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2000 TJ: Where do I begin?

petervenkman

New Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2019
Messages
3
Location
Long Island, NY
Hey y'all, this story begins with a 2000 TJ Sport 4.0 that my father in law drove for about 16 years. Since then, it has sat for the last two years or so. It had an inch of water in the tub, all the tires are dry rotted beyond use, it has a circa 2002 Viper alarm system that drains the battery within 3 days of a full charge and most of the suspension looks like its garbage. The positives are: it only has 96,000 miles on it, the 4.0 still runs strong, the frame and tub don't look totally shot despite the NY winters.
IMG_0277.jpg

As it's a bit of a family heirloom and I've always wanted at TJ, I am going to restore the old girl to her former glory. The only problem is, I have no idea where to begin. I don't have a ton of experience working on cars outside of bolt ons, lift kits and the occasional youtube truck build binge. I have a decent budget, but not nearly enough to do everything I want at once. I want to eventually build it into something more than just a Jeep to drive out onto the beach with. But I figure what better way to learn all of this than with a free Jeep.

My idea is to turn the TJ back into a reliable driver first. My thought is a complete teardown to the frame. Repair and protect the frame, repair and repaint the tub, replace the disintegrated fenders and give the engine a nice overhaul. Basically, I'd like to clean everything up, replace what needs replacing and go from there. At that time I think I'd put a lift on and 33's.

This is where I start to lose the plot and why I'm turning to this forum. My ultimate goal is a pretty stoutly built jeep with at least Dana 44s and 37s. I want to get the Jeep back on the road and driveable before I go dropping $15,000 into axles, gears, lockers, 37s and all that goes with it.

If I stick with the plan of a more cosmetic rebuild now and then moving on to a more serious build after my wallet recovers and I know that the Jeep is sound, should I get the lift kit that will eventually handle 37s? I was thinking Metalcloak 6" long arm lift but I'm open to suggestions if anyone has some. Would 33s look absolutely ridiculous or be totally impractical for a year or two with a long arm lift kit?

I also would like to eventually repower it at some point. Either a TDI or LS swap. I don't think I necessarily have to make my mind up about it now, but what should I be thinking about when getting the jeep back in running order to make a swap easier in the future?

Any and all insight anyone has as I begin to tear this thing down would be greatly appreciated. Thanks a lot!

IMG_0283.jpg
 

Chris

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Salem, Oregon
This is where I start to lose the plot and why I'm turning to this forum. My ultimate goal is a pretty stoutly built jeep with at least Dana 44s and 37s. I want to get the Jeep back on the road and driveable before I go dropping $15,000 into axles, gears, lockers, 37s and all that goes with it.
First off, do you have any idea how much it's going to cost you to run 37s on your TJ successfully?

To start with, you'll need Dana 60s, not Dana 44s. In addition, you'll need to stretch the wheelbase, likely go to a coilover setup, big brakes, hydro-assist, and so much work that you'll easily put 30k into it to do it right. Ask @toximus how much work it's been getting his setup for 37s. If you think 15k is going to do it, you're gravely mistaken.

The biggest tire you can fit on a stock TJ wheelbase (and Dana 44s) is going to be a 35" tire, which is still going to require a lot of work and money.

Secondly, that frame has rot on it, which I can clearly see. That's going to require cutting out the sections of the frame that are rotted and welding in new sections. While you're in there, you'll likely find more rust, which is going to require even more sections of the frame being replaced.

However, the place to start is definitely the frame. You need to get under it and assess the damage. If it's only a few sections that need to be replaced, it might be worth it to just do that. However, I'm guessing it needs an entirely new frame (especially if you look at the inside of the frame), at which point it becomes a very large project.

I don't mean to discourage you, I'm just not sure I'd be wiling to take this on unless you want a sizable project and have a very large amount of money to spend.
 

tworley

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May 23, 2018
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3,257
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Morrison, CO
The frame is definitely flirting with it. Get it inspected thoroughly. You can take a hammer and start whacking (hard) around the rust spots, even using a screwdriver and stabbing in areas. You will find out quickly if its rusting thru. They do make Saf-T-Caps which requires you to cut out the rot, and you can weld the new caps in place. If water has been sitting inside, check the floor boards for rust too. Get the rust checked out and if possible, fixed. Then worry about getting it running up to par with a good tuneup, fluid change, and other driveline repairs if needed. After that, if you still want to run 37s, we can help you easily spend $20k-30k.
 
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Vasq

finally out of the garage
Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2019
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347
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Everett, WA
x2 on what @Chris said above. But I would also like to emphasize that there are many build threads on here where people are doing frame swaps and complete restorations. If I were in your position and determined to do a complete tear down and re-assemble I would start with a 2.5-4 inch lift kit and 33's and making the Jeep reliable and restored along the way. Once it's back together and you've reveled in the glory that comes from accomplishing such a task, I would just drive and use it. If your needs end up requiring 35" tires, it will be much easier to jump from your fresh jeep that you now have a new found intimacy with, then to try to figure out everything before/during tearing it down and getting bogged down. Hope that makes sense ✌
 
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toximus

TJ Expert
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Mar 29, 2018
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Northern WI
While I highly suggest keeping in mind your ultimate goal and not wasting time and money building what really isn't your end goal, I do suggest taking your time to make sure that you fix all of the parts on this Jeep that you will be keeping and get it running and driving good first. How stupid would it be to spend a huge amount of money on running 37s properly only to have a bunch of engine problems or doors that don't close right? Pay attention to anything that bothers you and fix it.

Next, drive the Jeep offroad, on the beaches, and see if you enjoy it and pay attention to what doesn't work well and what you'd like to improve. How stupid would it be to spend a ton of money on running 37s if 33s fit your needs better? Even if you lightly build for 33s and run them for a few years to see how they work the cost is peanuts compared to 37s.

