Measure Once, Cut Twice: A Story of Excitement and Impatience


Wob Free
Supporting Member
Ride of the Month Winner
May 1, 2019
Miami Valley
EDIT: note the first five or six pages of this build thread goes in and out of past and present tense because I was updating all at once the work I've done up to this point.

It's been a long time coming and at the urging of a few fellow forum members, I'm finally doing a build thread for my LJR. It will take some time to bring everything up to speed because I lost all my data, including photos, on my phone where I was carelessly compiling everything. Long story short, our company was compromised after several repeated attempts, so I had to wipe my phone.

Fortunately, I had been using "What Did You Do to Your LJ Today" as my build thread, so much is documented there along with various other threads. It will take some time, but I should be able to comb through and pull everything I need from the other threads and then compile them here. I did take lots of photos during my build and hopefully attached them in the threads.

I'm not ready just yet to put actual build info on here, but wanted to at least get it started. This is my mini-commitment so to speak. I've been talking about it for a long tine but never followed through. Hopefully, this will give me the springboard I need. Its been an interesting journey thus far, but with the help of this forum and some key members I think I have a pretty nice build going on and most importantly an idea on direction.

So, stay tuned...
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Some of you have read these posts from the other threads so bear with me while I get caught up. This is the drive home on purchase day and my first post about my search for it:

Hello. I've been lurking here for a few months, reading tons and asking questions. I must first say, Thank You, as this forum has helped me steer clear of potentially budget busting hidden rust buckets or rabbit hole mechanical nightmares. Patience while looking/searching for a TJ/LJ has certainly been the underlying theme, which is definitely, at least in my case, not easy to manage once I caught "Wrangler fever." I'm from Ohio, but traveled to Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Iowa, and New Jersey in my quest to find the right one: too much moolah that could/should be better spent on mods.

While I was searching for a Rubicon, having test drove over 15, I fell in love with an LJR I saw and test drove, aside from its issues. This sent me down an LJR only path towards the end of my journey, which turned out to be a severely limited inventory. I was advised along the way to find a stock one so I didn't have to worry about dealing with the issues of owners past. The market of low-mileage, stock LJR's seemed to start at 18k and climb all the way to 30K+, certainly not something that was easily digested while struggling with what turned into an unhealthy "I have to have an LJR obsession."

Anyway, I plunged into the deep end of Wrangler mania head first, as evinced by my above list of visited states. It seemed as though, when I found the right one and traveled hundreds of miles, it was never "as listed or described." Either it was a mechanically-sound rust bucket or a rust-free mechanical basket case. "Rust free" as quoted by several salesmen/dealers and private parties, in addition to camera magic when taking photos, was certainly not representative of the true states that these TJs/LJs were/are in.

As I looked South and West, I would find one, only to find out that someone was already coming to buy it. I missed the boat several times. With this said, I realized that I could expand my supply by getting a TJ Rubicon or standard LJ (not that there is anything wrong with them), but I wanted what I wanted and wasn't going to settle as I have with several vehicles in my past, only to regret and wish I had not done so. Consequently, I started to get discouraged.

Then, two weeks ago, it appeared--a unicorn at what seemed to be an unbelievable price. $15K for a 2005 LJR automatic with 81K miles and a hard top! It had to have something wrong with it I thought, it's in New Jersey by God-rust galore for sure. Plus, it was already lifted and modded, but with what and how much I didn't know. But, I called anyway, not wanting to miss the boat again if it didn't. I talked to the salesman/owner who said it was rust free. I told him I would drop deposit on it and drive to NJ the following weekend. He said that he is a one-man show, small car dealer and didn't do deals over the phone. After a little imploring and tugging on his heartstrings by relaying my experiences on my search thus far, he reluctantly agreed to take a deposit over the phone. Feeling on the top of the world and yet again throwing caution to the wind, that weekend my nephew and I headed to NJ with boroscope and long arm magnet in hand.

When I got there, it definitely looked well taken care of, but those mods/lift had to be something cheap like Skyjacker. However, my under body inspection said otherwise. It had Fox 2.0 shocks, JKS quick disconnects, and Currie Correctlink steering. Hmmm, maybe I can work with this. Frame looked good as I started in the front and worked my way back...then, I saw it...rust, not a lot, but it made me question his claim of "rust free." Really? I pointed this out to him and he didn't say a word. It looked like surface rust but I wasn't going to assume. I took my boroscope out and connected it with my phone. Well, as far as I could tell, the inside looked pretty good, aside from having some sand in it. So, I said what the hell, all he can do is say no. So, I asked him if he had a screw driver and hammer so I could "see if it was just surface rust." He said sure. He even brought me an angle grinder with wire wheel and said, "go to town on it." So, I obliged and beat, scraped, and grinded on the frame with the tools at hand. I was able to get to bare metal underneath, so it seemed promising and I felt mostly satisfied. After attacking his frame, I said, If you can loosen and then retighten the skid plate bolts without them stripping, then we have a deal. At that point, I would feel confident that it does not suffer from frame rot. He went and got an impact wrench and loosed the bolts and then let me tighten them with a torque wrench. The deal was done; I was ready. I filled out paperwork and we drove back to Ohio fully ready to tell all here about my unicorn find.

