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943 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all, a little note before i start this thread.
Those of you who notice my posts probably notice that i like to talk a lot. So a lot of this is likely to be long-winded. If the thread doesn't get much attention, i'll likely shorten things up to keep people interested. I also plan on including a lot of pictures that WILL stay up for as long as photobucket doesn't mess with image URLs or gets taken down entirely.

This build thread is going to focus around both mods and necessary repairs/maintenance. While i'd like to keep people entertained with this thread, ultimately my goal is to document all my encounters/issues with all my projects on my Jeep. So that it will benefit both current and future TJ owners doing a google search.
For that reason, please, feel free to ask questions. There's nothing i like more than helping fellow Jeepers with the knowledge and experience I've gained!

With that being said, here's a (somewhat) brief history on me and my Jeeps.

My name is Josh, and i live in Northwestern PA. And my TJ is my daily driver. This sets the table for an interesting battle with rust that will, and has been, overlaying my entire Jeeping career.
I bought a old rust bucket 2000 with 143k miles for 4.5k back in may of 2013. After battling a lot of rust, doing mods and repairs that were necessary(due to rust/worn parts/engines exploding, etc) it finally succumbed last November when i lost control on the highway, smashing into the guardrail and cracking the front control arms mounts. I wish i had made a build thread on this TJ, because honestly i had done too many things to it to list in this one, and i'll probably reference all those mods/repairs later. But a picture(before the accident) will have to suffice.

I still have this TJ. And i hope to put a few hundred into it this summer to make it into an off-highway secondary driver. But for now it sits in my side yard, looking at me with sad puppy dog eyes.

After that, i knew i wanted to go after another TJ with the knowledge I've gained of them(on the forefront of my mind is "rustisevilrustisevilrustisevil"). And finally i found this 2005 sport.

Minimal rust, 89k miles, auto, 4.0, D44 rear, all for 12.5K It was the next best thing to a Rubi. It came with some half-worn 31s, so i put on my 31" Duratracs with canyon rims from my 2000. I also swapped over the hard top, among other small things.
Some of the mods and repairs I've done in the past 6 months are:
-Drain holes drilled in bottom of frame & skid spaced with a couple washers
-Rampage Euro grille guard that used to be on my 2000(Only really a hood ornament until i get a proper bumper)
-KC H4 headlight enclosure kit swapped from my 2000
-Direct 12v 10ga wired & relayed headlights and fog lights
-Optilux 1800 driving lamps mounted on windshield brackets from my 2000
-Bestop Trektop NX from my 2000(As stated before, i have a hardtop for winter too)
-GM gas filler to fix overflow issue
-Rough country 1.25" body lift
-Advanced adapters T-case shifter linkage isolation bracket
-Digital rear view mirror out of a 2002 Avalanche(Auto dimming, compass & temperature)
-Front & rear driveshafts rebuilt

Here's how she stands now(coincidentally, in the same car wash):

This year's goal for the TJ is to have it in tiptop shape for winter. I'm aware how bad Wranglers are in the snow & ice, and i should just put the money into a beater car with snow tires for winter. However, that wouldn't be very fun, would it?
This goal includes mods/add-ons i want to do such as:

-POR-15ing entire frame, underside of body, and axles. Eastwood internal frame coating on the inside.
-powered door/tailgate locks
-remote start/keyless entry
-ordering & installing an OEM hard top wiring harness, re-pinned for my 2000's hardtop
-designated snow tires(Seeing as some of the biggest sizes are 30s, these are gonna look funky on an eventual 4.25" of lift)
-new shocks, possibly higher rate coils for the weight of the hardtop(My current coils were bottoming out last winter)

A lot of people probably view these as "prissy" mods. However, i enjoy every aspect of modding my TJ. Both those creature comfort/convenience mods, and the gritty offroad mods. After i get my TJ where i want it function-wise, there will be plenty of time for the offroad mods. And i'll probably tuck some of them in this year.

If i get lucky, i would love to be rolling 4.55/4.88 gearing & Detroit truetracs front & rear. But that's a big bill to foot this year.
I also notice that my front fenders are starting to bubble. I would love to have MCE flat fenders & rear flares. However that would be nearly $600 alone so that might have to wait for next year.
I've already spent nearly half of the year laid off, so my TJ isn't going to be where the bulk of my finances will be going when i'm back to work. Hence why some of the mods I've listed are small-dollar mods. However i'll definitely fit some other mods into the year to keep things interesting(Electrical mods run cheap, and happen to be my favorite).

Towards the end of my build, i'm hoping to be running 33s with appropriate gearing, a 3" coil lift, trutracs front & rear, high-clearance skid, aftermarket front & rear bumpers, sliders, savvy aluminum gas tank skid, remote cooler & filter for the tranny, flat front & rear fenders, and maybe a V8 Vortec if my 4.0 decides to blow like my last one did.
I'm aware most of this is probably stuff that people decide to throw on in their first year. However, as a 21 year old shop rat with a girlfriend and his life ahead of him in his mind, sadly his TJ is not his primary money pit. BUT, i am thrifty and enjoy mods & repairs of all shapes & sizes. So i should be an entertaining person to follow(I hope!)

Thanks for reading this long-winded post. I'm sure more will come to follow. And if you didn't, i hope you caught the pointers!

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943 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Rock/outside courtesy light wiring & mounting

Planned as more of a cheap project, i picked up 6 of these LEDs for some rock/outside courtesy lights, and to re-do my auxiliary reverse lights(A mod i did on my 2000 and loved). I noticed them being circulated around the forum as a nice cheap LED light that is bright and preforms well.

I'm glad i picked them up when i did, they went from 11 a piece to 14. But as with every project, after wires and stupid special switches it ended up being about a $80 - $90 job.

Mounting them wasn't too hard. I put two under the tub by the doors on either side. Angled outwards so they shine where you step out of the jeep. I probably could have made them more functional as rock lights by shining them directly forward towards the front tires, but 90% of the time they'll be functioning as courtesy lights so the girlfriend can see what she's stepping out of the jeep into at night. So i positioned them accordingly.

Another one is mounted under the grill, shining directly down to illuminate the front differential, steering, and tires.

And finally, the last one is mounted in the same location that STU Olson mounted his rear rock light. On the rear, driver side upper control arm bracket(link).

This one took a little hardware creativity. Due to the LED light's length, i couldn't position it at the angle i want with it flush up against the control arm bracket. So i picked up a longer bolt, and a spacer sleeve from Lowes to space the light away from the bracket. It worked flawlessly.

Wiring them was a different story. I was having trouble getting the lights to function the way i wanted them to. I wanted them to turn on with the flip of a switch, but also turn on with my dome lights when the doors are opened. BUT, also be able to be disabled by my custom wired dome light cut-out switch(For when the doors are off).

With some help from Water Dog here on the forum, i finally got them functioning 90% the way i want to. I only have two more issues with them: A: They turn on with my dome light switch on the malfunction switch. Water Dog's schmatic that he shared with me incorporated a center-off switch to remedy this. However, i'd like to figure out a more "hands off" approach to keeping them from turning on.
And B: Due to the dimming nature of the dome lights, the relay(which is under my glove box in the cab) lets out a loud metallic PING when they finally turn off all the way. My assumption as to why this happens is because the current flowing though the dome light circuit(and my relay) decreases gradually to create the dimming effect. This in turn causes the electromagnet in the relay to let go of the switch slowly instead of a quick snap. I have no idea if this will effect the longevity of the relay or not.

To fix the metallic PING sound, i'll eventually either A: Move the relay into the engine bay to muffle the sound or B: find a way to bypass the dimming feature all together.
To fix the rock lights turning on with my malfunction switch, i'll have to look at wiring schematics and see if i can wire in the relay to react to ONLY the door jam switches. Though, the door jam switches are wired AFTER all the things they control, and only interrupt the ground when actuated. This makes utilizing them for that purpose, difficult. Due to this, i'll probably have to drill holes and mount a second set of door jam switches. This would fix all my problems. However, due to the small nature of this wiring annoyance, i'm not going to worry about it now. And maybe never will.

The remaining two lights that i purchased will be mounted in the gap between my body and rear bumper for auxiliary reverse lights. I already have mounted the lights' mounts. But due to dropping a vital nut into the gas tank skid, i have to pick up some more hardware from Lowes before i finish these up.
Here's a couple shots of the rocklights alone, though:

Overall, i'm not as impressed with the lights' output as some people seemed to be. Though the limited field of light might be due to how low my jeep is to the ground. As i lift it and get bigger tires(And get that ugly shovel skid plate out of the light's way) the light's fields should increase in size. Or i may pick up 4 more and mount them in my wheel wells.
They're advertised as waterproof, but i know better than that... I'll be sealing up the ones under the sides of the tub with silicon. They will be constantly pelted with mud/water/slush/salt year round.
The design of tightening them leaves much to be desired. They're an socket hex bolt, and they give you an allen key that is barely long enough to clear the "channel" that is grooved into the heatsink on the back of the light. But i'm just nitpicking about a $11 chinese-made LED at this point.

