Your Jeep

Jp Magazine - - Table Of Contents - By John Cappa jped­i­tor@jp­magazine.com

Stiff YJ So­lu­tion

I have a ’91 YJ with a Ru­bi­con Ex­press 4.5-inch lift, Ru­bi­con Ex­press shocks, and greasable Cur­rie shack­les. The track bars have been re­moved. It rolls on brand-new 33-inch all-ter­rain tires. It is the roughestrid­ing Jeep I’ve ever had. Any ideas on what I can ad­dress to make it ride as smooth as my CJ?

@dum­b­cars Via In­sta­gram @cap­pa­works

There re­ally is no rea­son for your YJ to ride worse than your CJ. If the sus­pen­sion is prop­erly as­sem­bled it should ride much bet­ter. There are a few things you can check. Most peo­ple sim­ply gun down the spring hard­ware with an im­pact wrench. How­ever, over­tight­ened and in­cor­rectly in­stalled shackle and spring pivot bolts can cause an in­cred­i­bly stiff ride. The leaf spring pivot bolts and shackle bolts should be as­sem­bled loosely when ve­hi­cle is hoisted off the ground dur­ing the lift kit in­stal­la­tion. They can be tight­ened to spec once the Jeep is sit­ting on the ground un­der its own weight. You can quickly check and see if they are over­tight­ened with the Jeep on the ground. Go around to each shackle and spring pivot bolt to check for tight­ness. When out­fit­ted with a greasable bolt and ure­thane bush­ings, you should be able to spin the bolt head rel­a­tively freely with a wrench. A proper lock­ing nut will keep the assem­bly from com­ing apart. Make sure all of the bush­ings are greased too.

The Ru­bi­con Ex­press (ru­bi­con­ex­press. com) shocks should pro­vide a smooth ride, but dou­ble-check the shock part num­bers to make sure they are the cor­rect ap­pli­ca­tion for your YJ. Take a look at tire pres­sure too. Over­in­flated tires will cause a rough ride and un­even tread­wear. Do not fill the tires to the max in­fla­tion pres­sure listed on the side­wall. You may need to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent in­fla­tion pres­sures to find the ex­act psi that al­lows the en­tire tread to make con­tact with an even road sur­face.

CJ Re­build or Swap?

I’ve been a Jeep fan a whole lot of years. I al­ways wanted a CJ-5 when I was a kid. Fast-for­ward to 2014, when I wore my brother-in-law down for him to sell me his ’94 YJ with a 2.5L four-banger with a five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion for an amaz­ing price of $350. There was one caveat, it failed emis­sions.

It had high NOX read­ings. I bought a new O2 sen­sor and a Flow­mas­ter cat­alytic con­verter, which did the trick and the Jeep passed emis­sions. The down­side is that there is ex­treme pres­sure push­ing oil out of the dip­stick tube and I had to pur­chase an­other cat­alytic con­verter last year.

I re­al­ize I must per­form a leak­down test to see what ex­actly is go­ing on in­side the en­gine. Would it be more cost ef­fec­tive to re­build it than swap it out? It’s only got 149,000 miles. I do plan on keep­ing the Jeep, up­grad­ing the axles, and putting on a 21⁄2-inch Sky­jacker lift kit.

My other plan is to up­grade to a Ford 5.0L truck en­gine and get an AX-15 trans­mis­sion. What is the best bang for the buck op­tion? It al­ready has a Gale Banks header and an Ai­raid in­take.

The Jeep is a blast to drive on- and off-road, and with the 4.10:1 ra­tio axle gears it moves out nicely!

Sean Jen­nings

Via email

Ex­cept in ex­tremely rare cases, an en­gine re­build or a re­man­u­fac­tured crate en­gine will al­ways be more cost ef­fec­tive than an en­gine swap. En­gine swaps have many costs and com­plex­i­ties that are of­ten over­looked. These costs add up quickly and in­clude things like the wiring, adapters, en­gine mounts, ra­di­a­tor, ex­haust, drive­shafts, fuel pump, and fab­ri­ca­tion. These items can eas­ily add up to sev­eral thou­sands of dol­lars. Given the fact that you seem to en­joy the Jeep with the cur­rent en­gine, I think the most pru­dent thing to do is to stick with the 2.5L. But first, you need to fig­ure out if it’s any good.

