ZPower's 04 LJ Project: Un"Limited" Funds - JeepForum.com

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post #1 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
ZPower
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ZPower's 04 LJ Project: Un"Limited" Funds

Hey all, ZPower here.

Below is my build thread that is transferred over from another forum. The Jeep has take over 2 years to get to the point where it is at now, and I couldn't be happier. Take a gander at the progress I have made, and feel free to ask questions about anything I have done to my Jeep. Jeep on!

So long story short, I sold my sweet 96 ZJ to help purchase my all-time favorite Jeep: The TJ Unlimited. I picked up a 2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with 101,000 miles on the ticker. It's not a Rubicon, so it has a Dana 30 up front and a Dana 44 out back. I actually preferred the non-Rubicon because I wanted to put Detroit Truetracs in both axles (and I am NOT keeping the factory trash-lock in the rear), plus the people who were selling the Rubicons were on crack when it came to resale value. I am not paying $7,000 more for a different front axle and some air lockers. Plus, I have a fondness for the Dana 30. It's kind of like the underdog of the axle world. Alrighty, down to the nitty gritty stuff! First item on the list was to clean the thing. It was maintained pretty decent, but just needed that little extra TLC to really make it shine.

The 4 inch Rough Country short-arm lift, 305/70-16 BFG KM2's, Rubicon wheels, Expedition One front and rear bumpers, PIAA auxiliary lights, and Warn M8000 winch were already installed when I purchased the vehicle. The very first thing that I do when purchasing a vehicle is to change all of the fluids. This includes the engine, transmission, transfer case, and gear oil, plus engine coolant and brake fluid. This way I can start with a base for a clean, reliable vehicle that will not leave me stranded.

Now on to the project title. I have limited funds since I am a poor college student (Not a poor starving college student, mind you), so I cannot put every component imaginable on my Jeep, only things that will give me the most bang for my buck. Since the automatic transmissions on these things (on any Jeep for that matter) isn't the toughest, and heat is the death of any transmission, I will install an auxiliary transmission cooler to keep the temps down and a transmission temperature gauge to monitor the temperature. This will hopefully ensure a long life out of my transmission, which is very costly if something does go wrong.

Since the Jeep came with 33's (plus I love the stance of the Jeep as is), I will be regearing to 4.88's to get my mechanical advantage back. Not to mention it's a real bummer to get passed by a Ford (Oh yeah, I just went there!). I also want to install a CB, since whenever I've wheeled with anyone, CBs were chosen over the handheld walkie talkies. I also want to put C-gussets on the front axle to prevent any unwanted movement out of the front axle. I really do not want to mess with fixing a bent front axle and chasing alignment issues when I could have spent a little time and money to save me headaches in the long run.

Now, without further adieu, here she was when I first bought her:



The first day that I had possession of it, I was cleaning like a mad man! Out came the vacuum, garden hose, and wash bucket for a full-on detail job. The outside was a bit dirty from rain the previous week, while the interior was mostly clean except for underneath the rear seat. Sadly, the only money I found in the whole vehicle was a penny. Total let down! Anyways, a side note: The front tires and wheels had a toe alignment of 3/16" toe out! That could explain the vibrations in the steering wheel at any road speed. It didn't cause any funny tire wear, but I'm sure it didn't do it any good either.

That weekend was a full on 3 day thrash on the Jeep. Boy, was that a long weekend! First things first: get 'er up on the lift!



This could also be a part of my vibration during driving. See any problems with what holds the transmission to the rest of the Jeep?



Here's the transmission mount out on the bench. Time for a new one!



The next step was to detail the engine bay. The previous owner must have "baja'd this thing through a mud puddle" (according to my dad, zmotorsports, to which I concur), because there was mud all the way up on the firewall and top of the radiator shroud. Sadly, the picture I do have of the engine bay was blurry, but have no fear! I took a picture after all of the engine servicing was complete, which turned out pretty dang good:



Okay, another side note: NOVUS plastic restorer and cleaner is magic. This stuff turned my faded turn signal lights into works of art! Now whenever they flash, I can actually see the individual serrations of light on the ground in front of me! Here is the finished product:



The UPS guy brought me a huge present the next weekend! Here were the contents: B&M trans cooler, carbon fiber effect gauge pod, and Auto Meter trans temp gauge. Funny thing though, I didn't end up using the gauge pod I ordered. I wanted to mount it in the little cubby hole on the far left side of the dash, right next to the gauge cluster. But, the gauge pod had too large of a base to fit in that area. So, after much brainstorming and cursing, I figured out the perfect solution: The center console has the perfect angle to it just forward of the transfer case shift lever. I can still see the gauge in any position of the transfer case lever as well as where I naturally rest my leg when I am driving. It is also far enough to the right of the steering wheel so i do not have to move my head to see the gauge clearly. i can quickly glance down and to the right to see the trans temp (at a stoplight, of course. I do not condone taking your eyes off of the road at any time while operating the vehicle). Now that the legal BS is out of the way, out came the hole saw and we went to town! Looks pretty nice, eh?



