Skees '97 TJ Sahara Build Thread

Skees

Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2023
Messages
91
Location
SoCal
Good evening everyone, I'm making this thread so I can keep track of the stuff I'm doing to my TJ! I'm not 100% set on what exactly I want to do, but I figure as I get things accomplished or run into issues this will be a good spot to document everything!

On to the good stuff! Here's some pics of the ole girl when I brought her home after her first wash.

For those of you who don't know the "backstory" with this, I'll refer you to this thread where I explain how I came into ownership of this beauty. There is a lot of sentimental value in this truck for me and I fully intend on keeping this to give to my kids when the time comes.

As I remember things, I will be sure to try and make a list of mods that are already accomplished, unfortunately there will be stuff missed because my Dad was the only one who really knew everything that is on it. There is a book of receipts, but unfortunately I have had a major falling out with my Step Mother so I will never get access to it :/. I hope this develops into something very fun, as I've already had a blast with the mods I've done to it since I got it. Thanks to everyone who follows along and, inevitably, offers me assistance lol.

Known Mods:

Suspension:

  • Unknown Brand Long Arm Kit
  • Unknown Brand Tummy Tuck
  • Rancho RS5000X Shocks
  • Unknown Brand Springs
  • Unknown Brand 1" BL
  • Factory Trackbar (Will be changing this out)
  • Factory Steering (Will be changing this out)
  • Dana 44 Rear, 4.56 Gears made by Tri County Gear
Misc:
  • Warn HS9500i Winch
  • Custom Powder Coated Cage
Planned Mods:

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So to start off the first thing I decided I wanted to do was replace all of the shocks on this thing.

At some point, my Dad had the same idea so he had started the process. The original shocks were Rancho 9000XL’s from back in 2006-2007 (yikes). He had changed the front shocks out to some Bilstein 5100’s but never made it around to replace the rears. He thought he had replaced them because when I asked him why they weren’t the same set front and rear, he was confused 😂.

None-the-less, after I brought her home, I decided I wanted to go the Rancho route. I had done some reading on the forum and saw a couple posts mentioning that the 5100’s aren’t valved properly for the Jeep platform and that some places offered custom valving and all that. Seemed like a lot of extra work (and money) when I have had good experiences with Rancho equipment previously.

I hopped on Amazon and picked up a set of 4 RS5000X’s for like $258. Coming from the modified car scene, it’s refreshing to be able to pick up aftermarket parts that aren’t ridiculous in price lol. My Catless longtubes for my ‘18 Mustang GT were $800 on sale so it’s a very nice breath of fresh air lol.

So I took the Bilstiens off the front and they’re still in relatively good shape seeing as they’re MAYBE a couple years old. I tossed those on the bench to keep as spares in case something happens. I move to the rear and take the (very) old Ranchos off and just for S&G’s I thought to myself “I’m going to compress these and see how well they rebound”. Lo and behold, they literally never rebounded 😂. Which makes a lot of sense based off of some of the characteristics I was experiencing from driving it. Excessive body roll, very loud clunking/banging sounds when going over an abrupt bump in the road, etc.

Needless to say, after doing all 4 corners this thing drives like a dream! It is incredible how much nicer the ride is and it has seemingly cleaned up a lot of “slop” I had in my steering. It all makes sense when I think about it, but before I had just figured it drove like crap and that’s just the way it was. A lot of clunking noises have disappeared as well. Only a few little noises left to chase out!

I’ll attach the only decent picture I have of the truck after installing the shocks (where you can see the truck anyways). Enjoy the pic of my son eating an egg bite 😂. I took him out to this spot I found so he could jump his little monster trucks off a random slab that’s in the middle of the desert 😂.

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So to start off the first thing I decided I wanted to do was replace all of the shocks on this thing.

At some point, my Dad had the same idea so he had started the process. The original shocks were Rancho 9000XL’s from back in 2006-2007 (yikes). He had changed the front shocks out to some Bilstein 5100’s but never made it around to replace the rears. He thought he had replaced them because when I asked him why they weren’t the same set front and rear, he was confused 😂.

None-the-less, after I brought her home, I decided I wanted to go the Rancho route. I had done some reading on the forum and saw a couple posts mentioning that the 5100’s aren’t valved properly for the Jeep platform and that some places offered custom valving and all that. Seemed like a lot of extra work (and money) when I have had good experiences with Rancho equipment previously.

I hopped on Amazon and picked up a set of 4 RS5000X’s for like $258. Coming from the modified car scene, it’s refreshing to be able to pick up aftermarket parts that aren’t ridiculous in price lol. My Catless longtubes for my ‘18 Mustang GT were $800 on sale so it’s a very nice breath of fresh air lol.

