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Jeep Tailgate Conversion - 6 1/2 Steps To Bliss

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on March 12, 2008 Comment (0)
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We don't know who came up with the idea of putting a door on the rear of a Jeep. Unless you've been out at the bar, no one is going to try to get in or out of that rear-mounted door. For our part, we've been getting rid of that thing Chrysler calls a tailgate every chance we get.

When out on the trail, stopped for lunch, all the CJ guys have built-in tables with them. When they break down, they've got a miniature workbench everywhere they go. Well, if you've got a YJ or TJ, you too can enjoy those benefits and more. The best part? If you've got a drill and an angle grinder, you can do this swap in a day.

What we were starting with wasn't pretty. With 370,000 miles on the Wrangler, supporting a tire for 360,000 of them, this tailgate was thrashed, the hinges were worn out, the striker pin was half worn through, and it had hit us in the ass one too many times. So off it came, along with the stock brackets inside the tub.

We sourced the tailgate, latches, and cables from a CJ-7 that a buddy ran into a tree a few winters ago. If you have the chance, grab the shouldered bolts for the upper part of the cables too. You can easily paint the tailgate in your basement after work during the week . Then, come Saturday, it's ready to go. Out with the old, in with the new! Err...old, umm, new to you!

You will need a friend for one part of this procedure. The friend will hold the CJ tailgate up while you mark where the holes need to be drilled through the body for the hinges. Align the top edge of the tailgate with the top of the tub so it opens correctly, then build the brackets. The flat pieces are 2x4 inches with two tapped 5/16-inch coarse holes. The angles are from a piece of 4x4 channel we had laying around. You could even make these brackets during the week, if you were so inclined .

The hardest part of this whole thing is having to drop the gas tank (non-LJ people). Once the gas tank is dropped, cut two access holes for the 2x4-inch plate . Just like a rollcage floor plate, round off the corners on the tapped backing plate that face the body so the first time you stand on the tailgate the plates don't act like can openers.

For the upper brackets, we rough cut them (as seen earlier), then bolted the tailgate on (we reused bolts from the original tailgate). Bolt the upper brackets down and then mark where you think the cable needs to go, and drill one side. Once that is done, measure the center of the bolt hole on tailgate to the center of the drilled hole and duplicate that on the other side so the tailgate is supported correctly .

The CJ-7 has a stamped metal piece that is welded to the body in place of our overkill 3/16-inch angle piece. Once the tailgate was on and the upper brackets were bolted in, we closed the tailgate to mark where the latches needed to be for the tailgate to close flush with the tub. While grinding the bracket to size, we mimicked the hump in the latch for a positive closure without too much effort of operation .

If you've got a hardtop, you will have to determine if this will work for you. Maybe you just want to take the CJ hinges and cables and convert your current tailgate. Some of the hardtops rely on the tailgate to keep them closed. With a soft top, you can reach in through the zippers, unlatch the tailgate, and then lower it; with the reverse for closing.

Sometimes the rear window bar interferes with the tailgate latches and needs to be trimmed. Often, however, fiddling with the latch position before closing will result in success without having to trim that bar or the attached rubber seal.

Obviously, if your spare tire is still on your factory tailgate, this isn't for you. But with the above caveats in mind, this is an easy swap that anyone can do and offers many advantages over the stock setup such as not getting hit from behind with the tailgate, having portable seating, and, of course, having a table for those trail-side lunches.


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