37s are a slippery slope because, for example, if you're really wanting the 37s for offroad you're going to want to be able to air them down to only a few psi, to do that you're going to want beadlocks which adds to the cost. Sure, you could run normal rims at a higher psi but why go through ALL of the work building for 37s if you're not going to use them to their full? Same with how you mentioned an engine swap, if you want to actually be able to spin the 37s down the road you'll need more HP which costs even more money... because why build for 37s if you can't make them go? All of that adds more time and money which is why I have no clue at this point how much I've spent on building for 37s.

If you find out that you really are crazy and you can't live without 37s check out my Red LJ build thread. All of the info you need is in there.

$20k-30k.
Are you offering a sale? ;)
 
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Chris

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I also don't mean to discourage you. I just want you to know that the frame needs to be really throughly inspected before making a decision on what to do. If the frame is mostly rusted (check it with an endoscope too), it's easier to get a new, rust free frame (they run around $1500) as it will save you time, money, and frustration.

In regards to fitting 37s, I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm simply telling you that 37s have no place on a TJ (unless it's an Unlimited model) without spending a very large sum of money. The wheelbase is simply too short for that size of tire, and the 4.0 in stock form isn't going to power those 37s very well unless you plan to use it for off-road only.

30k to run 37s would be on the cheap side too. We could probably very easily help you spend 50-60k if you wanted to run 37s and do it with really high quality parts.
 

InOmaha

TJ Enthusiast
Joined
Sep 26, 2019
Messages
253
Location
Omaha
That Viper security system will probably take a while to sort out if it was installed by a hack and slash monkey at a typical Best Buy type store. My daughter's old Suzuki Grand Vitara had one with a remote start that was a pain until I figured out the door lock was leaking water and shorting it. I thought about taking it out, but they hacked and spliced into everything and taped it all back into a ball of wires under the dash and in the steering column. So I left it and we dealt with it's occasional weirdness, like occasionally not being able to start the car until you locked and unlocked it a couple times.

Fix or remove the security system, fix the frame, check the tub for rot under the carpet and fix the leak that let in 1" of water, put new tires on it and drive it. Frame concerns first. Fix any issues with the engine after driving it for a while. Go from there.
 
OP
petervenkman

petervenkman

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Joined
Nov 5, 2019
Messages
3
Location
Long Island, NY
Thanks for the responses everyone. I think you reinforced what I was guessing, although I was hoping I could get something built for less than a down payment on a house. Thanks for the reality check though.

The picture of the frame seems to be the worst spot. The rest of it still has paint on it for the most part, but I haven’t done an exhaustive look at it and I’m sure if it’s bad there it will be as bad elsewhere. I’m going to start tearing it down to the frame this weekend and go from there. I think I am gonna borrow a snake camera and needle scaler from work and see what I come up with?

I’ll put some pictures up as it comes apart. I appreciate the guidance you’ve all offered so far.
 
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gaabbee

Member
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
31
Location
long island ny
Where on the island are you? Most beaches around here frown upon tires bigger then 33's. Not sure where you plan on wheeling it but places like Rausch Creek are over 3 hrs away. I suggest all of the above. Fix/replace the frame, tune up and go with a quality 4 inch lift and 33's and keep it highway friendly. Look into rust proofing also.
 
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petervenkman

petervenkman

New Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2019
Messages
3
Location
Long Island, NY
Where on the island are you? Most beaches around here frown upon tires bigger then 33's. Not sure where you plan on wheeling it but places like Rausch Creek are over 3 hrs away. I suggest all of the above. Fix/replace the frame, tune up and go with a quality 4 inch lift and 33's and keep it highway friendly. Look into rust proofing also.
Thanks! I’m in Bellmore, how about you? I hit the beaches from time to time, but my two big off-road activities are a trip out to Utah each year and my family has some property up in the Adirondacks. Mostly old logging roads with a couple of interesting climbs/obstacles. A capable off-road rig gives access to a couple of great camping spots. I have a Colorado ZR2 that is great, but I’d love to have a dedicated off-road/camping rig and then a beater to commute with. The Colorado is awful MPG-wise and making it more off-road worthy (although it’s fun and plenty capable as is) would make it a worse everyday driver.

I haven’t been out to Rausch in a while, I’d love to get back out there soon. Do you head out there often?
 

gaabbee

Member
Joined
May 13, 2019
Messages
31
Location
long island ny
I'm in Ronkonkoma. Utah seems a little far for me but owning land upstate is something I have thought about doing. I have not been to Rausch yet but hopefully next year! I can't picture rolling out to Utah on 37's!
 

Tigger09

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2018
Messages
95
Location
Chicago, IL
Get a cheap scope off Amazon and check out the frame above the skid plate or try and drop the skid plate. That area, inside the frame rail and the bottom of it, will give you a really good idea of what you're dealing with. I had a frame that looked good till I dropped the skid plate and the bottom of the frame rail was 90% gone. Good news is safetcaps aren't a huge deal in that area if needed especially if you have everything off the frame.
 

DustyRhodes03

TJ Enthusiast
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
155
Location
Nova Scotia, Canada
It always gets me the difference in what people consider acceptable condition with a vehicle. In N.S you'd be hard pressed to find any vehicle on the road that doesn't look like that underneath if it's 10 yrs old or older and most people here wouldn't even flinch looking at that. I think it's a good starting point for a project for sure, I'm starting off with a lot worse so it definitely can be done and doesn't need to be as expensive as you'd think!
Don't be discouraged by people who wont buy a vehicle unless it looks the same as it did when it arrived at the dealership.
 
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