Evolution of a ‘97 TJ Sport

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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
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Arvada, Colorado
#22
Tire Day!

I have thought long and hard about what tires to get. I've heard lots of advice and opinions about what size to get and what brand to get. So, Saturday was the day to take action (pictures attached).

I ultimately bought the 33 x 10.5 BFG AT KO2's. I know that will ultimately cost me some additional upgrades down the road, but I just wasn't going to be happy with the look of the 31's. And since this isn't my daily driver, I could make a few compromises.

I bought them at my local Discount Tire. Since I have wheel spacers, I called ahead to make sure that wasn't going to be a problem. They didn't have any problem with it and didn't give me any grief about them at all.

After tires were done, I then took it to a local shop to have the brakes checked, alignment done, and both differentials and transfer case serviced. In general, the shop said things looked good, and I was ready to roll with my updated setup.

All in all, I am very happy that I got the 33's (pictures attached). I have 3.55 gears with a 5-speed MT, so, as expected, I can feel a difference in performance. It's something I'll live with in the short term and fix in the mid-term with either 4.10's or 4.56's.

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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
142
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Arvada, Colorado
#23
Spare Tire Wrangling - Part 1

As expected, I had some work to do to get the new full size spare attached. I raised the center brake support about 7/8" to clear the top of the tire (picture attached).

After doing that, I spent time seeing what it would take to get the spare mounted on the stock carrier. I looked at a number of different possibilities, but ran into some issues with the tire hitting the center brake support (pictures attached). Those pictures were taken with the tire resting on only a few threads on the wheel studs, and with that, there was still around 3/4" to go (picture attached). While I could do some notching on the support for part of it, that still wouldn't solve hitting the main support. I have a plan for how to solve this that I'll share on this thread once I figure out all the details.

I haven't had a bumper on my Jeep for a few months since I had broken one of the rear bumper bolts. However, I wanted to make sure the 33" fit ok with that bumper, and I didn't really want to keep driving around with no bumper, so I put it on. 4 bolts are plenty to hold that bumper. (I'll get that darn bolt fixed one of these days.) Before I put the bumper on, I installed stubby caps on the ends.

All in all, the tire fit no problem (picture attached), and the new (old) bumper is attached (pictures attached).

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JMT

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#28
Spare Tire Wrangling - Part 1

As expected, I had some work to do to get the new full size spare attached. I raised the center brake support about 7/8" to clear the top of the tire (picture attached).

After doing that, I spent time seeing what it would take to get the spare mounted on the stock carrier. I looked at a number of different possibilities, but ran into some issues with the tire hitting the center brake support (pictures attached). Those pictures were taken with the tire resting on only a few threads on the wheel studs, and with that, there was still around 3/4" to go (picture attached). While I could do some notching on the support for part of it, that still wouldn't solve hitting the main support. I have a plan for how to solve this that I'll share on this thread once I figure out all the details.

I haven't had a bumper on my Jeep for a few months since I had broken one of the rear bumper bolts. However, I wanted to make sure the 33" fit ok with that bumper, and I didn't really want to keep driving around with no bumper, so I put it on. 4 bolts are plenty to hold that bumper. (I'll get that darn bolt fixed one of these days.) Before I put the bumper on, I installed stubby caps on the ends.

All in all, the tire fit no problem (picture attached), and the new (old) bumper is attached (pictures attached).
Do you think the stock hinges are going to hold up to that 33x10.5r15? Mine would not hold up the 33x12.5r15. Even the Exogate hinges alone are still questionable. I may need the whole kit. or at least the triangular bracket that comes with the kit
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
142
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Arvada, Colorado
#29
Remove a few washers from the rear so that the 3rd brake light bracket angles back some. Should give you some more clearance for the wheel.
I can try this to see if it gives me enough clearance. My main concern is that it won’t give me the 3/4” - 1” I need to clear that tire without it leaning way back. I’ll give it a try and let you know.
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
142
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Arvada, Colorado
#30
Do you think the stock hinges are going to hold up to that 33x10.5r15? Mine would not hold up the 33x12.5r15. Even the Exogate hinges alone are still questionable. I may need the whole kit. or at least the triangular bracket that comes with the kit
Yes, I am worried about this. In the short term, I will be careful. In the medium term, I will upgrade the hinges with the MORryde/Exogate hinges. Not sure about the full kit at this point. It’s more than 2x the cost ($150 vs $350). I’ll spend the money if I need it. But I’m not sure I do.

