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Replacing steering, front axle and parts of suspension


NAXJA Forum User
I have a 98 XJ where many of the front axle mounts and brackets have significant rust. One LCA mounts rusted off and the other one rusted very thin. So I welded on a new one for the one that broke off.

After inspecting the front axle, steering and suspension I found another front Dana 30 axle from a 99 XJ in a JY for $150.00. It's in fairly good shape mostly some surface rust. I'll need to clean up and paint. Also mostly likely replace the u-joints after pulling and inspecting the axle rods and any seals in need of replacement.

I'll probably pull the front wheel bearing off my old axle as they were replaced in 09/2011 with Timken and have only around ~25,000 miles on them. Possibly I could install some sort of locker of limited slip which may be worth the additional expense and labor since the replacement axle is currently removed.

The existing LCA OEM mounts are in good shape but am thinking of cutting them off and welding on some hd aftermarkets of which I already have one.

My Hobard mig welder is 130 amps and rated for up to 3/16 using flux core wire. The aftermarket lca mounts are 3/16" I'm not certain how thick the axle shaft is.

Is my Hobart Auto Arc 130 (115 VAC) welder good enough to weld on new LCA mounts onto the axle? (I don't have 240 VAC service at my location or would use my 230 AC / 140 DC sears craftsman stick 240 VAC welder)

The other question is I'm going to need to rebuild the entire steering and parts of the suspensions as many of the rods are well rusted, ball joints?, tie rods?, worn bushings?, suspension bushings? etc. may require replacement. One of the stabilize bar link bushing is completely gone.

I'm not certain how to replace the front end steering with new or non-rusted used parts. Just order new or used parts piece by piece or there are repair kits available?

The problem is the XJ the only vehicle that's currently licensed and insured to drive. So to perform the front end repairs I would prefer to have any neccsary parts available before dropping the old axle, removing steering and suspension components. After which clean up and paint the front end, then install the new axle, steering and any suspension parts in need of replacement.

Below are a few pics of the steering and parts of the front suspension. I'm think it may be easier to find some parts with bushings all ready installed instead of grinding sanding down the part, repainting and installing new bushings. ( also have some aluminum jeep wheels in good shape I plan to replace the old rusted steel wheels with when the tires require replacement)

The first pic is of the front spring sub-frame shock mount, may only require clean up and to be repainted? After the front axle, steering and suspension is removed I plan to cleanup the wire brush the entire sub-frame, inspecting for any weak areas that may require welding and installing 3/16 inch plating to.

I'll then use some rust preventive paint and heavy duty top coat on the entire underbelly, including the rear end which will probably require at least removing the rear suspension. Possibly I'll only need to loosen the rear axle (with driveline) and transfer case mounting to access any rusted areas of the sub-frame?

I'll probably do this in a two part process. First perform repairs to the front end including repairs to the uni-body and sub-frame, replacing the front axle, steering components and cleaning up or replacing front suspension parts. The second part will be the rear half of the XJ, from the transfer case back to the rear axle and bumper. I know at least one of the back supports for the rear springs needs replacement. The rear axle will need a closer inspection to determine the extent of rust. I will also at some time cut out the rusted rocker panels and replace with some 2 x 6 rectangular bar. The OEM type rocker panels seem to collect rust as their enclosed where opening the area, installing some 2 x 6 bar, possibly with support the rocker panel area would be more more capable of drying out.

(some of the pics are blurred, generally show the amount of rust)











Rusted rear bump stop






rust inside rocker panel






OH MY,I'd be more concerned with the Uni-body cancer before the axle!
OH MY,I'd be more concerned with the Uni-body cancer before the axle!

Yeah if it had any frame rot I'd probably junk it or use it as a donor vehicle.

I already inspected the uni-body and it's doesn't appear to have any significant rust issues, including the floor panels, doors, sub frame, etc. There are a few (approx. 6) minor rust problems in the unibodt roof near the top of the doors I found some rust holes less than 1/2" long and less than 3/8" wide, most are around 1/4 inch or less wide.

These I've already fixed with some Bondo hair body filler. I was going to use a welder but decided to give the Bondo a try. Works fairly well, however any more small rust problems I plan to grind and weld.

the rust is mainly on the underside effecting the steering and because of driving on an ocean beach for around ten years. I haven't found any rot in the sub-frame or the underbelly.

The only rust of the uni-body other than a few rust holes near the roof is the outer rocker panels, one side a little worse than the other.

There are two rocker panels on both sides, an inner and outer, when rot starts to creep into the inner panel it potentially effect the sub-frame. Same with floors, rust spreads along the floors and eventually into the sub-frame if not dealt with.

The only rust I can find on the uni-body is a couple inches on the bottom of one of the rear wheel wells that the rocker panel mates to. An easy fix.

The rest of unibody is ok and plan to paint the interior floor and underbelly. Possible other areas.

There is light rust on the seams bottom of the doors but overall the uni-body has no rust problems. The subframe is also ok, just needs to be wired wheeled or sand blasted and then re-painted.

I plan on painting the interior of the doors to prevent the bottom of the doors from rusting. Also the door wells will be painted. Once I remove the existing stock rocker panels will paint the sub-frame under belly.

For rust prevention I'm going to sand blast or wire wheel the interior floors and then paint the floor and underside with something a rust preventive paint such as

POR-15, Rust Bullet, Chassis Saver, Master Series, Miracle Paint, etc.

I've been looking at the Master Series: http://www.masterseriesct.com/

For a longer lasting application they recommend two coats of the primer and on coat of their top coat which is suppose to last 15 years or longer.

