Thursday 16 August 2018

Jeep TJ Front Fender Replacement

Rust, every Jeep owners other four letter word. My front fenders finally got to the point where I was running out of good metal to attach new metal to. I came across a local supplier selling replacement fenders for $140 a side. They're imported, solid enough, and came primed in a solid black. As I would come to learn, they fit damn near perfect. More on that as we go on.
Part of what causes TJ fenders to rot out so badly, is the support brackets lack any proper drainage. This allows dirt and grime to collect, causing the fenders to rust out from the inside out. To counteract this, I've drilled holes at each end. Just a 1/4" to allow water to drain. Hopefully that keeps them healthy for a long time. At least for the same 18 years my old ones lasted.
You can see by the pictures to the right the brackets I'm talking about, and the lower picture shows the damaged area. That's the typical TJ fender rust. In my case, the rust had practically eaten through the entire centre of my fender. It was held together with some old ducting and rivets.

The start of a project this grandiose, is realizing that it's not just 11 bolts and you're set, but it's all the accessories that are on the fenders that need to be dealt with. Lights, wiring, bottles, airbox, battery, battery tray, weird drivers side battery tray. Just a lot of detail work.
I started with the simple stuff, removing the lights and wiring for them. The front signal lights come out with two torx screws. Followed by two clips to free the housing. This is key, as the light socket won't fit through the fender hole with the wiring harness.

The side marker sockets just need a twist to remove them from the housing. Trace the wire back and remove all the plastic trim clips. Ultimately back to the fender hole.

The rubber grommet will push through to the engine side easy enough and you can fish the wiring through to the engine side.

I got tied up with the work, and didn't take photo's of removing all the screws for the air box and electric distribution centre. Also, now's a good time to remove the battery. Just get it out of the way.
Basically, remove everything that's attached to the fenders.

As mentioned, there are 11 bolts total. 7 at the front of the fender, where it meets the grill. Those pretty easy. Now comes the tough ones, especially on 19 year old Jeep. The best solution is to break out the reciprocating saw. Give it a clean cut to free the front of the fender from the Jeep. Now it's easy to get an impact gun with extension on the 4 fender to tub bolts remaining.

Keen eyes will notice that these are different fenders. Guess I wasn't quick on the camera while doing this. Regardless, it gives you an idea of where I did the cut.

It should be noted at this point, I worked around the battery tray on both sides. Removing them was going to be a pain in the butt, and working around wasn't too difficult. If your Jeep isn't as rusty, give it a shot. It'll make life easier.

So by now, you're just over an hour in, and it's time to put the new fender on. Guess what, do everything you just did, but backwards, and you to can have a fender that now looks like this.
It's not a hard job. I may have used an impact and air ratchet, but there was nothing stopping me from just using hand tools. So this is definitely a driveway do-able job. Be prepared for broken bolts, and plan for two days.
Also, expect to need to drill a couple holes. Over the years some accessory mounts changed, and things didn't always line up. It wasn't a big deal, just worth noting.

All said and done, 7 hours later, you can have fenders that look like this

And ultimately, once the flares are back on, lights back in place, and all accessories back in, you'll have a front end that will look like this.

Monday 11 June 2018

Rear Drum Brake Replacement

Every ten years or so, I need to rebuild a set of drum brakes. It serves a reminder of just how much I dislike them. They aren't hard, they aren't really complex, there are just so many bloody springs and finicky parts. 

When it comes to drum brakes, always, and I mean always, order the new hardware kit. I ultimately went with Wagner 9" brake shoes and the Carlson Rear Drum Hardware Kit. The Carlson kit was a spectacularly complete kit. Nothing had to be reused from the original hardware.
Good thing at that, considering the innards of the brakes were pretty much rusted solid and not really doing anything anymore. 
You may notice that I'm working with a jack, and a tire under the control arm as a safety device. Don't do this, it's not safe, you will die. I haven't yet, but my tire has caught my Jeep once when my Hi-Lift fell over in an emergency situation. In any case, yeah, use jack stands. 

Get the Jeep up in the air, get the tire off, and pull the drum. If you're lucky, the drum will slide right off because the brakes are shot and not working. If you're unlucky, you'll need patience, heat, choice words, and a hammer. I was lucky, my brakes were shot. 

Once the drum is off, I suggest taking a picture or two. There are a bunch of springs, levers, a cable, and an adjuster wheel. Having the pictures will help with reassembly, if you do need a reminder, just check the other side. This is why you only do one side at a time. 

These steps are not any official steps, just the way I do drums. 

