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Discussion Starter #1
For the past couple of years I've been casually looking for an older Jeep. My wife always wanted a YJ since she was in high school, and I've always thought it would be fun to own one (probably thanks to MacGyver). After a few years in two different JKs (first a 2 door, then a four door when our first kiddo arrived), my wife finally gave me the go ahead to find a YJ.

I spent a few of weeks looking on eBay, local classifieds and CraigsList. Most of the YJs that I could find were either total rust pits, didn't run or "sort of" ran, or were so modified and wheeled so hard that they were barely recognizable. I finally found one at the right price about 4 hours away from my house and just picked it up yesterday. The "4 hour" drive back home ending up taking 6 hours at 60 mph, getting a whopping 9 mpg in my 2016 Tacoma (V6.............:atomic:), but we made it.

It's a 1991 YJ with a 4.0L and the 5-speed AX-15, half doors and a soft top. The color was originally Radiant Fire, but it has been painted since to another red color that is close but not exactly the same. Overall the Jeep is very solid, very little rust except the common trouble spot around the windshield. I have become pretty handy at welding and repairing rust since I bought a 67 Pontiac Firebird a few years ago, so I am not too concerned with rust in this area (and worst case I can just replace the windshield frame). It runs very well, except for some occasional trouble getting it into 2nd gear and a bit of a wandering as it goes down the road. The Jeep already has what I speculate is a 3" lift and SYE of unknown brand. Overall the list of issues isn't too bad:

  • Rust around windshield - repairable or easily replaced
  • Minor issues getting into 2nd gear - need to have a transmission shop check it out
  • Wandery on the road - I'm 99% sure this is due to the lift. The shackles are much longer than stock and the leafs are of unknown brand. I checked and the track bar and drag link are parallel (must be dropped pitman arm), so the issue is probably elsewhere. I'm not sure what components were used, if this was a kit or home-brew lift so everything should probably just be replaced.
  • One of the soft top spreader rods is broken - replacement ordered for $9, really not a problem because the top will be down 90% of the time, top is also missing the bar that goes over the tailgate door to ensure that the back window closes snugly
  • The passenger's door and tailgate do not lock/unlock with the key - need to look into this
  • Some minor wiring issues, spliced wires and winch wiring is a little questionable - easy to repair
  • Fuel gauge is unreliably - likely the little plastic piece around the fuel sender in the fuel tank
  • Fuel tank skid plate is rusted - will replace when I drop the tank to repair the sender
  • Tailgate sags and is hard to close - will simply remove spare tire for the time being and eventually upgrade hinges to something heavier duty to fix the sage and install an aftermarket tire carrier to prevent it from happening again
  • Parking brake does not work
The only somewhat major issue is my wife told me I couldn't buy a Jeep without air conditioning. Fortunately, the place where I bought the Jeep is conveniently located 45 minutes from JeepAir, so I just swung by on my way home and picked up an A/C retrofit kit in person. The plan is to get that installed sometime in the next week after I have a mechanic give the whole Jeep a look over. I plan on using the YJ as a pseudo-daily driver (I still have my 4 door JK and don't plan on getting rid of it), so my initial goal is to get it to be as safe and roadworthy as possible so we can enjoy the summer and trips to the beach (phase 1 if you will). I also plan on using this Jeep for off-roading trips, camping, hunting etc, so after I've driven it for a while, I plan on some major upgrades to make it as capable if not more than my current JK (or phase 2 if you will). Here's how it looks like broken down:

Phase 1
  • Get a full inspection by a mechanic - then fix any issues they find
  • Replace current lift with RE 4" extreme duty system - hopefully this helps with the steering / wandery feeling issues
  • Replace the current aftermarket fender flares (kind of dorky looking imo) with something narrower
  • Fix wiring issues
  • Install a vinyl floor covering or bedrug throughout the interior
  • Repair fuel sender / replace tank as necessary, replace skid at the same time
  • Repair door locks
  • Replace most of the exterior lighting (everything is either non-DOT compliant or cracked/broken)
  • Interior cleanup (seat covers, remove some previous mods and give everything a good clean, maybe replace roll bar covers)
  • Exterior cleanup (POR-15 frame, undercoating, fix soft top issues including spreader bar and missing piece over tailgate, remove spare tire, repaint/PC some components that are peeling/rusty)
  • Tuffy security trunk - so I can leave some tools and other things in it with the top down - will need to fix tailgate lock at the same time
  • Replace aftermarket cold air intake with factory airbox - ordered already
  • Fix parking brake - probably needs a new cable
Phase 2
  • Larger lift to accomodate 35s+ - either SOA or 4 link with coilovers (might be overkill, but we will see)
  • Stubby bumpers, rocker armor, tire carrier
  • New Winch
  • LS V8 Swap - Probably from Novak or similar, will also include upgraded axles (tbd) to be done at the same time as the suspension upgrades, lockers, bigger brakes, new driveshafts, etc.
  • Paint - either a quality repaint in the factory Radiant Fire or full Line-X
  • New Wheels/Tires
  • CB radio
I'm taking the YJ to a shop on Monday to get it checked out. In the meantime I'll probably go ahead and install a new Spiderwebshade and start fixing some of the electrical. More to follow soon.
 

