Sweatin’ The Small Stuff
In the past two installments of LJ Resurrection you’ve watched us put our broken, battered, and left-for-dead ’05 Unlimited under the knife to install a pair of G2 Dana 44 axle assemblies and a Rubicon Express 4.5-inch Extreme Duty long-arm suspension system. The heavy wrenching is behind us and we’re nearly ready to christen the LJ with the proverbial Coors Light bottle across the front bumper, but there’s still a laundry list of tasks that need to be checked off before we get underway. In this installment we’ll be outlining all of the ancillary components that were required to get the LJ ready for go time, and if you’re replicating this build—or something close to it—chances are you’ll be sweatin’ some of (or all of) the same details we did.
The Bigger Small Stuff
One of the larger tasks at hand involved installing a slip-yoke eliminator in the LJ’s NP231 T-case, which in turn allowed us to scrap the short, vibration-inducing rear driveshaft. Essentially, what a slip-yoke eliminator does is change your rear T-case output shaft from a male, splined slip-joint and corresponding rear driveshaft, into a fixed U-joint yoke and CV driveshaft. The goal here is to lengthen the span between the transfer case and rear differential, and—with the required longer driveshaft—lower the shaft’s operating angle. When this box gets checked you’ll end up with a stronger transfer case, a stout driveshaft and—assuming the pinion angles have been set correctly—zero driveline vibration.
There are many slip-yoke eliminator kits on the market, but the one we chose was the Pro Comp Short Shaft Kit, manufactured by TeraFlex. The kit comes with a 32-spline heavy-duty output shaft designed to withstand 50 percent greater torsional load than stock and it allows you to run a rear CV driveshaft that’s 4 inches longer for less driveshaft angularity. The installation is straightforward and can be done with the T-case in the Jeep, but it’s a lot easier to spin off the six T-case-to-tranny bolts and do it on a workbench. Besides general hand-tools, you’ll need at least one pair of snap-ring pliers (preferably a larger pair) and a large 11⁄8-inch socket and impact gun to zip off the yoke nuts. You’ll also be separating the case halves, so you’ll want a fresh tube of RTV silicone for reassembly. All in all, it’s pretty difficult process to screw up, so long as you follow the detailed, step-by-step instructions you’ll be fine.
With the new slip-yoke eliminator installed and the longer pinion of the new G2 front Dana 44 up front (as compared to the D30 that came out) both of our factory driveshafts had now been rendered useless. Since we’ve always been impressed with quality of Tom Wood’s work in the past, we decided to get in touch and have the company build a couple of shafts to our specs. After sending our overall length measurements, U-joint size and indicating the type of driveshafts we needed (Tom’s website walks you through the entire process) our shafts arrived, ready to bolt in a few days later.
As usual, there were no disappointments. Perfect welds and highly polished, clear-coated tubes are what you see from the outside; full-length slip-joint splines beneath the rubber boots providing the greatest amount of contact possible are features you can’t see. And, adding to their overall durability, both the CV centers and yokes are made from forged-steel (not cast iron,) and the shafts themselves are made from ultra-strong DOM tubing. Paired with Tom Wood’s fully greasable Gold Seal 1310 U-joints, we’re pretty confident these new shafts will shrug off all the full-throttle shenanigans we’ll ever throw at ’em. But, the cool part is that if we ever do break a U-joint or somehow damage a driveshaft, there’s a no-hassle replacement warranty for the life of the part. That’s a wicked good guarantee.
Since the rear upper suspensions links of our new Tri-Link system ran directly through the path of the factory exhaust, we needed to come up with a solution here as well. The way we saw it, we had a few options. Option 1: take the easy way out and hack the cat off, weld a muffler in its place, and install a turn-down tip right after it clears the transmission skid (unless you’re building a dedicated trail rig—one that doesn’t carry rear passengers—we’re gonna file option 1 under “unadvisable.”) Option 2: order-up a bunch of different bends, some straight pipe and hangers and beat our heads against the wall trying to cut and weld a system together on our garage floor (we’ve been down that road and feel like we’ve paid our dues—lots of time investment for little return.) Option 3: Let the people who do this for a living fab up a killer system for a nominal fee (winner!). After we bolted up our new 35-inch Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires and 15x8 7069 wheels (both of which you’ll read about in the next installment) we took the LJ out for its inaugural pavement-pounding, en-route to Lou’s Custom Exhaust in Portland, Maine, to tackle the job. With all the materials and tools one could ever want within arm’s reach, Chris Meuse at Lou’s was easily able to fab up a 2.5-inch aluminized-steel (stainless was an option too) tailpipe to snake up ‘n over the right-rear Tri-Link, and attach it to a slim-diameter, 12-inch-long, T304 stainless Flowmaster HP-2 muffler at the cat. That was easy, wasn’t it?
Some of the smaller chores included rerouting the rear brake lines and rear ARB airline where they run on top of and around the newly installed Rubicon Express Tri-Link truss. Nothing difficult here, but our goal was to keep everything up high, tucked in, and well secured to ensure the lines stood a fighting chance against northeastern punji sticks, sharp granite, and unforeseen swamp hazards. We originally planned on bending up some new hard lines, but remembered we had a set of braided stainless lines from Offroad Design kicking around that were intended for a 14-bolt rear axle disc-brake conversion. Luckily, they were exactly the right length and fitting-size.
The new, longer Rubicon Express front stainless steel braided brake lines also needed to be reined in to keep the tires from eating them alive. We employed a little redneck ingenuity here, and used large plastic zip ties strategically placed on the shock body to provide a simple and effective fix. Also, since someone installed a supercharger in our 3⁄8-inch-drive impact when we weren’t looking, we snapped-off two of the four mounting studs on the OEM rubber transmission mount while buttoning up the suspension install. No biggie—we looked at it as a chance to upgrade, and ordered up a brand new Rubicon Express RE9105 urethane mount from 4Wheel Drive Hardware to replace it with.
It’s also worth noting that when we attempted to bolt up the new wheel/tire combo, we ran into a slight snag. The front two wheels went on without a hitch, but the rear lugnuts barely grabbed any threads, and we realized there wasn’t enough stud length for the new, thicker wheel centers; the axles came with 1.5-inch screw-in studs, and we needed 2-inch studs. We ordered new studs, yanked the shafts from the housing, and swapped them out when they arrived a few days later.
Other than a professional alignment, our LJ is pretty well squared away at this point, and ready to hit the trail. Tune in next issue where we’ll be putting all of our new hardware to the test in the backwoods of New Hampshire and Maine.
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