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Project KEEP IT WEIRD XJ/VW 1.9L TDI swap - Overlander

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Project KEEP IT WEIRD XJ/VW 1.9L TDI swap - Overlander

Old 11-26-2017, 03:21 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: Oregon
Posts: 10
Year: 1994
Model: Cherokee(XJ)
Engine: 4.0HO
Default Project KEEP IT WEIRD XJ/VW 1.9L TDI swap - Overlander

Hi all! I am excited to get started on this project as I've been toying with the idea for 2 years now. After countless hours of scouring forums and compiling information, I feel its my time to give back to the community by starting this build thread to follow the progress of this build/swap to hopefully inspire others to build or to help anyone out with similar issues. I am by no means a master fabricator or mechanic but I've grown up around around mechanics my whole life and wouldn't consider myself totally naive to the trade. I also have a few people with more knowledge than I, helping out on this build as it goes on.

A little introduction-
July 2017 - $1000 for donor car and engine

I purchased a donor VW TDI Golf with an ALH 1.9l engine. A huge fir tree had fallen on it over the winter and destroyed the body but leaving the engine bay completely intact. This sweet craigslist find was $1000!! At the local junkyard they want $1295 for the engine with no turbo! This car was the previous owners daily and he is a mechanic by trade, so needless to say the engine was in very good condition and most accessories had been replaced 1 month prior to the accident. Timing belt, alternator, etc. I towed this bad boy on a flatbed I had borrowed, to my house in order to start gutting the vehicle. I figured I need the engine, ecu, wiring harness and a few other little things but everything else that is salvageable will go up for sale. Between starting a new job and it just being summer, that whole process took about 2 months but know all what I need is tucked away in the garage for now and the shell of the car got scrapped with a free tow nonetheless.

September 2017 - $700 for shell of the project
We had been searching for either a Toyota pickup/4runner with solid front axle or a Cherokee to perform this swap. The idea behind it is that even though both engines that come with those vehicles stock are extremely reliable, they aren't very fuel efficient compared to a small diesel. I have always been a VW guy and know for a fact that the 1.9 ALH TDI also holds the same reputation if not better as the 22R and 4.0HO. After finding other people who have attempted this swap get around 25-32 mpg, we decided this was the engine that we needed for our dependable/low maintenance/fuel efficient off road overlander rig. Hopefully we can keep the budget at $8000 maximum. I'd like to show people that its possible for relatively little money, to build extremely capable rigs, while recycling vehicles and focusing on reducing emissions.

After seeing many over inflated toyotas and jeeps that were in terrible condition for their price or either so far away from being stock that you cant trust it anymore, we find a recently posted ad on craigslist for a 1994 Cherokee for $800 obo, doesn't drive. Better yet, located in our city and a 5 speed manual. So we head on down there to see the condition and whats keeping it from driving. A quick rundown from the owner and a little look around, I offered to buy it and pick it up the next day. The owner was extremely happy to get the ad of CL and sold it to me for $700. Tags had been done in June as had all new tires. 2 spares, Thule roof rack, aftermarket stereo with AUX and speakers. It was a farm vehicle most its life and before that resided in SoCal, never saw much ice and has no rust issues. Body is pretty straight as it wasn't wheeled and interior was decent with no rips, headliner is perfect. A quick interior detail and it starts to come to life.

Let the repairs/mods/swap begin! -
October 2017 - $99 for clutch hydraulics
  • AMS Automotive RhinoPac Pre-Filled Clutch Master and Slave Cylinder Assembly (PS0112) - $99 shipped!
First things first is the clutch hydraulics. It seems as if the slave cylinder had blown its pushrod into the bellhousing along with all the hydraulic fluid... I knew that the clutch components should be changed and tranny dropped to inspect damage. I just wanted to see if it would run first so I bought a pre-bled clutch hydraulics kit from AMS. I installed that fairly easily and got the thing to move. A quick trip around the block reaffirmed my suspicions about the clutch.

