Ownership Verified: Blind_Io and Kiki rescue a 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.

Blind_Io

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This is a long time coming, but we told ourselves we would not start a thread until all the paperwork was done. Little did we know it would take this long.

In 2021 we started looking for another off road vehicle, something that would be more capable on the trails than the Xterra and would add an extra layer of safety by having two vehicles on our trips (always wheel with a friend!). I've always wanted a first generation Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and Kiki agreed it would be the perfect size - not as big as a 4-door Wrangler and more stable than the short 2-door Wranglers. In June of 2021 we drove to Wyoming to look at a Jeep that clearly needed some love, but it was the right spec - a 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon that hadn't been too molested. Clean and low-miles examples were ruled out, as they could run in the $20,000-$30,000 range, thanks to only being produced for 3 years - and only 2005 and 2006 were built with the Rubicon trim that includes a heavier front axle, lifted suspension and modified steering and suspension geometry, and lockers on both axles. This example is Electric Lime Green, according to some old forum posts there were only 99 examples of the Rubicon Unlimited built in this color for North America, another source claims 291 globally. Either way, it's not exactly common.

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The Jeep clearly needed some love, there's overspray on the turn signals, the headlights are cheap knock-offs... I don't know what the hell was going on with those shackles. The front and rear bumpers are Smittybilt junk, but that's a solid Warn winch. It's already lifted and rolling on 35"s.
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Getting it home I noticed the bumper was struggling to hold up that big tire.
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So the rear carrier was removed until we figure out what bumper will fit the build - which is a bigger decision than one might think. Do we go with all suspension lift, or do we do a body lift? Are we going to raise the transmission and transfer case in a "tummy tuck" to get better clearance down the middle? All these decisions affect every other.
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Yup, that's tweaked. Damn Smittybilt.

Oh, on the way back from getting the car, the Check Engine Light of Doom came on. This would be the beginning of a very long problem of trying to get the Jeep past emissions (which Wyoming doesn't have). But we will get to that in a minute. First, let's bring this beast to a stop with some new rotors and pads. We have some time to work on the emissions, the Wyoming tags don't expire until February and it's only Summer of 2021 right now.

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Time to get that farm jack off the hood. These proved very difficult to remove and I ended up having to cut a few of them out. The brackets did finally give it up and the hood was reattached with stainless hardware

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Well, it's idling high and I found a vacuum leak on the intake manifold. The OEM part is unobtainum, but I was able to match a generic vacuum fitting at NAPA.

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This is how the old one failed. It's also how the new one failed in a week, I guess this isn't the correct size. At this point I just went to get some small fuel line and made my own adapter. It's been solid now for a year and it's way more sturdy than OEM. So go me. Work now began to stop for the winter as we researched the hell out of why the computer would never show as ready to test.

First step is to replace the O2 sensors. Jeeps are actually picky about their sensors and work best with NGK, we had no faith the previous owner used the right ones since every other decision on the Jeep was done based on "what's the cheapest way to do this?" New O2 sensors were purchased and installed (I won't post photos of that, they're boring) - but no luck. The system would still not show ready. Back down the rabbit hole of 20 year old forum posts Kiki went. She learned more about O2 sensor cycles than most actual mechanics, we broke out the multimeter to make sure every sensor was getting the correct current and Kiki plotted the sine wave of each sensor's cycle by hand because we don't own an oscilloscope (although I was briefly tempted to buy one).

(If you're noticing a pattern of Kiki doing all the big-brain stuff and I do things like removing seized fasteners and apply Gorilla-levels of torque to things, you're not wrong.)

The next thing she learns is the Jeep is not running the OEM computer and no OEM computers exist anymore. They were prone to failure and, while you might find one in a junk yard, chances are the computer failing is why the Jeep is there in the first place. The computer in the Jeep is an aftermarket replacement, but it hacks around the check engine light by simply not looking at some of the data. Ahh, so that's why the system will never show as "ready". With more digging we find a guy in Florida who takes other Chrysler computers (I think off a PT Cruiser) and flashes them to your VIN - and they are guaranteed to be fully functional for emissions!
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So out with the old computer and in with the new one. We did have a few issues with the immobilizer, because the VIN wasn't entered correctly in the computer, which we noticed with the OBDII scan tool. A quick call to the seller and a new computer was on it's way.


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Should fix the problem, right? Oh yeah, we really need to de-bro-ify that hot-air intake at some point, but first, we need to get it registered - and that means passing emissions, which still isn't happening. Back to the research and we find another potential problem relates to a TSB that was never done in the fuse box.

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This doesn't seem so bad, apparently we just need to move a wire or something?

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Oh fuck...well, we got it done, the results test as correct, but the photos aren't too interesting. I'm sure you've all seen a properly done wire splice before.

Maybe that Bro intake is causing a problem, let's address that and source an OEM intake and airbox. I'd rather have the OEM one anyway, it's better for water crossings and it actually filters dusty air better than these crappy oiled filters.