Well, that concludes this long-winded update... Like i said in the original post, i'm trying my best to document my experiences with my projects in the fullest way possible. I know what it's like to dig through google and find someone who has run into the exact issue you're dealing with, with the exact project you're working on. It helps immensely. If anyone wants anymore information on this mod, post or message me and i'll be glad to help with pictures/etc.

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943 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Axle U-joints, steering linkage, and ball joints with an Advance Auto rental kit

When I took my TJ in for annual inspection earlier this year, my mechanic gave me a nice list of things he found that'll still pass inspection, but needed to be addressed. Among them was front axle u joints and ball joints. Which made sense, as ever since I got my 05 I have felt a little slack in the steering. This was very noticeable as my 2000 that I previously drove had almost all-new steering components.

I ordered a couple sets of spicer ball joints and moog non-greasable axle u joints. Everyone has their preference on parts like these, but I chose what I thought were the highest quality parts that fit my budget. After handling them, I honestly prefer the moog ball joints that I put into my 2000 over the Spicers I purchased. The moog lowers were greasable and had a plug for the hole so the axle yoke did not snap off the grease fitting. The boots were thick and had a metal ring that held it on the joint snugly.
The axle u joints, I have only ever used moog so far due to the cheapness I can pick them up for with an advance auto coupon. I will probably try spicers next to compare once these need replaced. I am still on the fence about u-joint greasability.
When I started tearing into the front end, I managed to mangle the drag link and tie rod studs. So I decided to go with a new drag link, ZJ tie rod, and steering stablizer. Drag link was auto zone's duralast brand and the ZJ tie rod components were advance auto's driveworks brand mostly due to my budget and needing the parts that day. I chose Monroe for the stabilizer as i'm told they're all pretty much the same. I gave all the new parts a nice coat of silver paint to spruce up the bottom end.

Anyone changing ball joints on a TJ must be aware of the weird angle the axle's ears are set at. This often calls for a special press adapter that normally runs around 100 bucks. Some people have luck shimming the cups with pieces of steel so the joint goes in straight, but this never worked well for me.
After changing a couple sets of joints, I've finally gotten the hang of using advance auto's rental master ball joint kit to put these joints in with minimal effort. Make sure you inspect the kit before you drive away from the store. The first one I got had a bent push pin and stripped threads.

Note that the adapter needed is ONLY in their bigger 23 piece kit. It has a slight bevel that makes up for the ear's slant.

I have never really had any issues with getting the joints out, or getting the bottom one in. Putting the cups in the right order and putting some ass behind the breaker bar has broken loose pretty much all the joints I've done. Although it is true that the harbor freight press is not up to handling that much torque. I bent mine the first joint I did on my 2000.
My joints weren't completely shot like they were on my 2000. The bottom ones were pretty easily moved by hand. (interestingly, the ones WITHOUT grease fittings) but i'm glad I replaced them as now they are recorded on my maintenance schedule.

Getting the top joint to go in straight has always give me issues. This is where that special adapter comes into play. It has a notch in the high end, which is positioned closest to you, on the bottom of the ear. I grease up the joint and the hole they go in and they usually slip in without much effort.

Installing the u joints was not anything special. I cleaned the factory grease out of the caps and put in a couple shots of Lucas red n' tacky. I found the C clips a lot easier to install than the outer clips that the driveshafts use.
My passenger side u joint had a cap that was worn out and was probably getting pretty close to failure.

Unfortunately, it was not the source of my squeaking in the front end at moderate speeds. So unit bearings will probably happen sometime soon.

Shortly before my 2000 TJ was taken out of commission, i had replaced the brakes pads with some decent Weaver platinums. The pads in my 2005 were in good shape, however the better stopping power is apparent in the weavers so i swapped them, along with the rotors, from my 2000. I also fancy'ed up my calipers by giving them a quick coat of fire red caliper paint.

Next i moved onto all my new steering components. I basically got all-new tie rod and drag link assemblies, including their ends. The only thing i left out is my drag link's adjustment sleeve as there was no good reason to replace it. The steering stabilizer wasn't needed, however i chose to replace it to finish off the fresh, new look. My old parts weren't in *terrible* condition. I mangled the threads trying to beat the studs out of the ears(Even with the nut threaded on). Truthfully i probably could have chased the threads on the studs, and used new castle nuts. But I've wanted to do a ZJ tie rod upgrade since i got this jeep, and i was out to eliminate all the play in the steering i could. Besides, just look at that unbooted steering stabilizer shaft. Sexy.

Ehem, anyway I measured everything stud-to-stud(as centered as i could estimate them) and replicated those measurements as best i could while threading the new tie rods/ends, then bolted everything together underneath the TJ.

I used this method to dial-in my toe-in. I found my tape measure rubbed under my control arms while taking the rear measurements, so i feel like that measurement wasn't as accurate as it could have been. However it feels right driving down the road. I am going to take it to an alignment shop that offers free checks, to see how accurate i really was.

A little before and after:

Finished bolting everything together and aligning the front end at 1AM thanks to my handly rock lights.

The TJ handles and brakes like a dream now. Only closing issue is that one of the tie rod ends Advance auto sold me has a dry rotted boot that cracked under torque and is seeping grease. I ordered 2 total for the job and when they pulled them out, they gave me one driveworks brand, and another chinese brand i had never seen. I figured they'd both be similar but this one apparently had been sitting in the warehouse a few too many years. It'll be going back and replaced with a proper driveworks. This particular branch is known for giving me rusty/used and returned/junk parts. Unfortunately they're the only ones that had my parts on the fly.

This is being posted a couple weeks after this job due to me being busy. In that time i had a chance to wire up my reverse lights. One of them had accumulated moisture in the lens and stopped working after about an hour of use. My front suspension rock light is also developing moisture in the lens, however it has yet to fail. I'm in contact with who sold them to me, and i'm hoping to get them replaced and RTV'ed(Clearly i should have as soon as i got them)

And i'll finish off with probably the biggest issue at the moment: My TJ has quickly developed a terrible engine/transmission vibration and has been stalling on me. I'm still in the process of diagnosing the problem, however it's also giving me a knocking sound when warm, and a more aggressive knock/pop sound when i shut it down. It's parked to prevent further damage, however due to the disheartening knocking sound, i fear the worst.
I'm hoping it's something simple. However if it's something internal in the engine, i'll most likely throw in the towel and swap my brand-new 4.0 out of my 2000 along with the flat fenders/etc and just part out the 2000. More updates to come.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Vibration/Knocking/rough idle solved, misc. small projects

After many days, forum posts, poking around online, intake cleaning, spark plug checks, and parts purchases i finally tracked down the source of my drivetrain tremor. 2 out of 4 of my bellhousing to engine block bolts, were finger tight, and 1 was missing. This gave me terrible vibrations, timing codes, and did not let my starter gear disengage(Burnt up the starter).

A little embarrassed, i admit it took me over a week to find this simple issue. In the process, i replaced my OPDA(Which was much needed, picture below)knowing the 05s and 06s had an issue with it.

I went with a dorman unit, but retained the factory sensor.
Upon installation, my timing was off just a hair; enough to throw a code. I'm not sure if this is due to the wear on the old OPDA, or me just fugging up the install. None the less, i fine-tuned the timing using the marks on the drive pulley, and all was well.

I also replaced my starter, as the play between the engine block and bellhousing did not let the starter gear disengage, and most likely severely shortened the lift expectancy of the starter. Fate did not let me pinch pennies on this one, either. Trying to take the power wire off the starter, i snapped the copper stud on the solenoid. So i opted to replace the whole thing.

Another task i got done while my Jeep was done was having the heat shield on one of my upstream cats welded. It had broken free(something that happened to my 2000 as well) and would create a racket whenever i accelerated. I took my headers completely out and took them to my local welder who charged me 20 bucks to tack it back on. I melted right through the thin sheet metal with my poor welding skills, so i figured i'd leave it to a professional.

With the headers off, i decided to give them a coat of ceramic exhaust paint before re-installing. They looked very pretty, however it quickly got scratched up while i muscled them back under the jeep. The ceramic paint has a special curing process that involved running vehicle for X amount of time & letting it cool multiple times. Since i was still trying to troubleshoot my vibration issue, i was unable to do this so the paint started flaking pretty quick.

With all these jobs done and the bellhousing bolts back in place and tightened down, my jeep finally drove again and with a bunch of maintenance done to boot. However with these events taking place over a month ago, i have done a lot more small jobs since.

Contacting the Amazon seller that i got my LED rock/reverse lights from, they sent me two brand new ones. Which i sealed with RTV, along with my existing lights that have not bit the dust(yet). The ones that i sealed with no moisture inside, have yet to accumulate any so i'm confident it worked. However, the ones with moisture already in them are retaining it, so i'll most likely have to drain them somehow, and re-seal them.

