Newbie needing advice on how to tackle rust

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
Well, here I am newbie number XXXXX...

I am a proud owner of a TJ Wrangler. I've always wanted to own a Wrangler and a couple of years ago I got a call from local Jeep dealer saying they found me one. I know some folks that work there so they were keeping an eye out. It's a 2002 plain jane but I figured that just meant it was a blank canvas that I could mold into whatever I decided I would want.

I am NOT a Jeep guru. I just like their looks and wanted one so I could go off road once in a while and ride around topless when the weather is nice.

Last year, the jeep developed a pretty heavy shimmy and after some research, I found out that it was a Death Wobble. The repairs that were suggested were the track bar and steering stabilizer. So, I crawled under the jeep to see what was what. Ummmm... RUST city!

I was concerned with what I saw and took some pics of what I was seeing. I had no clue what I was taking pictures of except the track bar and stabilizer. All I knew is that it looks bad.

I kinda gave up on driving it because of the rust underneath, plus it developed an exhaust leak which was fixed yesterday so now I'm getting the itch to get back out there. It didn't help matters that today it was sunny and in the 70's here so it was a good Jeep day!

My plan has been to:
  1. remove any flaky rust
  2. use a rust to phosphate product
  3. POR-15
  4. Urethane top coat
I own the Jeep now so I can't just dump it and run. I want to keep it so I need some advice. I have attached the pics I took the day I was looking at the track bar. If they tell the tale, good. If I need to take some more pics of specific locations I can do that.

The other option is finding a non rust frame and replace it. That is out of my skill set by a country mile so if that is the route I need to go I will have to pay my local mechanic to do it I suppose.

By the way, the track bar and steering stabilizer have been replaced and there is no more death wobble. Just rust... :(

Any advice (aside from the dump & run/I'd never own that piece of junk type stuff) is much appreciated...

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Shandara

New Member
Jan 5, 2019
13
Okanagan
A lot of what your showing will clean up with some solid elbow grease the bigger thing to look at is anything that would affect your safety. Like the frame, TJ's have a bad tendency to get some serious rust in the frames. You can search it here or check out some of the You Tube vids, search something like safety caps to see how bad they can get. I personally would start with the frame, a hammer test is a good start or a bore scope is a good way as well and see if you have anything major that needs to be dealt with before you get too carried away. Don't let that discourage you though. I own a 1968 Camaro that I have replaced over 90% of the metal on with reproduction sheet metal, pretty much anything can fixed. You personally will need to decide how much your comfortable doing or spending to correct it. Most of what you show will clean up with a wire wheel and the your current plan.
 
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
A lot of what your showing will clean up with some solid elbow grease the bigger thing to look at is anything that would affect your safety. Like the frame, TJ's have a bad tendency to get some serious rust in the frames. You can search it here or check out some of the You Tube vids, search something like safety caps to see how bad they can get. I personally would start with the frame, a hammer test is a good start or a bore scope is a good way as well and see if you have anything major that needs to be dealt with before you get too carried away. Don't let that discourage you though. I own a 1968 Camaro that I have replaced over 90% of the metal on with reproduction sheet metal, pretty much anything can fixed. You personally will need to decide how much your comfortable doing or spending to correct it. Most of what you show will clean up with a wire wheel and the your current plan.
Thanks. I am hoping that most if not all is just surface and nothing too bad/dangerous. Thanks for the advice about the hammer & scope tests.

'68 Camero... Nice! It's good to know that with a little bit of perseverance you can make it happen!
 
Reactions: KCsTJ

S.McArthur

TJ Enthusiast
May 31, 2018
298
Greenbrier, TN
If those people from the dealership are "friends", they royally screwed you. Hope you didn't pay much for that thing, it's a POS. You are going to dump way too much money/time/effort into trying to fix it.
 
Reactions: Flivver250

JEEPCJTJ

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
While ugly as heck, almost none of that rust pictured makes any difference. The most important area starts just in front of where the front lower control arm mounts and ends just behind where the rear lower control arm mounts.

I see you're in Ohio. If you're anywhere near me I'll show you how to poke around at it to find out what needs fixed and if it's even fixable.
 
Reactions: Wrangler91899

Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
35,352
Salem, Oregon
If those people from the dealership are "friends", they royally screwed you. Hope you didn't pay much for that thing, it's a POS. You are going to dump way too much money/time/effort into trying to fix it.
X2 to this, and I say this with the utmost respect too.

