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!

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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.

What’s that third pedal for?

Things I’ve learned today… Before tossing the keys to your Jeep to anyone, make sure they understand that it’s a manual transmission and how to properly start it.  I tossed my buddy the keys, he put is foot on the brake (the e-brake was on & it was in gear), and proceeded to crank it for all it was worth.  The screeching sound of grinding metal echoed through out my garage.  When everything went silent, she would turn over no more.

My local garage wanted to charge me $400 for parts & labor for a new starter motor.  I sent them to hell and you should too since all it takes to replace the starter on a manual transmission Wrangler TJ is a whopping three bolts and a single clip.  I spent more time repairing the clip (it broke due to corrosion when I attempted to gently remove it) then all the other steps combined.  My local Autozone had a starter in stock for around $100-$120 depending on what coupon you use.  Don’t forget to set the parking brake and leave it in gear before you start working whether you are up on jack stands or sitting on the ground.

First, start by disconnecting the negative terminal on the battery and tuck it aside.  Next, disconnect the power wire from the starter shown in the picture below (it’s a 12 or 13 mm nut I believe) and GENTLY remove the black clip on the right hand side of the starter.  Ignore the other terminal on the starter motor.  The ground is grounded to… well, itself.

Remove the 15mm bolt at the bottom of the starter motor and set it aside (you will reuse this bolt).  I’m pointing to the bolt in the image below.

Next remove the second and final 15mm bolt (set it aside for reuse) holding on the starter. The starter should remove freely.  I’m pointing to the last bolt in the image below.

Here are some glamour shots of an Autozone Durlast starter.  I know, not a very glamorous item, but very necessary.



Ugh, looks like I fished the broken starter from the bottom of a lake!  Makes me wonder what on earth the previous owner did to my poor Jeep.

Re-installation is the exact reverse of removal.  Start by bolting the starter back in place with the two 15 mm bolts you set aside.  Connect the red power wire to the starter motor, and reattach the clip.  This is the part that I dorked up.

The clip (pictured above) is comprised of a plastic housing (top) which contains the metal contacts (center).  I picked up a close enough version (bottom) from Napa & soldered it up.

Unfortunately, that brilliant plan didn’t fit in the plastic clip.  So I stripped it all back apart to start again.  In the end, I took a wire brush to the broken metal clip, soldered the wire to it, popped it back into the original plastic housing and plugged her up.  Finally, finish up by connecting the negative terminal and test your work by turning over the engine.

Autozone Duralast Starter Sound Bite 2006 Wrangler Rubicon

You, rockstar, just saved around $300 vs. going to the shop!  Put that money into some mods instead.  Some armor perhaps?

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