My journey with the KJ

JRB

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Figured I'd post this for both myself to look back on, and anyone who is interested in following along.

My shortened down story of ending up here, I loved sports cars but now working for myself I tow a 5x8 trailer, and the funds just weren't there to have both a toy car and a work car. In the past I had a couple tj wrangler 5 speeds, and it was a really nice blend of having a vehicle I can use for work, but still have some fund shifting around some gears after.

Prior to my kj, I had a nissan frontier 2wd, and I missed having the 4wd for some commercial jobs I get pressure washing having to drive around in muddy grass so back to the search it was. This was 2021 I was looking for vehicles, and used car market (especially down here) was and is out of control. My search was any vehicle 6/8 cyl, manual transmission, 4wd, within 400 miles of me. Top results for me to look at the time were a couple tjs with 150-200k miles at 12k-15k, or a jeep liberty with 99k miles for half of those, and well that's what got me here.

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tommudd

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Looks to be rust free which is good
Very stock and sagged out looking though
Did it come with a tow package ? Hitch/ wiring ?
They tow pretty well , I have a 6X10 enclosed, a 5X8 open I built in 1994 , and a 5X8 Lowes special I just picked up for cheap
The enclosed I have towed loaded to the gills from Ohio to Boston, Ohio to Floriduh several times with no issues
Of course also 4.10 gearing etc helps
TJs do not pull half as well as a KJ does so you made a way better choice

I should of done a write up like you just did back in 2004 when I bought my first one new LOL
would be fun now to go back through the many changes it has went through over the last 233,000 miles
 

JRB

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Looks to be rust free which is good
Very stock and sagged out looking though
Did it come with a tow package ? Hitch/ wiring ?
They tow pretty well , I have a 6X10 enclosed, a 5X8 open I built in 1994 , and a 5X8 Lowes special I just picked up for cheap
The enclosed I have towed loaded to the gills from Ohio to Boston, Ohio to Floriduh several times with no issues
Of course also 4.10 gearing etc helps
TJs do not pull half as well as a KJ does so you made a way better choice

I should of done a write up like you just did back in 2004 when I bought my first one new LOL
would be fun now to go back through the many changes it has went through over the last 233,000 miles

Unibody looks very good, minor surface rust spots. Brakes and some fasteners were quite caked with rust, really took some penetrating oil, heat, and some time getting things apart.

It does have some sag, on level ground I just measured 18.75" from center of hub to fender flare above. Me not knowing any better thought the tires on it were factory, but someone swapped them for 225/75/16's, so maybe the different tires and squishy suspension and camera angles make it look really dropped. Those tires were dry rotting, up close the aluminum wheels starting to corrode. I thought they were the factory size and with money tight I put some 16" steels from the 2007+ wranglers running some quality spacer adapters. Recently I found some american racing rebels 16x8 with 5x4.5 bolt pattern, so I'll be able to ditch the spacers soon with some proper wheels on there soon.

I don't believe mine came with a tow package it did have a quality looking receiver, and 4-pin wiring hook up, but learning more about these I would say just aftermarket. It does tow better than either of my tj's did, and more room!

Oh boy, gears...! I had not intended on doing gears on this really. When I get a new to me vehicle, it gets all the fluids changed and a little inspection. Though it was a pain, got the front diff cover off and...

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Both side diff bearing caps just cracked open! Anyone make a 250 mile trip back from the dealer with a diff like this, with no noise?! Me either, haha! Well I hate spending money without getting an upgrade, so I took the whole front diff assembly out, picked up a unit with 4.10's in it waiting to install for when I get around to doing the back which should be soon! Been almost a year rolling 2wd, was funny to get rid of a 2wd truck to get a vehicle just to convert it back to 2wd hahaha.
 

tommudd

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If 16 x 8 wheels then hope they are 5 inch backspaced or you have a ton of rubbing
Plus unlifted not any sizes really you can run ,
And 1/2 inch lower is not much overall , but I can tell just from looking it had sagged
Plus ride has to be deterioting

Someone was rough on that front diff, never seen one like that in all the ones Ive worked on
 

JRB

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If 16 x 8 wheels then hope they are 5 inch backspaced or you have a ton of rubbing
Plus unlifted not any sizes really you can run ,
And 1/2 inch lower is not much overall , but I can tell just from looking it had sagged
Plus ride has to be deterioting

Someone was rough on that front diff, never seen one like that in all the ones Ive worked on
When I looked up online, I saw they were listed at 4.5" backspacing, for the price I got them I am going to see how well they fit. I've seen posted here ideally 7" with 4" bs or 8" with 5" bs, hopefully that 1/2" doesn't give me too much trouble.

