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Introduction... Project X Factor
April 10, 2017

After purchasing my third Wrangler TJ aka "PearlJ" i knew it was just too clean to cut up and take off road. I still plan to build it up but not wheel it, well because jeeps just look better lifted. I had to find something else that wasn't quite "perfect" that i wouldn't feel bad about cutting up, denting or scratching. I also really wanted a 2003-2006 TJ with an automatic transmission because they are just much easier to drive off road. The 42RLE Automatic Transmissions were still used in the 07-11 Wrangler JK models so i knew it was a trans that i could trust, not to mention the aftermarket support for them. The transmission is one of the only ones found in a Wrangler that has a "True" overdrive gear perfect for larger tires.

My plans are, Heavy Duty Axles with lockers, High line fenders to clear 35 or 37" tall tires with little to almost no lift. Full body armor, roll cage and some serious Low Range gearing. Enter project "X Factor"


First Impressions...
April 13, 2017

So when i picked up the jeep i was glad to see they had already been shopping with Quadratec and some stuff was already done for me. Besides the budget boost lift kit, pocket style flares, wheels and 32" tires the TJ already had plenty of accessories. The Jeep® had a 4 Rod Holder, aftermarket radio with Kicker Dash Speaker Upgrade, Sound Pod Upgrade, Front Husky Liners in Gray, Fairchild Industries Entry Guards and a Smittybilt Rear Bumper Tire Carrier.

Other additional accessories he gave me where a Yakima SpareRide Bike Carrier, a Hi-Lift® Jack equipped with a Daystar® Jack Handle Isolator mounted on a set of Quadratec® Sport Cage Hi-Lift® Jack Mounts.

I even got a Quadratec® Heavy Duty Folding Utility Shovel, Smittybilt Tire Deflators and a Keeper Tow Strap for beach use.

The best part of all was he previously installed a Bestop® Sailcloth Replace-a-top™ with Tinted Windows mounted using a set of Bestop® Soft Top Quick Disconnects which was barely used.

OEM Mopar Hard Top Wiring Kit
April 15, 2017

The jeep also had an OEM MOPAR® Hard Top installed, that he had purchased used locally, but was not wired for the wiper and defroster. This would be my first project as i do plan to keep the hard top for winter use. The only solution currently is to purchase a MOPAR® Hardtop Wiring Kit while supplies last. I only say that because the Hard Tops were discontinued a while back and i'm sure these wont last much longer.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Rigid Industries D-Series DOT SAE Fog Lights
April 19, 2017

I knew that bumpers i wanted to eventually use were going to have the standard "Cube" style light cutout or a easy place to mount them. I also wanted something fog specific and that had the DOT approved pattern. The only choice in my mind was the Rigid Industries D-Series Fog Lights. Hooking up the harness is pretty straight forward with the included instructions but i wanted to go a setup above and beyond for a more "OE" look. I purchased a MOPAR® Fog Light Switch for 97-02 Wrangler. Now there is no plug and play solution for these so i knew i would have to search junk yards for the dash wiring pigtail. After i got the pigtail and wiring diagram, i knew that only one trigger wire was needed to be run inside the firewall from the Rigid harness to my new switch. Check out my How To Run Wires Through your Jeep Wrangler TJ Firewall article. I also covered most of the wiring harness in Painless Wiring Performance Powerbraid for an even more OEM look.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Husky Floor Liners
April 23, 2017

Being that the Jeep® already came with some Gray Husky floor liners i knew that i wanted to get some second seat and cargo areas to match. Well unfortunately Gray is now discontinued for those areas, so i decided to get a whole new set of Liners in Black.

The parts used in this Entry were:
GraBars Interior Grab Handles
April 24, 2017

Being as the Jeep® was already lifted with larger tires made it just a bit harder to get in. There are plenty of easy to install soft style grab handles out there but i wanted something new and different. I wanted to check out something more rigid like a bolt on install so i went picked up a set of GraBars from WD Automotive. Installation only required drilling a couple holes in the windshield a pillar trim which made for a really clean installation. I was super please with the fit, finish and ease of use once installed.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Bartact Seat Covers...
April 25, 2017