So I took the Bilstiens off the front and they’re still in relatively good shape seeing as they’re MAYBE a couple years old. I tossed those on the bench to keep as spares in case something happens. I move to the rear and take the (very) old Ranchos off and just for S&G’s I thought to myself “I’m going to compress these and see how well they rebound”. Lo and behold, they literally never rebounded 😂. Which makes a lot of sense based off of some of the characteristics I was experiencing from driving it. Excessive body roll, very loud clunking/banging sounds when going over an abrupt bump in the road, etc.

Needless to say, after doing all 4 corners this thing drives like a dream! It is incredible how much nicer the ride is and it has seemingly cleaned up a lot of “slop” I had in my steering. It all makes sense when I think about it, but before I had just figured it drove like crap and that’s just the way it was. A lot of clunking noises have disappeared as well. Only a few little noises left to chase out!

I’ll attach the only decent picture I have of the truck after installing the shocks (where you can see the truck anyways). Enjoy the pic of my son eating an egg bite 😂. I took him out to this spot I found so he could jump his little monster trucks off a random slab that’s in the middle of the desert 😂.

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This jeep seems to have had some real money put into it a long time ago. I read through your other thread as well. First advice would be keep it as much like your dad had it as you can while addressing some of the issues and oddity. I had a TJ on 35s, and 3 speed a long time ago and with 4.56 gears it would blast down the road no problem. Before anything else I’d do all the maintenance. Front and rear diff oil, flush the radiator and cooling system, oil change, etc. Checking gear ratio is easy if it’s still unknown. Jack up the front axle, turn on the front locker, put a mark on the drive shaft yoke and spin the front tire. Count the number of times drive shaft spins using the mark as your indicator after 1 complete spin of the front tire. Seeing the custom built rear axle and air locker lines there is just no way it’s still stock geared. If it’s not able to go over 60 on the highway you have a power train related issue. It’s a low mile engine so I doubt it’s had some massive loss of power. I’d look at something like a clogged catalytic converter. We had that happen to a friends 98 tj. 33s, 4.56 gears and over the course of a week long jeeping trip it just kept getting slower and slower. We came in late one night and it had gotten real bad, we all hopped out at camp to see a bright orange glow from under the jeep. It was heated up to red hot from a plugged catalytic converter. After it cooled we drill a 1” hole in the exhaust right in front of the cat and it ran like a new jeep again. Had a new cat thrown in at a local muffler shop the next morning.

As far as drivability goes. If you drive a modified 18 mustang and X7 even in the best shape a lifted TJ on 35s is going to feel sloppy to an extent. I’d start with really looking those tires over. They are a very old MTR and if it sat a long time, even inside, time can degrade the rubber significantly. Bfg, Goodyear MTR, Cooper etc all are going to be good replacements. Those old tires can be a real hazard. If looking for problems with the steering it’s better to have someone sit in the driver seat and work the wheel left and right slightly. Like 15* each direction and watch all the various parts connection points. Drag link, tie rod, track bar, etc. If the tires have angled wear patterns there’s definitely some front end problems an alignment won’t cure. It’ll be able to give you sone insight on the problems possibly. I feel like most alignment shops don’t actually know how to fix lifted Jeeps. You can throw a ton of parts at it and still end up not fixing it if you don’t know the actual problem and a new steering stabilizer is never the right answer when dealing with wobbles or wondering, it’s just to help take the edge off a bit.

The jeep does have some oddity to it with a stock track bar and steering, long arm lowers and stock uppers, etc. I don’t fully know all the repercussions of short uppers and long lowers but I do know it will have constantly changing caster angle which can cause some interesting driving characteristics. You really do need to take a deep dive into TJ suspensions but I suspect it’s really not going to drive well until some of the oddity is replaced. Since none of the lower control arm brackets are still on the frame going back to a more standard lift kit would involve fabrication and adding long upper links would also involve fabrication. There’s plenty of kits and parts out there just be sure you know the end goal before starting too far down the TJ rabbit hole. None of it is cheap. This forum is a great resource.

Finally, I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Mine is 65 and I honestly can’t really imagine life without him. I think you’ll do him proud with his jeep and your kids will love it. Mine always have. Especially nice days, too off and an cold drink from sonic or treat.
 
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As per @techjeeper excellent recommendation, here is a quick photo dump post from my other thread of basically the current state of the underside of the Jeep aside from the new Rancho RS5000X's that I installed. I would definitely like some recommendations on what could can be upgraded or what needs to be replaced. I know some of the parts that are on there but if you see something don't hesitate to name it as I would eventually like to make a list of what is already on the Jeep.