And I had wrote the wrong wheels, I believe I said rebels, and they are the baja's (classic 8 hole design).
 

tommudd

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When I looked up online, I saw they were listed at 4.5" backspacing, for the price I got them I am going to see how well they fit. I've seen posted here ideally 7" with 4" bs or 8" with 5" bs, hopefully that 1/2" doesn't give me too much trouble.

And I had wrote the wrong wheels, I believe I said rebels, and they are the baja's (classic 8 hole design).
1/2 inch may not seem like much but unlifted even 8 with 5 is too much
Lifted with that backspacing will mean you will have to limit travel and install more bumpstops so you do not tear flares off
With 8 inch wide , and 5 inch backspacing you can get full flex, that half inch will get ya though


"for the price I got them I am going to see how well they fit"
Always love that line , no matter what is said , some do not believe
 

JRB

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Going to lift it before those wheels go on. I'm not too worried if they don't work well, I'll modify some things or sell them for a profit.

While I had things apart I wanted to clean up a lot more than I was able to, but busting the rusty stuff apart took all my time. I did manage to get the both clevis forks heavy build up knocked off, 3 coats of rust converter, then some left over brake caliper paint baked on them. They still look great 11 months later, I am going to eventually do this to the lcas and spindles.

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tommudd

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When a wheel hits do to being too wide/ bad backspacing on these KJs not much you can modify
Since they are a unibody you can't cut like a wrangler etc on a frame
if you do a proper lift , and go 2.5 inches , then you will have to bend over the front pinch welds
but then at least a 255- or 265-7016 will work great
But for instance on one of mine with Moabs ( 16X8/5 inch backspacing ) and 265-70-16s, I can not get my little finger in between the tire and bent over pinch weld . Now with 4.5 it will sit the tire/wheel combo more so will hit
Just trying to help you in the long run
between folks on here and I we have lifted 100s of these ( I have done over 60 lifts myself ) with several different wheels/ backspacing and sizes of tires
So we know where problems are and what you can do and not do
 

tommudd

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8 inch wide, 5 inch backspacing
now you can see what I mean
with 4.5 inch backspacing never be able to flex like this
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265-70-16s here but also have 265-75-16s on the 04 and does the same way
 

JRB

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When a wheel hits do to being too wide/ bad backspacing on these KJs not much you can modify
Since they are a unibody you can't cut like a wrangler etc on a frame
if you do a proper lift , and go 2.5 inches , then you will have to bend over the front pinch welds
but then at least a 255- or 265-7016 will work great
But for instance on one of mine with Moabs ( 16X8/5 inch backspacing ) and 265-70-16s, I can not get my little finger in between the tire and bent over pinch weld . Now with 4.5 it will sit the tire/wheel combo more so will hit
Just trying to help you in the long run
between folks on here and I we have lifted 100s of these ( I have done over 60 lifts myself ) with several different wheels/ backspacing and sizes of tires
So we know where problems are and what you can do and not do

Oh yeah, I worked in a collision repair shop, got familiar with body on frame and unibody's there. I got the 5 wheels and tires for the price of the brand new spare on it, plan was to run them, limiting the travel or steering which ever rubbed. Just today bought a set of 5 moabs, that happened much quicker than I thought, now I can xfer the tires over after I paint them and not worry about fitment.

Going with a proper lift, I recently bought a set of jba uca's just in case there was a lead time later on, I'll be building some bumpers for it and I'll get the weight of them to be able to ask better what to buy for the springs/shocks.

Goal is going to be 3.25"-3.5" in the front with ome/bilsteins, a top plate and/or conduit nuts on the clevis. About the limits on the front cv's without getting too much extra wear from what I read here. If I can find a set of KK clevis's for little money at a salvage yard here, are those an option to be able to skip the top plate/conduit nuts?
 

JRB

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Another update to the journal, after all the fluid changes it was time for a good detail. While it looked clean from that first image, the detailer the small dealer used was sloppy, it looked good from far but far from good.

They never did any decontamination treatment to anything, which you always do before any compound and polishing. If you've never tried a spray decon before doing your claybar process you really should give it a try. I had to do the roof over 10x before I got all the iron out of the paint up there, and that's how I found out I had water leaks. Both the sunroof area that dripped down to my shifter, and pulled the front carpets up to find water under my drivers side.

Started pulling some pieces to do some more cleaning, and well I know why the sunroof wasn't draining, look at all this gunk.

