Low dollar alternatives to high dollar building
One thing is for sure, the editorial staff of Jp is expert on doing things on the cheap. We all like saving cash and collect tricks that make life easier, safer, more fun, and less expensive. It’s kind of like a friendly contest to see who can get what for the least amount of our hard earned dollar. Luckily for you, we are more than happy to share our cheapskate ways so that you can save your cash for beer…er…soda, gasoline, rent or mortgage, more Jeep parts, and so on. Here are 18 ideas, tips, and tricks on how you can save a dime or nine.
Loop de Loop
With Footman Pretty much every Jeep came from the factory with a couple of footman loops somewhere. Also footman loops can be bought for not too much at the hardware store, or pulled off wrecked Jeeps at the junkyard. These little bits of metal combined with some cinch straps can be used to carry all kinds of stuff to and from, and over the trail. We mounted some on the cowl of our flattie. Wrap camp chairs in a tarp and you have just freed up quite a bit of interior space for more gear. Plus, it looks cool.
Most steel supply places sell trailer hitch stock. This square tubing is super strong and heavy-duty. We have seen it used to make adjustable-length driveshafts, and we have used it to make various removable gizmos on our Jeep. The perfect example is this tire carrier/pintle hitch spacer, which can be pulled apart so you can leave your spare tire at camp when wheeling nearby.
When making multiple tabs, weld them together before drilling. We have done this with footplates for rollcages and tabs to hang transmission crossmembers as well as frame plates. You can now toss the whole block of plates or tabs in the drill press and drill holes in a consistent place. You can also grind all the tabs or plates as a block to round off corners or add a contour. When you are done, just grind out the welds and pop the new identical tabs or plates apart.
Tool for Two…or Three
Go halvesies on expensive tool purchases with Jeepin’ buddies on tools that you need, but won’t use every day. A great example of this is a tubing bender: an expensive and very useful tool to the home fabricator. We have one, and we use it a few times a year leaving lots of downtime when a friend could use the bender for his or her projects. It’s like a timeshare for tools, and you get cool toys…er tools for half or a third of the price (if you split it three ways).
Pete on the Can
Associate Editor Trasborg used some large ammo cans to mount the seats in his ’68 M-715. Now the seats are held firmly in place and the Jeep now has more space to store spare parts, tow straps, sandwich building materials, whatever.
This One Time, at Band Clamp
Stainless steel band clamps are a great way to secure spare parts to your Jeep. We have used them to hold spare driveshafts to tubing, spare axle shafts, and even to hold functional parts of our Jeeps together like mounting a radiator overflow can. They are cheap and come in many lengths to suit the mounting of many things. We also have seen driveshaft U-bolts used to mount spare axleshafts or other items to flat surfaces. Just drill two holes. These are great because they securely hold whatever will fit in place, and if you break one on the trail, you have spares right there mounted on your Jeep.
Protect your gas cap on an early Jeep and add retro/military looks by building a gas cap protector bar. Military Jeeps have these bars that go over the gas cap hanging out the side of the Jeep’s tub. It’s a great idea to keep the gas cap from getting caught on something and snapping off. Spilling fuel plus a spark makes a big boom!
Sleeve Stock Stash
Next time you are at your steel supply shop keep your eyes peeled for relatively small diameter, thick-walled tubing. This stuff is great for fabbing strong steering box mounts through the frame. It can also be used as a great way to mount tow hooks to rectangular tube frame Jeeps. To do this, drill holes all the way through the framerail with a drill bit that is large enough for the bolt you are using to mount the hooks (usually 1⁄2-inch or the same as the inside diameter of the tubing). On the side where the hook will rest, drill out the hole to the outside diameter of the thick-walled tubing. Now slide the tubing in until it hits the other side of the frame rail. Mark and cut to length. You can now mount the tow hook to the frame without worrying about collapsing the rectangular tube.