Start by removing the two top springs, using a brake spring tool helps. Well worth the investment. Next remove the retainer springs. These are the round disks, just passed the halfway point down on the shoes. To remove them, put a finger on the pin behind the brakes, using pliers, push the disk in and twist to release it. Much easier than it sounds on rusty springs.
Finally, pull the shoes apart, and remove them from the backing plate. 

At this point, it's worth sitting the old set next to the new set and making sure you get the proper shoes for each side. 

Using the new hardware kit assemble the adjustment lever and spring. Apply some axle or chassis grease to the inside of the adjuster to keep it from seizing up. One point to be certain on, make sure you're using the proper adjuster. They are left and right side specific. 

Once you have the bench work done, it's time time to install the shoes.
Start with ensuring the parking brake plate is slotted in correctly (it'll be the thing that didn't come off with the shoes, and is on a cable). Next move to the retainer springs. They will cause you to use some adult language. Once done, slide in the adjuster, and the shoe to shoe spring over it. Next, I slide in the above axle cross bar, finishing with routing the adjuster cable, and top springs. (These are not official names, just saying) 

When done, slide the drum on. It should be lose. Take the drum off, and adjust the adjuster a bit and test the drum again. Keep doing that until you get a slightly snug fit. Put the tire on, and you're done.

These are meant to be some simple steps, and after following them, you too will understand why auto manufactures are moving to discs. Technically speaking, drums do provide much more stopping power. They're "self energizing", meaning that the force of the drum against the shoes, force them to grab harder (like a wedge under a door). They don't do as well with water and debris, and as you can see from reading this, a pain to work on. 

Saturday 2 June 2018

Battery Terminal Upgrade

One of the many projects I've had sitting on my to-do list, was upgrading the battery terminals on my Jeep TJ from stock to military style clamps. I know marine style is the usual upgrade, but after seeing Dave from Redneck Garage install these, I knew they were the right way to go.

I'm embarrassed to say that I've had the kit sitting around for nearly two years, and I can't find the original kit I ordered. So here are the current and if you're interested.

As you can see, the original clamps have definitely seen better days. Adding accessories was a pain, the clamps were rotting out. I felt they were one removal away from breaking. 

The first step is to remove the stock clamps. This is pretty easy, just hit them with a a hot torch, MAPP Gas works really well. The stock clamps are lead, and lead has a fairly low melting point. Probably best to not do this in shorts, but I did, and my legs survived. Once the stock clamps are off, heat up the new lugs, fill them with solder, and shove the exposed wires from the old clamp into the molten solder. Make sure you use pliers, vice grips, and various other safely precautions. You are playing with molten metal here. I added some heat shrink tube, and sealed them up really well.

After everything has cooled off, route the wires, add the protective covers, and you're set. It's a solid upgrade that makes it easier to disconnect the battery or add accessories. I've previously added an auxiliary fuse panel, so while I may not need to add directly to the battery, it's nice to know I have the option

Monday 28 May 2018

Delrin Door Hinge Liners

In one of those, "I didn't know that was a thing moments", I learned that Jeeps have door hinge liners. The reason this is new to me, is simply because back in my YJ days, no one actually complained about the hinges on their YJ's and CJ's. It was just expected that they were always buggered up and the doors were always hard to remove as a result.

Enter the past couple years, and while my TJ doors still came on and off easy enough, they were sagging when opened, making funny noises. You know, just typical Jeep door things. I was throwing lube at them (like my YJ) and that seemed to work. Until I discovered that they actually had liners, liners that are prone to rotting out, and liners that were replaceable.

TMR Customs makes some Delrin Door Hinge Liners  for all modern Jeeps. You can even order them with a removal tool. A tool I highly recommend getting.

Start by taking your doors off. Should go without saying. Line up the removal tool, and start hammering away. My bottom hinges were badly rusted in place, so I had to break out Mjolnir to, uh, convince the liner to come out. 

Once the  liner is out, hit the hinge with a rolled up piece of sandpaper to clean out any gunk, lube up the new liner (I used silicone spray lube) and push it in. It'll be tight, but the key here, is do not use a hammer.
New liner in place, looks much better than the old one, and I'll tell you, the door doesn't sag any more. Smooth like butter. 

 Here's a shot of my old upper and lower next to a new liner. Start to finish was about 30 minutes, and that was with fighting the lower liners out.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Nate's Jeep - Status Update

Back in January Nate had his first drive in his new Jeep.

Well, I finally got some time to spend in the garage, and rather than tackling the new fenders waiting to go on my Jeep, I decided Nate's Jeep had priority (that, and it was too cold outside for my liking)

To put it shortly. I'm quite happy with the results.
I've built a full wiring harness for this Jeep. It has a working ignition key, fuse panel, all power routes through a relay, a working voltmeter in the dash, and all the lights are real now. They're LED to help save the battery a bit.