I definitely already knew about the track bar situation and I have been doing a ton of research on that. I'm leaning towards the ZJ conversion but the Currie Currentlync system is on my radar as well. I am really wanting to add some color to the underside so I'm curious if it's fine to paint those parts before install? I figured paint would probably be best so if it gets dinged I can just rattle can it back to the color I want... I'm honestly shocked my Dad left the stock track bar because this thing has done the hammers and all sorts of rock crawling. Either way, I will gladly replace it with an upgraded unit.

I know there were things my Dad wanted to do to this thing that he never did so I will get everything sorted as far as making it "right" and then do my best to add the things he wanted. Like I know he wanted to add a PSC steering system but he never did, I'd love to add it but it will come in time.

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This jeep seems to have had some real money put into it a long time ago. I read through your other thread as well. First advice would be keep it as much like your dad had it as you can while addressing some of the issues and oddity. I had a TJ on 35s, and 3 speed a long time ago and with 4.56 gears it would blast down the road no problem. Before anything else I’d do all the maintenance. Front and rear diff oil, flush the radiator and cooling system, oil change, etc. Checking gear ratio is easy if it’s still unknown. Jack up the front axle, turn on the front locker, put a mark on the drive shaft yoke and spin the front tire. Count the number of times drive shaft spins using the mark as your indicator after 1 complete spin of the front tire. Seeing the custom built rear axle and air locker lines there is just no way it’s still stock geared. If it’s not able to go over 60 on the highway you have a power train related issue. It’s a low mile engine so I doubt it’s had some massive loss of power. I’d look at something like a clogged catalytic converter. We had that happen to a friends 98 tj. 33s, 4.56 gears and over the course of a week long jeeping trip it just kept getting slower and slower. We came in late one night and it had gotten real bad, we all hopped out at camp to see a bright orange glow from under the jeep. It was heated up to red hot from a plugged catalytic converter. After it cooled we drill a 1” hole in the exhaust right in front of the cat and it ran like a new jeep again. Had a new cat thrown in at a local muffler shop the next morning.

As far as drivability goes. If you drive a modified 18 mustang and X7 even in the best shape a lifted TJ on 35s is going to feel sloppy to an extent. I’d start with really looking those tires over. They are a very old MTR and if it sat a long time, even inside, time can degrade the rubber significantly. Bfg, Goodyear MTR, Cooper etc all are going to be good replacements. Those old tires can be a real hazard. If looking for problems with the steering it’s better to have someone sit in the driver seat and work the wheel left and right slightly. Like 15* each direction and watch all the various parts connection points. Drag link, tie rod, track bar, etc. If the tires have angled wear patterns there’s definitely some front end problems an alignment won’t cure. It’ll be able to give you sone insight on the problems possibly. I feel like most alignment shops don’t actually know how to fix lifted Jeeps. You can throw a ton of parts at it and still end up not fixing it if you don’t know the actual problem and a new steering stabilizer is never the right answer when dealing with wobbles or wondering, it’s just to help take the edge off a bit.

The jeep does have some oddity to it with a stock track bar and steering, long arm lowers and stock uppers, etc. I don’t fully know all the repercussions of short uppers and long lowers but I do know it will have constantly changing caster angle which can cause some interesting driving characteristics. You really do need to take a deep dive into TJ suspensions but I suspect it’s really not going to drive well until some of the oddity is replaced. Since none of the lower control arm brackets are still on the frame going back to a more standard lift kit would involve fabrication and adding long upper links would also involve fabrication. There’s plenty of kits and parts out there just be sure you know the end goal before starting too far down the TJ rabbit hole. None of it is cheap. This forum is a great resource.

Finally, I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Mine is 65 and I honestly can’t really imagine life without him. I think you’ll do him proud with his jeep and your kids will love it. Mine always have. Especially nice days, too off and an cold drink from sonic or treat.

Yessir my Dad definitely put a lot of money into it back in the day. It's actually nice because it's incredibly capable and, as far as I know, all of the "big money" has been spent. I definitely don't have any plans for any "major" changes to the truck. I really like it the way it is, and I would ideally like to just address the oddity that you mention and the final touch will be to add some minor "customization" as far as little things to make it mine. But I have no plans on any major overhaul on it at all.

