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Thread: Project "Side-trac" XJ

  1. #1
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    Default Project "Side-trac" XJ

    So the short back story...
    My 83 CJ8 has been an on going project that continues to throw me curve balls. It currently sits awaiting a small body lift to allow the new drive train to fit better without hacking the really good body tub. In light of this and simply because it presented itself I found myself buying another Jeep. My daily driver VW Golf has been threatening to die so this seems a better choice to work on than the VW. I know Jeeps... VWs, not so much. So a guy on post here had bought this thinking to do some repairs and have himself a good little beginner wheeler. What he thought was an oil pan gasket leak turned out to be that as well as the front and rear main seals. Add to that the pretty heavy rust in the rockers and drivers floor in addition to a busy work schedule and a small herd of family and it wasn't long before his wife said "Its gotta go!". Being the glutton for punishment that I am I plunked down my moolah and bought it without hearing it run or driving it. Guess we will see how big an idiot I am.
    The specs are as follows:
    '91 Jeep XJ 4 door. 4.0HO, AX15 5 speed manual tranny, NP231 t-case, HP dana 30 up front and a ChryCO 8.25 in the rear. Jeep has a little over 140k on it and it looks like much of that has been here in rust breeding Germany. I'm not quite sure what model XJ it is since it doesn't have any flashy paint or decals or badges, its a manual tranny (usually not considered an "up grade?), and yet it has leather electric seats and manual everything else.?. Strange. Guess someone could have replaced the seats with the leather ones but then hook up the electrics? Seems a lot of work when they didn't care about the body rotting away? But whatever, I'll continue to march.
    The jeep has what appears to be a factory HA (huge-ass) brush guard on the front... it wobbles and doesn't really line up so great with the body lines (seems to sit to high) but that will be fixed after the Jeep is running and driving. The rear bumper had some strange swing out tire carrier mount that worked through the factory bumper. Its missing the actual swing out and was pretty much half ripped off on the passenger side. That will also get replaced as funds come available. I'm not looking forward to trying to get that thing off though. Its got a lot of rust holding it on and even being willing to cut it to little bits it will still present quite a challenge to remove.
    On to the rust. Today was my first real chance to crawl all over the Jeep and see what I bought. I spent a little time cleaning it out and sorting through the parts the PO left for me. While there is a Brand new water pump, 2 oil filters and 5 qts of (crap) oil, and a new pan gasket... that was about it. There was also a HD mainshaft for a 231 from what appeared to be someones dream to upgrade the factory 231? Doubt I will ever get around to that but for now that will stay in the Jeep. Never throw anything away! Personal Mantra! Also in the back was some "replacment" sheet metal. I guess the PO's idea was to patch up the old with this hacked off some other poor, unsuspecting XJ. *shrugs* Unfortunately he either didn't realize how bad the rust was or just didn't pay attention to where he hacked off the new metal. Almost none of the "new" pieces are big enough to fit... but that is fine. The only one that I see as needed for me is the drivers floor. Why? Because the rockers will be going under the knife! I went Friday to the steel shop, not because I knew what I would find but because I would prob do this even if the rockers were not near this bad. I bought two lengths of 2"x4"x6' 3/16ths wall tubing. The plan is that what little is left of the rockers will be cut back to the pinch seam and these will be welded in place. Its a fairly common XJ mod and not nearly as hard as fixing the rockers would be. Up side is I gain a lil ground clearance, makes the uni body much stronger, and allows me to drag across rocks should I ever actually find any here. Plus its hard to argue that they will add greatly should I ever suffer a side impact. One funny thing you can see in one of the pics I added was found when I was poking at the rockers. Seems someone did a super hack "fix" (term used VERY loosely!!) I suppose i order to get through inspection here. They filled what was left of the cavity in the rocker with expanding foam. They then, get this, used 100mph tape to cover the foam. It all got sprayed with undercoating and... well, when I poked it with my finger it literally fell off the Jeep! Yikes! I can't wait to see what other hack mods are lurking for me here.
    I have a buddy back in Colorado that is waiting on me to give him a list of needs for the Jeep. So far that list is not to bad. I want to get the engine leak free and buttoned up so I can clean it and see how it drives. I did notice the front rotors are SHOT so those and pads will be on the list. The pressure line for the power steering is leaking too. Looks to have rubbed against the lower rad hose to long. Valve cover may be fishy and likely the oil filter housing needs O rings. Noticed that one of the lines for the AC is missing as well but that will wait until I know this thing runs. The oil pan was pulled by the PO and it is now only in place with a few bolts. Sucks since I would LOVE to hit this thing with a pressure washer. Everything is so coated with oil and funk in the engine that it is hard to tell what is leaking and what is just coated from blowing around.
    To finish todays first segment of this I will mention my trip to the Graf auto center. Mind you its almost twice as big and freshly renovated... but the thing I hate is they are open on Sundays as well. While over there I ran into a fellow Jeeper that has a Grand Cherokee. We talked and I helped him do a little tire rotation type stuff... but what made me go "DOH" was that he had a full engine gasket kit in the back of his GC! He has been having some idling/running issues and thought maybe it needed a new head/gasket. He has been messing with the injectors and perhaps has it fixed without swapping the head. So maybe I will get a shot at his gasket set... maybe not. But while I was at Graf I did do a little more of my dumpster diving antics. My only guess is that someone must have gone through inspection and failed due to excessive loud exhaust... but somehow I don't think this was a cheap exhaust to throw away! All stainless... and while probably to much (3") for the XJs 6 cylinder... it may work ok for the scrambler... Hmm. Anyway, I couldn't just let it stay in the dumpster and go to waste.
    More later...