Then...the tornadoes hit--13 in one night (2 F4's and 1 F3) here in Dayton, Ohio. Devastation and destruction for miles upon miles. This has consumed me for that past two weeks as I am a Daytonian (heartstrings and homeland) and a roofing contractor (profession and livlihood). So, I have been waiting to share my find with you. Tonight, while working on what seems to be an insurmountable amount of paperwork/contracts/claims/insurance bullshit, I decided I couldn't contain my excitement anymore and had to share, especially reading everyone else's new TJ/LJ stories. it is.

There are some things I want to undo and a lot of things I want to do to it. This will be a challenging list to compile, as all will affect how each is done and in what order. I already drove to Michigan for a soft top and have replaced the headlights (my god the stock ones suck. better off with flash lights taped to the hood). Will begin build thread once I compile my list of to-dos. Thanks again for all your help and encouragement along my quest.

This is a photo on our way back from NJ--first of 2 stops for gas--my first run in with the LJ's efficient gas useage :).

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Never in my life have I needed to see paragraphs more than now.

That post above is almost unreadable due to having no paragraphs, haha :ROFLMAO:

But that TJ Unlimited is very nice looking ;)
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The next morning after the NJ purchase trip. I was so excited, I woke up early to go out and stare at it and had to take a photo of it. I thought to myself, "this is what I wanted it to look like." Fast forward to today and that thought couldn't be any more naive and further from the future truth.

Out of curiosity, the Rubicon hood decals weren't there, but then magically appeared. What's the story there?
That is one sharp Unlimited.

Top on, but windows out is my favorite way to run mine. When running like that, I found that the rear sail panels would sometimes pop loose. I took some Velcro Self-Wrap and wrap it around the roll bar and sail panel and that cured that. I keep the Velcro wrapped around the roll bar when not in use.

That is one sharp Unlimited.

Top on, but windows out is my favorite way to run mine. When running like that, I found that the rear sail panels would sometimes pop loose. I took some Velcro Self-Wrap and wrap it around the roll bar and sail panel and that cured that. I keep the Velcro wrapped around the roll bar when not in use.

View attachment 146616
I did something similar with a set of my wife's bungee hair ties, lol. Worked like a charm.
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That is one sharp Unlimited.

Top on, but windows out is my favorite way to run mine. When running like that, I found that the rear sail panels would sometimes pop loose. I took some Velcro Self-Wrap and wrap it around the roll bar and sail panel and that cured that. I keep the Velcro wrapped around the roll bar when not in use.

View attachment 146616
I run this way often as well, especially after work.
Not long after purchased, I heard a noise that sounded like a wheel bearing. I drove it slowly over and over listening for it. Had my wife drive slowly while I crawled beside it to listen for it. I swear it was a wheel bearing. I thought, if I have to replace wheel bearings, I might as well upgrade to chromoly shafts at the same time, and, if I'm doing shafts, I might as well regear at the same time. Once this is done, I'll be set for a while and enjoy wheeling during the Summer and Fall. So, I had 4WP install chromoly in rear, regear front and rear to 5.13 (should've listened and went with 5.38 :confused:), replace all axle seals and ball joints. First brush with "while I'm in there syndrome."

Well, after pick up I heard the noise after a few days and was like, WTF! So, I read and read on here. The consensus after hours of reading troubleshooting threads was to NOT assume and crawl under your rig and check EVERYTHING for looseness.

Crawled under my rig at night because I was bored and guess what? My flipping rear track bar had a failing heim joint and made the same noise when jostling it back and forth. So, I ordered a rear Currie track bar, installed it myself and never heard the noise again.

At least I regeared though, right?
This first major repair/upgrade produced an unintended byproduct. Troubleshooting and replacing my track bar forced me to spend a significant amount of time under my rig and enabled me to look at everything differently. I actually started researching different types of joints, since my heim joint failed. I started to realize what I actually had under my rig and that, while it looked like what I wanted from standing view, looking underneath armed with a more knowledgeable eye yielded a different perspective of "what I wanted." This started me down a rabbit hole that I had no idea existed or how deep it could actually go or which direction it went. Budget, what is that exactly?
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First brush with "while I'm in there syndrome."

This is the story of my life! My current project...Pulled the genset out of my RV to troubleshoot. Decided that the oil leaks were too bad, so I should reseal it. It is now getting a full rebuild and repaint!