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Build (and un-build) thread—Gump

freedom_in_4low

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My wife named my Jeep Gump because it's "Forest" Green Pearl and also it's slow.

I've never thought about doing a build thread because there are so many more well built Jeeps on this forum that it seems a little silly, but maybe it'll be fun. It'll probably take me a while to catch up from the beginning to today.

After having owned an LJ while living in Oklahoma and enjoying taking it to Colorado but eventually selling it because…Oklahoma…I decided to get back into the game after moving back to Colorado. No offense to Oklahomans, being one of them, but it's a lot harder to be a regular wheeler there compared to living in Pikes Peak's shadow.

Jeep prices in Colorado are stupid, so for the same price as a Sport in Denver with rotted out torque boxes, I found this relatively rust-free Sahara with 96k miles about 45 minutes from Amarillo, TX. I rented a car, drove it to meet the seller in Amarillo, and after a test drive returned the rental car and drove the TJ home.

With big heavy Body Armor bumpers, factory side steps, chrome KC A-pillar lights and taillight guards I described it as a dorky ranch Jeep. From what I've put together, it had been owned by a west Texas rancher that didn't do his own work and liked to use a shop that didn't really know Jeeps. More on that later. It had a 3" lift but stock tires, because the rancher's left knee was getting too old for a clutch he bought an almost identical TJ with an auto, and swapped his 31s onto the TJ he kept.

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Chris

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Nice looking Jeep, and great name!

I don't blame you for going to Texas. Jeep prices tend to be nuts here in Oregon as well. Once you start looking in the southwest and Texas, you can find really good prices on nice, rust free examples.
 
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It was advertised as having recently had a new rear end, all new steering and (stock) upper control arms. There was some oil around the middle of the passenger rear (Dana 35) axle tube that I wasn't too worried about as well as a leaky passenger rear axle seal. There was also some sort of attempted RTV seal where the tube entered the pumpkin which I didn't notice until I got home.

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The lower control arms were aftermarket adjustable ones. I noticed on the drive home that this Jeep had more mechanical noise than I remembered in my last one. I thought maybe they made some refinements in NVH between 1999 and 2005? Once I got it home, I started into the leaky axle. While pulling the axle shaft, the Dana 35 cross shaft retaining bolt sheared off. I hammered out the cross shaft and found the passenger wheel seal had some weird sleeve on it that moved where the seal rides on the axle shaft. I know now that's a thing.

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Once I got the shafts out, I pulled the carrier to deal with the sheared bolt. The carrier bearings FELL OFF. Seems somebody did a gear job with SETUP BEARINGS. Since the shims had fallen out with the bearings and I wasn't going to put any effort into doing a gear setup on a Dana 35 that had already been driven on and probably damaged, I started the search for another axle. I ended up finding a guy that had totaled his LJR, bought a non-Rubi LJ and swapped his Rubi drivetrain into it, so he had the non-Rubi's drivetrain on craigslist and I got the 44 with 70k miles, disc brakes and 3.73 gears to match mine for $550.

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Once I had the 35 out, I cleaned up the RTV seal, which was on top of JB weld, but I'm not even sure that's where the leak was from because in the middle of the top of the tube was two open threaded holes where a brake line retainer bracket is supposed to go.

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In the middle of all this I decided to find out why the steering wheel had almost 90° of movement before the Jeep would react.


I replaced it with another stock track bar from Crown, and while I was at it I ditched the axle side track bar drop bracket that was working with the drop pitman arm to double down on the bump steer.

It's hard to even describe how butt-clenching the drive from Amarillo to Colorado Springs really was.
 
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Got it all back together and….driveline vibes. Seemed the longer Dana 44 snout or maybe manufacturing variability in the brackets was just enough to mess with the angle. So I went to set my pinion angle and NO! Those aftermarket control arms were the old Teraflex style with no jam nut. I'm guessing the threads wore out because someone had put a couple of tack welds to lock them in place. My wife was already not too pleased with how much I was spending on this Jeep so I went budget and bought all new Rough Country lower control arms. I was able to correctly set my pinion angle and also not worry about ripping off a control arm bracket with solid, split poly bushing control arms. I didn't make any adjustments to the front, I just set the arms to match exactly the ones I took off.

While all that was apart I had another craigslist score - a set of 5 essentially new Ultra style 51 wheels with a 5.25" backspacing and mounted in BFG KO2 32x11.50x15s with the little nipples still on them. Retailing for $1500, got them for $800. Not sure what happened, but I guess he changed his mind because he had a white TJ in the driveway with black wheels and some sort of mud tire.

