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scottunzicker 04-13-2011 07:29 PM

TJ Master Plan - Opinions Wanted
Howdy. Thanks again to all who helped me with the ignition issue I was having.

So here's what I'm looking for: I've a bone stock '99 with the dreaded 2.5L I4 (hey, I can live with it - mostly in-Austin driving). It's currently got 30"s on there, and is my daily driver.

What I want to be able to do with it is moderate trail driving while keeping it reasonably decent to drive on the pavement. Nothing extreme trail-wise, mind you, just a good, capable vehicle suitable for much of Central Texas.

Where should I start? With all the info that's out there, it's a bit overwhelming.

Should I begin by tweaking the 2.5? Intake/exhaust? Bigger tires/Suspension? Winch?

If anyone can suggest a good "(off)road map" of where I should begin tweaking (other than selling it and getting an I6), I'd surely appreciate it.

Opine away, and thanks again.


minderbinder3 04-13-2011 07:38 PM

The 2.5 can be all that for you if you don't put your expectations too high. There are not really any engine upgrades worth it to get you more power. I would put 31's on it with a slight lift (either a 1" body lift or 1" coil spring spacer lift would do the job) or if your springs and shocks are getting old just get the Rough Country 2.5" suspension lift for <$400 which replaces the coils and shocks and adds the extra height. Just don't get too crazy with height and tire size and you will be happy. Plus it will mean that you won't have to do too many other mods.

I used to have a YJ with the 2.5 and 31" M/T's and it could go anywhere off-road and was acceptable on the road. Good Luck!

Irongrave 04-13-2011 07:46 PM


Step 1 before anything else. Recovery points front and rear. so you can get towed out of something if you get stuck off road.

Step 2 get armor under it, some sort of belly pan, gas tank and rock sliders are a great place to start. Winches and winch bumpers are heavy. if your not running stupid stuff you shouldn't need a winch.

Step 3 lift. for a mild use DD rig I would stay simple and get a 2in BB with new shocks and run a nice AT type tire in a 31 or 32 no need to go crazy here with the 2.5.

Step 4 lockers in the axles, simple ausie lunch box locker out back and up front will get you just about anywhere you want to go off road. and with the 2.5 and a smaller tire you should not have too much to worry about as far as breaking parts.

Step 5 if you have the money look into getting the teralow 4low kit for the NP231 and get the 4:1 low range in the t-case that will help you wheel and get the most out of the 2.5.

This is just my .02 take it for whats its worth

I wheel a YJ with a 2.5 on 33s and have more then enough power off pavement

jrussblues 04-14-2011 10:08 AM

Some of the cheapest mods are the best. I wouldn't worry about engine performance. I would start with a budget boost, my 2" was 250 bucks, sway bar disconnects will run about 125ish and if you go with larger tires you will likely have to swap rims. With a 4cyl I ran 33's with no 5th gear, I wouldn't suggest going bigger than a 31 though if it's a daily driver. For type of tire you need to think about where you will be off road. If there are chances of mud then don't get an all terrain. The ats turn into slicks very quickly. As far as recovery goes you need to make sure you have tow points front and back. If you don't want to drop the money into a winch then you can get a come along, and if you wheel with a buddy that has a winch then you probably don't really need one. As far as skids are concerned, they will help tremendously, but can get pricey and weigh down your jeep. I am adding skids to mine but I plan to do some more aggressive off roading.

And iron grave was spot on in suggesting a locker. I've got a lock right in my front and it has saved me on a couple of occasions. Cost was about 250 and a weekend from hell trying to put it in (I made it more complicated than it should have been). If your putting one in the rear then you should go selectable like an ox locker or an arb. A full time locker in the back could get nasty in the rain or snow.

scottunzicker 04-17-2011 10:58 PM

I really appreciate all of y'all's insight.

@Irongrave - I'd appreciate any brand recommendations (I know it's a bit of a subjective thing) for any of the stuff you mentioned. Tow hooks, for example: is any one brand better than another? I guess I'm looking for something in the 10k lb. range with grade 8 bolts, yes? Am I smarter to get something from JCWhitney or Quadratec, or head over to Tractor Supply?

@minderbinder (dig the name, btw. Great book.) - Yeah, the coils are orig. and the shocks are old - it's about time to replace both. The Rough Country rig looks like a pretty good set up. Do you have first hand experience with it?

Again, thanks for everybody's advice. Now, tomorrow, I get to track down the dreaded death wobble that just started manifesting itself badly today. 4x during my trip around town... of course... that was AFTER I sorta plunged into a low-water crossing a little faster than perhaps I should have. ;) I'm going off of this article:

Death Wobble and How To Cure it

Thanks again.


Sherpa 04-17-2011 11:46 PM

First of all, do not let all the 4.0L elitists make you think you have some sort of lesser vehicle. You do not. A 2.5L Wrangler is a fine daily driver (so long as you don't go for 80+ MPH freeway blasts on your commute to work) and they are extremely capable off road. I have owned two of them and loved them both.

I would say it is not worth trying to get more power out of it. Any of the "traditional" mods (intake, exhaust, etc) will only result in a thinner wallet--you won't see a substantial increase in power. You are far better off spending that money elsewhere.

I will agree with another poster: for a "low rider" Jeep--or even one lifted sky high--body armor is worth every penny you will spend. Definitely get some solid rocker guards, and I'd also say upgraded bumpers are highly important. Heavier duty skid plates and differential covers are wise investments if you plan to play on rocks.

The tow hook idea is a good one. You can install factory type hooks up front or even aftermarket ones; they bolt right on. As far as the tail is concerned, you can kill two birds with one stone: when you upgrade your rear bumper, select one with an integrated receiver--use that as your tow strap anchor point.

What size of tires would I recommend? That depends how you intend to use it off road. You can do a lot on 31" tires, and staying with this relatively small size means you can keep using your stock axles (which will keep a lid on costs). Both of my former Wrangler SEs wore 31" Goodyear MT/Rs and had 2" budget boost lifts--this gave them an increase in off road capability without ruining their on road ride.

Gears: you can run 31" tires with the stock 4.10 gears; that's how I did it with both of my SEs. If you are more serious--or if your commute has lots of hills--you can regear to 4.56 for better performance.

For the record, here was my first SE demonstrating its capability in rocky terrain:

You are on the right track by checking in here to get ideas. It won't take much for you to really, really love how your Jeep performs.

Mahoo 04-18-2011 12:43 AM

I own a SE also and I agree with Sherpa. The 2.5L is not workhorse that the 4.0L is but still a dang good engine. I dont do rock crawling nor been on any extreme trails but my little 4 banger has went through/over the exact same obstacles as my friends 6 cylinders does and, in my opionion, my TJ performs flawlessly.

I installed body armor and replaced my factory plastic flares with powder coated steel ones and they have been worth every penny.

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