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Introducing MONSTALINER™ UV Permanent DIY Roll On Bed LineGR8TOPS HD TJ Replacement HingesPoison Spyder JK LED Taillight & Wiring Harness Kits

Unread 07-27-2015, 12:39 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Austin, Texas
Posts: 31
New TJ Build - Gatekeeper

First I'll start by saying, I used to be a nay sayer about the TJ model when it first came out. I owned a CJ and Cherokee many moons ago, and while I was ecstatic about the round headlights coming back, I wasn't 100% on the coil spring suspension... Many years later, and I realize what a fool I was... So about a year ago and some change, I stumbled upon this little lady on Autotrader for 7195 out the door...

She's a 2004 Black TJ X Model..

I had been researching wranglers for about a year, and had decided I wasnt flexible on pricing or color.. The rest I could work with. She's a 1 owner jeep, and based on the maintenance records, and undercarriage, it had never been wheeled. The passenger corner of the tub was knocked in from a trailer, but aside from that she was in good shape. There were a slew of neglected wearable items that needed to be addressed before modding would begin. So I started there.

- Replaced front axle seals pass/drive
- Replaced diff seals front and rear
- Replaced radiator
- Replaced Battery
- Replaced Stereo added marine grade sub
- Replaced sway bar links
- Full tune-up / Oil Change
- New tires (stock size ATS)
- Replaced about 2 dozen lightbulbs of varying sizes
- Removed as many Lion King stickers as possible
- Claybar / Wax / Polish

While this was happening I was researching the common offenders. I started with an 8.8 from East Coast Gear Supply. Mistake #1, if you plan on swapping your axles and also getting a lift, make sure you account for this when building your axle. I ordered it sans-brakes, as I already had a good set I wanted to use. I also cheaped out and went with 'used but good axle shafts...' (this would later bite me in the ***... ), Yukon bearings, seals, and 4.56 gears. Order placed with ECGS.

I had a work trip that fell on the delivery date of the axle, so my wife sent me this picture while I was in Brazil. (Brazil jeeps are diesel/natural gas)

While overseas, I pulled the trigger on the front bumper from MetalCloak, as well as the light bar mount. Upon landing back in Austin, I came home and unpacked my bumpers, and started installing. It did look a little funny having a stout bumper with stinger on such a small jeep.

I spend a lot of spare time tinkering with things, one of which is LED's. So obviously I ordered some light bars and cubes to play with, as well as some KC spots for the windshield mount. After tearing apart the cheap 30 dollar fixture, and replacing with XPG/XTE's and MeanWell drivers I had in my garage, I mounted them up.

I didnt need a massive 50" led light bar. I did need something that would provide ample light with a small foot print ,but also provide some long distance lighting. Most of the time this jeep spends offroad is at one of a few different ranches my buddy owns. Sometimes we're out there at night in the rain checking on livestock, etc. Other times we're out there fishing or camping.

After doing a lot of research, I opted to purchase the Mickey Thompson MTZ's in a 33x12.50x15 size. With procomp alloys to go with them. I thought long and hard about the practical use the jeep will see, and outside of getting me to my camping/hiking spots, and the ranch, I didnt see a need for 35's. I've heard good things about wear and noise on the MTZ, and so far I'm very impressed.

Getting 5 33" tires and 5 wheels to Discount to be mounted/balanced was a bigger task than I had imagined..

I also decided to grab the MetalCloak tire carrier and rear bumper system while I was at it.

Unfortunately, I didnt get pictures of the carrier installation. Honestly, installing the carrier was done at 2am, and I was exhausted, hot and and speaking in tongue by the time I was done...

I opted to keep the d30 up front for now, and regear it with yukon gears, new carrier, and chromoly shafts. No locker.

No pics of it, but I chose the MetalCloak 3.5" GameChanger Lite (ARB Edition). Aside from some serious delays (4 months) and some missing parts, it all went in without a hitch... Although I did have to bang a small clearance dent into the fuel tank skid plate to clear the rear track bar.

I also picked up a new adams drive shaft, and a terraflex xtreme short SYE.

Post lift pic ;

I keep catching heat about the steps. I dont want to pull them off for two reasons. One, I dont want to take them off till I have a replacement for them (I'm getting MC fenders/rails next). Two, my wife is about 5' and has a really hard time jumping in the jeep without them.. Although watching her attempt to scale the side of the jeep as though it was Everest, is quite amusing...

