Sunday, April 29, 2012

My first welds!

My friend Carl gave me some welding instruction last Wednesday. It was great! Here are some photos, which speak for themselves. I combined 2 separate mounting systems into one so I can finish up the skid plate/hitch project I've posted about recently.

 These are the two mounting systems that were combined.

Here you can see I've cut one bracket short and removed the weld nut from the nut strip. The original pieces are on top, and the modified are on bottom.

I tack-welded the two together to hold them steady while welding. Note the differences in thickness of the two materials. This was a challenge, becasue the heat can burn away the thinner material without fully bonding to the thicker material if you don't perfect the technique. Considering this is my first official weld to be used for on the Jeep, it was a challenge! (I had ran some practice beads on scrap metal for 5 or 10 minutes prior to this as my truly 'first welds' . . .)

My first weld! I went a bit slow at first, causing some extra material to build up, but it was almost perfect through the middle, and then I went a bit fast at the end, causing some gaps. I truly spanned the gamut of possibilities.

I ground down the bead on the back to make a flush mounting surface - looks like pretty decent penetration, as it appears to be a single piece of metal.

I had to further enlarge the slots in the frame to insert the new, longer angle brackets. I blasted the bare metal which was exposed with a bit of primer, and called it a day!

Jeep on Dock in Tofino

Here is a great photo from my birthday last year, in Tofino.

XJ - gas tank skid/receiver hitch combo

I pulled this green gas tank skid from a wrecked Jeep in a salvage yard in Chicago 5 years ago. Unfortunately, I've never installed it on my Jeep! As you can see, the mounting flanges for my trailer hitch and the skid are in conflict. This green skid plate has taken up far too much space in our apartment or in the back of the jeep for over 5 years - for far too long! Yesterday, I took the first steps towards doing something about it.

The problem was, I couldn't pull a trailer if I had the skid installed - and I couldn't have the skid installed if I had the hitch installed... for a long time one or the other or both took up space in the living room of our 1 bedroom apartment. Yikes.

Taking up space in the living room:

When I ordered my tire carrier, it also conflicted with the same mounting locations as the skid and hitch! Now I had a real problem on my hands - I could only mount 1 of 3 very important accessories. And, all the space I freed up by getting my spare tire out of the back was immediately taken up by both the hitch and the skid!

As you can see, the skid couldn't be mounted over the top of the hitch because doing such flared the flanges upwards and outwards due to the shared dimensions of the two accessories. This was one problem which prevented the bolts from lining up through both mounting flanges.

Another problem was that the center of the hitch conflicted with the skid, preventing the skid from laying completely flat against the frame rails.

So, I cut the mounting flanges off the skid! This was the first step in my plan is to weld the skid to the more durable hitch mounting system. It should work like a charm!

I spent some time taking measurements and carefully cutting to fabricate this nice and snug slot which allows the hitch the clearance it needs and enables the skid to lay flat. I will also weld along this slot to increase rigidity in the center of the skid. It should end up stronger than it was in it's stock configuration!




BEFORE: Conflicting mounting flanges had prevented me from installing both accessories.
AFTER: The skid's mounting flanges removed and a central hitch clearance notch has been created.

I'll clean up the mounting surfaces with a wire wheel and my electric drill and angle grinder this week. Then, next weekend, I hope to get this project welded up, painted, and installed on the Jeep once and for all!

So, what took so long? Why didn't I get to this sooner? Well, until recently, I haven't had access to a welder, which is the critical part of this fabrication project - and now I do! My friend Carl Jarrett is helping me learn how to weld, and now I'm getting to these projects which have been lingering for years. It's a great feeling to learn something new. Carl is a wonderful teacher, and I told him that welding felt like performance art! It's all about the coincidence of perfection spanning a diverse array of techniques, movements, on-the-fly adjustments, heat, material thicknesses, speeds, angles, and even sounds! It is incredibly rewarding to truly learn something new - and something so fundamentally physical and scientific in nature - the bonding of steel! I'm very thankful for friends like Carl, who expose me to opportunity for exploration of my own curiosities, as well as furthered education and experience in exciting realms. 

Carl's Personal Website:

Carl's Fabrication Website:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Door Pockets

For some reason, the Jeep engineers omitted door pockets for my Cherokee.
What an over-sight! This is the perfect place for maps, sunglasses, etc.
More storage is ALWAYS a good thing.

I found a vendor who made a custom production run of aluminum pockets.
That was 2 years ago, and unfortunately, he no longer manufactures them.
Then, last week, I got an email stating he had a few left overs.
I was lucky and got a set!

Door Before:

Door After:


The door pockets come unfinished.
The brushed aluminum took primer and paint very well.
I chose to leave the insides unfinished to help bounce light around.
And because I was too lazy to paint in there.
The pockets came with some nice rubber trim to make the sharp upper edge safe!

I did a few coats of primer, then a few coats of black undercoating to help match the texture of my interior trim pieces.
I covered the undercoating with a few coats of clear lacquer, too, for durability.

Mounting hardware - 6 tabs and allen head fasteners:

Seat Clearance:

Filled with things:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Black Mountain

We got the chance go to the top of Black Mountain.
Our friend planned a great adventurous day for her birthday!
The group went snowshoeing and then we cooked some lunch on the peak.
It was great fun - this summit affords one of the best views the area has to offer.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Spring - it's coming!
I had all of the windows cracked yesterday.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cylinder 3 Misfire

This weekend, I started getting a CEL.
The engine would run very rough - it wasn't drivable!
Oddly, the CEL occurred when putting the Jeep in reverse.
I tracked it down to be an injector wire grounding out on the fuel rail.
The contact created an open circuit, causing a misfire in cylinder 3.
I assume that the transmission/engine torquing differently in reverse was the cause.
I repaired the wiring loom and secured it away from the fuel rail to prevent this in the future.

Mikey's Climate Controls

I helped my pal Mike take apart his Climate Control center.
The previous owner of his Subaru spilled a soda in them.
The buttons were SUPER sticky, and didn't always depress.
Take a peek at the button stuck to my hand!
GROSS! Soda is sticky.

We had a great time working on this task yesterday.
Kind of like putting a puzzle together.