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Budget Iceland Offroad ZJ build

AK-RWC

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My son was “helping” me in the garage and asked about the engine hoist, so I showed him how it operates. Maybe a week or two later, both kids were in the garage with me playing with the hoist; just jacking the arm up and releasing the pressure. I ran upstairs for something and heard a loud crash followed by crying. My wife and I ran down to the garage to find that my son told his little sister to pull on the lifting arm chains while he jacked. Since the legs weren’t attached, the arm came down...onto the ZJ. Thankfully neither of the kids were hurt, and the only real damage was to the right side turn signal. (That fiberglass bumper pulled through yet again!) Since we’d been tossing around the idea of new headlights anyway, this was the motivation I needed to get it done: all new assemblies for both sides.

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I called The Retrofit Source ("TRS") prior to ordering because I was concerned about an LED not having enough heat to melt snow/ice, but I was attracted to the M-LED 2.0 because it didn't require a separate harness. After doing an informal poll among Jeep owners here, it was apparent that LEDs were only icing up during times when halogens were icing up too, even with the factory LEDs on the JLs/JTs. So, since the LEDs had much smaller drivers to mount and were otherwise plug-and-play, I ordered them up with the 9004/9007 splitters (recommended by TRS), and selected the FlatBoy Switchback shrouds, mostly because they were somewhat rectangular and would provide a nice transition from the round projector lens to the rectangular ZJ housing. It turns out that the LED also gets quite hot; hot enough that Morimoto incorporated a cooling fan for the heat-sink. This means that there's an internal fan circulating warm air within the housing. I'm hoping that any concerns I would have otherwise had about icing will be completely nullified.



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Since you can't put a projector into the factory housing since the OEM Fresnel lens would simply kill the benefits of the projector's beam, there are a couple of aftermarket ZJ housings available that are a "euro" style and provide a clear front. I ordered these Anzo USA 111066 housings from Amazon. Into the oven they went so soften the butyl rubber so you can pry the fronts off.


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Front off. Next, remove the bulb cover thing that's screwed in.



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Then, down to the garage to quickly open up the 9004 hold to H4 diameter using a die grinder and a carbide bit. I also decided to bring the rear mounting surface down about 1/2" to have a few more threads for the back of the projector to screw to. I used a flat-file to make sure it was all still at the same plane.



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First mock-up of the projector inside the housing.




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Both projectors more-or-less ready for baking with new butyl rubber.



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OEM headlight on bright on the left, with the M-LED 2.0 on bright on the right.



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There was, however, a snag. Not knowing the differences between a 9004 and a 9007 bulb, I assumed that since they're sold as the same splitter, it was simply a design change or wattage difference on the filament side. So, since TRS said this was plug-and-play, and the only directions anywhere for this are on their website (and Morimoto's) for how to screw the projector into the housing, I simply tried the plug and play. The dims were on bright, and when I tried swapping sides I ended up melting the connector and I heard sizzling coming from the driver. I immediately sent an email to TRS and went to bed. In the morning, after going back and forth with their tech support, I tried one more time using my multimeter to make sure I wasn't doing anything "wrong" since it's possible to flip the polarity for the driver input (TRS said this was an intentional design since some Toyotas are reversed). Sure enough, I fried the other driver. I called TRS and they said that the first advice I got was wrong; that the "older Jeeps" did need the relay harness. TRS had that, and two new drivers, on the way at no charge the next day.
 
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AK-RWC

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Not entirely the end of the saga though: when I had it all mocked up, the dim was bright and the bright had the LEDs completely off. I was ready to toss in the towel when my wife suggested that I just reverse the wiring where the relay harness plugged in to the OEM headlight. I pulled out my multimeter and realized she was probably right; that I just needed to flip the pins in the Morimoto relay harness. I did that, mocked it up again, and everything worked! Someone who has done ZJ HID projectors using TRS products then told me an important instruction: even though the 9004 and 9007 use the same base "plug," the order of the three wires is different. However, because the 9007 is the more common and more popular OEM headlight bulb, the aftermarket caters the adapters, splitters, and harnesses to the 9007, and they just sell the same harness to people who need the 9004. One minor set of instructions telling me to swap the pins probably could have saved my original drivers and obviated the need for the relay harness, but at that point I had a relay harness.

