Do-anything LJ build advice

Marklar1983

Average Joe
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Sparks, NV
All right, I've been looking at the GenRight Tracer kit for a long time, but now I'm second-guessing that based on other forum comments regarding LCG builds. I want to build a "Do Anything" LJ: Drive around town, weekend camping/exploring, crawling in JV, etc. and be built tough enough that I don't have to constantly worry about breaking something important. I have the LJ. I have Super Duty tons. I want advice for what to put in between.

This is what I do now.
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This is a hard question to answer because it probably looks different for everyone. What’s your budget and fabrication skills look like? What are your priorities and things you’re willing to compromise?


My best advice is don’t let the internet and social media fool you too much with the tons and 40s craze. You can have an absolutely great time on a solid 35s build for a reasonable cost, even in JV, without compromising too much in any department you listed. Start getting bigger than that and you start paying big $$$ and time to solve problems. But if that’s what you really want that’s totally cool and up to you.

I will say that neither my realistic budget, nor my dream all around build would involve superduty axles or the tracer kit.
 
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There isn't any 1 kit that I've found and researched that is perfect. It was all built for mass sales and easy production. I'm looking into a hodgepodge of different manufacturers. I also agree on the super duty axles. Not sure if you have the 05+ or 99-04, I've built both and plan on buying a 60 housing from fusion that has super duty inner c and use the 05+ knuckles. All the work needed to make room for coilbuckets or coilovers is a ton of time and effort plus with these shorter wheelbase rigs setting castor while keeping the pinion where you want it looks like it's going to be a pain.
 
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There isn't any 1 kit that I've found and researched that is perfect. It was all built for mass sales and easy production. I'm looking into a hodgepodge of different manufacturers. I also agree on the super duty axles. Not sure if you have the 05+ or 99-04, I've built both and plan on buying a 60 housing from fusion that has super duty inner c and use the 05+ knuckles. All the work needed to make room for coilbuckets or coilovers is a ton of time and effort plus with these shorter wheelbase rigs setting castor while keeping the pinion where you want it looks like it's going to be a pain.

I think folks really overlook the value of a properly located front diff and subsequent pinion location. That and for some reason, brains seem to quit working when someone installs one of those that has a weight rating higher for one axle than the entire weight of a TJ Unlimited and then they slap a truss on it. Makes zero sense at all.
 
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All right, I've been looking at the GenRight Tracer kit for a long time, but now I'm second-guessing that based on other forum comments regarding LCG builds. I want to build a "Do Anything" LJ: Drive around town, weekend camping/exploring, crawling in JV, etc. and be built tough enough that I don't have to constantly worry about breaking something important. I have the LJ. I have Super Duty tons. I want advice for what to put in between.

This is what I do now.
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Draw a hard line in the sand that you won't cross. Start with tire size first, balance that with belly clearance and then wheelbase. It matters. Then decide how much performance you want to leave on the table.
 
Draw a hard line in the sand that you won't cross. Start with tire size first, balance that with belly clearance and then wheelbase. It matters. Then decide how much performance you want to leave on the table.

Agree, that’s what am I am doing. Still playing around a little but tire size is 33”. Leaning towards a 3” lift, then later may do a TT to increase belly clearance. I think that setup will cover a lot of stuff in my opipion.
 
I think folks really overlook the value of a properly located front diff and subsequent pinion location. That and for some reason, brains seem to quit working when someone installs one of those that has a weight rating higher for one axle than the entire weight of a TJ Unlimited and then they slap a truss on it. Makes zero sense at all.

BEEF
 
Draw a hard line in the sand that you won't cross. Start with tire size first, balance that with belly clearance and then wheelbase. It matters. Then decide how much performance you want to leave on the table.

37”. I know a lot of people who wheel bigger, but 40+ seems to be too big to be roadworthy. Any guidance for choosing clearance and wheelbase?

What do you mean by “properly located diff” and pinion? Front to back, clearance above..?
 
This is a hard question to answer because it probably looks different for everyone. What’s your budget and fabrication skills look like? What are your priorities and things you’re willing to compromise?