November 2017 - $329.11 for clutch and shift components
  • LuK 05-065 Clutch kit - $88.78
  • LuK LFW193 Flywheel - $56.98
  • National 614093 Clutch Release Bearing Assembly (forged in one piece instead of crappy plastic one from the clutch kit) - $19.35
  • AMS Automotive BA207 Pilot Bushing - $7.99
  • Crown Automotive 53006388 Clutch Throwout Lever Fork - $9.49
  • Crown Automotive 52087542 Clutch Release Pivot - $3.99
  • Crown Automotive 4338855 Clutch Fork Spring - $1.49
  • Crown Automotive 53006010 Clutch Timing Probe Grommet - $1.99
  • Crown Automotive 52002334 Transmission Mount - $19.99
  • Crown Automotive 83500519 Shift Rod Bushing - $2.49
  • Crown Automotive 4864226X Shifter Cover Seal - $4.49
  • Crown Automotive 83500520 Transmission Shift Cover Boot - $9.49
  • Crown Automotive J3225981 Clutch & Brake Pedal Shaft Bushings - $2.48
This is the first time that I have attempted to drop a tranny on an XJ. I helped a friend level his backyard, since hes a mechanic, he offered to help on the clutch replacement. We didn't really expect to take as long as we did but we completed everything over three days. Taking our tie to make sure everything was done correctly. I'm really glad that I ordered everything that I had because it was all destroyed! The moment I separated the tranny from the engine, 4 components fell out in pieces. Clutch fork spring was broken, so it fell with the clutch fork, the throwout bearing came out in 4 pieces! It was one of those crappy plastic ones from LuK. I advise highly that no one uses these throwout bearings. Last thing on the list of junk in the bellhousing, were all the slave cylinder components. Oh yeah and a cheap magnet that detached from a brand new harbor freight telescopic magnet that i bought hoping to fish out the pushrod prior tranny drop. The literal icing on the cake was the hydraulic fluid from slave that was sparyed everywhere in the bellhousing plus all over clutch, pressure plate, flywheel. How this Jeep ran, I don't know, maybe cause its a Jeep! The shifter cover seal basically disintegrated when we took of the shift lever and fell into pieces in the transmission. We aren't too worried since its just plastic. We also found that the PO has installed the pilot bearing in the wrong way with seal towards the motor. After 5 cans of break cleaner, we cleaned up the bellhousing and cover plate and reinstalled everything. Drained what was left in the tranny and topped it off with new fluid. It now drives like shifting a hot knife through butter!

Black Friday 2017 - $1545 for 3" lift kit w/HD steering upgrade and misc parts
  • IRO 3" Premium short arm lift kit (no shocks, with full leaf packs) (for Chrysler 8.25 rear differential) - $773
  • ProComp 9000 series shocks - $160
  • MOOG Super Trail Boss steering stabilizer - $60
  • Crown Automotive front spring isolator set - $20
  • IRO 1/2" over the knuckle steering kit - $277
  • IRO steering box spacer $26
  • Spicer balljoints full set - $100
As many XJs do, mine wanders all over. Every time you hit a bump, you hear clear metal on metal. I came across Kolak Performance and Offroad through several forums and decided to get his advice on what I had narrowed down for suspension and steering. After a few messages and a well informing phone call, I decided to do business with the guy, he really knows his stuff and offers quality advise on products that are ever changing in terms of manufacturing. I'd been drawn to Iron Rock Offroads products and quality and Kolak's advise definitely sold me on them. I'm really excited to see how these components perform. As IRO and Kolak were having a black friday sale, I figured I'd go ahead and take the plunge. I can't thank him enough for the wonderful service.

More updates will follow and I'll edit this post with the few pictures I have a the moment. From now on, I'll start a little video series on youtube, so expect to see that soon.

The grand total so far sits at $3673. Once I get the garage organized, Ill start selling all the VW components I dont need and can hopefully help some people out and make a few bucks back.
sdominguez is offline  
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