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Starman XJ Build

Old 02-09-2018, 06:18 PM
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Hello everyone,

I'm new to the forum but not new to exploring the backcountry out west or traveling north and south of the border into Canada and Central America. I spent some time looking for a rust-free 5 speed manual and finally found a 1997 base model (SE?), only power mirrors. Bonus for the Smittybilt XRC rear bumper/tire carrier and Defender roof rack (which were already on my list), plus the PO installed a Rugged Ridge XHD seat which provides a lot more headroom (I'm 6'6" tall). Looks like someone spent some time cutting the fenders back as well. The PO also installed 3.73 gears...not sure if I want those as I do a lot of overland travel, but with the 500 lbs of steel I'm bolting to this project they may help with climbing and accelerating. Ordered a new gear from Quadratech to make the speedo read accurately.

Here's what I have in mind for Starman (I name all of my vehicles. I bought the rig the same day SpaceX launched their Tesla into space, so it's named after the driver in the car. Falcon Heavy was another idea...which do you prefer?)

Anyhow, here is my planned list of mods:
  • Rough Country 3" lift with LCAs and a new steering stabilizer.
  • All new suspension bushings. The PO bought an Energy Suspension kit but didn't install them, so I get the pleasure. Bought a Prothane sway bar kit as well. Along with the lift kit, this should nip the mild death wobble in the bud.
  • Napier V2 flares. I like the flat flares better but the wheel arches are already cut back, so those won't fit. Thanks to Bleepin' Jeep for the discount!
  • Smittybilt XRC front bumper with bull bar. A good place to mount the Smittybilt 9,500 lb. winch that came with the truck!
  • The truck came with two off-road lights on the bumper...not sure the brand. I have a set of PIAA driving and fog 510s from a Tacoma I sold awhile ago, and I think the fogs will go on the bumper and the other pair on the roof rack with an LED light bar as well. Back up lamps on the rack as well. I plan on wiring them through the roof with an aircraft connector so I can quick-disconnect the roof rack if needed.
  • Scored *NEW* Smittybilt rockers on Craigslist for 200 bucks. Those are going on.
  • A new CB system- any suggestions?
  • A sound system with XM for my long road trips (yes, I can get XM all the way to the Guatemala border).
  • New carpet and other little things in the cabin that annoy me.
  • Last but not least, a Monstaliner paint job. Although there is only ONE spot of rust on the roof, the clear coat has faded on the roof and hood and I don't wanna deal with Earl Scheib.
Once my wife is finished being mad at me, I plan on building a 4.2 mini-stroker as well. I put a pic of a driver door panel like mine because I'm having a hell of a time finding an armrest that will accommodate the small mirror switch panel. If someone has a lead on one I would appreciate a shout-out.


I own my own company right now and only have the weekends, so I should be posting about that often, unless it's freezing in the garage. First job will be the lift kit and bushings...any suggestions from experience? I've worked on a LOT of cars, and aircraft for that matter (crew chief on fighters in the Air Force and a mechanic/electronics tech for 20+ years in the corporate aircraft industry) so I have the knowledge and tooling required, but I also like to know the details of these mods so I'm not wasting time or brain cells.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy!
.
Attached Thumbnails Starman XJ Build-img_3019.jpg   Starman XJ Build-img_3115.jpg  

Last edited by Colorado_XJ_Guy; 02-09-2018 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 02-09-2018, 08:39 PM
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Welcome! Looks like you have a solid plan. Ditch the rough country lift part though. They are poor quality. I know the lower ca's are definitely. I have rubicon express springs and I'm very happy with them. Obviously its your Jeep and do what u want but many people have regretted the RC lift kit. Looking forward to the build. Also start soaking your leaf spring bolts and rear shock bolts with PB blaster asap and often, they are a pain and almost always rusty. My XJ was ruat free and still broke all 4 upper shock bolts and the shackle to body bolts gave me hell.

