Evolution of a Steel Blue TJ - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 51 Old 04-24-2020, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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Evolution of a Steel Blue TJ

Decided I might as well document the things I am doing to my TJ, even if I am typically slow as molasses. Might not make the most interesting read, but maybe some get something out of it, I get to ask the experienced guys along the way and hopefully avoid some of the costly mistakes I've made before.

This '02 TJ was first my father's jeep. Some say he bought it as a 'mid-life' crisis vehicle but I say he bought it to try to enjoy life a bit more after being a bit of a workaholic for much of his life. I grew up in Washington state where my parent still live. My dad and my uncle bought Jeeps, modified them, joined a club (Jolly Jeepers) and went on wheeling excursions in the PNW and even Moab at least once. I even went wheeling with him a couple of times when I was visiting home (I was living in NYC at this time).

Let's start with what my dad did to this jeep as that is where I take over when I bought it from him in 2013 as he moved to the other side of the mountains and didn't wheel it anymore so it was just getting used to drive around town with the top off in the summer. This is how I bought it from him.

2013-08-13-14.13.13.jpg

He bought this TJ stock with the optional D44 rear axles (no rubi at the time). It is a manual 4.0L and we are both very found of driving manual even though the crawler crowd typically opt for auto.

He had installed:
ARB front air locker with onboard air (Viair 2.5g tank and compressor)
4.56 gears
33" tires
modified exhauster
1" MML
2.5" Rockcrawler lift
1.25" BL
Lots of under armor
Warn 9000i winch
all Warn body armor and bumpers
lots of extras like safari doors, bikini top, etc

He mentioned he was going to sell it and I jumped on the chance as I live in Toronto now and commute via public transit, so my main vehicle is more about running errands and getting the heck out of the city and into nature on the weekends. My other hobbies include mountain biking so an offroad vehicle mates well. I don't need something that gets great gas mileage, seats a family (divorced no kids) or is otherwise very practical.


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post #2 of 51 Old 04-24-2020, 07:42 PM Thread Starter
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That was August 2013 when I had it shipped to Toronto (as cheap as the gas driving it across). I've done a lot since then till now, so I describe some of the changes and the order in which I made them before becoming the stuff I am doing now.

I was pretty naive and uneducated about Jeeps and pretty much anything automotive as all the vehicles I had owned till then (only 3) had run flawlessly so I never wrenched before and didn't know much about well though out builds. I only knew the basics and probably still only know a tiny bit compared to most. I read all I could but I still made some naive choices, but we will get to them later.

I thought that the jeep had basically everything already done to it that you could ever really want unless you went to huge tires like 40's which I never planned to do and still don't. So I was more interested at this time to customizing the aesthetics and practicalities to my preferences, while hopefully improving performance as well in the process.

The first things I wanted to address were the faded fender flares. I read a lot online and opted for the Metalcloaks overline fenders. I went front and back. They were expensive but at the time I didn't really care (my job was paying a lot of money at the time, at least to me). They were a bit more involved that I expected, but not too difficult in the end. The Warn rockers didn't really work well with the new fenders, so eventually I sold it and ordered the MC rockers which I only recently installed. The Warn (I think) corners didn't look good and didn't find really well so I ordered the MC corners as well (and the tire carrier bumper) but again all that is just now being installed.

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The next thing I wanted to upgrade was what I perceived to be kind of a rats nest of accessories tied to the battery terminals (still not where I like it). I also really disliked the way the airtank pressure gauge, compressor switch and locker switch were mounted in somewhat cheesy looking manner below the console. I wanted to find a nice solution for the switches and gauge. I originally was thinking of making a clever DIY setup. One of my past hobbies was building vacuum tube based amplifiers from scratch, so I know my way around electronics a bit. When I saw the SPOD (circa 2013-early 2014) I knew that is what I wanted, because nothing else out there was as clean and organized to tackle the solution. The cost was steep but worth it to me.