Being a daily driver and something that is going to see sand and mud i knew seat covers were a must. I personally don't care for Neoprene so i wanted to look for a Fabric style solution. I chose the Bartact seat covers made from waterproof-backed polyester fabric. Seat covers are something that you always see fading, so the fact that there is a 3 year warranty against fading was a huge reason for choosing the Bartact Brand. The front seat covers offer additional front and rear zippered pouches along with the common, PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing for adding MOLLE (MOdular, Lightweight, Load-carrying, Equipment) storage pouches. Made in the USA these were sure to be a great fit and finish. I am very happy with the quality i received.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Rugged Ridge Headlight Trim Ring Bezels
April 26, 2017

I really wanted to go all black and white for a nice contrast this time around. That meant ditching the chrome headlight trim rings for a set of Rugged Ridge Headlamp Bezels in black. Being as they were plastic i had no concerns with them ever rusting. Installation was very simple, just remove the 3 T-15 torx screws on either ring, swap out for black and replace screws. The black on white surely gives the Jeep® TJ a much more aggressive appearance in my opinion.

The parts used in this Entry were:
MOPAR Throttle Position Sensor Replacement
April 27, 2017

The TJ started throwing a P0122, Throttle Position Sensor/Switch A Circuit Low Input trouble code. Most commonly the TPS just needs replaced. The Jeep, since it was an automatic transmission relies on the TPS to run properly so it actually stalled out on me a few times while driving. Check out my how to Replace your Throttle Position Sensor article for more information.

The parts used in this Entry were:
AIRAID Cold Air Dam Intake System
May 05, 2017

With larger tires and stock gearing in the axles every Jeep® can use all the extra power you can get. A perfect way to start is a cold air intake system. Helping your engine breathe cooler and more air is first and foremost. I chose AirAid because i liked the full air box style dam and ease of installation. It also has a dry oil less filter, and the ability to add a pre-filter wrap is huge because it keeps the filter cleaner for longer durations.

The parts used in this Entry were:
DEI Fuel Rail & Injector Cover Kit
June 09, 2017

Even though this jeep has lower mileage i wanted to be proactive and install a Design Engineering Fuel Rail Cover Kit to protect the fuel injectors. I knew this jeep would have larger tires and see a lot of off road use so there will be some excess under hood heat and DEI has the solution.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Bestop Entry Guard Swap
June 12, 2017

X Factor already came with entry guards installed but i did not like how you could see them when the door was closed. I still wanted the protection but wanted a cleaner look so i picked up a set of the Bestop® HighRock 4x4™ Door Entry Guards. Installation was simple as removing the old entry guards then cleaning off the old double sided tape. Prep surface for new guards, its that simple.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Daystar Hood Wrangler Hood Latches
June 12, 2017

My original hood latch catches were definitively starting to fade and stretch so i wanted to take care of them right away. Daystar® has the solution in the form of Hood Wranglers. Removal of the old catch buckle required you to break your original ones apart, and installation was super easy using a Phillips head screwdriver.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Daystar Hood Bumpers
June 14, 2017

So i plan to wheel this jeep and install a full roll cage at some point and we all know there is nothing like driving a jeep with the windshield folded down. My stock hood bumpers were a little faded and starting to get soft as well. Daystar makes these really sweet replacements made from super durable polyurethane. Installation was super easy and only took me a few minutes.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Rock Krawler 2.0 X Factor Suspension
July 31, 2017

On a serious off-roading rig i knew that the original stamped steel control arms and coil spacers just weren't going to cut it durability wise. I decided to give the Rock Krawler 2.0 X-Factor suspension system a try. Coming with all 8 full adjustable control arms, rear track bar bracket, sway bar disconnects and rear links plus brake lines i knew this was the perfect kit for me. All i had to do what choose my shocks which of course i went with Fox Racing Shox. The 2.0 Adventure Series IFP shocks give increased ride quality and suspension control on and off-road. Of course i wanted to match the steering stabilizer so i chose Fox yet again with their matching 2.0 IFP stabilizer. This thing is super stiff but does not push one way or the other, its totally neutral. This stabilizer provides great large tire control when hitting bumps. Lastly Fox has these really cool shock shields if you will called "Roost Shields" so i picked up a couple pair of those as well. They not only look cool but provide great protection for your shock shafts against rock dings and nicks which is very important to the shock staying sealed. This is a great product for added insurance on your shock investment.

