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Unread 08-30-2009, 04:00 AM   #1
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
The Alaskan Sahara build thread

Like everyone else here I first bought my Jeep to have a nice vehicle to go off roading, plus be able to drop the top on a nice sunny day. I soon realized that although the Wrangler is a pretty capable vehicle when stock there is always the chance to improve it and make it better, hence the build...

Money, as usual, is the limiting factor. Although I have a pretty decent paying job as a 11-year Staff Sergeant in the US Army, I cannot devote all my money to the Jeep ... I am married ... if I was single I'd have this thing built as I wanted in less than a year, but the wife keeps nickle and diming me to death!

I bought the Jeep back in May. I looked around for about two months, looking at the local used car dealers, craigslist, and the local park and sell lots. In the end I was undecided between buying this stock 98 Sahara, or another 99 Wrangler that had 33" tires, a six inch lift, 3" body lift, two piece BEstop hard top, etc etc etc. In the end I did not like the way the lifted 99 Jeep drove, it felt like there was something wrong with it, something I couldn't put my finger to. Plus I wanted to mod my own Jeep, not buy someone else's project.

My 98 Sahara came with a hard top, no ac, auto transmission (I wanted that so the wife could drive it), and I made sure I had the Dana 44 with LSD in the rear. Like other Saharas it also has the 4.0 engine.

I soon joined a local off road club, Frozen Axles, and started off roading it. The Jeep instantly surprised me, I pushed it to my limits and the Jeep delivered it, proving that its limits were beyond my own. I also quickly realized that the mod bug had bit me, I wanted a better Jeep, I wanted to mod my 98 to transform it into a daily driven trail machine. Not anything too hardcore, but a vehicle that would perform well in the trail while being relatively comfortable to drive and easy to live with.

The build the began...

First day out of the used car dealer lot


The first mod I did was disconnecting the front sway bar. I have left it disconnected since then, I haven't missed it. Talking to Alaska veterans they say I might want to reconnect it for winter. As soon as it starts snowing they will be reconnected. I also removed both front and rear milk jugs.


This is what I bought the Jeep for: accessing hard to reach spots, like this favorite fishing spot/camp site of mine on the Chena River, you need a four wheel drive to get there, especially if it rains.


A month after buying the Jeep I had found a used 2" Budget Boost lift on Craigslist for $20, and had replaced the stock fog lights with Hella 500s I had laying around in the garage. The Hellas are wired with thicker wires and a relay. I also painted the headlight bezels with black BBQ grill paint.


Having fun in the trails near my work


Bathed in the Alaskan 10 pm sun shine


Wheeling with the Frozen Axles




__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio

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Unread 08-30-2009, 04:18 AM   #2
taythegibs
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2001 XJ Cherokee 
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: NW Corner of Georgia
Posts: 710
looks good, i really like the 2 toned seats.
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Unread 08-30-2009, 04:25 AM   #3
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
The next mod I did was order a Rampage Combo Brief Top, which is a top that can be switched between a bikini or a safari top, which ended up being great as I didn't know which one I liked. I ended up running it in the safari mode most of the time, so that's my favorite now. The Combo Brief Top has a heavy duty zipper that separates the safari rear portion from the bikini front part. It works great and doesn't flap much at all, when you get it all nice and tight it is a fairly quiet top. I also has two mesh pockets on the front left and right, which really came in handy many times. I wish there was more storage on the Wrangler!

With the Combo Brief Top I also ordered a Rugged Ridge wind breaker. I ordered it mostly for my wife, as I wanted to keep the wind down when she rode the Jeep, so I would heard less chatter from the right side of the Jeep I barely ever used it, so I feel it was a mod I could ahve saved my money on. Oh well...

On a river with the Rampage Combo Brief Top on


Searching for a Christmas Tree off the Steese Highway


Another mod I did that was great was installing a King Kong job box on the rear of the Jeep. I wanted to put in a lockable trunk for when I ride topless, and by pure luck I found out that this tough plastic box I had in my garage was made as wide as the space in the rear of the Wrangler. It was almost as if it was made for the TJ. It fit in there very snug, I just had to drill one hole to put a bolt and washer where the rear seat belt center piece goes. With this box and a Master Snake lock I had a lockable trunk in my TJ. Sure, someone with motivation can get in it, but for 95% of would be thieves this box is a great deterrent.

The box in the rear of the TJ, there is a 1 foot space in front of it and another one behind it, so there's room to just drop stuff there that I don't need locked.


Notice how the lid opens as if it was made for the Wrangler...
__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio


Last edited by rpiereck; 02-27-2010 at 02:14 AM..
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Unread 08-30-2009, 04:41 AM   #4
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
My next mods were more expensive, and more serious too. I added Rough Country 1.25" wheels spacers in preparation for bigger tires, and I started researching which tire I would buy.