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I wasn't wild at first about the bright aluminum finish or the white letters out, so I swapped the tires around to blackwall out and Plasti-dipped the wheels a dark gunmetal gray. Since I'm writing this retrospective, I now have the experience to look back on this decision with what I might have done differently. The plastidip finish is matte, and it seems to hold dirt too well to just spray off, so when I really want my wheels clean I have to wipe or sponge them off. It's a good thing they're a very simple design. In hindsight I would have done a real paint job, or maybe tried the plastidip glossifier.

The Jeep only came with a tan hardtop, which I do like for winter. But I wanted a soft top so I got a Trektop NX from Bestop. It was cheaper than a full soft top with frame and hardware, plus I like the fastback look, and it has the sunrider feature and my family's northwestern European heritage does a lot better in the shade, so I usually leave just the bikini on all summer with no windows.

I also stripped the Sahara decals, sold the KC A-pillar lights, took off the taillight guards and blacked out the headlight trim.

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I know, lockers before light bars but my wife got me this 50" light bar for my 34th birthday. It's actually pretty awesome. I can wheel in the autumn and winter afternoons and see the whole forest after the sun sets at 4:30pm.

Factory headlights were positively dismal so I got some of the Lant-sun LED's that look like the JW Speaker lights. I wired the DRL halos into the parking lights so they're only on if I want them on, and I wired the turn signal halos up too. One drawback to that is the turn signal halos only light up if the DRL halos are powered, so if I ever go to an aftermarket fender I'll have to power the DRL halos all the time if I want to depend on those for my turn signal. The headlights themselves have good cutoff, but the transition from the hotspot to the regular (?) spot is pretty stark, which I'm used to now but looked kinda weird at first. The high beams are ok, but nothing special. I find that if I need more than low beams, I just go for the light bar.

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Top is with light bar, middle is high beams, bottom is low beams.

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Got a Smittybilt XRC 9500lb winch and a winch plate. Turns out the winch plate hits my Body Armor bumper because the top of the bumper is higher than the top of the bumper brackets on the frame, so I had to send the winch plate back and get a raised one. Not wild about how high the winch sits and how much of the grill it covers with the cover on, but I have to have the cover due to synthetic winch rope. I'm not wild about this bumper design anyway so I'll probably change it out at some point. Also picked up some rear bumper tie-ins from Poison Spyder, since I have a bag full of recovery gear now.

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I decided I hated the transfer case drop enough to do something about it, but wasn't wanting to do the SYE yet. I had read that a motor mount lift often achieved the same results as a T-case drop, so I got a Rough Country 1" MML and installed it, raised my case back up and reset my pinion angle. I found one of the u joints needed replacing, so I changed them both.
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I found an engine hoist to be much easier for installing an MML than a jack and a piece of wood as suggested in the installation instructions.

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Much to my dismay, after half a dozen or so pinion angle adjustments I couldn't get rid of the vibes. So I started with some washers and spacers and found that I could get away with about 5/8" of drop instead of the 1.5". . So…probably not worth the effort but an improvement nonetheless.
 
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My transmission fluid kept looking like it had water in it, despite not having forded any creeks. Started poking around and the boot on the shift tower was completely torn around the perimeter. Guessing maybe I was getting water in it when spraying off the underside. Replaced that boot, the shifter bushings, as well as the boot in the tub that was also torn and poorly taped together. It's amazing how much impact that has on the mechanical noise inside.

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With the console out I installed a CB Radio with Firestik on a front fender mount (which can be seen blurrily in the post above with the engine hoist). I was thinking I'd go on a lot of group runs, but that hasn't really panned out. Don't really use it much. I see Midway has a new vehicle mounted FRS/GMRS setup. Might switch this stuff out for that. When I do wheel in groups, it's usually unofficial gatherings and it seems like the little handhelds are more common than CBs. I also destroyed the shifter pattern button on the shift knob so I replaced it with something of similar size.

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Went on a new trail with some bigger rocks. Power steering got really noisy a ways in and the reservoir was almost empty. No idea where it went because it had been full and didn't appear to be leaking anywhere. Maybe got hot and burped out on the trail? The noise got quieter as long as I kept the steering system cool, taking breaks. Got off the trail and found a guy trying to pull his disabled 80s era 4Runner onto a trailer using ratchet straps. Got to use my winch for the first time to help him out, and he happened to have some ATF+4 which I used in my power steering. I found out later on that they strongly recommend PS fluid and not ATF in the 99 TJ steering system, but I had toasted the pump anyway. It drove ok, but the noise never went away.

