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  • #91
    Light Cage & 7" LED Flood Lights

    I've always been a fan of pre-runners and Baja racing. When I discovered that Smittybilt offered a bolt-on light cage for their Defender roof racks, I had to have one.

    I came across one of the 4-foot Defender light racks on eBay for $67 bucks, and couldn't pass it up. I don't have a Defender rack, but at that price I figured I could make it work.

    Once the rack and lights came in, I ran down to the shop to see what I could do. I started off by swapping the roof rails and 2 additional cross bars from my '90 XJ. The '90 design was a little more streamlined than the '88.

    The light cage has 4 lower and 4 upper mounting feet, with the outer brackets measuring about 38". My roof rack is 37" wide, meaning the outer brackets wouldn't quite line up. The height of my rack is just slightly higher than the Smittybilt, meaning I'd have to build some mounting brackets.

    I ended up using about 16" of perforated 1/8 x 2" strapping to build a pair of brackets that lined up with the two lower-center mounting surfaces of the light cage and wrapped around the tubing on the rack. The upper brackets mounted up to the top of the rack, no problem. This left all four outer mounting surfaces unsecured, but the inner mounts felt pretty strong, so I simply zip-tied the outers to the rack to try and prevent anything from vibrating or rattling.


    I drilled one 1/4 hole in the roof under the driver-side roof rail, installed a grommet, and ran a single 10-gauge power cable up to the lights. Each light draws power from the common 10-gauge power cable, while each pair is grounded to the roof rail with 14-gauge cable. Unfortunately, I failed to drop the headliner down far enough, and the drill bit grabbed the material when it popped through, tearing a 3" hole in the headliner; that will be repaired with a new headliner kit later on.

    I haven't finished the wiring yet, but I'm planning to install a switch panel along with side and rear flood lights on the rack as well.

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    Last edited by sjlplat; 01-12-2020, 01:17 AM.
    - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

    - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

    - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

    - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

    - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

    - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.

    Comment


    • #92
      That's badass! Any link to the ebay rack?
      2004 Grand Cherokee (WJ), Laredo 4.0
      4.5" Frankenstein Short Arm lift, Rusty ADJ CA's, trussed Waggy 44 Front & 44HD Rear; 315/70:17 Patagonia M/T mounted on Micky Thompson Classic Lock II 17x9

      Comment


    • #93
      Light Cage & 7" LED Flood Lights (continued)

      Today I welded up new mounting brackets on the roof rack to drop the light cage down a few inches, and finished up the wiring. This was my first time welding thin wall tubing, and of course I blew holes through it. Nevertheless, I was able to salvage my mistakes with some impressive booger welds and a liberal amount of grinding, and drop the light cage about 3-4 inches.

      These cheap Chinese lights are bright, but they don't throw light very far. Later on I'll replace them with some higher quality 9" floods to fill out the empty space in the cage, and produce more usable light.

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      Last edited by sjlplat; 01-19-2020, 11:47 AM.
      - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

      - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

      - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

      - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

      - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

      - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.

      Comment


      • WJ_Guy
        WJ_Guy commented
        Editing a comment
        Looks fantastic. What a great build.

      • sjlplat
        sjlplat commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks! Still a long way to go, but it's certainly transforming. The new house is keeping funds low so I'm concentrating on cheaper mods to keep the ball rolling. Once we finish the new house and sell the old one, I'll be able to move on to the more useful (albeit pricey) stuff like gears, lockers, and armor.

    • #94
      Cargo Area Auxiliary Power

      I was the lucky winner of the 2019 ETXJC Christmas drawing, and received a Costway 12V Fridge/Freezer. During the 2020 Overland trip, I brought it for a test run.

      Unfortunately, the old XJ wiring didn't carry enough juice to power the fridge. Since I'd planned to run auxiliary power to the cargo area anyways, I decided now was the right time.

      I ordered a marine power panel with voltmeter display, USB ports, 12V socket, and a switch. The panel is powered directly from the battery via 10ga wire and a pair of terminal isolators mounted inside the passenger quarter panel.

      So far, it appears to provide enough juice to power the fridge. Time will tell how it holds up.


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      Last edited by sjlplat; 02-23-2020, 10:02 PM.
      - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

      - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

      - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

      - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

      - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

      - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.

      Comment


      • WJ_Guy
        WJ_Guy commented
        Editing a comment
        Yea!!! More Rocky Road!!!

      • sjlplat
        sjlplat commented
        Editing a comment
        Next time I hope it won't be Rocky Road soup!

