Penny-pinching tricks and tips
We might have mentioned this before, but as a whole the Jp staff are a bunch of cheap bastards. It isn’t just because we are paid in peanuts and popsicles. Even if we actually got paid well, we’d always be Jeep poor and that’s why we are so good at our jobs. That’s also why you guys can relate to us. Anyone with a Jeep has been Jeep poor at least once and the further along you get with your Jeep relationship the poorer you become.
So that’s why when it came time to do a cheap section on how to save money all we had to do was pay attention while working on our own Jeeps or walking around our garage to put together this story for cheapskates.
Not to say that we are all cheapskates, but who doesn’t like saving money? Saving money one place means that the next upgrade is that much closer. Most of these tips are free some of them cost some money up front but you’ll save tons of moola in the long run with them. So from a bunch of guys with lint in our pockets to another bunch of guys with lint in their pockets, here’s how to save some coin by thinking around the box.
Whether you are removing wiring, vacuum lines, or just about anything with more than two items involved shoot lots of pictures before you start pulling stuff off all helter-skelter. Because if you can’t figure out where it goes when you come back to the project later, guess what? You are gonna end up either paying a pro to do it, or you are going to short circuit things, or have an engine with screwy vacuum lines that won’t run.
Nuts! And Bolt Storage
Regardless of if you use them to store nuts, sensors, or CDs in their original jewel cases, surplus ammo boxes are hard to beat. As long as the seal in the lid is in good shape, they are waterproof and even if the seal isn’t in good shape the lid will keep grinding and welding debris as well as dust and bugs out of the boxes. Nothing like reaching blindly for a bolt and finding a spider instead.
Had to remove your vintage taillights and the rusted mounting studs snapped? Happens all the time, even in sunny southern California. Just remove the lens and knock the studs out through the body and use regular 1⁄4-inch or 5⁄16-inch bolts to put ’em back in place. Just make sure if they ground through the body of the light that you hook up a dedicated ground wire or grind off the paint so the mounting bolt makes a ground between the housing and chassis to complete the circuit.
If you want to keep your tie rod boots in one piece, ditch the pickle fork and use a 3-pound hammer or maul with hard strikes on the cast pitman arm or knuckle ends. Hit the casting sharply to alleviate the press fit of the tie-rod end taper. Keep the nut on the end of the tie-rod end to prevent it from falling when it releases. This will usually even work in rusty environments but if you start severely deforming the knuckle or pitman arm, you might need to suck it up and pickle fork it.
Unholding, Reholding, Freeholding
Hood hold down worn and sloppy to the point it came apart? Stick it back into the base and grab a steel drift and hammer. Just deform the base enough to capture the base of the latch. Yeah, it isn’t pretty or perfect, but it’ll get you another couple of years’ worth of use on your old trail machine and keep the 40 bucks for a new set in your pocket that much longer.
If you have a starter with an integrated solenoid and you develop hard starting when the engine is hot, your solenoid might be getting heat-soaked. You can use an external Ford-type solenoid. Just use a short heavy-gauge jumper wire to connect the “S” terminal on the starter solenoid to the battery lead. Then you can hook up the Ford solenoid up high on the fender or firewall away from exhaust heat.
If you have a captured bolt with a stripped nut that you can’t get off, try cutting a slit for a flathead screwdriver with a cutoff wheel or hacksaw. Sometimes you can avoid the hassle of cutting off the bolt entirely by holding the bolt from spinning and backing off the nut with an open-end wrench.
Rotten to the Core
If your engine core plugs are rotten or popped out, you don’t have room to drive in new core plugs, and you can’t or don’t want to pull your engine for access, it’s not a problem. Most auto parts stores carry rubber expanding core plugs you can insert with the engine still in the chassis. Many American engines use 11⁄2-inch core plugs, but check yours before you head down to the parts store just to be sure.
