View Full Version : Son's 97 XJ 4" build

November 21st, 2017, 10:55
I spent the better part of a week and a half doing this, between a 3-day weekend over Veteran's Day, a day of leave the following Monday, and working by headlight after work each night. I'd starve as a mechanic!

It's a 97 4.0, AW4 (I think) transmission. It was bone stock when we started, and the springs were severely sagged. In fact, though the DSPO claimed it was "well maintained", I found OEM shocks at all 4 corners (they had Chrysler symbols barely visible under the rust.

Every fastener was either seized, or sheered. I went through two cans of MAPP gas, broke two ratchets using them as breaker bars (yes, I know better, everyone is stupid sometimes), wrung off a 3/4-1/2 adapter (by hand, I might add!), went through 15 cutoff disks, and used ALL the bad words. Twice. In three languages.

Well-maintained, my hind end!

I also killed my Harbor Freight 1/2 and 3/4 impact wrenches- (their absolute cheapest models, from 15 years ago) that I bought in 02... and never oiled enough, apparently. I also seem to have left them in the rain a few times. The good news is, I now know better, as I've torn them down to parade rest out of curiosity, and they are no longer the "black magic boxes" they used to be... and I know they aren't by any means sufficiently lubricated from the factory. I ordered a couple replacements off of Amazon, and the first thing I did was drench them in lubricant.

All that said, on to the build-

I am running all new springs- Explorer Pro Comp 3" in the rear. I got 5" out of them- telling me the factory leaves were sagged at least 2". I expected that as they were in negative arch, just sitting at curbside. ZJ Upcountry in the front, and I'd originally planned to run 2" poly spacers up front. I chose the ZJU spacers as I'm running them in my wife's 94 ZJ as part of a F/R swap, and since the vehicles are quite similar (save for leaf rears) I knew they'd ride well. Also, cheap. These are the proper, brand-new, Moog coils.

I changed the plan and since I've had a set of ACOS for the wife's ZJ sitting around for a while, and we are in no hurry to lift hers higher, I put them on the kid's truck. This saved me much time fitting/refitting to swap coil spacers in and out. They were a good idea to install there, and I'll be installing on my 90 and the wife's ZJ wil lget them as well- front AND rear.

Shocks, I'm running Doetsch Tech 3600 series front and rear. Again, I've had good experience with them in the wife's ZJ, after having them recommended by a friend who had a 97 ZJ with the same lift as in her truck. Since we lifted hers in 06, we've gotten 11 years out of the shocks without signs of leaking, or diminished performance. All this for a $40 shock- that's pretty darn hard to beat. Monroes need not apply- for some reason, every one of those I ever had was severely underdamped for the job (even goiing by stock fitments) and more often than not the steel "hats" over the shock shafts broke loose and rang like cowbells. So there are cheaper shocks than the Doetsch Tech shocks, but I haven't found any that worked as well, as long.

JKS ACOS up front, as I said, and I'm also running their stem to eye shock adapters up top, and bar pin eliminators at the bottom, of the front shocks. Removed and discarded the rear sway bar. Used the brackets as BPE's at the top for the rear shocks. Every one of the rear shock upper bolts broke. A Few minutes with the air hammer knocked them out, and I fed new hardware in from the top with the mechanic's wire trick. I'll need to cut off the lower shock mounts, as they have sleeves seized to them, and I'll weld 5/8" bolts in their places. For now I was working in the dark and I just hammered the bushings over the existing buggered mount bolt- I have TONS of leftover poly bushings for shock eyes.

Had to cut the track bar bolt out on the front axle as it was seized in. While I'm at this I am adding a RE adjustable trackbar from an old XJ build, with an Iron Rock Offroad frame side mount. I refurbed the RE bushing on the trackbar, and since the factory hardware was seized I ordered the Clayton upgrade. I just received the trackbar frame bracket, and a adjustable trackbar kit for the wife'z ZJ, from IRO a few minutes ago- can't wait to get home and inspect it!

I have a few middling things to do yet- transfer case drop kit (going to be a bear, as one of the 4 bolts is sheered off into the unibody already) swaybar extended links, install the new trackbar frame bracket (I'm hoping those bolts aren't seized, as they are bathed in engine oil/grime), and an alignment. The vehicle wants to go into mild DW if you get over 50MPH- the kid is only going to school and doesn't go above 40 in those zones, so that's workable for now. Of course I want him to be able to drive without such concerns, so will address this ASAP. Pretty sure the TB is the problem, as the TRE on the factory bar has some play. Luckily, this isn't my first build, so he's getting a good product out of it.

He is ecstatic, to say the least. I took quite a bit of effort to get this thing done, as most of it had to be done without impact tools- I broke the rear spring bolts free using a 1/2" breaker bar and a 6' cheater pipe- I literally got 90 deg of windup out of the 3/8 extension between the socket and the breaker bar before it broke.. and then it finally broke the bolt loose (after I tracked down a 1/2" extension to replace my broken extension) about 120 degrees into the turn. Hell of a racket. I broke them loose at 10pm on Friday night, and then made the boy turn them out the next day when he got back from marching in the Veteran's Day parade downtown. He's a good kid. ;)

It all sucked. I'm old, and was getting surly in my displeasure at this darn thing. But I got home last night about 7 and saw him outside with a huge grin on his face, taking pictures of the suspension and checking things out. That made it all worth it.

November 21st, 2017, 12:07

November 21st, 2017, 21:26
Nice job Dad

November 22nd, 2017, 16:47
> as one of the 4 bolts is sheered off into the unibody already

I've had that happen as well. I was able to drill and tap to 7/16 and was able to torque the new bolt to spec without any trouble.

November 22nd, 2017, 17:34
Yes, that's what my plan is. Failing that, there is always plasma and welding.

Vintage Smoke
November 23rd, 2017, 10:42
First off...awesome Dad win!!!
On the T-case bolts. I got frustrated with mine breaking off. I spent way too much time trying to get the broken bolts out. Finally I just burnt through the center of the bolt with a torch. Then I drilled out the hole to I believe 7/16" to clean it up. Since there was now no nut and threading it was no longer an option since I drilled it out I used a hole saw just big enough to make a hole in the side of the uni frame rail to be able to slip a nut on the inside. Worked like a charm and if you are really worried about the hole you just drilled in the frame rail you could weld a plate over it, but it has never been a problem for me. I sealed it off with a rubber plug.

November 23rd, 2017, 10:54
Yep, that is pretty much my plan. I intend to plate the unframe with stiffeners front to rear, and then build a heavy crossmember that can be used as a base to build longarms off of, which will be welded to the stiffeners. I'll also do a SYE on the transfer case sometime next year. Come down to it, I can always weld. Any concerns about rust will be taken care of by paint, plug, and liberal application of Fluid Film.