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Rockwood

Rockwood's Jeep XJ Build

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Well, @tjZ06 beat me to posting about a Jeep project and I'm about 4 years into mine without  build thread.  Good news for you guys is you don't have to wait for updates. :bigrin 

 

So, back in 2016, I bought this pile of shit for $600.  Had a nicely smashed grille, mismatched paint and the water pump was dead.  Kid wanted $2000 for it, but the water pump died before I could make it up there, so he just wanted it gone.  Was a risk on my part since who knows how long he drove it on a dead pump, but it started and ran smooth, shifted well and the NP231 was in good shape.  Good news were it was a 97 with the updated interior, high pinion D30 with 760X U-joints, Chrysler 8.25 rear (basically D44 strength without the aftermarket support), NP231 and AW4 automatic.  

Did the "big three" oil gasket replacements, replaced the water pump, hoses and belt, new grille from Amazon, and threw a $300 Rough Country 3" lift with 31s on her and we were off.  

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Wheeled that way for a while exploring fire roads, etc, and ran into this group of miscreants:

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Being the underbuilt guy was fun and all, but was on the edge quite a bit.  First thing to happen was a regear to 4.56:1 and locking both axles with Spartan "lunchbox" lockers.  These replace the stock spider gears with something that works more like a one way ratchet: locked on power, unlocked off.  Got some beadlocks from @HI turtle and went with General's new at the time X3 in true 33" size.  

33s.thumb.jpg.9738f2f9165683fbccca1e695e37d9c6.jpg

33s and a 3" lift with stock bumpstops wasn't a good idea.  Rockcrawling without armor was an even worse idea:

2094972408_33smud.thumb.jpg.3d97668e522ac2af87f0608e8bc44579.jpg

After trimming the fenders some more and throwing some TJ fender flares on her (no flares looks clean, except when you wheel it: mud gets EVERYWHERE), it was time to beef up the frame and add some armor.  First was to cut out the frowning rockers:

141884028_Jeep3.thumb.jpg.fbb17d853d828f8b8811585005887795.jpg

No going back now.  I added some angle iron to give the 2x6x0.25" rocker replacements something better to weld to:

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And triangulated that back to the now reinforced "frame":

890004745_Jeep5.thumb.jpg.71ad1a031d628a8930958a1342b40f1f.jpg

You can also see where some of my friends' "spotting" got all the way into the doors.  Whoops. Wheeled with these for a while:

1549083178_Jeep7.thumb.jpg.95ed7cd898ce726dbaaac30ffe53ff9d.jpg

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1646078313_Jeep8.thumb.jpg.8d8e7ef90f1697d8e51e74fdcf78b6c6.jpg

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Had a Rubicon trip coming up, so it was time to address the cheap ass lift and complete lack of self-recovery, not to mention ground clearance/armor under the Jeep.  First up was the front bumper and adding a Smittybilt XRC9000 winch.  A little CAD (you can also see the trans and power steering coolers I added, front lockers you can't turn off are hard on PS fluid):

1143218883_Jeep9.thumb.jpg.fa93700cb108beef22e7e1e646ee5979.jpg

Tacked together and made sure everything fits:

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Then burned in and painted (ended up switching to black at a later date):

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Front departure angle was barely affected by the bumper, which is better than most winch bumpers for the XJ:

953643014_Jeep12.thumb.jpg.0a4ce46d1209f529ab04a66dd5b76299.jpg

I did not want to inset the winch below the radiator for maximum clearance because it makes accessing the winch in tight spots (you know, when you usually need it) difficult/sketchy (you have to get under the Jeep to engage the clutch), you can't really see the drum to find out if you're making a bird nest, and you can't easily work on other engine shit near the winch. This was a compromise that did reduce cooling, so more on that later.

Out back, there were a couple of things to address.  First, the stock lower quarterpanels are rock magnets, and if you look at my muddy pic above before sliders, they were rusted out, or smashed to bits:

1595556495_Jeep13.thumb.jpg.0ab3b09d4c75f205e380f9039602181d.jpg

So I did the "cut and fold" method, though this side was more of a cut and add since the stock rocker was so rotted:

1362591856_Jeep14.thumb.jpg.f23c3f313816f3022201dbb5638d836a.jpg

You can also see I was carrying quite a bit of mud around with me.  After a week of grinding, cutting and welding, the rear bumper was mostly done:

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And painted installed:

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Since the Rubicon is really really really hard on aluminum transfer cases and the stock crossmember had seen better days, I cut it up, welded some stiffeners to it, and added skit plates for the transmission and NP231:

1495829384_Jeep17.thumb.jpg.d2d9b05fb4fa511752454513276b168f.jpg

New inverter welder (Harbor Freight's Vulcan MIG) worked a hell of a lot better than the old buzzbox as well.