I also had someone back into the driver side rear corner of my jeep. While there was no serious damage, it cracked the paint job on my flares, and added to the list of scuffs and scrapes they have. So, naturally, it was time to paint. I used Krylon fusion and realized that satin black is not the same as matte. Unsatisfied with the finish, i went over them with Krylon's regular matte black paint as i was unable to find fusion in matte. The results hold up great, and show no signs of chipping, even on the gravel-invested back roads i live on. Below are before and after pictures:

I also found out that at some point, a PO had the flares color-matched by a shop. It was most-likely the same time they had this rust touched-up, but not taken care of properly. So cutting this section out and welding in new steel is on my short-list.

My sway bar links are pretty much at the end of their life-span. I opted to remove the whole sway bar, and install all-new links and bushings. I have yet to order them, however in the meantime i built my own set of HD swaybar disconnects using this method.

I also picked up a set of 4 Crager 15x7(4.25BS) D window wagon wheels for 65 bucks. I had seen these on a facebook parts page for about a month and the kid still hadn't sold them, so i figured i'd make the hour drive to look at them. He did advertise them as 15x8, so i figured i could put eventual 33x12.50s on them. However that might not be a good idea on 15x7s.
I still picked them up given the price and condition they were in. I figured i could get some good use out of them with my current tires, and could give my TJ some more offset, and less of a stock look. I'm going to pick up some cheap center caps for them, a spare cover to hide the miss-matched spare, and some gloss black paint. I'm going to strip some areas that are starting to bubble, and strip off the tacky red/blue pin stripes around the boarder.

Also on my way down to look at the rims, i stopped by a napa that was having a closing down sale. I picked up 16 quarts of ATF+4 for 3.69 a quart. I've been doing a lot of towing with my TJ lately, so i figured i'm due for a fluid flush, new filter, lube locker gasket, drain plug, temperature sensor, and aux cooler. I have a few more parts to gather, but that'll most likely be my next task.

The final thing on my list happens to be a flea market find. I picked up a 2 sets of Polk DXi650 6.5" speakers for only 10 bucks. One set appeared used with wire plugs shoddily soldered on, a few wires ripped off, and some rust. The other set seemed brand new with only a small rip in one of them.

I figured i had pretty good odds of 2 out of 4 of them working, so i picked them up for my sound pods. I used clear silicone to patch up the small rip in the new-looking set, and i fixed up the soldering on the used set. I vouched to install the used set, as i wanted to test the least-promising looking set. And if they worked, i had a brand new set as backups anyways.

People seem to have better luck squeezing other 6.5" speakers into the sound pods and getting them flush, however these polks were just too big, and i didn't want to chance damaging the speaker trying to cut them to fit. So i ended up drilling holes and screwing down the speakers where they set: just on the ridge of the sound pod. This doesn't allow me to put on the stock speaker grills, however i believe the polks will be just fine; they're marine rated after all.

I also took this opportunity to pack the sound pods, and factory sub box with poly-fil. Some say this makes better sound, some say it makes worse sound. Since a bag is only a couple bucks, i decided to give it a shot.
Opening up my sub box also showed me that the PO had the stock sub(Which they most likely blew out) replaced with a cheap Scosche 6.5" speaker. Seeing as though it's plain speaker with less than half the power of a designated sub, i'll be excited to see the improved auto quality when i upgrade it to a real sub.
With everything hobbled back together, much to my delight the used polks are loud, clear, and really flesh out my lows.
However, the poly-fil muffles the bass a little more than i like. So it'll be coming out eventually. I believe it depends on what kind of music you listen to. My tastes include a good amount of hard-beating EDM, so i prefer more of that echo-y, hollow bassy sound.

This just about concludes this long addition to my build. While i'm sure most people aren't up to reading long blocks of text like this, i definitely enjoy having a place to document my projects. See you next post, cheers!:beerdrinking:

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943 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Aquiring parts for transmission flush, Valve cover gasket change

Another item on the list my inspection mechanic gave me was a "weeping" valve cover gasket. I also think i need a rear main seal replaced since i have oil trickling down the bellhousing inspection plate. But i read that this can often be mistaken for a rear main seal when it's simply a valve cover gasket leaking oil out the rear of the head. So, i decided to go with the cheaper route first.

Removal is pretty straight forward. Pull off all the tubes, cables, etc. It became a tiny bit more involved since i have AC, and a later-year TJ with that annoying-ass plastic encasing around the wiring harness at the rear of the cover. This is held down by one nut on the passenger side, and by some sort of satan-spawn plastic retention clip on the driver side.(Don't mind the after-the-job-is-done taken pictures)

I ended up just stuffing a screwdriver around the stud and just tapped it in with a hammer until the plastic was destroyed enough for it to just lift off.

Then i had to remove the nut holding the AC line brackets to the head.

I also took the 8MM bolt out of the bracket between the AC lines. This let me muscle the bracket off the stud so that the corner isn't hanging up the cover.

Lastly, i had to move the spring-loaded clamp on the upper radiator hose(thermostat side) up the hose a bit, as it also interferes with the cover coming off(It sure is a tight fit!)
The rest of the bolts and brackets were pretty straight forward. Take them out, remember where they go, etc.
With some muscling i managed to get the cover off. The biggest issue was trying to work around that stupid plastic harness housing at the rear.

Cover off, i scrubbed it down GOOD with Krud Kutter. I've become accustom to Mean Green, but when my dad handed me this it seemed to work much better on the heavy gunk in the grooves of the cover. I then sanded it with 100 grit, and sprayed it down with Dupicolor fire red caliper paint(I find it hard to put things back together without painting them).

I "ATTEMPTED" to stencil "4.0 LITRE" across the top of the valve cover. However, due to the grooves in the top of the cover, the paint over-sprayed beneath the stencil.

Instead of re-doing the whole cover and waiting another couple days, i decided to just leave it. As it's hard to see the stenciling buried under all the cables and tubes anyway.

I cleaned the gasket mating surface with a tooth brush, parts cleaner, and a rag.
Re-assembly went smoother than i expected. Worried about scuffing the paint, i took the plastic housing off the wiring harness at the rear of the engine, and slid the cover in. I then re-assembled the plastic housing around the harness, with the cover in place. The cover went in almost effortlessly.
I put all the bolts in place, and torqued them down to 7-ft lbs in a criss-cross pattern. I then assembled everything around the cover again. Bellow is the fruits of my labor:

I love the splash of color it gives to the engine bay. Like i said, it's hard to see the stenciling under all the clutter. I'll have to tell people what it says if they're trying to read it :whistling:

I also have been slowly gathering parts for my transmission fluid maintenance project coming up. It's going to be more extensive than just a traditional flush. I'll be removing the front grill to install a larger auxiliary transmission cooler on the core supports. While it's out, i'll be painting it matte black.
I'm planning on other goodies like a lube locker gasket for the transmission pan, painting the pan, installing a drain plug in it, along with a temp sensor i pulled from my 00' TJ.

My 05' is also missing it's crossmember under the tranny pan. I picked up one of these from a junk yard for 25 bucks. Mine seems to had been cut/ripped off at some point, as the nutserts are mostly gone too. So i'll be ordering a couple of those from black magic brakes.

I still have quite a few parts to gather, and while i would love things like a remote filter and a Derale remote cooler, i'm already spending over a couple hundred on the project as i have it planned.
I also hope to sneak in getting my sway-bar put back on with new bushings and links. My rear sway bar also needs new links, so i'll most likely try to do both at once.

Until next time!

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347 Posts
:drool: That valve cover is awesome! I never thought about painting it, but I love yours.

Interesting about your rock lights, I was looking at the same lights. I might use some different ones after seeing how it came out on yours. Not that they look bad... at all! But I was hoping for the light beams to be more spread out. They almost look like spot lights. I saw a guy on here use LED light strips and it came out nicely too.

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943 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
:drool: That valve cover is awesome! I never thought about painting it, but I love yours.

Interesting about your rock lights, I was looking at the same lights. I might use some different ones after seeing how it came out on yours. Not that they look bad... at all! But I was hoping for the light beams to be more spread out. They almost look like spot lights. I saw a guy on here use LED light strips and it came out nicely too.
Thanks! I saw a trend with people rebuilding engines and painting the valve covers. I've always loved the look so i figured i'd give it a go.
I really do like the splash of color it adds to the bay, even with the sub-par stenciling.

I was originally lead to these lights for the fact that they were only 11 bucks a pop and people raved about their light output(AND a couple people raved about the light spread). While it is true they are bright as all-hell, you're right about the light spread. I notice when i first installed them, they didn't throw as wide of a beam as i had hoped.
However, i wouldn't go as far as to call it a spot beam. Here's a picture of the ones wired up as my backup lights:

They definitely throw light, but it doesn't really shine past ~20'. I noticed a lot of LED lights have beam angle specs. The plain white box these LEDs came in had a sticker on it saying "18W 30degrees" so i'm assuming that means a 30 degree beam angle. Not very wide for rock lights, but they work well enough for me. If you go a similar route, i'd try to find a pretty wide beam angle.

