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

The X will continue her journey with a new owner soon.
Well, it was a long weekend and ... we are half-ish done. Banner is staying over at our friends' heated shop for now.

We planned to reuse the old shocks until some nice remote reservoir high performance ones can be sourced. Unfortunately the old shocks are completely knackered. @Kiki spent the drive home getting some Bilstein 5100s ordered that will go on and be the "B-shocks" in the future when the good ones need rebuilding.

I will work on getting some photos up, but I'm home and going to bed.
Just a teaser but this weekend was a lot of our friends kickin' butt and workin' magic...

metalcloak install.jpg
I'm not going to post all the photos, because we have several hundred close-ups of various parts in different stages of cutting, grinding, welding, painting, etc. (We also didn't take some photos we should have because we were trying to bust out the work.) This is a major suspension rebuild that involves cutting off the lower control arm brackets front and rear, removing a frame cross member that supports the transmission, transfer case, and locker air pumps. It also involves removing and re-welding the shock mounts on the rear axle.

This beast is going to be doing some things (and the plasma cutter sidekick).


Springs and shocks out. Airbox out to access to the top of the passenger shock. Getting ready to remove the four front control arms and brackets.


Bump stop bolt sheered off. We have to drill this hole out anyway and tap it for a larger bolt. This is the first of a series of setbacks. At this point we still think we might get this mostly done in a weekend.


Ground the bolt flush and drilling it out. This took a long time, that bumpstop plate turned out to be two 3/16" plates welded together (with a hardened fastener to drill through).

I'd tap that.


Some of the front parts removed. These are the least-manky parts of the old suspension. Not pictured: the Rancho shocks that we were able to compress with two fingers. Two weeks ago. They still haven't extended. They're toast.

With the fury of the sun, get thee off, upper control arm frame mount!


Grinding the leftovers of the mounts flush.


We pulled the center frame cross member and supported the transmission and transfer case with a ratchet strap (as you do). The rear driveshaft and exhaust behind the cat was also pulled.

Welding in frame sleeves for the new crossmember. We are very grateful for a friend who knows how to weld and is willing to help.


Frame sleeves welding and grinding progress.


Outer section of the 3-part crossmember fitting.


Sidetrack to figure out the exhaust. We can't dump the hot exhaust right out of the cat without burning off a bunch of pant and damaging all the new shiny parts (or burning the car down). We don't have the stuff to make a custom cat-back exhaust (we will take it to a shop for that), but we need to drive it down to the city for that.

Solution - have Jake, turn this:


Into this:

The pitman arm didn't want to come off. We were done asking.


New drop pitman arm primed and ready for paint.


Time to get the front control arms in. Problem: the jack stands holding up the car are in the way and we can't put the car down without the control arms...
Solution: Use an engine hoist to just suspend the car from the recovery points.


Look at the shiny, please ignore the sketchy crane setup and that we were under this.


Rear axle out brake hardlines removed, old shock mounts removed and prepping for new shock mounts.
Not pictured here is the rotted out fasteners and manky rear control arms. The back half of the vehicle had way more corrosion than the front half, making us think the GDPO took it mudding and didn't clean it off. The shock bolts snapped off and had to be replaced and the rear control arms were so beat up you could wobble them around with your hand to get nearly an inch of play. I will try to remember to get photos of the take-off parts next weekend.




That shock mount isn't right and will have to be redone.


I didn't grab a photo of it sitting back on all 4 wheels, but we are close.


The rear shock mounts will need to be cut off and re-welded, the instructions were not very clear and we thought they were in the right place - unfortunately, this placement only gives 2" of up travel before the shock bottoms. We have a new set on the way and we will tack it in before throwing a bead and make sure it's in the right spot with the correct pinion angle.

We also need to finish relocating and replumbing the air locker pumps. We modified the OEM bracket, but the local small town hardware store doesn't have the correct bolt size we need. I will pick up a 7/16th 20-thread pitch bolt that will replace the one on the driver's seat bracket. A longer bolt will give us enough shank sticking out the bottom we can put a nut on the end and use it to mount the modified air pump assembly.

The rear diff was missing the breather, we have a temp one on right now but will need to add a check valve and probably a longer hose to keep water out. We also found the GDPO damaged the brake hardline on the rear axle and we need to swap it out for a new one - that part's been ordered.

All in all, lots of progress, but it's slow going and we've had a number of setbacks. Banner is living in our friend's heated shop for the time being. We are very lucky to have friends willing to help us, this is way more than either Kiki or I would be willing to take on alone.

