Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: winston-salem, NC
Just finished my build. Its a 1999 XJ that i converted to 4x4. Wasnt able to find much info back when i started beyond "Yeah, you need a front axle, transmission/tcase, driveshafts, and maybe the rear axle if your gears are different".
The above statements are, well, vague. They leave out some info.
First, you may ask: "Why not just sell your 2wd and buy a 4x4?". Well, honestly, that may indeed be the best option for the average joe schmoe. The swap from 2wd to 4x4 is somewhat involved, and i dont recommend attempting it unless you have a fairly solid understanding of vehicles and have some experience with working on them. Also, i do not suggest performing this swap if you lack a decent set of tools (rachets, breaker bars, stands, torque wrenches, wrenches, etc); I am a mechanic and own a fully outfitted shop. It was completely do-able, and I am certain that someone can do it in their garage, but with with the right tools, some know-how, and some elbow grease. Conversion took me roughly a week or so, working in what little spare time i have. Which is like barely any, lol.
Remember: "When is comes to cars, you can either: 1)Spend alot of money and do less work. 2) Do alot of work, and spend a less money. 3) Do a less work and spend less money, but stay stock."
Outside of Jeepspeed Baja Jeeps and sand sports/racing, most 2wd cherokees have been babied! An occasional accidental right tire off the shoulder is about as off road as most 2wd Xjs ever get. This usually means that they are pretty darn clean. Mine was spotless. Many of them never see much of winter either.
2wd cherokees can be had for next to nothing. I paid 650$ for mine. no rust. runs like a top.
Cherokees are ubiquitous, therefore parts are cheap. I bought a Complete parts jeep (2000 sport 4x4), minus the engine, for 300$. I can scrap it out minus the front axle and driveline for around 200$.
Youll know you built the jeep. Its a great feeling really; talking to your jeep buddies and being able to say "i built that", when they bought theirs.
If you know how to do the work, and look for deals/watch your budget, youll save money. I sure did. Built mine, with a 4.5" lift kit, roof rack, radio, new AC pump and hoses, rims, and new tires for around 1400$ (this price includes tons of extra parts on the parts jeep that i can use to sustain my XJ for years to come). Lets see someone build a 4x4 for that cheap! lol.
Alot of work
Youll be out a decent chunk of money if you tear into your jeep not knowing what your doing and get stuck.
Takes some time to complete.
You can end up spending more than you want; little things can and will nickel and dime you to death if you don't watch your wallet and spend intelligently.
To begin: this topic is broad, and can vary significantly depending on the jeep your converting and the donor 4x4 jeep or parts your using to convert your 2wd to 4x4.
NOTE: First, before you buy anything; ***The easiest way to do the swap is with a same year donor 4x4 as your 2wd*** Your best off to buy a complete 4x4 donor jeep thats the same year as your 2wd. Youll have everything you need. And extra parts for future use. If you price out your parts to be 300$ and you can get a donor jeep for 500$, spend the extra 200$; its worth it. Trust me. It helps prevent you from getting nickel and dimed to death. You need an odd or end/random part, all you do is step outside and pull it real fast. No running to the parts depot and spending more $$$.
Things you will need:
Make a chart or the injector rails color codes: Each injector has a specific color wire going to it. Its easy to confuse these if you dont know which injector gets which color. I couldnt find the codes anywhere online and ended up calling a dealership in sandiego CA (Im in NC, but all the dealerships were closed here). Dont skip this step.
An E-12 reverse torx socket for removing the two uppermost bellhousing bolts. (you should be able to get it at your local auto parts store. there like 4$).
