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Best upgrades you've done?


NAXJA Member
Williams AZ
I'm curious to see what everyone's favorite upgrades are? Got a new 88 xj to build. Plan is 3" lift with 31s, keeping it very streetable.

Besides the obvious lift...what could you not live without doing?
Engine mounts, steering box spacer upgrade, and rocker guards.

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It would be a toss-up between WJ brakes, a 4:1kit, and a 2Lo kit.
Lunchbox lockers, adjusted rear brake shoes, V8 ZJ tie rod, diff covers, and a cheap 100 watt dual channel Bluetooth stereo amp off Amazon. Let's face it, AM/FM stations are pointless in 2024 and it was $25, fit in my modified right side accessory switch panel (where the trans power comfort switch went before I locked it in power mode) and freed up my factory radio slot for use with my 50W 2 meter ham radio.
Lunchbox lockers, adjusted rear brake shoes, V8 ZJ tie rod, diff covers

Those should be standard equipment along with bumpers and rock rails!!!
At 3" of lift and 31's, the best upgrade was locking differentials. Skids, diff armor, and rock rails are basic essentials.
Hands down frame stiffeners, especially the rears. Made huge difference in ride quality and competence on road. Got rid of the creaking and popping when you hit a bump or articulate the suspension.
Those should be standard equipment along with bumpers and rock rails!!!

Agreed. My current '88 MJ build is just a nice capable DD that I don't have to worry about getting stuck working on our property or on one of those rare days when we get snow here and the town doesn't plow it for a week, so bumpers and rock rails are pretty unnecessary, but all the stuff I listed I now view as something to be done as soon as I get a new jeep. I wouldn't list adjusting the drum shoes as an upgrade, but, well, I've had to do it on every single one I've bought so far... :looney:

Oh, forgot, I got one of the fairly rare shortbed MJ fuel tank skids on it too. I've not bothered with a factory front skid since 2011 but might one day put a tcase skid on this thing. If it gets a bumper I'll be building it myself just for adding a winch but if anything it's more likely I'll build something based off a Boostwerks steering brace instead and hide the winch entirely behind the factory bumper and crossmember.
Swapping in a Dana 44 front differential from a TJ Rubicon with the air locker and adding an Eaton E-Locker to the rear Dana 44.
A locker in the rear. Recently wheeled a friend's Jeep that was open/open, and I couldn't understand why we were stuck on nothing lol.

Headlight harness upgrade is a "must-do".

Also something I did last year that I love is a hard-mounted phone holder and also a tablet holder. I can run Gaia and Avenza side by side while out wheeling. Awesome navigation upgrade.
WJ front brakes and steering. Major improvement for both on and offroad drivability.
Montana Fab AW4 transmission shift controller. I use this every time I'm offroad and occasionally when in stop and go traffic to hold the trans in 1st or 2nd gear to reduce the need for constant braking.
There's a lot of good stuff here, almost all of which will likely get done....short of the 4:1 or 2lo kit, those would be nice but this is a budget build. Drivtrain will probably stay completely stock for years except for some lunchbox lockers.
97+ mirrors, e-fan override switch, cheap rucklight Amazon headlights
Headlight upgrade. Wiring Harness and CBIE H4 lamps. Have to see where you are going. Next, the WJ Cross over steering with OTK trackbar. Then include the WJ Big Brakes. Frame stiffeners really firm up the suspension. This is on a road, light trail runner 2" lift and 31's. I'd also add in a trans cooler if auto.
I wanted that Jeep!


But I'll get over it.

The mods I absolutely insisted on for Varmint #1's XJ were upgraded headlights (incl. relays--went with Daniel Stern's recommendations on headlights--some Toyota spec) and a double shear trackbar (went with Core 4x4). I also added Core 4x4 lower control arms and welded a reinforcement plate and bushing into the passenger side LCA mount. Those mods fell into the category of "these things need to be done just to make things fit for driving."

T-case shifter linkage would be another good mod. I have the Boostwerks on Scope Creep and much prefer it over the stock linkage. Much more pleasant to use. However I suspect the aftermarket linkages are less tolerant of motor/trans mount play. I am running Brown Dog motor mounts and an SFR trans mount, so that play isn't much of an issue for me, but I haven't pushed Varmint #1 in that direction on account of the potential scope creep.

I love my OX locker, but that is not part of a budget build.