Ex­ces­sive blow-by through the dip­stick or oil filler is usu­ally a pretty good in­di­ca­tor that the pis­ton rings are worn and the en­gine might be due for a re­build. How­ever, a plugged-up PCV valve could cause a sim­i­lar prob­lem. Clean or re­place the PCV valve and hose. Make sure it’s op­er­at­ing prop­erly. If it is, and the ex­ces­sive blow-by per­sists, it’s time to go to the next step.

You’ll need a com­pres­sion tester to check the con­di­tion of the cylin­ders, pis­tons, and rings, and to see if they are seal­ing prop­erly. You can pur­chase an in­ex­pen­sive cylin­der com­pres­sion tester from Har­bor Freight (har­bor­freight.com). Test each cylin­der for com­pres­sion and note the psi. A vari­a­tion of 10 to 15 psi be­tween cylin­ders is fairly nor­mal, but if the vari­a­tion hits or ex­ceeds 20 psi you have a prob­lem that should be ad­dressed. You can dou­ble-check the low cylin­ders by pour­ing 1 tea­spoon of en­gine oil into the spark plug hole and retest­ing. If the read­ing jumps up, the pis­ton rings are worn. If it doesn’t, the prob­lem is in the val­ve­train. Don’t for­get to clear the cylin­ders of oil be­fore re­in­stalling the spark plugs.

If you di­ag­nose the en­gine as be­ing worn, you have some op­tions. You can take your en­gine to the local re­builder, or you can sim­ply swap your en­gine out with a re­man­u­fac­tured long-block en­gine from a com­pany such as ATK (atkvege.com).

TJ Plan­ning

I have been a sub­scriber to Jp for many years. For starters, I love the mag­a­zine, the great con­tent, and I en­joy ev­ery is­sue. I know you guys have posted a few ar­ti­cles on axle swaps. I have a ’01 TJ (non-Ru­bi­con) and I want to up­grade the axles. I am cur­rently on de­ploy­ment and I am sav­ing money for Jeep parts. Just like nearly ev­ery off-road en­thu­si­ast, I would love to get high-end 1-ton axles. How­ever, I can­not af­ford $12,000 in axles at the mo­ment. I was look­ing at do­ing a Ford 8.8-inch swap with an ARB Air Locker. I can get the axle at

the local wreck­ing yard for $200. Up front, I was think­ing of adding a sleeve kit, gus­sets, and a truss. A locker up front would be nice too, but I don’t know if the Dana 30 is worth putting that much money into. What would you rec­om­mend? The Jeep cur­rently sits on 33-inch tires, but I will be go­ing to 35-inch tires and a 3.5-inch lift from Me­talCloak when I re­turn home. Even­tu­ally, I would love to be able run 37-inch tires with­out hav­ing to swap axles again.

Any ad­vice or tips would greatly be ap­pre­ci­ated. As al­ways, I love the mag­a­zine, and thank you for your time and help. Jeremy Pugh

Via email

First and fore­most, thank you for your ser­vice and all your ef­forts over­seas! With­out peo­ple like you, we wouldn’t be able to en­joy ev­ery­thing that we do here back at home.

Your axle swap idea is a sound one. Ideally, you should start with the 8.8-inch from a Ford Ex­plorer. You can find them with disc brakes and 31-spline axle­shafts. Com­pa­nies such as Artec In­dus­tries (artecin­dus­tries.com), Bal­lis­tic Fab­ri­ca­tion (bal­lis­tic­fab­ri­ca­tion.com), and Ruf­fStuff Spe­cial­ties (ruff­stuff­spe­cial­ties.com) of­fer the weld-on sus­pen­sion brack­ets needed to put the Ford 8.8-inch un­der your Jeep TJ Wran­gler. If you have dif­fi­culty lo­cat­ing a Ford Ex­plorer 8.8-inch or can’t per­form the fab­ri­ca­tion and weld­ing needed to make the swap, East Coast Gear Sup­ply (east­coast­gear­sup­ply.com) of­fers Ford 8.8-inch Ex­plorer rear axles com­plete with TJ brack­ets ready to bolt into your Jeep.