  2. #2
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    Default pics

    uh...trouble loading pics.
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  3. #3
    Zombie Hunting Infidel silverbullet's Avatar
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    She needs a lot of tlc for sure.

    Sent from Mars using brainwaves
    2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport
    Amat Victoria Curam
    "A goddess lives here. Her name is Victory."

  4. #4
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    Yes and no I think/hope. The first issue is the engine seals and getting it to run. Once I am happy it does that I can move on to the rust and general maintenance. After its a runner/driver I can start the actual build...that's the fun part. I've already been trolling the web to get current on whats available for XJs. I've found a couple companies that do DIY bumper kits. Thats kinda cool since they send you the pre-cut parts and I weld it together. Less expensive and far easier to ship to me here. Also found a Canadian company that makes a nice set of fender flares for the XJ. They look similar to the Bushwackers but are made of thicker material and have great reviews.If this starts to go well I may cross load the RTT from the Scrambler onto the XJ and use it for my camping rig....I just hope I don't get it working so well I want to bring it home with me. Shipping a second vehicle would be $$. LOL!
    Last edited by jeepdreamer; 05-20-2012 at 04:55.

  5. #5
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    Oops... May have gone and done it again. *blush!*
    Seems that project "side trac" may have just become project "side trac-S"!!! :0
    Can't post pics using the phone so y'all have to wait... Haha!

  6. #6
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    Default I swear!!!!

    Really...
    It DID follow me home!!!!!!
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  7. #7
    No Mas Jeepalonie
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    Black one is in better shape. Take 2 and make 1. As for the brush guard on the White one, definatly not factory but a good platform to build a better one. That exaust is pretty bad ass, I would say off a V8 of some sort
    Jeepless Again

    2008 Ford F150

  8. #8
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    The hardest thing for me to do is leave a Jeep alone! HAHA! I've already been scheming about how to convert the black one but to be perfectly honest, I need to put a leash on myself. This has to be my DD and like, time now! Does that mean I won't be tinkering on it... Hell no! Haha. But I think my best course of action right now is to not make it an undrivable project. I can work on the white one as time permits or as I am waiting on parts for one of the others. A lot of what it needs is more time (scraping and removing rust/cleaning etc) which is fine. Once it is done and I think it will pass inspection I will likely put it back up for sale. My Scrambler is my real toy and the black one can be my DD/mild expo rig. Now I just have to make myself stick to the plan. DOH!

