04 LJK Repair, Redo, Recycle - The 3 R's of a First Build


The Church of Cutting Brakes of Atlas-Front Digs
Supporting Member
Ride of the Month Winner
Jul 26, 2019
"Quit paying people to F*ck your sh!t up" - Mr. Blaine

I'm going to capture my current build status here for ease of access:

Front - Ultimate Dana 44 (JK Rubicon) 2.5"OD x 5/16" wall, 65"WMS, 5.13 gears, stock JK Rubicon electronic locker, savvy truss, C-gussets, Reid high-steer knuckles, Rare Parts Balljoints. Chromoly ECGS shafts with spicer UJ's.
Rear - ECGS built 489 (JK gears), 3"OD tubes, 65WMS, semi-float, 35-spline Ox Locker air actuated, chromoly rear shafts. Savvy truss widened to clear jk44.
Brakes: JL HD dual piston front from 2018 Sahara, JL rear flipped to front of axle. All custom stainless hardlines brake lines on axles, AN3 brake fittings. Jk 2 Dr ebrake-cables.

Front - 12" Fox 2.0 Factory Coilovers RR, 2" travel Fox hyrdo bump stops, 150/250 spring stack, limit strapped, Savvy Midarm 3-Link, 2.0" OD steel LCA with MetalCloak joints, 1.75" OD Aluminum (WOD) with currie 9113 joints.
Rear - Outboarded 12" Fox 2.0 Factory Shock with LSC adjuster, Currie LJ 4" lift spring, NOW RUNNING COMPLETE SAVVY MIDARM!! YAY!

Genright high line fenders, savvy aluminum front bumper, metal cloak sliders, metal cloak steel rear quarter armor, metal cloak rear fender, Savvy tub sliders, DIY 3/8" 6061 skid, DIY Xmember with JL control a bushings, SWAG DIY rear bumper, MorRyde Exogate spare holder with modified OEM mount to hold 37" JK wheel/tire, SWAG high clearance body mounts, Savvy 1.25" body lift, MORE 1" rubber engine lift. Custom cage. JK Rear seat back swapped to LJ rear seat base. ARB dual compressor and MORE over engine mount. ARB distribution block / expansion tank.

37 Milestar Patagonia, Trailready beadlocks 17", 4.5" backspacing

Track Bar: Custom straight track bar with FKB-RSMX(L)12 heims with 3/4" bolts.
Drag Link: Wide Open Designs solid aluminum link 1.5"OD with 7/8-18 thread with Parts Mike ES2027L GM drag link TRE (fits pitman arm), Knuckle end Parts Mike EX2234RHD TRE (speficially fits Reid knuckle). Parts Mike flat pitman arm taper drilled at 5.0".
Tie Rod: Yeti steer smarts HD tie rod.

**************************************** THE HISTORY ********************************
This thread comes at a point where I stopped doing things quickly and started doing them right. Encouraged and informed by the TJ guru himself and guided heavily by Tox's build thread I have finally reached a good pause point to reflect and document. Funds and responsibility have forced me to enjoy what i have for a year or so until I can complete the rear.

My story starts with a Toyota. Don't anyone freak out. I was happily beating the piss out of 98 purple 4 cylinder bone stock tacoma in college. After participating in SAE Baja i fell in love with dirt driving. I got a job and threw ICON suspension on my new 05 Taco. Jumped it in the dunes, beat the everloving piss out of it for 9 years on logging roads, hunting, skiing trips and began upgrading parts to Fox, adding skid plates, high clearance this and that. I went on my first mild trail run and realized i need to straight axle swap this thing and put in a dual transfer case. It was my daily though, so instead I thought you know i should just get a *cheap* jeep and learn about straight axles...

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Ah the cheap jeep. My 05 Taco was my first non wrecked vehicle. I have repaired a few vehicles mostly doing the bolting and unbolting an paying to have the big stuff done.

I got a fam with pet and kids and all that so a TJ was out. I started shopping for an LJ. Sh!t those are expensive.

In a previous life i was all about Camaro's. I've owned three and was still hanging onto my first car i bought when i was 14. A split bumper 70 camaro. It had been sitting since 2001. So i got it running and sold it. Now we had some LJ funds to play with.