My best advice is don’t let the internet and social media fool you too much with the tons and 40s craze. You can have an absolutely great time on a solid 35s build for a reasonable cost, even in JV, without compromising too much in any department you listed. Start getting bigger than that and you start paying big $$$ and time to solve problems. But if that’s what you really want that’s totally cool and up to you.

I will say that neither my realistic budget, nor my dream all around build would involve superduty axles or the tracer kit.

I’m going tons because the guys I’ll crawl with all run tons. Difference is they trailer their rigs, while I want to keep mine a daily driver. Tons are to be damn sure they’ll hold up.
 
There isn't any 1 kit that I've found and researched that is perfect. It was all built for mass sales and easy production. I'm looking into a hodgepodge of different manufacturers. I also agree on the super duty axles. Not sure if you have the 05+ or 99-04, I've built both and plan on buying a 60 housing from fusion that has super duty inner c and use the 05+ knuckles. All the work needed to make room for coilbuckets or coilovers is a ton of time and effort plus with these shorter wheelbase rigs setting castor while keeping the pinion where you want it looks like it's going to be a pain.

Axles are ‘02 or ‘03. I expect building them to be a PITA, but that’s part of the challenge for me. I’m a mechanical engineer, but I don’t have a lot of welding experience, so this will be a learn-by-doing project. The tentative plan is to stretch the wheelbase, which is why I was looking at the Tracer. Reading other threads has pointed me towards something with more up travel.
 
I’m going tons because the guys I’ll crawl with all run tons. Difference is they trailer their rigs, while I want to keep mine a daily driver. Tons are to be damn sure they’ll hold up.

If tons and 37s make you happy then go for it. Just throwing it out there, all the guys I wheel with are buggies on tons and 40s and trailer their rig. I’m on 35s with TJ axles and I’m still out there with them doing the same trails. And then I drive it to work the next day. The only difference is the $70k missing from their pockets and I pull cable slightly more often.
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37”. I know a lot of people who wheel bigger, but 40+ seems to be too big to be roadworthy. Any guidance for choosing clearance and wheelbase?

What do you mean by “properly located diff” and pinion? Front to back, clearance above..?

37s and tons is honestly not worth it. Especially with the 99-04 (30 spline outers) 40+ and tons is. The diff clearance sucks with smaller tires even with a shave kit.

Properly located i.e left to right, front to back. I can think of a few items that will come into contact with the 99-04 axles. Not as bad as the 05+ but I'd be looking at the frame, steering, panhard, upper link mounting options.

Not trying to deter you just think hard before you dive into a project like this. Sure you can go backwoods and make it work but it won't perform like other builds.
 
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37s and tons is honestly not worth it. Especially with the 99-04 (30 spline outers) 40+ and tons is. The diff clearance sucks with smaller tires even with a shave kit.

Properly located i.e left to right, front to back. I can think of a few items that will come into contact with the 99-04 axles. Not as bad as the 05+ but I'd be looking at the frame, steering, panhard, upper link mounting options.

Not trying to deter you just think hard before you dive into a project like this. Sure you can go backwoods and make it work but it won't perform like other builds.

This is the kind of advice I’m looking for. So, either 40s on tons, or 37s on… what? Built D44s?
 
This is the kind of advice I’m looking for. So, either 40s on tons, or 37s on… what? Built D44s?

Lots of folks make JK 44s or older Ford HP44s hold up on 37s. Others also wheel on 37s and TJ 30s with no issues. IMO, it really depends on where and how hard you wheel. To build for 37s the “right” way, you really need tons, and lots more beyond that.


If you don’t have the $$ to do it right, and/or you don’t want to see your LJ sitting in jack stands for a year, building for 35s is the smarter move.
 
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Lots of folks make JK 44s or older Ford HP44s hold up on 37s. Others also wheel on 37s and TJ 30s with no issues. IMO, it really depends on where and how hard you wheel. To build for 37s the “right” way, you really need tons, and lots more beyond that.


If you don’t have the $$ to do it right, and/or you don’t want to see your LJ sitting in jack stands for a year, building for 35s is the smarter move.