Once applied correctly following their instructions. The only thing to worry about is if the paint are significant cuts and scrapes that penetrate or expose metal. All that's usually required for repair is to paint over the scrape or cut in the paint.
There's a lot of work there -- I'd be willing to bet you have way more rot than you think

Get out your chipping hammer and probe around -- not gonna be pretty

You need another drivable vehicle -- no way repairs are going to be fast -- you're going to wrestle every bolt

Personally, I'd be looking for another XJ -- use that as a donor vehicle
I'll have to see how bad it is. I use to work in the shipyards and worked with different gauge metals from lighter to up to 3 inch. The metals used on road vehicles is very thin in comparison so there's less to work with when it comes to damage and rust.

What the automobile manufactures do in order to lighten vehicle for better fuel mileage and EPA requirements is they put bends in metal. E.g. they use 1/8 inch metal for a bracket or arm and they bend and design the metal so it has the strength of a 1/4 inch straight piece of metal without bends. The bends are often along the edge of the metal. Examples are LCA mounts, control arms, etc.

The uni-body is similar as it has strength as a whole. Damage to one part of the uni-body potentially effects other parts of the uni-body making them more difficult to repair. The engineers often place weak areas in a uni-body so when in an acident the weak areas will absorb much of the impact (i think in order to save other more important areas of the unibody)

Uni-body nothing new as it first came out around 1915 and was used in the 30s and 40s and common in the 1960s. The XJ was one of the first SUV's to use a uni-body design as most SUVs were built on a truck like frame, which don't bend and twist the same as a uni-body.

Anyway the Jeep with a uni-body can actually be re-strengthen with a little work. There are frame stiffener kits. People have actually got inside the sub-frame to re-strengthen and rebuild the uni-body of the XJ.

Imo, even an XJ without any rust issues can't withstand too much twisting and other forces found on a trail. It's designe was targeted as a vehicle for road transperation. As a service vehilce for police, miltary, etc. but not really as much is the design is for an off-road vehicle.

Stock tires are either 215's or 225's. Stock options for the XJ only allow to be lifted a max. of one inch. It's basically an on road vehicle without modifications, which can be expensive. Quality and higher lifts can become expensive running around ~2 to ~4k.

So basically you have a passenger vehicle that can't carry that many people due to it's size, which is preferred by many off-roaders because of maneuverability.

Anyway I'll see what rust issues it has and fix them one area at a time. May be out of commission for a while but normally do jobs very fast as that's how I learned to work. I was paid to perform and not to sit around, every second and minute of work has a meaning

I've been working since I was 10, first full time job when I was 13, 0.99 cents / hour 40 hour week. If I was late for work my pay was docked.
Yeah, once I pull the carpet I'll be able to better determine any uni-body rust problems. Looking underneath from the underbelly it doesn't appear to be any rust damage.

There were areas that looked new when I first purchased the XJ back in O7 however it's possible rust has creeped into the subframe. I'll have a better perspective once the carpeting is removed.

It's my current opinion there won't be any rust damage beyond repair.

Time? yes there are different methods to create more and less labor time.

I plan to do rust repair in stages. First would be to repair the front end which involves removing the steering and suspension.

Once the front end is done then the XJ will be drive-able again and other rust areas can be dealt with.

I could save time by just cutting out many parts using my torch or I can try to salvage parts. The first method involves less work removing nuts and bolts by just cutting away. The second method trying to salvage parts will take more time.

If I don't come across many stubborn bolts and nuts I could potentially do the front end in a day which would include some preparation for painting.

Potentially an 8 hour or less job removing the axle, steering and suspension and grinding some of the areas of the underbelly and sub frame.

Next stage would to repair any rust damage using a welder and possibly weld on additional metal plates for additional support and/or repair any rust issues.

At the same time any rust problems with the floor would need to be addressed. If no holes in the floor the labor is fairly simple grind (or if have a sand blaster sand blast) away the rust to prepare it to be painted. If rust holes then repair them with some sheet metal or floor kit.

When I first started working in the shipyards that's all I did was use a heavy duty grinder, on the side of ship and other areas, 8 hours a day 40 hour work week. Quite the workout, my hand and arms became stronger where I could bench press 450 to 500 lbs.

Anyway I don't mind doing labor as I've been digging ditches since I was 10. Back in those days there wasn't much in the way of hydraulics. Road crews didn't use back hoes back then they hired ditch diggers.

Farmers didn't have automated equipment they have today they use to hired hay balers. Same is true with modern logging crews, etc.

I don't really need a car for at least a couple of weeks. Often stock up on food and beer for up to several months where I don't need to drive anywhere.

So I can potentially do the job in a few days or a few weeks.

I plan to keep any additional materials that might be needed on hand but if anything else is needed I can order online and have it delivered to where I'm working on the Jeep.
I wouldn't worry about it too much Muddzz. The previous poster is playing a "what if" game. You can ask all the "what if"s you want but it won't provide you with any answers only a bunch of "what if"s.

I hate it when people come around and all they do is talk and never provide any input that worth while, wasting everyone's time.

Of course you have already thought of the potential of other rust problems besides the steering and suspension. Who wouldn't have?

Allot of that visible rust is superficial can be repaired, repainted and parts replaced. Any major rust issues can normally be repaired without that much cost and labor.

In the long run you'll be saving yourself some money as in many areas it's becoming more difficult to find cheap XJ's. Some areas 4k is near minimum and often with high miles.

Cost-Wise you would be better off fixing the one you have especially if you have money already sunk into it.