Tony G's '18 Firecracker JLUR DD/Crawler Journal

tonygiotta

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Watch as my new mistress transforms from stocker to rock(crawl)er! It's not going to happen overnight, but it's going to happen. One step at a time. Easy does it. I'm all about doing it right as opposed to doing it right now. My build will be evolving around EVO's coilover lift. I may get a bit long-winded at times, so feel free to skip ahead and just look at the pictures any time you feel like I'm rambling. So here we go...

[OK, hold up. Time to hit the pause button for just a minute here... My 2018 JLUR is no longer my "new" mistress, she's definitely moved into solid girlfriend status seeing as we've been together for just over two years now. In the very beginning, I was somewhat active on a few different forums with JL content. This forum has far and away become my favorite (and I believe it is also the best source of info) for anything JL related. I started a build thread on one of the other forums but for some reason never got around to it here. I do all my own wrenching, put a lot of thought into my upgrades, and really geek out on some of the electrical stuff. I've amassed a bunch of pictures over the past couple of years, and what I've posted up in various other threads tends to generate lots of questions and "likes". Time for me to put it all in one place, both as a source of info for others, and as a way to remind myself of info I wish I could still remember down the road. Some cut and paste as we get caught up here, so I'll add in dates to keep the timeline relevant. We now resume our regular programming...]

*November 30th, 2018

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
3.6L V6 24V VVT Engine w/ESS
8-Speed Automatic Transmission
Firecracker Red Exterior / Black Leather-Trimmed Interior
Cold Weather Group
Trailer Tow and HD Electrical Group
LED Lighting Group
Electronic Infotainment System Group
Steel Bumper Group
Remote Proximity Keyless Entry
Black Freedom Top

Ordered 8/21, delivered 9/11, brought home 9/12/2018! (Pretty damn quick...)

Time to start a build thread. Took me awhile to get over the initial outlay of funds to buy my new Jeep in the first place, but now that I'm starting to have a vision for my JL, I figured I'd start documenting it. I know I personally have had a heck of a time finding information on upgrades that interested me, so hopefully some of what I post up here will help someone else down the road.

The day I took her home:

FCAF3BFE-C4E4-4043-92FC-F407418ABCE3.jpeg





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tonygiotta

tonygiotta

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*November 30th, 2018

Funny thing is, we didn't quite make it all the way home...

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Many of you may recognize the shop in the background:

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tonygiotta

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*November 30th, 2018

Yep, straight from the dealership to the tire shop! Fortunately I had pre-ordered my new BFG KM3's about 3 weeks ahead of time. I got them in LT315/70R17 (the metric equivalent of a 35x12.5-17). Back in September [of 2018], these were still just hitting the market and had to be shipped out from back east:

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Up on the jacks, ready for new shoes:

8C5D7C3E-3878-4BAC-A22B-366A91770310.jpeg



The guys over at America's Tire did a great job. This was the first JL they had done and they were well aware of the fact that I had just come from the dealership. They were very careful every step of the way and even invited me out to the shop area a few times to answer questions for them, as well as stumble through the spare tire removal process with them.
 
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*November 30th, 2018

It was getting dark by the time I made it home that evening, but here she is a few days later with her new shoes:

D494C6A3-154B-4EC0-9F31-1BB69FB022DE.jpeg



No issues with rubbing, but I'm sure that may not hold true if I take her off-road and really get her twisted up on the rocks.
 
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*November 30th, 2018

All right... now that I have figured out how to use Apple Photos and how to crop/re-size my photos for uploading to the forum, I'm ready to keep rolling along with this thread! Still miss my PhotoBucket though...

So, a little about me. I am [was] new to jlwranglerforums.com, however I am not new to the world of Jeeping or Jeep forums. After many years of dreaming and wandering Jeep lots, I finally bought an Emerald Green Pearl TJ Wrangler SE (4 cylinder) in 1997. I added JKS swaybar disconnects and 30" BFG MTs, and wheeled the piss out of it. Sadly, digital cameras were not commonplace so I don't have any pictures to share. Regardless, my love for wheeling was born.

