VIAR Air tank install
3. AX5 to AX15 transmission swap
4. Ford 8.8 swap and ARB front and rear
5. Front trackbar bracket repair.

Things on my wish list to come:
1. bedline interior
2. lift
3. V8 swap (probably chevy)
4. Custom bumper ideas with recovery gear storage.

Here is a pic of the day I brought it home:

And another pic shortly after with 31" BFG AT's. Hoping to move to 35" soon.

GT500 02-24-2013 06:46 PM

Cheap Winch Mount
One of the first things I added was a SmittyBilt XRC10 winch. It has served me well over the last 4 years. Being on a budget I looked for cheap mounting options.

I went to the local steel yard and dug through their odds and ends pile until I found a short length of 8" channel iron. It was the perfect width to cradle my new winch. I can't remember how much they charged me for it but it wasn't much. I used a cutoff wheel to notch the back to clear the front sway bar mounts and cut a notch in the front for the roller fairlead. Some work with an angle grinder made everything smooth and ready for paint.

I wish I had notched the front to match the back. I've recently added tow hooks to the top and the front of the channel gets in the way of my snatch rope. I'll probably be making that change soon.

You can also see my home made tow bar mount attached to the bottom of my bumper. I made it from 2 inch square tubing and sat it on 2 inch angle iron brackets that are mounted to the bottom of the bumper into the frame.

GT500 04-05-2013 04:38 PM

I can't seem to edit my first post and it appears I've broken the links while doing some photobucket maintenance so I'll add those pics again here.

Here is a pic of the day I brought it home:

And another pic shortly after with 31" BFG AT's. Hoping to move to 35" soon.

I've been able to take her just about anywhere I tried with this basically stock setup but dreamed of a lift/lockers/bigger tires just like everyone else. That's where my "Fix it til it's broke" title comes from. It was a pretty good setup until I started messing with it.

I introduced my first problem when my AX5 transmission went out two years ago. I replaced it with an AX15 swap in preparation for my wishlist Chevy Vortec. I've had to replace my clutch plate once and my slave cylinder once since then.

Most recently I embarked on an axle swap, locker install, and regear last November and things haven't been the same since. It's getting there but doing the work myself has been slow. It's a good thing I can carpool the 20 miles to work everyday.

I'll entail the axle swaps in my next post.

GT500 04-17-2013 02:47 PM

Ford 8.8 Install
Last fall I picked up a used Ford 8.8 out of a '97 Explorer for $200. I drug it home and immediately began stripping it of all the parts I didn't need.

With the help of some elbow grease, an angle grinder, and a big hammer all the stock axle bracketry was removed.

I also removed the ABS sensor, shaved the protective ears off, and filled the hole with a plug from East Coast Gear Supply.

Before proceeding any further I dropped the housing off at Dixie 4 Wheel Drive in St. George, UT to fill it with 4.88 gears and an ARB locker.

After the gears were installed I started work on new brackets. I used the Artec Truss for the Ford 8.8. It made aligning all the new bracketry for my TJ a piece of cake. The directions were simple and everything practically fell into it's proper place.

I can weld but I don't trust my life to it so I enlisted my brother to weld the Artec truss on. It took a couple hours to tack everything into place, test fit, and then weld it solid.

Dana 35 is removed. Note the wind blown snow on my window. Carports don't make for the best winter mechanic shops! We generally get mild winters but somehow I picked one of the coldest in years for this project. The small space heater took a small bit of chill out of the air.

Test fit and securing the control arm brackets.

Once the welding was finished I cleaned up the housing and applied a coat of primer followed by several coats of Rustoleum hammered black. I think it turned out looking pretty good. Too bad I'll just scratch it up on the rocks. :D

Ready to roll!

GT500 04-19-2013 04:20 PM

Front Axle Swap, Trackbar bracket Repair
With the regear in the back new gearing for the front was required. I was lucky enough to find a WranglerForum member who was getting rid of his Dana 30 and it was already upgraded with 4.88 gears, ARB, and Superior Shafts. It was a perfect match for my newly completed rear axle. He shipped it to me via Truck Freight. Luckily my parents run a business with a forklift so shipping was a bit less and the off load was simple.

The superior shafts are considerably larger and should add needed strength to the Dana 30.

The trackbar bracket was a mess. The holes had been wallowed out and redrilled for a larger bolt. I shortcutted the original install and didn't address the problem. That resulted in immediate death wobble at speeds over 35.

Time to fix the problem. It would have been much easier if I had dealt with it before installing the axle. It took me about an hour with an angle grinder cutoff wheel and a dremel with a cutoff wheel for some tight spots and I removed the old bracket. I found some angle iron and used it to fabricate a new bracket. Not bad for an amateur welder.