I then spent several more hours getting the drivers and relay cleanly mounted, ran the wires, and soldered the switchback connections in.
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First time seeing them outside against the garage door for a minor angle tweak.



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I found a warehouse, parked a little way away, and did some more tweaking to align the projectors.



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Brights.



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Brights, with the cheap 30" light bar and the tungsten/halogen VisionX spot lights on. The LEDs on bright almost completely wash out the light bar and spots!



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Back in the garage, everything off.



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DRLs. These come on with the ignition via a fuse-tap to the PDC.



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Left turn signal.



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Hazard lights.
 
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AK-RWC

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Parking lights on; switchback is still bright.



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You can't tell from the pic and it's hard to catch in real life, but when the headlights turn on, the switchback/DRL dims slightly.



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Nice side shot with the headlight on dim.



These things are AMAZING. I should have done it five years ago when I first contemplated a legit lighting upgrade.
 
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bigwalton

Alaskan Postal nutjob
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Good luck with the icing. I put a set of LEDs I had on hand in the TJ I got and had massive icing issues here last winter. Worst was when wet, sloppy crap was flying off of tires in front of me.

Swapped them with Mater’s heated Trucklites
and have had no more issues.
 

AK-RWC

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south central
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Good luck with the icing. I put a set of LEDs I had on hand in the TJ I got and had massive icing issues here last winter. Worst was when wet, sloppy crap was flying off of tires in front of me.

Swapped them with Mater’s heated Trucklites
and have had no more issues.

People here with the heated TruckLites (and I think there's a JW Speaker that's heated too?) said that the heating element just tends to bake the road grime to the plastic. It was around 20 degrees last night, and although there was no precipitation, I could feel at least a tidbit of warmth on the headlight. I think there's a HUGE difference between a bulb swap and doing what's required for an full-on projector; if this puts off enough heat to require a cooling fan for the heat-sink, we should be OK.
 

bigwalton

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Sounds good, I have been insanely impressed with these Truck Lites. I had low expectations (I inherited them from Dan Grec after he got back from Africa, they were spares) but I haven’t had any issues since going to them :shrug: I’m pretty anal about checking for it in crappy weather.
 

AK-RWC

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I’ve been sitting on a set of used 4.10 rear JK gears for several years that I’d been holding onto because they are larger than the ZJ’s Dana 44HD ring gear, but they fit on the ZJ carrier and the pinion will work by using a Chrysler 8-1/4” crush sleeve. (This conversion also requires a different yoke.) Then at the end of the summer I was able to get some used 4.10 gears from a HP Dana 30 that I think was in a YJ. I finally ordered set up kits in December, and yesterday a friend gave me a discount for chasing the patterns (I arranged the weekend shop space and stripped the axles for him) so the ZJ is now on 4.10 gears with new clutches in the rear and new wheel bearings/seals!

I didn’t get home until 5:00 am though. It was a long night. On the short test drive there was a vibration above 50 mph, but I didn’t hear any gear noise so I’m hoping it’s just something stupid as to the driveshafts that I didn’t catch because I was groggy when reinstalling.


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Something that I was frustrated by was the premium Yukon charges for taking a Spicer U-joint of out of the Spicer box and sticking it in their plastic sandwich baggie. Based upon advertising photos, I thought that Yukon actually sold a conversion 1310/1330 joint with the hardened cross shaft. Nope. So I paid extra for the privilege of having a Yukon p/n.
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AK-RWC

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Pre-gear change pics that I forgot to post:


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Cool pic a buddy of mine took and edited when my club was doing a winch demonstration just after I installed the headlights. Note the lack of winch. The solenoids had started giving me fits, so I took it off to give it to a guy who uses the forum handle "Blackjack," and is notoriously known within certain 4x4 circles (including Pirate) as the Mad Winch Doctor due to his expertise in WARN products. He currently works for a company that is an authorized WARN dealer/service center, but he does fun stuff on the side sometimes for friends. I dropped the XD9000i off asking him to do a bit of a cleanup and rebuild in August of 2020. He took it apart and said that the good news was the gears and drum were in great shape. He then asked if he could build me "something special." I said yes.