What you bought there will cost more money to fix (correctly) than it's likely worth. @jodomcfrodo recently has his entire frame replaced do to rust, and it was around $6000+ to do that.

Every case is different of course, but given the way the metal is actually flaking away from the frame in many areas, that's beyond surface rust, that's actual rot.

My guess is if you drop the transfer case skid, you'll see large chunks of the frame missing entirely (which is bordering on dangerous in terms of driving it).

Again, I'm not trying to be rude, but whoever sold you that thing screwed you if they didn't tell you about the rust (although I guess the buyer can be at fault here too for not checking it out properly).

There is no way to "fix" that rust with POR-15 or any sort of spray on solution. The only way to deal with that rust (or frame rot is what I should be saying) is to either buy a clean, rust free frame, or cut out every single section of the frame that is rotted and replace it with a Safe-T-Cap type of solution. Of course at that point it would literally be cheaper to spend $1000-$1500 on a rust free replacement frame, seriously.

I hate stories like this, I really do. Seeing new guys go out and buy vehicles without knowing what to look for. Then you end up in a situation like this where you spent money on a vehicle that for all intents and purposes should be totaled or scrapped.

There's just so much time and money into fixing a vehicle in this condition that it's honestly cheaper to go out and buy a new one as oppose to restoring it, especially when they aren't very expensive vehicles to begin with (well, in comparison to some sort of a classic muscle car for instance).
 

jodomcfrodo

TJ Addict
Supporting Member
Feb 24, 2016
1,245
Evanston, IL, United States
I can say with 90% certainty that the Jeep in the photos is totaled and should either be scrapped or parted out. While I've been wrong before, I would be shocked if the center section of the frame and the body have not been destroyed by rust.

You'll spend upwards of $10,000 to get that Jeep right again (if you use a mechanic). And at that point, you won't have much of the original Jeep left.
 
Last edited:

Cornbread

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Jan 14, 2019
136
Southern Indiana
If you have the time ( A Lot of It) and the know how you could fix this Jeep, might take several years to get it back up to decent shape. No discouragement here and I love to see people fix things up and keep it from the scrap yard. But you have rust in places that shouldn't be rusty. I have a bad feeling your entire frame could be thin. For example, I have some rust in my frame and almost no rust on any of the external parts you pictured, imagine how bad the inside of the frame could be. You need to take a hammer and see if it will punch through anywhere to make sure it's safe to drive.
 
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Mike_H

Rust Belt Heavyweight
Supporting Member
Feb 28, 2017
3,966
Grand Rapids, MI, United States
You have a long road ahead, but I don't think its hopeless. No one can say for sure how bad it is, just looking at a few pictures on the internet (@Chris, @S.McArthur and @jodomcfrodo ). That isn't really helpful to the OP anyway. He asked how to fix it. Its up to him to decide if He wants to make the investment. I see a LOT of Flaking rust, but I don't see any ugly cracks. That is a good thing. Take a look at my build thread (link in my signature) and you'll see that I wasn't that far off where you are when I started. I've knocked the rust off most things, but will need a tub replacement in the future. My frame is solid, except for one area near the rear bumper.

First things first though. Don't worry about appearance right now. Its important to figure out how bad the frame REALLY is. Get a Borescope. The ones that connect to your smartphone are pretty cool. I think they are a few bucks on Amazon. The areas you want to focus on are near between the lower control arm mounting points, where the skid mounts to the frame. This can give you an idea of what the inside looks like. It should be smooth.

Also, take a ball peen hammer and tap on the frame along the bottom. Solid steel will ring, kinda like a bell. Rusty steel where it has started to delaminate will sound more like a thud. The sound won't ring though the frame like it would if it were solid.

Once you know if its a solid base or not, then you can start planning how to mitigate the rust. I can't imagine paying someone to replace a frame...though people do. That is an option. You can also knock the rust off and repaint it. I use a needle descaler. Works WONDERFULL! For heavy, crusty rust like you have, its really the only option (short of bashing it with a hammer). A grinder isn't really going to do it. Then, just take your time. Work in small sections, and go from front to back, side to side. You're going to spend a bunch of money on fasteners, paint, brushes, cleaning supplies; Get frustrated dealing with bolts that want to break or are seized; and ask yourself why in the F*** am I doing this. BUT...at the end, you'll have something very nice. Only you can answer if its worth it though.
 

jodomcfrodo

TJ Addict
Supporting Member
Feb 24, 2016
1,245
Evanston, IL, United States
You have a long road ahead, but I don't think its hopeless. No one can say for sure how bad it is, just looking at a few pictures on the internet (@Chris, @S.McArthur and @jodomcfrodo ). That isn't really helpful to the OP anyway. He asked how to fix it. Its up to him to decide if He wants to make the investment. I see a LOT of Flaking rust, but I don't see any ugly cracks. That is a good thing. Take a look at my build thread (link in my signature) and you'll see that I wasn't that far off where you are when I started. I've knocked the rust off most things, but will need a tub replacement in the future. My frame is solid, except for one area near the rear bumper.