In the beginning I wanted to buy Cooper Discoverer STTs, in 32" size. I quickly found out that STTs, while they are great tires, aren't cheap. I could get STTs for $225 a piece or either Dunlop Mud Rovers, BFG KM2 or Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs for less than $175 each.

I ended up going for the Duratracs, as they are a hybrid AT/snow tire, not quite a mud tire, and since I live in Alaska and for six months of the year I am commuting on snow and ice I need good winter tires. The Duratracs fit the bill. They have a nice, aggressive tread to them, as in the two days I had them installed they have not disappointed in the mud. They worked great in the sloppy stuff too. Now I have to wait for snow and ice to see how they do in their designed environment...

The only thing I didn't like about the Duratracs so far is that they are made only in 31" or 33" size for 15" wheels. I wanted 32s, but I had to compromise. I figured sooner or later I would want 33s anyway, so I got them, 33/12.5x15. For my review of the Duratrac tires, click here.

Duratracs after the mud


Nice aggressive wall treads should provide good traction on snow and mud


Good looking tire from the front too


Tire detail


Tread detail


These snow hybrid tires did not disappoint in the mud


Frozen Axles? More like Muddy Axles...


They look good even on the driveway... (yes, even in my driveway I am off roading )


With just a 2" BB and 1.25" wheels spacers these tires are rubbing on the front fenders and the front right tire is rubbing on the lower control arm on full right turn. I am ordering a 1" BL to fix the fender rub, for the control arm rub I have to research how to fix that...

Three other mods I have that are not pictured are my Cobra 19 Ultra CB radio, my home made CB antenna mount, and my Hella Supertone horns. I gotta take pics of those someday...

More to come, hopefully...
__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio

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Unread 08-30-2009, 05:12 AM   #5
bebout
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2006 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Georgia
Posts: 2,493
For the rubbing of the control arm there are steering stops on the knuckles on the front axle. They are located on the knuckle and look like a bolt with a nut welded to them. Loosen them up and add a washer or two behind them and tighten them back down. That should cure the rubbing, if not add more as needed. Great looking jeep and great scenery up there. I've got an uncle that lives in Alaska and he's been trying to get me to move up there for the past 4-5 years. I'm seriously considering it, but I'm gonna wait till my jeep is paid off. If I'm not mistaken, he's not far from Fairbanks. Keep up the good work.
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Unread 08-30-2009, 12:44 PM   #6
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
Quote:
Originally Posted by bebout View Post
For the rubbing of the control arm there are steering stops on the knuckles on the front axle. They are located on the knuckle and look like a bolt with a nut welded to them. Loosen them up and add a washer or two behind them and tighten them back down. That should cure the rubbing, if not add more as needed. Great looking jeep and great scenery up there. I've got an uncle that lives in Alaska and he's been trying to get me to move up there for the past 4-5 years. I'm seriously considering it, but I'm gonna wait till my jeep is paid off. If I'm not mistaken, he's not far from Fairbanks. Keep up the good work.
Thanks man, I'll look at the steering stops on the knuckles.

As far as moving here, if you like fishing and hunting or just being outdoors this is the place to be. The winter is bearable as long as temps are above -40. It only stays below -40 for about a week or two. When it's -30 it is cold but you can live with it. After your first winter you will think that 0 degrees ain't so cold after all. You'll be looking to buy your first snow machine (snowmobile in the lower 48) as soon as you see everybody riding them. I'm enjoying living here, it beats Florida or California, where I lived before.
__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio

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Unread 08-30-2009, 02:09 PM   #7
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
As most TJ owners I want to mod my Jeep to my tastes and make it a better trail machine. Here in Alaska unfortunately we are doomed to pay higher shipping charges, so modding your vehicle comes with extra costs here. I gotta add $100-200 for shipping for lift kits, winches, etc. Anything big and heavy comes with a premium here.

With that in mind, there are a few things I would like to add to my TJ to make it better, and in the want list of future mods this is what I have:

- A Hi-Lift jack, should have this one by the end of next month.
- A 5th 33/12.5x15 Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac for a spare.
- 3" suspension system from The Zone Off Road. A buddy of mine installed a The Zone suspension on his JK and he's satisfied with it. The kit is pretty complete and the price is competitive. This kit should be a good match to my 33s.
- Rokmen DIY FAB front and rear bumpers. These are weld-and-paint-it-yourself bumpers, and they are much cheaper than the whole ready to install bumper, so it offsets the cost of shipping it. I know a few guys here in town who would weld this for a six pack.
- A winch, I am partial to either having a Smittybilt XRC9 shipped from the lower 48, which would run me less than $500 total, or just buy a 12,000 lb Tabor at a local store, which sells for $650.
- I would like to add some corner armor too, plus off course rocker armor and skid plates. For those I am looking to purchase raw steel or aluminum locally, and fabricate the items myself. We have all the required machines at work and we can use them after business hours. I was wondering if there was a thread at JF with blueprints to get these made. I haven't found it yet.
- Riddler diff covers, their price is good, and includes shipping to AK (awesome); plus that video they made shows how strong these are.
- I'd also add a stronger track bar and other suspension parts too.
- On the interior I would like to add a Smittybilt G.E.A.R. Overhead Console in tan color, I said I want more storage in the TJ...