I located a wrecked LJ, khaki colored in Spokane, automatic (I knew i wanted auto after trying to wheel my manual Tacoma), and hit in the rear driver corner. It looked easily repairable and at 80K miles was exactly what i needed. It cost $800 more than i sold my Camaro for. Main damage was sheet metal in quarter and ripped off track bar bracket on rear Dana 44.

I got the rear track bar bracket welded back on from a guy on craigslist and sold the axle.

I had a few goals with this project. When i had my Taco I always wanted long-travel and I LOVE great suspension. I knew i wanted Dana 44's because you know thats what it takes to be CORE. Then i started reading about how i was going to need bigger brakes, and wider axles for better stability and I wanted to do something different so i stumbled onto using JK axles. i would get the bigger badder axles, better brakes, lockers and gears. The only problem was I had no skills and very little jeep knowledge.

Long story short, i ended up buying pre-built JK44 axles from ECGS. Front used Arctec brackets. I had read Imped's thread on jeep forum extensively but again i had no welder or welding skill or anything. I requested ECGS center the springs but they told me not to and that I didnt really need a full length track bar. I was able to install the rear axle myself and i drove the rig to the same craigslist guy who did my track bar bracket with a Dana 30 and 31" tires in front and the JK44 and 35"s on the back. I fought death wobble the whole way (my first experience and unfortunately not my last). I told the guy the change what he needed to and trusted him to know how to build good suspension geometry. He didn't do anything crazy bad but used the arctec brackets as they were and made it work in the cheapest quickest manner. I was stoked. didn't know any better and thought i was done with the build.

This was all metalcloak everything because I thought the internet decided they were the best. It actually wheeled pretty good. ox locker in rear, rubicon locker in front. C's were clocked 11 degrees separation from pinion. Bump steer was shit probably due to track bar being 9" shorter than drag link.

It drove OK but it haunted me. I knew it wasn't done right. The bumpsteer was one of those irksome things that makes you mad everytime it happens. I was able to ignore it for 2 years while i worked on other upgrades until after 5,000 miles i burned up a set of Dana balljoints and got deathwobble.

I did a mini project of making the jeep driveable where i replace ball joints, track bar heim. I also pulled the springs and cycled suspension and found 3 different things that made contact before the bumpstops. The steering stab hit the track bar. The drag link hit the sway bar axle bracket and the bump stop pad hit the frame side track bar mount. UGH. i had work to do.


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Another item damaged during the wreck was the hardtop. It had about 14" of linear cracks and busted out the rear window. I thought this would be a good time to try out fiberglass repair for the first time.

I used SMC fiberglass resin and fiberglass matte along with epoxy to fill the big cracks. It came out reasonably well and i was able to sell the hardtop for $800. Also found a pic of the rear damage.

if you've cracked your hardtop I would encourage you to fix it with confidence. I wheeled it for 6 months with the hard top no cracks or anything developed. Kind of surprised it was that easy to fix and the cracks were deep and many.



I suppose it's worth it if you get 'em for free. I'd likely be Frankensteining the crap out of it without much regard to looks if I was in the same situation.

There are certain problems I just don't mess with and I leave to the professionals. Your Jeep seems to have them all. :)
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Damn, that's quite a project, but it looks like it's coming along nicely! Love the story too!
@B00mb00m Are you posting back from over the last few years or is this a different Jeep? How's the front working out for you after the work you did?
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Yes I'm hitting all the big projects I did from the past few years since I've never done a build thread so I can get to the great coilover swap of 2019.

Over all very happy with how it's performing. Im just dialing in caster now. Every little bit helps. Also breaking in new gears now since my first test ride the pinion bearing cage blew up.
I suppose it's worth it if you get 'em for free. I'd likely be Frankensteining the crap out of it without much regard to looks if I was in the same situation.

There are certain problems I just don't mess with and I leave to the professionals. Your Jeep seems to have them all. :)
Do mean a wrecked vehicle or fixing a hardtop? Getting a wrecked vehicle is a great option if youre planning to get rid of OEM stuff anyway. LJ prices not wrecked are outrageous up here. It was definitely beneficial for me to buy wrecked.
Changed the title, didnt want it to seem like i am bitching, just that this whole learning by doing means a lot of doing then redoing. I swear I could get good at building if I could do things a third time!
So after getting it running initially I got it inspected by state patrol and licensed with no trouble despite not having much for fenders. I was very grateful that went so smoothly.

