After doing the diff oil and seeing gears for the first time, it's really made me want to go further. I've been doing a TON of research today and have come up with a new plan for maybe this summer, late this year, but by sure next year.
My new plan is to still do an 8.8/HPD30 swap, but save some money and do the gears myself. First of all, in a little over a year I'm going to college where I hope to major in some kind of aerospace/mechanical engineering. I figure if I can't figure this out I should be looking at a different career path.
Really it's about having the right tools and patients. After having done a paint job, I think I have plenty of patients.
Considering it only took me a year to do. Here's my more detailed plan:
Start with the front axle, I'm going to pull an HPD30 out of a cherokee. Looking on at online u-pull it places should be under 100 bucks, and have they have PLENTY of them. I figure by the time I buy all the required tools and gears/master install kit the cost of doing it myself and paying someone else will be the same, but by the time I get to the rear axle I'll save some money.
Once the front axle is set up, I would order a bare bones 8.8 from ecgs, install gears. With this plan I have no down time on the Jeep and I can work at my own leisure/pace. Where this will really save me money is when I eventually install lockers down the road. No way I can afford them now, but if I can learn to set up gears now I won't be paying for labor twice.
I've pretty much have a parts list in my head of absolutely need things; digital calipers, dial gauge/base, torque wrenches (should really have these regardless) seal and race driver set. Bearing puller I might forego, those are really freakin' expensive. Don't know about a press yet, some people use the HF 12 ton press, it's cheap, but I've also heard any auto parts store with a press will do it for free/cheap. Considering it's only needed for the inner pinion bearing and carrier bearings having someone else do it might be the way to go.
Now I just need money. First weekend in May I start working weekends, once school is out I start working full weeks. It's really going to depend on if I get an hourly pay raise and if I can convince my boss for more hours. If I didn't have to buy stupid tires this summer this would be happening now. This is why I might go cheap and do Duratracs instead of MT/R. STUPID TIRES.
Doing some basic pricing, looks like I would be spending about 1500-1600 total, compared to 2500 for a complete bolt in ready 8.8/HPD30 from ECGS.