On that same trail I also decided it was time for rock sliders. I bought a set of wheelwell-to-wheelwell rocker guards with tubes from A to Z fabrication. I like them because they don't involve the body mounts. I guess this was the best the delivery guy could do.

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Self-etch primed and then painted them with cheap aerosol can bedliner. I think Rustoleum? Also made sure I cleaned up and painted the holes I drilled in the tub.

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Right now they're just tucked under the factory Sahara flares, so there is a small gap between the flare and the tub just above the top edge of the rocker guard.

One of my factory fog lights was out, and the other worked but had a broken lens. So I got some $40 LED cubes from OZ-USA on Amazon. I don't have the link anymore, but I found a couple reviews saying they were a decent choice among budget LED options. They've done well so far.

Ridiculous attempt at a flex:
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I wasn't liking how much movement was happening in the tailgate with just a 32" spare, so I put on the MORryde tailgate reinforcement kit. Much better. In addition to the cost of the kit, it also cost a lot of torch gas, 3 or 4 broken driver bits, and some quality time with my drill. I think 3 of the 8 came out without drilling, and then only with a lot of heat.

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Also painted my hard top black.

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tworley

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Join us in the jibber jabber thread. We post our summer runs in there. Then you can justify the cb. You're building it well!
 
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Summer hit and suddenly my temperature is getting into the 230's on the highway. It was still on the "0" in 210 but I learned the gauge isn't linear at all, so I checked with an OBD2 reader. Coolant looked pretty clean, radiator was spotless and newish looking, thermostat was at least functioning. This turned out to be my opportunity to learn about the difference between Mopar and aftermarket radiators. I ended up replacing most of the cooling system - Mopar radiator and water pump, Hayden fan clutch and Superstat thermostat. Also made the switch from old green to the Zerex G-05. Did a few flushes of the system, put it all back together (replacing the previously ruined power steering pump and the alternator with a whiny bearing at the same time) and good as new.

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The Mopar radiator has 55 tubes, and the aftermarket one had 44. That's a 20% reduction in heat transfer surface!

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The fan seems a little louder than before, so I think the Hayden must engage at a lower temperature. Wish it was quieter, but not enough to mess with it unless I'm taking it apart for something else.

While I had the front end jacked up to bleed the steering I noticed a brief resistance and then a popping sound when I would go full lock to the right. I get out and look, and the end of the tie rod that connects to the drag link is contacting my axle end track bar bolt. That's weird. So I get out my magnetic angle finder and it seems I have something like 8 degrees of caster. So I dial it back to 6 and go on.

I finished all this work literally the night before a solo wheeling trip through central Colorado. Stopped to air down on my way up Hancock Pass just out of St Elmo and my cheap automatic deflators must have come out of adjustment and let my tires all the way down to 7 psi. Forgot to start the engine when I aired them back up and had to coast backward down the mountain and drop the clutch in reverse to get started again because my compressor drained the battery. Camped in a forest service campground that was completely empty other than me and 3 miles from the next nearest sign of civilization, so I had to park on a hill in case I'd killed the battery. To top it off I was in a walking boot from breaking my foot trail running 4 weeks before. Fortunately, it started and I was able to meet some work buddies for lunch in Taylor Park, at the summit of Tincup Pass, and again for dinner in Buena Vista on day 3 of their annual 400 mile 4 day dirt bike trip. I'm still running that battery.
 
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Time to get rid of this stupid drop pitman arm that's been giving me bump steer since forever. AutoZone has a heavy duty pitman arm puller with support struts that's more up to the job than the standard pullers that like to spread and let go.

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Nice. But, since I raised the drag link, now I have too much toe. Aaaand…my tie rod is completely seized up on both ends. Great excuse for an upgrade to ZJ steering. At the end, I did my first tape measure alignment and took it to Brakes Plus for an alignment check (which they do for free as long as they don't change anything). My toe was 0.11 from a target of 0.15, not bad! Also, my caster was 5.3, and my driver side front tire had 1.3° of camber. They tried to sell me some offset ball joints but I knew I was swapping axles soon so I politely declined.

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Summer 2019 was finally time for the good stuff. Picked up a complete HP Dana 30 for $150, gutted it, parted out the stuff I didn't need so it ended up being basically free. With the top off, the TJ is ok at transporting an axle.

Screenshot_20200115-104733_Instagram.jpg


Pulled my rear 44, stripped it down to the housing and gears and took them to a shop to regear to 4.56 with Revolution Gears and put an Eaton E-locker in the rear. Seems a MINI Cooper S is also ok at transporting an axle. I sold the MINI and bought a truck a month after all this work was done.

