Replacing a blown motor in an '03 Wrangler - Jeep Wrangler Forum
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Old 01-10-2015, 03:05 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
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Replacing a blown motor in an '03 Wrangler

First post. Just like everyone else, I didn't read the "Newbies read this before posting" thread. I figure they will warn me once.

Jeeps are like model cars for adults and I have wanted one for about fifty years. I got it cheap because it had a blown motor. The kid ran it out of oil. It isn't a show car and it isn't even pretty - but it doesn't have any rust.

So...I stuffed in a VERY low mileage 305 4 bbl crate motor from an '86 Monte Carlo a friend had sitting in his garage and a kitted 4L60 trans. I would rather have had something sexy like a 327 but this was free, and 327's aren't. The Jeep originally had 2.5 liter 5 speed so it came with a Dana 35 in the back, a 30 in the front and 4:11 gears; so the 305 is just right. I wish I had Dana 44s and lockers but I don't. I wish I were young and handsome, too..but I'm not.

We had to double the suspension and raise the body to get the motor in It it looks stock. It doesn't look raised. But it's a little cramped. I have some wheel spacers I need to put on to keep from rubbing in tight turns. The motor mounts you can buy didn't cut it so we fabricated a solid 1" steel "U"-shaped bar that supports the front of the motor and added some support to the frame. I stiffened the ends of the frame with Curt receiver hitches front and back and a Rugged Ridge winch mount plate.

Since this is a toy and not a project, I tried to fabricate instead of buying. I had to buy some transfer case and drive line parts and some of the other stuff but not a whole lot. We took the heater and A/C out of a '98 Wrangler and put that in because this is a soft-top and needs air. We used the shifter from a Trans-Am. It looked good but didn't work right - so I blew a couple hundred bucks on a Winters Sidewinder shifter which I mounted on the floor next to the hand brake. You really can't see it, so I may have to put an annunciator on the dash to remind me to put it in park. I haven't decided what to put on the hump.

Around here a safety inspection consists of lights and horn. Engines used to run clean before big brother started mandating useless stuff that makes them run crappy and get terrible mileage. Half the price of a new car anymore is junk you don't need. This engine is barely broken in. It runs very clean and gets over 25 MPG. Computer? We don't need no steenkin' computer.

The Jeep computer is still there but all it does is run the instrument cluster and idiot lights (except the tach). It wants to throw 'check engine' error codes because it is still looking for the twenty or thirty sensors that no longer exist. If I unplug it completely the Jeep still starts and runs normally but I like to see the cluster gauges. I'll probably get around to throwing it and the entire wiring harness out eventually.

I am running a 160 degree high-flow thermostat. The motor wants to run about 180 which is about as cool as it should run without building up carbon, so the thermostat opens at 160 and the motor runs where it is comfortable. The fan comes on at 200 and kicks off at ~185. I'm going to put in a light because I can't hear the fan over the glasspacks. I'm not sure I even need a fan but it's there.

I don't need a tach either. The transmission decides when to shift better than I can - and it's normally on the low end of the torque curve. But I have a little Sunpro in the corner of the windshield just for kicks and I have aftermarket gauges in addition to the stock cluster.

I removed the airbags and controller (which are sitting here if anyone wants to talk) and installed a crossmember behind the seats for harnesses.

It bothers me that you can't ship airbags by mail and have to get a Hazmat permit and special box to ship them FEDEX or UPS because they are so dangerous - but the government REQUIRES you to drive around with one two feet from your face - or at least buy them in new cars. You never have to change them and of course they can't be tested so they might not work at all or they might kill you the day after your new car warranty expires and tough beans.

Instead, I have Crow 4-point restraints coming which I'll get around to installing next week. I'm not sure what I'll do with the steering wheel - probably replace it with an aftermarket. I need a horn button for the safety inspection and the stock wheel looks odd with wires hanging out. If anyone has experience with aftermarket steering wheels I'd appreciate the advice.

Actually, I'd appreciate ANY advice. Feel free. I need all the help I can get. This car is never going to be sold. It's not that it is that great - it's that only two people know how to work on it. I don't have to worry about re-sale or cutting holes in the floor.

I will mention that if you decide to remove the driver-side airbag and replace the steering wheel with a quick-release aftermarket wheel (which is perfectly legal to do), bringing in your steering wheel at night will absolutely prevent anyone from stealing your car.

I didn't like sitting as low as the stock seats so I installed 2" seat lifts which worked out well. I did modify the switch panel to take 4 Daystar switches. It looks clean and works for me.

I have never floored it. I kicked the back two barrels in once when some joker in his new Jeep pulled up and wanted to show off his 3.6 liter Pentastar. I'm not saying it wasn't pretty or that I'd turn one down. But he has about $35k in that puppy. A 5.7 liter Hemi in a custom Jeep can run $90k. I walked away from him and I probably don't have $5,000 in this, including the cost of the Jeep which came with new tires and top. And he WAS surprised.

Thanks for listening, have a safe day!

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Old 01-10-2015, 03:13 PM   #2
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Welcome! Tell us about your rig

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Old 01-10-2015, 03:32 PM   #3
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Just kidding, Dr.T, the intro is interesting. How about some pics?
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Old 01-10-2015, 05:35 PM   #4
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Old 01-10-2015, 06:26 PM   #5
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Old 01-11-2015, 03:20 AM   #6
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Old 01-11-2015, 11:45 AM   #7

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Welcome though...
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Old 01-11-2015, 02:18 PM   #8
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Old 01-11-2015, 11:09 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
Posts: 11
Thanks gentlemen and women!

I like this old Jeep so much I'm thinking about buying a nicer one. I like those beautiful green and orange colors and I want locking Dana 44s and the maximum frame and suspension I can get from the factory. Recommendations of year and model...anyone?

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