I thought about the LED strip idea, and i was actually going to do it. But i decided to go with this idea, simply because of the higher light output. I was unsure how bright those LED strips can get.

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943 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
swaybar rebuilds, Windstar cowl intake, brake overhaul, new rims
So, i made a build update post a couple weeks ago. I come back to make another today to find out my last one did not post/is no longer up. So, this one will have to be a little longer. I'm a little hazy on the details of some of these mods as they were a while ago. But maybe that'll be a good thing as it'll shorten the wall of text :p

Since a couple months after i bought my 05, I've been trying to track down a rear suspension racket. I finally isolated it to my rear swaybar links needing replaced. My front links had also been worn to the point of almost pulling apart at the ball and socket. So, i decided it was time for a complete overhaul.
I choose new moog bushings, and the cheapest front/rear links i could find. This way, i would not be afraid to hack them up and weld extensions in when i eventually lift my TJ.

I painted both sway bars, and the bushing brackets. Everything went together smoothly. I also installed my custom quick disconnects in the front. They're a little short, the nut on the outside does not fully thread onto the bolt. I believe this is due to my new links being a little thicker in the front than original OEM links. I'll probably disassemble them and apply loctite just to ensure they don't come apart.

rebuilding the rear swaybar did not solve my rear racket. Actually, it was worse now. I learned that the special shoulder bolts in the rear sway bar assembly are replaceable wear items. So, 20 bucks later i had 4 new mopar bolts installed and the racket is STILL there, albeit it happens MUCH less often. I suspect that all the movement wallowed out the hole in my stock swaybar. A new MOPAR bar runs about 80 bucks so i'm going to pull the one out of my 2000 to see if that one is in better shape. I'm also unsatisfied with the rear moog bushings. There is room for the bar to rattle around in the bushings, so i'll probably be replacing those with another brand once i take the bar back off.

My next mod was a bit of an impulse mod. I'm aware of the worthlessness of CAI setups on the 4.0. However, when i read about the Ford windstar cowl intake, i put my feelers out for a cheap box & horn. And sure enough, someone had one for 10 bucks(Local u pull wanted 30).

(I did not use the accordion-like rubber piece to the left)
I won't go too in-depth into the mod as there are plenty of write-ups. The general idea is that you cut a hole in the firewall, and mount the box up against it so it draws cold air in from the cowl area. You also cut down the non-filter holding section of the air box and re-assemble the shorter pieces with bolts or rivets, and sensor-safe silicon to make it airtight again.

(Shortening it helps it fit into the engine bay better)
Lastly, you cut down the stock airtube and use an elbow to connect it to your new box.

The elbow i used was the cheapest 4" to 3" 90 degree elbow i could find on Ebay. I paid about 13 bucks for it. Technically, the stock air tube is smaller than 3". So, the easiest way around this is to cut off the cuff that attaches the tube to the stock airbox, and making a reducer ring out of it to fit on the stock airtube. This brings the size up enough to squeeze the 3" end of the elbow over it. I also took my dremel with a heavy grit sanding drum and reamed out a bevel on the inside of the stock air tube. It's a surprisingly thick tube, and i didn't want it to hinder airflow too much. Especially with the reducer ring stacked on it.

My next issue was my valve cover breather. The one in my 05 extends all the way to the stock airbox. I fixed this by stealing the breather tube from my 2000, which is just a short L that connect right into a nipple on the stock air tube. Which means i needed to make a nipple for the air tube from my 05.
I picked up a 1/2" nylon hose barb from lowes, and put a 3/4" hole in the side of my air tube with a spade bit. I widened out the hole a bit with my dremel until the threaded end of the barb fit snug into the hole. I cut about a 1/4" of the rear of the threaded end so it didn't create too much air resistance in the tube. I then siliconed it in place with the same sensor-safe silicon.

My LAST issue with my intake setup was the box wanting to back out of the horn that is set in the fire wall. This is thanks to the stock wiring harness, my MESS of aftermarket wires, and the 42RLE's dipstick tube all in the way. The stock harness plugs i was able to move over in their metal bracket on the firewall to allow some room. My aftermarket wiring i simply stuffed out of the way above the box. The dipstick tube requires some bending to get it out of the way.
Even after all this the box still squeaks it's way out of the firewall and sucks in hot engine bay air. I finally put a hose clamp on the cowl side of the intake horn. This holds the box in place, finally.

All assembled, i experience NO increase in gas mileage, as expected. However my engine is sucking in cooler temps, and i also get a satisfying intake hiss on cold startups and when i floor the throttle. I also have an excuse to get one of these cowl scoops:

I mostly have wanted one to keep snow and ice out of my cowl during winter. But, i also think they look nice opened forward(I know a lot suggest having them open to the rear. I may try both setups. I prefer the front though).
However the ultimate reason for this mod was to free up bay space for a proper aux fuse block close to the battery.

I've also felt like my braking has been lack-luster in my 05 for a while now. A few posts back, i mentioned swapping premium front brake pads i had put on my 2000 onto my 05 while doing my ball joints. Well, braking had not improved so i had thought i needed new front rotors. Me in my ignorance did not realize that the worn, grooved, and pitted pads would begin to ruin my new rotors. Before the damage got too bad, i got ALL new pads front and rear, and did my best to smooth out the slight ridges my old pads began wearing in my new rotors. It took me a while with a 80 grit flap disc, but i smoothed out the ridges pretty well and managed to NOT throw my rotors off balance. After i bedded-in the new pads into my hillbilly-resurfaced rotors and ran them normally for about 1k miles, my braking is back to optimal performance.
Another thing i learned during my brake job is that my parking brake shoes are absolutely desecrated. So those have now made it onto the replacement list.

I also finally put on those rims i picked up a couple months ago. I have to say i couldn't be happier with the new, fresh aftermarket look.

I stripped the pin striping off with a wire wheel, and hit them with some Krylon gloss black. I ordered the 4-pack of generic Gorilla 3.3" center caps from summit for 12 bucks plus shipping. I also ordered a cheap spare cover in a damaged box for 9 bucks off Amazon. Gotta' love amazon warehouse deals!
I'm not a big fan of wheel covers, however i'd rather run one than not run a spare, or run an ugly miss-matched spare tire & rim.

As you can tell from the picture, my hard top is also on for the season. My issue of bottoming-out rear bumpstops is rearing it's ugly head again. I also noticed my front end has started to sag more in the last few weeks. It may be related to a loud POP i heard come from my front suspension when i braked and locked up my front wheels a couple weeks ago.

As if on cue, rockridge4x4 here on the forum was running a promotion on their 3" BDS lifts. On a whim, i asked them about JUST coil springs from their BDS 2" lifts. They came back to me with a price of 215 shipped. I jumped on the deal as the cheapest previous price i could find was 245. I also ordered a new stock front track bar(I plan on just drilling and reinforcing the stock bracket), some bumpstop extensions, and picked up some washers and longer bolts for my transfer case(Just in case). I'm waiting on a lot of the parts to show up, but i hope to have that lift installed in a couple weeks.

On an end-note, I've also been on a kick about lighting lately. I've been thinking about switching to LED for my aftermarket lights. However with LEDs not putting out any heat, and the snow and ice we get here, i do not know how effective they would be. I may pick up a set to try, or i may not.
I also experimented with Sylvania Silverstar Ultra bulbs and was less-than impressed.

You can definitely tell a difference in light output, however it's less-than desirable for a $50 price tag and a shorter life expectancy. I also read that the blue coating they put on the bulbs to give it the whiter light reduces light output significantly. I'm all-for a whiter light so i can somewhat-match the temperature of LED lighting, however i'm not sure i'm willing to pay that much for a bulb that has it's efficiency intentionally choked. So i boxed them back up and took them back.

However in my reading i found out Hella makes cheap 80W/100W H4 bulbs. People who run them say it's not a good idea to run them on stock wiring, but i just-so-happened to have beefed up my headlight harness with 10GA wiring. The bulbs suffer from the same increased burn-out rate, however at a MUCH cheaper price than the silverstars i'm willing to pick up a couple spares and keep them in the jeep's toolbox. I found a couple at 7 bucks a pop and put them on order. I'm excited to see their performance.

This concludes yet another long addition to my build. My TJ finally is starting to look like it's going somewhere between the new rims, and the lift that will be happening VERY soon.
I'll see ya' in a couple weeks! :happyyes:

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Looking good!
Thanks! With the rims it finally looks like it's starting to take an "aftermarket" shape. Even more-so with the lift installed, speaking of which...

2" BDS coil lift install, Rancho RS5000X shocks, relocating front track bar, misc. other things

Finally finished my 2" lift a couple weeks ago. The process took longer than i initially anticipated, plus after i was done i got busy and wasn't able to update the thread immediately. So, forgive me but some of the details on the installs are fuzzy.

