The Jeep CJ Debacle

This is my sad and triumphant story about my CJ rebuild project. It is chronicled on the CJOffroad.com web forum. The guys on the web forum have been a great help in providing information. The link directly to the original postings is … here … I’ve only included my postings on this page.

Posted – Apr 11 2005 :

So, I can work on vehicles. I mean I’ve rebuilt motorcycles and done scratch restores. Frame on up if you know what I mean. A CJ can’t be that bad right?

After I got a 258 to actually idle and run pretty smooth. I blow the T5 in my CJ spinning 33’s on all stock components. Of course the T5 blows into little tiny bits. Entire teeth disappear in a fog of molten mettle. I figure I know when I’m out of my league. A rebuild is a necessary evil lets put a pro to work. No go on the rebuild. The housing is hosed, the parts are broken. I now own one entire T5 rebuild kit for a transmission that won’t ever spin again.

Enter CJOffroad.com. A user sells me a SM-465. Yes NV3550 and NV4550 would be great transmissions, but the SM-465 is priced at what my pocket can bare. Then comes the whopper. Novak will do all the work machining parts, but I’m looking at $1100 in adapters, shipping, and special machining to make things work. I tighten the family grocery budget and make the deal. Then it takes two weeks to get the bell housing from my mechanic. Not my fault. Not his. Just life I think to myself. Off to Novak the bell housing is sent. I should have been more aware.

Meanwhile my CJ sits at the mechanics shop torn to pieces. The mechanic offers to take care of a few things so he drops the gas tank does some fabrication work. It’s going to cost but I figure I’d rather pay that than storage. He gets the gas tank removed, the transmission and transfer case is removed. The truck is sitting outside. Some problems with get the machining and six weeks has flowed by. I notice that the mechanic hasn’t finished anything. I’m not sure why as I PRE-PAID for the job. Of course the state has shut him down. Of course my truck is in pieces. Of course many parts are apart. I am totally freaking.

Well I went and stole my truck back. I haven’t heard from the mechanic in THREE weeks. He missed two appointments to give me my stuff back. The phone at the mechanic has a full message queue. I’m not just worried, I’m terrified. It’s funny the day after I had my truck towed the mechanic called to give me my stuff back and I have all the parts. No harm no foul some would say. He still owes me my keys. The bad thing? I like the mechanic, and he does good work! Life intrudes on us all.

So wait you’re saying why is this in the technical forum? I have a 1986 CJ7 that is in pieces that I didn’t take apart. In the past I’ve taken pictures, made drawing, put the bolts and nuts in containers that I marked. I took stuff apart. Now I have pieces that I didn’t take apart. Add in this is a transmission swap that is going to be way different anyways. I have pieces that I have no clue what they do. Do I have everything? I don’t know. With all the prior owner customization the full shop manual is about useless. For example it is a 1986 but has a mechanical clutch instead of hydraulic. My manual says that ain’t so.

Wish me luck? I’m going to see if a tranny shop will do the bench rebuild, but I’m just looking at parts thinking Damn.

Posted – Apr 14 2005 :

I thought somebody might like to see some of the parts. I got the keys back today so that is one more thing done.

Posted – Apr 14 2005 :

I took the SM-465 to another mechanic. He is worried that the SM-465 shift forks in the tower might go bad, but I told him I’m more worried about getting the transmission together. The new mechanic has been working Jeeps for awhile so he is all about v8’s. Seems to have his stuff together. I just can’t bring myself to break down and rebuild the transmission on my own. The phrase from the Novak literature about leaving the bushing on a hot light bulb for a couple of hours, freezing the main shaft, and putting it all together quickly has me thinking …. Um no….

I got another box of parts too. I’m hoping I’ll end up with everything. I now have the bell housing and clutch linkages. This weekend I’m going to try and mount the gas tank, pull the flywheel to get resurfaced…. Maybe I will have everything back together next weekend? … Minus the transmission I’m going to lay everything out end to end and try and figure out what I have.

I went ahead and bought the Jeep Rebuild Book by Luddel, I have a FSM on CD (and a computer in the shop), I also bought the Haynes manual for pictures…

Posted – May 04 2005 :

I thought I would provide an update on this torrid affair of the heart…

The SM465 transmission has been rebuilt and the NEW mechanic has offered to install it for a pretty small sum of money.. So, I call the tow truck to take the jeep over to the mechanics and hopefully get the rusty red rig on the road again.. So the tow truck show’s up late and I had to leave for work. My wife and dad follow the rig over to the mechanic behind the tow truck.

Then they see an eerie site. My Jeep is trying to pass the tow truck. Mind you the jeep doesn’t have a transmission and the drive shafts aren’t connected to anything. So my Jeep doesn’t make it past the tow truck and slams into the back of it on the corner. I haven’t seen the damage as I’m typing this sitting in my office. I understand the hood and fender are mangled maybe more. The jeep had come disconnected from the tow truck and set out for freedom.

My wife was pretty upset, but nobody got hurt so that is good. The jeep sounds like it won’t be driveable when they get done putting the transmission in, but I’ll know more in the morning. Working on three months I think without it running.

Well I guess I’ll see how bad it is in the morning.

