Project: INSTIGATOR – A Jeep Build
I have been around this Jeep for a third of my life and it has been with my wife for even longer. The 2000 Jeep Wrangler Sport has been from Colorado to the coasts of Oregon all the way to both coasts of Florida, back to Oregon and finally home in Colorado. No doubt, this Jeep has seen better days in the past. That is about to change however.
My wife loves this Jeep. In fact, she calls it her first born. There is a connection between her and this hunk of metal. Over the years I have tried to persuade her, hell I have even begged her to let it go. The answer is and always will be a resounding NO… Even though she doesn’t put the work in to it like I have have over the years, I am still happy to do it for her. Now that the years have gone by and we are getting ready to celebrate an entire decade being married to each other, the Jeep is no longer just hers, it’s ours.
I can remember taking the Jeep up to Left hand Canyon trail and having so much fun out in the woods. It has been a really long time since this Jeep has seen any legitimate off roading trails. Spring of 2018 was the moment the overhaul was put in to gear. A trip to Bullhide 4x4 in Fort Collins was on the agenda on a March morning. The night before was spent looking over the Jeep to make sure it was in good enough order to drive the short trip. Everything looked good, or so I thought. On the way in to the shop, the Jeep began to overheat and pour massive amounts of steam out of the engine. It was like being in a fire breathing dragon’s mouth. Luckily, I had my trusty Camelbak water bottle with me and I emptied it all into the radiator. It was just enough to get me to the auto parts store to grab a gallon of antifreeze. Once I got to Bullhide 4x4, my anxiety began to sink in. Thoughts racing through my head about what was going to be wrong and how bad of shape the Jeep was really in. What felt like hours upon hours was not really that long at all. The night before the check up, I sat down with my wife, looked her straight in the eyes and said “If this is worse than we think it is going to be, I need to make sure you understand what will happen”. She agreed… Verbally. But I could tell that she didn’t want to hear it. Turns out, that the Jeep needed some obvious fixes. We’re not talking a new motor, but some serious stuff. Mainly everything revolving around safety. No wonder I felt like I was driving around a death trap most of the time I was in the driver’s seat.
The main objective of taking the Jeep to Bullhide 4x4 was to look everything over and talk about getting the Dana 30 and Dana 44 axles re-geared with a new ring and pinion from a 3.73 to 4.56. If you have ever driven a Jeep with stock gears and 33 inch tires, you ain’t going anywhere relatively fast. Priuses and Smart Cars pass me on the highway for god’s sake.
Now that the inspection has been done, I have a list to conquer. I am going to take care of that list myself with the exception of re-gearing the axles. I have been in the Dana 44 rear axle twice and neither time went in my favor, so I am man enough to admit when I know when to leave it to the pros.
The past decade my wife has been more than understanding when it comes to my career, my ambitions, my hobbies and basically dealing with someone who has ADHD with a mild splash of OCD in the Matt Sparx cocktail. She’s always talked this Jeep up the same way she has done about me. I feel there is no better time than now to give her what she so lovingly calls our “big, built up, Jeep” a new lease on life… It has started… Project: INSTIGATOR.
This is the part of my life where I let the sawdust settle in the garage and trade my hand planes, chisels and woodgrain for grease, grime, metal and ratchets. Over the course of the build, I will take on various parts of the Jeep. First and foremost, the safety issues.
This part of the build, or I should say, repair, focuses on the front end suspension. At 18 years old and 178,000 miles, there are mostly all stock, original parts on the vehicle as of now. I only have a couple of photos of the work I have done on the front end, as I didn’t really know if I should document this or not. Now that I have decided to make this a project rather than a repair, going forward there will be more photos of what will or has been done.
In part one of the project, the ball joints were replaced with new Spicers. The original front Axle u joints were toast and one of the caps completely dry and rusted. Both u joints were replaced with Moog Super Strength and serviceable joints. Next up was the issue of the steering components being completely shot to hell. All four tie rod ends that connect the steering linkage to the wheels on the ground were loose, sloppy and visibly in poor condition. Upon searching online, I found that you can do a little upgrade of sorts to a different Jeep model tie rod. So that is exactly what I did. I purchased a Moog tie rod and a pair of tie rod ends. I also purchased a new drag link. All of these parts are suppose to be for a 92-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, but they are more heavy duty. The tie rod itself, is a solid piece of metal. Compared to the Wrangler’s tie rod which is only a tube. The tie rod ends are more beefy with thicker threading than the original tie rods and they felt better built all around. The one mistake I did make while doing this upgrade is not doing enough research. I purchased the drang link for the Grand Cherokee, patiently awaited for UPS to deliver from Amazon’s warehouse, only to get it home, install it and realize that it wouldn’t work. There is a tie rod end where the drag link and tie rod connect. Turning the wheel to the passenger side revealed that the drag link’s geometry wouldn’t work as the tie rod end would smash into the front track bar’s bracket at the axle. It was a mistake that cost me $9 as that is how much it is going to cost me to return the drag link. I will stick to the drag link intended for my model Jeep, for now until I decide to upgrade the steering components. As I wait for the new drag link to come in, I am also awaiting new wheel hubs. The stock hubs seemed to be in good working order when I pulled them out, but I figured since I was already elbow deep in the front end, I might as well change those out too while I am there.
Other than a few little bits of tuning up that has been done, this has been the main focus as the start of this project. Mid April is the time that I will be taking the Jeep to Bullhide 4x4 to re-gear the front and back. After a lot of hours researching what brand gears I wanted to put in to the differentials, I decided on Revolution Gear and Axle’s ring and pinion kit. To round out the back with more strength and reliability, I opted to add a pair of Revolution Chomoloy steel axle shafts to strengthen the back end. Until then, I’ll be waiting for the rest of my parts from Amazon to finish up the front end to get it back to good, operating order.