We have a different definition of a bargain than our wives do. We are betting you do too. We don’t get excited over saving 50 percent for a pair of shoes that still ends up costing $50. Instead, we get excited when we spend money on something that stands the test of time and we actually use. We’ve got a bunch of things that we’ve used or have been using for years that are, quite simply, worth it. No, we aren’t going to point you to a 50 percent off sale, or a buy 1 get 5 free. Here’s the stuff we feel we have more than gotten our money’s worth out of over the years, what it costs today, and where you can find it. All in no kind of order whatsoever.
Dollars to Donuts
Description: We really have no idea where the term came from, but dollars to donuts, give us a Hi-Lift Jack every day of the week, and twice on Sundays. They are useful for clamping, jacking, keeping a busted C-clip axle in, sleeving tie-rods, and more. Accessorize to your heart’s content for whatever you are using yours for. We tend to have one in every Jeep and take no care of them whatsoever. They sit out in the elements until that emergency arises and then we worry if the walking pins will be rusted solid. They never are, or we can lubricate them with whatever we’ve got on hand.
Part number: XT485
Contact: Hi-Lift Jack Company
Description: It seems like every time we try to save a buck and we don’t put a Centerforce clutch in our Jeep we end up smoking whatever other option we chose. From getting mud in the bellhousing to slipping the clutch up rocks or slipping it to get out of deep mud or snow we will often push until we smell it getting hot. After it cools off and we are done wheeling other clutches will often lose a lot of pedal after doing that just one time. There have been a few times where we’ve been pulling the Jeep apart just a few weeks after the initial clutch install to put a Centerforce in it. Save yourself the trouble and expense of two clutches and go with a Centerforce first.
Part number: CFT360981 (for 4.0L)
Contact: Midway Industries, 928/771-8422, centerforce.com
Description: We’ve used just about every inline-six Jeep header available. We all want the same things. Stainless steel, mandrel-formed construction, a thick flange, and bolts into the factory-location downpipe. By far the best bang for the buck we’ve ever had was the header from the APN header. In a day and age where most headers for Jeeps cost more than Chevy V-8 headers, the APN header comes in hundreds of dollars less and features many of the same design characteristics of the more expensive parts. It is made from 321 stainless with a 1⁄2-inch-thick flange and for you rust belt guys it even comes with the header-to-downtube bolts and nuts.
Part number: 15343
Contact: I Need Parts
Description: It is hard to beat the local parts store where you can get your hands on parts to make sure they are the correct ones, but Rock Auto has pulled it off. If the part isn’t at our local store, we can often get it just as fast and always less expensive from Rock Auto. Not only that, but the company can get a hold of hard-to-find stuff. How often does your local parts monkey get you the wrong part? Using the Rock Auto site means you are your own parts monkey and you’ve probably got more parts at your fingertips than the real monkey does. You can often choose from many brands and quality levels of the same part to fit whatever your budget might be.
Part number: Pick one
Price: Yep, there are prices too
Contact: Rock Auto
Description: The ’80s were a dim time for automotive powerplants, with tightening emissions requirements forcing manufacturers to come up with new ways to create cleaner-running vehicles. They did it with lots of vacuum lines, check valves, and computer-controlled carburetors. So today, very few of these engines run well with the factory stuff on it. Enter Howell Engine Developments’ throttle body fuel injection. Yeah, it ain’t pennies, but if we’d just done it from the beginning back in 1994, we’d have saved ourselves over $1,000. We installed our first kit on an ’89 Islander 16 years ago after spending almost $2,000 trying to get it to run right and pass smog. It uses a lot of factory GM parts, replaces the crappy carb with a 2-bbl throttle body and not only makes the engine more reliable, but seat of the pants power is improved. Putting that fuel-injection system on that Jeep saved its life, as we were ready to scrap it. Afterwards, it ran so well that we just couldn’t get rid of the Jeep.
Part number: YJ258
Contact: Howell Engine Developments
Description: The factory motor mounts found holding the fuel-injected inline engines between the framerails are straight junk. If you haven’t looked at yours recently you might want to. Specifically that driver’s side one. Poly mounts will solve the problem, but they transfer a lot of vibration into the frame which has the potential to loosen bolts and in Unitbody Jeeps all that vibration can be heard inside the cab. M.O.R.E.’s torsion-style Bombproof motor mounts feature large rubber bushings that won’t crack like cheap polyurethane and insulated the Jeep from vibrations very well. We’ve run them on Jeeps that we have all over the country and have yet to find environmental conditions that phase them and we are still running the first set we ever installed, after years and years of abuse.
