There is only one thing we can all be sure of when working on our Jeep-something will go wrong when we least expect it, making the entire job take more time and effort than it should have. It can be really easy to throw money at a problem, but with some ingenuity you can usually find a way around anything. Take some time and think it through and you might save yourself some cash fixing whatever it is you just broke. We are constantly wrenching on things and we are notoriously adverse to spending money. We got together at Jp headquarters to pool our ideas, and here are 50 ways that we've saved time, money, or frustration while working on our Jeeps.
Step By Step
Don't throw out your old heater or radiator hoses. They come in handy for protecting your new heater or radiator hoses from damage. If you have an area where a hose definitely contacts something or even might contact something, cut the old hose to length. Cut it about 1-inch past whatever the hazard in either direction and then slit it lengthwise. Put it over the new hose and use electrical tape to hold it in place.
You might be surprised at just how handy many common office supplies are for regular Jeep projects. A few binder clips clamped to your bumper or stuck under the hood can provide that third hand you need for many soldering projects.
It doesn't matter what it is, from small screws to electrical connectors to fuses, an old Tylenol or other pill container will keep your smaller items together, no matter how hard you slam that toolbox drawer.
Don't spend your hard-earned cash on retractable hose reels or extension cord management systems. A simple hook will do the job for pennies on the dollar. Sure, you'll have to manually spool it up, but you just got done working on your Jeep, so we know your hands aren't broken.
Eye in the Sky
By this point in time, most of us have digital cameras. It is a good practice to take pictures before you take anything apart. This does two things. It provides you with a before photo for your online tech articles, and if the stuff hits the fan, you have free records of what went where.
Hard Drive Hold 'Em
Take the next computer you blow up apart, disassemble the hard drive, and hold on to the magnets. The old hard drive magnets work great for keeping nuts and bolts organized on the fender while you work on the Jeep. Depending on the thickness of your sheetmetal you can either lay the magnet atop the fender, or just stick it under the fender for a permanent bolt catcher.
Sometimes profiling is good. In this case, this profile is of a TJ flare. We use cardboard templates for everything. Sure, it takes some time to do, but by transferring the profile of the part and all of the mounting holes to a piece of cardboard, you won't make needless holes in your sheetmetal.
Whatever your soft drink of choice is, a sawed-off 20-ounce bottle works great for filling just about any fluid under the hood. From newer brake master cylinders to coolant to engine oil, it's a great way to keep the spillage under control. You probably have one lying around anyway, and this beats trying to keep 10 funnels on the shelf and cleaning them before each use.
Brittle Plastic Savior
A lot of the plastic on our Jeep engines is brittle by now, and sometimes replacing the rubber hoses can lead to sudden explosions. We've found that lightly heating the hose will allow it to slide over the plastic with much less effort. We are now batting a thousand on the hose-replacement-without-plastic-shattering scale.
It never fails. All day long there is no wind, and as soon as we roll the welder out, the breeze kicks up. We've taken to keeping scrap pieces of plywood from other projects in the garage to use as a windbreak for our MIG welder. They are likely large enough to use to stop the wind, but small enough that you were going to throw them out. By overlapping and using more than one, you can easily adjust for changing wind direction, and block most wind that would otherwise get under the Jeep where you are welding.
Lend a Hand
If you are like us and often work alone, you also often wish for a third hand. We've found that a bungee cord hooked to the rollbar or rain gutter can easily hold one end of the fender flare or whatever you are fitting up while you are marking the other end.<
Better Than Crayons
The Sharpie permanent markers have become a permanent addition to our toolbox. We use the silver to mark raw steel and black paint, and use the black on just about everything else. From fabrication notes to drill hole locations, we find ourselves picking one of these up for just about every project we do.
Tape It Up
Run electrical tape around wires before you run them. It makes for an easier pull and allows easier wire identification later. We Vice-Grip the wires to the bumper, hold them out straight, and space the tape wrapping about six inches apart. All you need is two or three wraps to keep those unruly wires in order.
We don't know what is in this stuff, but so far we've stopped two AW4 transmissions from slipping with it. Maybe it is made from Unicorn boogers, but Lucas Stops Slip has saved us a ton of money in transmission rebuilds. Drain a quart of ATF out and replace it with a quart of this stuff. We sold the first Jeep we used this on, but the second one has 40,000 miles on it since we used it and it is still trucking.