When doing the winter tire change I decided to scrape at a paint bubble to put some POR-15 over it. The bubble collapsed, which turned into a full-blown rust repair while changing tires:
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Not professional, but not bad for a couple hours of spontaneous mid-week after-work repair (while changing to the studs).
 
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AK-RWC

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I couldn't ever figure out what was going on with the driveshaft vibration, and ultimately decided it was probably because I needed a new rear driveshaft; maybe something happened to it while I was changing to the 1310/1330 conversion joint? I don't know, but removing the rear shaft caused the vibration to go away. However, I also needed to stretch the wheelbase back after discovering that it was touching at compression, and my alignment guy hadn't done it for me after putting the long-arm system on. Pushing the back axle rear meant I needed to section the rear bumper, which was designed for a factory opening rather than the Iceland Offroad flares. So, I found a Saturday at my buddy's shop to use his lift and welder. I think I cut out 2.25" or 2.5" from the leading edges:



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Again, not professional body work, and I was anticipating using some body filler, but was pleased enough with how the welds ground down smooth that I just went with high-build primer and sanded for a couple minutes. If you look closely you can tell where there's a defect, but if there's any bit of road grime on the bumper you can't tell.




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And one more Saturday got the wheelbase stretched. This was actually a huge PIA because I didn't have enough thread engagement on the front lower rear control arm joints, so I had to slide them to the forward most mounting hole. That requires dropping the front upper rear mounting brackets out of the skid plate system, which requires removing the exhaust pipe. Fundamentally, this was a full-day project. I pushed the front axle forward 1.5" and the rear axle back 1.25". I pulled the springs and shocks and literally set the axles down on the bump stops to make sure everything was centered as best it could be in the wheel well at full compression, and this is where it all ended up.




With that, I got an alignment and had them specifically check the pinion angle, and took it beach-wheeling (which seems to now be the annual test-run for ZJ mods), but still had a vibration from the driveshaft at highway speeds. I needed to get down to my other property though, so I just made my family suffer through the vibration:
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Picked up the "primered Camaro" winch from my buddy in Soldotna on the way down. Let's just say this isn't a Warn VR12, even if that's what the sticker suggests.
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And unfortunately, we had to use it. I won't even get into the details of what went down on this run.
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AK-RWC

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My friend looking at the ZJ later commented as I was winching the WK2, "Wow, that winch is fast!"


I later checked the driveshaft while rotating on jack stands and decided that both the slip yoke and the centering ball were slightly going out, so I ordered a whole new shaft from Adams, and checked the pinion angle myself. I ended up rotating it up 2 degrees, and it's 100x better than before, but I still have some vibration that comes on around 80 mph, but it goes away by 90.

At this point, I'm ready to stick a fork in in the ZJ! There's really no other mods I want to make on it at the moment. One of the M-LED 2.0 cutoff plate solenoids is on the fritz, but Morimoto/TRS sent me a replacement projector and a new switchback under warranty. I still need to install it since it just arrived last week. The right side of the rear bumper is a little loose too, even though the bolts are tight, so I need to address that. But these are just maintenance items! It's weird reaching the "end" of a project. (At least for now.)
 
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Kane

CJ-8 Member
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Berlin
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ct
It came along very nicely as a sweet go anywhere daily driver. Nice work.
 

bigwalton

Alaskan Postal nutjob
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MI
This is just awesome. It’s basically the same kind of thing I tried to do with my LJ.
 
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