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Sundowner 03-18-2012 04:34 PM

The Wasteland Survival Guide: Engineering Greta
Latest Updates: Well, I didn't ENTIRELY f*** it up...

Pictured: In fact, I only partially f***** it up.

The Wasteland Survival Guide: Engineering Greta

Prologue: The idea behind my thread is simply this: to provide an entertainingly-documented accounting of all the work that I'm doing...major, minor, repair, diagnostic, etc, etc. The title of the thread was chosen's not a "let me hold your hand" write-up; it's more of, well, a guide. I want it to be interesting, informative, funny, and useful. I want it to spark ideas and imagination in the minds of other Jeep drivers. I want people to read, to see, to learn, and - most importantly - to be inspired. I want these things because - to me - the Jeep is the four-wheeled backpack of my life. She's the keystone that makes Bilbo Baggins' famous tale - "There, and Back Again" - actually possible...and if getting there and coming back again isn't what a trip into the backcountry is all about, then I surely do not know what is. To those ends, I want people to learn from me and with me. Knowledge - more than any other tool - is the most crucial part of not only surviving the wasteland, but thriving in it.

With that said...

The Objective: Build a Jeep that will faultlessly handle whatever I feel like doing at the time.

The Difficulty: Are you kidding? This is me we're talking about. There's literally no telling what I'll be interested in doing from one moment to the heaven forbid I make it easy on myself. If I had to predict a "mission requirement" for this Jeep, it would read something like this: "Be capable of crossing 2,000 miles of asphalt in relative comfort while carrying anything that the driver could possibly need should he or she A) decide to negotiate a rather technical trail at the end of the road, B) go on a zombie-killing rampage, or C) turn in an unanticipated direction simply to see what lies over the next hill...and, consequently, to return home again with little-to-no damage." Kind of makes "daily driver" seem a bit harder to do than normal, doesn't it?

The Limitations: Time and money, as always. Any problem can be solved with outright simplicity, provided that one applies both time and cash in liberal, slathering amounts. Well, I don't always have either of those...much less both at once. I won't say that I'm going to try to do this on a shoestring budget, but I certainly can't throw cash at problems.

The Expected End Result: Rather, where I think this is going to end up...

- Well-controlled 35's, which means upgraded steering, control links and brakes.
- Armored sections...wherever they're needed. Engine, t-case, rockers, approach and departure, a cage of some sort.
- "tummy tuck" when you see that word.
- Cool-running reliability...look for oil and power-steering coolers, louvers, and the like.
- Communication from the backcountry...a UHF/VHF setup.
- Survival/Recovery...anything that's needed to dig oneself out of trouble, should the Mission Requirement get compromised.
- Pointlessly Fun Extras: Hey, if you've got an M1919, why not strap it to the roll bar? :D

Be sure to look for the the following special comments and sections:

Valuable Information. These are bits and pieces of relevant knowledge that I've picked up during the build, and they contain a great variety of informative randomness on the topic at hand. These sections contain tips on installations or techniques, ideas on what I might have done differently had I known at the time, and thoughts relevant to the posts in that section. They're not full tech write-ups, and they aren't intended to be...they're simply helpful hints that will better enable you to survive the wasteland of Jeep ownership, modification and operation.

Summaries. These are exactly what they seem: summaries of my thoughts and opinions. They're written to be simple, short, to-the-point "final thoughts and afterthoughts" statements. Think of them as the bullet points that always seem to end each chapter in class textbooks, or the "if you don't remember anything else that I've said, then remember this" portion of the thread.

And last, but certainly not least...

Some Final Thoughts Before You Wander In: I encourage you to ask questions, make suggestions, insult me, and to critique my spelling and grammar...but above all, I encourage you to enjoy the thread. I encourage you to enjoy wrenching on your Jeep as much as I enjoy wrenching on mine, and I encourage you to have fun while you can...because life is short, and it's a wasteland out there.


Sundowner 03-18-2012 04:39 PM

The Authoritative and Exhaustive Thread Index

It's really neither, but it is an ever-in-progress reference guide that bypasses all the philosophical chatter regarding guns, girls, beer and sammiches, and takes you directly to all of that irritatingly technical Jeep stuff.

