Hi guys, I thought I might as well become a little more involved on JF so I'm going to do a build thread. I have a 2000 TJ that I got junior year of high school and have been building it up how I want ever since then. I've made mistakes along the way, but have learned a LOT more than I ever thought I would. I am not an all time Jeep guru or anything so I appreciate any comments/concerns/suggestions. All feedback is welcome and appreciated. I got it with nearly bald 31" Pro Comp ATs, a 2" BB, ugly tube bumpers, and a fugly chrome "4x4" badge on the rear corner. I wanted a 5-spd and I got really lucky with a D44 rear. Here's some pics from when I first brought her home.
At first, honestly, my plan for this Jeep was to make it look really "cool" and take it "mudding". I had no idea how much fun off-roading would turn out to be and how hard I would get bit by the Jeep "bug". Thus, my plan for the build has changed over time. Since I was in high school when I got this Jeep and am in college now, I'm on a tight budget. I started scouring Craigslist for good deals. One of my first mods was a set of Delta Quadbar H4 headlights. I found them for a steal, still in the Quadratec box, on Craigslist in Greensboro. Luckily, I was headed to Greensboro with my parents to a concert that weekend so I was able to pick them up.
They do a much better job of lighting up the road at night compared to the stock headlights. A great buy in my book.
This Jeep had spent much of its life in Boone, NC, so it had a decent amount of surface rust underneath. No frame rot or rust on the tub, luckily. I am a bit OCD about my undercarriage and like it clean and nice. My dad and I put the Jeep on a lift and power washed, sanded, and repainted everything underneath. I forgot to get before pics, but here's now it turned out. The specs are dirt from driving home when it was raining and muddy out.
I soon noticed in the first pic, that my crappy stock tie rod was bent. Go figure. Time for an upgrade. Since I didn't really have a good idea of what my future build plans were going to look like, I decided I didn't need to drop a couple hundred bucks on HD steering, like Currie, etc. Did some research and decided on the ZJ V8 tie rod swap. At a fraction of the cost of other options, it was a great deal and is a VAST improvement over stock. I also did the V8 tie rod ends as well.
During the washing and painting of the undercarriage, my carpet got soaked because the PO left the drain plugs out. Instead of letting my Jeep smell like wet dog, I pulled the carpets. They are still sitting downstairs in the house to this day. I plan to do bedliner (Monstaliner) sometime in the future.
From the beginning, I didn't like the tube bumpers and wanted to get rid of them for something else. My dad's friend is a professional powdercoater and I had both of them powdercoated and sold them shortly after on Craigslist for a surprisingly good amount. No bumpers pic:
The soft top that came on the Jeep was aged and needed replacing. I didn't have the money to spend on a Bestop, so I went with a Rugged Ridge XHD top with tinted windows. This top was surprisingly nice for the money. It served me well for a while. I also had been doing much research on the kind of lift I wanted. I didn't want a 4" or greater because I didn't want to have to buy a SYE/ DC shaft, adj. CA's, etc. I was trying to cheap out on that aspect. I ended up going with a BDS 3" lift due to the good reputation of ride quality and nice springs. I regrettably had a shop do the installation. I wish I could've done it myself, but having no experience and lacking tools, jack stands, etc, it was just not feasible for me to do it. The installation money could've gone towards other mods or an initial tool investment. But oh well, live and learn. I also had them put a .75" spacer up front to level it out. Here's the Jeep after I drove it home from the shop and after the alignment:
The ride quality of the lift was better than stock, IMO. I love it. The only thing I didn't like, was the chrome eyesores called t-case spacers. I hated the way they looked and had to do something about them.
When I got the Jeep, it had a little scratch on the rocker panel so I wanted to cover that up with something. I wasn't sure what I was going to about rock sliders yet so I bought some of the Tough Stuff vinyl rocker protectors. The texture resembles grip tape but not as coarse. They are surprisingly thick and do a good job protecting from more scratches.