Part number: JM600
Contact: Mountain Off-Road Enterprises
Description: Our fathers and likely our father’s fathers used Craftsman tools. We do too. While we can’t speak for our ancestors, Sears Craftsman brand hand tools are hard to beat. We could speak about how they are high-quality and resistant to both rusting and bending. But this isn’t a story about beating up tools, it is about saving cash. We will keep going back to Craftsman because once we buy a Craftsman hand tool it is the last one we need to buy for life. If we break it, we can go to the Sears store in whatever town we find ourselves in and get a new tool.
Part number: 44811 (3⁄8-inch ratchet)
Contact: Sears Stores
Description: When Rampage Products arrived on the scene over 5 years ago with its ultra-low soft top pricing it was almost too hard to believe. So, in true Jp magazine fashion we got a hold of a TJ top and tried it out. It lasted fairly well so that when the company released a frameless top a little over two years ago, we gave that a whirl too. We’ve had the top on our ’01 Wrangler for all that time and it is never garaged. It has stood the test of time, despite our initial reservations; it does a good job of keeping rain, snow, and wind out of the Jeep. Both the top windows and upper door windows can be stowed in the built-in storage bag and it then turns into a bikini top. With no bows, it is also cheaper to buy than other tops.
Part number: 109535
Contact: Rampage Products
Bash and Flow
Description: Most mufflers last us a year or two. Not so with Flowmaster chambered mufflers. Whether we are using them as skidplates or exposing them to salt through northeast winters, we get a lot of years of use out of them. In fact, our Flowmaster mufflers often outlast the vehicles they are installed in. The one shown is a 21⁄2-inch diameter inlet/outlet 40-series and has been in 3 different vehicles over a 15-year period of time. There are other diameters available, but the 21⁄2-inch is a good size for most inline-six cylinders and mild V-8s.
Part number: 42543
Contact: Flowmaster, Inc
Description: If you need decent, inexpensive tools, don’t discount Harbor Freight just yet. As you guys well know, working on most Jeeps built in the last 30 years means that we have to have a full set of not only standard but metric tools as well and that can get really expensive really quickly. We were able to buy both these sets for less than either a similar standard or metric set from a higher-zoot tool place would have cost us. That was more than 5 years ago and although we’ve tried, we haven’t managed to hurt any of them.
Part number: 67903 (standard); 67904 (metric)
Price: $22.99 (each)
Contact: Harbor Freight Tools
Description: One of the biggest pains in the butt with owning a soft top Jeep is keeping the plastic windows clear. Not clean, anyone can do that. We mean clear. So often by the fourth or fifth year of a top we just can’t see out the windows anymore, especially that rear one. Makes backing up kind of difficult. Then one day, sometime in the late 1990s or very early 2000s, we found Plexus. It promised to clean and polish plastics and was supposed to be good even for sunglasses and headlights. Now when we clean our Jeeps, unless they are really muddy, we don’t even use carwash soap or window cleaner on the soft top windows. We just use Plexus. We now have no problem getting to that 5 year mark with windows we can still see out of. Unfortunately, you can’t buy single cans direct from the manufacturer but a quick internet search will find you many places you can buy single cans.
Part number: 16250
Contact: Plexus Plastic Cleaner
Under The Influence
Description: It happens to us all and we don’t like to think about it. A distributor is a moving part and moving parts wear. It is really easy to go down to the local parts store to replace a worn distributor but don’t fool yourself, you often end up throwing good money after bad. DUI stands for Davis Unified Ignition and we are under its influence. Over the years we’ve spent countless hours on the phone and in person jaw-boning with DUI’s makers, Performance Distributors. We are always impressed with their knowledge and the care and quality they build into every distributor the company ships out. Not only does Performance Distributors custom-tune the advance curve, but the company uses much better quality parts than any cheapy rebuild will ever get and every distributor is run on a dyno before shipping. In over a decade of using the company’s distributors we’ve never had one go bad on us.
Part number: 40620 (inline-six)
Contact: Performance Distributors