1999 WJ build - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 22 Old 12-02-2019, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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1999 WJ build

I have really enjoyed reading build threads so here is my attempt at the same.

I suppose first up is introducing what I have to build. Today, I purchased a 1999 Grand Cherokee Laredo. It has 161,000ish miles - only 20,000 on a new 4.0 inline-six. The interior is not horrible, it doesn't stink, and it isn't torn to pieces. Currently, it has a budget boost lift from Rough Country, RC shocks, JKS adjustable trackbar, adjustable lower control arms, JKS quicker sway bar disconnects, and Black Rock 16x9" wheels with 275 Nittos on them. It has the selec-trac 4wd system, the original radio (with cassette player) and isn't too bad on the eyes.

This WJ will not be a daily-driver but I would like to maintain drivability to get it to the trails and back. Uwharrie National Forrest is the closest offroad destination to me (within an hour) and is made of mostly wooded trails and some rocky stuff.

My current vision for the build:
Get sliders - Goliath or Kevin's Offroad (please weigh-in) I like the wider version for more protection currently.
Do a proper lift - I've seen a ton of posts referencing Kolak to get good prices and recommendations so I will probably try that route. As for height, I think 3-inch springs from IRO, spring isolators, and whatever else I will need to fix the suspension geometry.
Stereo - nothing exciting here but need Bluetooth.
Recovery points - I have some front tow hooks that I will probably install. I will also likely get a hitch for the back.

Anyway - Pictures to follow

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Last edited by racksaw; 12-06-2019 at 11:46 AM.
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post #2 of 22 Old 12-03-2019, 07:48 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I have messaged Kolak and feel much closer to ordering something. Getting all wrapped up in what I want this Jeep to become has allowed some of the necessary items to go further down the list than necessary. I have already ordered Moog spring insulators from Rock Auto. The next thing will be doing the necessary maintenance. I know it doesn't need much engine work, so I will turn my attention to the other fluids and making sure those look acceptable and are at the required levels.

I also read the "Welcome" message and realize that pictures aren't allowed until a certain number of posts unless you have an upgraded account. I will still be taking pictures of each stage in this journey.

I've seen some great Jeeps in surfing this forum and I am anxious to add mine to the community.
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post #3 of 22 Old 12-04-2019, 07:13 PM Thread Starter
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Finally drove the Jeep today. It has some noise coming from somewhere in the back that I will try to track down before installing the lift I ordered. Thanks to Kolak for the assistance and great price on everything.

I threw some new wipers on it while my two girls played inside of the Jeep. They liked the cloth seats (I guess because their car seats weren't in there). Also, I did another inspection after the drive to see any leaks and checked levels. The transmission dipstick doesn't appear to have any seal to it and the oil fill cap was free-spinning. I have to get it inspected so when I take it for that I may just go ahead and remedy those two things.

I don't know how long shipping takes for the lift kit, and I can be patient for this one. I'm putting a lift kit on my in-laws golf cart for Christmas so I may end up waiting until after that. If I get eat up with time off again I may go ahead and look into installing the front tow hooks.

Once I can post pictures I will.
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post #4 of 22 Old 12-06-2019, 05:45 AM Thread Starter
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Yesterday I took the Jeep to get an inspection and had the oil changed while I was there.

I figured a couple of things I noticed were just unique. I had never had an oil fill cap that you had to squeeze to engage the threads so that it would spin-off. Also, the transmission dipstick I had believed to be a touch too long was just inserted at the wrong "angle" and is now correctly inserted.

A better view of underneath revealed more good news with differential levels good and no surprises hanging from the unibody or anything to be concerned about. I believe the noise I hear from the back while driving is the sway bar links shifting. I could move them while the Jeep was sitting still.

I received half of my spring insulators from Rock Auto and will still post pictures whenever I can/figure out how.
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post #5 of 22 Old 12-12-2019, 06:40 PM Thread Starter
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The remaining spring insulators from Rock Auto showed up along with Bilstein shocks and a Moog steering stabilizer thanks to Kolak. I figured out how to post pictures and have posted some. The tow hooks still are not on, but they will be one of the first things I get on the Jeep. I would like to figure out how to replace the hooks with shackles or shackle mounts. I haven't tracked down the rear sway bar issue yet either.