I enlisted the help of my son to extract the old axle. It didn't take long to get it out of the vehicle.

After a coat of fresh paint the "new" axle went in without too much effort.

The two axle projects took me from Thanksgiving until just after New Years this year. I buttoned everything up just in time for our 4th annual snow run "Snowed Out 4". This year we ended up with an impromptu river run and found ourselves in deep ice crossings.

The new axles and lockers held up well. My plastic fender flairs, winch, and front fenders, not so well!

Long story short, due to a series of poorly timed incidents we spent an extra night (make that a cold -15 night) on the trail. The river flash flooded while I was "parked" where you see me in this photo. We had just hooked up winch lines for the extraction when a 6 inch wall of water came that gradually raised the river 2 feet. The river rising trapped us so we couldn't go up or downstream.

Everyone made it home safe. Just a day late! :thumb:

MILK93 04-23-2013 10:04 PM

Subscribed. The new axles look great.
How did you get out??

GT500 04-25-2013 05:49 PM


Originally Posted by MILK93 (Post 3675075)
How did you get out??

Well, the short version is that we quickly winched my Jeep to the bank and regrouped. It was dusk, we had 2 broken winches, 1 broken axle and a Grand Cherokee that was struggling with the steep banks. With the river rising even my friend in his Rubicon with 35's couldn't bust through the ice any more and we were trapped. We had 6 DEEP river crossings behind us and about 15 more wide but slightly less deep crossings in front of us.

Two of us, myself and a friend hiked 8 miles out in the dark to call for backup while the rest spend the night in the Jeeps with the motors running. The overnight temps hit -15 but we had all come well prepared with snow gear and fire making material.

I know some of the Search and Rescue folks in my county who have "giant" Jeeps. A few phone calls and they came ready and willing to help us out. It was a difficult effort but they were able to bust through all the new ice in the morning. The river had subsided so that also helped. All in all, we sent 5 vehicles home on trailers and did $$$$$ in damage. We will be forever grateful for their help. I don't recommend playing in ice! Brick walls are more forgiving than ice when you hit them. Lessons learned.

MILK93 04-25-2013 08:13 PM

Glad to hear everyone was safe and got home. That really blows about the broken winches, interested in knowing what brands they were, and the type of axle. I know danna 35 is prone to brake.

You should upload some pics if you have!

By far craziest Jeep adventure I ever heard.

BeanBoy79 04-26-2013 10:10 PM

Living vicariously through your mod. Very cool.

GT500 04-30-2013 04:08 PM


Originally Posted by MILK93 (Post 3683347)
Glad to hear everyone was safe and got home. That really blows about the broken winches, interested in knowing what brands they were, and the type of axle. I know danna 35 is prone to brake.

You should upload some pics if you have!

By far craziest Jeep adventure I ever heard.

Unfortunately I don't have many pics after things got nuts. Too busy looking after everyones safety.

1st winch was a Warn. Owner had recently had his motor rebuilt and the winch wire was too close to the alternator. Wires were cut and shorted everything out. No fault of the winch and it has since been repaired. 2nd winch was my Smittybilt XRC10. I know people look down on Smittybilt but it has held up well through some serious abuse over the last 4 years. I smashed it hard against an ice dam and demolished the solenoid box and wiring. I also bent front cross bar and shattered the housing where it connects. You can see the damage in my ice picture if you look close. I was eventually able to get it functioning by hard wiring the wires to the controller. I've done 2 more recoveries with it like that so it's still going strong but I need to make a permanant repair or replacement. I would have smashed any winch with that hit.

As for the axle it was a dana 44. The u-joint and axle shaft ears were mangled. He was turning 35's in deep solid ice. One of the rescue Jeeps did the exact same thing the next morning to his brand spanking new Dynatrac Dana 44. I don't fault any of the equipment. It was being put to an extreme test.

sinbob 04-30-2013 04:22 PM

:eek::eek: That's why I don't do ice:hide: Give me some good ole boulders anyday of the week:dance:

GT500 12-02-2013 01:40 PM

It's been a while since I made any updates. The first half of the year I spent doing some major Jeep upgrades which I'll soon be posting some pics of. The second half of the year has been dedicated to a full renovation of a rental home I own after evicting some deadbeat tenants.

Here are some teaser pics:
Small increase in tire size. Can you guess which stack I'm keeping?
And more Goodies

daddyjeep 12-03-2013 12:00 PM

As terrible as the winter wheeling trip sounds, that is why we have Jeeps. Adventures like that are what we thrive for. Glad everyone made it out ok. Some broken parts are part of the game.

Can't wait to see the next phase of your Jeep. Loving the hot rod flames. I have always had a thing for flames.

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