My new coils came in, and a few days later my new front stock track bar came in as well. I was considering an adjustable. However after reading that the Metalcloak is one of the only ones without interference issues and that it requires at least 3" of lift, i opted for the cheapest OEM replacement i could find. Which turned out to be a 25$ ACDelco replacement from Amazon warehouse deals.

Replacing the coils went fairly well except for the common problem of broken rear shock bolts. An issue i thought i was prepared for, but apparently was not.
An air chisel or pry bar & hammer did not work in my case. And i didn't want to drill and tap the bolts. I ended up unbolting the body from the frame and jacking it up to get my grinder with a cut-off wheel in there. This worked well for the passenger side, as the bolt that broke was the farthest one from the frame rail. For the other(driver) side, it was a little more complicated. The bolt that broke was the one CLOSEST to the frame rail, and my grinder was too bulky to fit close up to the rail. I was also afraid of throwing sparks, as the gas filler neck is right there, and had come disconnected from me jacking up the body.
Enter stage left, my Dremel. After fighting and brainstorming with this bolt for a day, i finally broke down and paid 8 bucks for a few fiberglass reinforced cut-off wheels for my Dremel(P/N:426). With my 90 degree attachment, i was able to fit the Dremel in there with room to spare.
To address the spark issue, i soaked a few rags in water and completely covered the gas tank, and wrapped the filler neck. I also wrapped a rolled up soaked rag around where the sparks would fly to catch them. I admit i had gotten pretty desperate at this point, and i would advise not following in my footsteps with this method.
However, it worked and i was able to finally cut the bolt off. I bought a new set of bolts, and some washers, lock washers, and nuts to secure the shocks back in place.

As far as compressing the coils, i used a spring/strut compressor rental from Advanced Auto. These ones seem to be built of decent quality, and have retaining pins for the coils. Note it NEEDS to be a spring/strut compressor, as a normal coil spring compressor goes on the INSIDE of the coil which will not work. Our coils require the two threaded rods that go on the OUTSIDE of the coil. That miss-step cost me a trip back to the parts store.
Note that with my 2" coils, the rear did not even need a spring compressor once i disconnected the rear track bar. The axle drooped all the way to the ground, allowing me to slip the coils in.
The front does require the springs to be compressed, even with the track bar disconnected.

With the coils installed, i buttoned the Jeep back up. From my measurements, i ended up getting 3.5 inches of lift over my old, worn coils. I measured from the bottom of both front and rear bumpers, immediately before installing the coils, and after about 100 miles on the new coils. I imagine there is a break-in period with new coils, however i don't see myself getting any less lift than 3" from these coils. I believe that's a testament to how bad my old coils were worn.

Half way through installing my coils, i decided i would need new shocks regardless. With the coils installed, this was VERY obvious. Any decent bump would hyper extend my stock rear shocks and give the jeep a good THUNK. I read before that you can swing stock shocks with a 2" lift. I believe this to be true if you are settling for coil spacers, which would take into account your already-worn stock coils. However, brand new 2" coils will REQUIRE new shocks.
I also had to drop my skid plate about 1/2". I did not have a problem with this, as i know it's temporary until i get a belly-up skid plate, rear adjustable control arms, DC shaft and a SYE. I happen to like a little bit of skid plate drop anyways to prevent rust between the skid and frame. I'll even run a small drop when i do get a belly-up skid.

The Jeep handled like garbage after installing just the coils. No death-wobble, however it tracked terribly and the added rough stock-shock ride didn't help. I checked the track bar in a dry steering test a few weeks prior and the bushing-end was wiggling a bit. I was hoping this, combined with a bad toe-in was the culprit.
I planned on re-drilling for the new track bar. So with it bolted up we bounced the front end, drove it back and forth several times, and it wouldn't budge more than 1/4" away from the stock hole. And yet, my front axle still looked uncentered. So, we hooked a ratchet strap to the axle on the passenger side, and the frame on the driver side and started reefing on it. We took a piece of angle aluminum with a level on it, and measured from a centermark on the fender flare, to the tread on the tire and got the closest we could on both sides. The track bar hole definitely needed relocated, however the amount of metal between the new and stock hole was not even 1/4". We drilled the hole and moved onto the next step...

This definitely called for re-enforcing the bracket.

I cut a piece of scrap steel to fit over the front of the bracket. And with my sub-par welding skills, welded it in place. I didn't think i did a half-bad job, however time will tell.

I am a little concerned about the rear-portion of the bracket. No writeups on reinforcing the bracket that i saw mentioned needing to reinforce the hole behind the track bar. So i'm going to let it go for now, but keep an eye on it.

With my purdy' new track bar installed, i did a front-end alignment to find out that my toe-in was definitely off by about 5/16. With the bar installed and the toe-in back in spec, the jeep's handling DEFINITELY tightened up. All that was left to complete my lift was shocks...

After a bit of research and not wanting to spend too much, i settled on Rancho RS5000X shocks. These are much different vs their regular RS5000 non-X versions, which are reported to make your jeep ride like a 1-ton dually pickup due to improper valving. A lot of people seem to have picked them up and ran them, Rancho even had Jerry Bransford test a set and he is happy with them. That, combined with Rancho's Shocktober promotion was all the convincing i needed.
As far as sizing, i read over and over again to measure for shocks instead of using the manufacturer's "this shock is for X amount of lift etc etc". However, EVERY write-up i found for finding what length shock you need, said to measure around your bumpstops... Well, i had skipped installing bumpstops until i purchased shocks so i could set up my bumpstops around my SHOCKS. But every bumpstop guide i read said to measure around your SHOCKS. So, with the buy-3-get-the-4th-free promotion deadline closing in i just ordered the shocks designed for 2.5" of lift, figuring they had to be close and if they were a little long, they'll be the right size when i got to a 3" lift for 33s.

They finally came in, and while i didn't know what to expect, i was a little disappointed with the finishing work on them. They are painted, not powder coated and it scratches off at the slightest graze of a wrench. This leads me to believe that i'll be dealing with rusty shocks at the end of the winter.
The stickers on them were wrinkled in some places, so i feel like water and mud will get under them and make them look trashy. They're also randomly-placed so on one shock it'll be facing outwards and look nice, while on the opposing shock it'll be facing rear-words.
I also don't like shock boots. While the front two came with optional rubber boots, the rear came with these weird hard plastic boots, somewhat akin to the stock shock boots.

While i had no problem cutting them off, i was worried that in the event that the shocks needed returned for some reason, the manufacturer would give me crap for it. I cut them anyways.

Install went smoothly as i was already through the suspension entirely. I also installed my bumpstops, and my new front track bar at this time. The front shocks gave me guff coming off at the top, however a sawzall took care of that in a jiffy.
I ordered a 2" bumpstop kit from a seller called Rox suspension on Ebay. It was advertised to work with the TJ, however the bolts they sent me were the wrong kind for the rear. So, i went to lowes and dropped 30 bucks on an assortment of bolts for the front and rear so i was guaranteed to have ones that fit regardless of how much of the bumpstop i would cut off.
The rear bumpstops you simply put above the jounce bumper cups and bolt them down. For the fronts you can theoretically do the same, however the BEST spot for them is bolted to the pad on the axle. This requires you to drill and tap the pad. I read some reports of the axle pads being up to 1/2" thick, however i believe this may be on Rubi Dana 44 models. My pads were only about 1/4" thick. I ended up compressing the coil and installing it, with the bumpstop loose inside of it. This was easier(and safer!) than compressing the coil that extra ~2" to clear the bolted-down bumpstop. Once all the pressure was released off the coil, i was able to easily thread the bolt into the hole in the pad and tighten it down through the coils.

all bolted up.

I didn't gain much suspension travel with these shocks. My bumpstops equaled out to 1.5" in the rear, and 1.75" in the front. However i can at least say my suspension is still properly set-up and will not damage any components at full flex. Once i'm running flat fenders, 33s, and a 3" lift, i will go through my suspension again and set it up to fully stuff the tires into the fenderwells. Which may not be possible without outboarding the rears and doing the ford shock tower mod in the front. That's a thought for another day, though.
As far as the ride quality, I've never felt new aftermarket shocks before but i'll say these feel pretty great. Not too hard, not too soft. They feel "taut" to repeat Jerry's review on them. They make the jeep feel stable and controlled at highway speeds, however when you hit that big pothole you don't feel it nearly as bad as you expect. So, with the cheap finishing on them aside, the price paid to performance gained ratio is satisfactory.

My Jeep now sits at a grand total of 3.5" of lift over stock. It's probably my personal preference, but i have to say, even 31" do not look bad with that much lift.

In hindsight, i probably wouldn't have minded getting 3" coils instead and being done with my suspension. My theory behind getting the 2" coils was not needing to upgrade my shocks and saving that coin until i decided to go all-out and do a 3" lift, shocks, SYE, DC shaft, belly-up skid, and control arms at the same time. Obviously thanks to my stock shocks already not being long enough, i should have just bought 3" coils and dropped the skid plate some more. However, my current shocks should work well with a 3" lift. So when it comes time for 33s, i will probably just order a cheap set of 1" coil spacers and run those until i decide to go with a dedicated 3" coil.