In 2000, I traded in my TJ for a brand new 1999 Chili-Pepper Red XJ Cherokee Classic. I was a real estate agent (briefly) and a volunteer firefighter, so I needed something a little more practical that I could safely carry my firefighting gear around in. Over the years I added a 5.5" Rubicon Express (pre China) lift, 33x10.5" BFG MTs, ORGS SuperNerfs, a TNT Customs front bumper with Superwinch, Detours USA rear bumper with tire carrier, D44 rear axle swap, front and rear ARB lockers with 4.56 gears and Alloy USA big spline CroMo shafts, and full underbelly skids (among many other things).

Swamp Lake, 2010:

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Rubicon Trail, 2011:

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The aim of my build was always to keep it looking OEM, while making it as capable as possible. Notice I still have factory flares which is not commonplace on modified XJ's. I hope to maintain some of that OEM feel/look with my JLUR build.

I was very active with the NAXJA forum for many years and did a number of highly detailed write-ups. I went by fyrfytr1717 there and any of you that were/are into XJ's may remember my D44 w/ABS How-To, Fan-Override "The Easy Way", or various custom wiring How-To's that I shared with the community. Sadly those threads are pretty much trashed due to the changes in PhotoBucket's policies.

Here are a few samples of my custom XJ wiring work...

Center Console ARB Controls:

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Center Console Winch Controls:

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Center Console Wiring:

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Overhead Console Switch Panel:

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Overhead Console Wiring:

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And yes... I may have just a touch of OCD.

After conquering the Rubicon, my wheeling slowed way, way down. I had achieved my ultimate wheeling goal, and in the meantime life had happened. I'm currently married with 2 kids and have been a career firefighter for 18 [now 20] years. After a few years of pressure from my wife to trade in the old XJ for a JK, I finally caved when I saw saw the JL Rubicon. No offense to the JK guys, but the JK just never got me excited. Maybe it was the (lack of) style? Maybe it was just that it always seemed "weird" to me having been a former TJ (real Jeep) owner? Who knows, but after many years of not being interested in any new vehicles (Jeep or otherwise), the JLUR got my juices flowing. I was in love... (but still have the XJ!)
 
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*November 30th, 2018

OK, back to the build... Next up it was time to take care of adjusting the speedometer for the new tires. I had actually purchased this prior to taking delivery of my JL and had intended to install it at the tire shop, but as I mentioned earlier, it was getting late.

fullsizeoutput_4ae1.jpeg



After doing quite a bit of research, I decided to go with the Tazer JL Lite. It had the options I wanted and I liked that it A) Did not need to be plugged into the OBDII port and B) Could be left installed without any ill effects. Z-Automotive had also just introduced the option to upgrade the Lite to the full feature set of the standard Tazer JL by purchasing an activation key. It cost an extra $15 to do it this way, but I figured it was the best of both worlds... All the features of the OBDII port version, without having to plug anything into the OBDII port!

fullsizeoutput_4ae2.jpeg



When I was getting ready to order the Lite, I messaged Z-Automotive via FaceBook too see if they could just go ahead and unlock the Lite for me before sending it out. They told me that I had to take delivery first, and then I would be able to purchase the activation key once I had it hooked up. Fast forward a couple of months, and the Tazer JL Mini is now available. Essentially an unlocked Lite, only without the extra $15 in added expense...
 
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*November 30th, 2018

So, you may be wondering about the spare tire mount. How did it fit, etc.? Well, I can tell you the LT315/70R17 fits perfectly so far as diameter goes. There is maybe 1/4 to 1/2" of a gap between the bottom of the tire and the top of the steel bumper. Third brake light? Well... had some issues there. The light was just high enough to clear the top of the tire, but the tire was pressing against the CHMSL assembly pretty hard.

Jeep had the foresight to make the CHMSL assembly adjustable which is awesome. Kudos to them for doing that! I tried moving the assembly up by unbolting, adjusting, and re-bolting the uprights. This helped with the pressure, but now I had a different problem. The rear window wiper would hit the back of the CHMSL assembly. Apparently, if you don't get the spare tire relocation kit to move everything rearward a bit, you can't adjust the CHMSL as there is interference between the wiper and the back of the assembly. Might not be an issue for the soft top owners out there, but it was an issue for me.

In addition to the clearance issues with the CHMSL assembly, the spare was also smashing the tailgate standoff bumpers really hard. The bumpers are super pliable, so probably not a huge issue, but I still didn't like it. Decided my best option was going to be to install a spacer between the spare and the mount. This would allow me to drop the CHMSL back into the low position while also relieving some pressure from the standoff bumpers.