I think I had covered the gearing in the other thread and I did confirm with my Dad that it is properly geared. I probably need to find that post and add it here so I can keep track of these things. That is part of the reason I made this thread because it's hard for me to keep track of everything just off the top of my head lol. I guess I should clarify, now that I have spent more time driving the Jeep it definitely isn't having any power starvation issues at all. It's just nowhere near as fast as the cars I was used to driving and that takes some "getting used-to" to adjust lol. I actually ended up selling my Mustang a couple months back, mainly because now that I have the Jeep I can drive something without getting all of the attention from the CHP. They were not big fans of my out of state registered full bolt on non-Cali compliant car lol. I was tired of all of that attention as I often drive with my kids in the car and I basically was always nervous I was going to get the Cop who had a bad day and ended up taking my car on a tow truck. I miss my Mustang but I'm so very happy to have the Jeep. The X7 is no slouch either, a twin turbo 6 cylinder on that thing gets up and moves!

All of that to say, there's no power issues with the Jeep it's just nowhere near as powerful as my 10.X second 1/4 mile car or the twin turbo grocery getter lol. I will definitely be performing all of the maintenance items as well, I'm not sure the last time they were done so it's probably best to start with that. I'll need to do some research on fluids and stuff.

I will also say that the new shocks made it feel like a completely different truck. It drives SOOOO much better after removing those old Ranchos from the rear it was eye opening how different it was. Next I will definitely be doing the dry steering test to ID any other components that need to be replaced, I have had 1 experience with DW and I definitely want to get that sorted out. Though I haven't had another run in with it in months. That is also a good recommendation for new tires, I definitely need to be doing that immediately lol. These are the originals that my Dad had put on the truck back in 2006-2007 (big yikes)! I have been doing some research on what tires I should replace it with and I had seen a lot of good stuff about the Falken Wildpeaks? What is your opinion on those, if you have one?

I will definitely end up getting a new steering stabilizer, but after I address the original stock steering components. I'd like to replace everything up front, for sure. As I mentioned before, I am really shocked my Dad left some of the stock stuff on there since he built this thing specifically to be a rock crawler. I definitely want to address the oddity that you refer to and I really also need to do a deep dive into the TJ suspension system so I can have a stronger understanding of what everything is/does and how it all works together. I'm very excited to take on this project and have been doing some mild wheeling in the meantime with the little ones and they LOVE it. It's been fun out there making memories with my kids and reminiscing on the time I spent in the Jeep with my Dad when I was young. I appreciate the condolences, he was 70 when he passed. Actually about a week after his 70th birthday, unfortunately. His health had been in a declining state for about the last 10-15 years. I am honestly shocked he made it as long as he did, he was incredibly persistent lol. It was really sad to see him go, but at least I know he's not in pain anymore and I can fin solace in that fact. I miss him every day, but I'm glad he's not miserable. It's not goodbye forever, it's goodbye for now :) .

I added some pics of some wheeling I did the other day with my kids, The last photo is where we ended up going and the first 3 pics are from up there.

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For good measure, here’s some pics of my Mustang that I sold. Such a fun car and I miss it but I’m sure I’ll find my way back to the car scene eventually!

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The next project I wanted to tackle on the Jeep was the factory headlights. I don't do a lot of nighttime driving in this thing but I do enough to need to be able to see lol. The factory headlights, as you all know, are basically like driving with a lantern in your hand so I knew I needed to address that.

I had done a lot of research on aftermarket headlights and originally was going to go with the KC Gravity headlights as they maintain the stock style look while giving the obvious increase in output performance. After doing a little digging on the forum here, I actually decided to go with these as I got them on sale for like $60 and I figured if they work then I'd be happy with them and if they die on me, I'll only be out $60 and I will re-invest into a different quality name-brand unit instead. After installing the ones I chose, if they die I will instead be going with the KC Gravity Pro headlights as the light output is substantially better but without the use of the projector the output is still "scattered". Coming from the Mustang and BMW, I am more accustomed to the clean beam pattern from the projector, but these do everything I need for the time being so unless they die on me I will not be replacing them.

Installing headlights is super easy so it only took me about 30 minutes or so and the units I bought were direct plug and play so no adapters needed at all! The difference in light output is incredibly better than the stock units and after I got them adjusted I haven't had any gripes from any oncoming traffic in the dark, so I'm happy with that! Overall, for the price, definitely a great mod to do and I am incredibly happy with the upgrade.

Here are the before and after pics:

*EDIT* I forgot to add the night pics I took of the head lights. This is just at the bottom of my driveway on my street, but I think it gets the point across. First pic is low beams and second pic is the high beams.

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Next upgrade I wanted to do was to get the factory head unit out and replace it for an aftermarket unit. After doing a little research, I found that there were 3 primary brands to choose from so I used that to help guide my choice. I eventually ended up getting this unit and so far it has been good to use! Head unit installs seem super simple, takes about 5 minutes to take the dash apart far enough to get the factory head unit out so I got that knocked out. I had the help of my 3.5 year old son sitting in the passenger seat handing me tools :D.