I did a few other small things to the jeep as well. To accommodate the new lift, i ordered a set of paracord grab handles.

I ordered them from Georgia Mountain Cord on Ebay(Go check em' out!). They cost me $41 shipped to my door. The quality is superb, and i had been looking exclusively for handles that use metal shackles instead of plastic buckles that can fatigue and crack/come undone. These fit the bill and you can get them made in just about any color you want!
I should have probably just gotten off my ass and made my own set. However to practice the weave and get the right colors, i feel like i would have spent a comparable amount in paracord(The shackles that i found that look similar & have a 900lb rating cost about 7 a piece at Lowes).
Having used these for a little while now, i definitely prefer more solid handles that normal vehicles have. And these handles hang pretty low so it's awkward to use them sometimes. However, these are what my options are limited to without taking off the roll-bar padding and grabbing onto the bar, or installing an aftermarket cage with built-in handles. And for that, i am happy with them.

You may also notice in an earlier picture in this post that i got my cowl scoop.

Having it installed, i now see how many pine needles, leaves, and probably snow and ice it scoops up. If it gets to be too much of a headache cleaning it out, i'll probably eat my words and turn it around. I however, do like the black accent it gives.

I've also been playing around with my very-own gopro 3.

My girlfriend's dad reeled this in while fishing on a camping trip, completely water tight in it's housing(No card or footage though!). He had no use for it, so i decided to buy it off him.
I promptly bought a tripod mount for it, and mounted it on my bumper with a bolt. While catching some suspension shots back in the woods, a log kicked up and broke it off my bumper, and i ran over it with both tires... And i found it, smooshed in the mud still recording, still intact(Except for the mounting tabs on the housing). These are tough little buggers! However i learned the valuable lesson to keep it out of the way of where debris can hit it, and keep a cable lanyard on it. I picked up a 64GB card for it, and a suction cup mount for it. However the suction cup mount will probably be going back in favor of the cheaper and more versatile RAM mounting system for it.

I've always been a techie, and while this will be great for trail rides, it won't make a good dash cam like i was kinda' hoping. It lacks auto on/off, and automatic-overwriting. Someday i hope to run both a front and rear facing dash cam for evidence in the event of an accident. And for the "You should have seen this 10 point i saw on the way home" moments.

After being lost in the mail, my Hella 100W bulbs finally came in. While i haven't taken any picture comparisons, the light is definitely better than stock AND the silverstars. For the price of about $30 in beefing up the stock harness, $100 enclosures, and $30 in bulbs it's probably the best cost-to-benefit ratio for lighting without making the jump to HIDs.
However, having experienced the KC enclosure kit, i probably would have gotten the Hella E-code 7" enclosures instead had i done it again. I am not fond of the plastic lens that the KC enclosures have. I prefer the glass lenses of the E-codes, and from what pictures i see, i think the E-codes have a better beam pattern.

That just about wraps up this update! I'm pretty happy with how my Jeep sits now, and i'll probably be slowing down on the mods from here-on out and restricting it to just required maintenance. I'm looking at buying a Kayak for next summer this black friday, and i'm considering a new TV and Xbox One to catch up on my gaming this winter. I am, however still planning on putting winter tires on the TJ, so that'll most likely come next.
Oh, and i need to address this issue very soon...

Looking at the flat fenders on my 2000, it becomes more and more tempting to rip them off and put them on my new jeep before the existing rust gets any worse. However, if i do that the bill to get that jeep road-worthy again jumps from around 200 to around 400. And at that point, i feel like it'll sit and rot in the side yard forever. I considered parting it out, however i refuse to sell the motor out of it for any less than 2k knowing it has less than 10k miles and i paid 2.5k and a ton of blood, sweat and tears getting that thing in there and running like a top. But i know 2k is well-above what anyone would pay for it. I'd love to swap it into my 05 to have a 100% fresh motor, and just sell that one but i don't have the time nor a second vehicle to drive while doing that.
As far as the rocker rust, i think i'll just cut it out, and form a new piece of steel myself and try to weld it in. Any imperfections will be covered by an eventual rocker panel, however i just want to stop the rust before it gets worse.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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Very nice and detailed build thread, Josh. Rig is looking good.

Not sure if the u-joints are the same, but I had Moog super strength greasable u-joints on my 07. Lost a cap on one and sheared an ear off the other one (and bent the ear of the shaft) wheeling, on 2 different occasions.

Put in some chromoly shafts that came with Spicer sealed u-joints. The Spicers are noticeably heavier and seem to be much better made than the Moogs. Time will tell if they really are better.

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Looking good man. I had a comment about your gopro, I made a magnetic mount for mine using a magnet hook (claims 20lbs of force) from home depot and the gopro brand tripod base (with 1/4" threaded hole) and just bolted them together and added a tether in case it fell off. Came out really well for taking jeep shots! Only costed like $25 including the $20 gopro tripod base kit.

Example video from this mount

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943 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Very nice and detailed build thread, Josh. Rig is looking good.

Not sure if the u-joints are the same, but I had Moog super strength greasable u-joints on my 07. Lost a cap on one and sheared an ear off the other one (and bent the ear of the shaft) wheeling, on 2 different occasions.

Put in some chromoly shafts that came with Spicer sealed u-joints. The Spicers are noticeably heavier and seem to be much better made than the Moogs. Time will tell if they really are better.
Thanks for the info! When I got the moog joints, I honestly was unsure about how "waterproof" they actually are. The gasket to keep grease in, and water out are just a rubber ring that snap over the cap. Some of them were pretty loose too.

However on the spicer joints, I see it's like a 4 part seal. If they really are that unreliable, I'm unfortunate enough to have them all throughout my jeep. I'll probably have to grab some spicer spares in case I have to do a trail repair.
I'll eventually have to do my unit bearings, so I'll inspect the axle u joints at that time. If they're wearing unsatisfactory i'll press in the Spicers.

Looking good man. I had a comment about your gopro, I made a magnetic mount for mine using a magnet hook (claims 20lbs of force) from home depot and the gopro brand tripod base (with 1/4" threaded hole) and just bolted them together and added a tether in case it fell off. Came out really well for taking jeep shots! Only costed like $25 including the $20 gopro tripod base kit.

Example video from this mount
Thanks for the idea! I like the magnet, i'll have to make one and add it to my list of mounting solutions.
I made a quick paracord lanyard for it but of course I didn't have it on at the time. However I don't think that would have helped much. I looped it around where the housing screws together to the tripod base, and that's where the camera snapped off.
I think the best lanyard system is a thin metal cable that loops around the metal rod that the housing's door hinges on.
Those are some awesome shots too, I'm hoping to test some similar ones out soon!

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Winter tires, lighting & quelling problems

It's been a while since my last post! Well, lately there hasn't been too much to post about. I went on vacation so cash has been a little tight to do big mods. Especially since winter tires ain't exactly cheap(hint, hint).

but before the snow hit, i got to take my jeep (and gopro) out on a romp though the fire roads in Allegheny National Forest. While probably a Prius could have went down the majority of the unmarked dirt roads we did, we did manage to find some muddier, windier, and more jeep-suited areas to go. But ultimately, i just enjoy taking any road deep into the woods, taking in the scenery.

This was the only picture i managed to snap with my gopro, the rest is video i may put up someday.

Oh, and i got to flex out my new suspension.

Moving along, i did quite a bit of research all year and was hard-pressed to find a good snow tire in a larger (31"+) size that wasn't ungodly expensive. I finally decided on Firestone winterforces. While we haven't had a terrible winter this year, the few storms we did have i am very glad i dropped the coin on on them. I had them for about $390 shipped from Discount Tire.

I'm not a winter tire expert, but from my experiences the best winter tires have a lot of smaller thread blocks with generous grooves(sipping). Also, the rubber compound should be soft enough for you to be able to bend it with your finger tips. This ensures that the rubber will grip the road & ice, and dig it's own foothold in snow. I opted to stud my tires, and while I've never compared studded and non-studded tires side-by-side, i think them most important part is simply a dedicated snow tires, studded or not. Though in my honest opinion the ATs that are coming out now with a snowflake logo on the sidewall and pinned for studs do not suffice if you want nothing but the best.

As for rims, i finally got to paint up a set of steelies i picked up for 20 bucks back when i was still DD'ing my old TJ. A few cans of duplicolor wheel paint netted me a nice, durable finish that is still holding up today.

Moving away from wheels, I've continued my lighting tangent. I've moved away from the idea of LED lighting that i mentioned in an earlier post. Simply based on cost vs benefit, and performance. Some of the ok-quality LEDs online are comparable to the price of a good set of KCs, and i'm not satisfied with the performance of my current LEDs. In one of my reverse light bars, 3 of the LEDs have died. I'll most likely be switching back to incandescent bulbs.
Speaking of KCs, while browsing amazon i found that they had 100w KC daylighters listed for 26 bucks a piece. They were genuine, and normally sell for around 68 - 75 bucks so a scooped up a pair. Since then, the price has skyrocketed back up to around 70 bucks. I have no idea if this was an error or on purpose to clear stock.