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post #2 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:14 PM Thread Starter
ZPower
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Today was a day of servicing the fluids, mainly the coolant and transmission fluid. I already changed the engine oil the previous weekend, so I was good there. Since I was dropping the pan to change the transmission filter anyway, I thought that was the best time to install the transmission temp gauge sending unit. So I dropped the pan, drilled the hole for the sending unit, and welded on some small diameter tubing on the outside for routing the sending unit's wire. Here is where we are machining the bung for the sending unit on the lathe:



Here is the bung installed on the trans temp sending unit:



This next picture is showing the bung and tubing for routing the sending unit wire welded in, plus a spritz of paint for corrosion protection:



Oh, before I forget: Who the heck uses silicone to seal up a transmission pan? Some people need to seriously stay away from anything mechanical...



Oh, and another thing! Guess what came on the front doorstep the other day? Black ARB diff covers! Mmm, Sexay... Sorry, back on track!



Okay, now for the wiring. I routed the sending unit wire up the left side of the transmission and zip-tied it along the brake lines. From the engine bay, I went through a huge rubber grommet (You know, that huge one? Yeah, that one next to the steering shaft!) into the passenger compartment. My keyed ignition source was tied in from the blower motor, and my power for the backlighting for the gauge was tied in from the gauge cluster.

The next project to tackle was the transmission cooler. First of all, this B&M trans cooler is awesome! I wanted to mount it in front of the radiator and a/c condenser, but I did not want to fabricate a new bracket to hold it. So, Jeep kindly provided this nifty little U-shaped bracket in front of the condenser. So, here is the brackets welded on the factory-provided bar:



Here is the bracket all welded up, painted, and the trans cooler installed:



Here is the trans cooler and brackets installed behind the grille. It looks pretty stealthy, kinda like Batman's sweet ride...okay, maybe not.



And here is a rear view of the trans cooler installed, minus the condenser and radiator.



As far as routing the cooler lines go, here's the process that the trans fluid goes through: Out of the transmission through the stock line to the radiator, through the radiator, out of the radiator, into and through the trans cooler, then back to the transmission. For future reference, the top line coming out of the transmission is the return line. I had to cut the driver's side rubber flap between the radiator and a/c condenser for hose routing. Here she is awaiting install:



Here is where the lines for the trans cooler were run, right next to the driver's side inner fender:



Okey-dokey, here is everything buttoned up. Okay, now it's stealthy!



Well, the weekend adventure was over. All that's left now is to regear to 4.88's, do some front axle C-gussets, install Detroit Truetrac's front and rear, and install those sexy black ARB diff covers to top it all off! I did all those modifications during my winter break between semesters. Stay tuned for some unplanned upgrades as I leaf through the Quadratec catalog, all within budget, of course! No need to spend money on things that I can build myself!
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post #3 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:17 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, a massive box of parts arrived on my front doorstep today. The best part is, they arrived two days early! The Warn winch accessory kit, ARB tow strap, hitch tow point adapter, Highrock 4x4 (By Bestop) entry guards, Old Man Emu steering stabilizer, and DELTA Tech H4 Xenon headlight conversion kit.



Here are the DELTA H4 Xenon conversion kit complete with housings and H4 Xenon bulbs



I had a few minutes today, and the Highrock 4x4 (By Bestop) were calling my name. These things are super easy to install: Just clean the door sill surface with a little wax and grease remove, peel back the protective paper on the double-sided tape, and stick on. One word of advice: Install the entry guards as close to the interior of the vehicle (in towards, for example, the direction of the emergency brake). Otherwise, when the door is shut, it can put pressure on the entry guards and wear out the double-sided tape prematurely. Here are the entry guards installed:



Soon enough, the Old Man Emu steering stabilizer and DELTA H4 Xenon headlight conversion will be installed. Stay tuned for more updates! Thanks for following!
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post #4 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:21 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, time for the next major update. First up was the DELTA Tech H4 Headlight Conversion Kit. As every Jeep owner knows, the stock lighting plain sucks. After about a month with these installed and even on an offroad trip or two, these are definitely brighter than stock. The beam pattern is also a lot better, but to be fair, the stock bucket was broken and would not adjust properly. The pattern seems to be more prominent than the stock setup, which is welcome. The DELTA lights have a flare-up to the right (as you will see in the pictures) that helps to illuminate road signs and such on the side of the road, but not to blind other drivers. These lights are the Xenon type bulb, so there is a more inherent bluish-white color as opposed to the dull yellow color of the stock headlights. These will not burn the paint off of the car in front of you, but for under 100 skins, it is definitely a worthwhile upgrade, considering that the bulbs are replaceable compared to the stock sealed headlights. In the picture below, the passenger headlight is the new DELTA H4 Conversion and the driver's side is the stock sealed headlight setup. The headlight ring is off on the passenger side because I was in the process of switching the headlights over. Also, nevermind the winch solenoid box laying on the front bumper, I was also in the process of relocating that to a more appealing location (more on that process to come!).



The following picture is showing the beam pattern on the shop door around 25 feet away. Keep in mind that the door is white, so the color will be a little off. You can really see the flare-up on the right side that DELTA designed in to the lens. These are the low beams too.



Again, these are definitely a worthwhile upgrade, considering they can be had for under 100 bucks. The beam pattern and light output are definitely better than stock. They are more flat than the stock headlights and do stick a little further out than the stock ones, but not by much and has no effect on the light output. Overall, I am very impressed with them.

Moving on to the steering stabilizer: After dealing with some steering issues, such as some oscillations when hitting seams in the road that are not perpendicular to the front of the Jeep. It was not death wobble, that was taken care of earlier with some replacing of worn-out parts, but there was an issue with unwanted steering wheel movement. I've always believed that the stock steering stabilizer on any Jeep should not be kept if going to bigger tire sizes, and this was no exception. Driving around with 33's on Utah's crappy roads will take out a stock steering stabilizer in a hurry, as I found out. The stock stabilizer was not leaking, but it was definitely not up to the job of keeping the larger tires tracking straight. This Old Man Emu steering stabilizer, after a little over a month and a half, has exceeded my expectations and then some. It was definitely a little unnerving driving the LJ when the steering wheel wanted to escape the grip of your white knuckles. If anyone is even thinking about replacing their steering stabilizer with something a little better, the Old Man Emu stabilizer is the one to choose. The picture below shows the signature yellow stabilizer under the LJ. You can also see the awesome blue tint that the DELTA headlights have when the lights are off. It looks pretty amazing when this thing is coming up behind ya!



Now on to the winch solenoid box relocation. Before, the box was just mounted in front of the grill using a piece of metal strap. This blocked airflow quite a bit, and I need all of the airflow I can get with the transmission cooler, winch, and driving lights on the front of the vehicle. So it was decided to mount the box directly on the winch using the bolts for the cross-braces that connect one side of the winch to the other. This would provide a solid mount for the box. The picture below is of the bottom of the solenoid box. Originally there were 2 ears for mounting the box to a round surface, but one of them interfered with my mounting solution. So, off with it's head!



This is the start of the bracket. I cut the recess out on the bandsaw and then rounded the corners with the disc sander.



This next picture shows the final piece beadblasted and painted. Before that happened though, I drilled the holes to mount the solenoid box to the bracket and the bracket to the winch, and bent up the bracket in the brake. It turned out pretty snazzy!



This next picture shows the solenoid box and bracket mounted to the winch. I also decided to replace the silver socket head bolts with black ones, going with a more subtle look on the winch.



Here is just the bracket mounted to the winch.



As far as the PIAA 510 lights go, they do remarkably well to light up the trail, even for a small 4" diameter driving light. The only problem was the way they were mounted to the bumper and in close proximity to the winch roller fairlead. I could not adjust the lights down far enough because they hit the fairlead. So, some spacing was in order. I had some aluminum rod sitting in the corner that was the perfect subject for a couple of spacers. Into the lathe it went! This picture is me machining the spacers for the driving lights.



And here is the finished product in the next two pictures:





Here is a picture with both the DELTA Tech H4 Headlights and the PIAA 510 driving lights on. In this picture, you can actually "see" (pun intended) the whiter light of the headlights. Finally, a picture of the headlights on that actually shows the needed detail! I was getting a little frustrated there with all of these unusable pictures of the headlights on because of my bad positioning...



And a MASSIVE couple of boxes of parts arrived on the front doorstep. I received my front axle control arm skids (and some free candy!) from Northridge 4x4, who are great to deal with.



