Y-StyleI have a ’78 Jeep CJ-7 with an AMC 304 V-8, three-speed transmission, Dana 20 transfer case, AMC 20 rear axle and a Dana 30 front axle. It has a spring-over suspension conversion and Aussie lockers. I use it as a rockcrawler that is never going to be put on the road. I want to beef up the steering. Should I use a Y-link system or the standard tie-rod setup from knuckle to knuckle? Also, should I ream my knuckles or go the cheaper route and drill them out for an insert? It would mean the world to me if you answered this question in the magazine, especially if you used a picture of my beat-up piece of Jeep that I’m trying to build through high school.
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Unfortunately, the spring-over suspension on your CJ-7 adds a bit of complexity to your steering solution. In most cases, the factory drag link will want to occupy the same location as the passenger-side leaf spring, especially when the suspension droops or is articulated and you steer to the right. Even if you aren’t driving it on the street, you really don’t want these components making contact. A custom Y-link–style steering linkage will provide slightly more room for the drag link to operate, but it may not be enough depending on the springs you are using, steering stop adjustment, and the amount of articulation your Jeep has. Before busting out the fabrication tools you should test and measure to see what will fit and what will hit. You’re not all the way out of the woods if there is enough space for the Y-link steering, though. The drag link on a Y-link setup can put a lot of stress on the tie rod during slow-speed rockcrawling maneuvers. It’s not uncommon for a smallish Y-link tie rod to bow and bend when steering aggressively in the rocks. To combat this, you’ll likely want to use some durable tubing for your tie rod. Consider using at least 1.25-inch 0.120-wall DOM tubing. The fabrication parts to complete a project like this are available from companies such as Ruff Stuff Specialties (ruffstuffspecialties.com). If it will work, the custom Y-link steering is likely the least expensive option, but it does have some handling drawbacks. You’ll essentially be making the drag link shorter than the stock one. A shorter drag link can increase the bumpsteer at higher speeds on rough roads. Also, a Y-link–type steering system can cause death wobble on the road if not properly set up. Since you only plan to rockcrawl with this Jeep, these may not be concerns for you.
The more complex and expensive solution requires the use of flat-top Dana 44 knuckles that have been drilled to accept high-steer arms. This option will move the drag link and tie rod above the leaf springs and up and out of the way of trail obstacles. A high-steering setup will give you a longer drag link than the Y-link steering design and reduce the chance of death wobble on-road when properly installed. However, you’ll have to check for frame and steering box clearance before going this route. Low center of gravity suspensions or lots of uptravel can cause the tie rod and drag link to collide with the frame or pitman arm.
As for the proper knuckle reaming or tapered insert, you can go either way. They are both viable options. Just make sure there will be plenty of material left around the holes in the knuckles before drilling or reaming.
Commuter LiftI use my ’06 Jeep LJ as a daily commuter. My commute is 100 miles a day on rough and winding asphalt roads. I know it’s not the most sensible choice, but I bought the Jeep with the idea of enjoying it in retirement in a couple of years. Does anyone make a long-arm lift kit with bushings that will last like the factory rubber bushings in high-mileage situations like mine, or should I wait until retirement to take that step?
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Your situation is not at all unusual. As you have noted, many of the long-arm lift kits available focus more on extreme articulation than extreme long-term on-road durability. The factory rubber bushings can limit articulation, so they are usually not used on long-arm lifts, but their on-road durability is proven. Most factory rubber control arm bushings will last beyond 150,000 miles even in the most torturous on-road conditions. Fortunately, companies like MetalCloak (metalcloak.com) are aware of the plight you and so many others are in. MetalCloak offers long-arm suspension systems with what are known as Duroflex joints. MetalCloak claims to have taken the best features of the most widely used control arm joints and combined those features to create the Duroflex joint. The result is a low-maintenance, high-misalignment, self-centering, rebuildable joint with an OEM-quality ride and durability. The MetalCloak Duroflex joints are vulcanized rubber bushings that offer up to 34 degrees of rotation, so you won’t be giving up any articulation when your retirement is in full swing. It’s a cartridge-type design, so they can be easily replaced if they ever do wear out, unlike the factory OE rubber bushings that require a press, drilling, burning, chiseling, and who knows what else to remove.
CJ-7 Starting PointI just started a ’86 CJ-7 project. What should I start with?
