Doing It The Hard Way - JL Steering Box and a Front Stretch

Alright finally another update. I've had a pretty serious cold for the past two weeks but have been trying to keep making slow and steady progress regardless.

I got the section of the frame behind where the steering box mounts cut out. I think I have pictures of what I had before earlier in the thread somewhere but I just wasn't happy with how I did the reinforcements, nor the welds. This was kind of a pain but the finger sander really helped in the tight quarters.

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No wasting cutoff wheels here
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As you can see in this pic (and the first one), I made slits in the top part of the frame and bent the top face up 1.25". After doing so, I cut out 11ga/.120" internal fish plates to help fill in the gap and retain strength. The plates were then fully welded all the way around on the inside of the frame. I had to do them in multiple pieces to actually be able to fit the welding torch in there though.
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I wasn't really taking a lot of progress pics but you can see here how more plates were added to extend into the front frame section, and the pie cut was filled in with 3/16" steel then fully welded and ground smooth.
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Closer look at the smooth welds, and a peek at how the fish plates attach to the front part of the frame.
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On the steering box side, I filled in that section with a 1/4" plate, a 3/16" step to meet the frame, and a 11ga piece behind. Each piece was fully welded on both sides with lap joints, so it should be pretty strong.
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And here is the frame piece welded back on. I had to stop here because my welder was hitting its duty cycle and wouldn't let me keep going. Tomorrow will be lots of grinding, probably.
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There is a lot riding on my welds at this point, but I think I've done a decent job making sure to get good penetration and have each joint reinforced by backing plates on top of the fully chamfered butt welds, all while not being too excessive with adding huge amounts of material.

I mean here are some welds the factory considers acceptable. I think mine will be fine.
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I think my Jeep was the last one to roll through the factory on a Friday
 
Got all the welding finished and got the passenger side fully ground smooth. I'd say it looks pretty decent. Not perfect, but you'd have to know what you were looking for to tell it was modified.
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I was able to weld about half of the edges of the fish plates to the front of the frame by accessing it through the bottom that is still open. Not pretty though, I was upside down and couldn't see. Probably wasn't necessary but I feel even better about the strength now.

I might do something similar for the rear if I do the butt crack delete.
 
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Got the rest ground flat, welded in the couple patch plates that were needed

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Underside still needs a little work but it's close.
 
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Made little filler gusset pieces to go between the shock towers and coil buckets. Should help support the coil bucket and makes it look a little nicer.
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Spent a while cleaning up welds today and filling in any gouges on the underside of the frame. Never much fun grinding and welding upside down.

I went ahead and cut the tacks holding on the driver side frame control arm mount. It had been getting brake fluid dripping into the seam for the past year and was collecting gobs of grinding dust too. I noticed some rust so I wanted to clean it up before welding it on permanently. Used the C clamp as a positioning stop so I put it back in the right spot.

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Got the little notch for the pitman arm filled in.
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Got the control arm bracket cleaned up and welded back on fully. I think the rust was just the grinding dust rusting, not the base metal.
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Everything sanded with a DA sander and 36 grit paper. Leaves a nice surface similar to sandblasting so paint sticks well.
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Got it all primed as well!
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I'm not entirely done with welding yet, so I'll save the top coat for later. Winter is over and we've got a lot of humid weather ahead, so it was a bit of a race to get the bare steel covered up. Still need to finish the track bar bracket and there's still a hole under the passenger side that needs to be patched in. Need to get the axle back in to see where the linkages are and that everything still clears.
 
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Nice!! I like the “just enough” notch rather than a huge tunnel chopped out of the rail. I’m about to put an outside the frame forward swing box on mine and I’m sure I’ll have to do some frame rail notching along those lines.

Yeah definitely. I guess I don't have a good before photo anywhere but before I raised the frame up I had half of it cut away to clear the pitman arm and nut and really wasn't sure how I'd make it strong enough like that.

The reason it had to be so high was because of how much I raised my tie rod. If you keep yours a little lower and it doesn't run into your track bar joint, you might be able to keep your pitman arm low enough to clear anyways.

Looking forward to a build thread, that sounds interesting!
 
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I didn't want to do much around the fresh paint while it cures, so I took apart my control arms to get them cleaned up and figure out a process to get them looking decent quickly.

After spraying the leaky joints down with degreaser (WD-40 foaming engine degreaser, worked pretty good) and a quick alcohol wipe down, I set up a little station with my jack stand riser blocks that let me wedge the joints in each side. This let me spin the bar on the threads by hand but kept it from moving around on me. Hit it with the DA sander starting with 120 grit, then 220, then 320. In hindsight, the coarser grits were unnecessary and I'll just start with 320 on the next one.
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Next, I went at it with 3 grits of scotch brite pads. Got kind of a fine brushed look this way, but takes some work. Lastly I hit it with some ancient metal polish I had and got a bit of shine to it. A bit more work than I was looking for and not quite the result I'm after. I'll see if I can find some different polish that might work better.
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I wanted to clean up the joints too. Some of them are pretty rusty, and all of the jam nuts are missing their zinc coating after wire wheeling them. I quickly designed and 3d printed some end caps so I wouldn't have to tape off the inside of the joint or disassemble them. They're just secured via a rubber band through the joint. The only thing that needs to be taped is the grease zerk, which is quick and easy, and maybe not even necessary. Then just stick it in a box with a hole and paint.
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I didn't necessarily need silver joints but they look clean now and it is minimal hassle to do this with the control arms apart. This seymour stainless steel paint is pretty nice, different color than the silver Steel-IT.
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Yeah definitely. I guess I don't have a good before photo anywhere but before I raised the frame up I had half of it cut away to clear the pitman arm and nut and really wasn't sure how I'd make it strong enough like that.