Got a stubborn screw that just won't turn loose? And then you strip the head of it? Using a Dremel tool with a metal cutting blade is a good way to cut new life into a fastener.
Whether you are looking to paint your bolts or just want to keep them corralled while you are working, take a piece of cardboard and poke some holes through it. This will keep them from rolling around and keep them in whatever order you want to easily find later.
As we get more and more screwdriver bits, we find we lose more and more of them. The more we own, the less we can find. Then we started keeping them in discarded Altoids containers, which easily fit in even shallow toolbox drawers.
Tight Ring Loose
If you ever have problems getting the ring gear onto the carrier, don't force it. Don't use the bolts to pull it on, as you might stretch the threads. Instead, toss the ring gear in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and using welding gloves or oven mitts, place it on the carrier. If that still doesn't work, try freezing the carrier and heating the ring gear.
Sometimes the magnet on the stick just doesn't cut it. We keep an old magnet around tied to a wire so that we can go fishing for that hard-to-reach fastener or tool. We have retrieved hundreds if not thousands of lost parts with this simple fishing tool.
It's sometimes hard to reach the zerk fittings on greaseable U-joints once they're installed in the driveshaft. But have you ever tried to grease a U-joint that's not installed inside a yoke? You start pumping away and the U-joint caps shoot off. To pre-lube your U-joint before installation in the vehicle, grab a big C-clamp and use it to hold the U-joint caps to the trunions as you pump the grease in. Go until the seals just start to purge grease, then you can remove the clamp.
Whether from dirty pumps, open vent caps, dusty conditions, or any other number of reasons, it's possible you'll get contaminants inside your fuel jug(s). Or maybe you've removed an old fuel tank and wound up with a bunch of rust particles in the fuel you drained out. If you use a common 5-gallon fuel jug like this, grab a coffee filter and jam it in the removable spin-on top. The fuel will come out very slowly, but the coffee filter will catch all but the smallest particles as the fuel drains. Plus, it's a lot cleaner than trying to put the filter on the outside of the fill tube.
Whether it's your trailer, Jeep, lawn mower, or even your granny's motorized scooter, one of the best wheel chocks for little money is waiting for you at your local lumber yard dumpster. We grab old pieces of 4x4 or 6x6 and split them diagonally to make a pair of (roughly) 45-degree chocks. Wooden blocks can be slipperier than true rubber wheel chocks on blacktop or smooth concrete surfaces, but roughing up the wood surface with a hatchet works wonders at increasing surface tension and minimizing slippage.
Eggstraordinary Radiator Repair
If your old radiator develops a pinhole leak or even a mild gusher, we've had good results with Justice Brothers Radiator Stop-Leak, available on justicebrothers.com. We toss a can in our spare parts bin, but if you're caught dead without it, you can nab a raw egg or two at most convenience stores and put the egg white in the radiator. The egg white will cook inside the radiator and plug the leak. It sounds dumb, but in most cases it actually works.
Ever had a strong gust of wind slam your Jeep's hood down on top of you when you're leaning over the engine working on something? Old Jeeps, especially FSJs and Commando models that didn't come with hood prop-rods, can suffer from weak spring tension in their later years. Cut a long broom handle, wooden dowel, or even a length of Schedule 40 PVC pipe to serve as a safety prop if your hood doesn't stand up straight and tall by itself. The back of your head may thank you for it.
Hoser Paint Job
If your Jeep's paint job is all chalky, faded, and worn but isn't peeling, a cool way to make it presentable is with a scrubby bath using some ordinary Comet cleanser, a green scrubby scouring pad, and a garden hose. It'll cut through the chalk on the surface and make the paint seem more even. A word of caution, however, is that it can cut through the clear coat and will definitely result in a flatter sheen. Still, it's a cool trick to make an old Jeep with bad paint look decent from a short distance.
Building a rollcage with seat mounts or just need to move your project rig around the yard while your new seats are coming in the mail? We've used a bunch of things ranging from coolers, blocks of wood, and even cinder blocks. However, none seems to work as well as the trusty milk crate. They seem to resist sliding better than flat-bottom items like coolers and wood blocks, and are way easier to lift in and out than a cinder block. Plus, they kinda conform to your rear. With a good back rest, we probably would have just kept this one in our Commando as a full-time seat.