Here are the Dana 30 C-gussets that also came in from Iron Rock Offroad.



Here is the motherlode of the Jeep parts, all courtesy of Northridge 4x4. There are Detroit Truetrac's front and rear, Motive Gear front and rear axle rebuild kits, and Motive Gear 4.88 ring and pinion for both front and rear axles. Here, all of the goodies are layed out on the bench!



Here is how she sat currently, the only difference being the CB and all supporting items, such as antenna and mounting hardware.

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post #5 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:35 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, here it goes. I had this way long update ready to post up to the thread Sunday night, but got logged out in the process. It was a killer too haha. So, here is the more refined version, since I've had some time to compose my thoughts. Over the weekend, I got both front and rear bumpers done. As most of you know, I started out with Expedition One front and rear bumpers on the LJ. The very first thing I did was take all of the accessories off of the front bumper, including the winch, auxiliary lights, roller fairleads, and d-rings. I am very impressed about the sturdiness of both of the Expedition One bumpers, it's just that the front bumper did not seem to have as much care put into it as the rear did. Some spots were not done as nice as others, some spots were not welded, and the powdercoating on the front bumper was flaking off bad. As far as the quality goes of both bumpers, I am pleased. It's just some of the refinement of the manufacturing process was lacking in some areas. I know I am knitpicking here, but if I was going out to buy these bumpers outright (These bumpers came with the Jeep), I would have expected a little more finish work. Anywho, I digress. Here is the front bumper off of the Jeep and the spots ground smooth:



Here is another angle of the front bumper with recently smoothed surfaces:



I removed the front bumper from the Jeep and started getting to town. I ground down all of the rough spots, cut a few sharp edges off, and took a grinder to a few spots of weld splatter. I ended up going back over the spots that I took a grinder to with a flap wheel to remove all of the heavy scratches. The holes that I welded up used to be for mounting the winch box, which was not a feature of the original bumper. Since I moved the winch solenoid box to the actual winch, these holes were not needed anymore. Here are the holes on the bumper all welded up:



The first thing to fabricate was the 90 degree mount for the latch of the tire carrier. This picture shows one of the most useful tools in metal fabrication: the magnet! I really like this picture because it looks like a birdhouse haha!



Here is the 90 degree latch mount all welded up. This design will make much more sense later on.



Since the factory tire carrier is definitely not up to the long-term task of holding an oversize tire, I wanted to get it off of the tailgate ASAP. Here is the tire-mount-less tailgate and the Expedition One rear bumper that I am building my tire carrier off of.



Here is the 90 degree latch mount on the bumper. The black block is a piece of UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight) which is designed to not wear when friction is applied to it. In simpler terms, it is used in high friction areas and does not wear down as fast as other materials. I also kept the 90 degree piece to the left and back enough of the license plate in order to get the license plate on and off. It would really suck to take the bumper off of the Jeep in order to just change the license plate!



Here I am grinding the bottom of the tire gate to mount up to the spindle.



Here is the hole drilled in the top of the bumper for the spindle of the tire carrier. Well, there's no turning back now!

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post #6 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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Here is the spindle inside slid down in the bumper. The left piece is what the tire gate will be built off of. The tire gate will rotate on roller bearings and a seal on the bottom to keep contaminants out and the grease in. I got this spindle kit from A to Z Fabrication and am very impressed. This is also the same spindle that we used to build my dads (zmotorsports) rear bumper on his JK.



And here is the bottom part of the tire gate that will be welded to the large diameter metal piece in the previous photo. I used the grinder to make a fish mouth for a close fit against the round tube. This will leave only a very small gap for a good solid weld which will last for a long time supporting the heavy tire.



Here is the bottom piece of the tire gate all built. This is what all of the supports for the actual tire will be built from. It still allows full view of the license plate too, so the fuzz will be off of my back (hopefully).



Since all of the tire carrier will be built out of 2" x 2" and 2" x 3" square tubing, I needed to cap off the end of the bottom piece. So I cut a piece of 3/16" thick metal to the shape of the interior of the square tubing and welded it on. By doing this, no moisture will get into the tubing and start corroding/rusting from the inside.



This next picture shows the toggle clamp that I will use to keep the tire carrier shut. The only dowside is the mount needed to be shifted in order to pull straight on the latch. This will provide a much stronger holding force on the tire gate. I took the die grinder to it, and off with its head! Since it is stainless, the TIG welder was the best option for welding it back up. Here is the base bolted to the tire gate and the rest being prepped for welding.