First impressions of the Rock Krawler controls arms is they are super beefy and would not bend compared to the dinky stock stamped steel arms. They are made from 1.625" solid alloy steel. A huge benefit of these control arms is that they are fully adjustable which allows you to stretch out your wheelbase after lifting it. You can also fine tune your caster angle and rear pinion angle, which is required when using a slip yoke eliminator and CV driveshaft. The control arms flex joints are fully serviceable/replaceable and grease-able too which is awesome.

The coil springs are long travel and dual rate as well. The dual rate feature allows you to use a longer than normal travel shock and the coil spring will stay in place and not fall out on you. Because of that feature longer stainless steel brake lines made by Crown Performance are also included. Front sway bar disconnects and retention straps are included so you can disconnect your front axle from the sway bar which allows for better articulation which translates into better traction.

To help improve roll center on the jeep a raised rear track bar bracket made from 3/16" steel is included. After you lift the axle away from the frame you need to then re-raise the track bar closer back to the frame to help roll center. This greatly improves on road handling and ride quality.

I ended up choosing not to use the included track bar because it involved drilling holes in the axle mount and frame mount and i just wasn't ready for that. I decided to go with a truly bolt in unit from Rustys Offroad which you will see in a later article entry.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Pypes Performance Cat Back Exhaust Kit
August 03, 2017

Pypes Performance Exhaust is the first company to offer a single part number cat back exhaust for the 97-06 Wrangler so i wanted to give it a shot. My stock exhaust was a little too quiet for my liking not to mention getting really rusty. This kit is beautifully made right here in Pennsylvania. The flange adapter worked perfectly but i did trim some of the pipe off to get the hanger to line up just right. The improved sound is not that much louder than stock which i like. It is probably the closet kit i have heard that makes the straight 6 cylinder sound like a V8. Right away i noticed the jeep was not lagging as much and had much better acceleration and highway speed. This muffler definitely improved flow and power. All made from high quality 304 Stainless steel and mandrel bent i knew that i wouldn't have to worry about it lasting a long time.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Mopar Winch Bumper and Rubicon Rocker Guards
August 31, 2017

Originally designed by American Expedition Vehicles for Jeep this bumper has always been one of my favorites. With its factory style look, fog lamp protection and built in winch plate i knew i had to find one for my TJ. Also featuring tow loop mounts and air bag compatibility i knew safety was taken into account during the design process. As for steering box protection i knew that i wanted to stick with a "original equipment" Jeep design so i searched for weeks and finally found the matching Steering Gear Skid plate by Mopar®. This item is now discontinued, hard to find but i can tell you the part number is 82204732. I also wanted to throw some rock guard protection on the jeep and wanted to stick with an original equipment theme. Luckily i found a set of now discontinued Rubicon Style Rocker Guards in our warehouse. They couldnt have been easier to install. The lower part of the body since being an 03 and newer already had all the holes for the included nut-serts, all i had to do was drill down the body side. Part number is 82208021 if you would like to try and locate some.

I had previously installed a set of Rigid Industries SAE fog lamps and i knew they wouldn't look right on this bumper, not to mention this bumper requires you to turn your lamp 90 degrees to mount them. I really liked the larger 2005-06 TJ original fog lamps because they were round and filled the protection hoop out better. I also knew they were made by HELLA so i knew they were a quality, bright lamp. I picked up a pair of them as well and wired them right into the Rigid Harness using a set of Quadratec Fog lamp extensions which i spliced in so i could use the factory fog lamp plug. I love the appearance and functionality of the Amber fog lamps so i installed a set of Hella Optilux Extreme Yellow H3 Bulbs. Installation is as easy as replacing the bulbs and best done when turning the lenses 90 degrees.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Rustys Off-Road Front Adjustable Track Bar
September 18, 2017

The Track Bar locates the front and rear axles side-to-side under the Wranglers frame. A suspension lift will change the angle of the track bar and makes the actual length of the track bar shorter, which shifts the axle off center. This is very noticeable with lifts over 2 inches. The rock krawler lift kit comes with a super heavy duty track bar but required drilling on the frame and axle mounts which i was not ready to commit to just yet. I wanted a bar that was a true bolt in unit. Rustys Off-Road is the only company i could find that has this. The axle end uses the stock 10mm bolt while the frame end uses an adjustable stock tapered tie rod end just like the original track bar did. The best part about the Rustys bar is that it uses the same tie rod end as the steering linkage pitman arm. This also makes the service parts readily available which was a huge bonus. You can also see compared to stock the Rustys track bar is bent at the axle end mount to allow for more bar to bracket clearance for better suspension flex and droop.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Tuffy Security Products Underseat Drawer
September 21, 2017

