Category Archives: Parts & Mods

Armor Up! (First Round)

When you wheel a non lifted Jeep, every thing that hangs down from the frame is going to take a beating and the lower control arm mounts are no exception.  The stock mounts (left) are not the strongest metal to begin with and it only takes a few rocks to cause enough damage to make changing out a control arm a challenging task.  So, before you go, armor those LCA mounts up!  I’ve selected a set from Synergy Manufacturing.  This weld on skid comes as a pair of angled steel plates that protect and strengthen the LCA mounts.  I touched them up with a little rattle can black after the welds cooled off and was ready to hit the trails!

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Replacing the Sub (…again!)

On the off chance that you’ve blown the paper cone OEM sub-woofer in your TJ, OR if some clown installed a small door speaker where your subwoofer is supposed to be, replacing it with a functioning product is not particularly difficult or expensive.  Jump on Amazon, pick up a Pyramid 6.5-Inch 300W White Injected Cone Woofer, and play along at home.

You’ll want to get started by removing the center console which is held on by three bolts covered by cup holders that remove by hand.  A 10 mm under the front cup holder and two star bits beneath the rear.

BEFORE you yank out the center console, GENTLY disconnect the wiring harness underneath the console from the Jeep.  Now remove the entire console.

With the center console removed, it’s time to extract the subwoofer and OEM amp.  Start by removing two phillips head screws inside the arm rest.  Next, remove three phillips head screws on the side of the console near the subwoofer grill.

Take a moment to marvel at what’s there and then remove 4 star bits from the 4 corners of the speaker.  That’s all that’s holding the speaker to the box.  My door speaker below has extra bolts that you won’t see on your OEM speaker because this is an adapter plate to fit a 5.25″ speaker into a 6.5″ slot.  The funny thing is that the previous installer spent almost as much on the adapter plate as the Pyramid sub for this install costs!

Remove/disconnect the speaker and set it aside.  Disconnecting may require a set of wire cutters if the wires are soldered.

To fit the Pyramid sub, a little trimming to the inside bottom of the speaker box is necessary since this speaker is a bit deeper than stock.  Not a lot, but enough that you need to cut down the plastic to make it fit.  I used a Dremel with a EZ544 cutting wheel to make short work of that plastic.  Yeah, I know that cut off wheel is designed for wood, but it’s what I had on hand and it did the trick with out any problems.  Keep the Dremel speed low, and go at it with a steady hand.

To help prevent any vibration or rattling, I put foam strips (available at any hardware store) around the lip of the speaker mounting location.  Nicer speakers typically come with foam strips for mounting, but when you use the $20 Amazon special, that sort of thing often gets left out.  No, you don’t need it, but I suggest it.

Next, connect the sub and please try to do a cleaner soldering job than I did.  Clearly, not my finest work.

To further increase the quality of my enclosure, I used a little filling to pad the inside of the sub box.  I’ll let you read up on why here.  To continue to keep the cost down, instead of proper polyfill, I snagged the cheapest firm pillow I could find at my local Target and borrowed a little of the stuffing.  (…man I hope I didn’t over fill it!)

With the wiring connected, the edge covered in foam, and the box stuffed, you can go ahead and install the speaker.  I tried to get as close as possible to the OEM holes, but in the end I had to drill small pilot holes about 1/8″ closer to the edge to mount the speaker.  Just a small pilot hole mind you, the speaker screws will dig in the rest.

Next, slide the speaker box back into the center console.  Loosely tighten the 3 phillips head screws on the side near the grill, next fully tighten the two screws inside the arm rest, finally go back around and fully tighten the screws on the side.

Reinstall the console in the reverse order that you removed it.  Connect the wiring harness and secure it to the console using OEM clips.  Install the console into place and finger tighten the front and rear bolts.  1o mm in the front, two star bit bolts in the rear.  Position the console in the final resting place and make sure to tuck the carpets how you want them to sit then tighten everything down.  Drop in the cup holder covers and enjoy your new sub!  Go ahead, crank it up!

Skid Row’s Steering Box Skid

I know the steering box had to go somewhere on the Wrangler, but why did they put it hanging down like bait for a rock to snag, I’m not sure I’ll ever know.  Look at it below, just begging to take a beating from the first rock you see!

Not on my watch!  Below is the Skid Row steering box skid.  It’s a quick and easy mod that will run you around $50 to protect the steering system in your Jeep.

To install, remove the two bolts I’m pointing to below using a 16mm and a T-55 torx bit.

Hold up the skid and finger tighten the bolts so that it’s in position.  There is also a 3rd hole (not pictured) in the skid facing the passenger side that lines up with the stock cross member.  The kit comes with a self tapping screw, but first you’ll need to mark the spot and drill out a 5/16’s (I think that’s the right thickness) hole.