I may add a charging port to the gas filler, and I'm considering adding a radio for some music, and maybe an FRS/GMRS radio

It's nearly ready for paint. I have to finish cleaning up the wiring and remove the stickers. I've also decided on an M38A1 motif, complete with soft top. I've also decided, that since my Jeep is Pavement Still Sucks, this shall be Pavement Stinks.

Below is a short walk around of how it stands now.

Saturday 31 March 2018

2018 To Do List - Keep on truckin'

2017 continued to be a bit of a bust for Jeep stuff. At least I did get out on the trails and did do a little tent camping in the backwoods.

For 2016 2017 2018, this is what I have planned

  • Centre the steering wheel. 
    • Despite my best efforts last year (July 2015), my steering wheel is still slightly off to the left. Annoying, yet easy to fix.
  • Front Fender repair.
    • Bought new fenders. Done messing with this one
  • Front extended flares.
    • Thanks to changes in the MTO's vehicle safety standards, my front tires need full tread coverage. I blame the MTO, but in reality, I'm tired of the dirt and mud sprayed up the side of my Jeep due to the front tires.
  • Rear turn signals
    • Again, thanks MTO. The previous owner of my Jeep flush mounted the taillights, and under the new rules, I require a visible rear turn signal on the side of the Jeep. Already got the lights, just need the weather.
    • Need new taillights since mine rotted out inside. May go back to stock housings and lose the flush mount
  • Battery Lug Replacement.
  • Removable Mud Flaps.
    • Going to fab something up for the rear to keep Johnny Law from getting too interested in my "Excessive Road Spray"
  • Electric Radiator Fan.
    • Been sitting in my garage for three years now. Maybe I should install it. At least I wired the switch into the cab already.
  • New Fan Belt.
    • To do when I change the fan.
  • Rear Diff Service.
    • Bought some Royal Purple max gear oil to change up the rear to see if it makes a difference on the Detroit unloading. Just gotta do it.
  • Transmission Service
    • Picking up some Redline MT-90, 'cause I hear it makes the AX-5 smooth as butter.
  • Delrin Bushing for my Tire Carrier
    • I run a pipe on a bolt tire carrier (homemade) and it could use a bushing in there. Gong to try and source some Delrin to use.
  • Emergency Rear Axle Retainer.
    • Got a thought on something that'll hold my axle together should I snap a shaft in the Dana 35c.
  • Aim Headlight and Fog Lights.
    • Pretty self explanatory. Just need a nice warm night
    • Got new wiring on it's way in to make lights brighter ( So aiming will be a bigger priority
  • New Winch Cable
    • Again, pretty self explanatory.
  • Missing bolt in Winch
    • Snapped a bolt that holds the gear housing on. Has been fine for years. One of these days I'll head to Bolts+ and get a replacement.
  • Jerrycan and Mount
    • One day I'll get around to building a mount for a Jerrycan - Got a Jerry can for Christmas!
  • Hi-Lift Mount.
    • See above. One day
  • Lockable storage
    • Now that I have a kid, and need all the seats in, I need to build a new locking storage box for behind the back seat. Has to work with the CJ tailgate on the Jeep.
  • Hitch mounted vice.
    • I have a spare vice, I have spare 2"x2" square tube. I need to merge the two to have a vice that can travel with me.

Definitely getting out on the trails more. Camping and maybe a new tent are in order!

Also big this year, is trip to Moab. Yeah, you heard me, Moab. It's my 40th birthday gift from my wife to our family. Looks like the plan is to fly out, rent a Jeep and fly home. The logistics of getting my Jeep and family out there were costly. As much as I'd love to wheel my own Jeep there, this isn't the trip for it.

Sunday 25 February 2018

TJ Dash Upgrade... Upgrade?

A couple weeks back, I upgraded my dash tray to add a tablet mount, and deeper storage. 

After a couple test trips, it became painfully obvious that, as useful as the table was, it blocked enough of my view that right hand turns were dangerous. 

Today, using some flatbar, a cut off wheel, and a bolt, I relocated the table down and out of my way. It's a little harder to see, but I think infinitely safer. Still needs some minor tweaks, and a shot of pain, but I think it'll work better in the new location.

Sunday 11 February 2018

Jeep TJ Dash Tray Upgrade

I'll start with the big disclaimer. All products or services in this post are self purchased/downloaded. I receive no compensation for any product/service. I feel that this is the best way to remain unbiased and honest when reviewing. 