As for the front, you can in­stall the sleeves, gus­sets, and truss to keep your Dana 30 from bend­ing. How­ever, if it’s al­ready bent, you’ll want to start with a fresh hous­ing. These prod­ucts will not straighten a bent axle­hous­ing.

The Ford 8.8 and even the Dana 30 should serve your Jeep well with up to 35-inch tires if you drive sanely. Overly ag­gres­sive driv­ing with a locker will put the Dana 30 ring-and-pin­ion and axle­shaft steer­ing U-joints at risk. Up­ping the tire size to 37-inch tires will be a bit of a gam­ble. You could keep the 8.8-inch and Dana 30 alive if you don’t drive ag­gres­sively, but you’ll have to be very care­ful. Step­ping into 37-inch tires re­ally re­quires much stronger axle as­sem­blies. The 35-inch tires are about the max­i­mum I would rec­om­mend with the 8.8-inch and Dana 30 axles. The ad­di­tional lever­age and weight of the 37-inch tires will even­tu­ally take its toll on the 8.8-inch and Dana 30 axle as­sem­blies.

XJ Up­date

A few years ago I pur­chased a Tex­as­based ’94 two-door 4.0L Chero­kee 4x4 with a man­ual trans­mis­sion and no ABS or airbags. I had a plan of cre­at­ing an ad­ven­ture ve­hi­cle that might be flat towed be­hind an RV or tow an ad­ven­ture trailer, and then life hap­pened and it turned into a daily driver see­ing a lot of miles and New Eng­land win­ters.

Re­cently, I started breath­ing life into the old plan, only to dis­cover that find­ing a re­place­ment Chero­kee with sim­i­lar specs and in good con­di­tion is quite dif­fi­cult. I could use some help eval­u­at­ing some al­ter­nate specs. At this point, my plan is to look for a ‘91-or-newer Chero­kee with a 4.0L HO en­gine. The ba­sic build in­cludes Dana 44 axles with elec­tric lock­ers front and rear, 31- or 33-inch all-ter­rain tires that are 10.5 inches wide, fender flares and a lift as re­quired, a winch bumper with an 8,000- or 10,000-pound winch, and a rear tire car­rier bumper. How well does the Chero­kee ABS sys­tem per­form on- and off-road and how prone to fail­ure is it? What type of prob­lems might I have with the airbags, es­pe­cially if I in­stall a winch bumper and winch and pos­si­bly flat tow with a tow bar at­tached to the bumper? Con­sid­er­ing that I have a po­ten­tial donor ve­hi­cle in my drive­way and a spare re­built AX15 and NP231HD in my base­ment, what will be re­quired to swap an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion for a man­ual trans­mis­sion? Will some years and trans­mis­sions be eas­ier to swap out than oth­ers and what years are likely to be the most re­li­able?

A crit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tion is, when com­pleted, the ve­hi­cle must be able to re­li­ably pass Mas­sachusetts an­nual in­spec­tion. Due to the age of the Jeep (pre-’03 model) this will be a safe­ty­only in­spec­tion with no port scan­ning. How­ever, one item that is checked is dash warn­ing lights. If a warn­ing light is on, in­clud­ing ABS, airbag, or any other light, this is an im­me­di­ate fail. Any help you can of­fer will be ap­pre­ci­ated.

Doug East Ware­ham, MA

The ’91-’01 Jeep XJ Chero­kee is a great plat­form to build from. Of those, the ’97-’01 XJ is the most de­sir­able. It fea­tures sev­eral chas­sis and in­te­rior im­prove­ments and up­dates over the ’96-and-ear­lier mod­els. The four-door model is usu­ally pre­ferred over the two-door model. The two ex­tra door­frames fur­ther stiffen the chas­sis, and four-door mod­els were more pop­u­lar so they are eas­ier to find than the two-doors. If you pre­fer a man­ual trans­mis­sion, you’ll be far bet­ter off find­ing an XJ that al­ready has one. Swap­ping out the au­to­matic for a man­ual trans­mis­sion will also re­quire an ECU swap. Ul­ti­mately, it’s just not a

