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Your Jeep - April 2014

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on April 1, 2014
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Stubborn Shifting TJ
I have an ’03 TJ Wrangler Freedom Edition with the auto tranny. Over the past couple of months, I have developed a T-case issue. When I shift into 4-Hi it “pops” in like it should, but does not engage, and when I try to shift into 4-Lo, the shifter hangs and will not quite pull all the way up into gear. The suspension is original, and the T-case has worked for ten years. I have been in a 4x4 many times and know how to shift, but after ten years I am still a T-case noob. The Jeep runs great otherwise. I was hoping to get your opinion before taking it to a shop. I was describing my problem to some friends and one of them with an ’02 TJ Sport with auto tranny said he had the exact same problem, so hopefully we can kill two birds with one stone.
Lee Shelp
Endicott, NY

You did not mention if your Jeep or your pal’s had a body lift. This could cause a problem, as half of the shift linkage mounted to the frame and the other half is attached to the body, so when you move the body up the linkage moves and can bind. First step is to make sure that you are only trying to shift it into 4-Lo in Neutral or Park with an automatic. Otherwise, you may cause binding and damage. If that does not solve the problem and you don’t have a body lift, I would first try adjusting the T-case shifter linkage and then go from there. The factory service manual says to adjust the linkage when the T-case is in 4-Lo since you can’t shift it there, start with the T-case in 2WD. Now set the parking brake and climb under the Jeep and look for the shift rod that connects the shifter to the gear select lever on the T-case. There will be a bolt that when loose allows adjustment of the shifting mechanism. This occurs when a shaft slips through a collar with the loosened lock bolt. Loosen this bolt and make sure the rod that passes through the collar can move. You should now be able to shift the lever on the side of the T-case. If it’s stubborn, try turning the driveshafts a little. If it’s truly in 2WD, the next position of the lever should be 4-Hi, then Neutral, and lastly 4-Lo. If the T-case lever won’t shift past 4-Hi and Neutral, there may be something wrong with your T-case and you should probably shift it back to 2WD and head to your local shop. If the T-case shifts into 4-Lo, you can now get back inside the Jeep and move the shift lever to the 4-Lo position—maybe even bungee cord it in place. Now crawl back under the Jeep and tighten the lock nut on the collar. Your shifter should now easily move through the four positions.

Now, if I can make a recommendation? I have two Jeeps each with aftermarket shifters that are much better than the factory setup. My ’56 CJ-5 has the Novak #SK2X Shifter Assembly (PN SK2X, $156 plus about $33 for a shifter nob) and my ’97 TJ has an Advance Adapters Jeep Wrangler TJ cable shifter for NP231 & NP241 (PN 715543, $249). These both shift like “budda” (that’s butter to you and me) and offer positive engagement.

Bouncy ZJ
I was wondering if you guys can help me with my ZJ. I bought a 2-inch economy lift kit, and while I’m very pleased with the build quality, it seems that the rear shocks have trouble handling the mass of my old Grand. After a bump the Jeep bounces up and down two to three times before settling down. The kit came with new shocks, so I have trouble believing they are worn or mismatched. Is it possible that I over-torqued them and the shock bushings are twisted? Could a mistake on my end be the cause of this, or is it the shocks? I don’t live in the U.S., so if there’s a problem with the shocks, I might not be able to return them.
Jose Ojeda
Via email

Hmm , that does not sound right. I don’t think you could have caused this with improper installation. The shocks should prevent your Grand from bouncing as you describe. I think I would try to return the shocks as soon as you can. Hopefully the company that you bought them from will make this issue right. Good Luck!

Low Is Where It’s At
I installed a 4.5-inch spring-under Rubicon Express lift with their monotube shocks on my ’79 CJ-7 a few years ago and got more lift than I needed. Now I’m trying to follow the fad that lower is better and also improve the ride quality of my Jeep. I’d like to lower the rear around 2-inches and the front around 1-inch, and the way I’m thinking to do this is by modifying the spring packs. My question is what leaf or leaves should I remove? The front pack has five leaves and the rear has six leaves. I’ve tried talking to RE about this, but somewhat understandably don’t get a response. I know I could just buy new springs, but who wants to spend money? I wouldn’t mind getting a more comfortable ride as a bonus, but also don’t want to bend the leaves (I’ve got a spool in the rear and it winds the suspension up a bit). Thanks for the help.
Via email

Well, lower is better. Truly, but I am not sure you should just go pulling out leaves from your springs. This is because all the leaves in a pack work together to provide lift, but they also help keep each other from bending too much and being permanently damaged. If you pull only the shortest leaf, the next longest may get over flexed and could be damaged. You can try it, but you may end up hurting the whole pack. I think the easiest thing for you to do is to sell your springs and buy new ones. I don’t think you’ll have a hard time selling your springs as long as they are not damaged, and chances are you can sell them for close to the cost of new springs. Then you can swap to fully built packs that are sure to work, rather than experimenting with different leaves. Heck, you could go to the Rubicon Express 2.5-inch rear springs and find another company’s 3-inch pack for the front and have the Jeep sit right where you want. Generally, flatter springs ride better than those with more arch. Just go with a trusted company like Rubicon Express for those CJ rear 3-inch springs.

