Finally Found My TJ

Barely Krawlified

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Jan 13, 2023
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Well, I’ve saved my pennies for a bit and have a supportive wife. We live in So. Cal. and a couple of months ago she saw this 2003 TJ Sport, 5 speed manual with 109K on Facebook Marketplace.

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The seller stated it was in all stock/original condition and he was asking $11,500. We ran the VIN and got a clear title, no accident Carfax on it. Next, we ran the VIN and got the Jeep build sheet to determine what options it left the factory with. Since it’s a Sport we knew it had the 4.0. What we didn’t know it that it was optioned with a Dana 44 rear axle w/3.73 gears and the 30” tire/wheel group. Nice.

We met the seller a few days later at a shopping center to look at it. He owned it for 14 years but you could tell he didn’t realize the gem he had and didn’t perform the maintenance tasks these Jeeps need to thrive in their old age. He basically drove it and treated it like a ‘95 Camry. As a result it was FILTHY inside the engine bay and the undercarriage with soot. I could see it would need some work but cleaned up it could be a real solid Jeep. Being a So. Cal. Jeep it had abdolutely no rust anywhere—frame and floorboards in immaculate condition.

We offered $9,000 and he said he couldn’t take anything less than $10,500. Deal.

To the chagrin of my loving wife, my bank account and my children’s affections, I have spent nearly every day since acquiring it showing it the love it deserves. It’s our 3rd vehicle (I have a 2019 JLUR and she has a Pilot, of course…) but I keep finding excuses to drive it.

Professionally, I ponied up and had the rear main seal, oil pan and valve cover gasket replaced to address the oil leaks apparent when I bought it. Also, I paid for a new clutch, brakes, wheels, lugs, and 31” BFG KO2s.

As for me, I gutted the interior and have added new Bestop Trail Max Pro seats front and back, new rear seat belts, complete Bedrug carpet kit, new roll bar pad cover (this was a PITA to install), new stereo headunit, new dash speakers, new soundbar speakers, new soft top, new fender flares, new KC HiLites halogen headlights, new Denso turn signal/parking lamp assemblies,, new Denso side marker lights, new spark plugs, new hood latches (also a PITA to install),Dana 44 differential service, restored factory spare tire carrier and a new 3rd brake light and more…

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And just to top it completely off (at least for now while my wallet recovers) can you believe the Mrs. also found a set of unbelievably nice condition half doors (also on FM) about 6 weeks ago for a great price that she also let me buy?

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Looking forward to learning a lot here and contributing where I can. Happy to be part of this amazing community.

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CharlesHS

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Barely Krawlified

Barely Krawlified

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Thank you all so much for the warm welcome. I'm really proud of the work I've completed thus far as I'm fairly new to vehicle maintenance and honestly other than the tapestry of swear words I wove when trying to remove the old, rusted/fused bolts holding the old hood latch bases to the fenders, the work and the process has been incredibly fun and rewarding. Over time, my hope is to turn/change/wrench on every nut and bolt to preserve this amazing (to me) Jeep specimen.

Next up are changing all the fluids on it. I've already changed the engine oil with new synthetic 10w-30, a new oil filter, and I've serviced the Dana 44 rear differential with new synthetic Valvoline 75w140. The Dana 30 up front is next up for service this weekend. Also, I've got some Redline MTL and C+ ATF en route from Amazon for my NV 3550 and the 231 transfer case respectively.

My next big project I really want to tackle is a complete cooling system refresh and as such I've been both stalking the TJ Cooling System Overhaul thread on this forum and stockpiling Mopar parts (yes, I found a new OEM Mopar radiator) for a complete cooling system refresh. My sense is that with the right tools, elbow grease, patience, beer, the sunshine, the FSM (great idea from the person who suggested it), Youtube and of course the guidance and wisdom from you folks, I'll be able to handle it...
 
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Barely Krawlified

Barely Krawlified

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Looks nice. What brand hood latches did you get and how is the quality?

Thanks for the comment. I used a Crown hood latch replacement kit and I'm happy with it. I should have clarified that the biggest PITA with the hood latch project was removing the old hood latches. The bolts holding the hood latch bases to the fender on each side were impossibly stuck/rusted/fused together. Trying to remove those bolts from underneath (the only possible way in my circumstance) proved challenging because of the tight space in which I had to work. Ultimately, I resorted to using a Dremel with an expensive metal cutting wheel and although it was dicey at times, it ultimately worked.

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