Evolution of a ‘97 TJ Sport

lowranger

TJ Expert
Supporting Member
Ride of the Month Winner
Feb 6, 2017
3,968
Kelseyville, CA, United States
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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It's like part of the family! :)
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jul 17, 2018
152
Arvada, Colorado
Off-road excursion #1

Today offered me the first chance to test out all the upgrades off-road. It's Colorado in November, so there was snow in a lot of places. I ended up driving on some mellow logging/mining roads. I kept it mellow and didn't take any unnecessary risks. All the while, I listened for any weird noises and kept a close on on how it all felt. All in all, no issues. Such a huge difference from the past old creaky suspension and old tires.

Below are the trails I went on -- about 25 miles total. On the bottom two trails, I turned around at that spot due to snow.

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Attached are a bunch of other pictures.

Looking forward to my next adventure. Perhaps next time with some friends.

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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jul 17, 2018
152
Arvada, Colorado
Off-roading with Mom

Part of why we have these Jeeps is to not just build them, but to also build experiences. Even though they can be finicky and expensive and break, they provide an amazing means to build memories and see things that would be near impossible to see otherwise.

I had one such experience this weekend with my 78 year old Mom, who was visiting from Connecticut for the holidays. She had never been off-roading in her life. So I convinced her to do a short off-roading trip with me in the mountains near Idaho Springs.

We went on a ~6 mile trail that was basically a dirt mining road, and wound through the mountains and had ~1500ft elevation gain. Once we "survived" the 500+ft dropoffs with no guardrails and got to the end, she was so happy and excited to have done it. Hard to put a price tag on any of that. :)

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Squatch

Master Thread Derailer
Supporting Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,558
Everett, Wash, United States
Off-roading with Mom

Part of why we have these Jeeps is to not just build them, but to also build experiences. Even though they can be finicky and expensive and break, they provide an amazing means to build memories and see things that would be near impossible to see otherwise.

I had one such experience this weekend with my 78 year old Mom, who was visiting from Connecticut for the holidays. She had never been off-roading in her life. So I convinced her to do a short off-roading trip with me in the mountains near Idaho Springs.

We went on a ~6 mile trail that was basically a dirt mining road, and wound through the mountains and had ~1500ft elevation gain. Once we "survived" the 500+ft dropoffs with no guardrails and got to the end, she was so happy and excited to have done it. Hard to put a price tag on any of that. :)

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Your rig looks great! Love the history behind it, and what lies ahead for you. The story of your trip with your mom riding shotgun is the best. Hope you have a Happy New Year!
 
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Adalynn

New Member
Nov 24, 2018
19
North Idaho
Your build series has been interesting to read, totally enjoying it. I agree that the family memories and exploring are a huge part as to why I love my Jeep. My youngest daughter always reminds me that someday when I’m too old, she’ll be the one taking me into the woods in the Jeep.
 
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Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
36,257
Salem, Oregon
That had to have been fun for your Mom! When my Mom gets to be that age, I'll have to remember to take her on an adventure like that as well.
 
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Rich1961

Member
Supporting Member
Dec 23, 2018
63
Colfax California
I just finished reading this build from the beginning. Great job and I've enjoyed watching the transformation up to this point. The lift you've installed is of particular interest to me and is also the one I'm planning on installing. It's helpful to see what changes in height I'll see when doing mine. Love the story of taking your Mom out to experience off roading.

Rich
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jul 17, 2018
152
Arvada, Colorado
Off-roading Trips #3 and #4

A few weeks back, I took a few easy off-roading trips near where I live. It's tricky in Colorado in the winter since the snow covers and closes most of the trails. But I found one that had a little snow, but was completely passable. It's a pretty easy trail, about 10 miles long, and has some very nice views. One day, just my wife and I went. A few days later, my whole family went. They all hung in there for the 1.5 hours it took. Definitely fun to do that with them.

One interesting part was running into some elk on the trail. They seemed perfectly fine sharing the trail. I'm sure ours was not the first Jeep they had seen.

Attached are some pictures of the adventures.

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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jul 17, 2018
152
Arvada, Colorado
I'm thinking of a number...

