My "not-quite-a-build" ZJ build thread.. -

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post #1 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 01:40 AM Thread Starter
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1998 ZJ 
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My "not-quite-a-build" ZJ build thread..

I'm not really calling this a build thread because I'm not really building anything.. I can't fab, I'm basically just bolting parts on. so if you are interested, read on, if not, don't tell me because it will hurt my feelings.

So to get started, here is my ZJ. It is a 98 laredo, 5.2 and this was taken the day I got it.

Nobody can never say I never crawled a rock in stock form!

This is proof I am stupid. (yes that is FULL factory articulation, the rear tire is about a half inch off the ground)

Stuff that tire!

So anyway, stock sucks. After much money saving and debating back and forth over what to do, I decided that I hate doing most things twice so I was going to skip the BB and go straight to long arms. After talking to Nick ( I decided I am too poor for claytons but I could poop enough dough for the RE long arm upgrade kit and piece together the rest of the parts from other places. Got bilstien shocks, jks discos, claytons springs, and various other odds and ends..

First step of the build was jacking the dang thing high enough in the air to actually be able to work on it! I had some so called "high lift" 3 ton jack stands, but those weren't cuttin it. So I went to home depot and did a little cuttin (and screwing) of my own and made these...

Next step of the build was taking my front end apart.. no pics because my phone decided to hitch a ride on my moms F-150 and jump off somewhere on the road where I can't find it.. :-(

The next step after that was cutting off the front LCA brackets.. All I have is a 4.5 inch grinder with a cut off wheel.. Unfortunatly the wheel wasn't large enough to just cut the bracket off right at the frame rail so I had to cut the bracket down to about an inch from the rail, THEN cut the rest off.. I don't have pics of this either yet.

So after all that work (cutting each bracket off took about 2 hours!) I finally got to put something new on! The factory cross member weighs next to nothing and was replaced by a good 90 pounds of 3/16 and 1/4 inch steel plate, and 36 brand new bolts! let me tell you... I know people tend to mock the ZJ and XJ for having thin unibody construction.. but holy crap that was hard to drill through! All 18 bolts on the frame rail and all 6 bolts on the pinch seem have a 3/16 thick steel strip on the opposite side, sandwiching everything together. I'll get more pics of all this as soon as my new phone comes in.

So now that my new front cross member is installed, I can start putting my front end back together! but first I figured I had better do something about this:

But before all that, I decided to check out a craigslist ad I had seen concerning tires. Turns out the guy lived about three blocks from me, maybe 10 minutes walking distance (but I didn't walk, that would have been dumb) so I went over there and picked up 4 33x12.50 Goodyear MT/Rs with kevlar on 15 inch steel rims, 2 soft 8's and 2 d-windows I think.. All were only a year old with less than 250 miles on them, full tread (minor chunks on two of them, minor rock rash on the rims) and all four covered under the Discount tire warranty. For the astoundingly low price of $545!! well I thought it was a good deal anyway..

so back to the bushings.. the other side was even worse than the one in the pic! So after picking up the tires, I tried going to napa, auto zone, 4wheel parts, and desert rat center, all of whom told me it was a dealer only part, I found myself at good ol' reliable o'reilly's auto parts, purchasing a box of 2 moog clevite bushings for $25. Seeing as how my girlfriend decided to come over and break up with me, I found myself with precious little time to actually do any work today. But I did manage to get one bushing out (special thanks to my air hammer) and a new one pressed in (shout out to my C-clamp!)

Well, now you guys are all caught up with me. Once i get my replacement phone I'll have plenty more pics of the process. Stay tuned, more to come!

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post #2 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 05:10 AM
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looks good
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post #3 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 05:58 AM
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Keep up with it and update with lots of pics !
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post #4 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 06:31 AM
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post #5 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 08:47 AM
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Nice! sorry bout your girl though. Just spend all your money on the girl thats more jacked up right now and she'll take you more places anyways

95 FiveTwo ZJ, DD, Lifted, Locked on 35s, Build (in progress)

My 5.9 swap (in progress)

Want your zj to be doorless in 60 seconds?
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post #6 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 12:07 PM
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your zj will NEVER break up with you...shes your bi tch

"Not a single **** shall be given."

99 WJ, 2" BB, 245/75/16 Falken Rocky Mountain ATS.
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post #7 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 02:34 PM
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Nice keep the pics coming
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post #8 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 08:45 PM
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Damn, those wheels and tires were a steal. Nice find! I'll be following this build.