Little back story, back in the day I had a stereo installed in this thing from a shop. Aftermarket head unit, new speakers, amps, a sub, etc. I definitely miss the sub I had in there, it was an Orion HCCA 10" and that thing had some SERIOUS thump to it lol. Well, after I joined the service and ended up moving out of my Dad's place he decided he didn't like all of that fancy stuff and had it all taken out. Or took it out himself, I'm still not sure what the series of events was with that. So he had the stock head unit put back in, took the sub/amps out, and left the upgraded speakers.

Upon some investigation it seems like the driver's side dash speaker is blown so I have been working on a build path for the stereo with some help from a forum member on what the best setup is going to be. I have settled on doing components up front so that will be fun to get all set up and wired up. I don't have a ton of experience with car audio electrical wiring and stuff so I hope it goes smoothly!

So I got everything wired up and tested and it all worked out, however I have noticed some new little "gremlins" that have popped up that makes me think either the shop who did the initial install did some janky wiring or maybe my Dad messed something up if he was the one who removed the old system I had installed. Basically, now whenever I turn the truck on the DRL's are on. Also, I have a trans temp gauge that hasn't been operational since I got the Jeep back from my Dad. I had figured it must have been a connector loose on the sensor or something, maybe my Dad had tugged on something while he was changing out the front suspension. Either way, I figured I would sort that out later when I had more work to do underneath the Jeep. However, now that I have this new head unit installed, my trans temp gauge is working again (?). So I definitely think there's some gremlins to chase out behind the dash.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be doing a complete overhaul on the audio system so once I start that up I will open the entire dash and take a look at what is going on back there and try and sort some of these issues. For now, the DRL's are only on when the truck is turned on and I haven't had any issues with battery drain so I'll leave it until I can dedicate the proper amount of time to get it sorted out properly.

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Since you come from the 10 second car world to jeeps here’s some baseline info you might find interesting.

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Yes it has definitely been an adjustment, no question about that lol. I'm pretty sure my Mustang was in the sub 4 second 0-60 but I never did any "official" timing on it. I had it set up and dialed in pretty good. Catless 1-7/8" headers, mid pipe delete, factory active exhaust, ported intake manifold, ported throttle body, some suspension work (cradle lockout, progressive lowering springs, bushings all around, etc), custom tuned and running a dedicated e85 tune. That thing got up and went! I'd add a video but I can't figure out how to do that on here through the "Attach Files" feature. Either way, I think you guys get the gist of it. It just took some adjusting from all of the speed I had in my car, and even in the BMW, vs what the Jeep has to offer. And honestly, I noticed a huge difference once I ran through the old gas that was in the tank and put some fresh fuel in it. I think the fuel that was in the tank must have been about a year old! I added some 91 when I refilled and it felt A TON better immediately so I imagine the old fuel was also part of the problem I was experiencing.

Since the Mustang has been gone I have basically only driven the Jeep. It had been a couple months since I had even driven the BMW and when I drove it the power even from the BMW took me back because I wasn't used to it from driving only the Jeep for a couple months lol.
 
The most recent mod I've done is I installed some new fog/driving lights. My Wife actually bought me a pair of KC HiLiTES as a "pre-Christmas" gift (I love this woman lol). Initially, I was planning on running the provided harness from KC that came with the lights but I eventually decided to take the easy road and just run these in the location of the factory fog lights.

So I hit the old google-machine and did some searching on a adapter harness that I could use for the KC's to the factory plug for the fogs. I ended up finding this harness with the factory connection on one end and a Deutsch connector on the other end which is compatible with the KC HiLiTES. I could have definitely cut the connectors off and just done a hardwire splice but I figured for ~$35 it was worth the price just in saving time to go this route. The harness showed up yesterday, so I made my way out to the garage to do the install. I also am happy with going this route because the pigtail on the KC's is very short in comparison to the length of the pig tails on the stock units so I needed the extension anyways. It all worked out in the end!

The KC mounting stud is a little bit larger than the factory fog mounting stud so I started off by grabbing my drill and some bits to reem the hole out to accommodate the larger mounting stud. I used a little WD-40 on the bit and bumper hole to keep everything lubed up and stepped up in small increments to make sure I wouldn't bind my drill up or break anything. Everything went very smooth and the job was done in about 15 minutes or so.