FWIW, I sent mail to MORRyde support with a question of the hinges vs the full kit for 33” tires. Here’s their response. YMMV.

Thanks for the email and interest in our Jeep product line – and great question. It sounds like with 33” tires, you would be fine going with just the HD tailgate hinges. We typically recommend going with the tailgate reinforcement and the hinges together to better disperse the weight and stress of the larger tires, but the hinges by themselves will strengthen up your tailgate. Any improvement will be better over the stock hinges.
 
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JMT

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#31
Yes, I am worried about this. In the short term, I will be careful. In the medium term, I will upgrade the hinges with the MORryde/Exogate hinges. Not sure about the full kit at this point. It’s more than 2x the cost ($150 vs $350). I’ll spend the money if I need it. But I’m not sure I do.

FWIW, I sent mail to MORRyde support with a question of the hinges vs the full kit for 33” tires. Here’s their response. YMMV.

Thanks for the email and interest in our Jeep product line – and great question. It sounds like with 33” tires, you would be fine going with just the HD tailgate hinges. We typically recommend going with the tailgate reinforcement and the hinges together to better disperse the weight and stress of the larger tires, but the hinges by themselves will strengthen up your tailgate. Any improvement will be better over the stock hinges.
Yeah, I spoke with them before I ordered the hinges only. The guy basically told me a 33 was the breaking point. He said with 35’s definitely need teh whole kit. I installed the hinges about 12 days ago. I closed the tailgate and tightened all eight bolts down. When I opened the tailgate and tried to shut it again, it was sagging. So, yesterday, I removed the spare, loosened teh bolts and had my son lift up the tailgate while I tightened them down again. AFter doing this 2-3 times the tailgate is pretty level. I hope it holds up. I doubt it will though. All that is needed, I think, is the triangular bracket that the reinforcement kit comes with. I’m going to call MoRyde and see if I can get just that bracket. If I can’t I’m going to have a guy fab one up. Shouldn’t be too difficult or expensive. I hope you’rs works out!
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Arvada, Colorado
#32
Thanks for sharing your story. Will be curious how it goes as you get more time on just the hinges. How tight did you tighten them down?

Out of curiosity, how much does your spare weigh with the rim? I’m going to weigh mine before I put it back on. My guess is around 75-80 lbs for mine.
 

JMT

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#33
Thanks for sharing your story. Will be curious how it goes as you get more time on just the hinges. How tight did you tighten them down?

Out of curiosity, how much does your spare weigh with the rim? I’m going to weigh mine before I put it back on. My guess is around 75-80 lbs for mine.
82lbs if the tires were brand new, so very close to that.

Edit: hand tight since I don’t have any torque specs. I’m going to do a search andseeif I can come up with specs
 
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JMT

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#34
Thanks for sharing your story. Will be curious how it goes as you get more time on just the hinges. How tight did you tighten them down?

Out of curiosity, how much does your spare weigh with the rim? I’m going to weigh mine before I put it back on. My guess is around 75-80 lbs for mine.
FYI, the torque specs for the TJ tailgate hinges are 200 in-lbs = 16.67 ft-lbs
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
142
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Arvada, Colorado
#36
Spare tire is mounted!

I tried doing the washer trick mentioned above to see if I could live with that. And I admit it might have worked in the end. But, I wasn't happy with how it was looking as the brake tower was leaning back a bit. Plus, I had the feeling I was going to have to really notch the brake light support a lot.

In the end, I went with plan B -- 1" wheel spacer, and snubber extenders (a.k.a. hockey pucks). All in all, it only moved the tire out by 1" from the door, which seemed a reasonable compromise.

One issue I ran into was the tire carrier wheel studs were a little too long for the 1" spacer I was using (picture attached), so I had to trim them a bit since they were hitting the back of the rim. Once trimmed, it was all good. (picture attached).

One other tweak is I had to notch the brake light pillar plastic on the left side. I was hoping to not have to chop it at all, but it wasn't even close (picture attached). On my TJ, it's really offset, so the right side was totally fine, and the left had to be cut a bit. After trimmed, it fit just fine (picture attached). Also, the clearance between the back of the tire and the brake light tower is about 1/4-1/2", so that's all good too (picture attached).

When mounting the tire, I had enough threads to start the lug nuts, and then I tightened them down against the snubbers. I didn't have to air it down and make it happen. In the end, the snugged down well (pictures attached).