Once you’ve drilled out your pilot hole, install the skid using the front star bolt, the horizontal 16mm bolt, and the self tapping bolt.  Tighten those three bolts and that’s all there is to it.  There you have it.  A nice chunk of metal protecting your steering box from any rocks you might come down on.

All this mod took was a few hand tools and about 5 minutes of labor making this a very worth while and easy improvement.

Here comes the Vroom!

img_0929I knew that some day, I would upgrade the exhaust in the TJ, but I didn’t expect to do so almost immediately!  Courtesy of the sheer amount of rust on the stock exhaust and consequently the failing of my state inspection, I took to the internet to find the cheapest exhaust kit money could buy so I could pass and get tags on my Jeep asap.  I didn’t find much in the way of reviews or videos of the PaceSetter kit, but for around $130 shipped, it checked the boxes I needed. So I figured what the hell and clicked to buy.  Thanks Amazon!

The parts unboxed look decent, all the bends are in the right places and the welds look good.  The only thing that’s a little odd to me is the exhaust hangers are straight pieces of metal and don’t have any type of catch to help the kit stay in the hangers.

img_0938Install is fairly straight forward, drop the skid plate (make sure to support the transmission with a jack or jack stand), remove the OEM kit and bolt the new one in place.  Removing my OEM kit wasn’t too hard since the hangers had rusted off completely!  Reinstallation proved to be a little annoying since the kit included a pair of screws that were just a bit too short to bolt up the muffler up to the converter pipe.  But a trip to Home Depot remedied that issue.  The only other thing I needed to “customize” was the pipe length coming out the back of the Jeep.  Due to conflicts with the trailer hitch on my TJ, I had to chop off about a foot of pipe.  As a result, the exhaust dumps out just behind the rear passenger side tire.  Not a biggie, but if you planned to use the shiny chrome tip, I think you might be SOL.  Even if it did fit, the tip would have been positioned in such a way that it would get crushed the very first time you came down on a rock on the trail.  It’s kind of a blessing in disguise.  To make it fit, I cut it back to such a spot where it won’t hit on a rock.  img_0942It might not be a high tuck design, but it sure is out of the way.

The sound isn’t much louder than stock to me, about 2.4 dB louder in the cabin at idle, but the pitch is much throatier and has more of a growl to it.  The butt dyno says the Jeep is a little peppier with this kit installed, but I don’t have any measurable metrics to support that claim.  All in all, I’m satisfied with this kit.  I needed a bare bones exhaust system at a rock bottom price, and this kit delivered with a nice throaty little growl to boot.

PaceSetter TFX 86-2875 Exhaust vs. No Exhaust vs. Stock

Tune it Up!

And now, the exciting installation of a Kenwood head unit into my TJ.  To be honest, this install ended up being rather anticlimactic.  I humbly suggest that TJ/LJ owners stop paying to have a new stereo installed since you can DIY pretty easily with a few common hand tools and the step by step instructions below. Start by removing the dash cover closest to the windshield.  It’s just attached with clips and pops right off. 

Next, remove two screws next to the windshield defroster vent that were covered by dash panel you just removed.

Once those screws are remove, gently pull forward on the center dash panel.  It’s held in with clips at this point and will tilt towards you and pull out.  Be firm, but gentle and the end result should like this. 

With the stereo exposed, remove 4 black Phillips head screws at all four corners.  Do not mess with the gold screws, those won’t get you anywhere.  I’m pointing to one of the screws to be removed below.

With the four screws removed, the stock radio will slide out freely.  Disconnect the harness and antenna from the back of the radio and remove the head unit.  Congrats!  You just completed the un-installation portion of this job.

Now, it’s time to get the new stereo ready to install.  Start off by preparing the wiring harness.  To be honest, this is the biggest time suck of the entire project.  In the picture below, you’ll see two sets of connectors with wires.  On the right is a standard Chrysler Jeep wiring harness made by Metra (included for free from Crutchfield).  On the left, the wiring harness that came with the head unit from Kenwood.  All you need to do is connect the wires in the correct order.  In the instruction manual from Kenwood, they tell you what each wire does and on the packaging of the Metra kit, they do the same.  I’ll leave it up to you how you choose to connect them as long as you do so in the correct order.  Here are three good options.

***IMPORTANT***
If you have the four speaker stereo, you can skip this step.  For those with the factory subwoofer, You will need to connect the Blue/White power control wire from the Kenwood harness to the blue antenna wire on the Metra harness in order to active the amp that powers the factory sub.  With out this step, your dash and sound bar speakers will work great, but your “subwoofer” will not produce any sound.