The next picture is the toggle clamp being TIG welded up. A rule for welding up stainless steel is to back-purge the other side with Argon gas to prevent contaminants from entering during welding. Tubing is the easiest for backpurging, since if you are welding on the outside of the tube, you can simply put Argon gas in the inside of the tube for back purging. This was two metal plates, so back purging was a little harder. A very useful trick that my dad showed me was to use some tin foil to "block" the gas coming out of the TIG torch from escaping too fast from away the weld. Here is the process in action.



Here is the stainless steel toggle clamp all welded up and installed on the tire gate.



Since my full-open lock would be a pin that would drop into a hole when the tire gate is swung fully open, I needed another plate on top of the bumper for the pin to drop into. I also wanted to add a little more strength to the spindle, since this would be where pretty much all of the stress is from the tire gate. By spreading out the force on the spindle, the spindle welds on the bumper would last much longer, especially after the rough roads I plan on taking the Jeep on. Here is the cardboard template I made for the support, since cardboard is definitely cheaper than metal! No sense in scrapping an expensive piece of metal if I make a mistake, just a cheap piece of cardboard. Cardboard: another very useful tool in metal work.



Here I am cutting out the spindle support on the bandsaw.



This picture shows the bottom of the tire gate finished. In it, you can see the toggle clamp and full-open pin lock installed, plus the spindle support welded in.



Here is a close-up of the spindle side of the tire gate. You can see the full-open lock for the tire gate. The lock is operate by lifting up on the black handle, rotating it counter-clockwise a quarter turn, and releasing the handle. The spring-loaded pin will drop a good .75", which was perfect for my application. The pin is 1/2" in diameter and is plenty stout. I ordered both the stainless steel toggle clamp and the pin lock at McMaster Carr, which is an industrial supply store. They have anything from power tools to bumper parts haha.

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post #7 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:39 PM Thread Starter
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Now on to the actual tire mount. As far as local law goes, I still need to retain the third brake light if the vehicle came with one from the factory. Since the wheels I have now do not have the hole in the middle open, I cannot use the same third brake light design as my dad on his rear bumper. Since I love the look of the factory third brake light, I decided to keep it. But with the stock spare tire mount gone, I had nowhere to mount it. So I built a plate for the tire gate to mount it to, which will raise it up high enough to be seen over the spare tire but far enough away from the rear glass on the hardtop that my rear window wiper is still functional. A side note, my old Grand Cherokee's rear window was curved both in the horizontal and vertical planes, so the rear window wiper was useless. It never even touched most of the glass when it sweeped through. Going from that to a very flat rear window on my LJ is amazing! I have a rear window wiper that I can actually use! In the picture, the plate on the left is for the spare tire to mount to and the plate on the right is for the third brake light to bolt to. The surface finish on both plates is courtesy of a DA (Dual Action) grinder. The grinder is used extensively in body work, and both rotates like a normal grinder and also rotates elliptically to provide a very smooth finish. If I could have, i would have just clearcoated the plates, they look so good!

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post #8 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:40 PM Thread Starter
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Alright, here is the updates on the last of the rear bumper. This next picture shows the 3 bolts that were welded to the backside of the tire mount. I am using an intermediate piece that came with the Jeep. This aftermarket piece was originally used to mount the 33 inch tire on the stock location and spaced it out enough to prevent the tire from rubbing on the rear gate. Rather than making an offset piece to space the tire further up and out, I just designed this piece to be used with the tire gate. Again, here is the plate with the bolts welded on the backside to mount the aftermarket tire spacer to.



The next picture shows the little gusset that I fabricated to help support the weight of the tire on the tire gate. This will go behind and below the plate in the previous picture. The notch on the 90 degree end is to clear the previous weld. The other two corners are rounded off to prevent the metal from being burned back during welding, which if not rounded off, might not produce the most structural weld.



This next picture shows the tire gate all welded up. The studs sticking up in the picture will bolt up to the aftermarket tire spacer and the other flat piece of metal in the left of the picture will bolt to the stock third brake light. Just for reference, that brake light mount plate will be facing up.



Here is the tire gate all welded up and ready to go on the last time for mock up. This thing is super strong, so there is no worry about the weight of the tire ever breaking some stupid tiny spot welds in the rear gate.

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post #9 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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Here is the tire gate in the closed position on the Jeep.



This next picture shows both the tire gate and the tail gate fully open.



Here is a different shot of the tire gate and tail gate fully open. There is plenty of a gap between each, so no fear smacking the tail gate open into the tire gate.