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That's a good looking Jeep there. I see the track bar is still there in the front. Contrary to what you might think that thing can lead to the strange feel when driving. It moves in a different arc than the springs and can create that feeling.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
That's a good looking Jeep there. I see the track bar is still there in the front. Contrary to what you might think that thing can lead to the strange feel when driving. It moves in a different arc than the springs and can create that feeling.
Thanks. I got the Jeep up on jack stands and one problem area might be some slack in the steering box. I’ll probably give that a small adjustment (1/8th turn) to see. The Jeep has brand new ball joints and tie rod ends, so I didn’t see any abnormal movement in those areas. I had read that removing the track bar could help, but it seemed counterintuitive. It makes sense if they are on a different arc that it could cause issues. I’ll give it a try later this week to see if it is the problem.
 

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Thanks. I got the Jeep up on jack stands and one problem area might be some slack in the steering box. I’ll probably give that a small adjustment (1/8th turn) to see. The Jeep has brand new ball joints and tie rod ends, so I didn’t see any abnormal movement in those areas. I had read that removing the track bar could help, but it seemed counterintuitive. It makes sense if they are on a different arc that it could cause issues. I’ll give it a try later this week to see if it is the problem.
It is free to take it off. If you don't like the way it drives without it you can just put it back on. I am pretty sure you will be happy with it off though.
 

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It is free to take it off. If you don't like the way it drives without it you can just put it back on. I am pretty sure you will be happy with it off though.


I agree with this! Lifted Jeeps need longer trackbars, if it is the stock one it’s too short. YJs don’t need them anyway. It was added from the factory as added precaution from the CJs which had a rollover issue.

Good luck with the build!


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Discussion Starter #6
I got to work on the wiring this weekend. With a 30 year old Jeep I expected to find some aftermarket wiring. Overall, the rats nest of wiring I pulled out was not as bad as I expected (see picture).

Oddly, before I started removing the aftermarket wiring, I found 15 connectors that were not plugged in, and had no mating connector to plug into. I know for sure I did not remove any OEM wiring (the stuff I removed was all 14 gauge red wiring attached via white zip ties to the OEM harness), so now I’m left to reference a factory wiring diagram to figure out what everything is. I also removed the roll bar covers and found that the sound bar has been rewired at least twice, and that people kept splicing new wiring into the factory wiring harness without removing old wiring.... I’m not overly concerned about this because it is an easy fix, I just need to decide if I am going to keep the factory sound bar. I am considering running with the roll bars exposed, and if I go that route I will remove the sound bar so I don’t have to run any exposed wiring up the tubes. I also found that a previous owner wired in a DIY 4 pin towing connector. I am happy that this is there, but not so happy about the bundle of vampire taps/butt connectors wrapped in a single piece of electrical tape. I’ll be rewiring that as well.

Now it’s time to start diagnosing the handful of electrical issues that I have:

  • Figure out what the 15 unconnected wires go to
  • Interior lights do not turn on when door is opened
  • Fuel indicator stuck on full
  • Oil pressure gauge intermittently reads zero
  • 2 of 4 stereo speakers have no sound (whole stereo should be rewired)
  • Clock does not maintain time (pretty sure it just needs to be replaced)
  • Heater fan does not turn on
  • Rewire towing harness
  • Prepare wiring for aftermarket air conditioning
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Got a few small things done today. I started by attempting to install the JeepAir kit that I have, and was quickly thwarted by the ash tray... there is one screw that is frozen in place and no amount of penetrating oil is going to help get it unstuck. :banghead: I need to decide if I am going to just break the ash tray assembly to get it out or try to drill the screw head out. I don’t plan on putting it back in since the location under the air conditioning blower seems like a good place to put a switch pod to control lights and other accessories in the future, so now it’s just a matter of trying to save it for someone else to use or trashing it.

After about an hour of trying to get that screw unstuck I decided to close out a few unfinished projects. I removed the spare tire and tire carrier. My tailgate now shuts correctly, so I’m going to just run without a spare until I’m ready for a new bumper/tire carrier.

I finished up most of the electrical repairs. With the help of some people on the forum, I’ve identified the remaining connectors (turns out they are for factory air conditioning, 4WD light and the windshield washer bottle). I just need to solder together 4 wires for the sound bar speakers that were damaged from some poor splicing. I’m thinking about removing the entire sound bar so I can run with exposed roll bars, so I may not even keep those wires.