I really don't think 37s are the "need tons" size. Growing up around mud trucks that slowly transitioned into crawlers anyone who went to tons where people who started running 39.5+ the guys who where on tons and 36/38s did it because of having a heavy wheel/tire combo. Or adding water in the tires for lower weight.

Jk44s are pretty good so are the older hp44s. Know a few guys who still rock hp44s front 9" rear on 40s wheel the piss out of there rigs and never have "axle" problems.

That being said I also know guys who run 36" iroks that have snapped ff14b shafts like a twig.
 
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I do agree building around a 35 first would be wiser. The photos you posted is nothing extreme enough to want 37s.
Like Starkey said he goes everywhere he wants on 35s. Judging by his pics he might end up in the "tons and 4ds" club but he's learning how capable his rig is now and improving driving skills.

I've been apart of building some serious rigs from full custom tube chassis to basic builds on 33s. Put someone who has never been off-road in the buggy and an experienced driver in the rig on 33s and I'd put money on the experienced driver going more places. To many people are over building for there driving skills. I have been one of them and the rig out drove my skills and I ended up in the hospital for a month..
 
This is the kind of advice I’m looking for. So, either 40s on tons, or 37s on… what? Built D44s?

This is the same place I'm at. There was a comment previously about a line in the sand you wont cross with tire size, build etc and I'd live by that. Here in Texas the overwhelming flavor of the day for TJ's is tons and 40's/42's, then throw em on a trailer. We have areas with rocks and others with clay/rock hill climbs etc. I'm building mine for 37's with the factory rubicon axles, will build those to hold up best they can to the 37's, but thats where I stop. A capable driver and rigs can do most anything on 35's and drive home if they are relatively responsible in their driving and choices.
 
This is the kind of advice I’m looking for. So, either 40s on tons, or 37s on… what? Built D44s?

Depends. We can't make smaller axles work reliably on 37's for an all around build that includes a steady diet of JV. They need a minimum of a Dana 60 rear and while the center section in the front can be HP Dana 44 size, the outers have to be 35 spline and 1 ton size u-joints with the associated ball joints.

Ideally, I would build a JK aftermarket HP 44 with 3" tubes and use the 99-04 F-450 outers at 66" wide for 37's. I did one at 64" with a Currie HP 60 and it was painfully tedious to get all the clearances dialed in.

In reference to your size question above, the TJ Unlimited is about 104" for the wheelbase. That is a pretty good number for 37's if you can get the belly height around 22" ish. A bit of work can be done to add some clearance to the rear bumper area to tune that up. Raise the side frame body mounts with the Genright kit, build some nice steering and that is a pretty good "all around" rig unless you want to spend lots of time in Sand Hollow. If you do that, you'll want to run the wheelbase out a lot further with the understanding that will adversely affect the "all around" aspect of the build.
 
I do agree building around a 35 first would be wiser. The photos you posted is nothing extreme enough to want 37s.
The problem with 37's is there is a pretty large performance penalty driving on the highway. It isn't a full on deal breaker with enough axle gearing but it is there and not to be ignored. The other issue with the Unlimited is the wheelbase is a tad much for 35's if you play where Garrett's pics show. Again, not a deal breaker but it will get old at times dragging the belly and getting hung up. Saw it in JV a bunch. No one got left on the trail or quit but it was sure annoying at times.
Like Starkey said he goes everywhere he wants on 35s. Judging by his pics he might end up in the "tons and 4ds" club but he's learning how capable his rig is now and improving driving skills.
If he were to stretch it out to 104ish on 37's, he would go a very long way to need more. The problem with that is it takes some better axles than what he has.
I've been apart of building some serious rigs from full custom tube chassis to basic builds on 33s. Put someone who has never been off-road in the buggy and an experienced driver in the rig on 33s and I'd put money on the experienced driver going more places. To many people are over building for there driving skills. I have been one of them and the rig out drove my skills and I ended up in the hospital for a month..
Yep, we see it all the time, they build the rig instead of their skills. Never a good thing.