If you do want to start building bastard packs (the nickname for pieced-together leaf springs), I’d try replacing some of the shorter leaves in your lift packs for similar length leaves from the stock leaf springs. These stock leaves should have less arch and thus should lower the arch of the whole spring. That way you still have the same number of leaves per pack, and the shorter leafs should help support the longer leaves on up in the pack.

No Lift TJ
Verne, you wrote an article a while back titled “No Lift TJ.” I would like to get a little more information on that project. I am currently working on a LCG LJ with AEV Highline fenders that I installed earlier this year. I have had no problems running 33x12.50R15 Duratracs on OEM Ravine rims and the stock springs. I have 1.5-inch spacers, effectively giving me 4-inches of backspacing that provide ample space turning the wheels full lock without rubbing. This current set up allows the AEV fender flares to cover the tires, but just barely. I would like to upgrade the tires to 35x12.50R15s, but I am not sure if I can do this with my current setup or will need less backspacing. What wheels and backspacing did you use to clear 35s without a lift? Obviously, I want to avoid rubbing, but keeping my tire coverage legal in those finicky states is also important to me.
Via email

Dave, that was a two-part story that I wrote as a freelancer several years back. If my memory serves, at first I was running a set of 15x10 Mickey Thompson Wheels on the stock axles. I think those wheels had 3.75 inches of backspacing. Later I swapped axles and went to a 15x8 also with around 4 inches of backspacing. With the stock axles I got pretty good rear tire coverage with trimmed stock flares (and those tires were 13.50s so wider than yours), but a couple inches of the tire did hang out past the flare, especially with the wider wheels.

Having said that, I was lucky enough to never live where anyone seemed to care about tire coverage. I was once followed by a peace officer for several nervous minutes in Michigan near the Mounds Off-Road Park. I was pretty sure he was about to light me up, but I just kept on keeping on and he lost interest. That was the only time I even came close to being hassled by the law about the Jeep. I think its low stance had something to do with it flying under the radar (bad pun intended). I also did have rubbing at or near full-lock with the 35s. The tires lightly rubbed the control arms and the driver side would get pretty close to the steering box bolts at full stuff while turning right. I just lived with the rubbing, and it was not hard enough to damage the tires. If I were you and very concerned about getting hassled by the law, I would probably stick to the 4-inch backspacing wheels and either live with the rubbing, or if it really bothers you, you can adjust the steering stops on the knuckles to keep the tires out of the control arms. If you have aftermarket round tubular control arms, the worst you are gonna do is rub the paint off the arms.

As for the white and grey ’98 “No Lift TJ,” I sold it to a friend who made some improvements and still owns the Jeep. If you want to see some more pics of the Jeep and see what the current owner has done to it, look for me, Verne Simons, on

A TJ, Runnin’ Hot!
You all have given me good advice in the past, so I’m bugging you with my latest problem. I have an ’05 Wrangler LJ with auto tranny. I have Banks headers, Airaid intake, winch, aftermarket radiator, water pump and hood louvers (all to deal with heat). I also have various lift and suspension upgrades as well as the ELockers you suggested (great!), but I won’t include those, since I don’t think they have anything to do with the problem. I’m happy to give details if you need them. The Jeep does fine except when going up long grades at freeway speeds, especially if it’s hot outside. Turning off the A/C helps, as does slowing down and turning off the overdrive. Eventually, the beast gets hot and I have to stop. It cools down quickly, though. We just got back from an extended run in 4-Lo with and without lockers and no heating problems occurred. It did start to heat up when I was late dropping into 4-Lo on a steep loose climb (from Bishop up to Coyote Flat with the Eastern Sierra 4WD Club.) I originally thought this was a cooling and airflow issue, but now I suspect some kind of expensive internal engine problem. What’s your differential diagnosis? What diagnostics would you do and in what order? I’d appreciate any help you could provide.
Steve Adler
Via email

