A day before Superstorm Sandy, I bought a 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ (2.5L, 4cyl. 5 speed manual) from a guy who advertised it on South Jersey Craigslist. He had purchased it several months earlier with the intention of restoring it. He had rebuilt the engine (in place), and shortly thereafter suffered a (left) knee injury requiring surgery, that prevented him from driving a manual transmission (because of the clutch). He listed the vehicle for sale, and after pulling the Carfax report, talking with the owner on the phone, and ultimately inspecting and test-driving it for myself, I bought it. The interior of the Jeep was immaculate, and there was only a few dents on the body (with lots of minor scratches), and the factory paint had faded in spots. The weather was still cold, and so I laid out my plans to work on the Jeep to fit the expected weather.
When I first got the Jeep, every insurance company I called refused to insure it because of fraudulent claims coming in from insurance scammers claiming damage from Superstorm Sandy. Two weeks later the proverbial "dust" had settled, and I was able to insure the vehicle, get plates, and drive it on the road.
While I was waiting to get insured, I ordered a
G-Force Performance Chip which promised a 10% fuel economy improvement, and 30 Horsepower gain. A few months later when the weather warmed up, I was able to install the chip in less than 5 minutes – the hardest part was finding the Intake Air Temperature Sensor, which is buried on the intake manifold at the very rear of the engine under the air manifold. It took me an hour to figure out how to get everything out of the way, and hooking into the two sensor wires was easy. The manufacturer's claims for this "chip" are NOT exaggerated; I noticed the power improvement immediately, and I can tell you with a certainty that my gas mileage has also improved, because I use my GPS and a written log to keep track of maintenance issues, modifications and work done, and fuel consumption.
The photos in
the articles (see Navigation bar on left) illustrate the metamorphosis of a plain black Jeep Wrangler TJ into the eye-catching classic and unique vehicle I now own. The changes I made were not "radical"; I didn't turn the Jeep into a Lamborghini or a Monster Truck, but I made it something unique and functional.
How many 18
year-old cars are still on the road? Jeeps are famous for their
reliability, simple functionality, and high resale value. Of course,
there will be maintenance issues from time-to-time, such as having
to replace a starter motor
unexpectedly, but this is true for any mechanical thing. The more
technology manufacturers put into a vehicle, the more useless crap
there is to go wrong, the less reliable the vehicles are likely to
be – and the more likely it is that you'll rear-end your car into
that tractor-trailer while you're distracted navigating through the
touch screen trying to turn on the air conditioner or some-such
Some of what I did
to my Jeep was easy and took only a few minutes, such as putting a
foam cushion on the horizontal window bar to make resting your arm on the open window more comfortable, treating the windshield with
Rain-X, and treating the dashboard with
Wipe-New. Other things took a bit more time such as installing
dashboard cameras, installing a
suicide knob, and
wind foiler magnets to keep the wind from taking the passenger-side Vinyl window outside the Jeep. Still other tasks took a lot more time, such as installing
custom fog and spot lamps,
body work, and a
new paint job,
custom cargo net,
performance chip, new
Turn Signal Beeper,
heater core cutoff valve,
locking center console,
Overhead Gear Console,
Radio crossbar, replacing the factory seats with
Racing-style Bucket Seats, 4-Point
Restraint seat belts, and installing
new shock absorbers, a
Mesh Bikini Top and a
new Soft Top.
In addition, I
share my experience in Tactical
Defensive Driving, and share my views in a short essay on what should be done with
those ubiquitous sociopaths who insist on Driving
In the text
accompanying each topic page, I have provided links to the actual parts and products I used to do the restoration / customization.
Many of these projects can be done on other SUVs, and some will work
on regular cars as well. Feel free to indulge yourself.