I finally removed the front track bar, I’ll see how I like that once everything is back together. I also need to find a replacement sway bar and some disconnect links, mine was removed by a previous owner. Still need to diagnose my steering issues, it feels like the linkage is hanging up somewhere when I turn the wheel. Hopefully I can get that knocked out this afternoon.
 

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Keep up the good work! It’s amazing the stuff you’ll find working on an older Jeep. It seems that whenever you fix one thing you’ll find another to fix.


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Discussion Starter #9
Keep up the good work! It’s amazing the stuff you’ll find working on an older Jeep. It seems that whenever you fix one thing you’ll find another to fix.


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Thanks, it is really easy to keep going down the rabbit hole of perfectionism. I have to constantly remind myself that my goal for this phase of the build is to get the Jeep to be safe and reliable enough to be back on the road so I can enjoy summer before I take it down for the big build in the fall.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
I had about an hour after the kids went to bed, so I decided to make some progress on the A/C install. I got the evaporator/blower unit installed, as well as the compressor and drier unit. I still need to install the condenser, which unfortunately requires draining and dropping the radiator. After that I can get everything plumbed up and charged.
 

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Got a good amount done on the YJ today. I was able to get the condenser for the a/c mounted and I replaced the serpentine belt to drive the compressor. The kit has a condenser fan which should ensure I always have cold air for our hot summers here in Florida. I still need to connect two hoses, finish the wiring and have an a/c shop charge the system, but its much closer than I was earlier this week.

While I was repairing the wiring I removed an aftermarket winch control panel which had been installed in the blank panel to the right of the steering wheel (I think this is where the hardtop switches would be if I had one). This left a gaping hole which has been bugging me. I ended up ordering some switches from OTRATTW and wired up a mini switch pod to fill the hole. It turns out the 3 switch Contura V panel is a perfect fit for this panel. I built something similar for my JK (it has an A-pillar switch pod tied to a Bussmann fuse/relay box). I'm not quite ready for a new winch or lockers yet, so I'll just leave it unhooked until the next phase of the build (I'll be building another Bussmann box and another switch pod to control all of these accessories plus lights, CB radio and maybe an air compressor).

Hoping to get the a/c hooked up and get the Jeep back on the road by next week. More updates soon.
 

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I got to work on the wiring this weekend. With a 30 year old Jeep I expected to find some aftermarket wiring. Overall, the rats nest of wiring I pulled out was not as bad as I expected (see picture).
Seems like every vehicle made prior to 2000 has had some jerry rigged wiring to deal with!

Nice work so far, looking forward to the finished product...
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Seems like every vehicle made prior to 2000 has had some jerry rigged wiring to deal with!

Nice work so far, looking forward to the finished product...
Thanks. I've been tracking your build thread and it looks like you pulled out a much larger rats nest than I had.

I pretty much have all of the wiring repaired now, except a mess of vampire taps and cut wires near the passenger side door. I've been trying to reference the factory wiring diagrams, but things aren't matching up. It looks like I'll be busting out the old test light again once I finish wiring the new a/c. Unfortunately I have to fly to New England this week for work, so all of this will have to wait until next weekend.
 

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Thanks. I've been tracking your build thread and it looks like you pulled out a much larger rats nest than I had.

I pretty much have all of the wiring repaired now, except a mess of vampire taps and cut wires near the passenger side door. I've been trying to reference the factory wiring diagrams, but things aren't matching up. It looks like I'll be busting out the old test light again once I finish wiring the new a/c. Unfortunately I have to fly to New England this week for work, so all of this will have to wait until next weekend.
Mine was indeed a rat's nest! Luckily, all the taps and wire nuts were in relatively "safe" sections of the harness (not too close to the terminal) and thus easy to repair. There are a few wires/leads that are factory fused that go to nowhere (like the rear defroster) that I'm glad I repurposed.

Have few in New England! I just got back from the PNW, so I'll have a few chances to wrap up some stuff this week myself.
 

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I got home from my trip this afternoon, so I decided to spend a little time on the YJ after dinner. I noticed that the fuel smell was worse than I remembered (granted it might have something to do with being away from the garage for a week), so I decided to do some investigating. It turns out all of the rubber fuel lines have been recently replaced, so that rules them out. I checked the lines that connect to the fuel rails and those have been replaced as well with no noticeable leaks. This leads me to believe that the problem is somewhere around the tank (hopefully just some dry rotted fuel filler neck or vent). I plan on dropping the skid plate this weekend to see if I can locate the problem.