After reading through the diff cover posts I may end up checking the diff and transfer case levels soon and get some Mopar fluid to have on hand/ready for changing it out. I've been looking at wheels and tires too. When the lift goes on I will see how the current wheel and tire setup looks and probably go bigger from there. The Nittos are 255, not 275 so I know I will have plenty of room. I might as well see if this tire size rubs anywhere and prepare for worse. Probably going to end up getting some Falken Wildpeaks based on the various members posting about them here. It also doesn't hurt that they are much cheaper than the BFGs.
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post #6 of 22 Old 12-13-2019, 10:42 AM
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Welcome to the community, nice to see another WJ built thread. Great looking Jeep to start your project.
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post #7 of 22 Old 12-14-2019, 11:01 AM Thread Starter
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I finally went to put the tow hooks on the WJ. The thing is: they are the wrong hooks. The previous owner had "a box of tow hooks" and when I opened it and looked at the instructions I found out they are for a WK. So, if anyone is interested in some tow hooks for a WK I have a set.

I'm still waiting for the lift springs to get here. There will be more pictures and content when those show up. I'm going to drive it a little until then so that I can get a feel for how different the lift will be over a budget boost. I suspect that when I get some stuff apart I will find things that should be addressed but between the lift, regular maintenance items, and recovery gear I figure I have another two months worth of work before I am ready to wheel. I'm not in a hurry as I believe the trails are closed for the winter (or will be soon) unless I find a different place. If anyone has some recommendations for trails in or around NC chime in as I'm interested in getting this Jeep in a few places.
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post #8 of 22 Old 12-30-2019, 07:36 AM Thread Starter
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Tomorrow I will be looking at a set of 5 Rubicon wheels with BFG Mud Terrains. The set had been on the Wrangler since May but at the asking price, I believe it is a great deal. I'm under the impression they are the OEM tires - 255/75r17 - which I have researched to come to around 32". Last night I did some forum searching for people running that tire size with 3" of lift on WJs and found mixed sentiment about offroad usefulness. Many posts mentioned extended bump-stops, major trimming (2+ inches), and some were the opposite with no issues reported while leaving the sway bar connected. I suppose getting these wheels and tires at this price could justify some fender surgery and if I butcher it bad enough I can convince the wife I should put a real bumper on the front.

Anyway, if anyone has some insight about running 32" tires with 3 inches of lift that I should have please share with me so that I don't ruin my Jeep before I get to use it. As a reminder, this is not a daily driver and is not a vehicle I rely on to get to work and cosmetics are a non-issue for me - so trimming or removing stuff isn't a big deal for me either.

Pictures to follow - pending the wheels. Now to really start figuring out a place to put a spare. Been looking at Goliath roof rack with tire mount on it but need to look at the roof loading a little closer. If anyone runs a spare on the roof, what are the pros and cons?
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post #9 of 22 Old 12-30-2019, 06:46 PM Thread Starter
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So it begins..

I started today. Here is the beginning measurement of the front (if the picture is turned correctly it should read around 34.25 inches. That measurement is with the Rough Country budget boost - 2" I believe it is.

Then I get the WJ in the garage, break the lugs loose and something unexpected happens... the jack-stand is too short. I went and got some that would handle the height and I was back in business.

After getting the old out, I set it beside the new for a couple of photos - new vs. stock and new vs. 2" budget boost.

I cleaned up the spring perch and installed the spring and shock. The top shock mount took some patience. With a larger wrench to turn the nut and a 5mm allen-wrench jammed in the same small space behind the brake distribution block, I could only turn the nut a quarter of an inch at a time.

Got the driver-side done and had to pack up to do dad duty. Tomorrow, more lift and more pictures hopefully with new wheels.
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post #10 of 22 Old 12-31-2019, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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I finished the passenger side today, the front is done - including a new steering stabilizer. The spring perches were not the greatest, but they will suffice for what I'm looking to do. I also had to adjust the JKS quicker disconnects - surprisingly I had to shorten them a good bit although I went higher. I'm going to keep an eye on it for contacting the springs and maybe ask the tire/alignment shop what they think about the front sway bar angle. Hopefully, I can get the back done in one day and go get some tires for the new wheels. The Rubicon rims I got did not have any threads on them so lucky me I can get exactly what I want.

Having the tape measure out and getting some preliminary measurements it appears I have gained almost two full inches of lift in the front. I'm sure it will settle and when I get the back lifted it may change more. I also looked at how much tire I have in the wheel-well and I measured roughly 29 inches of tire currently in there. Since I have 17" rims now (I had been looking at 16s) I will try to find a 31ish inch tire. I'm still leaning toward getting Falken Wildpeaks but still researching Cooper A/T and Duratracs. Still plan on using this as a weekender on trails - not really rock-crawling or searching for mud but would like to be able to clear some of the elements if needed.