  9. #9
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    So today was one of "those" days...
    The guy I bought thing two (Black XJ) from was on CQ last night but we thought we would try and hit the vehicle registration place on Graf anyway. Well, his relief didn't show up until almost noon and by the time he was finished he was beat. That's cool, stuff happens... we agreed to try Monday. So in an effort to keep moving forward I planned to head to the shop to work on thing one (White XJ). Yesterday I got the front brake rotors and pads in so I could at least tackle that. Well, as I was walking out to the beater VW I noticed my plates were gone! I had been to the provost marshal yesterday to get all the (hopefully) paper work stamped and blessed off on and the idea was to go turn in the plates today. Well, I was a little surprised that they were gone. More than anything it was a timing issue.. they were to expire today anyway but I guess the MPs had a different plan last night while I was sleeping? Whatever... as long as it doesn't interfere with me transferring all this stuff I don't care. While I was looking at the car I got a notification that I had a new package at the PO. So I wandered off to go see and found the seals and gaskets for thing one had arrived. Sweet! So now I can really get to cracking and see how it runs.
    So off to the shop, a backpack full of parts and hopes of making some progress... guess it wasn't a good day for me. The shop was full so I put my name on the waiting list and then found out they are closing early since its a training holiday. Ugh. Oh well... seen this before so I just farted around waiting for a bay to open by picking through the junkyard out back. Well here is where it gets a little screwy! I get told I have a bay, cool! But as the Jeep has sat for quite a long while it seems the brakes have kinda frozen up. I tried giving it a dose of old man strength to bust it free but it was a no joy situation. Ok... I can deal with that. I ask one of the guys working there if we can use the shop forklift to tug it over and push it in the bay. Mind you this is not the normal guy that uses the forklift but he's the only one there that is free (and willing). After a little bit of juggling and tugging we finally get the Jeep lined up with the lift/bay door. Up until then it had been a worn out strap pulling the jeep which worked fine. So not wanting the FL to crush the brush guard into the grille I decided to tie a tire onto it and we would push the jeep up and onto the drive on lift. I'm still not entierly sure what happened for sure but one minute he was pushing slow and steady and the Jeep was almost home... And the next second I am yelling "Stop!" and he is all freaking out as the forklift just keeps on pushing!!! At that point I just got out of the way ( I had been steering by reaching in through the window) and watch the disaster unfold! As you can guess... the forklift easily kept pushing thing one past the stops on the lift and straight off the other side! Since we had been pushing it in ass first it became a big, rusty sandwich between the forklift and the shops back wall! One of those "THAT didn't just happen!?!?!" moments as I just stood there looking in amazement! This guy finally gets his stuff together and gets out of the now shut off lift.... first thing he says is "how am I gonna get the forklift off that!?! Never mind that he just cereal crushed my Jeep into the shops wall! Wow... what a cluster! At that point I just wanted the FL out of the way and him with it so I could see how much damage thing 1 suffered and try and not wrap my hands around his throat! We found another strap and after getting the forklift enough traction to get off the vehicle lift, I went to find some blocks to help the rear wheels transition the 12-16"s back up onto the lift. To my disgrace I failed to inspect where this guy had attached the new tow rope and instead just assumed a hide position inside the jeep so I could stop it should he go all stupidman in pulling it back up! Thankfully there were some other people in the far end of the bay that saw the next disaster before it took place.. Seems super forklift driver guy decided that just putting the strap around the cheapO and half @$$ mounted brush guard would suffice to pull the entire weight of the Jeep! Good thing for him the other people saw this and yelled for him to stop before he really started to pull! That POS bumper would have launched off the jeep quick, fast, and in a hurry... likely taking hime out in the cab of the forklift! Nimrod! So I crawled under the Jeep and found a decent place to hook into and only after checking on everything else that he had touched did I get back in.
