After gathering a baseline on our newly acquired 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, we collectively hit the drawing board making note of all areas we would address in the first stage of Project LJ. The team at Summit 4x4 Company made sure every component we chose would be attainable as shipping delays and stock issues were the new norm due to current events. As the wait for incoming parts began, our excitement continued to grow knowing the potential that this LJ possessed as a simple but extremely capable tourer and trail vehicle.
Returning to the notes created after the first inspection, Brandon, our technician, took one more look over the LJ. With a seemingly large pile of parts lingering in the tech’s bay, we knew the scheduled 36 hour job would be no easy task. Making quick work, Brandon methodically planned to work his way from front to rear of the LJ. The game plan for day one: service the AC, address and change all of the vehicles fluids, replace the valve cover gasket, and install a new Odyssey battery. With progress underway, Brandon checked off both the coolant and power steering flush, new steering stabilizer, Rockjock Steering Kit, new Odyssey Battery, and replacement battery terminals.
Picking right back up where we left off, the second day of install came with a change in plans. The tech noticed during the initial inspection that the existing track bar mount had been drilled out on the frame side, but had missed the larger bolts which were installed prior on the axle side. New track bar and sway bar relocation brackets were our only option at this point so that the Teraflex components could continue to be installed. Now at least one day out on delivery for the new brackets, Brandon went ahead and started to remove and replace the front hubs.
Starting day 3 at a standstill due to the previously ordered relocation brackets being designed for built TJ/LJ axles, Brandon once again moved on to the next task ahead. Quickly completing the install of all rear suspension components, Brandon’s list was rapidly shrinking. Hoping to install both new bumpers by the end of the day became Brandon’s next priority as he followed the detailed instructional install guides. The Gr8tops Safari Top paired to the aftermarket door hinges that attach the custom upper half of the door and spare tire in turn were interfering with the swing out of the new rear bumper. Fortunately, Summit had an extra set of OEM TJ hinges available to swap in for the old aftermarket options. Next up, Brandon removed the six bolts holding the LJ’s existing front bumper to swap out for our new steel winch bumper. Since the original winch that came on the LJ would not fit into the new steel winch bumper, we plan on replacing that winch with a new smaller size model in the near future.
Quickly nearing completion, sorting through the fabrication of our new track bar and sway bar relocation brackets was the official goal for day four. Expert fabricator Bobby now joined our tech Brandon as they collectively worked to remove the old brackets. Working within the suspension's confined space became an issue as other components crowded the tech's working area. Once successfully removing the old metal, the team mocked new brackets up to their final location, then tack welded the brackets up to the axle. With a few swift coats of paint, our new brackets were sealed up and ready to have remaining suspension and steering components mounted up.
Finally back on the ground, Project LJ headed over to Summit’s alignment rack for the final step of maintenance to ensure proper on-road drivability. Making note of each adjustment made to suspension components, Brandon worked his magic to return the Jeep’s geometry back to factory specifications. Backing the LJ off the alignment rack for one final test drive proved to show no signs of issues as the tech’s work was complete.
As Project LJ now completes its first stage of the build, we can't wait to hit the trails to see its full potential. Stay tuned for more in Part 3 when Matt Scott and Scott Brady discuss more on Project LJ in the Overland Journal Podcast!