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Busting Knuckles on a '98 XJ

Old 02-14-2019, 02:45 PM
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Default Busting Knuckles on a '98 XJ

Hey, everybody.

So this is my first Jeep and I kind of picked it up on a whim over the winter. I was hunting down a Datsun as a weekend driver/project and the one I was wanting the guy never (not never) got back to me. So I decided it would be a better idea to get a project I could actually drive in the winter since I planned to sell my truck (17 F150 Ecoboost). Came across this XJ and decided to pull the trigger. Naturally, guy with the Datsun texts me back the following day...such is life. Aaaaaand now I'm like "what did I get myself into?"



All in all, I would say it is in decent shape. Interior looks like the PO may have been rolling through the dirt before he hopped in every time, there is some rust and needs some tightening up in the front end, but mileage is low, which I like. 98k on the clock.

Summary of the issues with the Jeep when I got it:
  • Nasty, dirty interior. (someone is missing a pair of socks and the source of the strange smell)
  • Driver side rocker is non existent
  • Hole in floorboard on driver side
  • Steering loose- I adjusted the gearbox but it is still not as tight as I would like.
  • Vibrations
  • Steering dampener was shot (this was a fun job )
  • Drag link end was shot
  • Valve cover gasket needs replaced
  • Clunk in front end. Could be the passenger side spring isolator because it is cracked and deteriorated and I think it is hitting the body over bumps. Also, control arm bushings are shot so that may be it also?
Aftermarket or Maintenance items:
  • 4.5" RE front lift
  • 3.5" Pro Comp Explorer rear
  • New exhaust that rattles against something like a ****
  • Wheels and tires
  • Front brakes
  • Aftermarket head unit
All the above considered, I've gotta say, I am digging this thing! I am a sucker for the boxy body styling! (if you could call that style, but to each their own)

And thus begins the story of my new (to me) money pit!

Maintenance I have done so far:
  • Changed the spark plugs that looked like they were factory installed
  • Replaced drag link end
  • Replaced serpentine belt
  • Installed new dampener
  • Adjusted steering gearbox
  • Installed drop pitman arm

The dampener was an experience to say the least. Summarized below…

Goes to remove dampener from drag link, will not budge. Hammer it. Wont budge. Pitman puller. Wont budge. Heat, puller, hammer. Wont budge. Machinist buddy wants to drill it out. Cut, drill, drill. Finally out and new one in.



So, that brings us to what I am trying to do to fix these dang vibrations.

When I bought this I was (am) less than an expert on Jeeps and didn’t realize all the supporting mods I would need to get this bad boy to luxurious, moving la-z-boy, DD duty. I knew it had a lift but it didn't seem like such a "tall" lift it would require backup. Guess that is my naivety showing. Cover your eyes! However, after some reading on here I realize how wrong I was.

Anyhow, I work at a structural steel fab shop so I am going to make some tcase drop shims see if that helps. I realize a SYE is the proper way to solve this but I’d rather allocate those funds elsewhere for the time being, if at all possible.

Next, I plan to get adjustable front arms to get angle and caster where it should be. Also, the bushings are totally shot and need replaced anyhow.

If the above doesn’t do the trick I guess an SYE is in order?


I guess that is all for now. Thanks to those that stuck around for that long winded description of an average, clunky ole jeep. This won't be so much of an off road build as a way to document and keep track of what has been done and needs done. Oh, and to get help from the experts when the time comes. I will be getting some more pictures here soon because i know
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:49 AM
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Looks like a pretty nice XJ, just needs some maintenance haha. I had a pretty nasty clunk in the front end but everything I could think of that could cause it seemed solid. As a last ditch effort I took a look at my sway bar bushings and oh man were they destroyed. I gave it a kick forward and it made a similar clunk to the one I was hearing going over bumps. The key to owning an XJ is to never think that something is just "good enough" because that old pig will still find a way to shake and rattle itself apart if you give it the slightest chance. Don't let that discourage you though because an XJ done right will last a lifetime. I wish mine had a body that straight but their aren't a lot of options up in the salt belt. Congrats on your new XJ and good luck. And to add on to your comment about an SYE, it makes a huge difference in vibrations and noise. I got my SYE kit from Summit for around $250 and a new driveshaft from Rough Country for about the same. The combination made it so much smoother, and I could actually hear my music for the first time.

