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June 2013 Your Jeep - Tech Questions

Dirty Air Cleaner
Verne Simons
| Senior Editor, Jp
Posted June 1, 2013
Photographers: Jp Archives

Your Jeep Questions Answered

Stroker vs. Chevy V-8
I have a ’93 Wrangler that has around 300,000 miles on it (its speedometer quit working around 50,000 miles). She was my daily driver for years, the engine still runs, but let’s just say the old girl used to run a lot better. Anyway, I’ve decided to rebuild her, and after reading lots of articles about stroking a 4.0L, that’s what I decided to do, but all of my friends are saying drop a Chevy V-8 in her. They claim it’ll be cheaper, easier, and more powerful. I’m not sure. I was wondering if you guys at Jp have ever written an article comparing the two options, what works better what doesn’t, the good the bad of both. The cost involved in both. I’d be very interested in reading about the comparison.
Jacksonville, FL

This is a tough, but good question. I am not sure that we have an article like this, but it is a good idea. Until we do, let’s talk about the two options and hopefully it will help you make your decision. There ain’t much to complain about a simple old 5.7L GM swap. Hundreds have been done to all manner of Jeeps and the results are almost always beneficial. But I’d say a V-8 swap when done properly rarely if ever means you are only swapping the engine. Maybe if you already have a stout auto tranny, a T-18, or even a NV3550 or AX15, but many Jeep transmissions are just not up to the task of handling V-8 power. So if you factor in the cost of having to upgrade transmissions to accommodate a V-8 swap that may push the cost of an engine swap up over the cost of building a stroker. Having said that, many Jeep owners have upgraded to beefier transmission in a Jeep without swapping engines, so if this is something you would consider anyway, then the cost of a V-8 swap may be the path of least resistance.

A stroker is nice because you don’t have to modify the wiring harness, you don’t need any adapters, basically all your accessories already work, and the engineers at Jeep did all the grunt work of getting things packaged. All the cost comes from machine work and tuning the engine to run well with its new larger displacement. Another question is which engine will end up being more reliable? There are countless Chevy 350s and 4.0Ls with 350,000 miles on them. Both are reliable, but a heavily built stroker is probably never gonna be as reliable as a stock Chevy 350. So far, Pete has had pretty good luck with his stroker, but for whatever reason Christian’s stroker liked to eat valvetrain components and he eventually went back to the stock 4.0L in that Jeep. We know plenty of Jeepers out there with high mileage junkyard Chevy mills still puttering down the road or trail.

Surrender Is Its Only Tactic
The problem is that I have an ’89 YJ with the never-dependable Peugeot transmission with 144,000 miles on it. I am trying to find out my options for a swap. I’m looking for the most economical swap and something I can do in a weekend because the Jeep is my daily driver. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Yea, that’s a familiar problem. The ’88 YJ I just bought also has a dead BA10/5 between the framerails. My plans are to swap it out for an auto tranny, but that’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do. If I were you, and you are okay with keeping the Jeep a manual, I would look to swap the Peugeot for an AX15 from a later YJ. You’ll need the transmission, a bellhousing from a ’95-or-newer YJ or XJ with its clutch fork and input bearing retainer, a clutch slave cylinder/clutch master cylinder/hose kit (Quadratec PN: 52104113), a 23-spline NP231 input gear (yours is most likely 21-spilne behind the BA5/10) a throwout bearing, pilot bearing, clutch, pressure plate, and both the transmission mount plate and NP231 shifter from a YJ originally equipped with an AX15. With this setup you get away from the internal-hydraulic throwout bearing of the Pugeot and ’94-earlier AX15 and should be able to use your existing driveshafts with a much better transmission. Wanna know how to swap the Peugeot out for an auto tranny? Well, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled on upcoming issues of Jp where I’ll be tackling this swap.

That’s Offsetting
I have a ’98 TJ with 16-inch wheels from a Cherokee with 11⁄2-inch-thick wheel spacers to run 305/70R16 mud terrains. I would like to get rid of the wheel spacers and wonder if I could run the 305/70R16s on Rubicon wheels. Would this combo work or would I still need wheel spacers? I’m trying to get rid of the spacers because I have heard they are hard on axles. I really like the look of the Rubicon wheels, but will probably have to buy something aftermarket with the correct backspacing. With 305/70R16 I was told that I would need 3.75 inches of backspacing.

We also love the look of the factory star Moab wheels, but I am not sure it’s the best option for a Jeep that sees much trail use. Rubicon wheels sit in pretty deep with about 5 inches of backspacing. Our pal is running some 315/75R16 Goodyear MTRs on his TJ Rubicon with Moabs and 1.25-inch spacers. He has complained that the valve stems on these wheels have an uncanny ability to get damaged while out on the trail. He is currently making the swap to different wheels.

Wheel spacers when built correctly, installed correctly, and maintained correctly are fine and should not be any harder on your axles than large, wide, heavy tires on a wheel with less backspacing are. Now having said that wheel spacers do mean more possible points of failure, and there are lots of cheap wheel spacers out there. The fact is some aren’t what they claim. Use red Loctite on the inner lug nuts, and all should be checked for proper torque every other oil change or so. Also if you get one of the studs to spin in the adapter it’s a huge nightmare to just remove a wheel. I’d recommend getting some wheels you like the looks of with not quite as much backspacing as these factory wheels. Look for ones with 3.5 to 3.75 inches of backspacing. If you are married to the Moabs, use only quality wheel spacers such as those made by Spidertrax.

More Bench Racin’
If you had a ’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo with a 5.2L V-8 and auto tranny with Moab nearby, where would you spend $10K to fix it up? Yep, that’s what I’ve got and those are my parameters. So, if you were me, how would you do it?
Name withheld
Via email

That sounds like fun. We love figuring out how to spend other people’s money. Honestly, though, it sounds like you have a good base for a buildup in the ZJ with a 5.2L. First I’d start by looking into a set of Unitbody/chassis stiffeners and rocker guards. These parts will help ensure a long wheeling life for your ZJ. We found a set of T&T Customs “Uni-Body Stiffeners” for about $130. Factor in $300-$500 for some rocker guards. Add in $1,500-$2,000 for a front bumper like one from TrailReady and a reliable yet inexpensive 8,000lb winch. Add in $600-$2,000 for a 4.5-inch suspension system like one from Rubicon Express. Look to spend $400-$1,000 for a Dana 44 rear axle out of a late ’80s Jeep Cherokee XJ or ’97-’06 TJ (both of which will require some new bracketry). Lockers front and rear will set you back $1,200-$2,000. Add $1,000-$1,500 for some 4.56 gears and gear setup. Figure that 33-inch tires and some steel wheels will set you back $1,300-$2,000. Another $800 for tabs, brackets, bumpstop-lowering, and miscellaneous installation costs and you are probably looking at just over $10,000-$12,000. But you’ll have a capable, comfortable Jeep that you can drive to Moab or anywhere. If you can find parts used and/or do installation of various parts yourself, you can save more cash and save up for more lift, bigger tires, a rear bumper with a swing-out tire carrier, or maybe a rollcage.

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