Skees '97 TJ Sahara Build Thread

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 ?

I actually have no idea where the cage is from, I wish I did because it's the most asked question I get lol. The SEM Camel color really is a very close match to the Sahara interior.
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!

Great job - looks real nice and clean!
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Well I’m back yet again! So I was having a bit of a dilemma on what to do about the new tires situation. As you guys know, I had the 16x10 RockCrushers on the Jeep and finding tires for the 16” wheels is quite difficult. So, I began looking locally to see what kind of deal I could find on any tires. Basically the cheapest set of 5 I could get was around the ~$1,500 mark and that seemed a bit much to me. So I had to decide if I wanted to take the money I would have to invest into the tires for the 16” wheel and just roll that towards a new set of wheels and tires or just pony up and get the tires.

After some deliberation, I decided to just go ahead and pull the trigger on a new set of 17” wheels and go that route. So my search started yet again and I landed on a set of RaceLine Ryno 951MC wheels and I got a really good deal on a set of tires to go with them. So here’s the result! Let me know what you guys think!



Next big project I’ll be doing will be the stereo install, I finally got all the pieces in and I just need to set the time aside to get everything installed. I’m very excited for the stereo upgrade for sure!

Hello again everyone! It's been a minute since I've done any updates so I figured I'd post my most recent issue that I'm trying to diagnose/track down.

Recently we've been getting a lot of rain here in SoCal and living in the desert means we get some monster puddles sometimes. My kids love going puddle splashing so we went and did some puddle splashing.

Well, after the last big puddle, I got a high idle. A few weeks before that had happened I had a CEL come on (P0138) so I had ordered some new O2 sensors (both up and down stream). I'm currently waiting for the up stream sensor to show up and since I couldn't find NTK/NGK anywhere, I ended up ordering some Denso sensors, so I'm hoping the Jeep Gods will bless me with acceptance of these from the truck lol. Anyways, initially the high idle didn't come with any codes so I wasn't really sure where to look. I started by taking the entire throttle body assembly off and cleaning the IAC/TPS as well as the TB. It was filthy, which I'm sure is the fault of the K&N intake I have on the truck (which I am fully planning on swapping back to stock as soon as I can find a stock box local to me). I also noticed it was missing the TB/IM gasket, so I'll be picking up a new one from a local parts store to put on once I get the new TPS. Now it's all spotless and clean, buy my high idle problem still persisted. Fast forward a couple days, I got a new code (P0123) for the TPS, so I'm going to go scoop up a new Echlin TPS from the local NAPA store and swap that out once my up stream O2 sensor shows up and I get that replaced.

I'm hoping it's the TPS and not the clock spring acting funny and messing with something because I have noticed a slight ticking noise coming from the wheel when I turn it, noise comes from turning either direction. The only thing that makes me think it's actually the TPS is I had read another thread here on the forum where someone had basically the exact same thing happen (big puddle -> high idle -> P0123) and replacing the TPS seemed to solve his issue. So fingers crossed on that! If it's not the TPS, I'll order a new clock spring and just knock that out as well.

I still haven't gotten the chance to do the stereo install just yet but I'm planning on doing that once I get these issues sorted out, I don't want to invest time into any of these other projects until I get the truck running correctly. It's drinking fuel like a pig, which I'm assuming is a problem from the failed O2 sensor so I'm really excited for the new one to show up lol. The Cali gas prices are no joke when I'm having to fill up every ~100 miles or so!

Another issue I've noticed is that I'm still getting a "thunk" sound from the rear end when going over small bumps. The new shocks seemed to have remedied all of my other problems except this thunk so I crawled underneath the truck today and did some shake testing. From what I can tell, I think it's the rear track bar bushings because that is the only part that I touched where I could actually "feel" the noise, so I was hoping someone here could give me some insight on what would be a good route to go for that. I'm not sure if it's better to just replace the bushings or if I should grab a new and adjustable rear track bar. From what I can tell, it's not hitting anything in the rear which makes me believe it's a "proper" part but I also haven't done my alignment yet to know if everything is dialed in correctly or not. Any input would be greatly appreciated!
Well I'm back to update from the issues I was having in the previous post:

My downstream O2 sensor showed up today so I ran up to O'Rileys to grab a throttle body gasket, which was missing for some odd reason, and then went over to NAPA and grabbed an Echlin TPS. I decided to start off with the TPS because I wanted to install the TB gasket anyways. Upon removing the old TPS, I noticed it was missing a seal which makes a lot more sense on how a puddle could've shorted it out. My thinking is the puddles splashed into the engine bay, and without the seal on the TPS some water must have crept into the sensor and shorted it. It also doesn't appear that this was an OEM sensor and that coupled with the missing TB gasket makes me think my Dad had been digging around in there at some point and replaced the OEM TPS with some cheap-o that he got from a local parts store. Oh well, new one installed on the TB housing and then installed the TB housing and gasket back onto the IM and properly torqued to spec. Big shoutout to Jerry for providing the proper torque specs on that, the last thing I want to do is snap off a bolt.

I crawled up under the truck to start the O2 sensor replacement, upstream came off totally fine without and need to use penetrating oil (yay SoCal truck lol) and new Denso unit installed easy peasy. Made my way to the rear, luckily my skid plate is the perfect length to still give me access to the downstream sensor without needing to be removed! The Denso unit that showed up actually didn't fit (incredibly annoying) so I ran back up to O'Rileys and picked up a Walker downstream sensor since I had seen some posts saying that people had luck with both Walker and Denso units. I'm hoping running the 2 brands won't cause any problems down the road, but we shall see. Got the downstream sensor installed and tightened up and proceeded to do an ECM reset by holding the battery leads together for 30 seconds after disconnecting them from the terminals.

Fired the Jeep up, started up no problems, idle problem gone and I let it run for 10 minutes or so and no return of high idle or CEL's! Hip-hip-hooray!

I also wanted to take a look at the clunking noise I mentioned in my previous post and I suddenly realized that when I greased all of my zerks a few months back, I completely missed the zerks on my LCA's... I must not have seen them because they were caked with old grease and dirt. So I cleaned the zerks off, and greased everything up. Took it for a drive and the big clunk is gone, so I don't think it is my track bar afterall. I still am getting a little knock with verticle axle movement in the rear so I started taking a look around again to see if anything seemed off.

I took my hand and started pushing everything up and down from under the truck and I found the noise! It's my driver's side rear end link, it's making the exact sound I hear when driving when I hit it upwards with my hand. So, while putting my little ones to bed, I hopped online and bought some Zone Offroad 2-4" lift end links and will be installing those when they show up on Friday! I also picked up a new steering stabilizer (which I didn't need) in the Rancho flavor to match the rest of the shocks on the truck. Should add a little pop to the front end as well, so that's nice. I'll attach a video I took of the end link in question. The passenger side didn't make a peep when I hit it like that which also confirmed my suspicions.
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A leaking manifold gasket or cracked exhaust manifold can also make our jeeps run rich. An eagle eye with a little extending mirror might be in order?
A leaking manifold gasket or cracked exhaust manifold can also make our jeeps run rich. An eagle eye with a little extending mirror might be in order?

If the idle issue returns then I'll be going that route for sure. As of the fixes I outlined in my last post, the idle issue is completely gone. She's back to idling around ~750 and no CEL returns as of yet. I'll be taking it out and actually driving it around tomorrow morning so that will be the true test but my fingers are crossed that it doesn't return. I honestly think the old TPS was compromised from the missing seal and water must have crept into the connector from the puddle splashes.
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If the idle issue returns then I'll be going that route for sure. As of the fixes I outlined in my last post, the idle issue is completely gone. She's back to idling around ~750 and no CEL returns as of yet. I'll be taking it out and actually driving it around tomorrow morning so that will be the true test but my fingers are crossed that it doesn't return. I honestly think the old TPS was compromised from the missing seal and water must have crept into the connector from the puddle splashes.

I was saying that in relation to your hopes for better fuel mileage. Exhaust leaks will fool the o2 sensors into running the motor rich
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I was saying that in relation to your hopes for better fuel mileage. Exhaust leaks will fool the o2 sensors into running the motor rich

Oh my apologies 😂. Well the smell already tells me it should be back to what it was before I started having these problems. Once the high idle came it was running incredibly rich, so rich I could smell it. After running for 10 minutes it passed the nose test which is much better than previously. If it doesn’t get better I’ll definitely be going the route you recommended though.
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