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Apparently the guy was super busy with a $50k hot rod build and some goofball that liked his Ford so much that he hired the shop to swap a Cummins into it instead of just buying a Dodge. Whatever. 6 weeks later I finally had my axles back.

The front axle got a Currie track bar

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Johnny joints for the UCA bushings

Screenshot_20200115-104659_Instagram.jpg


new axle u-joints in my TJ axle shafts, my TJ knuckles and brakes, CAD eliminated, new unit bearings, and a coat of paint. The shop also put new Spicer ball joints in with no labor charge to make up for taking so long.

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___________________________________________________
EDIT: When originally writing this post I completely glossed over what's involved in the CAD elimination.

There's a blockoff plate that covers the opening the CAD actuator mounts to. Then of course you need a standard one piece axle shaft from a TJ. Lastly there's the seals. The CAD axle puts the passenger axle seal to the outside of the CAD housing - and it's the same one that normally goes in the pumpkin in a non-CAD axle. The trick is that TJ axles aren't machined for a smooth seal surface where the CAD seal rides, so it's hard to predict how long a seal will last there, if it works at all. The inside of the pumpkin isn't machined to accept the seal there, so the standard seal won't go where the TJ shaft IS machined for it. So what you do is find a seal that fits inside the axle tube, and install it from inside the pumpkin where the axle seal would normally be.

Yukon, and probably others, sell a kit for all this. It's overpriced in my opinion, for a couple of seals (one of which may not even work - more on that later), an aluminum plate and a cork gasket. I bought the plate separately, sealed it with RTV, and bought the seal separately.

Now the big trick is that Jeep (or Dana?) changed the thickness of the axle tubes at least once, maybe twice, over the production of the CAD HP30 - so I've found references to 3 different seals to go in the axle tube. The first I found was the 223050 from Timken or National. It has the correct 1.9-ish ID and a 1.969" OD. I've seen it on forums and I think Stu Offroad used to have this one listed. It fit my axle tube like a hot dog in a hallway.

East Coast Gear Supply sells one with a 2" OD and one with a 2.062" OD. The description for the 2.062" says the 2" is more common...I suspect this one may be what's in the Yukon kit.

Another one mentioned in a few forums is the 11343 from NAPA. It has a 2.04" OD but it's ID is smaller at 1.125" and there are reports of early failure due to the seal lip separating from the main seal body.

I ended up using the 11800 which has the same 2.04" OD as the 11343 but with a 1.188" ID which is appropriately sized for the TJ shaft.

__________________________________________________________

The rear got new wheel bearings and seals, twice because the shop put the retainer plates in backward the first time so they wouldn't hold the seal in correctly, and I had to show them forum posts to prove which way they face.

Track bar just clears the diff cover with 2" of bump stop extension.

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The rear pinion seal was leaking from between the seal and the housing, so that got changed when it was time for the break-in gear oil change.

I got a switch panel and some stock-looking switches from eBay and modded it into my dash panel for the locker switch. Instead of another lighter, I got a USB power supply with a voltage readout. The light bar will go to the driving lights switch eventually, but I haven't got around to it.

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Since I'll eventually do a super short SYE and change tire sizes, probably at different times, instead of buying another speedometer gear I got a Blue Monkey Speedohealer and I'll never have to buy another speedometer gear again.

Wife got me an all-digital (no disc) stereo with Bluetooth for birthday #36, so that went in while I was waiting for parts to finish the axle swap. The connectors in the back of the stereo look basically identical, but the pinout is different so I couldn't plug my Kenwood head unit into the Pioneer harness. No matter, I didn't like it that much anyway. I like solder and heat shrink.

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Driveline vibrations are back, so I piled in a bunch of washers to get my t-case drop back to about 1-1/4" to make them barely noticeable but still not gone completely. In what's becoming an annual tradition, I managed to get it together and ready to drive with just enough days before a wheeling trip to complete Revolution Gear's recommended break-in process. And I'm so tired of messing with driveline vibes I've finally ordered an SYE.
 
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SYE time! Doing this before probably would have saved me a lot of time doing pinion angle adjustments and screwing around with MML's and transfer case drops.

In preparation, I got:
JKS adjustable rear track bar with the angled bracket
Savvy double adjustable aluminum upper control arms
JB Conversions super short SYE
replacement transfer case chain
front output seal, just in case

20191005_101107.jpg
 
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Well, that took a turn.

ALL of the case half bolts came out tough. The torque spec for the bolts is 20-25 lb-ft but every one of them took more than that, the entire way out. I've come to expect some of that from steel fasteners into aluminum parts, but wow. Unfortunately, one of the upper bolts (the one with the 12pt head) was probably more like 60-70 lb-ft most of the way. I was afraid I was going to twist it off, but instead....