First things first though. Don't worry about appearance right now. Its important to figure out how bad the frame REALLY is. Get a Borescope. The ones that connect to your smartphone are pretty cool. I think they are a few bucks on Amazon. The areas you want to focus on are near between the lower control arm mounting points, where the skid mounts to the frame. This can give you an idea of what the inside looks like. It should be smooth.

Also, take a ball peen hammer and tap on the frame along the bottom. Solid steel will ring, kinda like a bell. Rusty steel where it has started to delaminate will sound more like a thud. The sound won't ring though the frame like it would if it were solid.

Once you know if its a solid base or not, then you can start planning how to mitigate the rust. I can't imagine paying someone to replace a frame...though people do. That is an option. You can also knock the rust off and repaint it. I use a needle descaler. Works WONDERFULL! For heavy, crusty rust like you have, its really the only option (short of bashing it with a hammer). A grinder isn't really going to do it. Then, just take your time. Work in small sections, and go from front to back, side to side. You're going to spend a bunch of money on fasteners, paint, brushes, cleaning supplies; Get frustrated dealing with bolts that want to break or are seized; and ask yourself why in the F*** am I doing this. BUT...at the end, you'll have something very nice. Only you can answer if its worth it though.
Being a 2002, there is no chance that the frame above has an unintended drain hole like the later manuals do. The drain hole created by the lack of a 42RLE transmission crossmember on later manual TJ's is what keeps frames like yours from completely rusting out internally. You rarely see an 03-06 manual with a dangerously rotted out frame (though it definitely happens). There is a near 100% probability that the frame on the TJ above is shot.

Sometimes the best way to deal with rust is to get rid of the Jeep. For 98% of TJ owners, replacing the tub (like you plan to) or replacing the frame (like I did) makes no sense whatsoever, financially or time wise. Yes, you could fix the Jeep above, but is it worth it for most people? No.

Obviously, more pictures are needed, but in my view, the most likely scenario to fix that Jeep is going to be a new frame and new tub. At that point, why are you even keeping the Jeep? Just sell it and get a rust free one already assembled.
 
Reactions: Wrangler91899
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
A lot of what your showing will clean up with some solid elbow grease the bigger thing to look at is anything that would affect your safety. Like the frame, TJ's have a bad tendency to get some serious rust in the frames. You can search it here or check out some of the You Tube vids, search something like safety caps to see how bad they can get. I personally would start with the frame, a hammer test is a good start or a bore scope is a good way as well and see if you have anything major that needs to be dealt with before you get too carried away. Don't let that discourage you though. I own a 1968 Camaro that I have replaced over 90% of the metal on with reproduction sheet metal, pretty much anything can fixed. You personally will need to decide how much your comfortable doing or spending to correct it. Most of what you show will clean up with a wire wheel and the your current plan.
Thanks for the reply...

I will be posting an audio of the ball peen test lower in the thread. you can check that out. Thanks for the suggestions!
 
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
If those people from the dealership are "friends", they royally screwed you. Hope you didn't pay much for that thing, it's a POS. You are going to dump way too much money/time/effort into trying to fix it.
Thanks for taking the time to reply I suppose...

Even though I specifically said this is NOT the kind of reply I was looking for...

"Any advice (aside from the dump & run/I'd never own that piece of junk type stuff) is much appreciated... "

It adds zero value to the discussion.

Although, I DID have a conversation with them about the rust. They got the money, I got the Wrangler. I've lived & learned...
 
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
While ugly as heck, almost none of that rust pictured makes any difference. The most important area starts just in front of where the front lower control arm mounts and ends just behind where the rear lower control arm mounts.

I see you're in Ohio. If you're anywhere near me I'll show you how to poke around at it to find out what needs fixed and if it's even fixable.
I sure hope that ends up being the case. From the other comments in this thread it doesn't look too promising... I posted an audio of the ball peen test lower in the thread. Feel free to listen to it and offer your opinion.

