72afr's 2004 TJ Rubicon


72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
Hello!

In a small bit of self-realization over the last six months, I've come to the conclusion that I no longer remember everything. So, in an attempt to log my purchases, changes, and repairs, and maybe help others looking to replicate some decisions, I'm starting another build thread. The previous two I started recently are linked in my signature and jump to other forums for a truck I built in high school (and still have) and a daily I'm refreshing/improving.

I've been around Jeeps literally my entire life. When my parent's got married they were a two Jeep family. My dad's '74 (?) CJ5 with a 304 and side pipes and their brand new '83 CJ7 they purchased off the floor room. This CJ would be my mom's daily driver for the next 20 years and where I would spend a lot of time. They used to take the 5 and run rivers down south with a group and would have their own "club" that has since evolved into a camping group. In '93 there was a huge flood in our area and my mom was working late with this in the parking lot. When we went to pick her up, I can remember being able to see a 4' ish triangle of the hardtop sticking out of the water while other cars floated around it. After buying it back from insurance, my dad tore into cleaning it all up and I got to help. Helping to rebuild the carb at about 7 years old. While the Jeep was back on the road, there are still a few things that couldn't be reworked correctly, the dash clock being one. Regardless, the Jeep has been under their ownership since new (even though they've threatened to sell it) and just recently got a mild refresh in new tires and a lifter repair after I purchased my TJ. For those fighting a computerized CJ as this is, I recommend looking into the Nutter bypass.

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Luckily, I found a Mrs who also comes from a Jeep family, although not to the extents of my familial background, but a win is a win. They've perpetually had at least 3 Jeeps at once, with most being XJs. Not long after we started dating, they purchased an '01 TJ Sport and we'd steal it whenever we could. After we got married, we we're also a two Jeep family in a XJ and ZJ although neither were show stopping. Always wanting an actual CJ or Wrangler to be able to strip it down and have some fun, I was constantly looking. My boss at the time was in the process of building an '03 Sport on to 35's and was constantly bringing up questions as I was the in-house "Jeep guy". As he never kept a vehicle more than a year, he eventually traded it for an '04 Rubicon site unseen. As I was helping him with home audio during his basement remodel, I noticed it sitting in his garage. Pretty clean inside and out, and not an insane amount of miles at 125k, and the biggest thing: unmolested. I told him if he was ever interested in selling to let me know and after a month he was. During the test drive, we noticed some clicking during turns some electrical issues (resistor) and a crazy shake at highway speed. I talked him down from what he wanted and took a gamble on the issues. As this would be my daily at the time with two little ones, my parents tried to talk me out. Once their hypocrisy was noted, I came home with it.

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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
The Jeep came with a hardtop and soft top, with the rails still installed inside the cab and the fabric/surrounds separate. Looking it over, I don't believe the hardtop or doors had ever been removed. The paint was still 100% intact on the door nuts and not marred (which I succeed in doing). I believe the soft top is original as well. Based on the paperwork that accompanied the Jeep (including the original window sticker) this was ordered new for someone in NY and bought later in southern MO by the guy who my boss traded it for. As my boss maybe drove it for a month (not his daily at that), I essentially consider myself the 3rd owner. I think everyone who had this just drove it how it was.

Rubicon package, Auto, and dual tops. Going from the build sheet I got, the only thing missing was the Add-a trunk.

Jumping into fixing some of the issues, I replaced the HVAC resistor under the dash and filled up the rear diff. This took care of the clicking heard during the test drive and I've had no issues since. I think the PO just didn't maintain anything. My boss had one of the front fenders replaced due to rust right before I bought it (we even did the pick up at the body shop) and they replaced one of the milk jugs at the same time. Since one was faded and the other not, I just took them both off.

Fearing the shake was the infamous death wobble (which I had on my ZJ), I was reluctant to spend much more until I figured it out. The tires were showing their age and were due for a replacement, so I pulled the trigger on a set of 265/75/16 KO2s. To my honest surprise, the shake was gone! I've since put about 28k miles on this without any shaking.
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As some of the dash bulbs were burned out, I replaced the entirety with LED's from superbrightleds and did the same for the HVAC control and lower dash switches (save for the locker switch). Ideally I wanted the HVAC controls to be white like everything else, but couldn't quite get them to turn out right. So I settled on blue. The bulb I picked up for the shift indicator didn't fit and is the only remaining bulb to date. I'd like to swap out the color on this as well, but if I recall is a pain in the but. About the same time, the stock radio quite playing CD's, so I swapped in a Kenwood I've been dragging around for the better part of a decade (damn thing is still one of the better receivers I've had).

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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
Shortly after this, our second was born and the TJ was our escort home from the hospital. About a month after that, I tore into a deck remodel on our house and all excess funds and free time went into that. I made up some seatbelt tie backs for the rear as the car seats used the LATCH system, but really I just drove it as it was for roughly a year.

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The following summer continued without much change. I added a soft top boot and flag from Foreverwave. I also swapped out the orange fender markers with Depo Smoked lenses and Rugged Ridge black headlight surrounds. I picked up a sunshade from TuffShade to keep the sun off of the little ones and leave it on perpetually. I know a lot of people opt for the alien shade, but this one has zippable pockets near the windshield corners that I've used more than once. I also replaced the faded rear milk jugs to clean it up a bit. Needed to replace the multi-function switch due to the fogs not turning off, but really a quiet year for the TJ. I also picked up some black grille inserts as the factory radiator was starting to shed paint and I'm too particular to let it go. Yes, I could've touched up the paint, but I like excuses to buy things too.