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A project Jeep can quickly become overwhelming if you try to attack it from too many angles at once. Keep in mind, you’re dealing with a 30-plus-year-old vehicle. Not only do you have to contend with regular wear and tear and abuse, you have to consider that the Jeep has had the opportunity to have been vandalized with shoddy repairs and poorly done upgrades for more than 30 years by previous owners. It’s best to start with any safety and reliability issues. Go over the entire Jeep and look for oil and coolant leaks. Replace any leaking seals, bloated coolant hoses, and frayed or cracked belts on the engine. Change and carefully inspect all the fluids. This will give you a good idea of what might be going right or wrong in each component. Milky contaminated oil or metal bits in the oil will point out problem areas that will need attention. Make sure the brakes are functioning properly and that all of the brake lines are routed safely. The wiring will likely be one of the most heinous areas of an older Jeep. Look for and repair potential short circuits, burned wires, and anything that looks unsafe.
Next, inspect the frame, suspension mounts, and steering mounts for cracks and butch repairs. Any cracks in the frame should be properly repaired. Pay special attention to the frame from the firewall forward and the rear crossmember around the bumper. M.O.R.E. (mountainoffroad.com) offers reinforcement plates for the common weak areas of the ’72-’86 CJ frames. Several aftermarket companies, including M.O.R.E., offer heavy-duty replacement spring mounts, shackle hangers, and steering box mounts.
Check all of the tie-rod ends, wheel bearings, suspension bushings, and ball joints for slop. The shock mounts, leaf spring U-bolts, spring center pins, and spring plates are also common failing points. Replace anything that seems worn or questionable.
The steering box and the factory CJ steering shaft that connects the steering column to the steering box have a high probability of being worn out. A worn or leaky steering box can be replaced with a rebuilt unit from one of the many automotive parts stores, or you can upgrade to something more powerful from companies such as AGR (steerco.com) and PSC (pscmotorsports.com). Heavy-duty bolt-in replacement steering shafts are available from Borgeson (borgeson.com).
Dana 60 SteeringI’m running a ’86 Ford Dana 60 with a spring-over suspension under my FSJ. It rolls on 37-inch tires. Should I set up the steering with high-steer arms? I want to drive it on-road a lot and I plan to use traditional tie-rod ends.
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Whether or not you should run high-steer arms on your FSJ with a Dana 60 depends on many factors. This will include frame, leaf spring, and steering box clearance. Use a piece of tubing or even a broomstick to mock up where the tie rod and drag link will be located with the high-steer arms. Consider how the suspension moves and articulates when checking for clearance.
Fortunately, the kingpin Dana 60 is the easiest of all axles to install high-steer arms. It is a completely bolt-on endeavor. With the weight of the vehicle on jackstands, the arms simply bolt in place of the factory top Dana 60 bearing caps. No machining or welding is required. Companies such as Offroad Design (offroaddesign.com), Parts Mike (partsmike.com), Ruff Stuff Specialties (ruffstuffspecialties.com), and many others offer bolt-on high-steer arms and heavy-duty hardware for the kingpin Dana 60.
I’ve never been a fan of putting both the drag link and tie rod on the high-steer arms in heavy-duty applications. I’ve seen too many steering arm studs come loose or fail, causing the steering to be disabled, especially on ram-assist steering systems. The good news is that heavy-duty aftermarket Dana 60 steering knuckles from Reid Racing (reidracing.biz) feature an extra stud hole for the steering arms and more knuckle material to keep this from happening.
Installing only a passenger-side high-steer arm for the drag link on your factory Dana 60 knuckle is a great way eliminate a dropped pitman arm and avoid the added stress it causes on the steering box sector shaft and steering box mount. It will also offer more clearance for the drag link so it does not make contact with the passenger-side leaf spring.
JK Engine SwapI have a ’10 Jeep JK. What would be more logical from a balanced daily driven and off-road rig view point: supercharge what I have, or do a V-8 swap?
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Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to like my answer on this one. Neither is a practical option for a balanced daily driver weekend warrior. Let me explain why. The stock 3.8L V-6 found in the ’07-’11 Jeep Wrangler makes 202 hp. A supercharger kit will bump up it up another 85-100 hp at the cost of $6,000-$7,000 and at the expense of significantly decreased fuel economy and the need for more expensive high-octane fuel. Swapping in a V-8 will open a whole can of worms. For a reliable installation, you’ll need a new transmission, exhaust, cooling system, driveshafts, and most likely axles, and so on. Unless you do it yourself, a turnkey V-8 engine swap done by a qualified and experienced specialty shop could set you back in the neighborhood of $30,000. The result will be an increase of around 185-200 hp.