    Long story short... Its now back up on the lift, normally! Only major/real damage is the Fr and rear bumpers are pushed in pretty good and there is a huge gash in the gas tank skid plate. Seems someone previously had swapped an auto transmission and left the old one up against the wall instead of tossing it. That amazingly found its way up under the Jeep as it launched off the lift and I guess a corner of the tranny punched a hole in the skid. I'm not sure if it got to the tank itself or just the skid... I only looked for a second since I was still trying to believe all that had happened! Funny thing is that the people that saw the whole thing unfurl came over and asked me "Did it smash the transmission out of it!??!" haha!
    Thankfully that was the most adventurous part of the day. Nobody got hurt and I learned that not everyone should be allowed on a forklift! But since it was close to closing time I only managed to get a very little done. Got the oil pan bolts out and it dropped but not out. Have to fiddle with the suspension to get the pan to clear the axle and steering enough to pull it out. I also got to pull the 2 (Yup, TWO!) torx bolts that were barely holding the front bumper on and got that POS off and on the floor. After a few moments of a quick perusal of rust etc... I am starting to think this is going to be a chunk of work. First thing is to get the bottom end and front cover area all sealed so it holds oil. Then it will be see how it runs. If it runs ok I will start getting a little deeper and fixing some of the rust issues. I'm trying not to get to attached to it should it prove not to run well or need something like a tranny or clutch...The rust repair and other issues are already making this a borderline salvage vehicle. Good thing is since it IS so rough I didn't have a cow when it almost turned into a squished slinky! Tomorrow I will go back and get right on it. Lots to clean and de-gunk while changing seals and stuff so tomorrow will be pretty nasty.
    On a cleaner note:
    After walking home I started cleaning up thing 2 a little. I'm not sure what the previous owners did to it but I imagine their herd of ankle biters helped contribute to the funk. The seats and carpet are funky and filthy. I bought some carpet cleaner and a scrub brush but its gonna take more than that to get it "right". I may have to look into renting a carpet scrubber and pulling the seats and stuff... or I may break down and pay someone to detail it....haha! I'm not a clean freak but this thing smells. Plus its the newest Jeep I've ever owned and has the potential to be pretty nice with just a little love.
    On the downside I noticed two things. One is that the AC compressor isn't coming on. I was told it worked but only blew cool air for a little bit. I checked the fuse under the hood and it looks good... can't figure out which one inside may do something similar so I'm not really sure what to do for this. The fan blows and all the dash baffles seem to sound like they change when you rotate the dials... but the air is indeed only cool and the clutch on the compressor is not engaging. Maybe not a big deal but I'm not used to working on AC stuff... anyone have any thoughts?
    The other downer was looking at the head. I learned that Jeep had a couple years where they used a head on the 4.0 that was prone to cracking. Well... as luck would have it, I am the lucky owner of one of these. Head casting number 0331! To be honest I have only begun to look into this issue...I'm not sure where it cracks or what the result is when it does so if anyone knows, please chime in! I'll be surfing for info too but any MJ advice is always good!
    Last thing I noticed was that one of the vaccum lines running to the intake was off. It connects on the vertical face towards the fender and is just forward of the throttle body. I heard it whistling which is why I noticed it... Plugged it back up but didn't seem to do anything different? Odd since it sounded like it was pulling vac? Not even sure where it goes yet... its connected to a hard line that runs along the firewall towards the passenger side...*shrugs*
    Well... there is where I am. More tomorrow so stay tuned! If anyone knows any ideas about the AC, the "bad" head, or just some random ideas... please feel free to chime in!
    And I tried to get pics but I left my phone chord in the shop. Sorry.