cost-ef­fec­tive con­ver­sion since there are XJ Chero­kees avail­able with a fac­tory man­ual trans­mis­sion. An ’00-’01–model XJ with the NV3550 five-speed man­ual would be a real gem if you can find it. The NV3550 is more durable than the AX15 found in pre-’00 XJs. If you de­cide to stick with the au­to­matic, the AW4 four-speed is one of the best au­to­matic trans­mis­sions ever of­fered in a Jeep. An XJ with a 4.0L in­line-six en­gine backed up with ei­ther the NV3550 man­ual or AW4 au­to­matic is eas­ily good for 250,000 miles or more if prop­erly main­tained.

The XJ an­tilock brak­ing and airbag sys­tems are far less prob­lem­atic than what can be found in many of the other 4x4s avail­able dur­ing the ’90s and early ’00s. You shouldn’t have any is­sues with your planned mod­i­fi­ca­tions. How­ever, keep in mind that the Dana 44 axles you plan to swap in will re­quire the cor­rect tone rings and sen­sors for the ABS sys­tem to func­tion prop­erly.

Creep­erYJ

Brush­ing aside the un­think­able, I’ve de­cided that my ’92 YJ re­ally should be messed with (some more). We’re talk­ing about a rel­a­tively be­nign lit­tle Jeep with equally lit­tle stock P235/75R15 28.8-inch­di­am­e­ter tires and a stock lit­tle 2.5L four­banger. It has noth­ing more ex­otic than front and rear ARB Air Lock­ers and a 2-inch BDS lift. The rear axle is an af­ter­mar­ket G2 Core 44. But, it’s the front Dana high­pin­ion 30 that I’m now wor­ried about.

You see, I’m ac­tu­ally con­sid­er­ing an At­las 2-Speed trans­fer case with a 5:1 low-range ra­tio. This unit with ship­ping, plus drive­shaft mod­i­fi­ca­tions will push $3,400, but it’s still cheaper and cleaner than any other op­tions for gear re­duc­tion this low. Scott at Ad­vanced Adapters es­ti­mates a crawl ra­tio of 78:1 with the 5:1 re­duc­tion At­las and 4.10 ring-and-pin­ion. My AX5 trans­mis­sion and clutch are newly re­built, so re­plac­ing the AX5 with an older granny First gear trans­mis­sion of ques­tion­able con­di­tion, plus suck­ing down the cost and cal­is­then­ics of adapters, and any un­knowns make me moody.

Which brings us to my ques­tion. The ad­di­tional torque with the At­las added into the equa­tion would greatly in­crease stress down­stream of the trans­fer case to ev­ery other com­po­nent in­clud­ing the stock Dana 30 vac­uum dis­con­nect axle, which my soul loves and will not part with. Yes, I want to be buried with it. I like it that much. Will this cat­a­clysm of torque bru­tal­ize my beloved dis­con­nect axle with the

Air Locker en­gaged, or dis­en­gaged for that mat­ter? If so, then I’ll leave the lit­tle buf­falo as is, and sat­isfy my off-road crav­ings by read­ing your mag­a­zine twice as of­ten.

I’d mur­der the devil in his sleep for more crawl­ing torque at times when slow­ing down can ac­tu­ally re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of break­age. That said, I grew up in Sacra­mento, and ran the Ru­bi­con from 1969 through 1972. That four years made up for ev­ery rot­ten thing I’d done up un­til that point in my life. I’d like to think I’ve got­ten the rot­ten­ness and the rocks mostly out of my sys­tem, hence the modest en­gine and stock tires. Thank you for a su­perb mag­a­zine. The tech info through­out is a gold mine and the Your Jeep ques­tion and an­swer sec­tion is my fa­vorite, a last­ing trea­sure.