I did end up doing the rigged mod to make it so I could run the spot lights with the high beams on so I located the relay for the fogs behind the glove box and bent the #1 pin 180* so it no longer made contact and it worked like a charm! I feel like a fraud for doing it this way but the amount of time saved is what made me go this route. Maybe down the road I will end up correcting this and running the harness, but for now this works perfectly fine. I will also eventually be adding some more lights to the A-Pillar so I might just use the KC harness for that, instead. For anyone wanting to know how to do this on a '97 TJ, the relay is behind the glove box and mounted up above the small fuse block. There are 2 relays right next to each other, you'll want to pull the relay on the right side. The #1 pin is the one that needs to be bent/clipped and the pins are marked on the relay.

I haven't had the chance to go out at night and see the difference these make but just from the output in my garage I think it's going to make a substantial difference. Even after getting my new headlights installed, when I went out into the pitch black I noticed that I have almost no visibility outside of the focused area from my headlights. So this should help fill that out. Once I have the A-Pillar lights mounted, I think I'll probably be almost done with lighting as I don't want to cover the truck in lights/light bars. I think they're cool but in excess I think it comes across as tacky. And as much as I'd like to mount a big bar above the windshield I have heard they give off a ton of of noise when driving and I don't want to deal with that as this thing already makes enough noise when driving lol.

They're very easy to adjust as well, they use a 4mm Allan key and there's 2 adjustment screws to loosen so you can adjust the lights by hand. The units feel very good in the hand as well and come with good hardware to mount everything. Overall I'd definitely recommend but we'll see how it goes in the dark :).

First pic is where the relay is located, for those who don’t know, and the other 2 pics are of the lights mounted up 🙂👍🏼.

*EDIT* I wanted to add some quick pics I took of the Gravity lights at night supplementing my head lights. So the first pic is no spot lights and second pic is spots on!

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Okay so I have been watching suspension geometry videos for a few hours now trying to get everything visualized in my mind on how all of these components work together and I think I have a loose grasp on the basics of everything. I crawled around underneath the Jeep and looked around and took some pictures of everything and found that I have a SYE on there (which I had figured but I wanted to check for myself).

Based on some of the videos I watched I wanted to check if I had any bump steer, one of the videos had said a simple way to test for this is to stand on the front bumper and essentially bounce up and down and watch the steering wheel to check for any side to side movement. When I accomplished this I didn't see any movement on the wheel, so that is nice!

I measured my anti-sway bar on both sides from the frame to make sure it was centered because when I checked it out this morning I could see some "clean" spots on both sides of sway bar around the mounting bracket and I don't remember ever seeing that before. There is a slight difference between each side which I will have pics for below. My question is as follows: does that minor difference in length between each side make a big difference at all? Should I be adjusting it to make them EXACTLY the same? My Dad had left a JKS Sway Bar Clamp Kit that I would like to install strictly for nostalgia purposes (this would be the last part he had that never made it onto the Jeep so I'd like to put it on for an "in his memory" type thing). I just don't want to put it on preemptively if I need to rectify that gap.

The geometry of the drag link and track bar seem pretty spot on being parallel with each other, I am planning on changing out the tie rod though as it is definitely hollow and I don't want to be stranded somewhere if I drop it on a rock lol. I'm still torn on the path I want to take to change out the steering setup but I will probably settle on the Currectlync. I just haven't completely made up my mind yet. As I mentioned before, I had experience a bit of DW one time while driving but I haven't been able to replicate it again. I do know that it wasn't a fluke though which makes me believe it is probably time to just change everything out and refresh the steering components instead of just doing the ZJ tie rod upgrade route and hoping that it's not the other steering components... Any input on this would be appreciated, though. Seeing as everything appears to be the factory steering equipment and the Jeep has lived it's life entirely in an arid climate I wouldn't be surprised if the bushings were shot. The first thing I did when I brought it home was grabbed the grease gun and hit every zerk fitting I could get with it and a lot, if not the majority of, the components were dry. No old grease pushing out at all. I had asked my Dad when the last time he greased everything was but his memory had been on the way out for a little while so it probably wasn't the most reliable of information. Either way, just greasing everything up had helped remove a lot of groans/squeaks I was hearing even just driving it on the road.

I am still planning on doing the dry steering test before I pull the trigger on all of the steering components just to make sure it's not something incredibly simple. I have seen a lot of people mentioning that unbalanced tires can cause the DW as well, I will probably go get everything balanced once I get new tires because it is definitely time for new tires. I may actually pull the trigger on tires before I do any of the steering components because I think that would be the "safest" place to start. These tires are the originals from 2006-2007 and upon further inspection my Dad has plugged a few holes in them and there are nails in them that I can visually see lol. My rear passenger side also needs air every few days so it’s definitely is time.