    • #95
      Harmonic Balancer Replacement

      This isn't a mod, but it is a critical part of maintenance. The harmonic balancer is the main serpentine pulley on the front of the engine, and transfers power from the crankshaft to all the engine accessories. It's designed to absorb vibration by sandwiching a rubber isolator between the inner and outer halves of the pulley. With age, the rubber deteriorates and the halves begin to move, causing uneven belt wear, squealing, and potentially catastrophic failure if the two halves completely separate.

      My belt was beginning to squeal, and the isolator was clearly starting to inch its way out so it was clearly time to replace the harmonic balancer. It's a relatively simple process -- remove the belt, remove the bolt holding the balancer to the crankshaft, press the old balancer off, press the new one on, and replace the belt.

      There are two specialty tools that make the job fairly simple. The puller looks like a claw with a hole in the middle and 4 oblong holes in each "finger". The installer is a threaded post with a bearing. For about $100, you can obtain both tools and do the job right.

      The hardest part of the job is removing the belt. On a Renix 4.0L, the belt is removed by loosening 2 bolts on the power steering pump housing and threading a tensioner inward. It's a terrible design that rarely works right, and I've found that it's easier to simply remove the two swivel bolts completely then use a pry bar to move the power steering pump.

      Overall, the job took me a couple hours. With the new harmonic balancer in-place, my belt squeal is gone and I feel a lot more confident that I won't be left stranded with a disabled engine.

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      - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

      - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

      - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

      - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

      - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

      - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.

      Comment


      • #96
        YJ Parking Brake Cable Conversion

        When lifting an XJ, it's sometimes necessary to install longer parking brake cables. This was true for my 5.5" Rubicon Express lift kit because flexing the rear suspension caused binding in the parking brake cables at full droop.

        The YJ was designed with a parking brake pedal in the driver-side floorboard, requiring a longer cable to reach the passenger-side brake assembly. The '91-'95 YJ passenger-side cable is 71 3/4" long, while the XJ cables are 54" long. The ends are identical with the exception of the exposed cable length, which is slightly shorter on the '91-'95 YJ (the '87-'90 version had a different length, so the year is important here). The extra 18" of cable is more than sufficient for a lifted XJ, and installation only requires a minor modification to the parking brake rod by adding a length of threaded rod to compensate for the shorter cable end on the YJ cables.


        To extend the rod, I cut off about 2" of threads from the factory rod, then used an M8 x 1.25" threaded rod and union to add more length. Although this worked fine, I suspect I'll have to cut another 1" later on when the cables stretch, as it was just barely enough to get adequate engagement of the parking brake. Aside from lengthening the rod, everything else is plug & play.

        I've now got a functional parking brake with plenty of length for my lift, with room to spare!

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        Last edited by sjlplat; 03-08-2020, 06:17 PM.
        - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

        - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

        - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

        - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

        - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

        - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.

        Comment


        • #97
          Overheating Woes

          At some point, every XJ owner is going to experience the consequences of a woefully inadequate cooling system. I recently had my own bout with the infamous XJ overheating issue.

          As I was heading the the Nacogdoches monthly meeting, I started experiencing power loss and temperature increases. I carefully watched as the temperature gauge creeped toward 230, and my speed dropped even as I gave it more gas. Just as the temperature hit 230, I watched steam pour out of the hood and I immediately pulled over and shut off the engine. I popped the hood, and noticed that the upper radiator hose had blown off the radiator. Further inspection revealed that the passenger-side brake rotor was smoking -- a pretty clear sign that the brake caliper was seized. So began my 6-month ordeal of troubleshooting my XJ overheating.

          Over the last 6-months, I have methodically eliminated every possible source of overheating, and fixed a few unknown problems along the way. As of today, I feel pretty confident that I have fixed both the overheating issue, and all possible sources of future overheating. In sequential order, I have completed the following repairs and mods:
          1. Replaced front brake calipers, rotors, pads, and bled the brakes.
          2. Replaced the thermostat and thermostat housing.
          3. Replaced the water pump.
          4. Flushed the cooling system.
          5. Replaced the radiator with a used OEM pull.
          6. Rebuilt the head (See the forum thread here).
          7. Replaced all gaskets with Fel-Pro.
          8. Replaced the head studs with ARP head bolts.
          9. Completed Cruiser's valve cover mod.
          10. Replaced the exhaust manifold (cracked), flange seal, and manifold bolts.
          11. Replaced the catalytic converter (the original had been hollowed out) and flange gasket.
          12. Flushed the cooling system 3x more.
          13. Drained and refilled the transmission fluid.
          14. Replaced the used OEM radiator with an all-aluminum 2-row.
          15. Installed a Wix filter base and 5" coolant filter.
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          Last edited by sjlplat; 08-30-2020, 07:22 PM.
          - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

          - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

          - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

          - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

          - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

          - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.

