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6th Annual, Beat Your Wife to the Credit Card Sale!Alloy usa heavy duty ball joint kitsNEW!! HMF 50"-52" light bar mounting brackets!!

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Unread 01-26-2011, 05:24 AM   #1
Hejnfelt
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1996 ZJ 
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 176
Hejnfelt's Adventure ZJ Build Thread

In November 2010 I picked up my first ever Jeep. A 1996 5.2L ZJ with 113k miles (182k km) on it; all stock.

Road trip adventures being the focus of my holidays, the plan is to create a reliable and capable adventure vehicle that will be able to take the hardships of thousands of kilometers on paved road to no road at all, offering the best off road adventures and giving access to the unknown camping spots while bringing me and my companion(s) home safely.

Living in a secluded part of Europe, it wasn't an easy task finding a Jeep in mint condition and eventually I had to settle and simply go for something that was mechanically in good shape and then bring her up to speed myself.

When I picked her up:




Unfortunately she had a cracked front bumper cover:


I bought this particular Jeep because the NP249 transfer case was in perfect condition, the transmission had been completely renovated recently, it had factory transfer- and fuel tank skid plates, the engine had no sign of oil consumption and the underside was completely rust free.

Latest pick of the beast:


The first mission for my beast is a trip to Nordkapp. The northernmost point of mainland Europe, far above the arctic circle. The departure date is set to February 12th 2011.

Keep reading for the full story and transformation.

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Unread 01-26-2011, 06:04 AM   #2
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 176
First changes and inspection

The first thing to happen was the removal of the awful stickers. Then came the time to inspect the vehicle. Already when I bought it, I knew that I was taking it to Nordkapp in Norway in February 2011. The conditions it would have to endure included:

- Minus 40 degree cold starts (same in Fahrenheit and Celsius)
- Deep snow off road
- Ice on road
- Very dark driving conditions after 2pm in the afternoon
- Possible impact with reindeer

With these conditions in mind the planning (and dreaming) began. Bigger tires, lift, front bumper, auxiliary lights, roof rack, winch, etc. etc. etc... 2 weeks passed and my friend and I finally had time to check all the small things and perform a service on it. We were in for a surprise.

First the good news. Nothing was rusted. The bad news. the previous owner had had the engine cleaned before selling it and now 2 weeks later the truth of the gaskets were revealed. I needed all new engine gaskets. Besides this there was a small leak from the transmission cooler hose and the power steering pressure hose.

All the control arm bushings and sway bar bushings were shot. There was a tiny leak from the transfer case end seal. I needed new front brake pads and soon new rotors. Passenger side ball joints needed replacement.

Knowing all this we also decided to change some other parts just to be sure we knew all crucial parts were in order for the trip.

I failed to find any decent prices on any of these items in Europe. So I decided to order from RockAuto. Despite the freight costing the same as the parts and having to pay customs and VAT in Europe I would still save 40% compared to the cheapest shop in Estonia.

Here's the list from RockAuto:







With these parts ordered and $300-500 set aside for customs and VAT I was already out more than 30% of my vehicle budget for the trip. Besides, the lift options available in Europe were few. A quote I got from a shop here in Tallinn that has the cheapest prices on American parts:

"We can get anything from any company in the states. Just take their price x2 and that's my price to you - in Euro."

So the idea of buying a Rubicon Express super ride lift kit with shocks would suddenly cost me 2.000 Euro and not the 1.000 USD I had hoped for.

The prioritization and decision making of what's necessary began.
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Unread 01-26-2011, 07:15 AM   #3
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
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After inspecting the vehicle and discussing what should be done and prioritized for the trip the new prioritized parts list was:

1. New fluids everywhere with pour points below -40C/F and operating temps below -30C.
2. Studded All Terrain tires
3. Auxiliary lights
4. Front bumper
6. Spacer lift (budget boost) if necessary after mounting of new tires and front bumper

New fluids would go in after we had torn the engine apart and sealed the leaks so I started looking for new tires. I originally fell in love with the studdable 31x10.50 General Grabber AT2. After researching the tire market in Europe I decided that buying brand new tires would cost so much with mounting etc. that I would have to sacrifice the front bumper in the process.

While researching tires I went on a forest trip where I had the chance to take the Jeep on an untouched road covered in 50cm (~19.7") deep snow. With my stock sized Cooper Discoverers I decided to go for it. In 4LO the Jeep showed absolutely no signs of trouble except for the snow being so deep that the headlights kept being covered in snow rendering it impossible to see every 400 yards making me stop and clean them.