This next picture shows the sheetmetal cover I made to enclose the vent on the tail gate. They can be purchased online, but why would I want to buy something I can build? For reference, it is called a Tramp Stamp (I know, but it is kind of catchy!). Since the OEM tire carrier covered the vent, I did not want the vent exposed to the elements. This piece was also powdercoated gloss black, but here it is in raw form.



As I had recently mentioned, the Teraflex CB bracket I had did not suit the overall visual appearance of the Jeep I was going for, so I changed that. I cut off the little ear on the top of the bracket and radiused the edges. Here is the bracket held in position with the excess metal cut off. I had to include the Buell Motorcycles sticker, just because it's my other transportation that gets the ladies haha. Well, until I sold it and traded up to a Harley!



Here is the rear bumper with the auxiliary backup light holes cut out. I used the plasma cutter and then used a round abrasive bit to clean up the edges to prevent both the light gasket tearing and making it more appealing. That was it for the bumpers, so everything at that time was sent off to the powdercoaters. Everything was to be powdercoated gloss black.

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post #10 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 10:43 PM Thread Starter
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Well, while the parts were off to the powdercoaters I decided to clean up a few things first before moving on to the axles. My front frame horns, rear frame section, and battery tray had all seen better days. As far as prepping the front and rear frame horns, I used a red Scotchbrite pad to scuff up the surface and then went over everything with Wax and Grease Remover (PPG DX330). The battery tray was prepped by blasting it with the sand blaster and then also wiping it down with DX 330. Here is the battery tray when I pulled it out of the Jeep. It was not in as bad as shape as the Grand Cherokee's battery tray was, but I did not want to have problems with it corroding and structurally failing. Even though nobody can see the tray with the battery installed, I felt safer spraying a rust/corrosion barrier on the tray to prevent future corrosion.



Here was the front frame horns of the Jeep when I pulled the front bumper off. The bumper was physically connected to the frame horns by rust (haha!), so the bumper was kind of a pain to get off. The rust had made a connection between the bumper and frame horns, plus roughed and pitted the frame surface, which looked like garbage.



Here's the battery tray after being abused in the glass bead blaster and wiped down with Wax and Grease Remover. She's ready for paint!



I masked both the front and rear ends of the Jeep to prevent overspray from getting on the body paint. The battery tray I hung from a piece of wire to dry. I used Eastwood Extreme Chassis Black paint (Both the primer and gloss black finish) and am very impressed. I love using Eastwood supplies, even though the quality does come at a price. The reason I chose this paint is because it has around 3 times the resins than other aerosol paints, plus it is resistant to brake fluid, fuel, and other solvents. Here is the battery tray all painted up with 2 light coats of primer and 3 light coats of gloss finish.



Here is the front frame horns finished. I did not go over the front or rear frame horns with the DA because I felt like I did not need a mirror smooth finish. Besides, all of this prep and paint work was going to be covered up anyways, like most of the work on the Jeep haha.



Here is the rear frame finished painted. This thing turned out freaking nice!



Here is another shot of the rear frame showing the reflection of the shop.

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post #11 of 19 Old 11-14-2014, 11:05 PM
kvesi122
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Sweet build! Keep it up
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post #12 of 19 Old 08-15-2015, 08:43 AM Thread Starter
ZPower
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Location: West Point
Posts: 17
Alright, the next part is not really a mod, but it is for Utah haha! Whenever I turned the heater or defrost on during these cold times, I would get a strong whiff of an antifreeze smell. I also noticed that my coolant level was slowly dropping, and there were no leaks in the cooling system. Those two observations led to a hunch of a bad heater core. So, without further adieu, I dove right in. Of course, after disconnecting the battery, I went to work tearing out the dash. From everyone I talked to, it was a total nightmare to replace a heater core. But, like most things, people exaggerate, but it was not too terrible. The hardest part was actually getting to the heater suitcase which required the whole dash to be removed from the vehicle. When performing this repair, make sure to take your time. Also, it helps to have two people when removing the dash from the Jeep as the dash is not necessarily heavy, just awkward. It is also handy for the other person to hold the dash out away from the Jeep to make sure all of the wires/HVAC lines are disconnected before completely removing the dash. Another tip is to remove the steering column completely from the vehicle before starting on unplugging the wiring, as the column will just get in the way later on. The steering column can all be removed inside the passenger area by removing the 4 bolts that hold it to the body and loosening the slip clamp that connects the steering column to the actual steering linkage. Anywho, here is the dash out of the vehicle.