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Old 02-09-2018, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by 01EXPOXJ View Post
Welcome! Looks like you have a solid plan. Ditch the rough country lift part though. They are poor quality. I know the lower ca's are definitely. I have rubicon express springs and I'm very happy with them. Obviously its your Jeep and do what u want but many people have regretted the RC lift kit. Looking forward to the build. Also start soaking your leaf spring bolts and rear shock bolts with PB blaster asap and often, they are a pain and almost always rusty. My XJ was ruat free and still broke all 4 upper shock bolts and the shackle to body bolts gave me hell.
Thanks for the info! The reason I picked the RC setup is because I have had them on other vehicles with no problems, and I'm on a budget...not to say I won't upgrade someday but you know how it goes.
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Old 02-09-2018, 08:50 PM
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I also discovered I have an AW-15 instead of the POS Peugeot that was offered that model year, so a drivetrain swapped happened sometime in the past. One less thing to worry about!
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:39 AM
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OK guys, I'm fixing all of the small annoying things that just bug me- blame it on my OCD. Anyhow, in addition to installing a new speedo gear, fan shroud, brake switch, door switch, etc. I had the vacuum ball hanging down behind the aftermarket bumper swinging in the breeze. Here's my fix:


The ball. This job will be a lot easier if you have the nut clips because it's gonna be extremely difficult to get a nut on it...



Cut the leg off of the connector side of the ball. If you cut the other one, it's going to be impossible to connect the hose.



Here's the hole I'm going to use for the install, located on the passenger wheel well next to the evaporation canister.



Jimmy that sucker into the open space and line up the leg with the hole and drive a sheetmetal screw from inside the wheel well through the nut clip.


At the end of your vacuum line where the ball used to be located you will find a length with a bend in it...


Using a heat gun, CAREFULLY soften the plastic and bend it as close to 90 degrees as you feel comfortable. If you bend it too much it will pinch and restrict the vacuum. You can pinch the top and bottom together with your fingers while bending to keep the tube relatively round.


Here's the new plumbing to the ball. Reuse and relocate the T to match the pic.


Here's the rest of the modified plumbing. The cruise control servo will plug into the remaining leg of the T using the existing parts, cutting and fitting the line and reusing the rubber adapter.

Last edited by Colorado_XJ_Guy; 02-14-2018 at 10:41 AM. Reason: Formatting.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:44 PM
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Hey so someone told me once you can just remove that vacuum ball and plug off the hose and it will not cause any problems with the jeep running. Maybe that is not true but mine was doing the same once I cut my fenders in the front and folded them. So you reminded me of what I need to do to mine but I'm leaning more towards removing it and plug it off. Anyone know?
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by XJIrish4x4 View Post
Hey so someone told me once you can just remove that vacuum ball and plug off the hose and it will not cause any problems with the jeep running. Maybe that is not true but mine was doing the same once I cut my fenders in the front and folded them. So you reminded me of what I need to do to mine but I'm leaning more towards removing it and plug it off. Anyone know?
Haha, yeah I thought about leaving it out, but I think that if you run the HVAC and the cruise control at the same time you may have vacuum issues. I don't know, they must have put it there for a reason. Call me paranoid after owning several Mercedes diesels and having to troubleshoot door locks and engine shutoffs...
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Old 02-15-2018, 09:22 AM
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Yea I was not sure...I know when it comes to vacuums sometimes things are not needed but then at he same time if they put it on there at factory that could mean something. Sometimes

That and most vacuum will be associated with how the vehicle idles or performs not really any castrophic failure so I'm leaning more towards deleting it and see how it goes.
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Old 02-15-2018, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by XJIrish4x4 View Post
Yea I was not sure...I know when it comes to vacuums sometimes things are not needed but then at he same time if they put it on there at factory that could mean something. Sometimes

That and most vacuum will be associated with how the vehicle idles or performs not really any castrophic failure so I'm leaning more towards deleting it and see how it goes.
OK let me know how it goes...!
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Old 02-15-2018, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Colorado_XJ_Guy View Post
OK let me know how it goes...!
Mine is also a 89 so cruise control was not an option on mine.
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Old 02-21-2018, 10:36 AM
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Hi guys, it's been awhile since I last updated this post, so here's what I got accomplished the past week or so (pics coming soon):

- Installed a RC steering stabilizer
- Installed 3" RC lift kit. Easy install except for removing the stock LCAs. A couple of those bolts had a date with the cutoff wheel...
- Replaced ALL of the ball joints in the front end
- Installed urethane bushings on front sway bar and end links
- Installed a JCR JK battery tray. I also bought a new Interstate battery with larger capacity (Group 43- 1000CCA) since I will be running a winch and 4 pairs of off-road lights. Added the JK- HDBT terminals from Quadratec as well to take care of the loads. With the taller battery I had to modify the battery tray hold-down a bit to clear the upper radiator hose, but it looks pro (pics coming...)
- Repaired brake lights (pedal switch)
- Repaired dome light and cargo light (bypassed the melted switch in the cargo light so now it just comes on when a door/hatch is opened).
- Scored a pair of sun visors on the forum and installed them, which replaced the crappy ones that somehow lost their covers...
- Installed a Smittybilt XRC front bumper