I realized I needed to learn to weld in a real way. I borrowed a little 110 wire feed welder with flux core and started teaching myself. I found 5 welding projects that had low criticality and i would recommend these as great first welding projects for anyone wanting to start "fabbing" some parts.

1. Removeable mud flaps. I used some telescoping tube with aluminum that slides in steel. I welded the tube to a plate and picked up the bumper holes / bolts so i didn't have to drill holes in my frame.
2. JK 2 door rear seat back. The second phase i tried to add some safety stuff. Part of reason i got the jeep was so i could have a hobby that the kids could be a part of. I really didn't like that the TJ seat has no headrest. I copied what some other folks have done and performed some surgery on the JK seat back to narrow the bottom so that it would mount to the TJ rear seat. It was my first project where i had to make brackets and stuff and it was ugly. really ugly. BUt it works and has been in use and thankfully no one can see the welds.
3. DIY rear bumper from SWAG. This was a great welding projet with intro to tubes mating to plates. Weird angles, sheet, plate, tube and even really thick pieces for the tow points. IT also tucks up nice and tight to the frame and has a hitch point for maybe a rack or recover point but wouldn't use it to tow anything serious.
4. Transmission cooler. I like to drive my heep on forest roads but the problem is most of the steep hills i have to drive match perfectly with 2nd gear. 2nd gear the computer will not lock the torque converter and so the transmission heats up. Ive seen it get up to 220F even with a cooler. This was part of the doing things twice. The first cooler i added was free and it kept heating up on those long hills. I ordered the largest cooler i could get off amazon that would fit and removed the V-bar and welded up a new brace to mount the bigger cooler off of. Well even to this day the transmission heats up on the long logging roads in 2nd gear. I posted a pic comparing the first and 2nd cooler pic. This leads me to one of my latest projects I added the 2-LOW selector in my xfer case so I can just run the forest roads in 2-Low and not slip my torque converter.
5. Spare tire carrier. Its cool that as you start to make stuff you realize problems arent so bad when you can glue metal where you want it. When i switched from 35's to 37s I needed to do something to hold the new bigger tire close to the tailgage but farther up than the original exo gate held the tire. So i cut up the OEM tire mount, moved it as high as it could go on the exogate and added some braces. It works perfect and holds my tire just a fraction of an inch above the bumper.

Anyways, these are great projects to start welding and making brackets and stuff and all you need is an angle grinder and welder. I have since stepped up to a hobard 210MVP its a wonderful welder. I highly recommend 220V and gas shielding. I am looking forward to trying the aluminum spool for this welder. If anyone has experience with it please holler and let me know any tips or reviews. I want to start making some aluminum plate stuff.







I’d like to know how the highline went sometime. I’m somewhere near you here in WA, contemplating highlines.
I’d like to know how the highline went sometime. I’m somewhere near you here in WA, contemplating highlines.

Yes ill be getting into all that. The highlines are honestly a pain in the ass. Lol. The battery did not fit well at all but made it work. That being said. I love the highlines. Loads of tire clearance and great style. The angle of my coilovers and the cross brace made things more complicated.
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part of why I wanted to get into wheeling is so I could have a hobby I could do with my family. My next order of business was safety related adding a real cage. I knew this was above my pay grade. I shopped around and finally found a legit shop, who I should've had do my front axle. We talked about options. I wanted tubes through the dash no stanchions like most tj cages. They had experience in keeping the heat ducts in tact which was important. I wanted real triangulation on the B pillar and a crown in the rear. I had seen a cage that Blaine did once where they tied into the rockers so in requested they try that. Overall the cage turned out great. Theses past couple years as the kids grow they do not appreciate the b pillar triangulation though... I may have to look into moving the seat back. If you're in the PNW Check Those Guys Customs out over on the peninsula. They do great work and have a stellar reputation.

The Jk rear seat back was part of the same safety phase adding a headrest for the kids.