Managed to flatten the belly quite a bit and gained a little over an inch at the critical center of the wheelbase:

1606313869_Jeep18.thumb.jpg.2b03a38add0a6ae1cbcea7ca8b3a9153.jpg

To address cooling, I added some vents from Rodlouvers.com:

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Air coming out of there is 200*-ish and resulted in almost never needing to turn off the AC (prior to this, the all iron 4.0 would overheat if the AC was on full-tilt on a 110*+ day, not good).  

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8 minutes ago, ROBERT L said:

Cool 

More coming. :bigrin 

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Off to the 'Con we went:

513775677_Jeep20.thumb.jpg.268ccc9c05c5ca9ba901d4536c27807b.jpg1210508209_Jeep21.thumb.jpg.042490f46bbdf9f44cc0d6de57023fda.jpg

Unfortunately, the stock ZJ V8 steering and pumpkin covers weren't at all happy with this trip.  Also added an IRO track bar sometime in there, but no pics of that install):

2015360003_Jeep22.thumb.jpg.2fc4dd12764edce088cb8c9e8eb8742b.jpg820532346_Jeep23.thumb.jpg.3a9e260a63f503158c61af59b2a1d0f8.jpg

Replaced the covers with Solid (brand) cast iron covers and IRO's over the knuckle heim steering kit.  No pics on my phone, but will get some later.

Completely forgot, but prior to the 'con, I swapped out the Rough Country springs for Rubicon Express, and also tilted the spare tire in for a cleaner look/less leverage on the bumper:

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Prior to running the Mojave Trail, I figured we needed some better prep space for camping, so whipped up a quick and dirty table out of 1" steel tube and 0.065" 3000 series aluminum:

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And added a solar shower:

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Which worked great: pressurize the pipe with the air pump I always carry, add a hose and nozzle, and warm-ish (85*) showers are yours.  Nice since the Mojave trail got up over 4000' and was in the 50s.

Unfortunately, the RE 4.5" leaf springs I got were a little longer than stock and pushed the stock hangers into the body once they broke in a little.  Prior to a Sedona, AZ trip, I built some "boomerang" shackles that helped flex/bump travel quite a bit:

1326898877_Jeep28.thumb.jpg.d1ac8a2de95d11a9c1ec8a999f6619b0.jpg

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Like everything with this Jeep, I ended up with another setback:

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Apparently, 1 ton steering and locked 33s aren't kind to the stock uniframe.  This was always in the back of my mind, but after all the wheeling I did with no cracks, I thought I was special.  Guess not.  Oh well, welding time, started by burning in the track bar link since I don't see ever changing it:

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Then made good use of the band saw to cut out my own stiffeners and install:

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Which is pretty much where she sits today. Next mods:

1. 10" King 2.5 triple bypasses

2. RE 5.5" front springs to level it and get a little more spring rate in the front (crashes through front travel on whoops).

3. Truss the Turdy.

4. StinkyFab aluminum 3-link

 

After that, we'll see where we go.  

Edited by Rockwood

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I put the deaver jeep speed coils on my front and really liked them. I also got them for 150$ so that helped. 

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Good job with the mods.  It's come a long way.  

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Just realized in the above pic you can see the axle side track bar relocation and over the knuckle steering pretty well.  Keeping these perfectly parallel is key, as any difference in angles will result in bumpsteer on this type of suspension.  Also, the higher the trackbar's centerline, the higher your roll center is, which is important for a lifted Jeep with no sway bars. :bigrin 

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14 minutes ago, jtmoney714 said:

I put the deaver jeep speed coils on my front and really liked them. I also got them for 150$ so that helped. 

Yeah, that's waaay cheap.  They're $291 (each I believe), so, uh, no thanks. Bypasses should fix most of it. :bigrin 

Radius arms, but same basic setup as I'm running once I throw the shocks on.  Start at 25:00 if the link doesn't automatically take you there.

 

Edited by Rockwood

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So how much do you have into it excluding your labor ?  I love the XJ's

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1 hour ago, Rockwood said:

Which is pretty much where she sits today. Next mods:

1. 10" King 2.5 triple bypasses

2. RE 5.5" front springs to level it and get a little more spring rate in the front (crashes through front travel on whoops).

