My $120 CJ7 build

Holy crap, this heat is insane...

Tough week. Had to go back to the VA, and get a shot of steroids in the shoulder to calm it down. Good news is I didn't hurt anything they did during the surgery by doing too much too early like I thought. It's just all inflamed...

I've also been dealing with a pretty painful infection in my big toe. Had to get that drained... Not the tough guy I used to be... lol.

Today is good. Independence Day. Happy Birthday America! Well, the heat sucked real bad, but I got to be in a parade. Not with my Jeep though :(. In my daily driver... 2003 Marauder. I was representing the VFW that I'm commander of.





Went out to lunch at an Iron Skillet. They were advertising free meals for active duty, and veterans. They even had a missing man table to honor our fallen.


Then after a nap, and some freshly grilled hot dogs, I went out to put on the new motor mounts that Advance Adapters sent me. You can see the first set was not gonna work...


Now to watch Independence Day.

After all, Independence day is all about a Marine who marries a stripper, then saves the world.
Guess who has motor mounts, and shock towers welded in?



Well, that happy feeling didn't last long... Guess who's brain damage, coupled with the inability to think in hot weather caused him to have the guy weld the motor mounts in the wrong place?



Having a TBI is not fun. I'm always forgetting things, losing things. I took off the rubber isolators and bolts, but to prevent me from losing them, I put them on the bolts... Now the guy shows up to weld, and I position the mounts without the rubber... He leaves... I remember the rubber... the engine sits too high with them, or just right without, but then it's mounted solid. I try to put them in, and the holes don't even line up. I remember from when I had the tub on, I should have room, but I really didn't want it that high anyhow. There is another issue...

The Jeep didn't come with this powertrain combo, and I had used the original trans mount (a new one) just to locate the engine in the frame. This places it in the correct place (front to rear) but a bit too high for good drive line angles.

So now I have a new plan... I have to modify the motor mounts on the engine block. Cut off the flat part on the bottom, and have it welded to the top, lowering them over the rubber isolators. Also, I don't need 4 inches of room between the transfer case and the skidplate, so I plan to have a machine shop remake me one bracket (red arrow) 1.5" shorter.


It's in for now, but it won't be in for good, for a while... I just don't want a complete fabricated solid mounted home made welded in set up like it had in the CJ5 it came out of.

Shock towers came out better. the tops are all perfect.



Only problem here is the lower mounts on the left front are not in line properly, but they can be tweeked easily enough...


Last thing I had him do was a couple of little brackets I found in my scrap pile for my tire carrier. I needed a way to lock it open so it wouldn't swing back, and forth when I was using it. Now I can just open it, and drop a bolt or pin in there to lock it in place. I loved the LOD bumper when I looked at it online, but they didn't have a way to lock it open, and I didn't notice this at the time I ordered it. Problem fixed.



One other thing I've noticed that will require attention... the longer YJ springs makes for very tight clearance on the big 20 gal fuel tank I took off the CJ5. I have about 1.5" of rearward movement before the pumpkin gets into the skid plate...


I can't have nothing nice...

This is with the tub on, but nothing in the tub. Those shackles are gonna flex more than that, so I'm gonna have to think of something... I couldn't use the CJ7s fuel tank. Way too rusty. I'm thinking maybe just put a cut out in the front of the skid plate, then a trans tunnel like depression in the front face of the tank about 3 inches deep...
I have not been spending much quality time with the Jeep as of late. The heat tends to kick my ass as I have had heat exhaustion several times in the past, and heat stroke twice. Also I thought my shoulder wasn't healing well from the surgery, but as it turns out it's my nerve damage from the IED that has been giving me fits. Same result in that my left arm hasn't been much use to me. I was able to correct one problem that I didn't like. The transmission sitting up too high. I designed a very short (half inch) box mount to replace the tall (two inch) zig-zag stock mount and had it welded up at a local machine shop.


A cut out in the side allows me to reach in and hold the center bolt with a wrench to tighten it.


The bolts drop through holes in the opposite sides big enough for the bolt heads. The transfer case sits at a more natural height, though with the SOA lift I will need to trim the skidplate for front driveshaft clearance at full droop.