Another question I had is about the angle of the sway bar end links. I took some pictures straight on of the end links and they definitely are angled inwards and I wasn't sure if that is appropriate or not? I had figured they needed to be directly perpendicular to their upper and lower mounting points but since they're discos I wasn't sure if that makes a difference or not. My apologies in advance if that is a stupid question lol.

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The next project I have in the works is the audio upgrade that I mentioned before. I'm currently building/buying the list and this is what I have so far. With a lot of help from @skrelnik thank goodness for his guidance! Here's the list so far:

Front Speakers: Blam Relax 130RS Components (Purchased)
Tweeter Pods: Blam Relax 130RS, Aluminum Pods for Tweeters (Purchased)

Rear Roll Bar Speakers: BLAM Relax 130RFC (Purchased)

Amplifier for Speakers: BLAM Ultra-compact (Purchased)
Amp Wiring Kit: RECOIL True 4 AWG/ Guage (20mm2) CCA power installation wiring kit (Purchased)

New Speaker Wire: NVX XWS1675 (Purchased)

Speaker Baffles: Boom Mat 5-1/4” Speaker Baffles (Purchased)

RCA Splitters (x2): SHD RCA to 2RCA Subwoofer Cable (Purchased)

Fuse for Amp: MANL25 - 25 Amp Mini ANL Fuses (Purchased)

Self Powered Sub: VEGA 10" 200W RMS Active Subwoofer W/ Passive Radiator (Purchased)
Sub Wiring Kit: EFX PA10BX Wiring Kit (Purchased)

I'm pretty sure that's everything! I decided to go the component route for the front because I want good sound if I have the top off and since I'm in SoCal I'm definitely planning on running with the top off at some points in the Spring/Summer/Fall.

I also have a hard top that came with the Jeep but it needs to be refinished. My Dad and I actually found a guy selling it locally and we picked it up for $300! The rear glass was shattered but we just took it straight to a windshield place here locally and had a new one put on. Unfortunately I don't have a harness to control all of the accessories at the rear, which will probably be another project to tackle down the road. I know I had seen a good thread on the forums here for a DIY harness so I will take a deep dive into that when the time comes and hope it all works out.

I'm considering refinishing the hardtop in SEM Camel paint to keep it close in color to the interior and also somewhat match the soft top that is on it. It is currently black and has a couple dings in it that are showing the white primer coat so I will score up the top and prime it, then finish it off with some paint. Hopefully it turns out nice and looks good. I have considered insulating the interior of the top as well but I'm not sure what would be good to use.
 
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Another quick little “update”. Something I was considering when I got my new head unit is that I didn’t want a double din in the dash. It just doesn’t seem like it would look like it belongs, which is why I decided on a single din unit.

However, that makes navigation through my phone/head unit a little more difficult. So I looked around for a solution on the internet, and while I was watching a YouTube video I saw this guy who had a really nice looking mounting solution from a company called Bullet Point Mounting Solutions. If you haven’t seen their stuff I’d definitely recommend taking a look.

I built out a little system using their universal suction cup and I also decided to get their MagSafe holder instead of one of the clamp style holders. They have all sorts of different options, even a MagSafe wireless charging option. On to the pics of the mount, I’m excited to get out there and give it a shot and see how well it can hold on to my phone while wheeling!

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Not much news to update with on this post other than I made an edit to the first post with some known mods and also laid out what I can think of with what I'm planning on doing with the 'ole girl.

I swung by AutoZone and picked up some diff fluid so I can change the fluid out of the front and rear. I ended up getting some STP 80w-140 after doing some reading on here on different threads and I did not get synthetic since basically all of the posts said that the dino oil will handle the head transfer better. Before I took off to AutoZone, I crawled underneath to check and make sure my fill plug wasn't seized and realized there wasn't a drain plug 🤦‍♂️. So while I was at AutoZone, I also picked up a little fluid pump so I can use that to extract as much of the old fluid as possible. I'm now considering just buying new diff covers and going that route because I have no clue when the last time this fluid was changed and I'd really like to take a look inside and make sure that everything is in order. I especially want to make sure if there are any shavings, that I can get them out.

So I figure I might check out some new diff covers and had my mind set on this one for the front (Dana 30) and this one for the rear (Dana 44). Has anyone here used this brand of diff covers before, or have any other recommendations? I'm going to plan on painting it red and using white on the "SOLID" logo to match the paint on the Jeep.