I kept looking on Craigslist for things I may need and found a set of Olympic 4x4 Xtreme Reversa-Bars for really cheap. They were kind of crappy looking in the pics but I went to check them out in person and talked the guy down to a deal I couldn't refuse. I took them home and had my dad's friend powdercoat them. They came out looking good as new. Some of the bolts were missing so we called Olympic and they were extremely helpful and sent us a complete parts list and instructions. After buying the bolts, etc. we needed, they were installed. Although they aren't mounted to the rocker itself, they were a steal of a deal and they work for me.
After driving for a bit with the t-case drop, I noticed it was a bit tight shifting into 2nd, 4th, and reverse so I pulled the boot and removed the foam piece on the shifter, per advice from another thread. It helped out a bit.
Next came the tires. I had done lots of research on what kind of tires I wanted and found the two most suitable for my needs at the moment were the BFG AT's and the Duratracs. I liked the look of the Duratracs much more than the BFGs and heard pretty good things about them offroad, with the exception of weak sidewalls. Discount Tire had a good deal going on and I got 5 Duratracs for a lot less than the BFGs.
At this point, I was pretty broke so I enjoyed my Jeep as it was for a while! I was deciding on what I wanted to do next and waiting for funds to recoup. I still needed bumpers, wheels (I wasn't digging my current ones), and a way to removed that god-awful t-case drop.
I eventually decided to get a bumper next and might as well paint the chrome lights black. I wanted the "coolest" looking bumper I could find and chose the Smittybilt SRC. I still like the look of it, it's just the weight that made me change my mind. The quality seemed pretty decent and it was a strong bumper. I ran over many saplings without issue lol.
Since I had a big opening for a winch up front and I tend to do a lot of solo wheeling, I figured a winch would be a good investment. I got an Engo E9000 for a good deal from a vendor. I want to switch to a synthetic rope sometime in the future. I paired it with a Smittybilt winch plate because it was the cheapest I could find.
For Christmas my parents got me new wheels! Ion Alloy 133 in 15x8.
Went up to Boone to snowboard and got to try the new tires in a little bit of snow and ice.
The tires stuck out beyond my fenders a decent amount and I thought I needed to get some wider flares. I bought knock-off Bushwacker pocket style(that I eventually sold for almost what I had in them). I thought they looked cool at the time but soon realized they weren't as great as I originally thought.
I rolled with them for a while and wheeled a little bit. I really didn't like how they restricted the wheel well opening and how wide they were. They grew on me a bit, but I never fully loved them.
While I was out of town on a trip, my parents got me a birthday present. A 1" Prothane body lift and 1" Brown Dog Offroad Motor Mounts. They had it installed at a local offroad shop and was completed by the time I returned home. The shop pulled the skid back up the the frame rails and said it had no vibes. When I got home and drove it, I disagreed. I could still feel a little bit of vibes so I added in some spacers that were about 3/4". It wasn't as pretty but a lot better than before.
Did a little more wheeling at another local spot. I tried a really steep, rutted hill that I never thought I would make up without lockers, but the Jeep climbed right up without issue. It surprised me.
I went to another place and decided to get into a creek. Getting in wasn't the problem. Getting out was. The bank was sloppy and muddy and steep(it had rained a few days before). Ended up caking the Duratracs and winched out before I really screwed up. This is when I realized I need a front locker. Pics don't do it justice. I also got one of my flares caught on a vine and ripped it in half. They aren't durable at all.
At this point, I started rethinking my build. I wanted a functional, smart Jeep that still looked good. I decided the unnecessarily heavy front bumper would have to go, as well as the flares. I looked at a lot of bumpers and ultimately decided on the Poison Spyder Trail Stinger. I liked the looks of stingers and it only weighed 20lbs. I painted it with Textured Black Rustoleum spray paint. I figured I could touch it up easily if it got hit. I also decided to swap flares back to the stockers until I decided if I wanted tube fenders or not.
At App State visiting a friend after raising a little hell in the snow: