Prodigy P2 brake controller with Mopar 7-way wiring harness
Black magic brakes
Custom built expedition trailer with a Tepui roof top tent
32” Goodyear MT/Rs for Jeep and trailer (so the spare works for both!)
Eagle alloy (USA made) wheels
KC headlights, KC foglights and an AEV rear third brake light.
Sucking gas bumper sticker.
At the time of this posting, my Jeep is now 10 years old so I thought I’d create a build thread as its evolved a lot (and slowly) over the years. Right now I think it’s exactly what I want for the next 10 years. After that, the Jeep will probably go to 35” tires and become a towed Jeep. But we’ll see?
Well buying it new, I first had to get the Jeep paid off before I could justify to the batter half on spending more money on it to for one to lift it. First of all, I like the look of a stock Jeep and from the beginning I had the idea to build a Jeep that I could comfortably and safety drive 70 mph across multiple states, camp, drive some awesome Jeep trails, and then drive it back home. I was also aware of trailers that guys were either buying or building and towing behind their 4x4s, which I also had that idea in my head such as a small, lightweight popup for camping. But I knew that I had to first get the Jeep setup to pull a trailer...
I grew up out west and did a lot of camping. As a teenager, campsites usually consisted of finding a hunter’s campsite along an old log road. My dad use to carry a chainsaw to clear fallen trees if needed, so our campsites were remote. Later I use to borrow a girlfriend’s dad’s lifted Jeep CJ for camping, which was a beast to drive. It was tipsy and had bad brakes, but I loved driving it to find out where Jeep trails went? That lead to me test drive a new Wrangler YJ. I knew I wanted to own a Wrangler someday.
Fast forward, it was finally time to buy my own new Jeep. After I got my wife boozed up over dinner and took her for a test drive of a 2005 TJ, I immediately wrote a $500 check to order my 2006 TJ Sport. Well the Jeep arrived home ten years ago this month on Nov. 11th, 2005 and it's been a love affair with what my wife calls the redheaded mistress .
Options at the time included a rear Dana 44 and with the rare option having ABS. I drove it straight from the dealer to a tire shop and traded in the stock tires for a nicer set of A/T Revos. The next morning:
Right away I decided that I was going to drive it to Colorado the following summer so I ordered and installed an oil pan and transmission skid plate. (Okay, it's not exactly heavy duty, but its worked as right away with a stock Jeep, it was getting rubbed on.)
I also installed Mopar’s iPod Kit. This was before about anyone else had iPod integration, so this was pretty cool to have! I had a thread here on JF about it which at the time had a lot of views!
On my way to Colorado for that first trip, I stopped at a family owned auto-body shop and installed a set of Rubicon rocker panels for some rocker protection.
On that trip for one I drove it to the top of Imogene Pass. I was rather impressed with where a stock Jeep could drive to. It was this trail that was the first time that I had to use the four-wheel low to climb a step section at 11k feet elevation.
Following that trip, I had to have the stock radiator replaced as it must have received damage as the bottom was fairly out in the open, so I added a Rusty's radiator skid plate to protect it. Since then, no more radiator problems.
Next and thanks to a Christmas present, I installed a hard top lift in my garage and the following summer was the first time the top came off. This was a memorable day being that a Jeep’s top just has to eventually come off! Also at this time, I had removed the stock flares and replaced them with Rubicon flares. I also had these flares painted black and clear coated by the family shop (which I like the look of!).
My next purchase were Drop Kick Slyders by Detours, that bolt onto the Jeep’s frame. They came powder coated, so I sprayed them with a bedliner and then additional coat of black paint. Originally I saw these advertised to go along with the stock Rubicon rocker panels.
Fast forward a few more years. The Jeep was just a year away from being paid off. So while attending a 4x4 jamboree I bought new polished aluminum alloy wheels for an eventual lift and new tires. These are made in the USA built wheels by American Eagle. They’re like moving mirrors, and can be kept polished or they still shine when dirty. Since then I have minimally kept them polished, and they may get replaced when I need new tires again?