I have ordered all of the components for the audio upgrade at this point, so now I'm just waiting for everything to show up. I've also begun to price out all of the steering components as well, but I think after this last round of stuff I will probably go straight for tires next. It's definitely time to get some new tires on there and get those old ones off. I'd definitely be open to some recommendations for M/T tires that anyone has, my current size is 315/75R/16 and I'd like to replace them with the same size because I really like how they fit on there.

Anyways, I took my kids out and did some wheeling in a riverbed we have here locally and took some pics, so enjoy!

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So I'm back to report on the next project that I have finished up. I had an old hard top sitting in my back yard waiting to be refinished so I decided to get that done. I really prefer the hard top over the soft top but I wasn't going to mount it up without refinishing it. So here's the process I followed to get that done!

I started with the interior of the top, since I have a Sahara I wanted to tie the top interior color into the interior of the truck. To do this, I decided to spray it using SEM Camel paint. This was the closest color I had seen that would match the interior color. I took the top and brought it into the garage to get it prepped. I started off by flipping the top upside down and onto some saw horses so I could get a better look at it without having to sit on the ground. I started out using a degreaser to get the gunk loosened up. The top had been sitting outside for a few months so there was a lot of dust and prior to this it had been hanging in my Dad's garage for probably close to a decade. After hitting it with the degreaser, I then gave it an IPA bath to get it ready to paint. I let it completely dry out and took it off the saw horses and laid it onto it's back pillars and propped it up so I could keep my spray paint can as vertical as possible. This SEM paint from the spray can doesn't like to spray properly unless it's vertical. I chose to not use a primer for the interior, which was probably a mistake, but either way it turned out great.

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This is how it turned out after about 3 coats and before I did a final inspection and any touchups. I'm very happy with how that turned out. Due to the nature of the SEM paint not wanting to spray correctly unless the can was vertical, it made it a little tricky to get into the tight areas. The spray cone was also a very weird shape but I got it all figured out and I'm happy with these results! I have more pictures of it totally finished/mounted up below.

After getting the top interior done and letting it completely cure, I started on doing the top exterior. However, I was a little apprehensive to use the SEM paint on the exterior because it doesn't offer any sort of UV protection. Living here in the SoCal desert means with no UV protection I'd be probably having to re-do this thing in a couple years and that's not something I was interested in doing. I took a trip to a local paint place to get an opinion on what would be best, plus at this point I had almost ran out of SEM paint anyways lol. After talking to the guys at the paint store, they confirmed my suspicion about the SEM on the exterior and we started discussing options. Since I don't have a paint gun (yet) I pretty much was stuck using spray cans. We took the SEM paint and they color matched me some paint that they loaded in spray paint cans. They also mixed in an adhesion promoter and made it single stage so I was able to get an activated can that would do everything I'd need in one step! Well, not quite one step but close enough. I did decide to use a primer on the exterior of the top because it was previously black and I was worried about the color being too far off between the white base interior and the black base exterior. I picked up a couple cans of a gray primer to coat the top prior to doing the color coat. I did almost the same prep work on the top exterior as I did the interior except this time through I used a ScotchBrite pad to rough up the exterior in prep for the primer.

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First coat of primer on! I went at this light so I could make sure it got a good grab on everything with no runs.

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Second and final coat of primer on! I did do a light scuff sand and cleaning in-between coats to make sure everything would hold up. I also did another quick scuff sand after the final coat had dried to prep for the color coat.

So, after the primer had dried up, I started doing the color coat!


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I went about the color coat the same way I did the primer. Light on the first coat, let it flash dry, then back on with the second coat for coverage. No scuff sanding between color coats, this stuff was very sticky to the touch I'm assuming because of the adhesion promoter. The last time I used an activated can of spray paint was back in the Military when I was painting missiles! I had forgotten how sticky that stuff gets lol. After about 95% of the top was painted up, I lifted it off the ground and put it back on the saw horses so I could get a closer look at the lower edges to make sure I had good coverage and to avoid any weird "feathering".


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Now it was time to let it dry up, and come back for a close up inspection of the entire top inside and out to make sure there weren't any light spots or areas that I missed. After doing touchups I decided to let the top sit for a full 24 hours to allow the paint to harden up. Fortunately, the weather was complete trash for the next 3 days so the top got to sit for about 4 days in my garage before it cleared up enough to be put on.

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And some bonus photos of the cage out and all of the soft top mounting hardware removed. I can't wait for the warmer weather and I can take the top completely off and run around with the cage out!

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So that was everything all done up! Hopefully you guys enjoyed the write-up and pics! Let me know what you think!
 
I dont got a Sahara but i sure as hell would love to oneday paint my whole dash and top that saddle color and some custom PRP enduro seats to match everything up !
Love the addons to the cage too ! Do you have an idea where its from ?
 
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