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Project Scope Creep : Thought I would work on antenna, did floor maintenance instead


NAXJA Member
I have been trying to find a free day to tear into my antenna installation for my ham radio. (Yes, I know, that would belong in "Modified". I will try not to touch on any more of that than necessary here.) I knew I would be taking out a bunch of the interior and knew I would want at least a full day for what I have in mind. As with everything else with this vehicle, there is always something more that has to be done too.

I got most of the access I needed, had the driver's seat out and was debating whether I needed to remove the passenger's seat, the console or both to get the remainder of access needed, and while contemplating that I decided to lift up the carpet and check on the condition of the floorboards.

Yes. I know. That is asking for trouble.

Truth be told, I have a pretty rust free XJ. I have seen the pictures of what some folks back east have to put up with. I have nothing to complain about. But I would also like to keep it that way.

This is what I found on the driver's side:


That funny "S" pattern is courtesy of the careful routing of speaker wires by a previous owner. My guess is that the extra pressure in combination with whatever dirt was present (an abrasive) created that situation.

That is really not bad at all. I am sure some folks back east would be ecstatic to find that.

Now I also have gathered that the passenger side is usually worse. I decided I probably better remove the passenger seat and lift the carpet on that side too. As I kind of expected, things were worse on that side, but nothing too severe. I got a small wire brush and started working to get a sense of what was there:


The wire brush is a slow way to go and won't really clean things up well. I stepped up my game a bit:


That is a bit more like it.

I wound up removing the console and removing the entire carpet. I also removed the four rubber body plugs. In the process of cleaning up the surface I found a few interesting things.

This is a situation where I thought I was going to just be brushing away an accumulation of fine dust:


The paint released entirely, but left bare metal behind. I am guessing that I caught this right at the beginning of the loss of protection from the paint. I expect the dust held the water there. Another year or two and it would have been rusting. The lesson there is to get the dirt out before it can hold the water and start the deterioration process.

I also noticed that the rust was predominantly in the high areas, not the low areas.


Note where the paint has been removed and where it hasn't. I instinctively tried to bury the wire cup in those grooves expecting them to have rust. That is why there is so much shiny metal around those grooves. I hardly found any rust there. It was almost all in the higher spots in the floor. What is happening is the carpet padding is holding the water and keeping it in contact with the high points.

The worst rust I found was above the exhaust in the rear seat footwell. I don't seem to have a good picture of just that area, but you can see it in this picture:


It is rusted through there, but it is a pretty small area. The holes are no bigger than 3/8". It could be much worse.

I took the wire cup to everything that looked suspicious, vacuumed out all the debris and then wiped everything down quickly with acetone. I am sure there are better products, but that is what I had at hand, and it is a holiday weekend. I doubt I would find any automotive paint stores open. Then, while letting the surface dry from the acetone I masked off the interior. I may have gone farther than necessary on this step, but I don't want to spend the future looking at a bunch of preventable overspray.


The product I chose to use was something I already had on hand. Again, this may not be the best product. In fact, a brush on product such as POR-15 would save the masking step. According to the marketing folks behind it this product should work, but marketing is often just another word for "fraud". If anyone has better suggestions they would certainly be worth considering.


The following pictures are of the results so far.

The worst spot:


Passenger foot well:


Driver's foot well:


A comparable picture of the first one in which I pointed out the bad spot above the exhaust:


One more of driver's side, showing masking more than anything else:


I figure I probably just extended the life of this XJ.

I wish I had new carpet on hand to put back in. I suspect one important component in the deterioration is the dust which eventually works its way through the carpet and becomes an abrasive to the paint. That is only one factor though. The way in which the carpet pad holds moisture against the metal is probably a bigger factor. I don't know how to prevent that though. I am wondering if a layer of adhesive sound deadening would help. I have no experience with those products and would be curious to hear from those who have actual experience with installations that have been opened up after a few years.

Another factor is floor mats. I have a full set of Rugged Ridge floor mats. I have no doubt that they trap moisture beneath them. Improved air circulation would be nice. Again, I have no idea how to achieve that.

For the time being my plan is to put things back together (after I actually run the wires I intended to run today) and then check on it again in a couple of years. Between now and then I would be curious to hear what others have found to work well in this situation. Rust seems to be the real killer of XJs, and the interior floor boards seem to be some of the first victims. I am open to ideas such as Rhino Lining or sound deadening mat, or perhaps even just a superior paint.

Those who are back east probably have a better idea of what works than anyone else. If I can keep this one in good condition I will be happy. And I would encourage others to take the time to check on their floors and take some preventative measures too. The material costs on this job are pretty minimal. It is more labor than anything else, and not particularly skilled labor at that.
Re: Project Scope Creep: Thought I would work on antenna, did floor maintenance inst

I replaced the OEM under-carpet padding with closed-cell foam (3/4 inch thick, IIRC) so that at least if water did get under there the padding wouldn't absorb it. I would imagine that it would prevent dust/dirt passing through from the carpet too.

The last time I replaced a fuel tank on my Jeep (due to rust), I painted the thing with "Flex-Seal" before installation, figuring a rubber-like coating would slow deterioriation on my metal tank. I plan to use the stuff as an undercoating as well as I deal with more rust, and maybe even do my door sills with it too.