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In between each of these steps is months of research - all done by Kiki. She also did the brakes, O2 sensors, two computer replacements, and more drive cycles than either of us care to imagine. The amount of research she put in is astounding, and figuring out what information on various forums was real and what was bullshit was not an easy job. She cataloged everything she found and cross-referenced it to various Jeep service manuals, other posts, photographs, and even YouTube instructional videos. She even sourced the original internal TSB documentation for the fuse box wiring and she's the one who traced all the wires and then said "Cut this one, Shop Sasquatch".

For the vast majority of this, I was simply her helper.
 
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Blind_Io

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As I expected, that crappy oiled filter was blowing all kinds of oily dust into the intake. This is the grime I found on the intake temp sensor and throttle body.

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I removed and cleaned the throttle body, then reinstalled it with the OEM airbox and a crank breather line I had to fabricate from some fuel line.

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Now the Jeep is idling high, so I take it all apart again and find the IAC valve is broken, so I replace it and reassemble it. It's still idling high, so I run through a series of "relearn" procedures to teach the computer what the throttle is doing (the procedures were of course obtained by Kiki, who also did several re-learn cycles) - but no dice. Maybe I screwed up the TPS? So a new one of those goes on and I re-check the entire throttle body. About the only thing left is a vacuum leak. Some quick-and-dirty "spray combustible aerosol around the engine bay and listen for the RPM to go up" vacuum leak testing shows nothing. I can't figure it out, so we get an actual smoke-tester and do a pressurized smoke test of the entire vacuum system, but can't find a leak anywhere.

The Wyoming registration has now long-since expired, so not pictured are the months of running simulated re-set cycles on jack stands in the driveway, which we are assured are the best way to reset the system because you can hold the exact RPM and "speed" needed for the computer to reset. Still no dice, the goddammed thing just won't show as ready to test.

Last week we gave up and finally took it to a shop for some expert advice, and guess what it was? The mother f----ing Cruise Control! Apparently the cruise control cable to the solenoid is just a hair too short and it's pulling the throttle open just a little. It wasn't idling high before I cleaned it because all the grime from the crappy air filter was constricting the throttle body; it was actually sealing against the dirt! Right now the cruise cable is disconnected from the throttle body, it idles normally and immediately showed ready to test. Months of trouble-shooting and delays, well beyond the expiration of the registration and being unable to drive the Jeep over 3mm of cruise control cable!

We took it in last week, it passed emissions on the first try, and we got temporary registration until the plates arrive. Today the actual fun started with new seats.

The old seats were collapsed, disgusting, and offered no support. They were soaked in 17 years of human slime and were not worth trying to save. In other good news, we got a rebate back that lowered the cost of the Jeep!

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These were inside one of the seats, I'm just going to toss them into the ultrasonic cleaner for about a week, then amputate my hand.

Passenger seat out and partially disassembled to get the slide/tumble mechanism out. The previous owner thought it best to hose down the entire bracket with lithium grease spray, it looked like a Motel 6 after a Bukake party - so out came the kerosene and rags to clean it up and just put lube where it's needed.

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New seats installed

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WDWBen

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Very nice... I'm digging the build!
 

ninjacoco

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This is awesome.
 

Blind_Io

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Very nice... I'm digging the build!
There's a whole lot to do, all the suspension and steering bushings are shot, and we want to convert to long-arm suspension. That means cutting and welding the chassis for new mounting points. New bumpers front and rear, new armor, lighting, new stereo and speakers, headlights, fixing a lot of wiring that was horribly done, and a new center console. The paint is rough, so we will probably want to have it repainted the OEM color and possibly paint the top to match.

It's going to be a long road and there's a lot we haven't figured out yet on the build.
 

Matt2000

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This is great. I mean, what's not to like? It's a nice off road machine and it's green. It's funny how some vehicles make 35s look small.

Great work on the diagnosis and fixing, cabled cruise control is and always was the work of Satan so it makes sense that it was part of the issue. Also If I wasn't already very wary of computers in off roaders then I would be now. Looking forward to seeing what you get up to in it.
 

Blind_Io

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This is great. I mean, what's not to like? It's a nice off road machine and it's green. It's funny how some vehicles make 35s look small.

Great work on the diagnosis and fixing, cabled cruise control is and always was the work of Satan so it makes sense that it was part of the issue. Also If I wasn't already very wary of computers in off roaders then I would be now. Looking forward to seeing what you get up to in it.
The new computer has been great - plug-and-play with no issues. It was the cheap hacked version that caused the problem, not the OEM one.
 

Crazyjeeper

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I had no idea that thing was being so problematic! Still, a great spec and once y'all get it sorted it'll be a monster on the trails. I look forward to being towed up a trail by it the next time my junk breaks in Moab.
 

Blind_Io

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I had no idea that thing was being so problematic! Still, a great spec and once y'all get it sorted it'll be a monster on the trails. I look forward to being towed up a trail by it the next time my junk breaks in Moab.
I think it's our turn next.
 

Blind_Io

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