I bought a stereo which I still haven't installed. That is on the to-do list. I was having some troubles with electrical after the SPOD install, but it turns out is have something to do with the fog light switch because the fogs would come on themselves when I wasn't in the car and then the battery would drain. So I spent a few weekend figuring all that stuff out and think I might even still have some remnants of issues there. I need to check all the grounds and maybe some fuses. I know some electrical circuits but don't have a lot of experience with 12 volt.

2014-02-17-13.50.07.jpg

Then I got the itch to put bigger tires on the Jeep. My dad mentioned that the gearing would work for 35s as well (it does, especially with manual), so I went looking for a MT tire in the 35" family. I thought I did all the research correctly. It seemed like everything was made for 17" rims instead of 15" rims, or at least there were a lot more choices, so I decide I would go to 17" as I thought that was the way it was going. I figured out the size and backspace I needed and settled on the Nitto Mud Grapplers I have now, which look pretty cool if maybe a bit excessive and had good reviews for how they handled in the snow & ice which was important because we get that here in Ontario. I didn't even know that load ratings were a thing. These are load E, not load C. So chalk one up to experience. Time will tell if they hinder the performance too much.

20150705_163347.jpg

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post #3 of 51 Old 04-24-2020, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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I started to figure out that going to 35s was more than just putting on new shoes. I learned that the MC claim that you can run stock 35" with them was misleading and that my 2.5" lift is going to need a re-think, that is what I am currently planning. In the meantime more pressing issues were addressed. I upgraded the front brakes (Black Magic 17" kit) and currie HD steering when I realized the stopping power of the brakes with the heavy as hell 35s was garbage.

So coming to a conclusion of most the story on how I got to the current mostly. There are some parts I can fill/edit in later.

The thread link below is where I was talking about what I having been doing very recently after a bit of a hiatus on the build. I can copy pasta that, merge it, or just leave the link below. In short I just finishing what I started after a hiatus. The old metal welded on rock rails are gone, the MC rockers are on. I installed the tire carrier on the bumper. I put both of the MC corners on today minus the fender flares.

https://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f9/interested-experienced-jeepers-opinions-my-rock-sliders-4392779

Now I will show you what I finished today, because pictures in a build thread matter.



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post #4 of 51 Old 04-24-2020, 09:15 PM Thread Starter
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That brings to the list of things to get done of varying degrees of importance and in no particular order but are still short term to-dos.

1)mounting a proper front LP holder

2) replacing the mirrors with the ones I ordered today

3) install like the currie anti-rock

4) the stereo install

5) Figure out a permanent solution to mounting my air tank (2.5g) because the current solution is it is just sitting there

6) I can't currently separate the fender flares from the old mounts as both lower bolts are completely seized and I tried everything (MAP torch applied, PB Blaster, stripped two heads). Maybe this gives me a reason to learn to use my welder (Lincoln Weldpak 140) and weld some nuts on the heads so I can actually use leverage.

20200424_164746.jpg

20200423_145910.jpg
I know **** all about welding. I hope this is atleast an adequate welder to start learning with. I expect I move on when needed, but for maybe some bracket stuff this will suffice for now?


Then onto future, but nearer term stuff like

1) sorting out my suspension setup (going to a modern 4" is planned)

2) SYE

3) CV Driveshaft(s)

Then maybe axle upgrades (chromo, or build something like JK axles) and belly up..... oh and a gas tank skid.

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post #5 of 51 Old 04-27-2020, 09:10 AM Thread Starter
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Whittling away at some of the smaller items yesterday like mounting a new steering stabilizer (decided to grab a new one with mounting hardware). Took up the shifting console to examine the CB radio body install which is hidden underneath.

Still waiting on a bolt extractor tool to try to remove the bolts that hold the fend flares to the older mounts.

20200426_153640.jpg

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post #6 of 51 Old 04-28-2020, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
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Today I finished a couple small things again. I put the flip up front license plate holder on which covers the fairleads most of the time. I used bit extractors to drill out the bolts hold the fender flares to the old fenders. Even after removed I couldn't budge the remaining bolt with vise grips. Oh well, mounted the rear fender flares again (for legality and sorry no photo). I pulled all the stereo equipment from my storage unit in prep for installation.