The Suspension - First Iteration
Tires and Fires - The 35's Show Up
An Inch of Daystar and Pretty Yellow Motor Mounts
Enter The Chipmunk - The Problematic Rear Shock, Part 1
Springs and Shocks, both Front and Rear
Suspension Summary - First Iteration
Return of The Chipmunk

Tires, Traction, Brakes and Other Unsprung Stuff
Introspection on the still-new-to-the-world Wild Peak AT
The Savvy/Vanco Brake Install: Why Blaine is a Stand-Up Guy
The Savvy/Vanco Brake Install: Arrival, At Last
The Savvy/Vanco Brake Install: Ditching The Old and Busted
The Savvy/Vanco Brake Install: Making Room for The New Hotness
The Savvy/Vanco Brake Install: The New Hotness
The Savvy/Vanco Brake Install: Evaluations

The Retardedly-Useful (and small) TJ Toolkit
Some Crowbar-Specific Preparation
The Toolkit itself...Ultralight, Essential and Basic

Teaser Shots
Annabelle's Lovely LJ

Repairs, Triage and Assorted Bits of Lore
Clean Your Injectors before Something Bad Happens
How To Kill Your TPS and/or IAC In Ten Minutes Or Less
Washdown: Easier Than Expected
RadiatorFail, Part 1 and Part 2
The subsequent Radiator Re-Fail, or Part 3
Stupidity With A Clay Bar
Lessons In Love: How To Get Your Girlfriend To Work On A Jeep
Snow Trials with the Falkens in early 2013.
A good primer on a Radiator Replacement, in Parts One and Two.

Custom Hotness
Greta's Half-Top and Hard Deck, Completed

Ventures in the Wasteland
The Day We Had Uwharrie All To Ourselves

Sundowner 03-18-2012 05:12 PM

In Which The Tires Arrive...

Pop Quiz: The best way to figure out how to fit a bigger set of your tires under your Jeep is to...?

A: Listen to people on JeepForum that swear the tires you want will fit with your anticipated lift and modifications.
B: Take careful measurements of your existing suspension, and then extrapolate the differences between the current and future configurations.
C: Order the tires that you want regardless of whether you believe they'll fit or not.
D: All of the above.

Correct Answer: D.

Pictured: Next on the list of "stuff that I've crammed into the back of my TJ..."

You can see three of them easily, but there's a fourth one in there as well.

Pictured: Seriously, there is. Hint: front seat...

At this point, the tires actually look pretty big. I didn't think that going to 35's would be that much of a jump, but...huh...that's a BIG stack of tires. Chik-Fil-A "medium" sized cup provided for scale. (Also, Spicy Chicken my only friend.)

Pictured: I left Taco Bell for you, Sammich. That's how much I love you.

And now I realize that everyone in Answer "A" from above lied to me. There's no f****** way that's going to fit.

Pictured: Heads are going to roll if these don't clear.

Note: Those are the still-somewhat-new Falken Wild Peak AT's...and they are a bad-a** tire when you see them in front of you. They are much more aggressive in look and tread than they seem to be when viewed online. If you're considering them, look at them in person.

So, anyway...I have this big stack of tires...might as well get them mounted. But, as we started to find out...the Falken D-range tires have a RIDICULOUSLY stiff bead and sidewall. Even with 100 pounds of air in the it, we couldn't get one of the beads to pop over and seat on the rim. So, how do you seat a tire that just doesn't want to seat? set that b**** on fire.

Pictured: If this was normal, I'd work at a tire shop.

A shot of starting fluid, a lighter, and a well-timed burst of air, and seated tire. The next three went like clockwork.

I'd heard of fire-seating a tire with starting fluid, but this was the first time I'd ever seen it done. Before I saw this, I was genuinely concerned about losing a bead on a trail and being physically unable to re-seat it. After seeing what a four-second shot of ether will do when paired with just a bit of air, I'm not worried anymore. I've got two cans of starting fluid added to my list of tools/fluids, now. :D

Valuable Information: To one unseated tire add a four or five second shot of starting fluid...spray it in a shallow arc inside the tire itself, and then spray a quick, continuous trail that leads over the bead and across the ground. In rapid succession, light the fluid trail and - as soon as the flames leap inside the tire - add a quick shot of air. There should be an earth-shattering kaboom...and the tire should be seated. Don't think this is a powerful enough force? The second tire we did this with got a bit too much fluid inside it, and we shot the valve core out of the stem and halfway across the tire shop.

