In April of 2007 I picked up this Wrangler TJ from a local seller. He was the original owner and needed a truck so it was up for sale. Here's a pic of what it looked like the first day I saw it....
(And no, it didn't come with the cup of tea)
It was cosmetically "okay", but had a few hail dings on it and some paint flaws where it looked like some brake fluid had splattered on it. It's not noticeable from a few feet away, however.
Here's a list of the specifics:
2001 Wrangler Sport
Loaded with every option including the subwoofer stereo and a Dana 44
4.5" Rubicon Express lift (short arm Super Ride)
1" spacer up front
1" body lift and motor mount lift
Warn front and rear bumpers w/tire carrier
35" tires that were SHOT
4.56 Precision Gears
SYE and Tom Woods driveshaft
Hardtop, but no soft top included
I took it for a drive and it was one of the scariest rides I'd ever been in. He'd told me that it handles "pretty strange" and to prepare myself. It rode very rough and inconsistently. I suspected the worn tires. It also pulled one way under acceleration and the other on deceleration. I suspected worn bushings. Nonetheless, I realized it was why the price was so low. No matter. I can fix that stuff easily enough, I thought. I made an offer, we agreed on a price and I drove it home.
Here it is next to the Bronco it was about to replace...
__________________ Louisiana 4X4 '97 TJ Sport Black, 3.5" RE, PSC Trail Cage, Ford F150/Explorer Hybrid 8.8 Aussie locked, Lockright in the XJ HP 30, 4.88 gears, Borla Headers, No Muffler, 35x12.5 R15 Baja MTZs, Currie TrackBar. Homebuilt Longarm 4 link, AA HD SYE, TW CV DS, Warn tire carrier, Jeeperman front bumper, Warn X8000i with Amsteel Blue rope with a safety thimble, CO2 GeauxLook@myJeep
So I immediately ordered some new 35" Maxxis Big Horns for it, gave it a nice wash, and painted the flares the seller had given me and installed them. BIG difference if you ask me. I also installed some RE quick disconnects.
I also discovered that the owner had incorrectly installed a dropped pitman arm. I replaced it with a stocker to get the draglink and track bar parallel and the bump steer was GONE! However, it had some death wobble issues I needed to work out. Not often, but "often enough".
I did get chance to play at my friend's ranch, though...
Here's a short video:
It did very well for being open at both ends.
I replaced the front lower control arm bushings and noticed that the bolts for the uppers were a bit smaller (.100") than the holes in the chassis. Thinking this might be contributing to my DW I made these shoulder washers...
Here they are installed (barely visible under the bolt head):
They helped, but the DW still pops up from time to time, just less frequently.
Before I sold the hardtop I made a hoist for it. The winch was a Harbor Freight special that cost me all of $20 and it included the cable and hook. The pullies and such came from Tractor Supply.
I guess about a month after getting the Jeep the CEL came on. "Cylinder #1 Misfire" according to the scanner. I replaced the igntion coil pack, the plugs, ran some injector cleaner through it, and eventually swapped the #1 and #2 injectors to see if the code came back if it followed the injector. I also purchased a new fuel cap.
Sadly, the code has continued to come back. And most recently, it tripped the CEL again this time telling me it had a misfire on #1 and #3. So it's not the injector itself. I'm open to suggestions on what this might be.
Early on it had a radiator leak so I replaced it with a new one. Easy job and it was cheap, too. Later on it also developed a bit of a water pump leak so I replaced it. Simple job. I've also flushed the coolant, the PS fluid, and changed out the diff/tranny/t-case fluids. I also made a nifty little side view mirror for when my doors are off, which is more often than not.
So there I was with a couple weeks before this big, expensive trip to Llano for a Jeep Jamboree. I wanted two more things prior to this trip: rock sliders and a rear locker. Unfortunately, I was in the process of getting my house ready to sell and it was sapping up all my funds. Then Zach at A to Z Fabrication announced a sale on his sliders! I couldn't resist. The last piece of the puzzle was a rear locker. What to do?