Here is the inside of the passenger area. Notice anything missing? Hahaha



After I got the heater suitcase out of the Jeep, I unbolted it to find the cause of my antifreeze smell and missing coolant. Here was what the heater core looked like when I pulled it out of the heater suitcase:



And, here is the bottom of the heater suitcase when I pulled the heater core out. It was not leaking enough to dampen the passenger front carpet area, but it was definitely not getting any better! While I was in the heater suitcase, I decided to also replace the A/C Evaporator core. There was nothing wrong with it, but I could not get it clean for nothing! I even tried to blow the crap out of the fins with compressed air with no success. I didn't want to go through this whole process again, so the Evaporator core was replaced too. Again, here was the bottom of the heater suitcase where the heater core sat:



Here is the un-cleanable A/C Evaporator core on the right and the shiny new one on the right:



Here is the inside of the heater suitcase full of new parts (Okay, only 2) and ready to go back together. The heater suitcase was kind of tentative to get back together, since all of the blend doors and hoses had to be in the right spots in order to be assembled. But all in all, it was not too terribly bad.

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post #13 of 19 Old 08-15-2015, 08:44 AM Thread Starter
ZPower
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: West Point
Posts: 17
While I had some time with the dash, I notice my stereo head unit was scratched to High Heaven. So, out came the Novus plastic polish (Which I absolutely swear by for polishing any type of plastic). Here was a before picture of the head unit. Pretty scratched to heck.



After progressing through the three stages (Coarse, Medium, and Fine), the head unit turned out freaking awesome! It's a lot nicer using a little elbow work on something rather than either just living with something crappy or buying something completely new.



Here is a close-up of the head unit after the polishing. This thing is as smooooooooooooooth as Barry White now!



Here is my front sway bar after I used some more of that Eastwood Extreme Chassis Black on it. Again, almost everything I do to this thing nobody will notice. Sigh...



Here is the battery tray all buttoned up and in it's rightful place. Another thing I've done that won't be seen by people!



Also, since I was adding in auxiliary backup lights, I needed something to switch them on and off. I wasn't going to tie and untie a couple of wires together haha. Here is the kick-A wiring loom I made. I purchased the lighted single-pole, single-throw switch from the local NAPA Auto Parts store. I don't know about any of you other TJ/LJ owners out there, but the switches below your HVAC controls, such as the Overdrive on/off, rear window wiper, and the rear window defrost switch are hard to see the little indicator light because of the plastic between the switches and the HVAC controls. To prevent that problem with the new auxiliary backup light switch, I oriented the indicator light down so it can be seen by me regardless of whether the switch is in the On or Off position. Again, here is the wiring loom for the new switch.



Here is the new switch installed in the empty location next to the 3 switches. This is best done with the dash out, since it is a real bear to get to the backside of the switches. A little tip is that the filler piece (where the switch is located in the picture) pops out, so that makes it a little easier for switch installation. The new switch almost looks factory, don't you think?

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post #14 of 19 Old 08-15-2015, 08:47 AM Thread Starter
ZPower
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: West Point
Posts: 17
Before, I left off just before the front axle tear down. For the front axle, I decided it would be easier to pull it out of the Jeep completely for a tear down on the bench. So after disconnecting everything that held the axle in after draining all of the fluid, it was on the bench. While the axle was still under the Jeep, everything from the knuckles out (including the axle shafts) were removed for a little lighter axle to carry over to the bench. Here is the axle as soon as we muscled it up onto the bench:



Before I got started on installing the C-gussets and lower control arm skid plates, I noticed that the passenger-side upper control arm mount on the axle seemed a little anemic. Out came the 1/8" steel plate, and I boxed in the upper control arm mount on the axle tube. I had to do some funny angles to get the plate to conform to the mount, but it is a heck of a lot stronger than stock now! Here is the gusset tack-welded in place before the final welding.



Here is a picture of the gusset all welded in. Notice that I left the bottom corner open to allow any water or debris to fall through the gusset rather than sit on top of the axle tube and corrode the mount away.



Now it was time to move on to the C-gussets and lower control arm skid plates. Here is a close-up of the C-gusset welded on. These gussets go on the outside of the axle C's to help add some rigidity. These things are very beefy, but I had to do some massaging with the hydraulic press to get them to fit correctly on the contours of the C's. Also, make sure to position the gussets away from the coil springs as the constant contact from the gussets will fatigue and crack the springs in the long run if they contact during axle movement.