Check out the finished product below, isn’t it pretty?  I prefer to solder, then heat shrink, then zip tie my connections.  Yeah, it takes a little more time but the finished product is OEM quality and should remain problem free as long as you own your jeep.

Set the harness aside for a moment, grab the dash kit and the mounting sleeve that came with the head unit.  If you don’t see it, check if the mounting sleeve is still attached to the head unit.  If it is, simply slide the head unit out.  Insert the mounting sleeve into the dash kit as shown below.

Turn the dash kit/din sleeve combo around and fold up the little tabs to create a nice tight fit between the two pieces.  Don’t forget to do this on the top and on the bottom.  With out this step, prepare to have the head unit rattle around in the dash till the end of time!

Install the dash kit using the same four screws that you used to remove the OEM head unit.  Use a hand screwdriver so you don’t over tighten.  Plug in the wiring harness you just created into the harness and the antenna adapter into the Jeep.  At this point, you can also install any optional accessories for your radio like an XM module or external microphone, or if you want to run external amps, this is the time to do so.  The only piece I added was the included microphone for hands-free calling.  You can see the little 3.5mm jack hanging down near the temperature control below.

If you are following along, your dash should look just like the picture below.

Plug the harness, antenna, and microphone (optional) into back of the new head unit and slide the head unit gently forward into the din sleeve until you hear a click.  Reinstall the center dash panel (pressing firmly but gently), screw the two screws back in at the top of the dash, and replace the top dash trim panel.

That’s all there is to it!  Fire it up and test it out.  I’ve noticed that even my old crappy paper cone speakers sound better with a cleaner signal running to them than they did with the stock head unit.  Stream your favorite playlist through your phone and turn it up! Hope you enjoy your new tunes.

Parts List:
1. Kenwood KMR-D365BT
2. Metra 99-6503 Dash Kit For Chrysler/Jeep
3. Metra Metra 70-6502 Wiring Harness
4. Metra 40-CR10 Chrysler Antenna Adapter

Let the Good Tunes Roll!

One of the best parts about a new rig is that it’s a clean slate, primed and ready for you to make it your own.  That also means there are a lot of low budget mods that can offer you a huge bang for your buck.  Pictured above is my new Kenwood marine grade head unit replacing the 11ish year old Chrysler cd changer (blasted volume knob stopped working!) with all the modern day connectivity you could ask for for at around a $100 depending on your retailer.  Personally, I ❤ the good folks at Crutchfield.  They always take good care of me with quality customer service, techs that know mobile audio, competitive prices, and if that wasn’t enough… All the install gear (harnesses, connectors, dash kits) is generally included at no charge when you buy a head unit. #WINNING

The item on the right is SmittyBilt’s vaulted glove box.  It bolts into your dash and is made out of 16 gauge steel to discourage the few things in your Jeep from mysteriously walking away. A great purchase for peace of mind for fellow soft top owners at around $65 bucks.  This one is crazy easy to install and is another one of those items that I’m buying again b/c it was so good the first time I owned it.

In case you can’t tell, I’m incredibly excited to get these two mods in the Jeep so I can rake off the half upper doors and go for a nice drive while streaming some great tunes!  Hoping for a big install day this weekend to get everything done.

Denied!

Damn.  I’m convinced I have more trouble with state inspections than ANYONE I’ve ever met.  I thought certainly a bone stock Jeep could pass with flying colors, but the state ain’t having it!  The TJ failed due to a worn drive belt, rusty exhaust hangers, & readiness sensors not being set.

The drive belt is an easy fix despite the shop wanting $200 (that’s two HUNDRED bloody dollars!) for a $20 part & 5 minutes worth of work.  I sprung for the $30 belt from Autozone (3 year warranty on the belt thank you very much!) and popped it on.

The exhaust I knew was rusted out and was on my ‘to replace list’ anyways, I just didn’t expect to replace it immediately.  I’ve got an exhaust kit shipping to me now that I plan to write about when I swap out later this week.  The only downside is that since this is kind of an emergency (can’t title the Jeep if I can’t pass inspection), I picked up the cheapest kit I could find instead of taking my time to do a bit of research.  I watched a YouTube clip or two of the exhaust note and it didn’t sound bad at all.  Especially for this price point.

As far as the readiness sensors are concerned, I just need to drive it a bit to get those things to set themselves.  Luckily, I already have a Veepeak bluetooth OBD II scan tool & combined with the OBD Fusion app to check the readiness status.  Hopefully this three pronged approach will have me up and running legally by the weekend.  Fingers crossed!