I was looking for some lockable storage for while i was at the beach or camping and did not want to loose the ability of carrying passengers or larger cargo. So i chose the Tuffy Underseat Security Drawer. It allows you to reinstall your seat and still have a large flat area to sit or mount things on. This was perfect for me because i knew that i wanted to mount a fridge freezer slide some day without drilling into the floor of my jeep. Installation was tricky but i ended up figuring it out. I like how the drawer comes out all the way and how quiet it is while driving. I recommend that you loosely install all the brackets and drawer to get the original floor mounting bolts lined up and tighten them through the upper drawer holes. Remove the drawer and install the front seat brackets only, install the drawer and tighten, then finally install the rear seat brackets. ARB Fridge freezer slide soon to follow!

The parts used in this Entry were:
Odyssey Performance Series Battery
October 19, 2017

So i was starting to notice my engine was using more cranks to get started and sounded like the starter wasn't cranking like normal. Time for a new battery i figured. After using other aftermarket brands in the past i knew that i wanted to try something different and new to Quadratec. Odyssey Batteries has two different series available for the Wranglers, "Performance" and "Extreme". I chose the cheaper alternative "Performance Series" because i knew that i would be adding a secondary one just for accessories later down the road. I did the simple battery replacement job and the battery fit perfectly in the tray. I could immediately tell this battery was way stronger than the original. Engine cranking was basically non existent with it starting right up. I installed the battery just before a camping trip and i was really worried my 12 volt fridge would kill it and i would be stranded. That was definitely not the case. I ran the fridge for 3 days straight all day every day and every time i went to start the jeep you could tell the battery was just as strong. With a huge amount of reserve capacity i would strongly recommend this Odyssey battery to anyone.

The parts used in this Entry were:
  • : 17003.2012
Teraflex Skid Plates
October 25, 2017

As most know the 03-06 Jeep wrangler belly pan is commonly known as the "shovel". It hangs down so low and you always scoop up mud or get high centered on it. I wanted a bolt on belly up that did not require any exhaust modification. I chose Teraflex because they have an entire system that works perfectly together. Oil pan skid plate bolts right to the block providing the most ground clearance and room for suspension components. The Automatic transmission skid plate bolts right to that using a rubber bushing to allow engine flex, which then also bolts right to the belly up skid plate. This entire system provides a 2" gain over stock and a nice smooth transition for rock crawling. Lifting the crossmember this much also requires raising the engine so Teraflex includes 5/8" motor mount spacers which did require enlarger a stock hole. I found it easy to do using a uni-bit. The stock transmission mount i had figured would need replacing and it did. The stock ones dont last very long especially with larger tires. Daystar to the rescue again with their direct bolt in Polyurethane motor mount.

The parts used in this Entry were:
Daystar 1" Body Lift
October 25, 2017
Mountain Off-Road Motor Mounts and Steering Shaft Riser
February 20, 2018

I previously installed a TeraFlex Belly Up Skid Plate which included a 5/8" motor mount spacer to put everything back in line. This worked great until i realized the exhaust was hitting my body tub above the rear axle. Also wanting more clearance for larger tires I decided to install a Daystar 1" Body Lift to correct this. The body lift would allow me to fit larger tires with same suspension lift, put my fan shroud back in its original position and also allow me to install taller motor mounts. The taller motor mounts would give me less engine vibration transfer and also re-correct rear drive line angles. The MORE motor mounts come with rubber style mounts very similar to the clevite lower control arm bushings. Once i lifted the body now the steering shaft u-joint angle was a little steep for my liking. MORE also has a great solution for this. The steering shaft riser bracket will raise the steering pillow block to get rid of the annoying bump feel that occurs with body lifts. It re-corrects steering shaft u-joint alignment and corrects annoying noises from steering shaft firewall boot created with body lifts.

The parts used in this Entry were: