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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Maybe this will help give people some motivation and/or direction. People keep asking the same questions about engine swaps and I definitely found myself searching for similar questions regarding what’s actually required. The bottom line is….the engine is required and everything else will be determined by how you want to proceed and what your goals are. You need to do lots of reading and once you see a clear path that suits your needs, you just need to commit to that strategy and quit second guessing.

Reading build threads are helpful but when it’s 40+ pages and spans a year or more, it becomes really tough for me to follow along. I’ll try to lay out the way I did it and at the end, I’ll try to give some things that I would’ve done differently if I were to do it again. Hopefully I can keep it short and sweet so someone can go over it in a single sitting but it’s going to take several posts and pictures to get it out so please be a little patient. I’ll also lay out costs and a basic parts list at the end as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Engine
I looked around at various engine combinations and ultimately stumbled on how cheap LS engines actually were. These engines are all over the place for dirt cheap. I managed to get an entire Silverado truck with the 5.3 engine delivered to my house for $600. The transmission had already been pulled and trashed and the guy told me the transfer case grenaded itself. However, the truck provided me with the ECU, wiring harness, headers, excess exhaust tubing (2.75" dia), all sensors, lots of bolts, and tons of other parts that would come in handy or could be sold. Bottom line was that I got the majority of what I needed for the engine itself for cheap but it would take some time to pull it all and I had a junker truck taking up space in my driveway during that whole process. I could've sold it for scrap and gotten a couple hundred bucks back but I needed it gone and just had someone take it away for free.

I used generic Trans-Dapt 4560 engine mounts for two reasons. One, they are WAY cheaper than Jeep specific mounts. Two, I could put the engine exactly where I wanted without having to resize driveshafts or beat on the firewall to gain clearance. It wasn't too hard but installing the engine with engine and transfer case in the Jeep and welding the new mounts was the one thing in this entire project where I enlisted a helping hand from a friend. I basically made a mark on the body where the transfer case was located previously and tried to put it back in the same place. It ultimately ended up 1/2" back from normal to get enough clearance for the mechanical fan and my big radiator. A thinner electric fan would've worked but 1/2" is nothing and the driveshafts were fine.

I didn't feel the need use an aftermarket oil pan since I put the engine as high as I could. Honestly, the way my engine is situated and the fact that I chose to do a flat skid, I feel like the transmission pan and bellhousing are at a higher risk than the oil pan. I've got a skid for the transmission but I figure a future plan for an oil pan skid is better than a lower profile engine oil pan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Transmission and Transfer case
I had a 4 cyl with AX-5 tranny in my Jeep so my budget options were limited compared to a 6 cyl Jeep with the AX-15 and 23 spline NP231 transfer case. The AX-5 is way too weak so I needed a different transmission and a different transfer case or at least a 23 spline input shaft my current transfer case.

At the time, I figured a used 4L60E transmission would be cheapest and easiest combined with an adapter kit to go from the transmission to Jeep transfer case. An auto would be less fun some of the time but also way easier to drive on technical offroad sections. An auto can also use stock headers rather than aftermarket center dump headers so that's one less thing to buy. One downside to using a non-Jeep transmission is that you'll need a custom transfer case shifter since the stock bracket mounts to the Jeep transmission.

I figured it would be cheapest to reuse my transfer case which already had a SYE kit installed rather than buying a 23 spline Jeep transfer case or Chevy transfer case and then buying/installing another SYE kit. Novak and Advance adapters both sell 4L60E to NP231 adapters but Advance Adapters includes the 23 spline input for $70 less and includes some much needed parts. Then you save another $170 because Novak sells the 23 spline input separately and won't warranty their 21 spline option. So Advance Adapters all the way for me!

Now…here's where the 4L60E option comes to bite back. Digging into a used automatic transmission to replace the output shaft is easy but it's a crapshoot. I bought a rebuild kit to hopefully have the parts needed to replace any worn items. The guy swore the transmission ran fine when I bought it but I have a hard time believing he was honest based on what I saw and am seeing. Thankfully, none of the hard parts were bad but I ended up replacing every freaking wear item in that transmission and it had clearly been rebuilt in the past. That was at least a week of work and probably another week of researching how to do the rebuild. There is a good video series on youtube though and the first part is "4l60E Part 1 Lesson 1" where the guy goes through every piece of disassembly, checking integrity of reused parts, and reassembly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wiring Harness/ECU
You will need something to control your new LS engine somehow. The stock Chevy ECU will need to be flashed to remove the vehicle anti-theft system (VATS) or you'll need an aftermarket ECU. There are lots of youtube videos and write-ups on how to take the Chevy harness and make it a standalone. It's a lot of work and I'm sure I could do it but wiring brings me no joy. I looked into aftermarket standalone harnesses and they seem to range anywhere from $500 for a harness with a manual tranny to well over a $1000 for one with an automatic depending on quality and complexity. You can send off the stock ECU to plenty of people on eBay for a reflash for around $75. You can also just run the stock wiring harness as is. It will look hideous and you'll still need to figure out how to power it which is where I was confused.

I managed to find someone on eBay who would flash my ECU and do all the work for my standalone harness for $300. There are plenty of these guys. Get the ones with lots of good reviews on their service...not just their selling history. I made this mistake and although my harness work was good, it took 9 weeks when he quoted 3-4 weeks. This service included a new fuse block for the engine, testing all wires, labeling of new wires, emissions crap removed, and all new wire wraps and looms for the harness. I had some time so I waited until eBay ran one of their coupons for 20% off and I got the service for $250 which was ultimately $175 for the wiring and $75 for the ECU flash. For me, that was worth it because the loom, tape, fuse block, etc would easily cost me $75.

I pretty much removed every bit of wiring from my Jeep minus the lights. I am running a fair number of positive leads off my battery right now but a lot of that was to aid in simplicity at the cost of pretty battery terminals. I run a flat dash with aftermarket gauges so I already had removed a lot of the interior wiring. These aftermarket gauges also made adapting a new engine a lot easier. However, one option that I utilize occasionally is the Bluetooth OBDII system. Some guys use a tablet as their sole gauges via Bluetooth but I preferred regular gauges normally and I use the Bluetooth gauges on my phone when I want more specific information.

Here's how I mounted the ECU and new fuse block. When you use the stock harness, you're forced to run the ECU on the drivers side where there isn't much room unfortunately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Shifters
This topic is all about you and what you want. I liked the look of the Lokar shifters since it kind of looks like a manual transmission but I also like the gated style of the Art-Carr Winters shifters. I didn't think I'd be able to reach the Winters shifter with a seat harness without modification so I decided against it. Instead I chose a long Lokar shifter and found it on Amazon for $150. To keep things consistent looking, I found another shorter Lokar shifter for the transfer case on eBay for $88. Normally these shifters are around $300 each but with some searching, there are plenty of deals out there. I had to do some modifications to the lower shifter arm and ratchet pattern to make an automatic transmission shifter work for the transfer case but so far it works fine.

There are definitely better ways to shift things like the cable shifting but in the interest of looks and saving money, I went with the Lokar shifters and straight rods. I still need some shift boots but I like them so far.

I still need to buy or make some shift boots for the shifters but I'm not there yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Flat Skid
I hadn't read a whole lot regarding a V8 swap and the 4L60E with flat skids so I was flying a little blind on this one and hoping for the best. I did need to install a 1" body lift but I got it done. My transfer case is inconveniently located under a stiffener on the body so I lost about 3/4" of clearance from that. Between that stiffener and the 1" body lift, I still needed to shave a few funky tabs off of the top of the transfer case to get it to clear. The Advance Adapter kit allows you to clock the transfer case a couple different ways which makes running the flat skid a bit easier. I'm currently running a 3/16" steel plate with reinforcements. The welded panels probably aren't the best solution but it's what I could get done at the time. I'll probably upgrade later and I'll keep a close eye on this.

Everything is really tight with this setup. The transmission pan is literally sitting on the skid plate so I glued a urethane pad onto the skid plate to prevent the skid plate from chaffing through the pan. I also glued a 3/16" sheet on the rest of the transmission pan until I can come up with a better skid solution. I couldn't install a longer skid forward without making a big cutout for the front driveshaft. Everything is tucked up really high so I doubt I'll hit anything without getting into super aggressive stuff but I'd like some legit skids at some point. For now, I feel better about coming down on a reinforced pan than just coming down on the sheet metal pan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Exhaust
This is going to have to be completely custom. I chose to do this part myself since I don't have a trailer to tow it to a muffler shop. With a flat skid, the requirements are kind of special anyway and I don't have much wiggle room. I ran 2.5" tubes from the two headers to a Y collector that ups the pipe size to a single 3". I ran a 3" high flow catalytic converter and a Thrush Welded muffler. The muffler has about 1/2" clearance to the tubs heat shield and maybe 1/4" to the skid plates reinforcement. It's tight! If you run a 1/4" flat skid, you'll have some extra wiggle room but that thing will be crazy heavy. Finally, I ran the rest of the pipe out of the back of the Jeep and over the axle using the 2.75" pipe from the original donor truck. Sounds silly but the muffler and catalytic converter are way more restrictive than the 2.75" open pipe and I had that pipe just laying around. The exhaust sounds awesome and very throaty but not overly loud or obnoxious so it's really everything I was hoping for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Things I'd do differently having driven about 1000 miles

1. Initially the manual transmission option looked super expensive. Now that I've done everything with the 4L60E and dealt with all the BS involved with getting an unknown used tranny working properly, I may have considered a manual a bit harder. If the manual still didn't look good, I'd probably buy a new or professionally built and tested transmission. The price point may have been very similar without all of the headaches, downtime, and man hours. The rebuild sucked and I've dropped the transmission pan 3 times since then and the valve body twice trying to fix shifting issues. I still like auto's in technical offroad but it's been a lot of work so far.
2. This debate will live on in infamy but I'd probably go with aluminum skids. Even with reinforced 3/16" steel, this skid is crazy heavy. I thought I had a pretty tall jack but I have to run a bunch of 2x4's under the skid for the jack to get up high enough to install it as well. This also means that it will take several people to install it if I ever have to drop it on the trail.
3. I bought the stuff to do a transmission crossmember independent of the skid plate but never followed through. Given the number of times I've dropped the skid to get to the transmission, I wish I would've gone ahead and done some kind of crossmember. I probably would've had to sandwich it between the skid and transmission but at least I would be able to drop the skid plate without a jack or an army of guys.
 

