Nothing like waiting until the last minute. My shop has been busy lately, finally had to make a tough decision... Work on paying customers cars, or get my daughter's jeep started? Time was the factor. A little over a week from now I really want to hand over the keys to this JK as her high school graduation gift. So let the work begin.Click on any image for a larger view.
Last week I ordered and received a used quarter panel and tailgate. The quarter was in great shape and included a few things I won't need to buy. It has the license plate frame and fuel door with filler pipe. May not seem like a big deal, but a few less parts to buy. First step, strip it down and remove the interior. The drivers seat is ripped and missing some of the bolster (foam padding). Off to the upholstery shop with that. We've had a bunch of rain here in Texas, apparently the jeep caught a bunch of it while in the auction parking lot. So now I need to dry the carpet with baking soda (to keep the odor down). In a day or two after a good vacuuming it should clean up nice. The Wrangler was hit hard enough in the rear corner to require cutting out the old quarter panel and replacing with straight sheet metal. So that means the interior had to be pulled out, can't be welding around carpet and seats. The good news is, it's a jeep with a soft top. No glass to remove, plenty of room in and out, lots easier than say a car or traditional SUV. And so the pile begins, what to keep and what to toss?
Here's a view of the inner quarter. It's crushed pretty good, this is why I chose to buy a used quarter panel. If I bought the parts individually I would have needed both inner and outer plus the corner tail light pocket. Got em all in one nice cut, and and a big savings over dealer prices. OEM is OEM. First step, remove the lights and wiring harnesses. One problem, the wire harness is pinched between layers of crushed sheet metal. More than one way to skin a cat, er de-skin a jeep. A few rough cuts with an air chisel and wha-la, access to the inner stuff is easy. The key to replacing this kind of sheet metal is to remove the old at factory seams. This may look horrible, but it really didn't take long and after removal and metal clean up, the new quarter should fit nicely. After a quick measure, turns out the rear part of frame wasn't square. So after a quick frame pull it was yanked back to square and ready for the next step. Welding!
The new quarter panel fit pretty good. All welds were sleeved and welded at original factory seams. Ideally I should have bought at new rear body panel (inner and outer). Fortunately the salvage yard gave us a cut panel that included a much needed body mount. The original body mount was stretched and really needed replaced. We were able to sleeve and rebuild the left corner of the rear panel in a way to keep it's crush zone functional and safe. The tailgate I bought wasn't a great replacement, far from perfect. When I talked to the salvage guy, he warned that it was not insurance quality (meaning it needed some body repair time) because of a dent along the bottom edge. However, it was worse than that. The lower dent was there of course, but it was also bent behind the spare tire carrier. Instead of sending it back, the salvage yard discounted it even further. Saving money is good, so we straightened and reinforced it a bit. The only other body damage was the right rear tail light pocket. The sheet metal was easily straightened using a stud gun. The stud gun allows pulling on metal without drilling any holes (old school used to drill holes and pull with a slide hammer). By pulling in this way the original e-coat (primer) is left intact on the inner side to keep rust at bay. After a light skim coat of metal glaze and primer these two panels are ready for final sand and paint.