That's when the fun ended, though...because I unboxed my lovely old-mustard-yellow OME shocks, and hit a slight snag. Who can tell me what's wrong with this picture?

Pictured: This isn't going to be fixed for a LONG time, so don't get antsy.


spyder6 03-18-2012 05:18 PM

Sundowner 03-18-2012 05:20 PM

^ Exactly. :D

I do love me some videogames. Here's a teaser shot of how I got rid of the mustard yellow...

Pictured: Rust-O-Leum, you also my only friend.

Sundowner 03-18-2012 05:30 PM

And a further teaser...Your Eye-Candy of The Day: the lovely Annabelle. She very much knows what she's doing with that impact wrench. :thumbsup:

Pictured: No, I don't get much work done around her.

Stay tuned! Body lift, motor mount lift, and suspension install pictures on the way!

ashland82391 03-18-2012 05:35 PM

subscribed! this is going to be awesome!!!!

JustTrying2Live 03-18-2012 05:38 PM

more pics of her working :thumbsup:

Sundowner 03-18-2012 05:51 PM


Originally Posted by ashland82391 (Post 13261208)
subscribed! this is going to be awesome!!!!

Thank you! I hope it'll be awesome, too!


Originally Posted by JustTrying2Live (Post 13261227)
more pics of her working :thumbsup:

Have patience, my son. All good things come to he who waits. ;)

dwbrown 03-18-2012 05:55 PM

Pictures don't do the Falkens justice. My dads Titan has them they ride nice and quiet on the street, not sure about off-road though, we've got a Jeep for that. Looking good so far. :thumbsup:

Sundowner 03-18-2012 08:57 PM

A few pictures of the starting package...I hadn't really done much at all, performance- or capability-wise to her up to this point. The previous owner threw on a 2" coil spacer, and some 265/75 Nitto Terra Grapplers. I pretty much rocked it out like this for about two years.

Pictured: A rear view of the old suspension and tires.

And one from the side...

Pictured: "Ugh!"

And a rather pathetic measurement, here. I pray ceaselessly to all of the gods, that I might be able to afford the rest of the modifications I'll need to make in order to bolt a flat skid under those frame rails...because that's 11.5" as she sits, right there.

Pictured: Double Ugh!

Here's what we were working with: stock suspension, with 107,000 miles on it. The shocks were about as supportive and stable as a schizophrenic midget.

Pictured: That was an awesome comparison, and you know it.

The rears were especially bad, since I'd lost of bunch of excess weight. At this mileage, even a full tank of gas some extra tools thrown in the back couldn't offset the effect of losing the hardtop and the rear seat. No amount of dampening will alleviate shocks that are worn out. Once you start getting that drunken swaying feeling and jarring impacts with every little bump in the road, it's time to do some work.

Compounding this was the fact that the hot chick - whom you'll see more of, aside from the teaser pic earlier - had a pretty bad back injury a few months ago, and Greta's worn-out stock suspension was actually causing a good degree of pain even on short rides. Oh, yeah...the Jeep's name is Greta, for the slower kids in the class.

Before we jumped into that, however, we needed to get the body lift and motor mount lift taken care of. I was a bit behind on de-mustarding my shocks, as well. Here's another view for those of you who didn't start laughing at my misfortune, earlier. Same part number, different parts! HA! NOT FUNNY!

Pictured: Seriously, it's not funny. This is going to be a f****** Norse Saga before it's over.

Now, in regards to the body lift: after a lot of deliberation I ended up going with Daystar's 1" package, because 1) I wasn't really sure about the condition of the stock mounts, and 2) I never have liked the "puck" style lifts. I figured that since I could get a new set of poly mounts for the same basic price as puck lift, I'd go with poly.

Valuable Information: Anything "poly" is going to be stiffer and tougher than rubber...and you're going to feel every single bit of vibration that transfers through it, in exchange for that stiffness. If you want to feel like you're running a competition rig, you need to go with poly. If you want a cushier ride, you go with rubber. I was aware of this trade-off before I got started, and elected to go with poly body mounts and motor mounts. There is a difference in felt vibration from both, but neither is significant. I'm only talking about motor mounts and body mounts, here...control arm bushings are another matter entirely. I'd steer clear of poly, there, and in the future you will see me doing exactly that.