I am sure there will be more later (it's a Jeep!) but for now I better start budgeting for the above...
__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio


Last edited by rpiereck; 08-30-2009 at 02:32 PM..
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Unread 08-30-2009, 06:20 PM   #8
sittinlowTJ
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TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: in the sticks
Posts: 9
Very nice jeep.
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Unread 08-30-2009, 08:08 PM   #9
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
Thanks sittinlowTJ
__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio

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Unread 08-30-2009, 08:46 PM   #10
INCA
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2003 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 1,148
love the jeep! ihave the same tires and i love them to!
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Unread 08-31-2009, 02:03 AM   #11
bebout
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2006 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Georgia
Posts: 2,493
Sweet. I love to hunt and anything outdoors for that matter. I was just informed by a buddy of mine, that he is moving to Alaska on Sept.11. I'm not real sure what part tho. So if you see this XJ around don't be afraid to say hi, his name's Don and he's a really good guy.

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Unread 08-31-2009, 02:40 AM   #12
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
Quote:
Originally Posted by bebout View Post
Sweet. I love to hunt and anything outdoors for that matter. I was just informed by a buddy of mine, that he is moving to Alaska on Sept.11. I'm not real sure what part tho. So if you see this XJ around don't be afraid to say hi, his name's Don and he's a really good guy.

If he's headed to Fairbanks then tell him to check out our off road club, Frozen Axles, we're always looking for new people to wheel with us. I'll be on the lookout for a red Cherokee with a Hi Lift on the hood.
__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio

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Unread 08-31-2009, 02:43 AM   #13
bebout
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Georgia
Posts: 2,493
Haha. I'll tell him to if he's headed to Fairbanks. I will be up there in 2 more years and can't wait, his sorry butt beat me to it. We've always talked about moving there and I told him when my jeep was paid off I was gone. I'll be driving up there once he gets settled in and will let you know when it is, and maybe we can get together and wheel while I'm there.
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Unread 08-31-2009, 02:43 AM   #14
rpiereck
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1998 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Posts: 690
Quote:
Originally Posted by IIVIIonster04 View Post
love the jeep! ihave the same tires and i love them to!
Thanks man!

You have the Duratracs in Texas? That compound might be a bit too soft for your weather, it wouldn't surprise me if they wear off too quick. I wish you luck with them, they will probably be a great tire here in a few weeks when it starts snowing.
__________________

JKS Adjustable control arms - JKS 1.25" Body Lift - JKS 1" Engine Mount Lift
Old Man Emu 4" coils - Rancho 5000 shocks - Teraflex front adj trackbar - RE rear track bar bracket
33/12.5x15 Wrangler Duratracs - Tabor 12k Winch - Hella 500F Foglights
Hella Supertone Horns - Uniden CB radio

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Unread 08-31-2009, 04:57 AM   #15
Disco69
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2001 TJ Wrangler 
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
Posts: 511
Looking good Ren. The count is at 5 days now which means I should be home in around 9 if all goes well. I can't wait to put all of my junk on my girl when I get home and to hit the trail with you.
__________________
[COLOR="DarkRed"][CENTER][B]2001 TJ Sahara[/B][/CENTER][/COLOR]
[CENTER][B][SIZE="1"]3.5" RE Superflex Suspension Lift -|- RE Adjustable Trackbar -|- 35x12.50 STTs on Eagle Alloy 15x10s-|- D30 w/ ARB and Superior Outer Axle Seals -|- D44 w/ Detroit Locker -|- Superior 4.88s -|- ROKMEN Mercenary Front Bumper -|- ROKMEN Sliders -|- Warn Rockcrawler Rear w/ Carrier -|- Warn M8000 Winch -|- JKS 1.25" BL -|- JKS 1" MML -|- Old Man Emu Long Travel Shocks -|- OME Stabilizer -|- ARB OBA -|- MetalCloak Arched Front Tube Fenders[/SIZE][/B][/CENTER]

[CENTER][COLOR="Blue"][URL="http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=767168"]My Build Thread[/URL][/COLOR]

[COLOR="DarkRed"]Sienna Jeep Club Member #29[/COLOR][/CENTER]

[CENTER][URL="www.frozenaxles.com"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][B][FONT="Impact"][SIZE="4"]FROZEN AXLES[/SIZE][/FONT][/B][/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"][B][FONT="Comic Sans MS"][SIZE="4"]Offroad[/SIZE][/FONT][/B][/COLOR][/URL][/CENTER]
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