I headed off to the housewares department at my local Target store and picked up a nice red cutting board (essentially UHMW plastic, right? ;)). I went to a wheel spacer manufacturer's website and found their engineering drawings. I printed them out at actual size and used that for a template. I planned on making this really pretty by borrowing some hole saws from a buddy at work, but he kept forgetting and I wasn't going to spend $50 on the huge one I'd need. Free hand with a jigsaw, some shaping with a sander, and a few drilled holes later... here's what I came up with:

fullsizeoutput_4ae3.jpeg



I planned to make a few and stack them until I had the space I needed. I knew the length of my lugs would be a limiting factor, but surprisingly that wasn't the issue! The back-up camera shroud locks onto the camera assembly with a little spring-loaded latch on the bottom. Any more than one cutting board width, and the latch would not engage. So what did I accomplish? One cutting board width was enough to relieve some pressure from the CHMSL assembly, and some pressure from the standoff bumpers. Would I like it out a little further? Yes. Is this going to work until I purchase a real (as in >$10) solution? Absolutely!
 
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*December 1st, 2018

My old TJ was a soft top with full front doors. I loved the combination, except for the soft top part. :) I hated always worrying about scratching my windows and hated worrying about someone slashing my top to steal what was inside. I decided on this Jeep, I was going to go with the hardtop. I knew that in order for me to not hate the hard top, I was going to need to be able to remove/install it quickly, remove/install it by myself, and store it safely without inconveniencing day to day activities in the garage.

This resulted in hours of researching methods, measuring my garage, watching YouTube videos, and reading forum reviews. Ultimately, I ended up choosing to go with the Topsy Products Hinge Hook Hoist Bracket system. It uses a pair of small brackets that inconspicuously bolt on underneath your rear glass hinge covers.

fullsizeoutput_4aed.jpeg



They also supply you with some custom straps/hooks to clip to the brackets:

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These hooks (along with another long front strap they provide) are designed to be used in conjunction with a Racor PHL-1R Ceiling Storage Lift. My measurements determined that the center of my garage would be the best spot. It would allow me to access the storage closets on either side of my garage, and I'd be able to park underneath it while still being able to walk freely around the garage.

fullsizeoutput_4aef.jpeg



I saw a few reports of the Racor Cable Drive Cams failing, so I went ahead and ordered Topsy's steel replacements so I wouldn't have to worry about the plastic ones failing and dropping my top on the garage floor (or on my Jeep).
 
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*December 1st, 2018

So... How does it work? Fantastic!

First, remove Freedom Tops and place them in the storage bag. Place the bag on top of the lowered storage rack. Remove all top hardware and disconnect wiper hose and rear glass electrical connector. Then, back into the garage:

fullsizeoutput_4af0.jpeg



Next, connect the hooks to the brackets and run the long strap under the front of the top. Crank it up!

fullsizeoutput_4af1.jpeg



Then just drive away (make sure you've opened the rear glass so the spare tire doesn't try to take the hard top with you. :facepalm:):

fullsizeoutput_4af4.jpeg



If you need to garage your Jeep, turn around and pull it in right underneath your top:

fullsizeoutput_4af2.jpeg



Or preferably, take your topless beauty out for a long drive:

CB4D6FF3-C2A2-4725-9B9E-7E1D31A17216.jpeg



The first time using this system was a little slow, maybe 25-30 minutes. I had to figure out the order of operations. When to open the rear glass, when to open the doors/tailgate, easiest opportunity to remove hardware and connections, etc. Now that I have done it a few times, it takes me less than 15 minutes (on or off) to do it by myself. This time includes garaged facing forward; Jeep turned around, pulled out, and lined up with the hoist; top installed/removed; and back to garaged facing forward. I love that this system also provides a great spot to store the Freedom Tops up and out of the way. During the winter months when my top will be on full time, this rack will be used to store all my patio furniture cushions. Double duty!

Probably worth mentioning... this is the first time I've been able to park a vehicle (aside from my motorcycle) in my garage in the 7 years that I've lived here!!!
 