Editor Hazel responds: The 4.0L isn’t an engine that has any inherent cooling issues. They’re well sorted, especially in the TJ platform. I’d suspect ancillary components first. Start easy. Check your coolant level, radiator cap. Do you have a functioning radiator overflow system? Also check for leaks that could depressurize the cooling system. You’ll smell sweet coolant if it’s a pressure issue. Then move to the mechanical fan clutch. Chances are it has gone bad. Wiggle the fan back and forth to check for play in the clutch. Also, with the engine off and cold, try to spin the fan. It should turn, but as soon as you take your hand away it should stop immediately. If it continues turning, the viscous material inside isn’t doing its job and the fan is essentially freewheeling when the engine is warmer and the clutch is needed. Short answer, it’s cheap insurance to just replace the clutch with a HD one, especially if you rockcrawl. If that checks out okay, dive into the engine and check the thermostat. On injected, computer-controlled Chrysler engines, it’s always best to use a factory-spec thermostat. I’m only going by memory, but I believe the 4.0L has a 195-degree thermostat. Resist the urge to use an aftermarket 180- or 160-degree unit.

Water pump? Is the impeller loose when you wiggle it? If so, forget the factory offerings and replace it with a Flo Kooler pump. They really do make a difference. Pull the dipstick after the engine sat overnight and check for signs of water in the oil. If none is evident, check again after driving the vehicle. If it’s bad the oil will be whipped up and light like a milkshake. That would most likely be an indication of a cracked head or bad head gasket. A further test for the cracked head would be to check for hydrocarbons in the antifreeze. Napa sells a kit under PN 700-1006 to test your antifreeze for a cracked block, bad head gasket, etc. You put a sample in, add the test fluid, and watch to see if it turns from blue to yellow. If so, there’s a combustion leak inside the engine.

A JK With Air to Spare
I purchased a Viair 450 on board air compressor for my ’08 JK Unlimited X. I’m running a RE 3.5-inch lift with 35-inch Maxxis Trepadors. The Easy part was installing the compressor on a Synergy Brake Boost Mount, purchasing and installing a Daystar Lower Dash Switch kit and switch for control, installing the pressure gauge into the dash between the two upper air vents (there’s plenty of room), plus adding chucks at all the convenient points around the Jeep. Now on to the hard part. Where do I put the tank? Do you have any experience with the mounts to install a tank between the radiator and the harmonic balancer? This seems…dangerous to me. Since I’m the first fool in my group to do this, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Mike Chapman
Via email

Editor Hazel and Simons reply: For starters, you don’t absolutely need the tank, but it’s nice to have that reservoir for a full-power burst from an air tool or to seat a tire bead. I understand why you’d want to keep it. Second, that space between the engine and bumper is a frontal-crash crumple zone. It’s there for a reason. Sure, heavy-duty front bumpers and so on change the characteristics of the factory-designed energy absorption, but I’m with you in that it wouldn’t make me all warm and fuzzy mounting my air tank there. Finally, since you have an Unlimited, you have a bit more space to work with. If you’re still running your factory exhaust but have plans to swap it out, now would be the time to have the muffler relocated from behind the rear axle to alongside the rear driveshaft. You’d have to use a smaller muffler like a Flowmaster Hushpower, but it can be done by a qualified exhaust shop. Keep the tailpipe exit under the rear bumper for sound and fumes. That will free up some space to mount that tank up to the tub where the huge OE muffler used to be. Another option is to use a section of tubing as a tank. This could be a winch or grille hoop on your front bumper or part of the rollcage. Just make sure that the tube you want to use as a tank has good welds and is closed off on all sides.

ZJ Coils on a TJ
While you were messing with putting ZJ springs in the front of your ’97 TJ, did you take the time to see if rear ZJ springs would fit under a TJ? I have a ’98 that’s a little saggy in the back, and if I can raise it a little over stock height, I’d be a happy camper. And if they do fit, it will be an easy swap, as the shocks don’t go through the springs. Any idea if they fit before I go messing around or start spending money? By the way, your 3-Day-for $3K put the final nails in my coffin. My grandsons and I have been looking for a YJ to start messing with so that I could give my TJ to the oldest one and I’d drive the YJ. Well, your article made me do it. Actually found one with less than 110,000 miles and no Bondo. Already ordered the “rotating assembly” to turn it into a 4.7L stroker. (Personally, I would have preferred a CJ or even a flat-fender, but I think they’re too young to appreciate what it takes to keep them on the road.)
Jim Fry
Via email

Jim, I never did try ZJ rear coils in my TJ. I’ll have to dig into that more, but I don’t think they are the correct length to work on a TJ. I also have heard of people using Crown Victoria rear springs in a TJ for some lift, but again, I have not tried that. Back to the junkyard! Yay.

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