I have an opportunity to buy some almost new 31s for this rig (keep in mind this will be a mild off-roader with overland bones) at half of what I would spend on a new set. Think it will look good? Bigger isn't necessarily better IMHO. Just wondering how it will look with the Napier flares... Any comments/suggestions? Otherwise I was looking at 32s...

This weekend- hope to install the car stereo, flares, and sliders, and maybe install and wire up the winch...
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Old 02-21-2018, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Colorado_XJ_Guy View Post
Hi guys, it's been awhile since I last updated this post, so here's what I got accomplished the past week or so (pics coming soon):

- Installed a RC steering stabilizer
- Installed 3" RC lift kit. Easy install except for removing the stock LCAs. A couple of those bolts had a date with the cutoff wheel...
- Replaced ALL of the ball joints in the front end
- Installed urethane bushings on front sway bar and end links
- Installed a JCR JK battery tray. I also bought a new Interstate battery with larger capacity (Group 43- 1000CCA) since I will be running a winch and 4 pairs of off-road lights. Added the JK- HDBT terminals from Quadratec as well to take care of the loads. With the taller battery I had to modify the battery tray hold-down a bit to clear the upper radiator hose, but it looks pro (pics coming...)
- Repaired brake lights (pedal switch)
- Repaired dome light and cargo light (bypassed the melted switch in the cargo light so now it just comes on when a door/hatch is opened).
- Scored a pair of sun visors on the forum and installed them, which replaced the crappy ones that somehow lost their covers...
- Installed a Smittybilt XRC front bumper

I have an opportunity to buy some almost new 31s for this rig (keep in mind this will be a mild off-roader with overland bones) at half of what I would spend on a new set. Think it will look good? Bigger isn't necessarily better IMHO. Just wondering how it will look with the Napier flares... Any comments/suggestions? Otherwise I was looking at 32s...

This weekend- hope to install the car stereo, flares, and sliders, and maybe install and wire up the winch...
Just FYI, I removed my canister over the weekend and didn't even bypass any vacuum lines. Jeep started and ran fine. I will close off the lines and prevent any unecessary air flow but looks like it was not needed. Maybe once I run it a few times on the road perhaps i will noticed a difference.

31's will be good but you could fit 32's under a 3" lift. Might even fit 33's but if you prefer to stick with 31's they will look nice just get those MT tires if you don't mind road noise a little.
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Old 02-21-2018, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by XJIrish4x4 View Post
Just FYI, I removed my canister over the weekend and didn't even bypass any vacuum lines. Jeep started and ran fine. I will close off the lines and prevent any unecessary air flow but looks like it was not needed. Maybe once I run it a few times on the road perhaps i will noticed a difference.

31's will be good but you could fit 32's under a 3" lift. Might even fit 33's but if you prefer to stick with 31's they will look nice just get those MT tires if you don't mind road noise a little.

Thanks for the info. I don't wanna go too big on the tires since I will be traveling a lot. The vacuum is for the cruise and center HVAC vent control. Try cycling your vent outputs and see if they behave. That may be the only thing you notice.
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Old 02-21-2018, 11:04 AM
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Also, I replaced all of the fluids front to back. Brake and clutch fluid looked like coffee when I drained and bled them. The AX-15 had about a half quart of fluid come out of the fill hole when I removed the bolt. Looks like someone gave up on removing the bolt (it was a beeyatch) and serviced it through the top.
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Old 02-21-2018, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Colorado_XJ_Guy View Post
Thanks for the info. I don't wanna go too big on the tires since I will be traveling a lot. The vacuum is for the cruise and center HVAC vent control. Try cycling your vent outputs and see if they behave. That may be the only thing you notice.
Thanks for that information as well I failed to check those vent outputs. Good to know I will check today when I get home from work and let you know. I don't have CC so that is something I can rule out.

Depending on your gear ratio you should be okay for traveling but I understand if your trying to save MPG.
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