So I bought myself a 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited!
But she’s to need a bit of love before she’s really ready to go so I’m putting this page together to document everything I do.
As bought, she was at 50K miles, 2″ body lift, UCF ultrahigh skid plates (engine and transmission), and mostly stock from there. I got a set of 35″ tires on steel wheels along with the 31″ ones currently mounted, but I sold them to pay for some of the other stuff that’s coming up. I also have a set of front high fenders that I may install in the future, but it’s just not in the cards right now (they’ll stay in storage for the time being since they are powder coated white to match).
September 17, 2014
42RLE Transmission – Part 1
OK, so the late model Jeep TJ/LJ’s that had automatic transmissions came with the 42RLE which some consider marginal, while most consider plain trash. I’m somewhere in the middle, it seems to be OK, but I too have had issues. When I first got it, it had a bad case of the ‘cold start thunk’ that a lot of Wrangler owners (especially 2005 / 2006 models) have complained about. Sadly, I didn’t get it into the dealer in time to cover it under warranty as it presumably is just a new TCM computer module. I’ve learned to live with it and just make my first shift nice and slow after it’s had plenty (100yds) of time to spin up in 1st gear.
But lately, I’ve also been throwing a P0846 “Pressure Sensor B; 2/4 low pressure” error which actually puts the transmission into limp home mode limiting me to 1st, 2nd, and reverse. Had it checked out, and sure enough, there’s only 50 PSI on the 2/4 circuit so the sensor is correct but there’s low pressure – and actually, all of them are low, but the 2/4 circuit is the lowest and below the error threshold.
So first thing’s first. Fluid and filter swap. Easier said than done.
With the UCF ultra-high skid plate, the transmission pan is not accessible anymore as it’s halfway covered by the skid plate which also holds up the entire drivetrain. So I got to remove the skid plates and hold the transfer case in place with a jack stand – not my idea of the best way of doing things!!!
Anyway, I tried to remove the cooler lines at the cooler to not make a mess when emptying the pan, but alas, I couldn’t get the things out and simply went to plan b: make a mess and just drop the pan. I got most of the fluid into the bucket, but alas, this is a dirty job this way and a LOT of fluid ended up being soaked up by paper towels. I did manage to siphon some fluid out of the pan once I had it cracked a bit.
The fluid was GROSS. Didn’t smell too awful (I’ve smelled bad transmission fluid) but it was a nice shade of dark maroon red rather than a nice bright red that new fluid is.
There was also quite a bit of gunk in the bottom of the pan around the magnet. I’m actually a bit worried about this, but was told not to worry too much right now and that I should be good to go for a long time… we’ll see. On the plus side, it seemed to be more sludge than metal, but there was definitely a bit of metallic stuff on the magnet.
The pan itself has also seen better days, with a fair bit of dents and dings and a solid quantity of rust.
Set up an electrolysis tank and knocked off all the rust and flaking paint, then repainted it with MonstaLiner Chassis Saver Paint – the same stuff I’m using on the chassis and axles. I really love everything about this stuff except the cost; at $40 per quart, it’s pricey! But a little bit of work, and it’s better than new!
Because of the time I had the whole thing out, most of the fluid had drained out of the transmission, so when I put the filter back in and sealed it up, I ended up putting about 5 quarts of fluid back in. But what a difference the new fluid makes. MUCH smoother shifting, not nearly as hard of a kick for the first gear thump, but sadly, I’m still getting the P0846 error. Looks like I’ll be looking for more opinions on how to fix that aspect.
Also, while I had everything apart, I decided that an external filter and drain port would be really nice. I’ll put that write up on it’s own in another post though.
April 27, 2014
Finally a trail run!
Did my first ‘official’ trail run with the Mile High Jeep Club. It was a bit ‘green’ for what I was capable of, and it kinda reminded me of one of those slow horseback trailrides where the trail boss doesn’t let the horses stretch their legs, and even if you could, the trail was so easy that the horse just kinda did it without thinking… yeah, it was an easy ride.
But it was fun anyway! Getting out of town, into the woods for a bit with fun people is always a good time, and I’m looking forward to the next run.
Here’s the track:
And a few pics from the trail:
April 24, 2014
Destroyed Shocks, POR15, and a visit to the ER
Well, it’s been an interesting week! When I installed the new driveshaft, it required the pinion to be rotated up so that it’s inline with the lower part of the shaft (behind the double cardan). Well, it turns out that rotating the pinion back pulls the shock mounts under the axle and the spring buckets rotate back into the path of the shocks.
With this double effect of the buckets and shocks pulled forward, the shocks were just taking a beating – to the point that it sheared the lower shock bolt clear off on the right side there were huge dents in both of the shocks!
Of course, when the shock bolt sheared and the thing dropped, the exhaust pipe melted through the shock boot. You can also see the massive dent in the shock from the spring bucket.
Here you can see the actual spring bucket on the right side after taking the shock out.