While the shop was building the cage it was pretty reasonable to have them add in out boarded shocks. I got some fox 2.0's tuned from full stack Motorsports. Before outboarding I had the Ome Shocks front and rear. It was really bad. They were really under damped. Driving down the road I couldn't put my head against the headrest because the jeep was basically bouncing back and forth between the front and rear springs.

After outboarding the suspension was much better! Paul's tune really rode great but it also made me HATE the front suspension and basically every time I drove it I thought, dammit I need to fix this front suspension.

In the art of redoing though, even the very well respected shop didn't do things perfect. For a 1.5 years I could not figure out where this knocking came from. It was only after I finished the front that I was certain it was coming from the back end. Finally I jumped on the bumper and realized something was either hitting the shocks or the shock itselt was knocking. I sent the shocks back to fullstsck for a rebuild and he added LSC adjusters and I went in and ground relief around the outboard bracket where it was close to the shock. After all that the knocking stopped. Nothing notable was found inside the shock so I assume the bracket was the culprit.

Now fast forward a year and a half with the front midarm the front now out performs the rear. Next year I will do the rear midarm 4-link and all that's associated with that.

This was the last major old mod I wanted to include before I get onto the front repair / redo cycle.


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Nice build, I like the those guys cage, I thought about having them do mine since I always liked their work but my ex brother-inlaw bought a bender so I was able to use his.
Where in Washington are ya out of?
Nice build, I like the those guys cage, I thought about having them do mine since I always liked their work but my ex brother-inlaw bought a bender so I was able to use his.
Where in Washington are ya out of?

I'm in Snohomish area. Just finally got out to walker last weekend!

Right on, I used to Jeep with a bunch of people out in the snohomish area.
Walker is a lot of fun, I was thinking a couple nights ago about getting my group to head up there next month

Let me know I plan to be going quite a bit.
Fast forward from previous modifications. I last wheeled at walker valley in April 2019. I was beginning the major reworking of the front axle and suspension. I was very excited that any one of these modifications would've greatly improved the front end and I was going to try to be smarter than my previous attempts and do it all at once! I sold my Tacoma and had some money to play with.
1. Savvy midarm / 3 link. Potholes. They were the WORST on my short arms. Not sure if it was the Ome shocks or 4.5" lift or wider axle with big tires. I was hoping to improve the bump compliance by going with midarms and getting rid of that front to back hopping in low traction situations.
2. Fox 2.0 RR coilovers. I went coilovers mainly for packaging. I needed a full length track bar and wanted air bumps and knew that would be easiest with coilovers. I chose 12" because honestly the crawling was good even on OMEs and being I have very little Fab skills I was only chasing the easy 90% not the last 10% that requires all the extra work. 12" travel is actually 4" shorter than a 14" co. Additionally, my rear shocks are 12" and have already been outboarded. I chose fox due to stainless shafts and I had trouble with rusty shafts on my ICON coilovers on my Tacoma.
3. Full length trackbar. When the artec brackets were used on the jk axle I ended up with a trackbar 9" shorter than drag link. Bumpsteer sucks I don't like it and I was going to get rid of it and do it right. I copied Blaine's mount on the knuckle.
4. Up travel. I was driving around previously with 3.5" uptravel. I honestly didn't notice it too bad but I had 3 points of contact that were not the bumpstops due to shitty work the first time. So... Complete redu.
5. Highlines. I cant lie, I like the looks of highlines. The highlines separate the men from the boys. They say, yes I'm willing to cut a perfectly good hood for uptravel. In my case with 37's and the extra trackwidth I might have got by with my metal cloak fenders for the up but the back sloping edge would've limited me. So I actually did highlines just to get space behind the tire.
6. Ram assist. I wasn't going to do this but in taking with the expert the PSE gearbox is slightly different location for the pitman arm mount so if I setup my steering with the Mercedes box then I'd have to redo it with the pse box. So I upgraded then figure well if I'm buying the gear and building the surrounding mounts I may as well integrate the ram now. I am glad I did! Wheeling with the ram is awesome and its integrated very tightly definitely do it when you build the surrounding mounts.
7. Finally....highsteer. I had been running stock Jk Knuckles that tie rod is like the first thing to hit Everytime. I needed to get that thing up. Course the higher drag link affects your trackbar mount so the Reid's were a now or never decision.

That's it. It was officially go-time.

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