          Comment


          • #98
            So...what do you think was the main issue? The head?

            I'm still losing coolant somewhere on mine. Starting to think that may be the issue.
            2004 Solar Yellow TJ : *Bad Shift Solenoid
            3.5" Rock Krawler Springs, Rock Krawler Adj. Control Arms, Fox 2.0 Shocks, 33x12.50R15 MTRs, TeraFlex High Steer System, TeraFlex 2WD Low Range Kit, TeraFlex Extreme Short SYE, Adam's CV Rear Driveshaft, G2 4.10 Gears, Dana 30 front with G2 Chromoly Shafts & Aussie Locker, Rubicon Dana 44 rear with G2 Chromoly Shafts & Detroit Locker, Durango 160A Alternator, Rugged Ridge Nautic 9500lb Winch with Synthetic Rope

            1998 Flame Red XJ Limited: *A Black Hole for Coolant
            SkyJacker 3" front lift springs, shocks, steering stabilizer, and adjustable track bar. Rubicon Express 3.5" rear leaf packs. 265/75/16 BFG A/T on TJ Moab Wheels

            Comment


            • sjlplat
              sjlplat commented
              Editing a comment
              It's hard to say. I swapped the radiator with one from my '98 before rebuilding the head, but the radiator I swapped in was bad. I think I can narrow it down to either the radiator or the head. Since the first radiator was only a year and a half old, I really didn't think it would be the problem, but I'd have to get it tested by a shop to confirm.

              If you're losing coolant and you suspect the head, I'd look for the fluid mixing. You should be able to tell pretty quick if it's hitting the crank case because your oil will be milky. If it's blowing out the exhaust, you should be able to smell it. Those plastic tanks on the radiator are notorious for cracking, so check carefully for any dampness around the sides of the radiator or where the front crossmember meets the unibody. You might also see if you can rent a hydrocarbon tester from the local parts store to check for exhaust in the coolant.
              Last edited by sjlplat; 09-01-2020, 07:57 PM.

          • #99
            Roof Rack Gutter Mounts & Cross-Bars

            I purchased my roof rack as an impulse buy, so it really wasn't something I planned out. It was hard to pass up for the price, and I figured at the time that I would just make it work.

            Make it work I did, mounting it to the factory roof rack, adding two additional cross-bars, and then adding a light cage with lights. Even with the additional cross-bars, the rack didn't feel solid, and I wasn't confident that it would hold much weight at all. I noticed the factory well nuts began pulling out of the roof, as the light cage put leverage on one end, and the well nuts simply couldn't hold the upward force,

            I replaced the well nuts and proceeded to begin searching for better mounting options. I finally settled on a set of Smittybilt Defender gutter mount brackets and 1" x 1.5" 3/16" wall rectangular tubing.

            The install was about as simple as it can get. I ordered pre-cut lengths of 48" tubing, and simply had to measure and drill for the brackets. These things are solid, and sit slightly lower than the factory roof rack, which is a plus when coupled with the massive light cage I've got hanging over the windshield.

            I still have to prime and paint the cross-bars, and I have PVC plugs to close up the ends and make for a finished look, but for the most part I think I can call this one a success.

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            Last edited by sjlplat; 09-27-2020, 07:51 PM.
            - 1988 XJ Base - I don't actually drive it. It just sits in the driveway while I throw parts at it.

            - 1990 XJ Laredo - Old and busted, but it'll get the job done!

            - 1994 XJ Base 2-door - Where'd the other doors go?

            - 1996 XJ Sport - It's red. What else can I say?

            - 1997 XJ Country - My wife wanted something "pretty".

            - 1998 XJ Limited - Cheap and leathery.

            Comment


            • I noticed the 9”LED’s on the roof rack anymore. Are they for sale?
              2004 Grand Cherokee (WJ), Laredo 4.0
              4.5" Frankenstein Short Arm lift, Rusty ADJ CA's, trussed Waggy 44 Front & 44HD Rear; 315/70:17 Patagonia M/T mounted on Micky Thompson Classic Lock II 17x9

              Comment


              • sjlplat
                sjlplat commented
                Editing a comment
                The lights are the same 7" LEDs. I haven't upgraded to 9" yet.
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