Testing whether the Jeep could even drive in the deep snow:


2 pics taken the first time we had to stop and clean the headlights:





My girlfriend shot a short video while heading down the road. I apologize for the darkness at the end but the headlights were covered in snow:


Very impressed with the Cooper Discoverers snow capabilities I was psyched when I found that a local had a set of almost brand new studded 265/75/16 Cooper Discoverer M+S that had been mounted on his wife's Wrangler for sale. The retail on a set like this is 1.300 USD in Estonia depending on the EUR/USD exchange rate so when I picked them up for 525 dollars I was thrilled! The tires come with 12.8mm of tread from the factory and mine had 11+ left. Clearly these were almost new and should do the job just fine.

After mounting on the OEM rims and some trimming of the front bumper the Jeep looked like this:



Since I am not gonna take this baby rockcrawling on the trip to Nordkapp I am fine with not having the full flex capability that a lift will give me.
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Unread 01-26-2011, 07:39 AM   #4
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 176
The first package to arrive from the states was the control arm bushings, sway bar bushings and sway bar links.

For ride comfort I had decided to go with Moog control arm bushings all round. I thought I had also ordered rubber sway bay bushings and links but they turned out to be polyurethane.

Starting from the rear and working our way forward it became clear to us that the rear control arms are very easy to get off. With a press and some home fabricated tools we were able to change all 8 control arm bushings in the rear in a few hours.

The sway bar to frame bushings were quite new it seemed. Maybe only a few years old, but there were massive play in them. The links were older and needed changing badly. After we were done we changed the front lower control arms that were also quite easy to get to and called it a night.

The next day - thrilled with the speed of our work - we started on the upper control arm bushings. Only now did we realize that the front bushing on each front upper control arm is mounting into the axle... Hmm. This posed a problem since our press was mounted to a table and the other press we had was too big to fit in the small working space. It took us 5 hours to change just the front upper control arm bushings with the help of a home fabricated press, a power drill and a hammer. Unfortunately there are no picture of the operation.

After this we started on the front sway bar. To our surprise we found that the former owner had swapped the original links with high performance links that were in really good shape. However, the sway bar to frame bushings had been swapped also... But to 28mm sway bar bushing although the sway bar is 26mm thick. Doh! Anyway, we put in the new bushings and the sway bar was as good as new.

As a last thing we put in the new brake pads on the front brakes.

After these changes only one word comes to mind. WOW! The car is completely changed. It feels brand new. The kind of rumbling noise from before that clearly came from the front sway bar is gone and the Jeep feels smooth but sharp over bumpy roads, through corners and overall driving noise has been reduced considerably. I can only recommend anyone with a Jeep to throw in new control arm and sway bar bushings. It's worth it!
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Unread 01-26-2011, 08:17 AM   #5
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 176
Next package included several small things. Fuel filter, lift gate struts, lift gate glass struts and front drivers side door pin and bushing kit.

When installing the new fuel filter we made a discovery. On the fuel line between the fuel tank and the fuel filling cap we found the original valet key hanging from a piece of wire. Rusty and dirty it had clearly been there for many years. The original owner must have had a great idea and forgotten that he hung it there

Anyway, new fuel filter went in easily. The lift gate and glass struts also.

When we pulled off the drivers door to replace the pins and bushings we had an interesting surprise. Despite what I had read several places online, we had to cut, drill and hammer out the original pins. What should have been a 30 minute job ended up taking 2 hours!

After getting the new pins in I do however regret that I didn't buy new ones for the passenger front door also. Even though it has no noticeable slack I fear that it may develop in the future and now that I know how to cut, drill and hammer the old ones out I want to change the passenger side door pins too.

Another small part had arrived from Ebay. A new electric antenna. Some of you may have noticed on some of the above pics that the antenna is broken. Not anymore. We changed it which was not at all easy once we found out that 15" of nylon wire was still in the spool. so we had to dig out the electric motor to clean the wire spool before we could thread the new antenna. But it was done and the result is real nice. If you don't have the special tool with which to remove the antenna cap on the hood, I can recommend using a piece of cloth and a a pair of pliers. Without the cloth you'll scratch up the hub cab but with it it'll be nice an shiny after your repair as it was before.
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Unread 01-26-2011, 09:34 AM   #6
jeep0312
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Good start. Decide to not get a lift for now?
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2000 Suzuki SV650N, V-twin, Yoshimura Exhaust, Custom Rashed Paint Job...
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Unread 01-26-2011, 10:33 AM   #7
Hejnfelt
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Yeah. It would simply be too expensive and it's not expressly needed for the trip. I've checked up on the trail conditions I will be driving in and nowhere do they have 3 feet of snow and I have already tested the 265/75/16s on stock height in 2 feet. They plow right through that stuff so it'll be sufficient.