If have an older Jeep that predates turn signals and you’re big into night wheeling, you don’t always want a ton of light-zapping obstacles 100 yards in front of you. It ruins your night vision and makes seeing what’s under the Jeep that much harder. Hazel has found that by running clear lenses and brighter back-up light bulbs (usually PN 1156 for older Jeeps) in place of amber lenses and standard running lamp bulbs he can use his running lights like lower-level driving lamps. These, in addition to the undercarriage rock lighting, work extremely well for night wheeling without seeing spots.
If you or a buddy has a TIG welder, don’t throw out the last couple of inches of rod. Instead, you can fashion them into picks which help in all kinds of situations. From pulling apart a wheel hub to fishing for bolts to grabbing wires in places your hand can’t fit they are very useful. And, since you didn’t pay big bucks for them, you won’t mind bending them into all kinds of shapes just to try something new out.
Got a bungee cord you need to hold something down with, but have no friends and can’t reach that far? Tie a length of rope to the bungee with a bolt at the other end of the rope. Attach one end of the bungee to whatever it needs to be, and toss the bolt in the general direction you need the bungee to go. Then walk over there, pick it up and finish attaching. Works great for quick-tarping Jeeps in sudden rainstorms.
Sure you can run out and buy a hollow screwdriver off the Snap-On truck for running wires through grommets, but give us the old lady’s old dry cleaning coat hangers every day of every week. They are free, and with either a 180-degree bend in one end (non-grommet application) or electrical tape (for grommets), we can snake just about any wire anywhere. When not in use, hang on the side of the toolbox for easy access.
If you have a wheel stud that spins in the axle flange and you don’t have a C-clip-type shaft that you can remove with the brake drum attached to the wheel, break out the power tools. With either a pneumatic cutoff wheel or an electric 4.5-inch angle grinder, diagonally cut the lug in half all the way to its base. Then, you can use a hammer and drift to knock the remaining lug off the stud. This technique also works well for rusted-solid nuts that you can’t just snap the bolt off on.
Build your own step stool to access engine compartment of lifted Jeeps out of scrap tubing. It seems we always have between one to two feet just laying around after a project. We don’t throw them out, and we don’t use them all for added leverage either. Eventually, when you’ve got enough of them you can build a super-stable stool for easier engine compartment access.
Got an engine that was running OK and you swapped it out anyway? Don’t let it sit around collecting garage dirt and grinding debris. Cling wrap it from fore to aft and head to toe. That will keep the internals clean, and if you ever need to pull it out of mothballs you’ll have a much better shot at it running as well as it did when you pulled it. If you do a lot of grinding and welding nearby, just toss a spark-resistant tarp over it.
Whatever flat straps you have, roll them up and use a zip-tie to keep them rolled up. It makes them easier to use next time and will neaten up your strap holding milk crate nicely. In the Jeep you can roll up your 30-foot tow strap and mount it inside your spare tire. Secure it with zip ties or bungee cords depending on how the spare tire mount is shaped. This keeps it out of the way inside the Jeep and it’s always easy to get to if you need it fast.
It’s another of those tools that you won’t use that often. But when you do need them, a good puller is hard to beat. We never rent pullers, we always buy them. We now have a drawer full of them that we might only use once or twice a year, but much like the press, the money and time saved is worth it to us. Also, we’ve used the assorted pullers to help us get things apart they were never meant for without damaging the parts. If we had wailed on it with a hammer, we’d have boogered it up for sure.
Stop Got an old Jeep with worn-out door lock cylinders that automatically fall down and lock the door when you slam it shut? Grab a couple potato chip bag clips or note pad clips from your grocery story or local office supply place. Sure it is cheap but it is also super easy and even though a bit ugly, it is way better than mistakenly locking yourself out of your Jeep with the keys in the ignition.
If you or your next-door buddy doesn’t already have a hydraulic press, go get one. You’ll save money in the long run in everything from gas to paying an actual shop to press things out. Sure, you might only use it once a year, but cheap ones can be found and work just as well as the high-buck ones.
Sure we have the telescoping-shaft magnets and they are good for some lost bolt retrievals. But sometimes you just can’t get around a corner or drivetrain component. Use an old magnet on a wire. Either drag the magnet along like you were playing with a string and a cat or use the magnet like a weight on a fishing line to get down to where it needs to be.