Junkyard? Nope, Treasureyard
It should be obvious at this point that the junkyard is the friend of anyone who is interested in saving cash while modifying their Jeep. There are countless parts worth grabbing off other peoples trashed cars and trucks. Leaf springs for bastard packs, carburetors that work like fuel injection, replacement seats, axles, etc. The options are only limited by your ideas and your knowledge of what you are looking for.
Use motorcycle ratchet straps to tug, yank, and pull drivetrain components, axles, and other hard-to-move components into place when doing things like replacing motor or transmission mounts, hooking up track bars, suspension links, and so forth. They are also great for emergency trail repairs.
Washer? Darn Near Killed Her
Use the center of a large washer to mark where to drill holes in tabs or brackets. It’s much faster than taking measurements to locate holes, and you can use the outside of the washer as a template to round off sharp points. It’s also gonna yield centered holes with a more professional look.
Use Your Jeep
Repurpose parts of your Jeep. Need to grind some steel from a tab? Clamp it to your Jeep’s front bumper and grind away without singeing your fingers. We have also used trailer hitch receivers or the open end of rectangular tube bumpers as makeshift vices when trying to bend or straighten a part either on the trail or in the shop.
Stock Parts Better
Why reinvent the wheel when you can make something you already have better or make stock replacement parts work better for you. We did this with our TJ’s passenger-side upper control arm mount by plating it with 1⁄8-inch steel. We have also strengthened stock control arms by welding on strap steel down the length of the bottom of the arm, tying the two sides together. Use metal that is of similar thickness to the stock part so the part can still flex without cracking.
Using a jack when you have a flat tire or need to service the brakes is a no-brainer, but the fact is that bottle and scissor jacks can be used for other things than just lifting a tire off the ground. Have a stubborn dent that you can’t get a hammer to? We have used a small jack to pop dents out of the sheetmetal of our TJ. What else could you use a jack for? The possibilities are endless.
Dare To Be Different
Don’t be afraid to try something different. Have a different idea of how something can be done? Have a new place that seems like an obvious spot to mount spare parts? Try it…as long as it’s safe, but don’t be afraid to be ridiculed or have the flaws in your thinking pointed out to you by others. We tucked spare shafts in the rear wheelwells of our ’49 Willys. They fit in between the tub and the frame…oh, and they are held in place with band clamps.
Buy a quality welder and learn how to use it. Yep it’s a large investment up front, but a wise one. We got our Hobart 175 MIG welder about 10 years ago. Sure, back then it cost nearly a grand, but that means it has cost us about $80 to $100 a year (plus the cost of consumables). Any way you look at it, that’s a screaming deal. The thing has held up to Editor Simons’ destructive testing level of care, only requiring a new gas regulator, an E-clip for one of the welding cart’s wheels, and a replacement trigger switch. It’s hard to imagine how much money we have saved ourselves by owning a welder, but it has got to be in the several thousand dollar range.
Give and Take
Know your strengths and weaknesses and those of your Jeepin’ buddies. Bob is a pretty good home fabricator and he has made tubular rocker guards, welded brackets on to axles, and is pretty good with his MIG welder. But Bob is all thumbs with carburetors. Tom, Bob’s Jeeping buddy, is good at tuning carbs, but out of practice with welding. If Tom needs some welding or fab work done, he goes to Bob, and if Bob needs his carb tuned before emissions testing or a long range wheeling trip, Bob goes to Tom for help. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Mark Down on Parts
Daystar polyurethane bushings for one end or the other of YJ springs (PN M02153-BK-01) fit perfectly in 13⁄4-inch 0.120-wall DOM tubing. Cut 13⁄4-inch, 0.120-wall DOM tubing to lengths of 21⁄2-inches and add some internal sleeves, bolts, and tabs. Now you have perfect sleeves for tying in that rollcage or anchoring that T-case crossmember. Sure, you can buy these sleeves online or at an off-road shop, but guess how they are making them and how much they are marking up the actual cost.