94 Grand Cherokee 5.2 33in. Federal Couragia M/T's on Procomp Steelies, np231 swap, IRO Hack n Tap SYE, Carolina Driveshaft, 4.5 in. lift, RE front upper/rear lower ca's, RC front lowers, Ironman rear uppers, IRO 4.5 coils in rear, 3.5 and 2" bb (no isolators) in front, Bilstein 5100's, Clayton/JKS adj. track bars, KOR rad support and SS, Magnaflow/Flowmaster exhaust, clear corners, custom light bar w/ Hella 500's

Originally Posted by elcorvino View Post
Yea... It's kind of like the fat chick who lives around the corner. You aren't trying to get caught with her, but you know she'd be a good time.
Originally Posted by ScottD16 View Post
I had a dream my entire family was attacked by a giant polar bear. The crazy part was he attacked us with a giant spoon. Best dream ever.
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post #9 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 09:04 PM
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you've gotta pretty good sense of humor huh? haha

Nice build you've got going on there, i need to think more like you. although i could never have all those parts just sitting at my house waiting to be put on!

2004 Overland WJ 4.7ho/545rfe/247/d44a
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post #10 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 09:11 PM
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jack stand booster seat FTW

"aut viam inveniam aut faciam"

I hate when old people poke me at weddings, point and whisper, "You're next." So I've started doing the same thing to them at funerals
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post #11 of 58 Old 06-17-2012, 10:47 PM
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how much did the re long arm upgrade run ya?

ZJ Build thread:

ZJ's: If you dont know what it is you cant afford it.
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post #12 of 58 Old 06-18-2012, 02:15 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Erbo1Kanerbo View Post
how much did the re long arm upgrade run ya?
I'm not sure actually.. I got it as part of a hob-nob package deal through Nick ( for one set amount of money. I won't say what that price is because Nick ended up not making much if any profit and I don't want to screw him over by giving everybody a price he can't match. I will say however that I got a great deal. If not for Nick I couldn't have done it. SO if he is reading this I would just like to thank him again. This is truly one of my life long dreams coming true.
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post #13 of 58 Old 06-18-2012, 03:41 AM Thread Starter
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ok so i made a ton of progress today even though I had some issues. The RE instructions aren't very informative. They make no mention of what size holes you need to drill, or what bolt you are supposed to use washers on and what bolt you don't.. there is also no mention as to why there are sooo many extra bolts and nuts included in some bags! This isn't a hard kit to install by any means, and most of you can figure stuff out just as I am I'm sure, but the instructions are easily the worst part of this kit.

but first, I am going to post some pics that I couldn't get yesterday..

This is how the cross member clamps onto the pinch seams.. right onto the unirail and also on the rocker pinch seam.

first thing i did today was bolt on the lower control arms, then take them off, then put them on, then take them off again, and then i finally put them on again. for some reason RE decided to ship the arms with two different kinds of zerk fittings to screw onto them. I chose the wrong one, which I quickly noticed would snap right off if the axle was at ride height. For those of you wondering (and I know you are you little scamps!) the 90 degree fitting goes at the axle end and the smaller straight fitting goes on the frame end..

Actually now that I am looking at this pic.. I am not sure that zerk is gonna be safe there.. I am gonna have to look at it tomorrow.. I wonder if it is supposed to point down?

after I got that figured out I had to get the upper control arm attached to the lower control arm. It quickly became obvious the upper bushing sleeve was just NOT going to fit in the bracket on the lower arm. my brother recommended that I spread the bracket to get the upper bushing in there but since I left my incredible hulk in my other pants that wasn't an option.. A better idea (and the one you should use) was to use a C-clamp to squeeze that bastich into submission and lightly beat the F out of with with a rubber mallet until it gingerly slides into position,taking care not to break off your Zerk fitting of course.

The next step is to attach the control arms to your front axle. You don't need a pic of that.... moving on..

Nick ( convinced me to buy new rubber spring perches because mine are old. My old ones seemed to be in decent shape but they were hard and compressed and I could tell wouldn't last more than a few more years. pretty straight-forward install on those. Just remove the factory bump stop, slide the old ones off and the new ones on, reinstall bump stop.

As you can see from the above pic I also got the RE heavy duty track bar bracket. It really is heavy duty! unfortunately it is also designed to where you can't get a socket (or impact gun) on one of the bolts that go up on the inside of the bracket. gotta wrench on it by hand.. What is this the 1950's? Anyway, used a liberal amount of the red gooey loctite on all four of these bolts. Don't need this thing falling off on me.

Brake lines are a pain in the *****! Stripped both of the stupid factory ones out! took me and my brother (both of us very large and powahfool) using channel-locks and a wrench on the bracket of the brake line torquing on it at the same time, along with about a half a can of penetrating lube to finally break them free. new stainless steel brake lines went on without a hitch though!