Only problem is that they were chrome. I painted them black with some engine enamel and the coat hasn't held up very well. I'll probably touch them up again at some point.
I replaced my fog lights with these. They light up the sides of the road, where deer like to hide, pretty well. However, due to the mounting style putting them in the factory spots would not work. So i busted out some angle steel and my welder. I'm beginning to enjoy fabricating.

It seems that every couple months something about my jeep makes me just about sh*t myself thinking that the engine is going to blow. This past month, it was a bad knock/clanking sound that got progressively worse over the course of a few days. I pulled my new OPDA and found no unusual wear on the new unit. I also took a closer look at my camshaft and while it does have premature wear that'll definitely cause early engine failure, it's not there yet.
Finally, browsing youtube videos i stumbled upon a Cherokee 4.0 with a similar sound. The culprit, was lose flywheel bolts. Me and my buddy went out that night and found my flywheel bolts were finger-tight. Tightened down, my 4.0 has been purring like a kitten since. Obviously when i dealt with my lose bellhousing-engine block bolts, the movement between the two loosened the flywheel bolts.

Lastly, something minor however VERY useful to anyone who struggles with the wipers on their TJ. I've tried brand new, high dollar, low dollar, molded beam, steel bows, etc etc and all of them after days or weeks leave a GIANT dead-zone where only the edges of the wiper seem to meet the windshield. This was a VERY dangerous issue for me with a few storms we got; i could hardly see out of my windshield at all on the interstate in white-out conditions. And i avoided using washer fluid, because believe it or not there was better visibility through the road salt and grime on my windshield than through the wiper fluid that my wipers would NOT wipe off. If you have similar issues, the issue is NOT the wipers themselves; it's your wiper arms.

I tried my local hardware store for better springs, but i couldn't quite find anything stronger that would fit without modification. I also tried those wiper snuggies that Napa sells. And while it looks cool having a beam-doohickey thing on your wiper arms, they did absolutely nothing.
Fed up, i finally did the most simple thing; i took the arms and put them in a vice. I bent the thinner-arm part towards what would be the windshield. This makes the wiper's resting point on the windshield put more tension on the spring, and in turn puts more tension on the wiper blade. Instantly my deadzones are fixed and i haven't had that issue for a month and several snow storms since.

On a side-note, I've been at a personal battle as to what to do with my old TJ. I never mentioned it in the build thread, however it needs a radiator and batter to even be moved at this point. Well recently i got a hold of a free battery, and i found the receipt for the Advance Auto radiator that blew up in it(upper tank split). Luckily it had a lifetime warranty, so you can't beat free. I have all the components to hobble it together and get it moving again. I've considered doing that, welding up the frame and getting it inspected. I also considered selling it, which did draw some interest on a few off-road and car facebook pages i'm a part of. I wouldn't mind parting it out, either and putting the flat fenders on my new TJ.
I'll eventually decide what to do to it, but for now i'll slowly be working on getting it moving again when i have the time.

That concludes my jeep activity in the past months. Mostly I've been trying to stay away from spending money after putting on a lift, shocks, tires, and going on vacation all in a short span of time. Right now, i'm looking forward to summer and taking the top and doors off again.

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
More small projects

Hey all, a few updates on the TJ. Actually, a few of them are updates i forgot to list last post. Christmas came coupled with both new front speakers and a dash cam.

To match my 6.5 Polks i put into the sound bar, i got a set of Polk DB521 5.25s with aftermarket adapter brackets to put in the front. Truthfully, i was sorely disappointed with the difference in sound. For $70 speakers, the sound difference was marginal at best. I played with the wiring, switched them around a couple times to make sure i had the positive and negative leads correct with no real change. I just feel like the sound pod speakers are positioned properly to put out most of the sound you hear.

Additionally i got a Black Box G1W-C model dash cam as well. This was an off-the-cuff idea i threw on my Christmas list and actually ended up getting. I don't necessarily need one, however i may thank myself for having one if i get into an accident one day.

It came with a 10' power cable that plugs into a traditional cig lighter/power outlet. I plugged it into my switched power outlet, and ran the wires behind the dash, kickplate, and up the A-pillar to the top of the window frame where the dash cam is.
It turned out my power outlet was corroded and faulty. I popped it out, soaked it in vinegar and went at it with a toothbrush. The socket works flawlessly afterwords.

The last thing i forgot to bring up in my last update was the fact that i upgraded to an aftermarket cat-back system. By nature, the i6 is a meh sounding engine. It doesn't create those deep rhythmic tones that the v8 does. So, very few exhaust systems are capable of giving it a nice, deep, powerful tone. So, most stick to exhausts that don't deviate too far from the stock tone; Flowmaster super turbos, Thrush welded, etc, etc tend to sound the best. However, my favorite so far had been the Banks Monster. I had been keeping an eye on them and Amazon had a warehouse deal for a full cat-back system, about 60 bucks off the normal price so i couldn't resist snagging it.

Installation was pretty routine. With jacking up the frame, dropping the skidplate and unbolting the shock i managed to get my stock muffler & tailpipe out in one piece for resale.

I was a *tad* disappointed with the sound at first. It was a little quite, however after being broken in for a couple thousand miles it's gotten louder and deeper.
There is a noticeable highway drone however i'm not one to care about this. With loud A/Ts, my carpets removed and a flappy soft top, a little exhaust drone is the least of my worries. I just turn the music up.

Onto what I've done since my last post;

I made a post over in general discussion about the importance of not heating up your Jeep with the defroster on full blast heat. I did so on a 26 degree night, and it spider webbed my windshield. Unfortunately i have one of the few insurance companies that don't waive the deductible for incidental windshield breakage, so $100 bucks later i have a new windshield. The shop that put it in told me that my windshield frame had significant surface rust, and that they ground it down and primered it but it'll need attention in a couple years. Looks like i'll be pulling the windshield myself sometime.

I adjusted my KC floods. The brackets i put on my brush guard felt too spaced apart. I welded a bar across them and mounted the lights closer together. They look just how i like them now; however due to how thin the bar is, they vibrate a lot when hitting bumps. I'll have to think of a more permanent solution.

I've also been weary of my 30" spare on the carrier. I know that barebones TJs came with donut spares, and running a smaller tire for a short period of time with open diffs is fine. However given that my TJ is my DD, it's possible that i would have to run my spare for a little while before getting my main tire fixed. That, coupled with the fact that i found an alright used 31" on a rim that would complete a set of 5 i have, i decided to pick it up for $20.

Despite that the tire is cut up, it holds air fine and has no cracks, plugs or dry rot. I separated the tire and rim at work, painted the rim to match my other 4 snow tire rims, and mounted it on the back of the jeep.

That's pretty much all that has happened to the TJ lately. If it's not obvious by the lack of decent mods, i'm still in penny pinching mode right now. Hopefully that'll be at an end sometime soon and i can tackle some of the summer jobs i have planned for it. Right now though, i'm working on a couple more low-dollar mods. I'm working on retrofitting a PDC pulled from a 97 TJ to clean up the rat's nest of wires under my hood. I also, as stated before, am planning on eating my words & turning around my hood scoop and bolting it down to the cowl, as i'm having trouble getting the body tape to hold.
I never really plan on doing any deep water crossings with my TJ, but i am thinking about extending all my breather hoses up the A-pillar into the cab just so i'm never worrying about them.

As far as the summer goes, i think i'll be planning on swapping the flat fenders from my '00 onto my '05 to eliminate my fender rot that is getting worse by the month. I would have loved to hold out until i can afford MCE fenders, but i don't think that's realistic; the rust would be eating away at my inner fenders by then.
I also need to work on my sheet steel welding skills. I finally have a quart of POR-15, so it's just about time to start cutting the bad parts of my body out and rust-proofing them once and for all.
Besides Jeeping, i'm hoping to get a lot of kayaking and fishing done this year! I test fitted my kayak on top of the jeep, and it seems it'll fit just fine. Enough room to fit two side by side as well!

I think that's it for now!

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
October update

Nearly 7 months later! Jeep is still running good, though i haven't done too much to it since my last update. Thankfully the jeep has been running fine for the most part, which has allowed me to reallocate money to other places. I have done a few small things, though.

-One of the brand new Moog joints i put in the front driveshaft dried up and started chirping. So i put all new Spicer sealed units in it. On a similar note my inspection mechanic told my there's already play in the brand new front axle u joints i put in last year. I myself do not notice it, but either way it'll probably be the last time a Moog joint ever finds it's way under my jeep.

-Relocated tweeters from my front speakers up onto the dash. You can hear the highs much better now.