This post covers two weekends of work, a dozen snapped and dulled drill bits, several grinder disks and cutoff wheels, multiple hour-long drives to and from the closest Tractor Supply for fasteners, a week of buying parts that aren't available near the shop, and an unknown amount of welding gas and wire.
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Wow that's a lot of work I wouldn't want to do. Looks like you could benefit from begging/stealing/buying/making some hub stands. I like your stubby exhaust.
Probably not worth it for hub stands, we have a ton of jackstands in various configurations and hub stands won't help when you have to support the chassis and remove the axles entirely. The crane was because we had to shift the jackstands to get the new long arms on the front - we lifted the jeep with the crane and slid the stands back - but the longarms are so long the support was right at the tipping point. We kept the crane on it (with very little load) to make sure the Jeep didn't teeter-totter on the stands.
It has a rear panhard bar in the kit to prevent flex steer.
Yeah, I'm just talking about the aftermarket bracket the PO added to the rear axle-side track bar mount.


They probably didn't wheel it very hard, those things tear off the axle bracket 99% of the time under articulation.
Oh yeah, that's gone. You can see in the photos the only things on the axle are the spring seats, shock mounts, anti-sway bar mounts were retained (since it will have to cruise the highway to the trails), and the panhard bar mounting point. You can kind of see it in the last photo.
More photos.

Axle out
PXL_20230219_163927691 (1).jpg

Checking on the diff health. It appears the GDPO overtorqued the diff cover, distorting it and causing it to rub on the diff center. This was in addition to running with an open breather, which caused us to open it up and expect a chocolate milkshake of doom. Fortunately the oil looked good... but the magnet, not so much.

Resulting in expensive glitter. Fortunately, there's no real damage done and the one large broken part seems to be from the GDPO overtorquing the drain plug. A new diff cover will be ordered to replace this one. Kiki retorqued all the cover bolts to spec.


Rear going back in. At this point we don't know the shock mounts are not going to work.

Manky rear suspension bolts:





The pile grows:


Another problem we hit was the boot over the front slip yolk was now too short. There was plenty of spline engagement, but the boot pulled off the forward section. We removed the boot and I fashioned a temporary one with a shock boot (since we don't want boots on the shocks anyway). I forgot to get a photo, but I will look through Kiki's album and see if she did.
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Nothing super interesting for the last of the longarm conversion - except the finished product. The air locker pumps were relocated, the rear shock mounts had to be repositioned, then it was a lot of routing wires and hoses to account for the new suspension geometry and little fiddly things like bleeding the brakes, re-plumbing the front locker vacuum line, and giving it a "redneck alignment".

Removing the rear shock brackets to be repositioned (OE stamped sheet metal diff cover still in place).


Relocating the wiring and vacuum pumps for the air lockers. They used to attached to the OEM skid/cross member. We replaced a bolt for the front seat with a longer stud and hung the modified bracket from the threads under the body. The seat was reattached with a nylock nut onto the top side of the same stud.

The GDPO over torqued the fill plug on the rear diff, causing the plug to come into contact with the interior components of the diff. This was the source of the metal shavings in the earlier post. To give more space inside, replace the damaged OE cover and filler, and armor up for off roading, we got two Poison Spyder armored diff covers. These things are meaty and measure 1/2" thick at the edges with recessed 9.6 grade hardware. The fill hole is at the same height as OE, so you don't have to fashion a dipstick when filling your diff oil.


The old slip yolk boot was too short (see previous update), this is what I made to keep salt and crud out until we can get it to the driveshaft shop for a longer boot to be installed.


This is one of the things that makes this kit a little different. Metal Cloak calls this the "Lock n Load". When articulated an axle wants to rotate a little, putting stress on the joints. This little guy can be locked in position for street driving, or released to have a bit of flex against the internal spring; it allows that radius arm a bit of play so it doesn't blow through the joints.


Running Bilstein 5100 shocks for now until we order something beefier.


Quick flex test on a snowbank down the road, we got more out of it than this picture after repositioning, but forgot to get a photo. We were not maxed out, but we need another bumpstop puck on each corner to be safe. Nothing was interfering, we apparently did it right.

Finally a good shot of the Jeep on all four with the new control arms.


And some hero shots.


I still don't understand how it makes 35s look small, the wheelbase is 7 inches shorter than my Disco and the 33s on that look bigger.

Looks great with the new shiny parts anyway, now go and get it dirty so the don't look shiny any more. :p
I still don't understand how it makes 35s look small, the wheelbase is 7 inches shorter than my Disco and the 33s on that look bigger.

Looks great with the new shiny parts anyway, now go and get it dirty so the don't look shiny any more. :p
I guess we need 37"s after these wear out.
Crap photos because we've had rain for the past few days. Banner now has a custom cat-back exhaust.



The shop that did the work is a tiny affair, both the guys there are very nice and into off road vehicles; one is the promoter for the local Off Road Expo. He's an engineer by day and was working building a variant of a Volvo C303 axle he has redesigned to fix some flaws in the original.

Anyway, he worked around the new suspension and kept everything high and tight so it doesn't get hit while getting over obstacles.
So erm, remember that nice clean exhaust?

This happened...


... and this may have followed suit.


Steel Bender lived up to its name.
Tis but a scratch!