Part 3: Finishing The Lift And Tying Loose Ends
When we last left my budget-built '91 MJ I had swapped everything but the kitchen sink to replace the shot, worn, and just flat hammered front end parts. While I was replacing bushings, ball joints, and tie-rods, I lifted the front end. I hadn't shown you what I'd done out back-the radiator sprang a leak, it was overheating, and it was still two-wheel-drive.
The rear axle that came in the truck was the craptastic Dana 35, and like the rest of my MJ, it needed help. The goofy rubber plug was leaking, the brakes were gone, and I just couldn't stand the thought of putting time or money into it. In the spirit of the Derby, I was set on rebuilding it until I ran across an MJ Dana 44 in a junkyard-literally just sitting on the ground. It was missing the brakes, so I scrounged until I found a full set of beat brake parts-or so I thought. Once I got into it, I found the drums were too far out to turn again, the wheel cylinders that were on my axle were shot, and the hardware was in bad shape. I turned to Rock Auto for low, low prices and replaced all the bad brake parts for under $200.
I knew coming into this that I was going to do a spring-over conversion in the rear. This time I decided that I wasn't going to half-ass it though. I want this axle to live under this truck for not only whatever kookiness Hazel has cooked up, but going forward. So I tapped TnT customs for a U-bolt Eliminator kit to hang the axle and a truss so I will hopefully not kill another Dana 44.
I tried soldering the radiator back up with no luck, but I refused to put more stop leak in the engine. I knew I wanted an all-metal radiator and found a decent price at DPG Off-road. Before installing the radiator, I flushed the system several times in hopes of getting rid of whatever stop leak was still in there. While I was installing the radiator, I decided to pop the water pump off for a look and found it completely crudded-up with what looked to be a small leak starting at the shaft. I replaced it as well, but not before wire brushing everywhere I could. I probably should have also pulled the freeze plugs-but, well, it is the Sh!%box Derby.
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