-Picked up a set of 2 10" kickers in a box for cheap. I'm a fan of hard-hitting lows, so these sound great with my music. they are a VERY clunky setup; the wiring isn't ran the way i want it ultimately, and having a sub box sitting in the back seat is not practical. I'm going to go through this setup eventually and revise it, but for now i'm just enjoying the music.

-I finally have gone through and POR-15ed the frame. It was a long process but i'm confident i have covered at least 85% of the frame. The remaining spots; the back sides of the frame rails by the rear coil buckets, and the back side of the frame rails in the engine bay, i will only be able to hit during certain jobs. I made the mistake of over-estimating the paint's adherence to bare, shiny metal. Which some sections of my frame are. I taped over the frame holes with duct tape to seal out any debris and while removing a piece of tape to access my tow bar bolt, it started peeling the por-15. I feel like this is something i'm just going to have to deal with and over-coat anytime this happens.

-I also cut out the rot on the front driver side floor board and welded new steel in. It doesn't look pretty, but it should hold for years to come. I also coated the floorboards in por-15. This will be a great rust sealant to exist under the eventual bed lined tub.

While working on the floors in this area, i noticed my driver side middle body mount is already collapsed.

It seems even this jeep was in the process of the same fate as my old one; however it's not too far gone. I can still save it if i cut out all the rot and replace it. This body mount is a project for next summer; until then i'm going coat the mounting channels with paint and oil them to slow the process so it does not spread to the body itself.

I let the old 2000 TJ go as well.

I ripped out the engine, transmission, t-case, and a few other things and let it go as a titled rolling chassis for $850. I feel like i got a good deal as the more i tore into it, the more i realized that the rust was so far spread that it was unsalvageable short of a frame-up restoration where most parts would have to be replaced. This money, unfortunately couldn't go towards mods as i had some tools for work i had to pay off.

Finally, i got into a(literal) fender-bender with my TJ.

Driving through a parking lot, i slammed into a car that was cutting across the lot. This simply bent my fender in a little, tweaked one of my tow hook's nutserts in the frame, but messed up the other car pretty bad. The other driver was at fault for cutting across the lot, so for damage that i literally fixed with by hand, a 1/2 ratchet, and a hammer, i got a very sizable insurance payout. Some of which, i used to buy a beater truck. A 97' Ranger, with a 4 cyl, 5 speed.

I payed a mere $600 for it, and all it needed at the time was front brake lines and a patch welded onto the frame to pass PA inspection. Both of which i have done already. It's hard shifting into 1st and reverse sometimes, and has a stock clutch. So i may need to address the transmission soon but for right now, it gets me back and forth to work spending nearly half the gas money i did driving my jeep. It also lets me keep mileage off the jeep, and has taught me how to drive stick.

Another portion of the money i made off of my insurance claim will be going to getting the jeep 100% winter ready. I do not plan on driving the truck during the winter, so i fall back on my jeep for this. It handled tremendous with the studded tires, and will only be better with some weight in it.
I plan on pulling the Jeep into a garage and doing a complete tear-down restoration on the front end. I'm finally going to be installing the flat fenders from my old TJ, along with new stock inner fenders. The fender rust had already spread to the inner fender lip inside the hood. It was just covered up with bondo very well. I'm just going to start with a new fresh set of cheap Ebay inner fenders and cut them for my flat fenders. LED turn signals will also be going back into the front grill, much like the style of my old 2000 TJ. The heater core also blew it in while was driving it back and forth to work while fixing my truck up, so the dash will have to come out and the A/C disconnected to remove that. I'll be removing the A/C system and reinstalling it come summertime with a new dryer, and o-rings in the system.
I'm also pulling the engine out and putting in the fresh rebuilt one that came out of my 2000. The camshaft and OPDA have been concerning me A LOT recently in the TJ. It got thrown out of timing again, and while re-setting the timing worked, it shows me that the play in the OPDA and cam gear is too great. Also while i had the dorman replacement OPDA out of the jeep, i noticed a considerable amount of up-and-down movement in the shaft. I have read about the dorman OPDA units failing in this manner, so i will be putting yet another replacement in the new engine; this time a Crown unit which i hear has the best track record. I'll also be replacing the motor mounts with brown dog 1" lifts while the motor is out. This will also give me a chance to start with a fresh coolant flush, fresh power steering fluid flush, and i'll also be flushing the transmission, adding the temp gauge and cooler from my old TJ, and an aux filter. I'll also be tackling a few other smaller projects during.

As of right now, i'm working on drilling the flat fenders for drainage holes, and side marker lights.

I'm then going to paint them. Pretty much all the parts are ordered and arriving daily. Once i get the flat fenders painted, i will be pulling the Jeep in to start tearing it down.

That's it for now! I'll be updating very soon as i start the tear-down process on the TJ.

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Just took time to read the post. Awesome build, thanks for sharing. Couple of questions, do you have any transmission problems it being a 05 automatic? What caused you to slam into a guard rail with the first jeep? What did you have to pay for the 05?

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Just took time to read the post. Awesome build, thanks for sharing. Couple of questions, do you have any transmission problems it being a 05 automatic? What caused you to slam into a guard rail with the first jeep? What did you have to pay for the 05?
I haven't had any transmission problems with the 42RLE. I hear it isn't the most robust transmission which was a concern when i bought it. But roughly 30k miles later and no slipping or anything thus far.
Just as a precaution though, my current garage session with the jeep includes a trans. temp sensor so i can keep an eye on it, an external filter, cooler, and a new filter and fluid. Heat is a transmission's main killer. Keep the temp under control and don't beat on it too hard, and it should be fine.

With my 2000 i hit a patch of black ice on the interstate and lost control. This was my second season on my duratracs and they had about 20k miles on them, so their performance wasn't as good as when i first got them. That was my primary reason for a designated set of studded snows.

My 05 ran me 12.5k, that was a financed price from a dealer. In hindsight after finding rust on the body, etc. it wasn't as good of a deal as i first thought.
Given the credit history and time, i would have taken out a cash loan and bought from a private party. Prices on vehicles in general are MUCH better in a private sale, especially if you have time to watch for a good deal. That's how i got my truck.
Hope that answers your questions!

Well a good portion of today was spent prepping the garage for the jeep. But i did manage to make good headway on getting the front end torn down, too. The fenders are off and most of the wiring is disconnected. Grill, radiator and condenser are all out. The front clip is completely open to pull the engine. I just need to work on unbolting all of the accessories, and the actual block itself.

I managed to only snap two bolts, too. Both fender bolts that realistically i can probably do without.
I also got the grill cut for my CJ-style turn signals that will be required with the flat fenders. I did this with my old TJ and liked it, however something i didn't like was the use of the JK turn signal housing, which is what a lot of people do when going this route. They're hard plastic and were never made to set in a drilled-out hole, so mine would often pop out. This time around, i went with flush-mount LEDs. I work in a truck shop so the replacement trailer and marker lights we use were perfect. And better yet i get them for pennies on the dollar. I'm extremely satisfied with the look

I mentioned a few posts ago that i had plans on blacking out the grill. This is still the plan, so i believe they'll look even more slick against black than silver.
Measuring where to drill for the lights is quick and painless thanks to templates made by a kind fellow who did an instructional video on installing turn signals in the grill. The links to the templates are in the video's description, but i'll also link them here:
LEFT side
RIGHT side
I can't guarantee that these template links will be up for years to come, however i have them saved should anyone want to PM me and ask me for them.
As far as drilling the holes, i bought a set of Warrior hole saws from Habor Freight. Even though they're cheapos, they cut better than any of the used hole saws i had been borrowing from my dad.
The lights i used are 2" with a grommet that thickens them up a bit. I ended up using a 2 1/8" hole saw and this gives me a VERY satisfying snug fit. However different brands of LEDs and grommets have different thicknesses, so YMMV.

When i pulled my radiator i found a suspicious dark spot at the bottom. A spot that looks similar to the one that sprung a leak in my factory radiator in my old TJ.

I have no idea if this has any correlation with the aluminum rotting, but I think i'll be replacing the radiator while i have it out. I mention a couple posts earlier that i got a free warranty replaced radiator when i took the one back that exploded in my old TJ. I never let that radiator go when i sold the old TJ, so i'll be putting it in this one.
I am NOT a fan of parts store radiators, especially when the tank literally split and exploded in my old TJ when it was 18 months young. However since i'll need to pull the radiator next summer when i re-install my AC components, i'll just replace it with another factory mopar one then.

Tomorrow i'm going to start disconnecting components from the engine, and if things move extremely swiftly, maybe i'll even get it pulled before the night's end. After the engine is out, i'm gonna switch gears and work on getting the dash out and heater core replaced. While i'm in there, i'm going to run all my wiring for my transmission temp gauge, and tinker with the flasher to get it to work with the LED lights.

More updates to come soon!

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Regarding the radiator, you may have an electrolysis problem. I had a ford that had the problem and I put in 2 $400 radiators in before I realized the problem. It will eat out the radiator on the edge.

You can youtube the problem and get a full explanation.....
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