While I was under the Jeep I decided it would be a good time to measure the shackles to see how much lift was from the shackles and how much was from the springs. The shackles measured almost 6-1/2” from center to center, which tells me they are providing ~1-1/4” of the lift. A quick inspection of the front diff shows that it is leaning pretty noticeably forward, and there are no shims in the springs to correct for the lift. I’m guessing caster is all out of whack, which is why my Jeep is wandery down the road and the steering wheel does not center up after a turn like you would expect. I’ll bust out the digital angle gauge this weekend to try to measure the caster to see if this is the source of my problem.

After all the investigating I didn’t have much time left, so I installed new shifter boots and knobs. There was some bubba work with a welded on handle and the transfer case shift knob was from another vehicle (see photo, try to guess what’s wrong with that picture). I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out, and I’ll definitely be happier with a shifter that doesn’t require leaning over to use.
 

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I got home from my trip this afternoon, so I decided to spend a little time on the YJ after dinner. I noticed that the fuel smell was worse than I remembered (granted it might have something to do with being away from the garage for a week), so I decided to do some investigating. It turns out all of the rubber fuel lines have been recently replaced, so that rules them out. I checked the lines that connect to the fuel rails and those have been replaced as well with no noticeable leaks. This leads me to believe that the problem is somewhere around the tank (hopefully just some dry rotted fuel filler neck or vent). I plan on dropping the skid plate this weekend to see if I can locate the problem.
I've got a $10 spot on betting that it's likely the roll-over vent seals... I had the same exact issue that just happened to start one day. If you haven't replaced them, I'd buy a set before you drop the tank and do them preemptively anyways.
 

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I've got a $10 spot on betting that it's likely the roll-over vent seals... I had the same exact issue that just happened to start one day. If you haven't replaced them, I'd buy a set before you drop the tank and do them preemptively anyways.
Thanks, I forgot about those valves. I just bought a kit with the fuel pump/sender gasket, vapor vents and gaskets, and the fuel filler/vent necks. I doubt any of them have ever been replaced, so I figured I should just replace it all while I have the tank down. Might be overkill, but it wasn’t too expensive and I really don’t want to have to drop this tank more than once.
 

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Just a quick update. I went ahead and measured the caster today (using a digital angle finder on top of the steering knuckle). I measured ~3.5 degrees, so now I’m 99% sure that the longer shackles are the cause of my steering problems. The Jeep is currently running 33s, and I don’t think there will be enough room if I lose more than an inch of lift by going to OEM shackles. My interim fix will be to buy a set of Rubicon Express 5” boomerang shackles (~1/2” of lift) and see if that fixes it.
 

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A/C install is complete! I purged and charged the system today and now have nice 43 degree air conditioning for the hot Florida summer.

Most of the wiring is complete now as well. I did uncover a few issues though:

1) My condenser fan runs all the time even when the ignition and a/c are both in the off position. I pulled the relay for now. I’m thinking the relay is wired backwards, should be an easy fix.

2) I re-wired the under hood light (a PO cut the wires apart) and now it stays on all the time. Probably the reason someone disconnected it in the first place. I need to dig into the factory wiring manual to see if there is a switch or something that controls it. Disconnected for now.

3) Now my right sound bar speaker isn’t working. I’m thinking it is just a loose wire in the connector, I had some issues with pins popping out when I tried to connect it back up.

On the suspension, I’ve removed the front and rear track bars. I took it for a test drive today and didn’t notice any difference (maybe a little smoother ride), so I’ll probably just leave them off. The wandery steering issue was still there, so I’m in the process of installing some shorter boomerang shackles in the front to see if that will correct the caster. I’ll also be reinstalling the sway bar once I can figure out what size bolts hold the bushing clamps on (been to the hardware store twice already....................).

After I button up the front end, I’ll start tackling my fuel vapor issue. More updates soon.
 

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Suspension work is done. The 5” boomerang shackles brought my caster back into spec (measured ~7 degrees). I also installed a factory sway bar (got it cheap from someone who was adding antirock). I scored a set of JKS disconnects for less than half of retail cost (guy bought the wrong part thinking it was for a JK). I’ll admit, I’m glad I did not pay full retail for these. The install was extremely easy up until I tried to connect the upper and lower halves with the pins. The passenger’s side took 20 minutes and required the use of a mallet. The driver’s side took me over 45 minutes and the only way I could get the pin to go in was to bust out the air hammer. The instructions say that the pins will get easier to install after the Jeep is driven a bit. Hopefully that is the case, but right now I’m not too confident that I’ll be able to disconnect the sway bar links when I go off-roading.

That said, the Jeep handles 100x better now. The steering is spot on, no wander and returns to center as you would expect. Turning is much more predictable and the body roll is significantly less. I’m extremely happy with the ride now, and it is much safer which makes me more comfortable putting kids and family in it.

I’m looking forward to having the Jeep back on the road. I still need to tackle the fuel smell and some miscellaneous electrical issues, but I’m still planning on taking it out to the beach next weekend. Can’t wait!
 

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