Now as I am sure you have noticed by now, I did manage to get the ridiculously tall and stiff Claytons 7 inch lift springs installed. "How did you do that?" Glad you asked! I did it by hand! HAHAHAHA I don't need to stinkin spring compressor! As it turns out the RE cross memeber will allow the suspension to droop exactly enough for a person of considerable strength, I.E. me, to lift and compress the claytons springs by hand and slide them into position. Keep in mind my kit did not come with the RE bumpstops.. if it had I wouldn't have been able to get the springs in without a compressor. Still gotta figure out a way to make some bump stops and limit straps though..
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post #14 of 58 Old 06-18-2012, 03:42 AM Thread Starter
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So now that the springs and control arms are attached I can put on the track bar. But to do this you need tires on so you can use the steering wheel to align your front end over your axle. It would be better to use the stock size tires because it is just easier to line everything up... but where is the fun in that? Of course I got out the new MT'Rs! With the tires on and everything on the ground it really is super easy to just turn the steering wheel to shift the front end from side to side. I used a tire iron and propped it in my steering wheel to keep it where I needed it so I could check if the axle was centered. I guess you could also just get somebody else to turn the wheel for you, but for some reason propping the wheel with a tire iron is very satisfying, in a mob hitman sort of way.. Just needed a brick for the gas pedal.. Anyway, the instructions said to attach the axle side of the track bar first with FACTORY hardware. Witch would have been fine if the track bar was meant to use factory hardware.. It actually uses a SUPPLIED 1/2 inch grade 8 bolt! It is good it uses the supplied bolt as a strength upgrade, but I could see some poor schlob trying to use the factory bolt and getting horrible death wobble because it is not nearly large enough! Keep in mind though that you will have to drill out the factory track bar bracket on the axle to 1/2 inch.

So after the track bar was in I straightened up the tires as best I could. Have some toe in and my steering wheel is now upside-down. Gonna have to fix that.. I also noticed that I had completely forgotten to mount my shocks and the jks disconnects! But oh well.. I can do that tomorrow...

Anywho.. My jeep is standing on it's own feet! Here is what my baby looks like at this very moment.

Still looks like something my grandpas grandma would drive in the back though...

And as a bonus, here are some pics of some previous mods i have done to my ZJ over the one year (1st anniversary this Thursday!) I've had it.. First up is my K&N cold air intake. It came with one from mopar but the tube cracked and the previous owner blew the filter out trying to clean it with compressed air, so I replaced it.

I have a parasitic draw issue I haven't been able to track down yet and it killed my battery. Decided on an optima red top as a replacement. It really made my jeep start a lot easier.

Shortly after I got the ZJ I noticed the drivers seat was busted. One of the cables that lets the seat slide forward and back was busted so the seat actually just pivoted like it was a swivel chair. I forgot to tell that to my cousin and he tried to adjust the seat and ended up snapping the front cross bar, making the seat tilt backwards at a 45 degree angle. I just folded down the back seat to hold the front seat up for a few months then finally i went to home depot and got a piece of 7/16 threaded rod and cut it down to slide inside the cross bar, holding the two pieces together. two nuts and some loctite and my seat is no more tilty!

I was browsing Ebay a few weeks ago and came across this cheap rubber "euro" antennae thing for like $12. Decided to buy it just to see if it worked.. I figured if it was flexible enough it would be better for offroading in the shrubs and whatnot.. I've bent and snapped quite a few stock antennae on certain trails before. Turns out I actually ended up loving the damn thing! Makes my ZJ look newer, cooler, and nobody else has one around here so even though my ZJ was stock I could still pick it out of a crowd! and the reception is just as good as the stock antennae! Highly recommended!

I had to replace the radiator a while back.. It was getting late and I was sooo tired and frustrated.. there was one last screw I needed to get to but no matter what I did, I couldn't access it behind the grill.. I was so fed up I did something drastic. The pic speaks for itself..

That's all I got for now.. Thanks for following along. I'm going to bed. My back is killin me!
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post #15 of 58 Old 06-18-2012, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Kur View Post
Anyway, the instructions said to attach the axle side of the track bar first with FACTORY hardware. Witch would have been fine if the track bar was meant to use factory hardware.. It actually uses a SUPPLIED 1/2 inch grade 8 bolt! It is good it uses the supplied bolt as a strength upgrade, but I could see some poor schlob trying to use the factory bolt and getting horrible death wobble because it is not nearly large enough!

Poor schlob in question and this finally confirms what I've been thinking...

**** whoever they have write their instructions, they should just fire his ****ing ***...

No death wobble for me, just a rather unsettling clunk on turns and bumps... and as soon as I can enough free time to go rent a bay at post I'll drill the bracket out and use the supplied bolt/nut plate.

Calm. C.

If a week goes by without needing to replace something, pinch me because I must be dreaming.
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