Question, anyone run an amp and if so where did you mount your amp? I don't really like the most useful space which is under the seat because of possible water damage.

I also have an 13" LED bar that I picked up ages ago that I might install on the upper portion of my double bull bar (don't know what this one is called, but I've always liked it). I need to weld some tabs to mount it, but I took a photo just for visualization.

20200428_112020.jpg

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post #7 of 51 Old 04-29-2020, 09:14 PM
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Those wheels and tires really make it stand out. Looks great
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post #8 of 51 Old 04-30-2020, 07:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks

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post #9 of 51 Old 04-30-2020, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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Unanswered Question

Today I removed the factory sway bar and quick disconnects in preparation of installing the currie anti-rock but the front bumper interferes with the installation of the torsion bar. I decided to take it off. Again, I got all the top bolts out but couldn't budge a single bolt on the bottom side.

Question, when you use the heat approach to trying to unstick a bolt, you heat the bolt or the surrounding area (or nut)? Logically with heat expansion it should be the nut not the bolt, but in such cases as mine the nut isn't visible and likely just threaded or tapped insert.


I traced the vacuum line for my HVAC and realized it is completely cut which explains the no change of modes. So that is on my to-do list now

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post #10 of 51 Old 05-01-2020, 12:44 PM Thread Starter
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Today the side mirrors and the tailgate hinges came. I replaced the side mirrors in short order. I was replacing the tailgate hinges, was almost done and I noticed the left side I forgot to put the plastic guard piece back on so I took it off and was bolting the nut back on when the glass shattered into a million pieces. It literally sounded like a gun shot. Today isn't my lucky day. Now I have to find a replacement asap.
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post #11 of 51 Old 05-07-2020, 10:42 AM Thread Starter
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Rear Window Glass
So JustJeeps, a local jeep parts store had a used rear window to replace my broken one. They are going to install it as part of the deal on Tuesday coming.

Lift
I had mentioned that I wanted to upgrade/modernize/additional lift my suspension. Since I don't have the shop space with equipment right now to do it myself, I got my Currie dealer (the same guy who did my BMB and sold me the metalcloak gear) to get me a quote on the Currie 4" suspension kit. I ordered the JB SYE. And they are going to install it all for me soon (along with a driveshaft to match). I still need to choose which shocks to go with. Probably Fox, but not 100%.

The shop is one of the main shops that installs/supports our off road racing circuit so I trust their work.

Audio system
I've had all of the parts for the audio system for years now and hadn't gotten around to installing it yet. I plan to do this part all myself as this is up my alley (used to build speakers/amps from scratch) and the equipment needed is easy to manage. I am awaiting some parts (dash speaker pods) before I rip everything apart to the install, but I managed to install the new 6.5" coax Polks in the speaker bar and stuffed a bunch of polyfill in there while I was at it. I listened very briefly after I was done and the difference was readily apparent. It was far more clear.

I have Polk Audio 5.25" separates to install,


an Alpine MRX-V70 5-channel Class D amp,


an Alpine*CDE-HD149BT headunit,


along with some center dash accessories such as a USB/Aux input port that will hook to the rear inputs of the head unit,


going to mount a ball receiver permanently into the coin slot on top (saw that done somewhere else) to mount a GPS, I also grabbed a switch bezel off of Davey's Jeep from an '03-06 Jeep that will allow more placement of ports/etc. The two cig lighter type ports will be useful. I will leave the power port alone and the cig one will get a double USB port that I have from BlueSea. The above USB/Aux will go in the black spot on this new bezel. That leaves the power port to power a GPS unit, the USB/Aux to hook up phone or mp3 player to head unit and the other USB ports for charging.

I almost went to a double din headunit, but I'd only opt for this given the considerable additional cost including the new center bezel if I could get decent built-in GPS navigation without having to use my phone. Those headunits are stupid expensive and not worth installing in a Jeep imo. I will use a cheap separate GPS.

This guy had a very creative and intelligent way to mount the same amp and crossovers. I will be trying to do the same if at all possible. I am just not sure I am patient enough to do it, or if I can get a board cut to replicate his idea.

