Pandora’s Box (re)Build

Andersen24

New Member
Supporting Member
Dec 19, 2018
23
18
Pismo Beach, CA
#1
Hello all. I thought I would go ahead and start a build thread, as hopefully this ends up being a productive thread (for me not you-haha) on my little project I picked up. Like probably 90% of you on here, I am constantly scouring CL for deals, etc. I am a first time Jeep owner, but have been looking for quite some time. TJ’s have ALWAYS been my favorite model, hence why I am here on this forum. So about two weeks ago, I found a 97 Wrangler on CL with a salvage title where they were asking 5k. Short version - I go and look at it and after seeing a few things, I end up driving away (ok towing on my car trailer) with it for 4k. The Jeep is an auto (oh well) and has 144,000 miles. I ended up doing a compression check when I was looking at it and all 6 cylinders were well within 5% of factory specs - that made me happy. The Jeep was repainted (obviously since it was salvaged) and I actually like the new blue (pretty much Dodger blue). I didn’t like the fact it was 4 hours away and I wasn’t able to throw it on my lift. I noticed the nerf bars angled backwards, but saw they mounted the rear wrong, easy fix. I noticed the hood line of the the Jeep tilted left, the decals weren’t even remotely placed in the right place and a few other items.
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The Jeep was salvaged early on in its life (1999) so of course the owner had no idea why or what happened. So I get the Jeep home, throw it on the lift and BAM - first issue I see - it has a body lift (grrrrrrr) on it, and the driver side body lift spacer doesn’t line up and isn’t bolted through.
Passenger side:
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Drivers side:
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The grommet for the steering column is missing and is way off-centered. I strip out the interior and on the drivers side, the wonder backyard mechanic body work shines through!
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Actually all in all, compared to some things I have seen, it isn’t that bad, and at 4k - I really can’t complain. Even more amazing is there is not any rust to be found.

So after opening Pandora’s Box, this is where I am at. I have ordered parts and gotten the fluids for the running gear and will be going through that. Hopefully all looks good when I drop the tranny pan, swap out differential covers and replace the oil pan gasket (only doing that so I can sneak a peak). I have already torn out the interior (it was DISGUSTING), including the birds nest of wiring, done sound deadener and have a new Bed Rug interior enroute, Wet Okole seat covers, a Tuffy Storage Center console and new speakers/headunit/etc. I have a few neighbors who are amazing body guys, so I will get their input as to how to fix the undercarriage. If it is a huge dollar pit, I will make it right as well as making it mechanically sound, putting new tires and wheels on it and the Jeep will be a great toy for the kids to be able to take out to Pismo and have fun with friends, etc. If it is a somewhat straight forward fix, I will end up ditching the combo suspension/body lift (NO clue who its by) install a new 4” lift, regear it and make it my NEW official money pit.

So with that - wish me luck and I apologize ahead of time for all the questions I’ll be asking!
 
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Andersen24

Andersen24

New Member
Supporting Member
Dec 19, 2018
23
18
Pismo Beach, CA
#2
Interior is stripped, and this is how it sits right now. Going to hold off on installing the sound deadener on the driver side until I can figure out the fix for it......needless to say, it was a pig sty when I picked it up!

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Andersen24

Andersen24

New Member
Supporting Member
Dec 19, 2018
23
18
Pismo Beach, CA
#4
I love that blue!


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2005 RHD TJ Sport
2010 BMW 528xi
Thanks Shane! I do too and surprisingly they actually did a nice job on the paint! it's weird, some things they did well (paint) and spent money on nice items (Rigid Industries LED's, HID's, decent stereo) but then they did a lot of hack work too - wiring is a nightmare, undercarriage is an afterthought. I tend to be more of a ground up type - so we'll see how much this truly turns into a Pandoras Box :)
 
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Andersen24

Andersen24

New Member
Supporting Member
Dec 19, 2018
23
18
Pismo Beach, CA
#7
Well, I got the front Tactik differential case cover but the rear cover and both gaskets aren’t due here until Friday along with the new transmission pan and filter. Ugh. Oh well, oil changed and man do I love having a lift!

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Andersen24

Andersen24

New Member
Supporting Member
Dec 19, 2018
23
18
Pismo Beach, CA
#8
Hmmmmmmmmmm, kinda digging the clean tailgate look......decisions decisions o_O. Great, now I’m going to have to start surfing all you peeps pics to see what you’ve done!
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XISophos

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Mar 30, 2017
154
148
Denver, CO, United States
#9
Nice looking Jeep! I love the color on it!

Just looking at the photos, and it "looks" like the driver side frame rail is in a bind up front. Maybe pushed up a bit which would cause some of the issues you've described. I'm basing this off of the hood gap along the grill and passenger side, obviously the body mount on the driver side (though you can kinda see it on the passenger side mount), and the radiator from the shot underneath. I could very well be wrong, as it's hard to ascertain the damage from a few photos, but that's what it looks like to me. The best way to find out is if you can hit up one of your body shop friends for some frame hanging gauges. That'll tell the story pretty quick. I'd also have one of them help you measure how square the frame is (there's gauges for this as well). It's possible that if the frame rail on one side was hit directly, it can throw it out of square and cause what is called a diamond in the frame. When you see a car driving down the road that has a "sidewinder" effect instead of tracking straight, it's usually that the rails are out of square.

Again, I might be wrong, but were it me, I'd definitely have the frame checked before you start doing any work to it as you'll start seeing all kinds of residual issues with things not lining up, and bad geometry in your suspension and body.

Hope this helps!

***Edit***
BTW, if I'm right, I wouldn't be too worried by the damage I think I see. Many are afraid of the words frame damage, but this looks it might be up by an inch (give or take a quarter), and wouldn't be enough to cause a kink in most circumstances. I used to pull frames for a living, and this one wouldn't concern me a bit if I'm reading it right.