Well, nothing has got done on the Jeep all summer. Money is always tight during the summer because my wife is a teacher's aid, so no paycheck. Also my shoulder is NOT healing from the surgery I had back in the spring... I have just started my third round of physical rehab with it. The VA keeps telling me the surgery went well, and that it's useless to even get a new MRI for 1 year, because it will just show abnormal anyway... They say it's inflammation from the surgery. I've had 2 previous shoulder surgeries... they healed much quicker.

Anyhow, I'm getting ****ed sitting around, so I decided to start in on the axles. Well, first I took out the fuel tank. No photos, but I don't like how close the pumpkin is to it with the YJ springs, so I'm gonna get a 2" tunnel put in the front edge of it kinda like a transmission tunnel, to give it some room.

First thing was to get one of the axles out. I decided to do the front one first. I lifted up the frame with the engine hoist,then worked the axle out from under, and onto a set of rollers.



I have too much crap in the garage, so I decided to use the Jeep itself as the workbench for the axles... I rolled it around to the rear, then hoisted it over the rear frame rails. Using double layers of plywood, I set it on jack stands on the tail of the frame, and strapped it down.




I set to work soaking every nut I could find with PB Blaster, and started in on one side. Being as my shoulder isn't up to snuff, and I haven't been able to stand long periods for years, I didn't get far, but I did make progress, so I'm good with that. I got one side brake caliper off, one Dodge truck automatic hub out, and that's where I got stuck. I stared in on the cotter pins, but the first one I came to was a PITA, and I decided to let it soak,and just call it a day. Just for fun, I tried the other side... pin came right out...



Well, the trend of nothing going right is still active. I couldn't get the front axle apart, so I ended up taking them to a friend's house. I neglected to get photos, but same ole stuff. Used the cherry picker to lift them, backed the trailer into the garage, (that took a dozen tries) and took both the "good" one and the original to his place. He works as a mechanic by trade, so he can use the shop at work after hrs. Hopefully he can heat them up, and knock them out from behind with an air hammer.

Today, I decided to give the rear axle a try. It laughed at me... Broke a bolt off in the caliper bracket for the left side. Then I discovered what was inside...



Holy crap, I was driving this in the green CJ5 up till I tore it down to build this CJ7.

Now, I do remember the green Jeep having a vibration in the rear when I was driving it. I figured it was the pinion bearing not getting enough oil due to how far the housing was rotated. I think I was right about that. It won't allow the carrier to rotate so I can get to the cross pin, or "c" clips... If you grab a rotor, you can twist the axles,and see the carrier try to move, but the pinion is frozen.

Can't even budge it with my tanker bar.

Any ideas here? Or will I end up letting Ryan take this one apart too...

By the way... notice the nice repair job on the yoke... 3 bolts one size, 1 another. I'll change that out anyway as I'd rather have the u-bolt type than the strap type.


How the hell do you get an axle apart when you can't rotate the carrier?

The good news is the pinion now turns. The bad news is, it doesn't matter...

I took off the yoke, put back on the nut, and gave the pinion couple good raps. After that I could turn the diff no problem. I got the crosspin bolt out, and started to remove the pin. Bang, all progress once again came to a screeching halt. The ring gear is so fat, it's in front of the crosspin. The pin only came out a bit,and smacked into the teeth of the ring gear, leaving me to wonder hoe the hell they put it together...


I looked inside, and sure enough, without getting the pin out, I don't see how I can get the "c" clips out to remove the axles...


Really starting to hate these axles...
Can you unbolt the ring gear while it's still in the diff, then move the ring gear over the pin?
Have to ask. Is that a hole rotted through the carrier? Will the body hold up to future torque? Or your just taking it apart?...


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Doing a rebuild so I won't have to take the axle out again once it's in for good. Hoping to ditch the limited slip anyway for an air locker.
After another long break of nothing getting done, Jeep money going to other things, (OK one was a project gun) and a bunch of crap going wrong (including all this virus crap) I'm back at it. I'm halfway through another round of physical therapy on the shoulder, and it's going much better. Should be after almost a year...

Problem I had getting the front axle apart was I couldn't get the spindles off the knuckles. Took the old housing, and the replacement junkyard one to a friend from my off road club, who is a mechanic by trade. He was able to use a torch to heat it, then knock them out from behind with an air hammer in the shop after hrs. Of course, it took me forever to get back up there to pick them up once he did...