*I realize factory stock photos aren't as exciting, but I plan to take a lot of photos along the way, including the speaker bar upgrade I already did.

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post #12 of 51 Old 05-07-2020, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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A couple of photos of prelim audio install, as promised. The sound bar coaxs installed.

20200507_142821.jpg

I am using the Nalin brackets to mount the tweeters but I am not sure I am loving them. The position, as shown below (although not well lit), seems quite shrouded by the lower portion of the dash and no other position makes it any better. That isn't a great thing for high frequencies. Not sure if I will keep the location there but will likely start there.

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post #13 of 51 Old 05-07-2020, 07:02 PM Thread Starter
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Preparing to coat my frame, inside and out

I've done some research on various forum on the necessities of prolonging the life of the TJ's frame, especially now that I am basically in the rust belt now.

From 2002 till 2013 this Jeep lived in Washington state. In 2013, I bought it and shipped it out here to Toronto. I bought it at 104k miles and currently have 111k miles on the dash. But it spent the first two winters parked outside and I started noticing surface rust. I didn't drive it a lot in snow and salt, but it started to really bother me. The last 3-4 years it has been parked underground. Still I want to prevent any deterioration in the frame, or all work is moot.

I order SPI epoxy primer instead of the commonly chosen POR-15. After reading up a lot and taking into account the knowledge and expertise of people's opinion, I chose SPI. The same goes for KBS Cavity Coat over Eastwood internal frame spray. I plan to use KBS inside followed by Linseed Oil coatings and SPI on the outside of the frame. I will likely coat other important things as well if I have enough left over. First off I need to get access to a pressure washer so I can wash out the inside of my frame.

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post #14 of 51 Old 05-12-2020, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
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Had the rear glass on my hardtop replaced today

JustJeeps here in Canada had called me (I emailed asking) about my rear broken glass. They asked if I'd be ok with a used one (although it doesn't really look used). Sure I said. Everyone on the local forums said that I was better off buying a good new hardtop, that they searched forever to find just the rear glass. I guess I got lucky.

Yeah you can order one from the states and ship it here but at that point you might as well buy a used hardtop locally. So I just had them put it in, so I don't botch another one. I don't think I actually would, but it is piece of mind. I had them put in my Currie anti-rock while they were at it because I was struggling to release some bolts.

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post #15 of 51 Old 05-13-2020, 07:23 AM Thread Starter
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I was playing around with the idea of tweeter placement for the stereo upgrade. I had a pair of the Nalin MFG tweeter and mid brackets for 5.25" component speakers. I mounted the tweeter bracket and was looking at the positioning while seated in the drivers seat.

The tweeter bracket
20200509_142647.jpg

It is hard to get a realistic photo of what it looks like when you are seated. I am not a great photographer. The issue is the driver's side tweeter when seated you can only see about 1/3 of the bottom of the tweeter as it is shrouded by the lower portion of the dash. The bugs the former audiophile in me.

20200509_135923.jpg

High frequencies are extremely directional. They are what human's use to located direction as well as get soundstage and imaging queues. I am not going for any semblance of audiophile sound quality in a Jeep but I do want to make the most of the SQ available. I am just not loving this tweeter position. I know what Nalin (& whoever helped design these) were going for as it pushes the tweeter placement further back, but the downside of having a highly reflective surface so close to the tweeter's first path is major flaw IMO.

I may still use these brackets at first, possibly with a spacer of some sort to help pull them forward enough to not be as shrouded. But I got to thinking about another solution beside the corners of the upper dash. I don't like the window/dash corners as that announces to thieves that you have a nice system as it is so obviously visible. When I was examining the stock speaker location I got another idea.

20200509_155237.jpg

It seems like it would be feasible to flush mount the tweeter in the lower portion of the stock speaker grill. It seems like there is enough depth between the speaker grill and the lower portion of the mid's mount that this might work. I just wished I had an extra speaker 'grill' that I could cut into a try it out without touching my stock ones until I was certain.

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