So I was running a day late to get this painted. Still two days to go, and a few loose ends. Actually, two big loose ends. First I need to find a rear axle assembly and get it installed. Second, the front bumper I ordered is back ordered... Won't have it until next week (that sucks!). So I may just chop what is left of the OEM from bumper and make it look like a stubby for now. It's Wednesday, and it needs to be finished by Saturday graduation! Here are a couple pictures with paint. We were rolling into the masking area and I noticed a couple small dents (one on the drivers door, the other two on the driver fender). Seems like a simple thing to fix, but it requires minor bodywork, primer, more sand/prep time... time, don't have much left. Also accomplished today, picked up my repaired drivers seat. Installed a low mileage front axle assembly. The original left side tube was bent along with the lower control arm. I had to drive over 500 miles round-trip last night to pick up this axle, made it home by 1:00 am. Jeep was painted by 2:00 pm, and axle installed by 5:00 pm. Still need to align it tomorrow and search hard and heavy for a rear axle! Tomorrows task include painting the new grill, fenders, rear bumper, and the outer wheel lips. Once the wheels are dry I'll get my new LT295/70R17 Nitto's installed. About an inch taller than what is currently on there and about 33-1/2" tall.>
One problem solved today. Found a donor rear axle assembly. Tomorrow morning, first thing, the new axle gets put under the JK. But as I solve one problem another popped up. Today I was picking up my new wheels to have a matching set. While at the tire shop I had them spin my existing two good wheels. I wanted to be sure they were turning true. And of course they were not, the one located on the damaged corner had a noticeable wobble to it. Now for plan C. I went ahead and ordered a completely new set of 5. I wanted the beadlock look and found a set of Tuff DX4's that look similar to the real thing. Unfortunately, these are a brand new design and had to be drop shipped overnight. One more day delay on painting the wheels. Of the 5 wheels, I'll have 4 tomorrow when FexEx arrives. The last one will be here next week. So while I'm waiting for the front bumper to arrive, I can get my spare wheel installed too. So back to the shop, reinstall the old tires and wheels for now. Here's a couple pics of my painted Xenon flat fenders (about 1-1/2" narrower than stock). Not shown is the rear Olympic steel bumper, it was textured powder coat so it was primed and blocked for a smooth look. There were so many choices of bumpers for Jeeps, I wanted simple and small, Olympic seemed to fit the bill. We'll see how all this fits together soon. Also shown is the eyebrow grill (taboo to jeep purists I'm sure). And lastly, the interior was put back together, tailgate installed, and it's starting to look like a Jeep again!
Okay, so yesterday was my last full day to work on the JK. Early in the morning we swapped out the rear axle assembly. Did a rear brake job since the rear pads were thin and the rotors needed turned. The wheels where shipped in early afternoon so we had to hustle to get the lip painted, baked, and tires installed before the tire store closed. I had 20 minutes to spare! Sorry for keeping the Discount guys working late. They did great job taking care to keep the fresh paint damage to a minimum. Meantime we bolted on the fenders, rear bumper and grill. Sprayed some undercoating in the wheel wells. I had to do a quick redneck engineering job on my old front bumper. Quick trim with a sawsall and, well... let's just say there is something up front, and it's not my Olympic bumper! Eric at Olympic called and said the front bumper was fabbed and going into welding, he was shipping it raw immediately. Should have it next week. My spare wheel will be in next week as well. The only thing I was dreading was the install of the 2-Door JK Besttop Trektop Pro, I put it off until the shop was empty and I could lay everything out. I watched the video, actually followed the install instructions (unusual), and all in all it took a little over three hours to get on. Besttop recommended using two people, I did it by myself and it was a straight forward install, my only complaint was very little written description, mostly pictures and diagrams. Even so by having access to the install video (although for a JKU) was helpful. Today I'll give it a wash, slap on some decals and finally give it away! Tonight is my daughters graduation... hope she likes it.
Yesterday was fun! I detailed the JK and put on my "custom" fender decals. This jeep is now officially called a Wrangler Limited, Bear edition! So some may ask why is it "limited", well in my way of thinking. If a two-door is called a Wrangler, and a four-door is called a Wrangler Unlimited. Then a two-door must be the opposite... a Wrangler Limited. The edition "Bear" is because my Sarah has been called "Sarah Bear" since she was little bitty. Just a small touch that only she'll understand, but other jeep people may wonder just a little if it's real or not, lol. So, unfortunately it's not complete. I still have the front bumper, rear spare, halo lights, a boost in stereo, and other little things that need done. But it was running and driving, so close enough that I could give it to her. Not bad for a week and a half rebuild, I love recycling! Did she like it? Yes she did! It was a late night after her large class graduation ceremony, then out to dinner with friends and family. Finally we get home late and parked in front of the house was her jeep. As soon as she saw it, she knew instantly it was hers, we all laughed, it was a good time. I'm glad she liked it, or loved it, as she says. Her big smile made all the work worth it!