How To: KJ 3rd window Cabinet Conversion

LabRat

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Okay gang, if you, like me have realized that the third windows (cargo area windows) on your Liberty are only good for placing decals and running you broke on RainX to keep them from looking nice...what follows is a very cheap method of converting them into cabinets.

(This post may take a few weeks for the full build instructions as I am posting it as I get parts and such in. If you order everything at once, you can do it in a single day yourself if you do not care about preserving the window glass!)

Now, full disclaimer, I am demonstrating the cheapest possible way to do this. There are many ways to do this conversion, but require more money, expensive materials and specialized equipment most folks do not have access to. I will however talk about those methods while I do it cheap and dirty.


So first off: the inspiration-

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My opinion of this video: Its a great idea, but this dude has a well equipped shop at his disposal. However, since he used plate aluminum and does not have a tri-roller plate bending machine, his design will fail due to the curve of the windows/cabinet door. The aluminum will flex, expand, and contract due to temperature and that will eventually cause the hinges and latches to fail. Also he will have issues with the weather getting in at highway speeds. Forcing a flat plat to stay under stress just makes a big spring that will open at the worst possible time.

Betcha none of us have a tri-roller at home. So the first change I am making is to replace his aluminum sheet with 1/4 inch thick ABS plastic sheet. Yes, it is less expensive, but it is completely weather temperature resistant, far more impact resistant (won't dent!), and all you need to work with it is a heat gun and appropriate saw. It is easier to paint if desired. For my application, I do not want a gull wing style door. If it pops open while you are on the freeway, you gonna loose everything inside. So next change I am making is to place the hinges on the side towards the engine and the latches on the rear edge.

I also want to preserve the glass, in case I want to convert it back (or sell them to recoup some cost. Therefore I am having the auto glass place in my neighborhood remove the windows for me. Then I'll keep them on the Bert shelf with the rest of the too good to throw away goodies...

The first part of this How To focuses on removing the window glass and installing the exterior doors. The Second Part will focus on modifying the interior trim panels to create the cabinets. The Third Part will focus on building the interior cabinet door/racks so that the things stored inside these can be access from the cargo area. Part 3 is optional. I am doing that mod because I use a Slumberjack Roadhouse Tarp and it would interfere with opening the exterior cabinet doors.

Enough of the rambling. First thing I did was measure the windows. Then I spent a few hours looking for the lowest cost materials. Turns out Amazon even beat out my industrial suppliers, hence the shopping list. At the time of writing, September 2021 my list is far cheaper than his for better stuff.
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Total cost without the heat gun and struts is 102 USD on 9SEP21...your cost may vary.

A few notes:
1. Struts included only if one desires to install them. I advise against them as they will cause them to open if the latch fails. Also, I'm a cheapskate, so I found a better deal than he did on principal.
2. I bought just one bare metal 12 inch piano hinge (AKA continuous hinge). I can cut it half myself to make two hinges for less than buying two or four packs of hinges like he did. Big savings!
3. I included a cheapo heat gun just incase you don't own one.
4. I found better weather seals. This style is one piece and will clip on to the rim AND will seat perpendicular to the door interior. His chosen seals parallel to the door interior. I have used them to replace OE style seals on my VW bug, and had to add a vent to the dashboard as they made it air tight and my windshield would pop out of the seal on hot days.
5. There is the ABS plastic. You can see it is less expensive than aluminum. It can be cut, drilled, and formed easier with out special tools. Also you can paint it whatever color you like with a rattle can paint for plastics.
6. I didn't include fasteners as I will be using black aluminum pop rivets. You can use screws if you like, but I found the low profile, flush mount stainless steel ones to be too expensive. That and I have about a million various pop rivets laying in my shop.


Here is the list of stuff you will need that I am going to assume you already have: (Starred items Optional)
Pencils, sharpie markers, and a crayon (Yes you will need a crayon!!!)
**rattle cans of paint in the appropriate colors
**disposable gloves and CLEAN work gloves.
Cordless drill or Dremel tool
extension cords
Jig saw AKA reciprocating gun saw with fine tooth blades for cutting plastic or the sheet cutting adapter for the Dremel with a bit for plastics
Duct Tape
Painter's Tape
Goo Gone or other adhesive remover
**A rattle can of light hold or even better temporary spray adhesive
Various grits of sand paper
**Propane or butane torch
Big sheets of paper, like butcher paper, need to have 2 pieces about 2' x 2'.
Fasteners of your choice of the appropriate size. (The hinge listed is drilled for #8 screws giving a 0.173 hole diameter so about 4.3mm in diameter) non-rusting pop rivets are highly suggested!
Assorted hand tools, including scrapes and or putty knives.
**A bucket of warm water with Dawn brand Dish Soap
**A light duty degreaser like Simple Green in a spray bottle.
**OPTIONAL but FUN :A window breaker and shop vac if you don't care about saving the glass.
NOT OPTIONAL: Appropriate beverages and music. :wink:

Once you have everything in order, please know that you CAN NOT use this method at temperatures below 50F (10C) if you want to keep your window glass in one piece. Thermal Shock will turn automotive safety glass to gravel instantly.

