The Getaway Jeep Stands Once More

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 at 10:33 pm

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Filed under Adventure TJ Project, Jeep


With the rear end of the getaway Jeep complete, it was finally time to take a look at the front. The first step was to clean up the rust, put down a coat of Por15 to seal up the frame from future issues, and install a motor mount lift. This moves the engine up an inch higher than stock giving me a little more ground clearance to the oil pan and re-aligning the fan with the radiator. More importantly to me though it changes the angle of the transfer case output and the rear driveshaft geometry, hopefully warding off drivetrain vibrations that sometimes come with a lifted Jeep. I’m hoping that with a mild 2-1/2″ lift and this tweak I’ll be fine and at least for now avoid the additional expense of a slip yoke eliminator and carden joint drive shaft.

If you’ve been following the build, you already know that I had some serious issues with the steering gear box mount, but there were some other hang ups along the way as well. During the tear down I noticed one of the front axle shafts was nearly seized solid. I already had plans to replace all the u-joints anyways, but this sealed the deal, doubly so when I pulled what was left of the old bearing out.


Of course though, even this relatively simple job had to fight me. With several weeks of back order waiting on the u-joints, I thought I had it made when they finally arrived. That was until I went to install them and one of the axle shaft joints only came with three of the required four c-clips. I made some calls to the local truck and auto shops to no avail – the only suggestion I received was to order another unit and wait on that all over again. Impatient, I bought a no-name u-joint thinking that I could just use the clips in the quality unit that I had ordered, only to find that the no-name joint used ever so slightly different specs – the c-clip was 0.7mm smaller and would not fit. Finally I tried placing a call to Dana Spicer – the manufacturer – who were so sorry for the mix-up that they couriered a replacement over night from Tennessee. But just to get in a final dig, Fedex managed to screw up the final delivery and instead of arriving at my door I had a two hour drive to pick up the final part – a part with a value of a whopping eleven cents!

With the axle shafts ready to go, I finally turned to re-assembling everything on the front end. I used the same basic method to install the front axle as I did the rear – centring the axle on the bump stops, aligning it to point straight with the frame, setting up the bump stop height against the shock travel, and then re-checking the first two adjustments. That’s when things went sideways though. Every time I cycled the axle through it’s travel it seemed to move forward, as though the control arms had grown and the bump stops where now out of alignment. It didn’t make any logical sense since nothing had changed. So I installed the track bar to keep the axle in more precise alignment, only to find that the mounting bracket on the frame side now hit the differential cover, scraping a layer of fresh paint off it in the process. Thankfully the bracket was heavily over-engineered and even after removing some material from it to create the clearance I needed I’m still certain the cast factory part it’s mounted to will fail first. With all that sorted, the springs were installed as well as the axle shafts, wheel bearings and brakes. For now the original brakes are remaining in place as those are parts that are prone to rapid deterioration and I can’t be certain yet the chassis won’t be sitting some time while the body is prepped, but those parts will all be evaluated and replaced as needed before the Jeep gets saftied for the road.

Now it was on to the steering bits. After having witnessed first hand the effects of a bad case of ‘death wobble‘ – an issue with various causes almost all revolving around loose steering parts – I had decided to replace every last joint and tie rod end with top of the line, brand new pieces. I even decided to replace the tie rod itself even though there shouldn’t be anything wrong with the old one being simply a threaded tube and having no bends – it was the fact that I could get a brand new tie rod for only $35 and save breaking the rust loose on the old one that sold me. As it turned out, that was a bit of a mistake. I got the tie rod through Crown Automotive – usually known for making good quality replacement parts for Jeeps of all ages long after Jeep themselves have discontinued the part. Unfortunately for me, for some reason or another the tie rod ends wouldn’t thread in to the new tie rod. They smoothly turned in about an inch then seized solid. Knowing that they couldn’t possibly be cross threaded after going in that far so smoothly I grabbed a wrench and forced the issue a couple more turns then removed the parts – sure enough it was eating the threads on the new tie rod end. I salvaged the original tie rod from the scrap pile, cleaned it up and sure enough the ends threaded in beautifully smooth without any issue at all. Turns out my shiny new tie rod had been threaded wrong from the factory. So let this be a warning to future builders – don’t trust the Crown TJ tie rod. Luckily my old one was still good and I only damaged about one and a half threads on the very end of one tie rod end so the parts are still more than strong enough, but so much for my completely shiny and new steering bits plan.


Using some information I found online as well as a tip about using lengths of metal stock in place of tire for more accurate measurements, I did a basic alignment right in the garage before mounting tires. Some people online believe that this is just as accurate as a commercial alignment on a Jeep since the very nature of the truck is simple with few adjustments available. Either way I plan to have a commercial alignment done before the truck hits the road as having installed adjustable control arms in place of the factory units does give me control over the caster angle which can be measure more accurately with the commercial equipment. But it will be interesting to see how close this simple driveway alignment came to the real thing. If it’s within reason I know one more job that I won’t be paying someone else to do again. However on future attempts I’ll actually remember to bring better clamps instead of leaving them at home and I’ll use heavier metal arms as these ones required a little care to ensure they weren’t bending.

With that done, it was finally time to mount the front tires, take the truck down off the jackstands, and for the first time since starting this project ten months ago, the Jeep was finally standing on it’s own tires again. It seemed only right to push it out into the driveway and give it a bath, knocking months of accumulated rust and dirt off it.


There are still a few more things to do, like run the fuel and brake lines, change the transmission and motor oils, bolt up the fuel tank and do some final setup on the steering assembly – but other wise this chassis is ready for a body to be mounted to it. I feel like this crazy project is finally reached a stage where it seems achievable.

In the mean time, in it’s continued search for a name, I’ve taken to calling it ‘Project Wanderlust’ since every moment turning wrenches brings dreams of the remote places this rig will be taking me soon enough. We’ll see if the name sticks or not, but either way, one day this truck will be rolling it’s way up the Dempster Highway soon to connect right through to the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk.

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