First time taking the doors off though! After about 13 years in place, they did not want to come off. It took about an hour to free them and even broke out the floor jack to try to get them out. Haven't had near the issue since. I picked up a Rugged Ridge side mirror to run with the doors off. It wasn't great, but not awful. However, when I took it off, I noticed it scuffed the paint under the gasket, which I still haven't been able to correct. The mirror sits in a box now when I run doorless.

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(sorry for the long pic, I was taking it for my phone background)
 
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
Going back through some old photos and apparently more happened that year than I thought. I also added the Smittybilt overhead GEAR storage, the Tuffy under seat storage and mounted an LED Maglite to my driver seat.

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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
Kicking off 2018 with some Christmas gift installs!

Warn Rock Crawler bumper, Warn D-Rings, and Daystar Isolators
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
That April I found a guy on my local craigslist looking to offload a Warn XD9000i with synthetic line, mounting plate, and roller fairlead for $400. He was in the process of moving and just needed to get rid of it for less to move. The guy even drove 40 minutes to me to make it happen. Tested on a 12v that everything worked and off I went. After reading how a synthetic line should really have a Hawse fairlead and not being a fan of the mounting plate it came with, I picked up a Smittybilt plate and Poison Spyder fairlead. I had a bit of trouble disconnecting the plate from the winch as one of the PO's used too small hex nuts, so I wound up cutting them apart. The hook was also fun as the roll pins didn't want to move. Eventually I got everything switched out and mounted up. At the same time I put on my new KC Highlites.
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And this pic accurately shows my jeep pissin' itself after I replaced a U-joint. I still need to replace the inner seal on that.
 
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
Shortly after this, I put on N-Fab Rock sliders. While they aren't recommended for rock crawling, that isn't my use case. They help protect the body from slung gravel and will be mounted with steps when my future lift goes on. I'm quite happy with them. I also put on a 3/4" Daystar spacer set to fix the extreme rake from the bumper and winch combo. I picked up some entry covers to mask the worn off paint on the driver's side. Here's my munchins ready for a cruise.
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
I also added some Polk 6.5" to the speaker pods with poly fill to occupy the void space.
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
That summer, I picked up the Bestop Highrock rear bumper with carrier for a steal and put in on. Install wasn't awful, but took some time. Mostly trying to get old rusted bolts and nuts free. I'm a bit disappointed in the finish of the item though and that seems to be reflected by others with the same unit. The kit provides a third brake light LED that sits where the center cap lives on the spare. As I run the factory MOABs and I'm a bit particular, I fabbed up a light housing similar to AEV's for the JK to retain my center cap. I actually tracked down where they sourced their parts and ordered direct for a fraction of the cost. Roughed up a mount point and threw it on. It's not gorgeous, but it works.
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
I didn't care for the winch covers I saw as they all seemed to fade to purple, so I fabbed up a winch line cover to protect the line from UV and rocks on the highway. Used Marine vinyl and velcro and had a couple sewn at a local shop. Stays put and removes easily enough when it's time to use the winch.
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
About 10 months after I bought the Jeep, a local guy posted on FB selling khaki half doors for a 2002 as he was looking for full doors. The doors came with zipped uppers and had the slate interior like my '04. Everything was in good condition, so I picked them up for $600 and had been storing them in my shop until I found time/money to get them repainted. Come 2019 and rust on my driver side front fender was starting to show as they typically do, so I called up the local body shop and had them fix the fender and paint the half doors to match. I tracked down a set of 03-06 mirrors on eBay and sold my '02 style mirrors for a net zero cost. I also rekeyed the lock cylinders to match the rest even though if the doors are on, the roof likely won't be. New rubber seals and some minor fitment tweaking and they're good to go. These are now my summer doors if I run any. About the same time, I picked up a set of Bartact seat covers in graphite/black to continue the theme.
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
That summer I also picked up a set of Polk 5.25 components to replace the dash speakers. To mount then in the existing locations, I used Nalin adapters and tweeter mounts. I tucked the driver side crossover up under the steering column and the passenger side is sometimes velcro'd to hvac box. Still need to figure out a better mount for that one. Pretty good sound improvement over the factory components.
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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
Dropped the Jeep off at the shop for an oil change yesterday and got to steal Dad's CJ while it was there. While it was in the pit, the guys noticed some holes starting in the frame. Not completely unexpected as the inside was flaking when I bought it 5 years ago. Looks like I'll be checking in on that here faster than I'd hoped.

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72afr

72afr

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2019
Messages
162
Location
MO
After following CodaMan's build thread, I've finally settled on the direction I want to go for now. Ordered up the Rokmen 1/2" body lift, Pro Comp 2" springs, OME 2" rear springs (couldn't track down Pro Comp from about 15-20 online retailers), Savvy Tcase cable shifter, adjustable bump stops, and rear trackbar bracket. Still need to get the Rancho springs ordered.

This weekend I got the body lift on. I'd previously got the 6 larger bolts out to put on the sliders, and the 5 remaining came out without issue. All in all, it went together pretty smoothly. After reading about some of these smaller body lifts, I figured there was about a 50/50 shot of the Tcase shifter needing adjustment. After the install, I can get it into 4HI and N, but 4LO is no joy. Knowing this was likely, and wanting to change it out anyway, the cable shifter is awaiting install.

Obviously, not a big change as the lift is only 1/2", but it brings back the room I lost switching to the 265's.
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In other news, my 5 year old radiator is leaking, causing me overheating issues at low speeds/idle. Looks like that'll get warrantied here shortly...