Project LJ: Stage 2

Article Series - Project LJ

  1. Project LJ Defined
  2. Project LJ: Stage 1
  3. Project LJ: Stage 2
  4. Project LJ: Stage 3

Project LJ Stage 2: More quick, cheap fixes, plus a small bit of Jeep-style luxury (items covered in detail below).

$800 — Garmin Trail Guide.
$75 — Buchanan Precision Machine 1.5″ Seat Lift-kit.
$70 — Mopar’s Jeep Mud-flaps.
$50 — Skid-row Steering Box Skidplate.
$25 — Domelight Kill Switch, from Quadratec.
$16 — Stepshield Entry Guards.
$0 — Front Bumper End-cap Removal.

Total for stage 2: $1036. (Total for all stages: $1402.)

Garmin Trail Guide

I know. I promised that Project LJ was going to be budget-conscious. And it still is, honest: look at how cheap the rest of the items in stage 2 are!

Okay, so a GPS-enabled navigation system is rather frivolous. I mean, one can carry around a bunch of paper maps to get around town and country. And if GPS-precision is needed, simple little coordinate receivers can no doubt be had for cheap on eBay. So its frivolous to get a dash-mounted GPS receiver with built-in maps of hither and yon, along with voice directions to get you from wherever you are on the map to wherever you want to go. Oh, and just for added kicks: the Garmin Trail Guide snaps in and out of its dashboard mounting, so after tire-pounding dirt halfway up a mountain you can take the GPS unit with you when your soles hit the rocks.

Frivolous? Yes. But seriously awesome. And since we moved to a new town shortly after install — ridiculously useful.

Seat Lift-kit

Due to a series of federal mandates regarding airbag deployment, Jeep was forced to lower the front seats in its Wranglers again and again until the major redesign of the 2007 model year (the new JK). LJs have the seat about as low as it’ll go, and one gets the feeling of sitting in a high-rimmed bucket as a result. This is especially annoying to folks like me who cut their teeth on sit-high, look-low rigs like the old CJs.

Thankfully, William Buchanan, a gentleman out in Ojai, California, has thrown a line to those in the bucket: he sells machined aluminum “spacers” that fit under the seat, lifting it up. Just unbolt the old seats and lift ’em up, slip the spacers into place, and then use the supplied longer grade-8 bolts to pin it all down.

It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s cheap, and the difference is immediately apparent.

Mud-flaps

During my first big expedition with the LJ I noticed I was getting a lot of pings on the sideboards and cratered pits on the black rubber fenders flares. Clearly the big knobby MT/R tires were pitching a lot of debris on the upswing, and the stock flares weren’t wide enough or low enough to catch it all.

So I bought me some mud-flaps. You can get ’em cheaper than the ones I bought through Mopar, but I wanted flexible flaps rather than stiff plastic board-like “flaps,” and I wanted them to look “built-in” to the vehicle. Plus, these say “JEEP” on them. That’s always a plus.

Steering Box Skidplate

As I’ve previously noted, an advantage of getting the Rubicon package on an LJ (or a TJ or JK or …) is that so many off-road necessaries come with it. Skid-plates, for instance, are positioned here and there across the undercarriage to protect most of the vital bits of the vehicle.

It’s really odd, therefore, that the steering box is so dangerously exposed in the front end. It just hangs there, behind and below the front bumper, waiting for you to lurch it into a rock and crunch it to grinding bits. The solution is an after-market skidplate, of which there are many with few differences between them. I bought one from Skid-row because I was planning (as part of Stage 3) to replace my front bumper with one of their products.

Domelight Kill Switch

Open the doors of an LJ and the domelight will automatically come on. It’s a modern convenience, and a good one, I suppose: you don’t want to sit on your glasses in the dark.

Open the door of an LJ with the key still in the ignition and a little “bell” will ping to remind you, ever so gently, that the key’s still in the slot so you’d best not lock that door behind you.

On the LJ, as with most modern vehicles, this door-status connection is made via a “plunger” style of switch mounted on the body: when the door is shut, it pushes the plunger down and breaks the circuit; when the door is open, the plunger pops out and activates the circuit.

All well and good except that, well, the LJ — as is proper for a Jeep — is built to have the doors removed for better visibility and more open air riding. Can you imagine the result of taking off the doors for a romantic night drive in the country? Yes, that gentle ping all the way down the road. And if you stop and pull the keys to stop that racket? Yes, the domelight stays on, slowly draining the battery (not to mention ruining a perfectly darkened make-out spot).

One can, in such situations, open the fusebox and pull the fuse governing the circuit in question — it’s the number 4 fuse, if I recall correctly — but that’s not a particularly pleasant solution. Another cheap fix is to buy some little clips that you stick on top of the plunger switches when you take the doors off, but I’d worry about losing the damn things. So instead I bought this handy, easy-to-install kit that mounts a circuit kill-switch under the glovebox. A simply click kills chime and lights — whether the doors are off or not.

Stepshield Entry Guards

Another thing noticed after my initial forays with the LJ was some light scuffing on the bottom of the door jambs. Nothing troublesome, but not sightly. So I bought these cheap plastic guards to protect against further damage. The particular ones I got were chosen because they are molded to hug the body for a short stretch beneath the door when it is shut, thus “sticking out” a little and always in view. This makes for a nice little black accent, I think, to the stretch of silver that is the side of my LJ’s cab, and it’s just a little bit more protection, too.

Front Bumper End-cap Removal

There are many “free” things I’ve done to my LJ not mentioned on these project pages, but I think this one is worth a passing note. The stock bumper has bulbous plastic end-caps that are unsightly and generally pretty useless. It’s a quick few turns of a screw to yank them off, giving the bumper an immediately tougher look.

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