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Nice write up. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Looks very similar to what I went through with my CJ and 5.7L SBC TBI.

I stuck with the 4L60E....no issues with it. It had to have the short shaft installed so my transmission guy rebuilt the whole thing while upgrading a couple of parts that are common failures.

Wiring was easy....for the engine...what, 6 wires? Like you, it was more work extracting the old wiring from the chassis harness. The only wiring issue I have left is the P/N switch for the tranny. The donor truck was a column shift....hence, it was all up there. My tran does not have a long enough shifter shaft to mount a factory P/N switch on. Truth is, the only thing I really need is the backup light function....maybe I'll just do that with a toggle switch.

Skid plate.....I guess I dodged a big on there....I haven't done it yet. Instead, I have a trans mount to just hold the tranny....my plan is to eventually make a couple of skid plates I can bolt on, one on each side. That way I can bolt them on for rock crawling....or leave them off until needed.

Otherwise, great looking job
 

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Yes, great job. You have a lot more money and experience than I do.

After going through your write up, I want to talk about your center console.:rolleyes:
You have the same POS console that I do. The only thing those cup holders are good for is holding anything that doesn't have liquid in it. I use a bungee cord on the side of my seat to hold a water bottle. But I did find these can holders from Coleman.

Liquid Gas Cylinder Electric blue Circle


They will hold your favorite 12oz. carbonated beverage in there with no problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My tran does not have a long enough shifter shaft to mount a factory P/N switch on. Truth is, the only thing I really need is the backup light function....maybe I'll just do that with a toggle switch.
Yeah I haven't figured that out yet either but that's partly because my jeep didn't have backup lights with the manual either so it's not going to be easy tracing all of that down.

Yes, great job. You have a lot more money and experience than I do.

After going through your write up, I want to talk about your center console.:rolleyes:
You have the same POS console that I do. The only thing those cup holders are good for is holding anything that doesn't have liquid in it. I use a bungee cord on the side of my seat to hold a water bottle. But I did find these can holders from Coleman.
They must've updated the cupholders because mine is awesome! Holds a can rock solid (actually give it a slight push down and it's locked in there), typical 20oz fast food cups fit well, fits my travel coffee cup, and even fits the big bladder buster drinks from Firehouse.

Water bottles or coke bottles are a different story but I just toss those inside the center console. They're sealed anyway....minus the condensation.

BTW... I've rebuilt a boats V8 but this is my first time pulling or installing engines in a vehicle. I just tried to do as much research as I could and play the rest by ear.
 

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Just want to say nice work. It's rare to find a consolidated thread with good information all on one page!
 

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Nice write up, thank you! Is the engine centered in the engine bay between the frame rails, or did you offset it? I've heard of people offsetting the engine a little to one side.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Nice write up, thank you! Is the engine centered in the engine bay between the frame rails, or did you offset it? I've heard of people offsetting the engine a little to one side.
It's pretty much centered. Not sure if it was coincidence or purposeful at this point but the engine is maybe 0.3"-0.5" closer to the passenger side rail than the driver.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I almost forgot about the most brilliant part of this swap... How I got this done on the ultra cheap but it did take some upfront money.

To recap from post #9, my total cost for the V8 swap itself was $2655 and the total with all of my other mods/conveniences/upgrades was $3141.

My 4 cyl engine and AX-5 transmission were in good shape. Best guess on value was that these two might sell for around $500 give or take a little. That certainly helps but I decided to take another route. I picked up a 98 TJ with a blown engine and a wrecked front fender for $2500. I put my old engine, exhaust, and radiator into the TJ and spent another $565 cleaning it up and making it nice. I also sold my transmission for $200. So at this point I've got $2865 into a nice running and driving TJ. I haven't sold the TJ yet or scrapped the old blown engine but being able to make all or most of my money back on the V8 swap with this TJ shouldn't be that difficult. Might be worth looking into if you need help justifying your project to the "Mrs".
 

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Nice write up. It is pretty cool to see the complete cost break down. Had you found a complete 4x4 donor truck you could have saved a little money by not needing adapters, but other that that it is a pretty budget minded ordeal. Good job.

One thing you missed though in the cost break down is fluids. It will cost you $75 to fill an empty transmission, another $20 in antifreeze, and another $25 in engine oil. These are some of the little things that are often not figured in.
 

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to me the 5.3 is just a perfect engine. Very powerful., smooth as silk. nearly indestructible. compact and parts are easy to find and work on.
 
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