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I brought this on myself - there's no way I wasn't putting some lateral load on the bolt with a jack handle over a 1/2" ratchet on a reducer and then an extension. An impact would have made quick work of it, but it was 11pm and my kids were asleep above the garage (clearly the architect was not a car guy), so the compressor was off limits.

I was doing the SYE under the Jeep so I wouldn't have to deal with the transfer case mounting nuts, but obviously had to pull it out to deal with this.

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I'd kinda forgot about it because it was just a slow seep, but I knew either the transmission output or the transfer case input were leaking and I had bought seals 2 years ago and have never gotten to it. So now I have an opportunity.

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I found the t-case linkage adjustment bolt is completely seized up, and I can tell is not going to come loose without twisting the linkage up into a pretzel, so I ordered a savvy cable shifter. Bonus, if I do a tummy tuck some day that's one less thing I'll have to deal with.

A guy about 3 miles from me gave me a new housing that needed new internals for free...but until I got it home I didn't realize the teralow 4:1 kit included a special front housing (and it seems neither did he). So now I have a 4:1 case with a planetary that's completely trashed. I haven't called teraflex yet but from googling it seems those planetarys were absurdly expensive to begin with, if they even still make them which I doubt. It only lasted him about 5 years and I don't really like the idea of putting a transfer case under my Jeep that might only last that long.

A local fab shop quoted $150 to weld my boss/tab back up, but I found a guy with a spare from his 2000 XJ that was willing to let it go for $100 and a 120 mile round trip for me to come get it. His came from an AW4 so I've got to swap the input gear to work with my AX15. I plan on just swapping my input and planetary together; one less infuriating snap ring to deal with. I've now got both cases split in my garage and the sprocket and hub switched over to the SYE mainshaft, just gotta swap the gears over and start putting it back together. I was relieved that the case half bolts came out pretty easy. I took special care with the splined bolt, cleaning the exposed threads on the back end with a wire wheel and soaking it with penetrant before I put a wrench on it.

The third bay of my garage looks like some sort of transfer case graveyard right now.
20200115_151433.jpg
 
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Don't do what I did.

My first time rebuilding a double cardan seemed to be going really smoothly but I stopped paying attention to what the centering yoke was doing as I was hammering the caps in. Got them flush and then saw the centering yoke was off center and one of the caps was sitting on top of the little tab that sits outside the cap. I gave it a couple light taps and it settled in but I turned it over and the opposite tab had broken off. There goes $70.

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So, pounded the ujoint back out and awaiting a new yoke tomorrow. I was hoping to have it moving in front wheel drive so I could reposition it for the rear suspension setup, but what's another 2 days. The only hard deadline I have is that we're moving mid March and I'm not gonna pay a tow for 35 miles.
 
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The Savvy install was intuitive enough that I got it installed in well under a half hour even without installation instructions. I did end up with a small washer leftover that matched the diameter of the pin that attaches the sector shaft arm to the shackle. I put it between the cotter pin and the shackle, but it would have fit inside the shackle with the sector shaft arm, too.

This photo really highlights the cleanliness of the bare aluminum transfer case vs the coating of dust that's attached itself to the transmission and the entire underside of the tub and doesn't come off with direct spray from the manual car wash.

20200125_200740.jpg
 
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Wife and kids are back in Oklahoma visiting grandparents so I'm full time on the TJ.

Got the JKS adjustable rear track bar and Savvy upper control arms in, and all set up. I expect some pinion angle adjustment once I have a driveshaft but it should be close as-is. I can't believe I waited this long to get double adjustable control arms. It's amazing.

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The JKS angled track bar bracket is the first undesirable contact, about 2" before the bump stops, so I ordered some 2" bump stop extensions which should show up tomorrow. There was also part of the wiring harness going to the gas tank that would get pinched between the bracket and the floor so I zip tied that out of the way.

Just ordered a driveshaft from Tom Wood. Their new website is slick...in fact it made the difference for me between TW and Adams. I opened both sites at the same time, they were about the same price, but TW allowed me to select Spicer non-greasable joints in a dropdown menu.

On the agenda tomorrow is to fish out the socket I dropped in the frame 😫 when I was messing around with the frame end UCA bolt. I also have some new front speakers to install and I might get to start on the MCE fenders.
 
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freedom_in_4low

freedom_in_4low

I'm a rooster illusion
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eek!

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The passenger fender is ready to start cutting, driver side is marked but still have to pull the old flare off and finish the mark down the side. I called it a night when I realized I was out of metal cutting blades for my reciprocating saw.