Daily Driver, Go Where I Want To Build

June 2014
It had been a long time since I used a winch, so i figured I should find some snow drifts with trees nearby and practice getting stuck.

I believe this was a short spur off of Weston Pass. Looking back, I wonder if the tummy tuck I have now would have let me slide right over.
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My dad's old CB radio gets installed. Not really a good location in the passenger foot well. I eventually change this in a couple years.
In cab winch controls from The12VoltGuy.

A Viking Safety Thimble.

I also added a 3/8" Amsteel rope from Reddin Marine. I spliced the thimble on myself and attached it to the drum with duct tape.

The brakes are getting thin and the new 33's have had a detrimental effect on the Jeeps stopping ability. I put on Black Magic Brake pads on the front along with Centric rotors on all four corners. The parking brake that never worked very well. I took the opportunity to adjust it, so it now works very well.

The BMB are great. They stop 33's better than whatever I had previously with the smaller worn out BFGs.

A ZJ tie rod also went in.
My new tire carrier is heavy and the factory rear crossmember is just a thin piece of steel. I added a pair of frame tie-ins from ROKMEN. Honestly,I am surprised Nate's doesn't at least offer a frame tie in as an option.

By now I had also switched out the factory head lights for Hella Vision Plus housings with H4 bulbs. They aren't Trucklite LEDs, but at least it doesn't feel dangerous to drive around at night.

I also picked up a Viair 88P and a Currie Deflator. The 88P is a good cheap compressor. It takes about 20 minutes to fill my 33's from 10psi to 26psi. The Deflator does an excellent job at undoing what the compressor does.
Going back to my quest for the perfect side mirror...
I had been running the Rugged Ridge CJ mirrors for a while. I had ripped them off on trees several times because the brackets are very small and thin. They rattled and went out of adjustment if the wind got too strong. Most importantly, the mirrors sat too high. Once I almost hit a jogger because the driver's mirror was perfectly blocking the person as I rounded a corner.

Somewhere I had seen someone who had a mounted these mirrors on the lower half of windshield hinge, but didn't pay enough attention to it. While shopping for other mirror options I found these relocation brackets for the factory mirrors.

Using pieces of the Rugged Ridge mounts with some fender washers as shims, then cutting and rotating the arms, you can come up with this!
20150110_165446_Wynkoop St.jpg

These are nearly perfect. They are positioned at the bottom of my view out of the windows, so as to not block my forward vision. I put a 3" round convex mirror on both passenger and driver's sides. I can see everything I need to see and the mirrors never move unless I hit a tree again. Best of all, they look old timey.
The Nate's 4x4 rear carrier is already showing its design problems. As mentioned earlier, the rear hardtop glass cannot be opened with a HiLift mounted to the carrier.

Two other problems are the gas can hold down clamps and the fact that the swing arm is completely unsupported when closed.

The gas can hold down clamps are a pair of bolts with a plate attached. These are intended to be screwed down to hold down the cans placed in a small cradle made of angle iron. A locking bar is threaded through a set of eyes on the hold down bolts.

I was never able to tighten the clamps enough by hand. One would think the locking bar could be used as a wrench to tighten the clamps. However, the spare tire and the HiLift mounting tabs are exactly in the way, not allowing more than an 1/8 of a turn with the lock bar.

My solution was to keep a short bar with me to use as a wrench/t-handle and hope to never lose it.

Even then, the cans most always found a way to rattle themselves loose, no matter how tight I made the clamps. My final drastic fix will appear later on.

The unsupported swing arm bounces and rattles. Also, the latch does not pull the swing arm against a stop. The only thing that holds the arm in the closed position is the tension of the latch's u-bolt pulling against the hinge on the opposite side. Within a month of mostly daily driving, the u-bolt on the latch broke from all the knocking around. I stopped at a hardware store immediately afterwards and replaced the broken u-bolt with a pair of J-bolts.

To address the unsupported arm, I attached pieces of angle iron as a shim on both the arm and on bumper near the stop.


The J-bolts the the shims, while not eliminating all of the movement, worked well enough until I corrected Nate's stupid design for good. I will describe that process later on.
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August 2014

There aren't a lot of pictures from our 8 days on the road, because we were too busy covering ground. Dad flew in from Minnesota and the Off-Road Trip began. The basic route was Denver Intl Airport to Idaho Springs to Leadville to Aspen to Crested Butte to Ouray to the Great Sand Dunes and back to the Airport. The goal was to find as many through roads to get from one place to another.

Denver International Airport
Cascade Creek
Saxon Mountain
Leavenworth Creek/Santiago Mine
Guanella Pass
Red Cone
Radical Hill
Swan River - North Fork
Mosquito Pass
Hagerman Pass
Frying Pan Ridge
Crystal City
Schofield Pass
Pearl Pass pt. 1
Pearl Pass pt. 2
Engineer Pass Pt. 1
Engineer Pass Pt. 2
Poughkeepsie Gulch
Red Mountain Mining Area
Animas River
Stony Pass
Road Canyon
Wheeler Geologic Area Pt. 1
Wheeler Geologic Area Pt. 2
Medano Pass
Denver International Airport

8 days/1100 miles

The goats above Radical Hill again.

This is somewhere near Ouray.

The trip was incredibly fun and trouble free. A bear stole my backpack on Engineer Pass and carried it a short ways down the trail. We needed to winch up the ledge at Poughkeepsie Gulch. I think if the Jeep hadn't been loaded down with camping gear, it would have made it. Beyond that, the Jeep performed flawlessly.