Right now I'm trying to sort out a little bit of vibration at 30/40mph and a nuisance leak in the passenger axle seal on the 8.8. I've replaced the seal twice, once with a yukon, and once with a timken part... and it's still leaking! I'm starting to suspect a bent axle shaft (see previous comment on used axle shaft from ECGS)....

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Unread 07-28-2015, 05:53 AM   #2
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jeepinhokie's Avatar
2004 TJ Wrangler 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: MD, Maryland
Posts: 2,719
great start to your build.

thoughts about your vibe between 30-40.

1. what does your rear pinion angle look like?
2. have you tried pulling your front or rear driveshaft and taking it for a drive.
3. a bent 8.8 axle shaft wouldnt run true and cause a wobble
4. might be a tire balance issue?
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Unread 07-28-2015, 09:25 AM   #3
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Austin, Texas
Posts: 31
Unfortunately I had to adjust the pinion angle pretty steep due to not having the brackets/perch setup for the lift ahead of time. I have not pulled the front axle yet, but thats next on my list. Im learning as I go, as I've never done anything like this before. Im thinking it could be a bent axle shaft as well.. Im taking it into a local shop on Thursday for more seasoned professionals to have a look. I'm certain I've overlooked something in the build. I have a 230PM appointment today for the tire balance, just to make sure and an 8am appointment on thursday for the axle seal inspection.

I crawled under the jeep this morning to do my morning wipe down / spray of the rear brakes, and noticed the passenger side front axle seal is leaking now ( yay! ). Apparently I'm not great at resealing things, because I also noticed the SYE was leaking a bit along the bottom of the output shaft (input? output? I always forget which is which..)...

To make matters worse, yesterday I got the bright idea to pull off the vent tube fitting on the axle and inspect it for obstructions. Well the fitting came off just fine, but I stripped it pretty bad putting it back on (doh!). I managed to cross thread it on there snug enough to not leak and applied a little RTV to keep to assist in sealing it properly. I managed to find one on ebay for 10.99, but looking at the threads on the axle itself, they appear pretty effed up..I figure as long as its snug and not leaking fluid or letting water in, that I'll just leave it alone for now.. I did notice that the factor vent fitting only has a tiny 1mm (if that) hole through the center. Should I drill this sucker out to provide a little better ventilation?

List of curveballs to fix thus far
  • Passenger rear axle seal leak
  • Passenger front axle seal leak
  • Front differential cover small leak
  • SYE seal leak
  • Tire Re-Balance
  • Vent tube fitting
  • Re-Alignment (my regular alignment shop apparently doesnt do lifted jeeps so they couldnt complete the alignment)
  • Vibration Diagnosis
  • Emergency Brake Re-Adjustment (I have to pull the lever all the way up)

List of upcoming upgrades
  • Rear fender armor (Aluminum MetalCloak)
  • Front Fender (Aluminum MetalCloak Overline)
  • Rock Rails (...MetalCloak, I swear I'm not a fanboy... or am i?)
  • CB / Antenna Mount
  • Savy/Currie Tie Rod/Steering Kit

I havent fully decided whether I'm going to use Antirock yet...
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Unread 07-28-2015, 09:35 AM   #4
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Austin, Texas
Posts: 31
I did make some progress last night in the form of a third brake light. It was a simple enough mod. The hardest part was taking out the evap/emissions cannister and inner fender to access the wiring. I used a spare center cap, bored it out to fit a 1 3/4" LED with grommet and got creative with hiding the wiring. Works great, and the little 10W emitor definitely a beacon screaming "STOP!"
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Unread 07-28-2015, 11:23 AM   #5
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2003 TJ Wrangler 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: NorCal
Posts: 5,137
Nice start. Looks like you'll be Cloaked for sure!
Bob's boring build:

White Jeep club member #2003
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Unread 07-28-2015, 05:28 PM   #6
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Austin, Texas
Posts: 31

Installed a spiderweb shade today... Lovin it so far!
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Unread 07-28-2015, 07:21 PM   #7
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1997 TJ Wrangler 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Greenwood, IN
Posts: 70
Good start! Looks like you're using a lot of quality parts
Instagram: Jake__Wall
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