Dollar for dollar, selling the less desirable ’07-’11 JK and purchasing a ’12-’18 JK could be a better path to your power goal. The 3.6L Pentastar V-6 in the ’12-’18 JK delivers 285 horsepower stock. That’s a 40 percent improvement over the old 3.8L engine. Basically, the stock 3.6L makes the same horsepower as a supercharged 3.8L and uses less fuel doing it. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy the comfort and reliability of a factory-installed engine.
Part-Time FSJI have a ’79 FSJ with the Quadra-Trac full-time transfer case. Is there a way to convert the Quadra-Trac to a selectable two-wheel-drive transfer case? I ask because my build snowballed. I would need to change the transfer case, which requires a centered rearend and a transmission rebuild to change the output shaft. Then I’ll need a new fuel tank to clear the driveshaft. That’s a lot of parts that have to go for a transfer case swap.
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You forgot that you will likely need different driveshafts, too. At the very least, the lengths will need to be altered. Fortunately, there is a way to convert the ’73-’79 Borg Warner 1339 and 1305 Quadra-Trac transfer case into a part-time unit. Milemarker (milemarker.com) used to offer a part-time conversion kit. You can still purchase the kit through companies who specialize in FSJs like BJ’s Off-Road (bjsoffroad.com).
Stiff YJ SolutionI have a ’91 YJ with a Rubicon Express 4.5-inch lift, Rubicon Express shocks, and greasable Currie shackles. The track bars have been removed. It rolls on brand-new 33-inch all-terrain tires. It is the roughest riding Jeep I’ve ever had. Any ideas on what I can address to make it ride as smooth as my CJ?
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There really is no reason for your YJ to ride worse than your CJ. If the suspension is properly assembled it should ride much better. There are a few things you can check. Most people simply gun down the spring hardware with an impact wrench. However, overtightened and incorrectly installed shackle and spring pivot bolts can cause an incredibly stiff ride. The leaf spring pivot bolts and shackle bolts should be assembled loosely when vehicle is hoisted off the ground during the lift kit installation. They can be tightened to spec once the Jeep is sitting on the ground under its own weight. You can quickly check and see if they are overtightened with the Jeep on the ground. Go around to each shackle and spring pivot bolt to check for tightness. When outfitted with a greasable bolt and urethane bushings, you should be able to spin the bolt head relatively freely with a wrench. A proper locking nut will keep the assembly from coming apart. Make sure all of the bushings are greased too.
The Rubicon Express (rubiconexpress.com) shocks should provide a smooth ride, but double-check the shock part numbers to make sure they are the correct application for your YJ. Take a look at tire pressure too. Overinflated tires will cause a rough ride and uneven treadwear. Do not fill the tires to the max inflation pressure listed on the sidewall. You may need to experiment with different inflation pressures to find the exact psi that allows the entire tread to make contact with an even road surface.
Flattie FramingI'm getting ready to pick up a Jeep CJ-2A. I've been wanting to build one of these for a while now. What is the best frame to swap under one of these? I’ve been thinking about using a ’76-’86 CJ frame, a YJ frame, or even a JK frame. I'm open to suggestions. Are the stock early CJ axles worth anything?
Fitting any of the frames you have planned will be more work than it’s worth. They just won’t fit the small flatfender body and mounts very well. The stock frame should be plenty when reinforced properly. How much reinforcement you need will ultimately depend on the direction of your project. Boxing the frame from front to back with 1/8-inch or 3/16-inch steel plate is one option. Although, if your stock frame is in a bad shape and has a lot of rust damage and shoddy repairs from the past, it may be less work to simply fabricate your own frame from 2x3 or 2x4 rectangle tubing. The flatfender frames are incredibly simple, so it can be done with little more than a welder, chop saw, and a tape measure. If building a frame from scratch is not possible, companies such as Throttle Down Kustoms (throttledownkustoms.com) offer aftermarket frames that can be ordered with any number of updates and upgrades.
As for the axles, the front is a Dana 25 and the rear will either be a Dana 41 or Dana 44. Both of these rear axles will feature less-desirable two-piece axleshafts, unless the axle has been fitted with an aftermarket full-floating kit. The stock flatfender axles are fairly durable, despite the fact that they were originally designed for 60 hp, but this doesn’t really make them desirable or valuable to Jeep builders. They have small 9-inch drum brakes and are too narrow to be swapped onto any other Jeep or 4x4. The axles will have parts value to those that are wheeling stock Jeeps, though. The most valuable part will be any kind of vintage-looking manual locking front hub. These have become somewhat collectable.