Fenders & Body Armor Installation

Cole and I went to the shop on a Saturday and fitted the body armor.  It was pretty straight forward with no major surprises.  TNT includes a battery box with their fenders, but we couldn’t get it low enough to fit the Optima battery without jamming the battery into the computer harness.  The inner fender gives you plenty of room in the wheel well, but it has to get that room from somewhere, and that somewhere is the engine bay.  The tray attaches to the firewall using two studs that held the original tray, and the front edge attaches to the angled inner fender.  We decided on a simple Z-shaped bracket at the firewall  to raise the tray and move it forward, continuing to attach the front edge to the inner fender, just higher up.

Battery box in it's "stock" location, too close to ECM

Battery box in it’s “stock” location, puts battery too close to ECM

 

Our Z-bracket, moved the tray up and forward

Our Z-bracket, moved the tray up and forward

Next we fitted the corners.  No surprises here, but TNT uses through-bolts for the places that are double paneled, some of which require a 3″ long bolt that can be overtightened and crush the cavity.  We decided to leave the holes blind and install nut-serts instead.  One other variation from their plan, we decided to add an extra bolt at the bottom just behind the wheel opening.

Cole center punches a bolt hole with a transfer punch

Cole center punches a bolt hole with a transfer punch

TNT didn't include a bolt here but we felt that it would add some strength, and we had the extra stainless steel button head bolts on hand.

TNT didn’t include a bolt here but we felt that it would add some strength.

With the fenders & corners bolted on, now to the rockers.  Again, the blind holes got nut-serts instead of through-drilling and standard nuts.

Rocker held in place and ready to drill.

Rocker held in place and ready to drill.

With the body armor all bolted on, we now took it back off and to the paint shop.  They painted the fenders & corners, and had the rockers powder coated, then we bolted it all back on and returned the whole Jeep to the body shop to have the grille, hood etc. painted.

Corners & fenders in the paint booth

Corners & fenders in the paint booth

Freshly powder coated rockers

Freshly powder coated rockers

We installed the painted armor at my barn shop

We installed the painted armor at my barn shop

Back at the body shop, prepping the grille & hood

Back at the body shop, prepping the grille & hood

In the next post, we should be finished with the body work and paint, and be installing a Rock Hard Sport Cage.  We also have to install the air bags and put the dash back together.  At that point, we should be about ready to start driving this thing.  The plan is to shake it down for a couple hundred miles, work out any bugs we don’t know about yet, etc., and then start on the suspension mods.

 

Radiator Install, Body Lift & Belly Armor

At the shop, the first thing I want to do is get the Jeep running so we can move it around easier.  We’ll have to move it in and out of the shop and/or from one bay to another on work days.  Customer work comes first!

It starts fine but with no radiator we can only run it a few seconds, so job one is the cooling system.  We installed the Champion polished aluminum 3 row radiator after flushing the cooling system and replacing the fan blade.  The old fan was bent in the wreck.

Champion Aluminum Radiator installed

With the cooling system up to par, I next installed the body lift.  I need a 1″ body lift to make room for the high clearance belly pan, and I’ll also install 1″ lifted motor mounts so the radiator, fan shroud etc. will line up right.

After that, time for the belly pan.  Cole was caught up on customer work so I let him do this on a work day.  TNT Customs includes a bung to add an additional belly pan bolt in the frame rail on each side.  TJ’s are known to have the belly pan threaded inserts spin in the frame rail, and we had a couple of ours do just that, so we decided to replace all of the existing ones with weld-in bungs like TNT puts in their kit.  Our local machine shop turned these out for us in short order, and Cole cut nice holes in the frame rails and welded in the new threads.  Nice work Cole!

Belly Pan Bung

Belly Pan Bung Installed

The TNT belly pan gained us about 3 1/2″ of ground clearance in the middle of the Jeep.  That will certainly be appreciated when I’m trying to get over big boulders.

Next up, fenders & body armor fitment.

Headed to our shop

Rodgers Jeep TJ

With the body shop swamped with deer strikes, I’m taking the Rubicon to our shop for a radiator, skid plates, body armor, etc.  I have a Champion aluminum radiator and TNT Customs tube fenders, rockers, rear corners and belly armor, plus Daystar 1″ body lift/body mounts and 1″ lifted motor mounts.  I also have a Daystar transmission mount that will go on with the TNT Customs high clearance transfer case cross member.

Discussions around the shop seem to be leading towards 37″ tires and the necessary suspension and axle upgrades to support them for a driver that is typically not heavy-footed.  I never broke my YJ Dana 30 front/Ford 8.8 rear with 35′s, XCL coil overs and ARB Air Lockers, so I’m thinking hoping I can make the TJ Rubicon axles live through 37′s.  With that in mind, the 1″ body lift and about 2″ of suspension may give enough clearance.  That’s the working theory for now.

Grille & Hood Bolted On

Charlie & his crew have the new grille and hood bolted on and are getting pretty close with the frame work.  The whitetail rut is here now and the deer strikes have started to fill the yard up at the body shop, so my “family” job may have to wait.

The Jeep will be headed to our shop soon anyway, for the tube fenders etc.  Then it’ll come back to the body shop for paint.

Grill and Hook bolted on the Jeep TJ

On the frame machine

The Jeep went straight to the frame machine on Monday.  My brother owns and operates Charlies Collision Repair in West Pelzer SC.  He’ll be handling the frame work, aligning body panels, paint, etc.  I’ll likely let him replace the air bags as well since he and his crew are familiar with them.

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Picked up this ’05 Rubicon

We just picked up this 2005 Jeep Rubicon.  Hope we can make a nice trail/street rig out of this.  Only 82,000 miles on her so she ought to have plenty of life left.  It needs some frame work, both air bags, hood, fender, grille, radiator, a/c condenser, etc.  We have a hood and grille already, and I think we’ll go with tube fenders.

Jeep TJ