So, I get all the parts home, and now I have the remains of almost two complete units to go through.


I won't be using the 4.88 gears, of the originals, but the 3.55s of the junkyards unit are in fine shape. This will also get me a comfy 1,925 RPM @55mph and 2,450 @ 70mph when cruising down the road on my 35s... Before, it had 33s, and 4.88s, and would turn over 3K doing around 55 or 60mph. I started looking up all the seals, bearings and goodies I'll need to rebuild it, but with typical off-roader enthusiasm... first thing I ordered was an Eaton Trutrac... lol.

Here you can see the splines on the outter that blew when the axles was still in the old CJ5, next to the nicer axle from the replacement junkyard unit. It looks to be not boogered up too awful bad, and could still serve as a spare, so It will be cleaned up and taken along with...


Having the front axles apart is nice, but what's even nicer is payday. My Eaton Trutrac came in from Summit Racing, and I started hitting up Auto Zone for the small parts, like bearings, seals... Being a cheep guy, I'm getting just enough at a time to get my point each time I go into town. Today I got one set of wheel bearings, races, and an inner seal for one of the front rotors to get my 5th point, and when the new rotor comes in tomorrow, I can get $20 off on it. I had to drop off the knuckles at a local shop to have the old ball joints pressed out, and new ones installed, as I have no press.
So I'm looking, and looking, and I can't for the life of me find bearing, and seals that are made in the USA. Damn NOTHING is made in the USA anymore. Really starting to tick me off. Took my front rotors in to NAPA to get them turned today, and checked there too. Made in Spain, Denmark, everywhere but the USA. At least it's not china or mexico... and their does have a 3 year warranty, so I ordered a bunch from there, and I'll take the mexican crap back to Auto Zone tomorrow.

Also picking up a CJ7 hard top tomorrow. I put out feelers for a swap as my CJ7 came with a YJ top. Real PITA seeing as it doesn't have the proper YJ tailgate to go with. The guy wasn't using it, it was just sitting in his barn. He wanted to sell, but agreed to swap just to be nice. His way of saying thank you for me being a veteran. Cool. So I get home and go to get mine ready to take up tomorrow... Problem. I had taken the hatch off mine, and stashed it in the shed so it wouldn't get broken. Guess what? I can't find the bolts to put it back on. Every single nut and bolt in the hole build is up in the garage in marked baggies... except these. Well, I message the guy (facebook) and tell him of the problem. I'm hoping like hell he won't mind seeing as how he's not gonna use it anyhow. The dude says "just come get this one, and sell yours to help with your Jeep." Holy cow. He's GIVING me a CJ7 top. Now it's not perfect. It's been repaired where the hatch hinges are, and there's a hole from a bubble light because it came off a plow Jeep, but, I ain't gonna turn down free parts... So glad I sat and talked with them for a while today.

Next thing. I go home and start in on the housing. Gotta clean it up to get ready for the new parts coming in. I notice something... the junkyard housing I got to replace my slightly bent original... isn't the same. The spring mounting surfaces are the same. The width is the same. they both use the same brakes, spindles, knuckles... but the old one has thicker wall tubing. It's only got the slightest little bend, from jumping real hard, so now I'm thinking maybe I should just get that one straightened, and use it. I won't be jumping, so the thicker wall tubing would be good insurance for me. Probably need different seals and bearings... Carrier fits either, so I guess a Dana 44, is a Dana 44... Gotta think on it, and see.
Old axle housing I blew the hub on.

Junkyard replacement I had to get because I couldn't find a spindle anywhere.
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Picked up my knuckles today with the new ball joint pressed in. Couldn't resist a test fit...


Also picked up my free CJ7 top. Turns out the 2 little holes where the woopie light was won't be much of a problem. I can either just silicone them, or put one of my leftover Army woopie lights there... The back hatch... well, that may be a different story. That falls squarely in the "What did you expect for free" category. It works... but it's not long for this world. It's been repaired on the top by the hinges, saw that yesterday. What I didn't see was the inside... It's gone... It will need replaced. I can still sell or trade my YJ top. Maybe take the hatch, and glass out of this to make a hard top bikini top for the summer...