Next Post will be the first step, Laying the Ground Work prior to window removal.
 

profdlp

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And here I am three + years later still having not gotten around to drilling three holes to mount my offroad light switches...

< hangs head >
 

LabRat

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And here I am three + years later still having not gotten around to drilling three holes to mount my offroad light switches...

< hangs head >
Mine are just hanging in the gaps between the dash panels! Still waiting for the light bar- no luck on a complete OE so just waiting for a 42” LED bar to go on sale. Having a buddy 3D print me a custom six gang insert for the left hand side panel wher the IE switch should go.
 

lfhoward

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LabRat, fellow field biologist here. I bought a 42” light bar and 2 light pods about 2 years ago and they are still sitting on my shelf. Living in the middle of the city is the main reason I haven’t installed them. I hate worrying that thieves will mess up my Jeep to get them off.

Anyhow, I’d love them to go to someone who would actually use them for science! PM me if interested.

You can see pictures of my 42” lightbar and pods in this thread:

 

LabRat

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LabRat, fellow field biologist here. I bought a 42” light bar and 2 light pods about 2 years ago and they are still sitting on my shelf. Living in the middle of the city is the main reason I haven’t installed them. I hate worrying that thieves will mess up my Jeep to get them off.

Anyhow, I’d love them to go to someone who would actually use them for science! PM me if interested.

You can see pictures of my 42” lightbar and pods in this thread:

Shoot me one! For some reason the PM button doesn't show on this browser!
 

LabRat

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Done. Check “Conversations” or the little mail icon next to your avatar on the menu bar above. At least that’s how it looks on my phone.
Weird it shows up on my phone but not my PC…will fiddle with settings and PM you back!
 

LabRat

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As an update to the build: everything but the ABS panels will arrive in the next 48 hours. To get the best deal on them, could be two weeks. So, I will post the prep Step shortly.
 

LabRat

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So, a minor update:

The latches and edge seals have arrived. I all ready had a piano hinge laying around.

So, about those latches. They are better than expected quality for the price, however, upon unboxing, I found the locks appeared to be seized. They are keyed alike and comes with 4 keys. Took a shot of WD40 in each to free them up. They function perfectly after a few back and forth turns. However WD40 gets sticky and collects dust, so once freed up, I flushed them thoroughly with Simple Green and then rinsed with 95% Ethanol. Once Dry I applied graphite lock l.ube, and good to go.

The all-in-one seals arrived. It was well packaged, but there was a few minor k.inks in the hollow tube seal from being rolled up. l I uncoiled it and let it sit on the back seat in the sun with the windows rolled up and it smoothed out nicely.
The ABS is apparently coming from China? Dunno when they will arrive, so the build is on hold until then.
 
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LabRat

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So finally, all the parts have showed up...and of course it is raining sideways here...

Anyway, now that we have got all out tools and materials together, the first step is to make some templates. The urge of most- to remove the window glass and trace it onto the ABS sheets is a recipe for failure due to the slight curve of said glass.

So, first thing to do is to grab that bucket of Dawn Dish Soap and Water and wash the widow and surrounding surfaces really, really well. You will need to get all the grime and oils off all surfaces. Next you will need to rinse the same surfaces really, really well, preferably with distilled water. If you use tap water out of the garden hose, please consider either a rinse with 70% ethanol or isopropanol (rubbing alcohol). Then get it all dried off with a lint free cloth and or newspaper. Repeat this step on your ABS panels to get the oily residues off both sides. If you chose to use aluminum, repeat this step on it and also use a green Scotchbrite pad to get all the foundry grime and smutch off the surface.

Now that the surface is prepped, grab the butcher paper, the crayon, and the painter's tape. Tape the paper up so that it covers the glass completely. Make sure it is smooth and tight and don't be afraid to go hog wild with the tape. This step is critical. Once the paper is in place, use a crayon and do a rubbing of the edges of the glass pane. Do Not try to trace it or you will get sloppy edges. Make sure you write "diver" and "passenger" dead in the middle of your tracing. Also draw an arrow showing which edge is the top!