3. Truss the Turdy.

4. StinkyFab aluminum 3-link

 

After that, we'll see where we go.  

Completely forgot: building a "hybrid cage" for it this Spring.  Something like this guy:

mytruckawesome_zpserqrad7h.jpg

24 minutes ago, hondajimz said:

So how much do you have into it excluding your labor ?  I love the XJ's

$4k-ish.  Once the truss/cage/bypasses/3-link go on, more like $5500.  

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AWESOME thread.... Comacho approved!

I really need to pick up a welder and start practicing on scrap.  The amount of stuff you've been able to do for yourself is amazing, and the results are great!  I like the clean, tucked bumpers you built for yourself (vs. the usual "fat lip" look).  And your tummy-tuck, frame stiffener/track bar fix etc. are all awesome and doing it yourself allowed you to make them just right for YOUR Jeep. 

I'll certainly be interested to see how the bypasses work out for you.  I know they're getting really popular in Jeeps, but I don't picture that much high-speed running in my Heep.  Then again, even just making it easier to run washboard fireroads and stuff at the speeds I usually would in a RZR would be pretty nice.  ;)

The hybrid cage will be awesome too.  I've seen a few done super-nice on WJs that provide the safety/protection you're after without looking too donkey-ass like a full exo on a WJ, and they basically make the roof bars into the base for a nice roof basket, some lights, etc.  

-TJ

 

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Cool thread.....pfft.."Engineer" types...LOL

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36 minutes ago, tjZ06 said:

AWESOME thread.... Comacho approved!

I really need to pick up a welder and start practicing on scrap.  The amount of stuff you've been able to do for yourself is amazing, and the results are great!  I like the clean, tucked bumpers you built for yourself (vs. the usual "fat lip" look).  And your tummy-tuck, frame stiffener/track bar fix etc. are all awesome and doing it yourself allowed you to make them just right for YOUR Jeep. 

I'll certainly be interested to see how the bypasses work out for you.  I know they're getting really popular in Jeeps, but I don't picture that much high-speed running in my Heep.  Then again, even just making it easier to run washboard fireroads and stuff at the speeds I usually would in a RZR would be pretty nice.  ;)

The hybrid cage will be awesome too.  I've seen a few done super-nice on WJs that provide the safety/protection you're after without looking too donkey-ass like a full exo on a WJ, and they basically make the roof bars into the base for a nice roof basket, some lights, etc.  

-TJ

 

Welder is key, and the new inverter units pack so much power into an easily-stored package that it's easy to justify in the garage.  

Bypasses are definitely a luxury, but we drive the Heep to Olds fairly often, so being able to go somewhat fast through the whoops would be awesome.

Hybrid cage is something I should've done a WHILE ago given where I've taken this thing.  XJs don't stand up well to flops.

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49 minutes ago, tjZ06 said:

AWESOME thread.... Comacho approved!

I really need to pick up a welder and start practicing on scrap.  The amount of stuff you've been able to do for yourself is amazing, and the results are great!  I like the clean, tucked bumpers you built for yourself (vs. the usual "fat lip" look).  And your tummy-tuck, frame stiffener/track bar fix etc. are all awesome and doing it yourself allowed you to make them just right for YOUR Jeep. 

I'll certainly be interested to see how the bypasses work out for you.  I know they're getting really popular in Jeeps, but I don't picture that much high-speed running in my Heep.  Then again, even just making it easier to run washboard fireroads and stuff at the speeds I usually would in a RZR would be pretty nice.  ;)

The hybrid cage will be awesome too.  I've seen a few done super-nice on WJs that provide the safety/protection you're after without looking too donkey-ass like a full exo on a WJ, and they basically make the roof bars into the base for a nice roof basket, some lights, etc.  

-TJ

 

I’m all coilovered with internal bypasses and bump stops. My buddy and I with his bypassed xj were doing about 65-70 all the way to duners diner. The g outs though get us good. Hard to slow a heavy jeep down. 

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15 minutes ago, Rockwood said:

Welder is key, and the new inverter units pack so much power into an easily-stored package that it's easy to justify in the garage.  

Bypasses are definitely a luxury, but we drive the Heep to Olds fairly often, so being able to go somewhat fast through the whoops would be awesome.

Hybrid cage is something I should've done a WHILE ago given where I've taken this thing.  XJs don't stand up well to flops.