We did get to the top of Black Bear overlooking Telluride,...

...but a group on quads convinced us that the switchbacks were unusually dangerous this year. We had no way of knowing otherwise, so we played it safe and turned around. Later after I got back home, I asked others about this and it seems the guys who warned us were being overly cautious. Oh well. Black Bear isn't going anywhere, so there is always next time. There were other trails we had planned to run, like Taylor and Imogene, but time didn't allow it.
September 2014

I have been running factory control arms and track bars this whole time. For what I have used the Jeep for, I can't say I have immediately needed rush out and buy anything better. So i figured I would wait until the factory parts began to wear out. By this time the Jeep is above 80k miles and I can feel a little looseness in the front end. I determine that front upper control arms are as good as anything else anything else to replace. After a whole bunch of reading comparisons between Johnny Joints and Metalcloak Duroflex bushings, I buy a pair of MC arms.

During the process, I started a thread asking about what to do about the rubber bushings on the axle side.

The end result is that Gerald from Savvy sent me a pair of Savvy arms with Johnny Joints for me to try out and compare.

I could not tell a difference other than being able to say with confidence that new parts are better than old parts. As part of the deal, Gerald got himself a slightly used pair of MC arms to put on his shelf and I am sticking with Johnny Joints. I was too lazy and indifferent to change the arms out, but I am very comfortable with the decision. I am also very appreciative of Gerald to let me compare the two arms side by side.The Savvy arms are much more refined in their build quality than Metalcloak is. There is also something about the Johnny Joint that appeals to me mechanically.

I really ought to say that in order to have any hope in telling a difference between MC and JJ's one would have to replace all 16 joints/bushings at once. But I won't be having that opportunity.
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Another daily driver mod.

I added a vacuum gauge. I often drive with Torque running on a spare phone where I pay some attention to the live MPG. I was curious to see how an old fashioned vacuum gauge compares to the information from the computer.

My opinion is that while the live MPG readings from Torque is just a calculation based on speed, rpms, fuel delivery, engine load, etc, it is a more accurate guide than just a simple vacuum gauge to see if you are driving efficiently or not.

I kept the vacuum gauge, because it is entertaining and it is able to help diagnose engine problems if you understand how to read it.
November 2014

After the 8 day off road trip, one thing I wanted to improve upon storage and organization. The Tuffy wheel well boxes are very appealing, but wildly expensive. I had seen a few Jeeps with 50cal ammo boxes mounted on the wheel wells. These offer more space than Tuffy. I figured I would try that.

There is not much flat space on the TJ wheel wells. In addition, to run a soft top, you need to inset the boxes from the outside of the tub to give the soft top frame a place to fit. Tuffy designed their boxes this way. As a result, with the ammo box, a bracket is needed to support the inboard side of the box.
I don't have a welder, so I used a torch, vise and hammer to bend a pair of brackets. Three holes are drilled in each box with one holding the bracket in place on the inboard side. The remaining two holes will attached the box to the Jeep.

I made a 2" wide spacer block to allow room for the soft top frame.

It is winter, so the hardtop is on. This will end up teaching me a very clever thing about Tuffy's design.

The liners are removed and two holes are drilled from above into the wheel well using the pre-drilled boxes as a template.

I put some black RTV on the bolts to seal the holes.

I attached the boxes so that the hinge side is facing the c-pillar. This allows the boxes to be set back as far as that can go without interfering much with the rear seat.

The lid opens into the pillar and the box is more or less accessible from any direction. What I don't like is that the lid keeps falling down and reaching into the boxes from the rear is difficult.

There is a much better option that I will install when spring comes.
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The plastic hood prop retainer clip broke. A new one is a ridiculous amount of money and it will only break again in 11 years.

A hood prop retainer clip from an early XJ is metal and free if the junk yard doesn't see it in the pile fuse box pieces you spent the last few hours collecting.

The hole in the TJ hood isn't quite right, but soome RTV will hold the clip in place.


This will outlast the rest of the Jeep.
Jeep looks awesome man! Also makes me really miss the rockies.
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December 2014

To make some use of the underhood space regained after removing the factory air box, I built my own auxiliary fuse box so that adding new accessories would be fairly easy.

The new fuse box is made from piecing together XJ and ZJ fuse boxes. The main build thread is here.
DIY Auxiliary PDC/Fuse Box
The BleepinJeep video that I based my box on is here.
I have about $40 in this fuse and relay box totaling 19 connections.
While I was at the junk yard scavenging fuse box pieces, I was able to grab a retractable hood light from an old Suburban. It is spliced into the gravity switch in the factory hood light.
20141221_170522_Brighton Blvd.jpg

I replaced the bulb with an 1156 base LED. The cord reaches several feet behind the Jeep.

Around the same time I also added a set of LEDs to the front underside of the hood.
The first thing I attach to my new fuse box is a set of rock lights.

The verdict is still out on how useful these will be for me, but they are fun. I have used them once off road, and they were great. They often get used when I find myself next to a ricer car with ground effect lights.

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I made them from waterproof outdoor sign LEDs.


The wiring is divided into quadrants and is mostly buried inside the frame and body. I took a lot of time to make sure the lights were aimed at the ground and not the tires. I decided on red because it doesn't effect the spotter's night vision the way white light does.

Total costs is under $50 including 20 pods, wiring and switch.

-an update on my color choice-
I have since switched to regular boring white. Because it works better in the real world.