Reg Jones

Via email

Given the tire size you are run­ning with no plans of sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing the tire di­am­e­ter, I think you could very eas­ily keep the high-pin­ion dis­con­nect Dana 30 alive with a 5:1 low range trans­fer case. If you had the itch to up­grade the Dana

30, you could swap most of the guts of your dis­con­nect Dana 30 into a junk­yard non-dis­con­nect high-pin­ion XJ Dana 30. It’s a fairly sim­ple swap, but it does re­quire some ba­sic cut­ting and weld­ing. The XJ sus­pen­sion brack­ets will need to be re­moved from the hous­ing and new leaf spring perches will need to be welded to the axle­tubes. This swap would get you a stur­dier axle­hous­ing and a less prob­lem­atic 4x4 shift­ing sys­tem. If you are wor­ried about the fac­tory axle­shaft strength, you could up­grade to some RCV Per­for­mance (rcvper­for­mance.com) CV-style axle­shafts. They are sig­nif­i­cantly stronger than the OE U-jointed axle­shafts and will fit in both your dis­con­nect-style axle­hous­ing (sans dis­con­nect) and the non-dis­con­nect XJ high-pin­ion Dana 30 axle­hous­ing.

Track Bar Sub­trac­tion

I re­ally en­joy the ar­ti­cles in Jp! I am 17 years old and I own a ’90 Jeep YJ with an in­line-six. A while ago, I started hear­ing

about re­mov­ing the track bars in or­der to at­tain more ar­tic­u­la­tion off-road. I did a good amount of re­search and read that many peo­ple have per­ma­nently re­moved theirs and have had no is­sues on- or off-road. I de­cided to re­move them. That was quite a has­sle, to say the least. I, like oth­ers, have not no­ticed any on-road han­dling is­sues. I have, on the other hand, no­ticed a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in off-road abil­ity due to greater ar­tic­u­la­tion. Do you think that this will cre­ate any safety in­spec­tion–type is­sues down the road when I try to sell it?

Will Richard­son

Via email

Re­mov­ing the track bars on your leaf­sprung YJ will in­crease ar­tic­u­la­tion and give the front and rear sus­pen­sion the abil­ity to move more freely. You’ve likely no­ticed that the Jeep rides smoother on- and off-road. One pos­si­ble side ef­fect of re­mov­ing the front track bar will be bump­steer, which can make the Jeep a hand­ful at higher speeds over larger bumps. The amount of bump­steer you feel will de­pend on the lift height, if the Jeep has a drop pit­man arm, and the soft­ness of the leaf springs and shocks. The front track bar is de­signed to keep bump­steer in check, but if you don’t no­tice any sig­nif­i­cant bump­steer with­out the track bar, you should be good to go. How­ever, sus­pen­sion mod­i­fi­ca­tion laws vary state by state, so you’ll want to look into your local laws be­fore throw­ing the track bars in the garbage.

JK 15x8 Wheels

I have a ’08 JK Wran­gler and I re­ally love the old-school look of painted steel wheels. I want to put some on my Jeep with 33-inch tires and a 2-inch lift. There seems to be con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion ev­ery­where I look about whether or not a set of 15x8 steel wheels by Wheel Vin­tiques will fit my ’08 JK and clear the brake calipers. If so, what di­men­sion wheel will get the job done? Do I need a 3.75-inch off­set or big­ger? My ini­tial pref­er­ence is 15-inch wheels, but I’d do a 16-inch wheel if it’s the only way. Can you please help me get a de­fin­i­tive an­swer so I can get my JK that badass old-school look I’m crav­ing? Thanks in ad­vance.

Leo Makowski

Fort Mill, SC

You can fit 15-inch-di­am­e­ter wheels on your JK, but the backspac­ing mea­sure­ment (not the off­set) will be crit­i­cal to clear the brake calipers and steer­ing knuck­les. You will need a max­i­mum of 3.75 inches of backspac­ing to fit the 15-inch wheels. A backspac­ing of 3.25 inches or 3.50 inches will work fine too. A backspac­ing mea­sure­ment of any­thing less than 3.75 will work, but keep in mind that the less backspac­ing you have, the more the tires will stick out­side the fend­ers. Also, less backspac­ing will in­crease the scrub ra­dius on any 4x4, which can lead to han­dling is­sues. Moder­a­tion will be key, so don’t go over­board with too lit­tle backspac­ing.

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