While the TJ really improved on actually giving Jeep owners a dashboard, the included tray for holding things isn't all that deep or useful. I decided that if I was going to be spending more time exploring the in the Jeep, I'd need a dedicated mount for a phone/tablet/GPS.

Enter the Rugged Ridge Dash Multi-Mount (Model 13551.19) and the Ilyever 2-in-1 Universal Tablet iPad Tripod Mount Adapter. The mount comes with a universal cellphone holder that seems to rest on all the buttons on my phone. However, it's a standard tripod screw mount, meaning any tripod accessory will work.

Installation is a snap. I started by cleaning the dash tray with some WD40 to ensure all dirt, oil and grime were removed. The first step is to attach the included 3M tape to the base of the Rugged Ridge unit. Once done, place and press the try into place on the existing tray. 

 Install the three self tapping screws directly into the stock plastic tray, and well, you're done. I had to use a stubby screwdriver as my mirror and dash cam were in the way of my full size screwdriver. Once done, the unit is solidly in place.
 I added the tablet holder to the mount, and there you go. It's easy to remove the mount and replace with cellphone or gps mount, or just leave it off altogether if you don't want to advertise. The mount seems solid enough. Being the dead of winter, and most of the trails being closed up this way, I won't be able to speak of how it holds up until I can get some wheels in the dirt this spring/summer. (See my update to the mount here )

I'm using a first generation Nexus 7 tablet with some great apps that I've found, and a bluetooth ODB adapter. I've had the Nexus 7 since launch, and lately it's been sitting in a drawer making me wonder what I should do with it. Guess I answered my own question

Apps that I've loaded, aside from the stock Google Maps, are as follows (all hot linked)

GPX Viewer
GPS Status
GPS Essentials
MapFactor GPS Navigation Maps
Torque Pro

I have used GPX Viewer and Torque Pro for a while now and can definitely speak to their usefulness. GPS Status, Essentials, and MapFactor are new apps I'm trying out. They all look like they work well, I think they'll find a permanent place on my device.

Monday 22 January 2018

Nate's drive in his first Jeep

Back in June 2016, I picked up a Jeep for my son Nate. He was a wee one, and unable to reach the controls. That was ok, the Jeep needed a new battery, and well, I wanted to redo it with LED lights, a paint job, probably a working radio and CB (or FRS). I wasn't in a rush for him to learn to drive.

Fast forward to December 2017. The new battery that I had sitting in my Amazon Cart had a price drop for a day to $35. BOOM, Kev ordered.

The battery was charged, and then it sat. The weather did not cooperate, and I wasn't heading out to test it when I needed to wear multiple layers of clothing to not get frostbite.

Which leads us to this past Saturday.

My wife was working, and Nate and I were hanging out. It was warmer out, so I thought, lets try it out.

Nate was very excited to see the Jeep, to say the least. I had to show him how to push the gas to make it go, and he still needs help steering, but it was a good test for the battery, and well, as you can see by the video. Nate really enjoyed his time in the drivers seat. This kid is going to be a Jeeper. 

Overall, for the $85 I've got invested, I think this Jeep is going to be a win.

Thursday 4 January 2018

Looking Backwards and Forwards

So long 2017, and welcome to 2018. What a year it was, and well, what a year it's going to be.

2017 saw me back out at Ardbeg for the first time in over a decade. This was such a major accomplishment for me. It allowed me to banish some demons related to my congestive heart failure, and defibrillator implant. The plan is for this to be a yearly trip for me, just to get out and camp far away from everything that causes me stress.

I also managed a few things on the Jeep. Headlight upgrade, body mount replacement, fixed a leaky valve stem, to name a few.

That was a quick summary of 2017 in my Jeep life... so what does 2018 have in store? The biggest is my planned trip to Moab. The idea, as it stands right now, is to tow my Jeep out behind something (Our RV, a Truck, SUV, etc). More info to come in case anyone is interested in joining.
Another trip up to Ardbeg is a given. I think I'm going to make some plans up to get the Jeep more focused on overlanding than on trail riding. I enjoy getting somewhere that needs 4x4 and camping by a lake, much more than seeing if I can make it over some challenging obstacle or getting buried in a mud bog.

Outside of Jeeping, I am mentally planning for my wing man Nate to undergo open heart surgery to fix an Atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD) related to having Down syndrome. I can't imagine any parent wants to see their 3 year old under the knife, but you never know how strong you are, until being strong is all you have left.

Overall my ultimate life goal is to continue moving forward. I've been through a lot, I've survived it all, and today is the last day of my life... so far.