Liberated's 2003 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#1
After nearly 20 years since I sold my '78 CJ-7 in high school I finally got back into the Jeep world in the early spring of 2017. It was a stock, rusty, hard top Jeep from Michigan that had started life as a Canadian.

At 6'5" tall, it wasn't long before I wanted to lift it so I didn't feel like I was sitting down into a sports car. So it got a 3.25" rough country lift, 15" steel soft 8 knockoffs, and LT33x12.50R15 Falken A/T3W shoes(5 star review for sure).

Next I gave my UPS driver a workout, ordering barricade front and rear HD bumpers, with tire carrier, and a barricade 9500lb winch. After that, came the side bars with step, because my rather short wife could not get into it after the lift.

It wasn't long before I realized that I wanted some lights. Still a fan of the old round KC look, but also looking for LED lighting quality, I found a cheap set of lights from Amazon. I figured at around $30 for the pair, they wouldn't be much loss if they only lasted a year. They've actually been great.

Still running around with 3.07 gearing, a Dana 35 and open diffs, I was really getting worried about my plans to hit Moab next spring. That came to a head when my front axle started having issues(u-joints etc.) I found an unbelievable deal on a sleeved high pinion dana 30, in 4.10 gearing, with an ARB air locker, HD u-joints, and HD brakes. It had been built but never installed.

At the same time I found a dana 44 out of a Rubicon for a decent price. Being in the midst of too many projects, and only being a mediocre redneck weekend wrencher, I took it to Allpro Auto and off-road, in Lansing Michigan. They really know their stuff. Allpro installed my axles, replaced the Rubi locker with an ARB, and installed an ARB compressor. This also included an SYE, custom double cardan driveshaft, and new exhaust.

I also asked them to inspect for problems, because I knew I had been putting several off for too long. The front track bar was junk, and the rear wasn't even connected to the axle, but rather just hung loose from the frame mount.

So Allpro replaced my track bars and control arms with rusty's adjustables all around.

Now this Jeep drives better than it ever has. It has done some off-road trails in Michigan, the off-road course that Monroe Jeep offered for the Toledo Jeep Fest, as well as a go topless day poker run, and the Toledo Jeep fest parade/Jeep show.

I have plans in the next couple of weeks to get back on Michigan trails, and to the silver lake sand dunes. Also have plans for fins'n'things, hell's revenge, and top of the world in moab, come spring 2019
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OP
OP
Liberated
Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#6
Nice TJ, have you checked out Misch Big Boy Seat Brackets? Expensive pieces of simple metal but really good for tall folks, I love having them @ 6'6.

Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk
Thank you. I hadn't. Just checked them out. They look useful. Does the seat still come as far forward in case of rear seat passengers though?
 
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OP
OP
Liberated
Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#8
Thank you. Budget is blown for this year, but I'll keep that in mind for next year. ZJ as in Grand Cherokee oem? Is there a reason you suggest that as opposed to hd aftermarket?
 
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OP
OP
Liberated
Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#9
Oh, and as for the rust, I hear ya. I wish I could. My other vehicle is a 99 ram, so rust is a constant battle in my driveway, and the rust is winning.

Hoping to replace the front fenders next year.
 

Rob5589

Certified video trained differential rebuilder
Supporting Member
Aug 29, 2016
5,687
5,227
W Sacramento, Kalifornia
#11
Thank you. Budget is blown for this year, but I'll keep that in mind for next year. ZJ as in Grand Cherokee oem? Is there a reason you suggest that as opposed to hd aftermarket?
Yes, tie rod set up from the v8 version ZJ. Larger diameter rod and ends, easy and inexpensive mod. Of course the Currie is a great upgrade if you have the coin.
 
Likes: Liberated
OP
OP
Liberated
Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#12
Yes, tie rod set up from the v8 version ZJ. Larger diameter rod and ends, easy and inexpensive mod. Of course the Currie is a great upgrade if you have the coin.
Thanks, I could use cost saving ideas any chance I get.

They move the whole seat assembly back so to answer your question, there would be less rear legroom.

Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk
Thanks. It's rare for me to have someone in the back, but it is so crowded already, Im not sure I can sacrifice any space back there. Plus then the rear seat won't flip forward.
 
OP
OP
Liberated
Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#13
The good, the bad, and the ugly. For the duration of this post:
the good = I love it, no complaints.
The bad = it has served me well, but...
The ugly = sure wish I hadn't!

The Good
It's a TJ: some days I miss my CJ-7, but I absolutely love my TJ. My dad's JK is awfully sweet, but I love the TJ. I was 13 when it was first introduced to replace the YJ, and I loved it even then.

Poison Spyder hood louver: Last summer I took a 6 hour drive North. By the time I got there, my feet, and my wife's were hurting pretty bad from the heat coming up around the transmission well. This hood louver, so far, seems to be dissipating that heat buildup incredibly, as I don't feel any excess heat down there any more.