If you have never done a rubbing: Remove the wrapper from the crayon (I use those red or yellow construction crayons, but it is just fine to steal one from your kids!. With the crayon sideways, gently rub it back and forth along the edges of the glass under the paper and you will get a scribbly looking template. You will know if you are doing it right if it is scribbly and smeary along both sides of the edge of the glass, but the edge itself is "dark" and well defined. This technique ensures you have a perfect paper copy of each pane.

Ok, now for the tricky parts. I suggest getting the template transferred to your sheets. Using the removable spray adhesive, coat the blank side of your crayon rubbed template completely. It has to sit for a minute or two to get tacky, so I suggest hanging it up with a few clothes pins. Now all you need to do is get the giant sticker you just made attached smoothly to the side of the sheet you intend to use as the exterior surface. If using ABS sheets, you will want to have the textured side as your exterior as there may be imperfections on the smooth side from the manufacturing process. I use 3M Repositionable 75 Spray Adhesive. Sure, it is a little pricey, but you have already saved a bundle on this project and this adhesive will save you hours of frustration. Be cause it is repositionable, you can ensure you have any wrinkles and bubbles out! Trust me on this, you could try other brands and even other types of 3M, but you will regret it.

Next step is pretty straight forward: Use the saw of your choice to cut the panel along your traced template. A jig saw or band saw with a proper blade is the best. Take your time and go slow as to avoid chipping and melting the edge. Once you have both panels cut, use a Sharpie marker to label the non template (interior) side with "driver", "passenger", and "up". Don't worry about using a Sharpie, this is one of the things goo gone is for later!

Now it is time to clean those panels up. Peel your templates off and throw them in the recycle bin- your are done with them. Use that bucket of soap and water and goo gone to get all the adhesive off. Clean the exterior surface just as you did the window glass. Once dry, go ahead and clean up the cut edges.

You will likely have burrs and minor imperfections. Being lazy, I hit the worst stuck with a sharp pocket knife or razor blade. The I CAREFULLY use medium grit sandpaper to smooth it all out. I say CAREFULLY as you do not want to mar the textured surface. Don't worry if the edges look scratched...this is what the propane torch is for.

Fire up your torch with a medium to low flame. CAREFULLY use it to SLOWLY heat the edges only until the smooth over and become glossy. DO NOT touch the edges until they are completely cooled off. I suggest only doing about 6 inches at a time. Do not overheat the edges or they will sag and warp and you will never get a weather tight seal!

So, remember that Heat Gun and the Duct Tape? Now is the time to get them out. Grab one of the scrap pieces of ABS to practice with. Practice on the scraps to figure out what distance away from the sheet you can get without melting the texture. At about 70F, it should be between 4 and 8 inches. Keep the gun moving like you are spraying the sheet with a rattle can of paint. The goal here is to make the ABS soft enough to bend without getting it all saggy and warped. Start with the passenger panel first (because you are more likely to mess this one up, but a least you wont have to look at it every day!). Now, take your passenger panel and position it EXACTLY over the glass. Use a few strips of duct tape on the TOP edge only to hang it in place. Notice how the window curves? Fix the issue by GENTLY heating the ABS sheet to get it just soft enough it will conform to the curve of the glass. If you start to overheat it, STOP and let it cool. Take your time. If you are in a hurry, you are doing it wrong.

Once you have your sheet molded let 'em hang and let it cool completely. Now repeat for the driver's side.

Congratulations! You just made your new cabinet doors!

Now it is time to remove the glass. You can either remove it yourself with a sharp putty knife and a bit of heat to soften the adhesive, or with an auto glass breaker and a shopvac. On KJs they are held in with adhesive rather than weather stripping, so first remove your interior trim panels. (Have fun with this...it is easier with the seats folded down...) Then GENTLY warm the glass up with your heat gun from the exterior. Err on the side of caution because if you heat up one point too quickly, the entire pane will instantly turn into gravel just as if you were prying on an edge.

Once the glass is out, clean as much of the adhesive off the lip as possible. Then install your weather strip. Remember that if using the one I suggest, the hollow spongey tube should be towards the exterior.

All that is left now is to install the hinges, latches, and if you desire, the struts. Some folks may want to install and edge strip on the panels too, particularly if using aluminum or polycarbonate. I'll cover my method for all that in another post, as it takes a little measuring, planning and drilling.

If you are after photos, I will put them in numbered order as the final post in this thread.
 

LabRat

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Up next, photos of the first phase steps followed by the somewhat more difficult interior fabrication.

the design I’ve come up with makes these cabinets accessible from inside the cargo area too…that way the fire extinguisher, recovery straps, and tools are always available, no matter the situation!
 

LabRat

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UPDATE: Apologies this thread is not completed yet, have had a very busy schedule, some heath issues, bad weather, and other Jeep-related projects that took precedence. I will up date this thread with photos and more instructions eventually.
 
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