With everything up and out, I decided it was time to clean up some of that nasty orange rust, so I took a wire brush to as much as I could and went through the clean / prep / paint process using POR15 paint. This stuff is incredible. So far, loving the effect. I also bought a pair of shock mount offsets that bolt into the original shock mount location and extend the new mount location back.
Finally, to make extra sure I wouldn’t have any other problems, I cut into the spring buckets to carve out some extra wiggle room for the new shocks. Note that’s the original shock in the pic that was just about to cause some major pain for me.
It was at this point I realized that the shocks I bought from 4WP were the wrong size, so I went back to the store with the old shocks back on, swapped the shocks out, and headed back to the shop.
I eventually got back to the shop and someone else had hopped on the lift. Since it was so nice out, I figured I’d just use ramps to lift up the back end a bit and replace the shocks. Left side came off nicely and the new one went on without any issues.
Right side, however was a different matter. I took the 3 bolts out and the thing was wedged in place by the exhaust pipe. After jiggling a little trying to figure out if I needed to jack up the car to get it out, I must have hit it just right, and the whole thing popped out and slammed me in the face.
Split my lip right down the center. 7 hours and 8 stitches later, I have a fat lip, a prescription for stupid strong pain killers, and a still unfinished project. Luckily, the exhaust shop took care of a new exhaust and put the shock in place when I told them what happened.
March 5, 2014
Ever since putting in the lift, my rear U-joints have been taking a beating. It was to the point where the joints were just rattling away, especially when I would first step on the gas, or just let off of it. I decided to pull the thing off, which of course was much more of an issue than expected because of the small bolts just not wanting to come out easily due to being slathered with loctite. Finally got the thing off, but like most of the other parts of this Jeep, it had a nice coating of rust on it.
So, first thing’s first… a bit of sandblasting to clean it up:
Pressed out the old U-joints, finished cleaning the ends with some electrolysis, taped everything up and painted with primer and paint.
Of course at this point, I’m finally coming to the realization that the suspension lift + the body and transmission lift is just too much for the stock shaft, so I went ahead and ordered the double cardan shaft from Tom Woods. Just showed up, and I’ll be installing it tomorrow:
And the installed drive shaft (note that this is not completely aligned yet, that was done after taking the pic):
November 20, 2013
Replacing the Tie Rod Bar and Drag Link
So last week I went wheeling with some guys in a MUCH more modified rig and thought I could follow them over some rocks. I was wrong. Ended up getting stuck, high centering and scraping up the underside a bit. I was able to back out without having to be winched out, but alas, without real tires, there’s still a limit to what I can do.
Unfortunately, I also managed to bend the tie rod bar that connects the front wheels and the steering system. here you can see the old and new tie rods. It doesn’t look like much of a bend, but it was enough to substantially degrade the steering (not to mention screw with the alignment and wear the tires).Got it re-installed with basically no issues (rusted together components will always be an issue with this car I think).
Ended up rotating tires and trying to get the rear bumper squared away, but alas, no such luck there – stupid SmittyBilt.
October 15, 2013
Finishing the Control Arms – 3 Link
Finally got around to installing the 3-link system that replaces the upper rear control arms. This thing is BEEFY! As you saw above, the stock control arms are just flimsy sheet-metal U-channels that allow the suspension to pivot in one axis.
The FullTraction 3 link is a heavy steel truss that goes across the differential connecting to the two axle control arm points and a wishbone shaped bar that connects to the frame control arm points as well as a ball joint in the center of the truss.
Essentially, the ball joint allows the whole system to flex in 2 axes significantly improving the ride – and it REALLY works. The jeep handles great now. Granted, part of it is likely due to the fact that the bushings on the old arms were really jacked up, but never the less, the thing works and I’m really digging it.
Finally, because the whole thing stabilizes the axle, it allows the removal of the rear track bar. Which is good, because after adding all the weight of the truss, taking a few pounds of track bar off helps.
(pics coming soon)
October 9, 2013
Sway Bar Quick Disconnects
As I mentioned in the post about my suspension lift, I ended up having to cut out one of the sway bar links in order to get everything to work. Well, this morning the Rubicon Express Quick Disconnects showed up from Mr. UPS Man, and I got right to it. It was SOOOO easy to do this mod that it’s pretty much criminal to not have this done if you go onto the trail. These things are awesome. Hefty, easy to install, well built – nothing bad to say about them.
Of course we started with the old disconnects already gone, and honestly, that was by far the hardest part:
I started on the Passenger side, bolted things together with a 17mm socket, 19mm socket, and a 6mm allen wrench. I used a smaller allen wrench and a cheater bar to hold the bullet pin horizontal while I torqued it in. You’ll notice in the pic that I originally installed it with the upper Zerk fitting facing the wrong way. Took all of 2 minutes to get it turned around:
Then moved to the other side which of course was up to begin with. Incidentally, it’s easier to install everything with the bar hanging down, so I did just that… pulled the pin and link from the other side and I was good to go:
And there you have it… All installed and ready to go. I did tighten the lock nut down (it’s up top in this pic), but in all reality, it’s never going to twist unless you do it while it’s disconnected, so it’s just added weight. Oh well.
