Last issue we showed you the T-boned ’07 JK we picked up for cheap (“Penny Pincher,” Dec. ’11). Our Wrangler was capable of driving down the road, but not well. It needed work. The initial goal was to get it into daily operational status without it driving itself into a ditch or constantly fighting the electronic stability control (ESC). The Jeep doesn’t need to look good, it just needs to kinda share colors with adjacent body panels.
After reviewing a $13,000 repair estimate from a local Jeep dealership, it made sense to do a lot of the work ourselves. It seemed the dealership responsible for the estimate had planned on making a boatload of money off of the insurance company. Parts were set to be replaced that could very easily have been reused. Also, some parts were even damaged by mechanics during the inspection. For example, in some states salted roads can lead to the corrosion of nuts and bolts. Wrangler bumpers have brass inserts and if you don’t apply some sort of penetrating lubricant, you’re going to rip the inserts through the plastic, leaving a hole big enough to fit a quarter through. It was easy to see that the previous owner would have replaced a perfectly good rear bumper because someone at the dealer was too lazy to shoot some PB Blaster.
The main issues that impeded the vehicle’s function included a front axle that was way outta whack and links and/or link mounts that were bent. There’s probably some frame damage that we won’t bother fixing unless it’s really bad. The rear axlehousing seems to be straight, but the passenger-side axleshaft is bent at the hub from bouncing off of a curb. We constantly have to air up the tires, since two of them have modest leaks. We weren’t sure if it’s from bent rims or holes in the tires, but it doesn’t matter because they’re crap anyway. The doors are hanging shells. They have no hardware or windows installed. Most of the parts are there, but many are broken or not functioning properly.
As far as the aesthetics go, there is a lot of body damage, but we have some ideas on how to do a semi-good job and will offer some pointers on how to hide most of the errors. More importantly, we plan to spend our rebuild dollars where it matters, building a more capable rig rather than letting some dealership just put it back to stock. Being cooped up in a heated garage for the winter forced us to make the best of it. So here’s how to turn a salvaged turd into a safe runner. Tune in next time when we take things one step further.