Daystar does a good job of packing everything, and they include a packing list to make sure that you've got all the parts. We laid them all out on a table, and this made life a lot easier.

Pictured: Simulated wood grain awesomeness costs extra.

My best advice, here, is organize it all, count it all, and then get the parts in a rough proximity to the places they'll be installed. In a few places, you'll re-use some stock steel bushing if you think yours might be compromised or unusable, get some new ones ahead of time. Mine were pristine, so we had no issues.

Pictured: Highly-technical jacking device, and pristine steel bushing sleeve...

Pictured: The necessary clearance...notice the lovely stock upper bushing sleeves.

Pictured: Here, we had just let the body back down onto the new mounts.

Sundowner 03-18-2012 09:10 PM

Valuable Information: It's been said before, but I'll say it again...SOAK EVERY BOLT YOU PLAN TO REMOVE IN PENETRATING OIL STARTING A WEEK AHEAD OF TIME. I've done this with the body bolts, suspension bolts, motor mount bolts (as best possible) and O2 sensors, and they all come out without a hitch. Your mileage may vary, but the combination of penetrating oil/catalyst and an impact wrench will prevent a LOT of headaches for you. Good tools make your life easy...if you have the means, I highly suggest picking them up. One session of "I don't have the right tool for this job!" and you'd rather be buying tools than Jeep parts. Invest wisely, and do so ahead of time.

There are three potential snags with a body lift: 1) Correct mounts in the correct place with the correct hardware bolting them in. 2) Lines, wires, etc's being pulled too far. 3) Problematic stock hardware.

If you follow the "organize it all, then figure out where it goes" theory, then you'll eliminate #1. I only had one problem with #2...the driving light wiring on the driver's side: I popped out the Christmas tree connector that holds the wiring loom into the fender. #3 wasn't an issue for us, either...Greta's always either been garaged or washed off after salt got on her, and I started prepping for this way ahead of time. "Problematic hardware" can also include hard-to-reach fasteners and things that just don't seem to fit properly...not just rusty or stuck bolts.

It's worth noting that the crossmember mounts can be hard to helps to take one out from underneath, and have someone insert the new mount from the side. Also, Daystar warns that the holes in the body mount brackets may need clearancing...the steel sleeves on the poly mounts do not fit as loosely as the stock mounts. We only had one problem with this...the two forward mounts, directly under the cowl, ahead of the door. They were tight in exactly the same areas on both sides. Go figure. Daystar recommends a file to be used to lightly relieve the holes. I was getting ready to dig out a file when my dad reminded me that we've got a 120-gallon air compressor, a die grinder and - this was the pleasant surprise of the night - a set of carbide cutters. A 30-minute filing job got reduced to 15 seconds per side, even though I couldn't find a pair of safety glasses.

Pictured: Who's this loser?

A very-quickly-enlarged hole. A couple of circular passes with that big cutter and we're good to go. I shot this with some black paint before I slid the mount into reason to give rust a place to start. In the background, you can see one of the O2 sensors that will cause me a headache about a week in the future...

Pictured: Also, some much-hated rust.

And the results of one side being done. This is why you completely unbolt the front grill mount and BOTH crossmember mounts before you lift one side...because yo' Jeep is about to be askew.

Pictured: "Derp!"

spyder6 03-18-2012 09:34 PM


Sundowner 03-19-2012 10:38 AM

Onward and upwards...the motor mounts get swapped!

Valuable Information: If you plan on doing a replacement motor mount lift (not just the lift blocks), you will make your life easier by doing a body lift in conjunction with it, and by doing the body lift FIRST. The driver's side mount is extremely easy to reach, but it can be impossible to disassemble without removing the engine-side bracket and taking the mount and bracket out as one piece. Accessing this mount is made easier with a body lift. Also, relocating the fan shroud holes after a motor mount lift will be very may need a right-hand drill to do it correctly, should you elect to forego the body lift.