Last edited by DJXJ97; 02-19-2019 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 02-20-2019, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by DJXJ97 View Post
Looks like a pretty nice XJ, just needs some maintenance haha. I had a pretty nasty clunk in the front end but everything I could think of that could cause it seemed solid. As a last ditch effort I took a look at my sway bar bushings and oh man were they destroyed. I gave it a kick forward and it made a similar clunk to the one I was hearing going over bumps. The key to owning an XJ is to never think that something is just "good enough" because that old pig will still find a way to shake and rattle itself apart if you give it the slightest chance. Don't let that discourage you though because an XJ done right will last a lifetime. I wish mine had a body that straight but their aren't a lot of options up in the salt belt. Congrats on your new XJ and good luck. And to add on to your comment about an SYE, it makes a huge difference in vibrations and noise. I got my SYE kit from Summit for around $250 and a new driveshaft from Rough Country for about the same. The combination made it so much smoother, and I could actually hear my music for the first time.
Thanks! Def does need some attention in the maintenance dept. The sway bar seems sturdy but I know what you mean. I had an FJ cruiser with a terrible clunk over bumps that turned out to be the sway bar jumping around in the bracket.

Edit: by the way I cracked up when I saw your signature.

Last edited by LameXJ; 02-20-2019 at 09:17 AM. Reason: sig
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Old 02-20-2019, 09:12 AM
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Few more pics.


Driver side rocker.


Passenger side isn't too bad.


Interior actually looks cleaner than it is...seat has a little rip and the steering wheel is down to the bones at the top.


Here is the isolator I think could be the cause of some noise going over bumps. You can kind of see where there is a crack and it has deteriorated a bit.




In other news, I'm getting the tcase drop shims cut and drilled today and plan to install those this weekend. Hoping the stud removal doesn't give me too much trouble like the sway bar bracket bolts did...

Last edited by LameXJ; 02-20-2019 at 09:14 AM. Reason: oops
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Old 02-20-2019, 10:08 AM
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Used some 2x1 tube drop we had on the rack. Just need to clean them up, sand and paint.
Fingers crossed this does the trick.
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Old 02-21-2019, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by LameXJ View Post
Thanks! Def does need some attention in the maintenance dept. The sway bar seems sturdy but I know what you mean. I had an FJ cruiser with a terrible clunk over bumps that turned out to be the sway bar jumping around in the bracket.

Edit: by the way I cracked up when I saw your signature.
I also had a clunk when I would turn left, and couldn't identify the source of it. With the knowledge that the previous owner flexed the Jeep way too far on the stock suspension based on the fact that it had a creased fender on passenger side as well as the shock on the drivers side had been over extended, and the passenger side shock was bent and looked like it had been smashed down too far. I inspected the front end very closely. Upon inspection I realized that the sway bar was not centered on the Jeep, causing the drivers side end link to scrape on the spring cup.
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Old 02-22-2019, 02:07 PM
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Loosing weight without speed is the acronym for XJ front end work. Have at it, sounds like you can make it happen.
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Old 02-22-2019, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by LameXJ View Post
Thanks! Def does need some attention in the maintenance dept. The sway bar seems sturdy but I know what you mean. I had an FJ cruiser with a terrible clunk over bumps that turned out to be the sway bar jumping around in the bracket.

Edit: by the way I cracked up when I saw your signature.
X2 on the sway bar bushings for some reason especially on those XJs they take it on the nose. Mine (also have a zj) were buried under a welded on plow frame thats never coming off so I ran some lag bolts into them just to shore them up. Suddenly it went straight down the road .
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Old 02-25-2019, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by DJXJ97 View Post
I also had a clunk when I would turn left, and couldn't identify the source of it. With the knowledge that the previous owner flexed the Jeep way too far on the stock suspension based on the fact that it had a creased fender on passenger side as well as the shock on the drivers side had been over extended, and the passenger side shock was bent and looked like it had been smashed down too far. I inspected the front end very closely. Upon inspection I realized that the sway bar was not centered on the Jeep, causing the drivers side end link to scrape on the spring cup.
Hm, interesting. I'll have to look into that.
I don't believe this one did much off road duty before my ownership. Think it was owned by an older lady before she sold it to the guy who put the lift on.