***Second Edit***
In looking at the underside shot of the radiator again, the front axle bolsters my opinion. All things being equal, and if the vehicle is sitting on the lift properly, the front axle should be level with the rear.
 
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Andersen24

Andersen24

New Member
Supporting Member
Dec 19, 2018
23
18
Pismo Beach, CA
#10
Nice looking Jeep! I love the color on it!

Just looking at the photos, and it "looks" like the driver side frame rail is in a bind up front. Maybe pushed up a bit which would cause some of the issues you've described. I'm basing this off of the hood gap along the grill and passenger side, obviously the body mount on the driver side (though you can kinda see it on the passenger side mount), and the radiator from the shot underneath. I could very well be wrong, as it's hard to ascertain the damage from a few photos, but that's what it looks like to me. The best way to find out is if you can hit up one of your body shop friends for some frame hanging gauges. That'll tell the story pretty quick. I'd also have one of them help you measure how square the frame is (there's gauges for this as well). It's possible that if the frame rail on one side was hit directly, it can throw it out of square and cause what is called a diamond in the frame. When you see a car driving down the road that has a "sidewinder" effect instead of tracking straight, it's usually that the rails are out of square.

Again, I might be wrong, but were it me, I'd definitely have the frame checked before you start doing any work to it as you'll start seeing all kinds of residual issues with things not lining up, and bad geometry in your suspension and body.

Hope this helps!

***Edit***
BTW, if I'm right, I wouldn't be too worried by the damage I think I see. Many are afraid of the words frame damage, but this looks it might be up by an inch (give or take a quarter), and wouldn't be enough to cause a kink in most circumstances. I used to pull frames for a living, and this one wouldn't concern me a bit if I'm reading it right.

***Second Edit***
In looking at the underside shot of the radiator again, the front axle bolsters my opinion. All things being equal, and if the vehicle is sitting on the lift properly, the front axle should be level with the rear.
Wow - thank you! And actually I think you are 100% spot on! My only investment so far is the interior and maintenance on the running gear. Depending on the final verdict, I may stop there and have it for a local out to the dunes and such ride. If it can be fixed easily I may do more. Thank you again, I appreciate the eagle eyes and advice. I will let you know as soon as I find out!
 
Likes: XISophos

XISophos

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Mar 30, 2017
154
148
Denver, CO, United States
#11
Wow - thank you! And actually I think you are 100% spot on! My only investment so far is the interior and maintenance on the running gear. Depending on the final verdict, I may stop there and have it for a local out to the dunes and such ride. If it can be fixed easily I may do more. Thank you again, I appreciate the eagle eyes and advice. I will let you know as soon as I find out!
No worries! I don't think it would cost all that much to fix if my observations are correct, and estimates are usually free. If it just turns out to be the rail is pushed up, it'd literally take longer to get it on a rack and anchored than it would to do the actual job. Good luck, and let me know what you find out!
 
Likes: Andersen24

XISophos

TJ Enthusiast
Supporting Member
Mar 30, 2017
154
148
Denver, CO, United States
#14
Maybe the picture angle, but it looks like the tie rod assy. is frowning at us.
I didn't notice that, but you're right!

Hey Op,
I thought of this as the day went on... given that it looks like the damage is in the driver front portion of the vehicle, you can take a tape measure and cross check from symmetrical, fixed points in the engine bay, and that will give you an idea of what the rail is off by. I usually used fender bolts, or the like and measured from the right rear of the engine bay to the left front, and from the left rear to the right front. If the measurements are the same, then it's square, if they are different, then you know generically how much it's off. In this case from right rear to left front should be shorter than left rear to right front. Sorry for forgetting it earlier. I haven't done this since the 90's, and I'm having to exercise old muscles. :)
 
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Andersen24

Andersen24

New Member
Supporting Member
Dec 19, 2018
23
18
Pismo Beach, CA
#15
I didn't notice that, but you're right!

Hey Op,
I thought of this as the day went on... given that it looks like the damage is in the driver front portion of the vehicle, you can take a tape measure and cross check from symmetrical, fixed points in the engine bay, and that will give you an idea of what the rail is off by. I usually used fender bolts, or the like and measured from the right rear of the engine bay to the left front, and from the left rear to the right front. If the measurements are the same, then it's square, if they are different, then you know generically how much it's off. In this case from right rear to left front should be shorter than left rear to right front. Sorry for forgetting it earlier. I haven't done this since the 90's, and I'm having to exercise old muscles. :)
Bob and XI - thank you for both for your input.....mechanically wise - I'm pretty good, body wise, I know enough to ruin something :) I am waiting for some parts from UPS and will either throw her back on the lift tonight and get the measurements or tomorrow. I am going to hit up two of my buddys who know body work that should have contacts for a frame guy. But yes it would be nice to get an estimate of how bad off it is and will go from there. Thanks again guys, I appreciate the time and information you're providing me! This community is pretty amazing!
 
Likes: XISophos

bobthetj03

vibrajeep
Supporting Member
Ride of the Month Winner
#16
I've been out of the body shop business for some time, but most shops that have a frame machine will generally charge 1hr. labor setup. At least then you could get a printout and go from there if it is indeed damaged. Hope it pans out ok though. I'll be keeping an eye on your progress.
 
Likes: Andersen24
Jan 4, 2019
22
9
Washington State
#19
I've got something even better... an Exogate :D
I have never been a fan of hanging tires free suspended from body parts. And yes , I do see a nice load spreading plate but it is still attached to the body. And everu time you layer metal parts you invite moisture and dirt to accumulate between which them leads to rust. And that mounting plate covers alot of real estate. But that is just my opinion.