Elastic Door Man
If your Jeep has doors and the hinges are too worn to prop open or you're working on a hill, a simple bungee cord makes a great door opener. There's no shortage of things to hook the bungee to on a Jeep, but we normally go for the fender opening or the wheel.
It's cheesy as all get out, but in a pinch, a ratchet strap makes a decent battery hold-down if your stock hold-down breaks on the trail. You want to resist using a bungee cord or anything with stretch that may allow the battery to jostle and fall on its side, possibly arcing or starting an underhood fire. Just don't go too crazy when tightening the ratchet strap or you could crack the battery case and wind up with a gooey, acidy mess.
After trimming sheetmetal, we like to cut ourselves on it. No, wait, we don't like cutting ourselves. So after we cut the metal, file the cut, then paint it, we use door edge molding to protect ourselves from the edge. If we don't have any molding, small-diameter vacuum line slit down the length also works very well and keeps us from bleeding.
Most bolts will simply spin out with an impact or socket wrench, but every now and then you get a stubborn one. Sometimes it's due to stripped threads, but more often it is suspension bolts that are slightly preloaded by leaf springs or shackles. Slide a box-end wrench over the bolt head and pull upwards and outwards at an angle as you reverse the bolt with your impact or socket wrench. The angle put on the box end will prevent it from catching the bolt head, and the added leverage will allow the bolt to walk right out as it's spun.
A U-joint should move freely and without excess force when properly installed, otherwise premature wear and damage to the needle bearings can result. If you get carried away and drive the caps too far downward when installing your retaining clips, usually a few good whacks with a hammer on the driveshaft yoke or axleshaft ears is all it takes to remove the excess preload on the caps and allow them to regain their free range of motion.
It never fails when you're welding outside that as soon as you get your work piece all mocked up, here comes the wind. While it's usually best to wait until the wind goes away, sometimes you just have to get it done. A heavy moving blanket (available at most hardware stores and self-service moving companies) makes a darn fine welding blanket to shield the wind from your welding area. We go for heavy woolen-blend blankets like the one shown. That way, if a welding spark hits it, the ember just fizzles and dies instead of starting a fire.
Grab some bushings, a 2.5- to 3-inch section of tubing (per side), and a holesaw and you can build yourself a nice shackle mount through your framerail. We usually prefer this method of shackle mount whenever possible because it makes for an overall lower ride height than an under-frame shackle hanger. Also, it often allows you to run a much longer shackle. If your frame isn't boxed from the factory, weld in a plate on the inside framerail first. Then, holding your drill with holesaw level, go through both framerails from the outside. Works like a charm.
It's a common modification in older Jeep circles to weld in plates to box framerails, especially the front frame horns around steering box mounts. Whether you're using pre-made plates or building your own, don't neglect to break out the C-clamp to ensure the plate makes a good, tight fit to the framerail. This will ensure that your gaps are at a minimum and require less welding wire to fill, as well as slightly tensioning the plate which can add rigidity to the finished structure.
Many engines use PCV intake hoses that can become brittle over the years. This is especially true of AMC engines that have the hose on the oil fill cap. Because the cap is taken on and off many times during the course of the engine's life, chances are good that it's going to crumble in your hands and possibly allow foreign contaminants to enter your engine's crankcase. When ours fell apart, we cut off the finger of a cloth glove and zip-tied it over the opening to serve as a filter. The engine can still ingest air through the glove's fabric, but no dust or dirt could enter until we got around to replacing the hose.
Have you ever tried removing those through-the-radiator zip-lock cooler or fan mounts without destroying your radiator's delicate cooling fins? It ain't easy, but a little fire is just what the doctor ordered. Hitting the back side of the fastener with a propane torch will melt the plastic lock tabs without damaging the radiator core or fins. Just hold the flame on them for 4 to 5 seconds and then they'll pop right off while they're still warm.
We've all used a soda can or water bottle as a coolant recovery tank. But a real recovery tank can be had in the Help section of most autoparts stores for a couple of bucks. They come in several shapes and sizes with or without mounting baskets and tabs. And even if you can't quickly get it mounted up, a couple of zip ties creatively positioned will get you back home from a long road trip without leaking antifreeze all over the road. Or, just use the darn soda bottle, 'ya cheap bastidge.