Posted – May 04 2005 :

Well I’ve seen the pictures… I’m just sick.. It’s not as bad as it could have been. Imagine somebody taking a big knife and swinging it straight at the marker light on the right bumper. So that it crumpled the fender in all the way to the hood. The hood is lifted and buckled. The front grill looks very “strange”. It is lifted up on the right side from what the pictures show. All in all the jeep showed it’s a dang tough truck. It sounds like it hit the rear of the tow truck at about 30+ mph. It was a downhill slope so it wasn’t stopping anytime soon.

It sounds like after talking to my dad that the tow truck went across the rail road tracks, the jeep bounced up a little came down off square and then the tie down strap ripped loose. This could have been very bad. I’m not going to blame the driver quite yet. He says he is going to make it right and I want to actually see the damage before I go ballistic. Though I will be honest it is hard.

The funny thing? The fenders were one of the straighter items on the jeep!

Posted – May 05 2005 :

I appreciate all the offers of help I added a few more pictures today and went and investigated it myself. The right fender is toast. You can see some of the assembly spot welds are popped in one picture. Thanks for telling me about the bolt on the bottom of the grill Mr. Strenk and CJJim7. The bottom of the grill was rusted through and is toast. The fender rod is bent but that is easy to fix. The tub is bent in a tiny bit where the bolts connect. I was doing a tub swap anyways. The left fender was pushed out and tweaked too. It’s obvious it hit hard, but wow it survived pretty darn good.

Now that I’ve seen with my own eyes I’m calming down and have crawled off the ceiling. I’ll be looking for fenders and a hood. I was going to do a YJ tub swap anyways. The only original sheet metal will likely be the tailgate! My wife told me to go buy a new frame and with my discussion of doing a motor swap why did I buy this truck?

Yikes I never expected my truck to be perfect. I was just thinking I don’t have a great story about wheeling to explain how I bent up the truck. There was no daring adventure when it got bent, no stories to tell my kids about wicked hills or off camber wheeling. Some guy dropped it off the back of a tow truck. That is just so dang sad. If my truck was going to get bent up at least I could have fun doing it!

Posted – May 09 2005 :

The part I really need is the right fender and a hood. The left fender I can straighten. The bottom of the grill was rusted out just like somebody said it would be (the stainless cover hides a lot of sin). So right fender, hood, grill is the top priorities in that order.

I write about ethics all the time for work. There are a few paradigms. Do no bad, do only good, or get away with whatever you can. I can’t see any good in getting the guy fired for an accident. The driver has offered to do all the labor as pennance. I’ve documented the accident pretty well. As long as I feel whole at the end I’ll cover the replacement cost on parts.

I know I’m a wimp.

But, I don’t think the guy was being stupid or reckless and I would rather just get my truck fixed.

Posted – May 12 2005 :

So the truck is driveable as of today…For a few hours.

The SM465 sticks way up into the cab much farther than I expected, but I can work around that…

After five phone calls to Novak there is something strange. The Clutch isn’t fully disengaging. The AMC bearing they said use doesn’t allow the clutch to move through the full range so it is hard to shift. It is like the bearing is to small. They said use the one in the clutch kit which we did and it now it doesn’t work. So, later today they are going to rip the transmission back off and see if a Chevrolet bearing might work better. Something about the facing and the sizing of the snout is an issue.

Posted – May 13 2005 :

I think the clutch is a case of changing to much to fast. Since the old mechanic took things apart and didn’t give me everything back I went ahead and bought a stock clutch. I can’t even verify the AMC bearing I bought is the same as what was took out since I don’t have the parts. And, we all know Jeep never changed any parts specifications during a model run!

The transmission shifter “tower” actually comes into the cab. The shifter is just about perfect as is. When I put the one inch body lift on the truck it will make this less of an issue. By the way the new transmission is short throw in comparison to the T5. It is like smooth shifting. Well if you discount that whole no clutch problem.

One of the issues with the clutch is that the throw out bearing is riding on the Novak Adapter provided snout and that may not be machined correctly (I’m looking to see if there is a stock one in my spares for comparison).

Posted – May 20 2005 :

More on today..

Well I was supposed to pick up a driveable jeep today. Unfortunately the new mechanic is in the hospital and none of his garage rats know when he will get out. They were kind of wandering around aimlessly.

According to my phone call with the mechanic on Monday of this week here is the latest. The Transmission is in and the jeep drove around the block. The clutch though new is not working correctly. It is as if the throw is not long enough. The arm sticking out of the bell housing is past the middle point so you push in on the clutch and nothing moves. He said the stock throw out bearing was to short. It was the standard one included with the Collins Brothers clutch kit and looked like all the original stuff.

He said the stock throw out bearing provided was also very loose on the snout of the transmission. I’m wondering if things were not put together correctly or some other part is missing. Neither of us took this apart as mechanic one did most of the tear down.

So, is there common mistakes in putting things back together that might cause this problem? The clutch currently does not disengage completely and the pedal go’ all the way to the floor. Yes he adjusted the linkage to the very end, and then still needed more to get a clutch engagement at all.

3 comments for “The Jeep CJ Debacle

  1. BLKHOOD
    May 12, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    WOW sorry to hear about adventure. I see this post is old, however With my swap from t5 to sm465 I had to machine a sleeve for the bearing retainer ie. part the throw out bearing slides on, So the factory style bearing can be used.
    I hope by now your jeep is running and driving.

  2. sam
    May 12, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    It is up and running and doing great. I actually tried the bearing retainer two different ways. I machined a “snout” sleeve, and then a bushing for the throw out bearing. Jeepers never say die.

  3. Pingback: 1986 Jeep CJ 7

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