  10. #10
    Senior Member jeepdreamer's Avatar
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    Default Saturdays effort!

    Another progress filled day here that started with a cool surprise! As I was walking to the shop I passed a building that I had always thought was abandoned. It looked to have used to be part of CTC college and an automotive tech shop. Well, it is just that except its not abandoned...they just have odd hours. Turns out today was unusual and they had folks working in there. Neat to know but that is not what stopped me in my tracks... Check out the attached pics! I thought I was dreaming...until I started drooling! Turns out to be one from a museum that the students are helping make functional. Gonna be hard knowing its there and not being tempted to break in and take ot for a spin! haha!
    So after loss of water due to drooling I finally got to working on the Jeep. Thing one is sure a mess... and the rust is gonna be a butt kicker! I had to chop down a 2x4 to give me some spacers so the lift would allow me enough room to get the oil pan out but my sawzall battery was DOA. While it was charging I set to getting the bumpers pulled off to see what I had to work with later. Let me say this...YIKES! I have no idea how the bumpers were still attached to the Jeep! The front only had one actual torx bolt... the rubber trim push fasteners were what was mostly holding it on! The rear was not any better... one 3/8s bolt on one side and 2 1/4" bolts that were part of some spare tire mount bracket on the other... Guess I'm not complaining since to get even that one rusty rear bolt out took me 10 minutes and a breaker bar!
    So once the battery was charged and the blocks made I set to trying to wrestle the oil pan out. The PO had already pulled it once and only put it on using 3 bolts so I thought it'd be easy-peasy! No.!. Even with the front end raised to drop the suspension as much as possible it still wouldn't clear. Ended up pulling the drag link off the pitman arm... STILL a no-go! So the last resort was undoing the transmission mount bolts and raising the butt end of the tcase. Finally that did the trick! Holy cow!
    I was a little surprised to see that someone had already been into the engine. The PO never mentioned doing anything to it but there sure is a brand new oil pump up in there! Not sure if thats a good or bad sign so I will just cross my fingers and hope for the best. First I gotta whine for a second... I detest working on a slimy Jeep! Yeah... that sounds like I'm sportin' a camel toe but its true! Whenever its humanly possible I will always pressure wash and de-gunk a vehicle before I get to wrenching on it. Bad enough dealing with the internal slime that comes out but to start with everything coated is just yuck! And this thing is just OOZING yuck! Mud from years of wheeling, every known fluid possible in evidence having coated things, and residue from the winters salt still clinging to stuff. I was initially worried that washing it could have allowed water to enter the pan since its not really attached. What I should have done was reinstall the bolts and washed it anyway! I'm not really a clean freak/detail my vehicle type person. Heck, I hardly ever actually wash the things. But I do think that when one is working on mechanical parts it should look neat and clean when your finished. All I can say is lesson learned and I have a lot of parts to clean as I go!
    While I didn't break any world records today I did make pretty good progress. My intent was to just get it all torn down and Monday or Tuesday I will start the cleaning and reassembly. I didn't quite get as far as I need to be but I had two small set backs. One was the P/S pump... It took me forever to find the last bolt that would allow me to move it out of the way! I think there are something like 10 or 12 bolts that hold it all on... yeesh! But it eventually gave up and I moved on to getting the crank pulley/harmonic bal. off. ThAT sucker didn't want to come off at all!!!!!!! It took me a while to source the three bolts for the puller (the shop here never has complete anything!) and then I had to run a tap into the HB to get the bolts in. Took a while working with a box end wrench and using a screwdriver to keep the flywheel from turning (think Jeep Twister) but it was the last thing I got done today.
    Monday I am hoping to get thing two (black XJ) its temp plates so I can go back to having wheels. If that gets done fairly quickly I can go back to thing one... if not, then I'm on leave (sorta) until the 3rd of July. Lots to do between now and then but keep watching... more to come!
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