I will be posting somewhere about where to carry a 5th wheel (the spare well may still be an option for the size I'm considering) to get a feel for what others like and don't like about the spare tire on a bumper/roof rack/in the back.
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post #11 of 22 Old 01-02-2020, 07:50 AM Thread Starter
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Lift is on

The lift is on. The rear driver side sway bar link bolt fought me the whole way out. I had to use my breaker bar to turn it - not just loosen it. The impact and penetrating oil worked flawlessly on most other bolts. The rear shocks almost threw me for a loop - since they are mounted the opposite way of the Rough Country shocks but I checked the forum and it is on. The measurements are preliminary because I'm still looking at tires and need an alignment so things may still move a little.

The tire I've landed on the most is the Falken Wildpeak in a 265/70r17. After reading a few threads and builds I've seen that some people end up with spacers if they keep "stock" wheels since the backspacing is so high. I have looked at thinner tires in an attempt to compensate for that but now I think wheel spacers may be in the future since this isn't a daily. However, I would like to be able to make it to different trails, not just Uwharrie which is close by. Maybe the tire shop will have some input on the matter.

One last thing, the last picture attached is the front and I know it doesn't really show the sway bar angle but if anyone has better information on what that should look like please let me know. I can extend the JKS disconnects at least an inch and what I've researched details the angle should be around 30 degrees in front and near horizontal in the rear. I know the front is not 30 degrees so if I need to angle the front more please weigh in.
Attached Thumbnails
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post #12 of 22 Old 01-03-2020, 02:39 PM Thread Starter
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Wheels and tires are on!! I went with 5 of the Falken Wildpeaks 265/70r17 or just over an inch larger than what was on there. Its been raining all day though so no pictures. The wider tire and rims with different backspacing had the passenger side rear tire touching the tailpipe (which I believe has already been bent out of place), and there was enough room to pass a finger between the wheel and rear shock body. I was anticipating some issues with rubbing so I ordered some spidertrax wheel spacers with the stud conversion to JL studs (since I have the lugs for that size). I just received an email with a tracking number for those but Fedex doesn't find it when I search. Pictures to follow, along with measurements.

I still need to adjust the front sway bar disconnects longer to put more angle on the front sway bar. Also, there is a noise coming from the driver side front suspension so I believe I need to recheck everything I did tight and see if anything reveals itself. I'm suspicious of the upper shock mount as it was a pain to get to but I will probably go over everything.

When the rain lets up pictures will follow. Next on the list is to figure out where to throw the spare and see how bad rubbing (after spacers are on) will be, trim to fit, and get some recovery points.
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post #13 of 22 Old 01-04-2020, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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With the wheels and tires

It was raining most of the day yesterday, and it will start raining again soon. I got through on the tracking number with FedEx and I should get my wheel spacers on Monday. Judging by some of the spacing issues I have pictured I could use the extra room.

In summary, the pictures posted are of the difference between the tires; space between the tire and rear shocks; tire and tailpipe; front tire and sway bar while turning; front tire and sway bar disconnect while turning; then measurements. 37+/- inches in rear wheel well and 36 +/- inches in the front measured from the ground through the centerline of the hub to the fender.

While I was messing around looking at the front I pulled the disconnects off and lengthened them. I spun the disconnects apart and engaged them both 4 full turned, seated the jam nut and put them back on. I won't be able to track down the noise from the driver front for at least a few days since I would like to wait on the wheel spacers (more pics) and Monday I have a planning board meeting after work.

Hopefully, something in this build thread has helped someone or at least been somewhat entertaining to read through. I've read through quite a few build threads which have given me some inspiration and direction. I'll keep on digging to figure out the next thing.
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post #14 of 22 Old 01-05-2020, 04:40 PM Thread Starter
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So I believe I found my noise and worse... cancer.

The front spring perches need to be replaced so I messaged Kolak for a set and started calling people about a welder and how I might be able to get these on my front axle in my garage. I do not have 220 V in my garage (hindsight is 20/20). One review on the IRO website mentioned using a 110 V welder to get these installed but my uncle is a little leary of the welder and the thickness of the material.

If anybody has recommendations please feel free to share them.
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post #15 of 22 Old 01-11-2020, 07:15 AM Thread Starter
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I started pulling the front axle out from under the Jeep. The hubs are still on and axle shafts in and the last connection I need to get at is the driveshaft after I get the hubs out of the way. Since I'm in the situation I'm in it will probably benefit from some new tie rods and ball joints while it is this far apart so I'll order those sometime soon. I thought about upgrading the front driveshaft but read that the CV style would be fine up to 4" of lift.

I haven't posted pictures because I haven't taken any but will get more soon.
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