The only thing left to do now is to drill and tap the hole for the ‘rest’ position pin when the links are disconnected. I’ll do that part on the lift with the wheels off when I get a chance.
Driving it with the sway bar connected again is so much nicer… going over the angles in the garage crooked I don’t feel like I’m going to roll over anymore which is kinda nice 🙂
Total time to install (excluding removing the original links and drilling / tapping rest holes): 25 minutes.
October 4, 2013
Rear Swing Arm Bumper and Tire Carrier
So while I was at 4WheelParts today ordering a set of the Rubicon Express Sway bar Quick Disconnects, I noticed they had one of the SmittyBilt SRC Classic Swing Arm Bumpers in their ‘deals’ section. Basically, these are customer returns because something isn’t quite right. I’ve had this bumper on my ‘to-do’ list since day 1, but it usually runs about $400 – and I got a great deal on the tube bumpers before I left TX (see earlier post).
I asked them how much they wanted and what was wrong with it, and they asked $200 and said that the customer said the latch didn’t work right. A bit of inspection and a few calls to Brendan, and I figured out that the issue was a missing bushing under the swing arm that was likely lost in transit to the first owner. It’s a $4 part that 4WP actually carries, but since they didn’t seem to know, I offered $150 for it.
So I spent about $300 today buying the links and swing arm 🙂
Got it all mounted up while I was working on the rear suspension, and except for the fact that none of the holes line up, it’s a pretty solid purchase. Unfortunately, as with just about everything else I do with this Jeep, as I started taking off the stock tire carrier, I found a crapload of sand, some of which had rubbed away the paint and let the rear tailgate rust a little. I’ll end up sanding it and getting it repainted at some point in the future. They are installing a paint booth at Club Workshop, so I’ll likely wait a bit 😀
Incidentally, I ended up having to remove the vertical bar that extends up behind the wheel since the tire was hitting it and I couldn’t get it mounted. It’s still tight, but it works for now. Waiting on those 35’s now that I have clearance.
October 4, 2013
The last 2 days have been super productive. I installed a secondhand 2.5″ lift I got for free from a buddy who upgraded. I joined ClubWorkshop here in Denver, so I now have access to an auto lift and all sorts of fun tools (impact wrenches for example). Set my self up on the lift yesterday and only got the front done, with the only real issue being that I couldn’t get the rusty, busted, old sway bar link on the pax side to drop. Ended up cutting it off cause it just wasn’t worth fighting with. (and I had quick disconnects on the list anyway).
Went back today and did the rears, unfortunately, did a silly thing with the spring compressor on the drivers side, and go the thing wedged in there pretty good. Took me FOREVER to get that thing off. But again, having a lift and some tall, fast, solid jacks helped a ton.
First, these are the old and new springs:
This is what the jeep looks like with her new Legs:Yeah, it looks a little goofy with 2.5″ of lift and a 2″ body lift… guess I’m getting those 35’s sooner rather than later 🙂
September 9, 2013
One of the major weaknesses in the Jeep suspension are the VERY FLIMSY control arms that essentially hold the axles in place. The stock arms are basically a thin metal C channel with some rubber bushings and metal sleeves around the bolts. The bolts themselves are pretty hefty though, 110mm M14’s for the Lower arms and 100mm M12’s for the uppers. Furthermore, they are not adjustable, so if you put a suspension lift over about 1.5 – 2 inches, you start running into alignment issues.
As with most other parts of the Jeep, there are several after market options to both add heft and improve adjustability. While the Rokmen kit is probably the absolute best out there, Full Traction makes a great control arm kit as well. So when a used set came on the market locally, I jumped on the chance to get some excellent quality arms at a really great price. I actually bought the upper and lower front arms, the Lower rear arms, as well as the Full Traction Tri-Link that essentially replaces the rear uppers.
This weekend, UnlimitedMatt and I tackled the arms, and got the 6 regulars installed, but ran out of time before being able to do the tri-link. To give an idea of the difference, the lower c-channel is what came off, and the upper bar is what went on. Also, most of the bushings on the originals were pretty shot, so it was definitely time to replace some.Unfortunately, nothing is easy with this particular Jeep, and of course we ran into problems with the Front, Driver’s side Lower arm. The bolt had rusted – and essentially chemically bonded itself – to the bushing sleeve, and no matter how much penetrant and rust-dissolve gel we used, it just wouldn’t budge. We finally ended up pulling out the Sawzall and cutting it out. Forgot to take pics of the sleeve and bolt weld, but if you look at the one from the rear shock I posted earlier, you’ll get the idea. Installed the new one and am now good to go. Still need to add some lock washers since I somehow forgot to buy those, but that should be easy since I added all new 10.9 metric bolts and nuts.
Initial results are that I got rid of one of the high speed shimmies I was feeling around 52mph, and while it’s probably more psychological than anything, the ride definitely feels better.
Mileage when done 52006