The following spring, the wheels were in motion. Thanks to some side work, I earned some extra money that went into my Jeep’s lift fund. So more parts began to be ordered, which included a WARN M8000 winch and an aluminum stubby front bumper made by Savvy Off-Road. The bumper is most impressive, it’s super light at just six or so pounds, yet at the same point it’s very tough. I primed and painted the bumper black. I then mounted the winch on the bumper, which was funny as the winch was so much heavier then the bumper! I also removed the steel winch cable as I intended to replace it with Viking synthetic winch line.
And more parts! I decided to go with an OME lift, which includes their 2.5” HD springs, JKS track bars and a front 3/4” spacer to compensate for the adding the winch on the front (and as well to level the Jeep out). For tires I went with 32” Goodyear MT/R with kevlar. Why stop at 32”? Well I had the idea of the eventual trailer, and I thought these tires would also be reasonable for the trailer to also run and so that one spare tire would work for both the Jeep and trailer.
The build also included Bilstein 5100 shocks and a BDS steering stabilizer. A JB Conversion Super Short SYE and Spicer CV rear driveshaft were also installed by Sunfire Off-Road in Sunman, IN.
The Viking synthetic winch line was put on, and the winch control box was wired under the hood. (The wiring for this was beautifully done by Sunfire.)
A Currie AntiRock sway bar was also installed. It gives my Jeep a bit of a floating feel to the front, but it does an awesome job off-road. The front axle just floats over bumps. I highly recommend an AntiRock on any Jeep.
I also removed the rear seat and installed a Bestop rack, which has been nice to open up the small back for camping supplies. (Although the seat does go back in from time to time.) I generally like having this wrack and that’s a heavy plastic, it’s not bolted to the roll age so the back end of it tends to slide down some. Plus, the originally supplied nuts and bolts were junk and had to be replaced.
And here is stock to not! The lift gave the front a 3-3/4” lift, and 3-1/2” in the rear. The tires added another inch. IMO, this is how Jeep should have sold TJs to begin with.
Okay, not apart of the build, but at this same time, a local Jeep club arranged for a tour of the Jeep Wrangler (JK) factory in Toledo! This was the first public tour Jeep had allowed in 20 years. They actually stopped the line for us to take this group picture. Afterwards they had us group our Jeeps together outside the factory for another picture. This was just as super cool place to get to go with my newly lifted Jeep!
I then installed a CB radio.
And wow… I drove it that summer to Colorado and wow did it drive off-road much better! Not only was the ride softer over the bumps, but the added clearance was great. I also spent a number of following weekends hanging out at a local Badlands Off-Road Park spinning the tires and getting the Jeep dirty.
And I do keep it waxed (or Zaino actually), which some friends laugh at me for having a shinny Jeep.
My next modifications were to get ready to tow a trailer. To start with, AtoZ fab builds a Made in the USA heavy duty rear bumper with a real 2” receiver and tow chain hooks. Still I needed more room for my next trip to Colorado, so I also found an inexpensive small rack for the hitch. This was nice to hold the tent, chairs and a fold-up table, but I had to remove bags in order to open the back of the Jeep.
Thanks to winning a drawing here on JF, I won these Bad Apple diff guards that I installed when I changed fluids. I painted them flame red.
I also read about the Derale transmission cooler that Jerry Bransford installed on his Jeep TJ to help keep the Chrysler transmission alive, and I thought that this would also be a good idea to have for pulling a trailer. I again had Sunfire install this cooler for me, which is placed right behind the transfer case. Some guys have asked me if it’s not protected enough? It is somewhat under the skid plate and it’s not been a problem. I do also spray it off after wheeling.
My next camping trip to Colorado, the rack on the back was nice to have. The transmission cooler was also nice as in the heat of summer, I heard it’s fan running often when I stopped. When I drove through Nebraska, the outside temperature was 104 degrees, and with having the Jeep packed and doing 70 mph, I knew that the cooler was a good idea.
And the camping and the Jeep trails were awesome! The Continental Divide was in the background of the first picture (with snow still at the end of July), and the second picture was taken above Leadville.
I also wanted a soft top and I had regretted not buying the dual-top package back when I ordered my Jeep. At that time, Mopar had released a Sunrider top that allowed for just the front top to fold back. Thanks to a bonus from work, I found a new one still in the box! I like having a hard top for better security of contents for trips, but wow... a Jeep is just not a Jeep without a soft top. I love this top! Sure it's loud on the highway as when it's all closed up as it flaps, but with rear windows out it's rather quiet and great for a hot, sunny day.
