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VM 2.8 turbo diesel frame-up TJ build

I teach in the Auto Shop at a high school not far from where I live in Ontario, Canada. Last August I bought a 2000 TJ with a blown engine as a project for my students in the auto shop. I was going to have my students repair or replace the 2.5 litre and be done with it but about two weeks after buying the jeep I got a text from a buddy of mine letting me know of a Diesel Jeep Liberty that he saw for sale online. Long story short I bought the Liberty for $1,200. My students and I are about to scratch build a 2000 Jeep TJ and power it with the Liberty's 2.8 litre turbo diesel engine and 545RFE 5 speed automatic transmission. It has taken most of this current semester to take the TJ completely apart. Over the Christmas break I sandblasted, epoxied and painted the frame and it is now ready for assembly. Found a TJ salvage yard in Albion Indiana that had two completely rust free tubs but with quarter panel damage on opposite sides for the unbeatable price of $250 each! Out of the two tubs, we'll build one. Lots of technical challenges ahead but I think I have everything covered. We are going to use the instrument cluster from the Liberty as well as a ton of other stuff including the Chrysler 8.25 rear axle, ABS system, steering column, wire harness, fuel tank etc...

Will post more pictures as the build progresses.....hoping we can wrap it up by the end of the school year in June...stay tuned!

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Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
38,138
Salem, Oregon
Will keep it forever.....it will be mine! School isn't paying a nickel for anything.
Well hey now, I think you've tapped into something here! Getting all those students to help you with your project! Damn... I wish I had a situation like that ;)

Seriously though, I look forward to following this swap. Should be cool to see one of these CRD Liberty engines in a Wrangler. If you know how to work on them, they are a good engine!
 

Chris

Administrator
Staff Member
Sep 28, 2015
38,138
Salem, Oregon
Only thing I hear about the 2.8 is that the timing belt (or is it chains) really sucks, or something along those lines.

I remember almost buying a Liberty CRD once, and the one thing that people warned me about was that not many mechanics knew how to work on it... not that it mattered of course, since I would have done all the work myself.
 
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DieselJeep

TJ Enthusiast
Oct 31, 2018
440
KY
Yeah that seems to be a theme with these smaller diesels. The first thing my dad told me after my swap was "That doesn't sound like a diesel".

Something else I've noticed and I'm not sure if it's more the 2.8 Cummins is that the engine itself is loud (not ear splitting but not exactly quiet when going up hills or towing). The exhaust is pretty quiet if that makes sense. Most modern vehicles have all the sound deadening stuff and even my truck with the 5.9 is very quiet. Add mud tires and wind in the TJ and I tend to try and wear sound isolating earbuds on long stretches and that was before the swap as well. But more and more I've been thinking about integrating some sound deadening stuff. For further background my tub is bedlined with no carpet.

Is the transmission you're going to use the stock liberty trans?
 
Yeah that seems to be a theme with these smaller diesels. The first thing my dad told me after my swap was "That doesn't sound like a diesel".

Something else I've noticed and I'm not sure if it's more the 2.8 Cummins is that the engine itself is loud (not ear splitting but not exactly quiet when going up hills or towing). The exhaust is pretty quiet if that makes sense. Most modern vehicles have all the sound deadening stuff and even my truck with the 5.9 is very quiet. Add mud tires and wind in the TJ and I tend to try and wear sound isolating earbuds on long stretches and that was before the swap as well. But more and more I've been thinking about integrating some sound deadening stuff. For further background my tub is bedlined with no carpet.

Is the transmission you're going to use the stock liberty trans?

Yes..using 545RFE automatic and also the 8.25" chrysler rear axle.
 

disjaukifa

Kubota Diesel Wrangler Guy
Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2018
251
Virginia
@disjaukifa has a pretty interesting Kubota diesel swap going on in his build thread too!
https://wranglertjforum.com/threads/project-felicity-06-tj-wrangler-rhd-v2403-kubota-diesel-swap.15375/

Lots of diesels lately I guess!
Actually my daily driver is a 2006 Liberty CRD with that VM 2.8L cummins engines. So I can give you some input on that motor!

First off get an EcoTune from Green Diesel Engineering, best $700 I spent, I went from 20mpg to 28 ~ 30 mpg instantly!!!!

Second if you don't know when the timing belt was done, just go ahead and do it when you pull the engine for the Wrangler. It's a #*$&$#( because there are no timing marks and you need a special tool to keep the cam gears held in place. I bought the official tool used by Jeep second hand on eBay for like $500 and it saved SO much time but still a hassel!

Third there is a guy that makes a replacement billet aluminum thermostat housing that can have the thermostat replaced, it would like $300 I believe but worked SO much better on heating up the Liberty and in the winter and I've never had a problem with it keeping the engine cooled even while towing a Wrangler on a 14' car trailer.

I have a ton of respect for the VM 2.8L in my Liberty CRD, I've done all the maintenance and minor turbo upgrade with better bearings and a slightly better impeller and I love mine.

Truthfully I'm debating getting a JKU four door Wrangler and doing the CRD and 545rfe transmission swap along with the part-time/all-time 4x4 transfer case from my Liberty.

Yes I'm doing a Kubota Swap into my RHD Wrangler and I should be mounting the Kubota V2403 in the engine this weekend which I'm really looking forward too!!!

Great looking project and wonderful start! Can't wait to see how things come along!

-Grant