The reason it had to be so high was because of how much I raised my tie rod. If you keep yours a little lower and it doesn't run into your track bar joint, you might be able to keep your pitman arm low enough to clear anyways.

Looking forward to a build thread, that sounds interesting!

It’s gonna be interesting for sure. Front stretch and a Currie RockJock 60 that pretty much fills where your box is mounted so I’m gonna do something similar but on the outside of the rail between the grille and the tower for the ORI. I’ve got a build on NC4x4 but I haven’t copied it over here yet but it’s on my to-do list.
 
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Figured out the right tool for the job. My dad has an old milwaukee 7" variable speed sander and I found some old rouge. A few minutes with the brown to cut the surface and a few minutes with the white and a different pad is all that was needed to get a mirror finish. The DA sander does help hide the scratches, but it also adds a lot more polishing time and really isn't necessary. 600-800 grit might be worthwhile, 320 is just too coarse. Went ahead and did all my front links and painted all the joints. No other pictures, I covered everything with tape as I went along.

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I'm considering milling in some wrench flats in my Savvy control arms. The jam nuts can be a real pain to loosen without being able to grip onto anything. Is there a trick to keeping the bar still without wrench flats or a pipe wrench?

I'll try to get some real work done tomorrow... :LOL:
 
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...

I'm considering milling in some wrench flats in my Savvy control arms. The jam nuts can be a real pain to loosen without being able to grip onto anything. Is there a trick to keeping the bar still without wrench flats or a pipe wrench?

I'll try to get some real work done tomorrow... :LOL:

Easy. Let the entire arm roll and bind the Johnny Joints against the control arm brackets. That is why flats aren't needed.
 
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Makes sense, saves me a job. I’ll try to remember to loosen the jam nuts before I take the arms off the vehicle next time.
 
I need to figure out my Antirock axle side mounts the next time I put the axle in, but I don't want to have to remove the bar again so I guess I need to address this first. Pretty crusty in there.
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Made a little tool using a coarse abrasive pad, a length of all thread, and some nuts and washers. Spun it in the frame with a drill.
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It actually worked pretty well, big rust clouds were flowing out of the ends. I cleaned up the first inch or so with a dremel afterwards so the Antirock bushings go in smoothly.
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To try to mitigate rust, I added a couple drain holes on each side. One for the main tube, then one for the little support piece of metal that is shaped like a bowl.
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Added a couple more at some local low spots near the steering box. Don't want any water pooling.
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Sprayed the first foot or so of the frame and the round tube section with Eastwood frame coating. Couldn't do more of the frame yet because I still have a little welding left.
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Hit the front section of the frame with some Steel-It top coat. Now I should be able to install the sway bar without it getting in the way of the rest of the painting.
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I wanted to get the ball joints back on, but I had one more task to finish while they were off. I wanted to add another gusset to the track bar bracket just to make sure everything is nice and rigid. Needed to preheat the C to get good welds.
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Got the ball joints in along with their grease boots and greased them up. Taped them off and painted the immediate area around them so that I can leave the knuckles on when I go to do the final paint job on the axle. The quart can of steel-it is a better value, but man the aerosol cans are way more convenient.
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I also got the CAs back on their brackets after a couple coats of paint on the frame side mounts, and got the Antirock bar installed as well.
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Next job is to get the axle back in and the knuckles on. Before I take it back out for the last time to paint it and the frame, I need to:
- Finish the frame side track bar mount
- Check clearance and plate in the passenger side frame notch for the steering linkages
- Bend or rework sway bar arms to clear stuff (if needed)
- Make axle side sway bar link mounts
- Measure what size brake hoses I'll need

I'll also need to get the hard lines made and installed before paint in case there are any tabs or nuts that need to be welded on.



Regarding the brake hoses, I've basically given up on the idea of finding some magical OEM hardware that just works and am just going to use -3AN hoses like my original idea. Any braided JK lines I can find would technically work but are just so long and get in the way of stuff. I'll stick to 3/8-24 IF on the hard lines and will use horseshoe clip adapters to join the two. It's not any more fittings this way, because a full AN system would still require male-male bulkhead unions between hard and soft lines.

One option I do have, however, is to use lines like this:
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and then mount the caliper upside down. Drawback is I'll have to remove the caliper and invert it whenever I bleed the brakes. The reason the caliper needs to be mounted upside down with a line like that is the straight banjo puts the hose in the way of everything.

Alternately, I keep the calipers on the correct side, get a right angle -3AN to -3AN line, and add in an AN banjo adapter. There is more cost and failure points this way due to the extra parts. Each idea should ultimately be fine though.
 
Alternately, I keep the calipers on the correct side, get a right angle -3AN to -3AN line, and add in an AN banjo adapter. There is more cost and failure points this way due to the extra parts. Each idea should ultimately be fine though.

You can get the banjo adapter in different angles and then run straight -3 fitting braided lines. Lay it out so everywhere it uses a braided line can use the same length and then carry one as a spare. My rear is set up like this except for the long braided line that’s running down my upper link to the axle. You can also get -3 caps/plugs to block off a line if you have an issue. If you’ve got a race shop local to you they may be able to make the -3 lines in whatever length you need. Or check out SRI Performance. They’ll make them however you want.