Our Popular "How To Build It Better" Series Is Back!
The Jeep Wrangler TJ is a great vehicle. When it debuted in 1997, it boasted a lengthy list of improvements over its predecessor the Wrangler YJ, and it had the effect of a lightning strike on the off-highway community. The TJ was a screaming success and its production run lasted through 2006. During that time, the wildly popular Rubicon model and the longer wheelbase TJ Unlimited (known unofficially as the LJ) were added to the roster. Even today, the TJ is one of the most popular choices for those wanting a solid, mega-capable off-highway vehicle.
The TJ is not perfect-some of the TJ's quirks are design flaws and some are issues due to the effects of aging and/or trail use. In this installment of "Weak Links, Strong Fixes," we identify some of the possible issues that can face TJ owners and offer suggestions as to how to fix 'em.
Weak link: Factory soft top
Models affected: All
What happens: The fabric soft top on the TJ is a very durable unit overall, but time, UV radiation, and wind all combine to wear out the fabric and the plastic windows. Trail damage is by far a soft top's worst enemy. Nothing good ever comes of dragging a soft top along a tree or rock.
Strong fix: A variety of aftermarket tops are available, including those from Bestop. If your hardware is in good shape, you can simply install a Replace-a-top in standard or thicker sailcloth versions. If you need a new top and new hardware, they offer the Supertop in both standard and sailcloth versions. They also offer the Sunrider (with fold-back sunroof), Trektop (with easy roll back canopy), and Halftop (Bikini Windjammer and Duster Deck Cover for '97-'02 models).
Contact: Bestop, 800/845-3567, www.bestop.com
Weak link: Rear cargo door hinges
Models affected: All
What happens: The Jeep TJ's cargo door hinge assemblies are made from aluminum and they're fitted with steel hinge pins. These two dissimilar metals don't play well together. Over time the hinges get very stiff, which often requires a significant amount of effort to open and close the cargo door.
Strong fix: The hinges aren't greasable, so they must be replaced. You can get new ones from your local Jeep dealer or, if you have a '97-'03 model TJ, you can get 'em from Quadratec.
Contact: Quadratec, 800/745-2348, www.quadratec.com
Weak link: Short rear driveshaft
Models affected: All TJ (excluding LJ)
What happens: From the factory, the TJ rear driveshaft is very short. This is due to the short wheelbase of the TJ and a long drivetrain. When you install a lifted suspension under your TJ, the operating angle of the short rear 'shaft is increased, which leads to an annoying vibration. This vibration can ultimately cause things like U-joints to wear out at a faster rate. We've actually had rear driveline vibration on a stock-height TJ and it was amplified immensely just by installing a 2-inch coil spring spacer lift.
Strong fix: The problem can be alleviated by installing transfer case spacers to lower the transfer case and decrease the rear driveline angle, but this comes at a cost of ground clearance. The hot ticket is to install a slip yoke eliminator (SYE) kit. This will shorten the length of the NP231 transfer case, allowing the installation of a longer driveshaft and thus eliminating vibration. As its name implies, the kit also eliminates the slip yoke used from the factory, which means if your rig suffers trail damage and you have to remove the rear driveshaft, you won't lose fluid out of the transfer case. Further, many of these kits significantly upgrade the output shaft as compared to stock. There are many SYE kits available on the market. JB Conversions offers standard SYE kits as well as their HD Super Short SYE kit (shown). The Super Short is an additional 3.125 inches shorter than other SYE kits on the market.
Contact: JB Conversions, 337/625-2379, www.jbconversions.com