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*December 1st, 2018

If you've made it this far, thank you for following along. You're probably thinking however, "Man, this guy's JL "vision" is pretty lame. Tires, a tire size calibrator, a cutting board, and a top hoist? What's next, a phone mount?" (Actually, I haven't been able to make my mind up on which phone mount to get yet :headbang:)

[A little 2020 disclaimer here... when I started this build, EVO was releasing video and photos of their JL coilover kit, but it hadn't really hit the market yet. This was pretty exciting for the JL community at the time, though these days their kits are widely available and therefore not nearly as exciting anymore...]

No, the real reason I finally decided to start this thread is that something far more interesting showed up today. Maybe even a few somethings...

fullsizeoutput_4af5.jpeg



A few more details revealed...

fullsizeoutput_4af6.jpeg



Yes, this build is about to get a whole lot more interesting. :giggle:
 
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*December 2nd, 2018

The box pile is growing...

fullsizeoutput_4af7.jpeg
 
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*December 6th, 2018

and growing...

fullsizeoutput_4af8.jpeg



I'll admit it, Cyber Monday truly got the best of me. So many great deals floating around! I have had my eye on EVO (pretty much since I decided to get my JL) and my other buddies that run their coilover kits on their JKs have told me this is pretty much the only time of the year that any significant discounts are offered. Figured I better buy now or forever hold my peace. I purchased the EVO Stage 1 Kit through Northridge 4x4 and all the parts have now arrived! (Except maybe 1 pair of limit straps?) Northridge has been great to deal with from start to finish!

I decided to go with the Stage 1 Kit which is everything except for control arms and track bar(s). I was really on the fence about which direction I wanted to go with the arms/bars. Part of me wanted to go with EVO/Currie and keep everything consistent, part of me wanted to venture out and try something a little different. Days and days of research ensued. Finally, with just minutes to spare before Cyber Monday became just another Tuesday, I made up my mind. Hopefully I'll be able to share some pictures of what I ended up deciding on soon...
 
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*December 9th, 2018

[I had been receiving a lot of compliments on the Jeep looking good on 35's with no lift. While I agreed, here was my response...]

Thank you, and I agree, looks good. If I were going to keep it on the street, I'd probably leave well enough alone. I actually get a lot of compliments on it from people saying my otherwise stock Rubicon looks very proportional on 35's. Problem is that I know there are going to be clearance issues off road. That's been the driving force for lifting it and I'm hoping that the lift doesn't make the tires look too small. Actually, knowing that I'd be lifting in the near future was the reason I ditched the factory 33's for 35's right off the bat. My long term plan however is to run 35's while I build it to handle 37+.
 
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*December 12, 2018

My control arms and track bars have finally arrived!

fullsizeoutput_4afa.jpeg



So... I decided to go with a full set of Metal Cloak control arms as well as the Metal Cloak front and rear track bars. Once again, I did a lot of research before making my choice. My Cherokee has the old Rubicon Express variation of Johnny Joints and I have nothing against them. I was just intrigued by the whole Duroflex/Durotrak concept and thought I'd give them a try. High flex, low maintenance, more comfortable ride... what's not to like?

My previously mentioned buddies that run EVO coilovers highly recommended the MC arms so that helped make the decision a little easier. I searched threads back to when the Duroflex joint was first introduced and have found very few mentions of any failures/issues with any of them. I'm hoping the recent addition of Kevlar to their rubber blend makes them even better. I also read through their patent information and found some interesting bits of information there as well. Nothing anywhere to be found however that discouraged me from at least giving the Duroflex arms a try.

Aside from a set of EVO limit straps, it appears all of my packages have arrived now. I was a little disappointed however when I opened some of the EVO boxes that there were no printed instructions included, only a sheet of paper referencing their online instructions. That would be all fine and well, except for the fact that none of the instructions related to the JL coilover kits are anywhere to be found on their website. Just a whole bunch of broken links originating from the individual product pages. Guess I'll be giving them a call tomorrow to see what the deal is.
 
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*December 13th, 2018

Spoke with EVO yesterday, and they were very helpful. Instructions are still in the "pre-release" phase and need some final touches, but they emailed them to me and told me to call if I run into any issues. They looked pretty good during my preliminary read through. We'll see how it goes. I think I'll be starting the install sometime early next week. I'm excited!...
 

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