Originally Posted by 97grand4.0 View Post
X2 on the sway bar bushings for some reason especially on those XJs they take it on the nose. Mine (also have a zj) were buried under a welded on plow frame thats never coming off so I ran some lag bolts into them just to shore them up. Suddenly it went straight down the road .
Ah, that's one way to do it! I was able to replace the passenger side bushing, which was in the poorer condition of the two. But the bolts stripped on the driver side and just spun so I couldn't get the bracket off. Ended up just torquing them back down to mess with another day since that bushing appeared to be in ok shape. I couldn't move the sway bar so I figured it was alright for the time being.
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Old 02-25-2019, 07:29 AM
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Could one of the bar bushing being more worn be indicative of another problem elsewhere in the front end?
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Old 02-25-2019, 07:40 AM
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Just part with $.29 and run a 1/2" lag screw in it.
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Old 02-27-2019, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by LameXJ View Post
Could one of the bar bushing being more worn be indicative of another problem elsewhere in the front end?
I don't think it's an issue. Mine was the same way. The passenger side was basically gone and the drivers side was worn but still functioning. And with the bolt not coming out, try putting pressure on the back of the bolt head while you turn it out. It can help it catch the threads and turn out, or just pop out if the threads are that gone.
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Old 02-27-2019, 07:22 PM
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On your clunk, retorque the track bar bolts at teh frame side, and also check the three bolts that hold the steering box to the frame. Those are two common areas where a clunk can develop, even if everything appears to be tight.

For your control arms, you can get a nice set of upper and lower adjustables from Core 4X4 for a good price. For an extra $10 they'll even paint them to one of several custom colors. With a lift above about 3.5" on an XJ, you'll be prone to the "pogo stick" effect of having your control arms at a severe angle in relation to the frame, which transfers wheel shock on pot holes and wheel travel/lift in more of a vertical direction against the frame, rather than parallel to the longitude of the frame. It's just a geometry thing, and can make for a rough ride, even if everything lese is on top shape. A long arm "upgrade" or a set of drop control arm brackets can help quite a bit.

I've repaired or replaced almost every mechanical bit on mine over the years. First thing you should invest in? A big *** bottle of copper antiseize compound. Slather it on every fastener possible where it won't interfere precise mating surface issues.

My rather short "build thread" can be found here:

Macgyver35 XJ and WK2 Builds
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by macgyver35 View Post
On your clunk, retorque the track bar bolts at teh frame side, and also check the three bolts that hold the steering box to the frame. Those are two common areas where a clunk can develop, even if everything appears to be tight.

For your control arms, you can get a nice set of upper and lower adjustables from Core 4X4 for a good price. For an extra $10 they'll even paint them to one of several custom colors. With a lift above about 3.5" on an XJ, you'll be prone to the "pogo stick" effect of having your control arms at a severe angle in relation to the frame, which transfers wheel shock on pot holes and wheel travel/lift in more of a vertical direction against the frame, rather than parallel to the longitude of the frame. It's just a geometry thing, and can make for a rough ride, even if everything lese is on top shape. A long arm "upgrade" or a set of drop control arm brackets can help quite a bit.

I've repaired or replaced almost every mechanical bit on mine over the years. First thing you should invest in? A big *** bottle of copper antiseize compound. Slather it on every fastener possible where it won't interfere precise mating surface issues.

My rather short "build thread" can be found here:

Macgyver35 XJ and WK2 Builds
I'll second that antiseize trick as well. Rusty bolts can make a 2 hour project turn into a day or more of headaches. And to address the track bar issues, have someone watch the track bar axle mount while you or someone turns the wheels back and forth. If the track bar moves at all, the bushings could be shot, or it might need tightened down better. I would also get a new steering stabilizer and a new adjustable track bar might also be a good idea with your lift, that way an alignment shop can get it dialed in perfectly to avoid death wobble or bump steer. Also check your pitman arm (short arm bolted to the steering box) for issues. Check for play or movement, and check the angle of it. From what I have heard, the main steering arm should be at the same angle as the track bar, otherwise bump steer could occur. This can be fixed with a drop pitman arm.
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