Thanks for offering some advise.

If you are between Cleveland and Pittsburgh it's probably not gonna work out since I am in Southern Ohio. Thanks for the offer. It's super cool of you to do so.
 
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
X2 to this, and I say this with the utmost respect too.

1) What you bought there will cost more money to fix (correctly) than it's likely worth.

2) Every case is different of course...

3) My guess is if you drop the transfer case skid, you'll see large chunks of the frame missing entirely...

4) Again, I'm not trying to be rude, but whoever sold you that thing screwed you if they didn't tell you about the rust (although I guess the buyer can be at fault here too for not checking it out properly).

5) There is no way to "fix" that rust with POR-15 or any sort of spray on solution. The only way to deal with that rust (or frame rot is what I should be saying) is to either buy a clean, rust free frame, or cut out every single section of the frame that is rotted and replace it with a Safe-T-Cap type of solution. Of course at that point it would literally be cheaper to spend $1000-$1500 on a rust free replacement frame, seriously.

6) I hate stories like this, I really do. Seeing new guys go out and buy vehicles without knowing what to look for. Then you end up in a situation like this where you spent money on a vehicle that for all intents and purposes should be totaled or scrapped.

7) There's just so much time and money into fixing a vehicle in this condition that it's honestly cheaper to go out and buy a new one as oppose to restoring it, especially when they aren't very expensive vehicles to begin with (well, in comparison to some sort of a classic muscle car for instance).
Chris,

Thanks for the reply and weighing in on this...

1) If what you say is indeed true on this Jeep you are right

2) It sure is.

3) Hmmm... I had not considered doing this but I really, probably need to do this so I know what actually is behind that skid.

4) Yeah no doubt the onus is on me for not doing my due diligence. Like I said to another poster, I've lived and learned on Jeeps & rust... ha

5) Well, I guess my original plan may not work then. A question here though, in your original comment you talked about the frame costing $6000 but here in #5 you said $1000 - $1500. Did the $6000 include labor etc...?

6) I can appreciate the sentiment. I see the same thing in my line of work where people are taken advantage of when, given the proper guidance, could have had a much better experience. This won't end up in the Jeep being totaled or scrapped by me though. I will either fix it or sell it letting the next owner decide what they want to do.

7) If I go the route of selling and buying a new one I for sure will buy one from south or west and NOT from ohio... I suppose if I found one that had been garage kept and treated underneath from the get go, that would be a different story but I'm guessing those are few and far between...
 
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
I can say with 90% certainty that the Jeep in the photos is totaled and should either be scrapped or parted out. While I've been wrong before, I would be shocked if the center section of the frame and the body have not been destroyed by rust.

You'll spend upwards of $10,000 to get that Jeep right again (if you use a mechanic). And at that point, you won't have much of the original Jeep left.
I can't argue with your % certainty...

By "the center section of the frame and the body" are you referring to the part of the frame under the skid mentioned in previous posts? We most likely will find this out because I will be removing that skid to look at the frame.

"You'll spend upwards of $10,000 to get that Jeep right again..." - No I won't. I'd sell it or part it out before I would spend that money fixing this Jeep...
 
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
If you have the time ( A Lot of It) and the know how you could fix this Jeep, might take several years to get it back up to decent shape. No discouragement here and I love to see people fix things up and keep it from the scrap yard. But you have rust in places that shouldn't be rusty. I have a bad feeling your entire frame could be thin. For example, I have some rust in my frame and almost no rust on any of the external parts you pictured, imagine how bad the inside of the frame could be. You need to take a hammer and see if it will punch through anywhere to make sure it's safe to drive.
See the ball peen test video and posted later in this thread and can offer your opinions on it as well
 
OP
Wrangler91899

Wrangler91899

New Member
Mar 14, 2019
17
Ohio
If you have the time ( A Lot of It) and the know how you could fix this Jeep, might take several years to get it back up to decent shape. No discouragement here and I love to see people fix things up and keep it from the scrap yard. But you have rust in places that shouldn't be rusty. I have a bad feeling your entire frame could be thin. For example, I have some rust in my frame and almost no rust on any of the external parts you pictured, imagine how bad the inside of the frame could be. You need to take a hammer and see if it will punch through anywhere to make sure it's safe to drive.
Also, I understand what you mean by not wanting to discourage with what you said. It's all good. That's why I came here. If I feel I can fix it, I will otherwise I'm gonna have to move on from it.