Since installing the lift, I came to realize the issue we all have with braking, so I installed (Black Magic) brakes. I also wanted my future trailer to have it's own electric brakes, so researching, I went ahead and installed a Tekonsha Prodigy P2 brake controller. The install of course wasn't simple for a Jeep that wasn't meant or designed for a controller.
For the Wrangler LJs, Jeep had released a 7-way wiring harness (as an LJ was rated to tow more... 3500#s vs. 2000#s). I had read someone say that they had installed the same harness in a TJ, so it had sounded like it could be done. Upon receiving the harness, I found two different set of Mopar instructions. The first set had me install the back end plugs on the passenger side, however the brake lights for the trailer in the connector did not work.
I then followed the other instructions and moved the rear connection to the driver's side. The lights worked, however when I turned the Jeep's left turn single on, the trailer's right turn signal blinked! :huh:
To fix this, I went into the wiring on the 7way plug, cut the left and right wires, and switched them. That fixed the problem.
The other fun part of the install was having to tap the brake controller into the correct brake lamp wire. After a lot of searching, I was pretty confident that it was the white wire with the black line! And thankful it was as there were a lot of wires to pick from in a very confined space.
And of course, now my Jeep is tow rated. Sunfire Off-Road also built me a trailer that I based on the Pike’s Peak trailer that was once a giveaway here on JF. The trailer build thread is here: trailer. With all of the setup I’ve done, the trailer really tows great down the highway. Plus having electric brakes is great!
So far the ride is certainly tighter as I did have a bit of a lose front end with the AntiRock. Bumps are also not as harsh as they were. My Jeep still has it's typical bouncy ride to it, but on the highway, it now feels like it stays straighter then before. With my trailer, I've previously commented that my Jeep feels better (more stable) on the road with the trailer in tow (having that extra weight behind it I figured). Well I have to say now that the Jeep now feels the same way with these control arms and no trailer, and better of course without that rough road jolt that it use to have. And it still tows my trailer great as well!
I then bought an AEV third brake light to eliminate the ugly stock brake light. Well AEV said that this light would work with a TJ, but the plug was different for my '06, so I did some wire splicing and made it work.
I first made sure that the AEV light worked with my wheels, as I figured it would.
Okay, you can't see the red light here, but it works and is bright. Love it.
I also ordered new KC H4 headlights recently. The story to this is that in Sept., 2014, when I was on a camping trip roaming Utah and one of the original headlights went dead. So at a campsite I replaced the old headlight with a cheap option from an autoparts store I passed in some nameless, small town. Fortunately in my tools I carried a set of torx screw drivers (which I ended up leaving at that campsite).
So I of course figured that the second original headlight was on it's way out too so I might as well spring from something better. And those KC headlights are awesome. On high beam they seem extra bright, almost like switching on additional lighting.
I have also replaced the stock fog lights. KC makes direct connect replacement lights. They came with removable rock guards, which originally I was going to remove. But after putting them on, I kind of like them.
Isn't she pretty? (Oh what hides behind the cover!) I have most recently had front and rear Detroit TrueTracs installed. My new friend in fact that owns Sunfire Off-Road suggested a front locker instead of the TrueTrac (as he had never installed a TrueTrac in the front), but at this time, that's not something that I'd want to install in the stock front Dana 30 axle.
With towing the trailer, I definitely wanted to keep the benefits of having a rear limited slip. The Jeep flexes very well, not to mention having the front Currie AntiRock sway bar, so this TrueTrac is just what I wanted. They'll be great for my use, and eliminate having an open front differential. I did a lot of research about TrueTracs here on JF and guys that drive in lose, sandy, sloppy stuff seem to love them. As I earlier said, maybe in 10 years my Jeep will go to 35" tires and I can consider replacing the front Dana 30 and go to a real locker, and of course the other expenses related to running that large of a tire...
And at that point, the Jeep would no longer tow, but be towed...
Camping in the Michigan UP...
I also replaced the original factory oil pump drive assembly at 48,000 miles.
And here is the serious wear on the original pump that I removed.