I'd heard horror stories of lunchbox lockers in the rear of TJs. That they would swerve rather violently with each upshift. I'd had lunchbox lockers (Aussies) in my Bronco and it was definitely noticeable and somewhat annoying. With a short arm, tall lift in a TJ I could see it being a problem. So the lunchbox locker was out.
A full Detroit supposedly acts much more civilized and would be great, but at $550-600 it was out of the budget. Of course that meant any selectable would be out of the budget, too.....not that I'd want a selectable rear locker anyway.
So I did a LOT of research and decided to install a full spool. The price was right at $100 and it would allow me to be locked for the Jamboree. If I didn't like it I could always remove it and sell it for close to what I paid for it. Who knows, maybe I'll like it. Keep in mind this Jeep is still often driven on the street.... Some folks said I was nuts. I never claimed to be sane.
However it is a strange twist in the cosmic thread that will not allow the driver of a Jeep that has experienced air bag deployment off-road to consume beef for 48 hours after the event. You can consume chicken, pork, turkey, or emu.
I don't have pics of the spool install, but you've all seen that stuff before. It went well in one evening over the course of a couple hours. So how did it handle? On the street it was....interesting. It really binds up at low speeds requiring more throttle than you'd think. It squeals the tires when taking tight turns...sometimes the inside tire spins, sometimes the outside tire drags! The latter was unexpected. Other than that, you'd never know the spool was back there. And it drives very nice and straight. Above all, it's very predictable which was a key element. Keep in mind the rear swaybar is still off at this point.
The weirdest thing it would do is lift the inside front tire if I were accelerating quickly through a turn, such as turning at an intersection at speed. It wasn't dramatic or scary, though I'm sure it freaked out people who saw it. Basically, I could do it if and when I wanted to, so it was very much under control. That would soon change.
The Jeep had Pro Comp MX-6 adjustable shocks on it. They were very stiff. I'd replaced the fronts a few weeks after purchase with some Skyjacker hydraulics, but didn't get around to putting the rears on until pretty recently. So the Skyjackers are way, WAY softer than the Pro Comps. As a result, the Jeep started doing strange things.
At really low speeds doing a u-turn, the ridiculous amount of anti-squat provided by my short arm lift would allow the inside tire to crawl under the Jeep moreso than the outside tire. When the inside rear suspension would jack the Jeep high enough it would lift the inside FRONT tire off the ground. I'm not talking an inch or two. I mean like a foot off the ground! If I did tight, low speed circles at 2 mph or so I could carry that inside front tire off the ground at least a foot or so! Why did it do this now and not before? Because the Pro Comp shocks were gas charged and provided a lot of resistance to the rear suspension drooping. The Skyjackers allowed this movement much more readily.
This in itself wasn't so bad. What was bad is when I had to accelerate quickly in a turn at an intersection from a stop. If the turn was tight enough it would jack so quickly and violently and lift that tire off the ground so fast that you'd honestly think the Jeep was going to flip itself like a diner chef flipping a flapjack!! I didn't like it. At all.
So I put the rear sway bar back on and kept the Skyjacker shocks. It felt normal again. Now it's off to the Jamboree!!!
So now my Jeep is "very" locked front and rear, has sliders, fresh tires, and some decent suspension goodies. I'm ready for the Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree!
I also made a mount for my Hi-Lift:
Here's our group, sponsored by 4x4fun.com!
I also found out that 12-13 psi in these Maxxis tires is way too much. On day 1 of the event I was aired down to 10 psi and the sidewalls were still barely flexing. On day 2 I went down to 8 psi!! In hindsight I shouldn't have done that. If I'd lost a bead in one of the situations I was in I would've easily rolled. I need beadlocks now.
It was mid way though the day I noticed the Jeep was doing the "spool lift" pretty badly. It was at a break area that I noticed my rear sway bar endlinks (PLASTIC!!) was broken so I was running with no rear bar! Given the off-camber situations we were in that made for some very, VERY scary moments.
Here's a pic showing how the Jeep jacks when taking a tight left hand turn on a grippy surface like granite. I'd turned the wheels to the right in an effort to flatten it out before we got out to have lunch:
Scary as hell!!! Especially when you consider I was only half way through the turn at the top of a mountain with a steep drop off.
Fortunately, I managed to get through the day without rolling it.