When I get back I have planned to do the front > rear spring swap and put in some Mercedes Benz S class springs in the front, cut so they give me the planned 3.5" lift. Then I will probably get Bilstein or Skyjacker shocks and a special kit from Skyjacker with the rest of the necessary equipment.
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Unread 01-26-2011, 11:13 AM   #8
HeavyArms
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Off to a good start.

amazing color btw
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Wiggle wiggle wiggle
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Unread 01-26-2011, 12:54 PM   #9
Hejnfelt
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Location: Tallinn, Estonia
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Thanks HeavyArms,

After the small upgrades came the engine repair. We decided to pull the complete top of the engine apart. Clean everything. Put in complete new gaskets and valve seals before closing it again with new Platinum spark plugs (I know ), new ignition cables, new tensioner and idler pulley plus a new belt. The previous owner changed the rotor, distributor cap and radiator so no need to upgrade that.

Before taking everything apart we did a compression test on all cylinders. All within normal range. Off to a good start. Taking everything apart, my joy decreased gradually. All gaskets were blown. All! When everything was taken apart, we did a leak test on the valves. Small leaks in all 8 cylinders. When cleaning we found that 5 cylinders have developed tiny cracks between the intake and exhaust valves furthermore 1 cylinder has had something inside it at some point that has dented the cylinder head and the piston head. Not enough to damage it properly but enough to see the dents with the naked eye.

Cylinder head with crack and dents:


Cylinder head with crack:


Cylinder head with crack:


After cleaning the cylinder heads and valves and installing the new valve seals the cylinder heads were yet again subjected to a leak test. Amazingly, only 3 cylinders were still leaking - insignificantly - despite cracks in 5 of them. After reading that more or less every Magnum V8 develops this I relaxed

The cylinders themselves looked really nice. Super clean and no scratches at all. Before putting it back together again we changed the blown plenum gasket and cleaned the piston heads. When putting it back together again, with new head bolts of course, I also installed a new crank case breather and new air filter.

When taking the engine apart, it was clear that the previous owner must have run with old oil at some point. Oil sludge had built up inside the valve covers. And this must have happened before all the gaskets were blown which means it could possibly have been the original owner. We decided to leave the oil in, that was put in, when the Jeep was serviced right after I bought it in November and change to new oil right before I leave for Nordkapp. Then when I come home we change again and hope that the thinner oil have cleaned out the oil residue little at a time.

When put back together again we flushed and cleaned the coolant system. When done we put in the new coolant which we mixed ourselves. I decided to go with Polar Premium Longlife antifreeze concentrate. When mixed correctly its freeze point is below -60 degrees Celsius. At this mix however the coolant will be quite thick when cold so I decided to go with a 60/40 mix of concentrate and de-mineralized water. This mix will freeze around -50 degrees Celsius which is fine for the trip.

When we were done, the engine started without much trouble and no warning lights came on
__________________
- Soren -

1996 Blue ZJ ltd, 114k miles, 5.2L V8, NP249, D44, 265/75/16 Cooper Discoverer M+S studded, rebuilt 44RE transmission, OEM transfer case skid, OEM fuel tank skid, rock sliders
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Unread 01-26-2011, 01:46 PM   #10
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 176
Last to arrive from the states was my new headlights. My old ones looked awful. Burned out and scratched all over. The install was easy but I had to modify the cables to fit the US bulb that came with the headlights. And here's the weird thing. My new headlights are illegal in Europe because they are not E2 marked. So I have to keep the old burned out ones to swap in whenever I am going to MOT in the future. The MOT doesn't measure how powerful your headlights are, but god forbid! if they weren't approved in the EU... Tsk tsk...

After installment and alignment the night visibility is much improved! Big ups to RockAuto who carry these at $15 each. That's what a single bulb costs in Europe

Last week I came across an add on the Estonian 4x4 forum for brand new Delphi brake rotors for only 60 EURO. Since the Delphi ones are top quality, EU approved and RockAuto carry them for 78 EURO I bid on them. I got them for 50 Since my old rotors were gonna be changed in the summer anyway I can now get new ones on before the trip.

That about sums up the work done so far on the beast. Next steps include:

- New ball joints
- Mounting new brake rotors
- Repairing power steering leak
- Repairing automatic transmission cooler hose leak
- Repairing transfer case end seal leak
- New engine oil and filter 5w30 fully synthetic
- New differential oils in both diffs 75W-90
- New power steering fluid
- New brake fluid
- Battery insulation
- New front bumper
- Mounting auxiliary lights

Two days ago I placed an order for a custom front bumper. This bumper is mainly supposed to withstand a collision with a fully grown reindeer which can weigh 500lbs+. In lappland there are more reindeer than people and they can cross the road quite suddenly in the hundreds with little care for traffic. This is an essential safety feature of the vehicle. Today I spoke with the builder and we agreed on the design and mounting instructions etc. He'll have the cardboard mock-up ready tomorrow for final inspection before it's sent to laser cutting of the pieces. The guy who is building it, builds bumpers for off road competition cars in Estonia and is real skilled. Will try to get some snaps of the mockup to give you guys an idea.

