Getaway Jeep Rolls On

Sunday, May 29th, 2016 at 11:43 am

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Filed under Adventure TJ Project, Jeep, Uncategorized

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There was more than a little delay in this project, but things are moving again. While wire brushing the frame I found some a weak spot hidden behind the frame mount for the lower control arm. I fabbed up a quick reinforcement plate, but since the shop I’m working in has some electrical issues I wasn’t able to plug in a welder. I had to wait on a guy with a portable welding setup who did some great work but took a while to connect with. With that cleaned up though, I put in a drainage hole to prevent future issues and coated the rear half of the frame with POR 15 – a rust preventative and paint that’s supposed to be great and is looking very promising so far.

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First up was to get the axle back into place – a job easier said than done. Choosing to go with more flexible and more tunable adjustable control arms adds some ability and precision to the truck, but adds more work. Instead of just bolting them in and hoping the Jeep engineers chose a correct enough length even after my modifications, the axle can be setup to the new correct location. First centreing the axle on the bump stops and squaring it to the frame, then setting up the bump stops to maximize the travel of the shocks without damaging them. One final step is to set the angle that the axle meets the driveshaft but can’t do so until I have the actual driving weight on the suspension.

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The final hiccup in the axle installation was the trackbar. Used to keep the axle in the correct location left to right. With the lift in place the trackbar needs to be relocated so that it’s fixed length holds the axle in the right place. However that relocation moved the bar into contact with the frame rail that supports the fuel tank when the axle reaches only half it’s suspension travel. Of course a few months ago I passed on a new second hand adjustable rear track bar that would have solved this problem, but at the time I didn’t see the value in that – now I get to pay full price before putting the truck on the road – oh well.

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The next step was to bolt in the exhaust – a stainless steel system from MBRP that should last a good long time and happens to have a nice rumble to it without being too loud and seems to give a nice little power boost at the same time. This went fairly painlessly with only a small modification to move the rear most exhaust hanger from the outside to inside of the frame to give a touch of clearance around the after market shocks. If you’re sharp and know Jeeps well enough you may have also noticed the bolts holding the transmission support/skid plate in place now go right through the frame. It’s a known weak spot that the existing bolts that secure to captive bolts inside the frame strip out. A quick and elegant solution I found online is to simply drill through the frame and use a longer bolt with a standard nut on the top side. These bolts are a little long and they were later replaced with shorter ones once I found them hardened to be strong enough, but given that I’m later installing a small body lift as well, adding more space between the body and frame, it probably would have worked anyway.

And with that I finally got to turn the truck around and start work on the front half. Yes, I skipped putting in the fuel tank as I’ll be using the tank out of my second, parts donor truck and there’s no need storing fuel in the garage in the mean time. I also skipped running any of the fuel or brake lines yet as I have a bit of work to do to the body tub before it gets bolted in place. Should that work take longer than expected and this frame ends up sitting longer, I’ll want to re-evaluate the brakes anyway before hitting the road with it.

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20160505_195653All the while doing the rear section of the frame, through all the delays, I kept reminding myself that the front would go quickly. After all, I had little more than to unbolt the axle, clean everything up and paint it, then start reassembling again. But then I unbolted the steering box.

Yes, that is a big rip in the frame where the torque from steering oversize tires tried, and nearly succeeded, in pulling the steering box right off. I initially considered a simple fix and simply accepting that the life span of this frame would be somewhat more limited than I thought. In the end though I settled on a proper fix.

The catch came next. The steering box mount is a simple but fairly precise piece. It would take some work to build one from scratch in my somewhat limited shop. So my first step was to look to the online parts catalogs where I found no end of ready to bolt on steering box mounts for Jeep CJ’s and YJ’s where this seems a fairly common problem – but no where could I find a TJ mount. Maybe I’m just ahead of the curve on this problem.

Steering-Box-Mount-2So I started taking some measurements and let my inner engineer come out to design a new, stronger steering box mount and sent the plans off to a friend who runs a machine shop known for doing the impossible with great precision. With that part out for production I’m again at a bit of a stand still on the Jeep, but after wire brushing and cutting off the factory steering box mount it was pretty clear that this was the only route to go. Given the amount of material missing, you really have to wonder how it is that this truck passed a safety certification just before I bought it.

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In the mean time, I’m starting some work on the body tub – it needs some attention to the floor supports before moving on to where the truly custom work begins. Other than that, I’m thinking that this project needs a proper name but haven’t found one I like yet – any ideas?

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