I can't say enough good things about Brown Dog motor mounts. These things are bombproof. They may even be nuclear-holocaust-proof...i.e. nukeproof. (That's a new word...feel free to use it.) The welding is first-rate, and they drop right in without a single hitch. The customer service is also exceptional...when the guys at Brown Dog Offroad learned that I was on a tight schedule to get the mounts in-hand and installed, they made sure to get them built (on a Saturday!) and mailed out to me, and I had them two days ahead of time! Score! And this was not the first pleasant experience with them, either...before I even ordered the mounts, I'd had several back-and-forth e-mails on the fine points of rubber and polyurethane bushings, and finally settled on the poly. As I said a few posts back: poly transmits more vibrations, but the difference is minimal. I can feel a subtle "back massager on ultra-low-setting" vibration through the seat, and I can see a vibration in the rearview mirrors. I'd not hesitate to get poly mounts again, because I just don't see a reason to pay extra for the rubber unless I was trying to wring out every little bit of potential Oldsmobuick-like ride quality.

After some deliberation on the subject I decided that I didn't mind paying the extra for the full replacement mounts instead of a set of lift blocks...I felt that the one-piece, full-replacement, brand-new bushings aspect of the new mounts was worth the slight bit of extra money that they cost me ($85, shipped). Also, a few people with authoritative opinions on the subject all seemed to agree that Brown Dog is the way to go. And the final decision was this: I simply felt that these would be a more reliable upgrade, and that I'd never have to worry about them offroad. End of Argument.

Plus, they come in a nice, bright yellow. No reason to paint over these babies.

One of the potential trip-up spots with a motor mount replacement is the fact that at some point, most of the points that hold the engine and transmission to the frame are going to be loose...this can lead to all manner of problems with sliding them back into place should they move. I basically followed Brown Dog's instructions, but improved on them a bit...and the first thing we did was to improvise a way to tell if the engine/tranny had slid forwards or backwards, and by how much.

Here, we marked the bolt centers with a white paint marker, in their stock locations, before we ever loosened them. This marking pattern came in handy later on. When the mounts were all installed and tightened, we realized that the transmission had slid forwards by about 3/8th's of an inch, which was confirmed to be somewhat normal by the manufacturer. Failing to loosen these bolts ahead of time would have absolutely wrecked the transmission mount. In fact, it would have made the 1-hour installation take a lot longer.

Brown Dog "suggests" that TJ owners remove the engine-side bracket from the block and take both it and the old motor mounts out as one piece, and then swap the old motor mount for the new one. I "suggested" to Brown Dog that they just go ahead and tell people to do it this way from the start...because you CANNOT get the motor mount apart if the through-bolt in it is inserted from the front. If this bolt is inserted from the problem. Both of mine were inserted from the front...likely because the engine/tranny was lowered into place on the production line without such things as brake lines or accessories or even sheet metal being in the way.

The upper two of the three engine-side bracket bolts are best accessed from the wheel well, in this manner. Again, an impact wrench and two long extensions make your life so much easier. The one bolt that you can't reach from here is accessible from the bottom. Remember that body lift I told you to install? It helps, here.

Under the front, loosening the passenger-side mount. This is actually a decent picture.

This is the spot where you say "I have to get a wrench where?" because the nut you're looking at in this picture is about 24" above you, if you're lying on your back on a concrete floor under the Jeep. It's not nearly as hard to get to as you think, though, because it's a straight shot. You can also see that - on the passenger side - there's all kinds of room. We put this bolt in front-to-rear, and then re-installed it to match the other one...notice that the lifted Brown Dog mount is already in place.

And a much better view of the mount, in place. Notice the lack of a nut on the through-bolt...don't forget that part unless you want to break something.

The only thing lacking in Brown Dog's instructions was the torque spec for the bolts themselves. However, those numbers - and a lot others - are easily found here on JeepForum. After e-mailing Brown Dog with this little hiccup, they informed me that they'd begin including the torque specs in their instructions...thus, I had done my good deed for the day by helping to make everyone's life easier in the future. Snugging everything down was a matter of minutes. Be sure to avoid over-tightening the through-bolts...unless you want SEVERE engine vibration. After a final check over everything, I called it a night and had cracked open a Buckshot Amber...the suspension could wait for the following day.

Oh, and here's the link to the torque specs, for the slower members of the class...

Next up, The Saga of The Problematic Rear Shock kicks off, and my good deed for today: another picture of the lovely Anna, again at work. :D

Sundowner 03-19-2012 04:47 PM

Suspension installation pictures some point. :D

The time now is 11:16 AM.

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