It will look something like this (Kudos goes to the Jeepforum member who's car this is - unfortunately I can't remember who it is - If you see this, let me know and I'll gladly put your name as inspiration):
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- Soren -

1996 Blue ZJ ltd, 114k miles, 5.2L V8, NP249, D44, 265/75/16 Cooper Discoverer M+S studded, rebuilt 44RE transmission, OEM transfer case skid, OEM fuel tank skid, rock sliders
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Unread 01-26-2011, 03:05 PM   #11
jeep0312
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Location: palm coast, fl
Posts: 993
That would be an ARB bumper. Looks like you are on the right track with your build. Keep it up.
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2000 Suzuki SV650N, V-twin, Yoshimura Exhaust, Custom Rashed Paint Job...
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Unread 01-27-2011, 10:33 AM   #12
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeep0312 View Post
That would be an ARB bumper. Looks like you are on the right track with your build. Keep it up.
Yeah I know but I would like some small modifications to it and the price in Estonia is $2000 USD plus shipping and a custom is $800 USD including mounting. A no brainer I'd say.

Just came from seeing the mock up. Here's a shot:


Also got a shot of my new headlights:


Will get it mounted on February 7th or 8th This weekend it's time for ball joints and fluid changes.
__________________
- Soren -

1996 Blue ZJ ltd, 114k miles, 5.2L V8, NP249, D44, 265/75/16 Cooper Discoverer M+S studded, rebuilt 44RE transmission, OEM transfer case skid, OEM fuel tank skid, rock sliders
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Unread 01-30-2011, 04:50 PM   #13
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
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Posts: 176
Got lots of stuff done this weekend

Finally got around to building that sleeping platform I've been planning. For the trip to Lappland it'll serve as a place to sleep and keep warm in emergencies and for summers it'll be good for camping on uneven ground or simply without the hassle of a tent.

So I picked up some wood and materials:


Got to work:




And ended up with this:


And in case the platform is in the Jeep and I need to use the rear seats, I've designed it to be collapsible so it fits in the back as a kind of shelving system.

Sketch-up design:


Collapsible sides on center piece:


Legs on one center piece side:


I'm real happy with how this turned out. I am 6'3" and this platform is designed to be 6' long to the back of the front seats when they are in the farthest frontal position and then between the front seats the platform will extend to the total length of 7'1" - supported on the center console - so I can comfortably lie there fully stretched out.

Then I finally got around to putting in my new ball joints. Far overdue. It seriously looked like the original ball joints I pulled out but afterwards the steering felt much sharper

Doing the ball joints I decided to throw on my new rotors also

New Ball joint:


Rotors:




I've kept the old ones as they weren't worn out completely. And who knows. Maybe I'll warp the new ones within a year and then the old ones should come in handy...

Last but not least the sketches for my new front bumper arrived. Will have them cut holes and mount brackets for the original fog lights. If anyone have any tips in regards to this I am all ears.

Custom bumper:


I didn't get around to the fluid changes I had planned so I'll do that this week.



Soren
__________________
- Soren -

1996 Blue ZJ ltd, 114k miles, 5.2L V8, NP249, D44, 265/75/16 Cooper Discoverer M+S studded, rebuilt 44RE transmission, OEM transfer case skid, OEM fuel tank skid, rock sliders
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Unread 01-30-2011, 06:09 PM   #14
Spike300
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Location: Marion, Wis
Posts: 1,355
i like that bumper
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[url]http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f197/camo-beast-975063/[/url]

5.2-242 tcase-44a-30x9.50x15 MT/R-American Racing Burst Rims -[COLOR="Red"]Optima[/COLOR] -E3 plugs-[COLOR="DarkGreen"]Cu[/COLOR]st[COLOR="DarkGreen"]om[/COLOR] Pa[COLOR="DarkGreen"]in[/COLOR]t-Amsoil-Addco Front and Rear-polyurethane bushings

[B]To be installed[/B]: RE gen2 discos, military battery terminals
[B]To be rebuilt:[/B] HP30
[B]To be received:[/B]
[B]To be paid for:[/B]

[B]Next on the list:[/B] complete redo of brakes and
lines
[B]Needed:[/B] fittings, coil of brake tubing, Russel speed bleeders

Zombie Outbreak Response Unit #75
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Unread 01-31-2011, 12:04 AM   #15
Hejnfelt
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Posts: 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike300 View Post
i like that bumper
Thanks
__________________
- Soren -

1996 Blue ZJ ltd, 114k miles, 5.2L V8, NP249, D44, 265/75/16 Cooper Discoverer M+S studded, rebuilt 44RE transmission, OEM transfer case skid, OEM fuel tank skid, rock sliders
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