Falken A/T3W LT33x12.50R15: these tires have exceeded all expectations. I bought them, thinking I was sacrificing agressive appearance and off-road traction, for decent road manners on my DD. So far, I've got somewhere around 15K miles on them. I'll never go back to BFG's. They are wearing great, still look brand new, and actually looked more aggressive than I had expected, once installed. On road they've got great traction in snow, rain, and heat. Being 10plys they do ride rough, but are quiet and smooth. Off-road, they have yet to fail me. Through sand, mud, dirt, etc, I have yet to even doubt I'd make it out, and that was before my lockers. On that note...

ARB air lockers and compressor: I haven't had a lot of experience with these yet, but plan to put them to the test at silver lake sand dunes next weekend. So far, they lock up as expected, are simple to use, and offer me on board air(with the ARB air-up kit)

Axles: the Dana 44 rear, and built high pinion 30 have eliminated some of my worn parts, and erased most of my fears of trail breakage. The 44 replaced my drum brakes with disc, and the 30 had a heavy duty brake kit providing way more stopping power.

SYE and double cardan rear driveshaft: I don't know much for specifics on this, but the elimination of drivetrain vibration has made the Jeep feel completely different.

Nilight 7" round LEDs: these things have been awesome for $30. They are super bright floods. Eventually I'll couple them with spots and get full illumination.

The Bad

Rough country 3.25" lift: I know people talk a lot of smack about RC lifts, but I have to disagree. This lIft has served me well. It is, as self described, quite rough, but reliable so far. I've had it on for a year and a half, took it through mud, sand, dirt, salt, and full flex, but the shocks are holding up well. The shock barrels are rusty, but I am actually surprised I haven't had a need to replace them yet. Flex is better than expected, and I haven't experienced the sag people describe.

Rusty's control arms and track bars: I've only had these for a month. The only reason they aren't in "the good," is the reputation Rusty's carries. They have actually increased flex as advertised, and the Jeep rides way better than my OEM did after the lift.

Barricade 9500LB winch: This winch has so far only been used to pull my tractor, and it worked great. There are two reasons it is in "the bad." First being that it is a steel cable. The second is that it is barricade, and you'll soon see why i feel that counts against it.

Barricade front bumper w/LED fog lights: I actually love this front bumper. The LEDs are brighter than my headlights, but im not sure if they're DOT approved. When I received it, there was a spot on one of the welds where the powder coat was missed, but it hasn't seemed to have gotten any worse over time. Also, as with above, points against it for being barricade.

Farm store jack: basically a Hi-lift, but off brand. It works the same, but the paint was not fade resistant, and the thing started rusting almost immediately.

Spare tire jack mount: it didn't take long at all for rust to permeate the screw, making it quite difficult to get the jack free.

The Ugly

Barricade rear bumper with spare carrier: This thing is my biggest regret. Within the first year the powder coat peeled, and left a large rust spot right on top. The tire carrier is showing many spots doing the same. The carrier also needs to be regularly removed, cleaned, and re-lubricated or it gets very stuck, which it is right now. As you can see from the picture, I've also now lost the cap for the carrier swivel pin, so I expect that to get even worse. The latch is nice and secure, but it is too secure. My wife can't open it, and some days I have to muscle it open.

Rough country side steps: these have held up good, but... They didn't line up with my body mount bolts quite right, and I had to wallow out a couple of their slots to install. Also, I got them so my short wife could get in easier, but she doesn't like the lack of purchase her feet get on the step. It has good traction, but is a very small space to step on. Also, if the wife doesn't like it, I wish I didn't have that step loop hanging down to catch on rocks. Oh well, maybe someday they'll help save my transfer case skid or something.

Michigan Jeep: I bought this thing from Michigan. If I did it again, I'd go south and avoid a whole lot of rust.
 
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MaloStapalo

МалоСтапало
Supporting Member
Mar 26, 2018
401
303
Vail, coloRADo
#15
Have you had any issues of rain or snow getting in to the hood Louvers?

For rust maintenance, look at a spray called ospho, it's a marine geared product and seems to have worked well on my bumpers.
 
Likes: Liberated
OP
OP
Liberated
Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#16
I haven't noticed an issue with rain yet, but I haven't had it through a winter yet either. My pastor has these louvers, and through many Ohio winters, I haven't seen any issues with his.

That was something that I had wondered about too, but I see a lot of people running them, and have never seen it come up in a review.
 
Likes: MaloStapalo
OP
OP
Liberated
Aug 23, 2018
95
91
Northwest Ohio
#17
Spent Saturday afternoon with my dad at the extreme off-road expo. They had a nice zelctiose of vendors, and a great set of off-road trails and a bump-n-hustle course that reshaped the front lip of my transmission skid a little bit. I didn't get into the play bog, because I'm still trying to get the mud out from last time. But I let dad drive my TJ, and he let me drive his JK. His automatic tranny, 35s and supercharger really made it all too easy and not very fun. Really glad I got a manual now. The house in the last pic is my dad's place. It wasn't nearly as fancy when I lived there, but back then was when I got my first cj-7, with no heat, and no fuel guage. Fun memories.

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