Same Saw Side-Side
If you're one of those obsessive-compulsive fender cutters who insist on removing the exact same amount of metal from both sides, forget the templates. Make your first cut in one single piece using your favorite cutoff tool. Then, take the piece you just removed and use it to mark the side remaining to be cut. If you reverse the piece you just cut off before tracing it, you'll wind up with a mirror image of the first cut.
At one point in time, Ford Superduty shock mounts such as this lined the dumpsters of every off-road shop in the nation. Free dumpster versions are becoming scarce, but if you can't scrounge any throwaways, you can still buy 'em cheap at the local Ford dealership. The '99-up versions are good high-nickel cast steel that weld very well, or they have three bolt holes that can be used to bolt them on. They allow the use of much longer shocks for more travel.
Oil Change Channel
Changing the oil on some Jeeps can be a mess when the drain plug or oil filter is poorly located or hidden behind a factory or aftermarket skidplate. Make oil changes spill-free by using masking tape to block and redirect the used draining oil. No more oil-filled skidplates and oily axlehousings.
Run wires through heater hose to keep them from getting chaffed on sharp edges. It works perfectly on precariously routed large high-amp cables such as those found on an electric winch. Use plastic ties to keep the hoses in place if need be.
Don't have or can't find a large enough grommet to protect wires or fuel line passing through a body panel or firewall? Use a short section of fuel line, slice it down the middle on one side, and slip it in place over the sharp edge and into a loop.
Need to seal up an electrical junction box or computer in an open top Jeep on the cheap? Try using a resealable plastic kitchen container. You can cut a hole for the wires and seal it with silicone, then mount the box to the firewall or floor with a few screws.
At Home Alignment
Solid-axle Jeeps typically don't need an expensive alignment job. The toe-in is the most important setting to get right. In most cases you can do it at home with a tape measure. Measure from the same points on the front and back of the front tires. Shoot for about 1/8-3/8-inch-toe-in in most cases.
Removing rusty U-joints from vintage Jeep driveshafts and axleshafts can be a frustrating experience, especially when they look like this one. We've found a set of adjustable-jaw pliers with good, sharp teeth is perfect for grabbing hold of stubborn, rusty caps that don't want to leave their bores. Just grab hard and spin and the cap can be worked out with little trouble.
Sometimes you just don't have the right bushing for the job. Often times the bushing doesn't even exist. In some cases, you can trim bushings down with a saw and bore the holes out with a step bit to fit your application. YJ Wrangler leaf spring bushings are very versatile for fabricators. The YJ shackle bushings fit into 11/2-inch .120-wall tubing and the spring pivot bushings fit into 13/4-inch .120-wall tubing. Both are great for making suspension links, motor mounts, or whatever.
Aluminum -AN fittings are expensive. You can cut and build your own low-budget high-pressure power steering and ram-assist hoses with reusable JIC 37-degree hydraulic fittings. The fittings and hoses are available at your local NAPA (napaonline.com) and many other stores that supply hydraulic components. If you ever blow a hose in the woods, you can easily install a new one on the trail if necessary.
Installing new brake pads is a simple job. But don't push the old nasty brake fluid back into the master cylinder. Use a home-built bleed-jar like our Snapple bottle and nylon hose to bleed the caliper. Squeeze the piston back into place with a large pair of pliers. Our home-built bleeder is also helpful when we don't have a buddy to help bleed the brakes.
Installing a heavy winch by yourself on some lifted Jeeps can be difficult and result in scratched paint or a damaged winch. Use an engine hoist to get it into place. This trick also works well for locating where you want the winch for those building their own bumpers from scratch.
This one is a common-sense tip for the at-home suspension lift installer that will help avoid a lot of headaches. Go around your Jeep with a wire brush and a can of penetrating oil and hit all of the suspension bolts few days before you start unbolting any components. This will free up a lot of the troublesome hardware. When you put it all back together, use plenty of anti-seize on the threads to make disassembly easy for next time.
If you're like us and seem to spill brake fluid whenever you're adding it, this tip might help you keep things clean. Steal the nozzle from a one-quart gear oil bottle, thread it onto your brake fluid bottle, and then push on a small nylon hose. Now you've got a mini dump-can that makes filling master cylinders much easier. This is especially helpful when adding fluid to those pesky frame-mounted early CJ master cylinders. A medium-sized syringe also works well. The gear oil nozzles fit on most engine oil bottles, too.