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2005 Jeep Wrangler - LJ Resurrection: Part 3

2005 Jeep Wrangler On Lift
Ben Battles | Writer
Posted October 28, 2013

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.

The first task on our list was yanking the NP231 T-case so we could install the Pro Comp Short Shaft Kit. To gain access, we supported the transmission with a jackstand and removed the center portion of the Rubicon Express crossmember. After removing the six nuts holding the T-case to the tranny, a couple of electrical connections, a vent tube and the shift linkage, it was ready to part ways.

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?

Although we haven’t trail-tested our new Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 rolling stock yet, we have put nearly 200 road miles on them as of writing this. What we can say is that they took amazingly little weight to balance (always a good quality-indicator,) they roll true and produce very little road noise. You’ll be able to read about how all of our resurrection efforts faired in the next issue when we put ‘em to the test in the backwoods of the Northeast.

Finer Points
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.

Step By Step

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  • The kit came with everything we needed to allow us to scrap our slip-yoke rear driveshaft in favor of a longer CV-shaft. Contents included a new, stronger 32-spline output shaft, a new tailhousing, a 1310 CV yoke, speedo gear, and necessary clips and hardware. The instructions were very thorough and should walk the first-timer through the install without a single cuss word.

  • This before and after comparison shows the difference between a slip-yoke output and the slip-yoke eliminator. The red lines indicate the overall output lengths, which is approximately 4 inches shorter with the fixed yoke.

  • When combined with our new rear CV driveshaft, we’ll end up with a stronger T-case, a stout driveshaft, and operating angles that don’t make your Jeep feel like a paint-shaker under power.

  • With the optional polished and clear-coated finish, our new Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts double-cardan units are pretty stellar looking, but being made of super-strong D.O.M. tubing, they’re not just for show. If you’re looking at new shafts for your project we highly recommend a few minutes spent on the company’s website to educate yourself on what goes into these shafts, as well as the type of shaft best suited to your build.

  • One of the major differences between a Tom Wood’s shaft and most others is the fact that the yokes and CV bodies are made from forged-steel, not cast iron. There’s a reason that behemoth revolvers—like the S&W Model 500—are made from forged materials. The denser molecular structure means it won’t blow up in your face. Paired with the company’s guaranteed Gold Seal U-joints, we now have a highly abuse-proof driveline that’ll live a long life under our Jeep.

  • The rear upper links on a long-arm suspension system can make piecing together an exhaust on your garage floor comparable to going second in a one-on-one Rochambeau contest (in other words, possibly quite painful.) That’s why we handed off the task to Lou’s Custom Exhaust, which had the materials we needed and a professional-grade exhaust tubing bender to make sure the routing and bends were spot-on perfect.

  • Chris Meuse, owner and operator of Lou’s Custom Exhaust in Portland, Maine, did an outstanding job of giving us exactly what we asked for. The process of bending, checking, bending again, welding all the seams with quality, good-looking welds and making sure the new exhaust was properly supported out back only took a little over an hour. In the end, it cost us about the same as if we had done it ourselves. How do you beat that?

  • Although simple in design, our new exhaust had to follow a distinct route to keep clear of the rear suspension arms. A 45-degree bend welded to the cat sent the muffler in the right direction, and a deep loop up and over the right-rear Tri-Link arm ensured plenty of working clearance. The diminutive Flowmaster HP-2 muffler was deemed the easiest to work with, and emits a nice, aggressive tone without being too obnoxious.

  • Our Rubicon Express long-arm suspension kit was supplied with this extended, braided stainless-steel rear flex-line and new frame mount. We drilled and installed the mount on the old upper control arm mount, and since they were headed to roughly the same spot on the rear axle truss, we mated our rear ARB Air Locker line to the brake line with a few zip ties to keep things clean ’n’ tidy.

  • Instead of running the rear brake line junction block down to its factory location on the axle tube, we chose to drill a hole and mount it up higher on top of the rear-suspension truss. It’s better protected here and gave us a little more slack for suspension travel. We sent the ARB line—which we sleeved in clear 5⁄16-inch tubing—straight down through a hole in the truss to make the connection at the differential.

  • Our rear braided stainless lines were ones we had kicking around, and were actually intended for a disc brake conversion on 14-bolt rear axle. Luckily, the fitting size was right and the lengths were spot on. They were originally sourced through Offroad Design and carry PN GU30172. We secured the lines up high and out of harm’s way with rubber-armored clamps and protected them where necessary with 3⁄8-inch fuel line.

  • Luckily, the fitting size was right and the lengths were spot on. They were originally sourced through Offroad Design and carry PN GU30172. We secured the lines up high and out of harm’s way with rubber-armored clamps and protected them where necessary with 3⁄8-inch fuel line.

  • Large plastic zip ties strategically placed on the shock body keep our new extended Rubicon Express lines out of the tires. Simply interlock as necessary, with the last tie providing a 2-inch-diameter loop to retain the line and allow travel under suspension compression.

  • We got a little surprise when bolting up our new wheels and tires, and it came in the form of insufficient wheel stud length on the rear axle. The centers on our new Pro Comp wheels were thicker than our previous wheels, and necessitated going from 1.5- to 2-inch studs for a safe amount of lugnut thread engagement. 4Wheel Drive Hardware had what we needed, but the shafts had to be removed to swap them out.

  • Turns out we had our 3⁄8-inch impact gun set on “kill” when we went to button up the suspension install, and consequently snapped off two of the mounting studs on the factory rubber transmission mount. It proved not to be an overly costly mistake, and after putting an order with 4Wheel Drive Hardware, we had this improved Rubicon Express urethane mount to bolt up in its place a few days later.


Flowmaster Inc.
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Offroad Design
Rubicon Express
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
4Wheel Drive Hardware
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Pro Comp USA
Compton, CA 90220
Tom Woods Custom Driveshafts
Lou’s Custom Exhaust