Since I was replacing ball joints anyways, I decided to blast both knuckles with the media blaster and paint them. Here is a before and after shot of the knuckles after the media blaster. The knuckle on the left has already been blasted with glass beads. I do not have any finished pictures of the knuckles painted by themselves, but a couple pictures of the front axle completely back together and you can see them installed later on.



Here is the front axle after all of the welding and fabricating done. I wanted to coat both axles with POR 15, which is a brush-on finish that dries ultra hard.



Since I wanted to coat the entire axle with POR 15, I needed to get the axle off of the jack stands. So I made a make-shift rotisserie so I can rotate the axle any direction and not worry about coating the jack stands with POR 15. When POR 15 is on a surface, it is on there permanently! A good suggestion is to wear latex gloves when painting just to prevent any of this stuff from getting on your hands. Just like all other painting processes, a good surface prep is needed to ensure that the paint stays adhered to the surface. I took the DA to the axle surfaces as well as a wire wheel and scotch-brite pad to get in all of the nooks and crannys. Another good idea is to cover up the surface that you are painting on (such as the welding table in the picture) with paper to prevent any from sticking to the surface. The only way to remove POR 15 after it is fully cured is with an abrasive disc on a grinder. It dries that hard!



Here is a picture of the axle after brushing on POR 15. Even though the paint is brushed on, the brush strokes disappear when it dries. I did get a few air bubbles in the paint as well as some bristles from the brush, but I am very pleased with the end result. Another great property of POR 15 is it is immune to all of the fluids in your Jeep, such as fuel, oil, brake fluid, etc., although I would not want to try it!



Here is a close-up view of the front axle coated with POR 15.

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post #15 of 19 Old 08-15-2015, 08:49 AM Thread Starter
ZPower
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: West Point
Posts: 17
About that time too I got a call from the powdercoaters saying that my stuff was done, so I picked them up. I am very happy with the way everything turned out, let me know what you think!



Now back to the front axle. I was going with 4.88s with Detroit Truetrac limited slips all around. After having the Truetrac with the new ring gear in and out of the axle probably 6 times searching for the correct pinion preload and gear backlash, we hit our mark. With the carrier and pinion fully bolted in with setup bearings (old bearings that have been modified to just slide on and off of the carrier and pinion without the need of a press) we had 13 in./lb. of pinion preload (without the pinion seal) and 7 thousandths of an inch of gear backlash. This is pretty much spot on for how we setup the axles. Ideally, you do not want a gear set that is too tight or too loose as it will make some funny noises as well as not be as strong as it can be. We also checked the wear pattern which is crucial for a long-lasting gear set. Yukon has a handy little book that usually comes with new ring and pinion purchases which is a very thorough guide to setting up a ring and pinion. Check their website if you have any questions as I am sure they have an online version if it as well. Here is the wear pattern on the drive side of the ring gear. It is centered both toe to heel as well as face to flank, so this gear set is going to be super strong as well as a quiet operation.



And here is the wear pattern on the coast side. A good way to remember which is which is that the drive side is trying to flatten out the curve of the gear.



A very handy tool that is used for final setup of the gears is the bearing heater. This will allow the bearing to expand just enough to slide over whatever surface it goes on without having to use a hammer and punch or a hydraulic press and risk damaging the bearing. Although, do not get the bearing too hot as it can permanently harden and/or damage the bearing, which will not last as long. Here is the bearing heater in action!



Here I am torquing on the ARB diff cover. I am torquing on the cover because I am using a LubeLocker gasket instead of RTV compound to seal. Boy, I really need to shave, I've been obsessing over the Jeep too long haha.



I did not plan this (Although it worked out for the better!), but the ARB cover and POR 15 actually match really well haha. Here she is!



Here is the aforementioned LubeLocker gasket. It has 3 beads of silicone around it (already set-up) which even allows the gasket to be used multiple times. I highly suggest these, as they make servicing the axles much less of a mess over having to scrape off all of the old RTV compound. Plus it comes with a shine sticker! As the sticker says, "Throw Your RTV Away!"



Here is the front axle back under the Jeep with all of the other parts back on her. My brake rotors were just barely over the serviceable limit, so I decided while I had everything apart to just install new rotors. Everything is back on except for the tires! I am very pleased with the way everything has turned out.



While I was right there, I decided to stay out a little longer and install the front bumper as well as everything that mounted to it. Here is the finished product.



I also decided to throw on the CB antenna bracket that was also re-powdercoated after I trimmed it a bit. Here it is installed and the CB wire hooked back up. Dang shaky hands again!

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