All in all, I think it came out well and looks good. (picture attached)

I hope not to have to talk about my spare tire again until I replace the hinges. :)

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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
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Arvada, Colorado
#37
Radiator replacement

For a long time (1+ years), I've had a small, intermittent leak in my radiator. I finally got to fixing it.

I ordered an OEM Mopar radiator (pictures attached), per the advice of many folks on the forum. It arrived in good shape, and looked to be a perfect fit. Since it had been a long time since I had flushed my cooling system, I also got some cooling system flush to put in after I had put in the new radiator.

Taking the radiator out was no problem. While I was at it, I also replaced the serpentine belt (picture attached) (which might have been the original one), as well as the thermostat, the radiator hoses, and the radiator clamps. Old radiator had seen better days, so it was definitely time for a new one (picture attached). Even though it had been years since changing the antifreeze, it wasn't totally gunked up (see attached).

On another thread, there was some question about the different sized clamps. For mine, two of them (upper thermostat side, lower radiator side) were 50mm, and one (lower hose water pump side) was 55mm.

For the most part, the process was straightforward, with a few tedious details. Making sure the thermostat gasket (which also might have been the original one) was super tedious. I had read lots of comments about making sure I got all of it off, and making sure not to gauge the metal. I think I accomplished both. I cleaned it up a bit and bolted it back on (pictures attached).

Tedious part #2 was getting on the water pump lower hose clamp since it's in an awkward place and I those constant tension clamps can be very particular. I also had to shorten the lower hose by a lot since the one I got at Napa was the right overall shape, but WAY too long (picture attached). I also re-installed the hose spring that was inside the original lower hose (picture attached). Patience in both cases served me well, and things went in without issue.

One bump in the road I ran into was with the fan shroud bolts and the new radiator. The original bolts were 1/4"-20 bolts, but they were a little to big for the holes in the new radiator. I tried M6 bolts, those were also too big. I then tried M5 bolts, an they were too thin, but at that point I was sick of experimenting, so I put a washer on the M5 bolts and called it a day (picture attached). If anyone knows the right size of those bolts, I'd love to know.

While I also had the hood up that day, I decided to re-install my factory air box. I had installed a K&N "cold air" intake on it in the past, and while it was ok. I decided to go back more stock. My pack-rat nature made it no problem to do this since I had carefully attached all the bolts to the original air box 15+ years earlier (picture attached).

After installing the radiator, I put in the flush (picture attached) and distilled water and was going to spend the next few days running it, and then draining it and flushing with water again. Living in Colorado, I also had to keep an eye on the temperature so as not to let things freeze.

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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
142
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Arvada, Colorado
#38
Radiator - Part 2

Since I had water and cleaner in the system for a few days, I had to go back and drain and flush, and then fill with radiator fluid. Just to be safe, I think I filled the radiator, ran the engine for a while, and flushed it 3 times, each time getting a little more and more clear as the water drained from the system. After that, I filled the radiator with Zerex G-05, and it was all set. Oh, and the best news - no leaks anywhere so far.

While I was draining the radiator multiple times, I had some time to kill. So, in keeping with my stock-ish look, I installed some front bumper impact pads (thanks @Dan T. ).

I also re-installed my original OEM fog lights. I don't need them for the brightness since the LED's are more than enough, but I just like the look. When I had removed them from the old bumper, the mounting clamps on both sides were a bit rusted, so I sanded, painted, and put them back on. When plugging into the OEM harness, it was just long enough to connect. It used to be plenty of wire length--before I had put on the 1.25" body lift.

I'm happy with how the end result looks.

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lowranger

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#39
I just read your whole thread. Great job! I like everything you've done to your Jeep. Great choice on tire size too.
It's great that you are doing so many good up grades to a Jeep you have had for so long.
Keep up the good work! I'll be following your build.
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

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Jul 17, 2018
142
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Arvada, Colorado
#40
I just read your whole thread. Great job! I like everything you've done to your Jeep. Great choice on tire size too.
It's great that you are doing so many good up grades to a Jeep you have had for so long.
Keep up the good work! I'll be following your build.
Thanks for the positive feedback. I'm really liking how it's turned out too.

It had been on my mind to do things to it for years. And I definitely hadn't made the best use over the years, which was a bit of a waste. So now it's a new era and it's been great.

It's fun having had a bunch of history with it, and now changing it up. I actually ran across a video that had my Jeep in it from 2000. Good times!

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