The TYJ Project
This project started with the need to replace a rusty frame, but like all projects it snowballed into a coil conversion, bumper replacements, new side steps, etc... I'll go through the stages I went through for on this project including the background, decision making, and the actual work.
A Little Background
I've wheeled my Jeep stock, with spring under 3.5" lift, and for the last 6 years spring over (SOA). The SOA has served me well with good flex and stable ride, but I always wanted to go with a coil suspension. I admit, I've always been envious of jeeps and trucks with smooth and flexy coil suspension, and they're also very cool. But I also wanted to get rid of the hoping that my Jeep always suffered. It was very obvious in Moab that climbing sticky rock was a real weakness for me, where others would go up without effort, I would hop, lose traction and be left behind.
Another weakness of my Jeep was it's weight. Before starting this project I got my Jeep on a scale and the display showed 4760lbs. I figured this was another reason I had trouble with climbing, so I started looking for ways to reduce weight.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
First things first; When I noticed holes and a crack in my frame, I just wanted to replace it and look at converting to coils later on. I searched for a good used YJ frame for 2 years to no avail. I then considered after market frames, but I didn't need any more strength or weight, and for the high price of the frame plus shipping, none gave me any worthwhile advantages. I also started planning building my own, but for all the effort I wasn't going to change enough to make it worthwhile.
Then I thought, why not go with a TJ frame? The junkyards should have some in decent shape. As is happens, I couldn't find any, guess there aren't enough being written off!
So I tried what I thought for sure would be a dead end, I called a Jeep dealership and asked for some prices. Here's what I got with our Jeep Club pricing: First for the YJ it was $2625, not bad I thought. Then for a TJ I got two prices, $2165 with 'reinforcement' (more on this later), or $1780 without. That was it, I thought, I'm going with a TJ frame!
At first I couldn't find out what the 'reinforcement' was, the dealer didn't know and when I asked around no one had a clue. I wasn't going to pay $400 more for this, but when I went to order only the one with 'reinforcement' was readily available so I got it anyway. When I received the frame I finally realized what it was and got a lesson in automotive terminology.
You see, for all these years us backyard mechanics have been calling this part by the wrong name. A 'reinforcement' is that piece of steel that goes under the transmission and transfer case that the common 4x4 enthusiast, in his/her ignorance, is calling a 'skid plate'. But now thanks to Chrysler/Jeep we all know better, right? (Note to gullible readers, I am being sarcastic, as if dealers are ever right ;-)
OK, back to the good stuff. Next I had to decide on suspension. I did some research to make my own long arm, triangulated 4 link suspension. There's lots of information out there on what to do for a rock crawling machine, but I didn't find anything about road manners. I figured, there must be someone out there who built his own that works well off and on road, and has plans. Nope, no one seems to publish plans for their setups. So then, why bother re-inventing the suspension, might as well just buy one that I know will be good all around and be done with it.
After much research on different forums, I decided on Clayton's Hard Arm kit. What I liked is that their kit is basic, it's just the suspension arms and frame brackets. No fancy skid plate with 50 screws that wouldn't work with my NV4500, no extra shocks, pitman arm, or long brake lines that I already have with my SOA. It's also reputed to be super strong, behaves very well, and the arms are made of square tube which matches my square headlights.J
With it I also got Clayton's own 5.5" springs and HD high clearance axle brackets. While ordering from Clayton, I mentioned that I was starting from a bare frame and I didn't have any other TJ parts. He offered to put together a custom adjustable front trac bar for a little extra with a U bracket to replace the TJ frame pin mount. These guys are great to deal with and very knowledgeable, I recommend them to anyone.
I received all my parts and now it's time to start putting them together.