Floppy xjs🤔

AF0D428A-5590-4DF9-99B5-FD29E78C7453.jpeg

9F38F204-01AC-4C05-9904-DBA6FF972AA2.jpeg

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1 hour ago, jtmoney714 said:

I’m all coilovered with internal bypasses and bump stops. My buddy and I with his bypassed xj were doing about 65-70 all the way to duners diner. The g outs though get us good. Hard to slow a heavy jeep down. 

Yeah. Current Rough Country springs are 160 in-lb. crashes right through the travel on a G-out. Flexes unevenly since the rears are 250+ (Progressive). 

1 hour ago, jtmoney714 said:

Floppy xjs🤔

AF0D428A-5590-4DF9-99B5-FD29E78C7453.jpeg

9F38F204-01AC-4C05-9904-DBA6FF972AA2.jpeg

Damned Asian drivers. :bigrin 

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Looks good Steve

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Steering.  

Originally upgraded to a V8 ZJ tie rod and it worked all right, but was having to adjust the drag link after most trips to re-center the steering since the rest of the "Y-link" wasn't super strong.  Decided that while I was upgrading, I should help steering angles and get the tie rod out of the rocks a little.  After looking at costs to DIY it, I decided it was a no-brainer to let Dirtbound do most of the work for less than $100:

https://dirtboundoffroad.com/products/high-clearance-steering-kit-jeep-xj-mj-tj-zj

Since I was relocating the drag-link's location on the knuckle, I needed to change the track bar angle.  Luckily Sinky Fab (local in Escondido to boot) has a weld-on bracket for the Dana 30:

https://www.stinkyfab.com/collections/xj-steering/products/sfr-raised-track-bar-bracket-axle-end

Again, no brainer: $50 and all I have to do is cut some of the stock bracketry away and zap this on?  SOLD.

After a lot of grinding, sweating and itchyness, the track bar bracket was burned in with some forward tilt to line it up better with the chassis mount:

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And the steering was bolted in (no, that's not gear oil on my tire, just some chain lube to keep some of the squeaking down on the heims):

1925331850_Steering1.thumb.jpg.d313bcddbb557efbfe16679e7de20d75.jpg

As you can see by the red lines highlighting the arcs the drag link and track bar will travel, I got it pretty damned close angle wise, and length isn't too far off.  There is some bump-steer, but it is very minor.  Unfortunately, my IRO double shear track bar was too long since it was designed to go under the axle instead of over it.  Luckily, I had some 1.75"x0.120" tube and was able to cut, butt-weld and sleeve it. I also had to add some rubber to keep the noise down from the tie-rod and drag link hitting each other on bumps (heims allow free pivot even under load, so they will bounce a little).  

What I noticed:

Body roll was greatly reduced.  This is a concern since I'm not running any sway bars.    The track bar's centerpoint is the roll center on a parallel 4-link live axle, so raising the track bar makes it so the Jeep's center of gravity has less leverage on the suspension during cornering.  

Heims are definitely noisier than regular old TREs.  

@L.R.S. was correct with his tip on using anti-seize on heims and misalignment spacers as galling was evident after only a couple hundred miles.  Also cut down on the amount of re-torquing I needed to do.  I have drawn inspection marks (red ink barely visible in the above pic) through all fasteners, heims and the knuckle/pitman arm.  Will need to add cotter pins to everything as it makes me nervous.  

Dirtbound doesn't give you shit for instructions.  One thing to keep in mind is that washers or mounting locations MUST capture the rod end ball in the event of failure in the joint.  The washers provided are big enough to do so, but if you make your own, keep this in mind when selecting hardware.  I will eventually swap out the Dirtbound misalignment spacers for safety versions to cut down on hardware.  

Since this is single-shear, I will replace the long bolt on the passenger side annually.  Overkill?  Maybe, but I'd rather not have a failure...  The other bolts are larger than stock (the knuckles/pitman must be reamed to 5/8") and my guess is the hard part will likely fail before the hardware. 

 

Edited by Rockwood

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What did you get from dirtbound for $100? That kit is $270.

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Nice work Rock.  I'm not a jeep guy but love the fab skills!  

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49 minutes ago, Kraut_n_Rice said:

What did you get from dirtbound for $100? That kit is $270.

The materials were gonna be in the $100-150-ish range.  Was $229 when I bought it.

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Did notice you mention... But did you do a drop Pitman with the crossover?

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3 hours ago, Kraut_n_Rice said:

Did notice you mention... But did you do a drop Pitman with the crossover?

Didn’t.  Wanted to keep the steering tucked up as much as possible. 

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