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I didn't get pictures of the sunroof area, but if there was dirt here, you know it was up there too. Sunroof drains got cleaned out using some string trimmer line fished down through the front drain holes, back ones were harder to get to for me and with time pressed I just did the fronts, and have been leak free with those drains cleaned out. Water for the drivers floor I went in the wiper cowl and fender areas and fixed up any cracked seem sealer I could find, I just filled it with rtv as I had some leftover.
 

tommudd

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Use 927/948 OME springs
and 3.5 inches of lift ?
With 927s and a FREE /FREE 3/8 inch clevis you'll be at 3.25 with out buying KK clevis' etc
Going higher into the 3.5 on will have UCA/ spring contact over bumps
 
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JRB

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Managed to get some trim dying done.
I have renegade flares waiting to go on, pending finding a pass front flare, so I figured I'd see how I liked the stock trim black.

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JRB

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It was time to put the 05 renegade roof rack on.

I half arsed the tubes on the roof rack, they got a good scraping down chasing loose paint, but I didn't feather where the paints met/prime/sand. Sanding later and reshooting it out of the wind will be future project.
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I whole arsed the gaskets for it, where most of my time went on it, rather have good gaskets sealing now, and can always repaint the above mentioned later and not worry about water.
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Some water based coconut oil for them after cleaning
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Dye plastic, dye!
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The good nuff for now results
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runfor5

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Looking good, nice purchase! Like you our other car is a Yukon :)

What is the product you used for "trim dye" on the bumpers? Is that just for detailing and lasts like 3-6 months, or is it more akin to a paint? Does it come in other colors?

I ask because I have interest in eventually painting my plastic fenders (getting quite faded and only last about 1 month after detailing) but am looking for the dark grey OEM look, not black.
 
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JRB

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This was just a cheap dye, foreverblack. I've used in the past and got about year if i kept it conditioned before it would start fading.

I was considering painting the rubicon flares and other plastics when I get the remaining front piece, I'll write an update what product I end up going with those, I was considering grey/dark grey as well.

Yukon is the gf's ride, and the parts getter for when I'm working on mine :)
 

JRB

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I'll have to start this post off by saying sorry to Tom and any others that hate wrangler bumpers on libertys, but I just had to get rid of the plastic lol. If anyone feels bad enough, and wants to give me an arb bumper, I'm all for it ;)

This is a frankenstein bumper, that started as $40 offerup wrangler bumper that was too narrow to cover the kj's unibody. Thanks to a pressure washing cart someone was throwing out I was able to make it a little wider. Later on I found a crate and barrel metal wall shelf someone was throwing out and I was able to incorporate turn signals on it, and fill in areas next to the grill best I could.

Found a winch plate for $25 on offerup. I started by welding the plate to some 1/4" angle iron, and getting that into the front unibody. There are flange nuts welded on the inside of the square.
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Very narrow looking on the kj as it is
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Cut up as big of pieces as I could off the cart, and started adding them on, that's all the steel I had on the cart.
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Later found that crate and barrel shelf, and added in for the turn signals and to fill in more of the grill
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Really blew the budget here lol, spent $34 on some rattle can bed liner spray, and $16 on a harbor freight 18" receiver that I cut into 3 pieces and added to the bottom.
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Where I'm at for now, the screws in the grill were from some temp turn signals before I found the crate and barrel shelf.
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My tj's always had narrow bumpers in the front, so it doesn't bother me as much as others that it's a little narrow.

This was my first attempt at doing something like this, I got to learn a lot through the process, got more familiar with my new welder and stick welding.

Also added fogs in the grill and the bumper, for the time being I have them coming on with my running lights. If I don't like that setup I'll either add a switch, or find a junkyard turn signal switch with the fog option.

Had resistors left over from my tj, figured out how to wire them into the kj as my tj had separate turn and running lights.
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Cleaned up a little
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runfor5

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This was just a cheap dye, foreverblack. I've used in the past and got about year if i kept it conditioned before it would start fading.

I was considering painting the rubicon flares and other plastics when I get the remaining front piece, I'll write an update what product I end up going with those, I was considering grey/dark grey as well.

Yukon is the gf's ride, and the parts getter for when I'm working on mine :)
If you get around to painting I'd be very curious to see what you use and how it turns out! Here is what I was considering buying: SEM "Dark Grey" bumper coater plastic spray paint. I should really just buy a can and test it to see how well it color matches or not vs. a detailed panel on their now...

 
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JRB

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If you get around to painting I'd be very curious to see what you use and how it turns out! Here is what I was considering buying: SEM "Dark Grey" bumper coater plastic spray paint. I should really just buy a can and test it to see how well it color matches or not vs. a detailed panel on their now...

That looks like it could be a nice product there, good idea on the test before going all in.

For the price though, I think I'd shop for some 2k paint products. I've seen it ~$25-$30 a can on amazon, and haven't checked with my local paint shop on what price they can get some at.
 
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