As discussed previously, after the upgrades I had done, I was left with 3.55 gears and 33" tires. Some people try to convince themselves that's ok, but it's really not. My TJ was super gutless going up hills. At one point, I was driving up I-70 into the mountains near Idaho Springs, and I had to shift into 3rd gear just to keep up with traffic. Plus, I really missed my friend named "5th Gear". :)

So, I took the plunge and got my TJ regeared to 4.56 gears with my existing Dana 30 and Dana 35. Some would probably argue I shouldn't have invested anything in those axles (especially the Dana 35). But, to do anything more (e.g. put in a rear Dana 44) would have cost me twice the price, which didn't make sense for me, and how I use my Jeep. Perhaps some day in the far future when I need more, I'll get more...

I took it to a local shop nearby called Black Label Off-road. They offered a reasonable price for the work (not the lowest, but not the highest). More than that, I was very impressed with the responsiveness of the owner, Tim, via email. He answered my wide array of questions and seemed to have good breadth of experience. He also didn't try to sell me on things I didn't need. When I took my TJ in, I spent 45 minutes touring his shop, and hearing a bunch of stories and seeing pictures of other Jeeps (and other types of vehicles) he had built out. I left feeling satisfied my TJ was in good hands.

It took a few days, and there were no issues found along the way. He said my TJ was in great shape overall, and no surprises. Here's a list of the gear that was installed: G2 4.56 gears, G2 master install kit, Timken bearings, front gear carrier is a Spicer case assembly, rear is an Eaton TrueTrac.

Now that I have it back, I'm very happy with how it drives now. Back to how it felt before bigger tires, plus a bit more. I'm still breaking in the gears, so I haven't pushed it too hard yet. But my guess is that I'll end up around 2500 RPM at 65 MPH, which works for me. Another 400 miles and it will be all broken in, then I can push it a bit more. Looking forward to some fun new adventures. And no longer being passed on the highway by Chevy Sprints. :)

Attached are a few pictures he took during the work.

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Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
36,257
Salem, Oregon
The feeling of having the right gears is a great thing!

I don't think you're stupid for sticking with the D30 / D35 axle combo. It's a widely known fact that the Dana 35 can be turned into a Super 35 very easily and will easily handle 35s in the toughest terrain without any issues at at all. At that point it is as strong as a Dana 44, the only real difference being that the ring and pinion isn't as big as the D44.

As for the D30, there's nothing to worry about with it either.

People started that whole rumor about the Dana 35 being a shitty axle a long time ago, and all the parrots on the internet went and started repeating it with no real world data to back it up.

I would have done the exact same thing if it were my rig. Wasting money on a Dana 44 is stupid, unless you're getting it for dirt cheap (which rarely ever happens).

If I was going to go through the hassle of swapping in axles, I'd just put a RockJock D60 in the rear at that point. Of course that would require way more work than I'd want to do, so it's out of the question altogether.
 
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tworley

TJ Addict
Supporting Member
Ride of the Month Winner
May 23, 2018
1,895
Morrison, CO
Ive never worried about my d30, I know plenty of folks running one on 35s. 33s and 4.56 is the perfect combo, I really loved that setup.

Are those they patterns they sent? They look a bit shallow, though hard to tell on the photo.
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jul 17, 2018
152
Arvada, Colorado
@tworley I don’t know if that was the final adjustment he had on it or not. I had only asked him to take some pictures while he was working on it. I can ask him.

Looking forward to getting more road time on the new setup.
 
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Creakydoor

Creakydoor

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jul 17, 2018
152
Arvada, Colorado
Speed is no longer relative...

I'm about 300 or so miles into my gear break in. So far, so good. One little noise I'm hearing (a bit of a harmonic from the front axle, but pretty minor), but when I took it to the shop he heard it a little but said it didn't sound gear related. When I take it in for the 500 mile checkup they are going to check to make sure the driveshaft was balanced and the drive shaft u-joints were all fine. Besides that, no additional bad vibrations so far.

I installed a new 39 tooth speedometer gear today (replacing the 33 tooth one). Quick and easy job. Put in a new o-ring on that as well. Did a test against a GPS app, and it was right on. No more wondering if I'm 5-10MPH over.

I drove it at 65MPH in 5th gear and the RPMs were at 2500, which seems fine to me.

One thing I saw in a video about replacing the speedometer gear was about making sure the outer gear holder (sorry, don't know the right word), was rotated the right way based on the number of teeth. I followed the instructions and made sure the 39 tooth side was facing towards the ground. Why is that a thing?

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