Transmission with Tcase. Make sure the trans has all cables and harnesses attached/uncut. If the injector harness is still on it, then thats awesome (They usually are). It will save time and money. Get the torque converter if you can. Get the crossmember as well if possible. (Use the same year as your 2wd jeep. It will avoid some hassle, which i will explain below)
Front and rear driveshaft
Transfer case shifter assembly with linkage (get from donor 4x4 or pull at junkyard)
Front axle, complete with brakes and everything. (If your jeep has ABS, make sure the axle is equipped with it too. If your jeep doesnt have ABS, then it doesnt matter if the axle has it or not. Mine didnt, but the axle did, so i just removed the sensors.)
Things you MIGHT need (Read and make sure you dont need it):
Center Console 4x4 select bezel. (pops right in the 2wd console). Isnt needed, but makes the swap look nice.
Bushings in control arms, track bar, etc. Now would be a good time to do these. Will help avoid death wobble.
Now would be a good time to do U-Joints: just take the axles to a shop. Its cheaper since they dont have to pull them out from under the jeep themselves.
4x4 Injector Harness. You may need a 4x4 injector harness. The 2wd harness is different from the 4x4 on the 1999 models. The 2wd harness is missing the connectors that run back to the Tcase. I used a harness from a 1999 4x4, but my trans/tcase was from a 2000 4x4. I ran into some issues. NOTE: Depending on your donor vehicle, this may vary! This is one part that will require some research on your part. See below for additional info you may want to know relating to this.
Rear Axle. If your 4x4 front axle gearing is different from the 2wd rear axle. Google how to determine gear ratio. There are several methods at your disposal.
Useful info you may want to know:
Transfer cases can differ from year to year and jeep to jeep. Look into this before buying a donor/parts for your swap.
Older cherokees have a vacuum disconect in the front diff. Newer cherokees do not. (search the forum for more info on this topic). You can eliminate this or convert this mechanism to cable actuation if its not working. Keep this in mind when buying your parts/donor jeep for your swap.
In 2000, XJ's went from traditional distributor ignition, to distributorless. This affected the crank position sensor and the cam position sensor. Both have to do with the injector harness, which in turn, has to do with the Tcase; the injector harness hooks into the Tcase. That being said, If your jeep has a distributor, and you get your transmission and tcase from a distributorless XJ, your tcase is not going to hook up to the distributor type ignitions injector harness right. IT WILL WORK but the harness wont fully connect to it (1 plug fits, one doesnt). I put a trans and Tcase from a non-dist. XJ into mine (2000), which has a distributor(1999). I used a 4x4 harness from the same year jeep as mine with the same ignition system [distributor] . My harness doesnt fully hook up to my tcase(rear plug hooks up, top plug doesnt), but it still works fine, minus the dash indicator lights. Youll have to do some tracing and splicing to figure it out if you want it to be fully hooked up with indicator lights. I didnt. Mine works fine without being fully connected to the transfer case. Look into this before buying a donor or parts for your swap!
The Crank position sensors are different between years: save the one from your 2wd trans if you get a different year trans/tcase.
You will probably need a new steering stabilizer (to avoid death wobble). If you install a lift during the 2wd to 4x4 conversion, like i did, then i strongly suggest doing this during the swap. Go with a stiffer and larger rancho or moog stabilizer if you go with a lift. Death wobble is not in the least bit fun, especially at 70mph (happened today, lol).
Im probably forgetting some odd or end, or little detail, but thats as much of the big issues as i can recall at the moment. Just post any questions. Or PM me if you have any specific ones.
Hope this helps some of you that are on the same path I was a few weeks back when I started my conversion,
1992 YJ, 4.0 HO, 5-Speed (AX-15), 2.5" lift, 31" tires, Sony sound system, w/ pioneer sound-bar, copper-red paint, Loved it. Miss it. Sold.|1999 XJ. The "Cheep". 4.5" RC lift. 33" BFG MT. Train Horns. 2wd to 4x4 build. DD. Sold.|2003 WJ. 30" Michelin AT's. Curt roof rack. Train Horns. Stock. Soon to be lifted. DD.
Last edited by jgrimm; 10-05-2011 at 10:57 PM..