Project WK - My new SRV (Sanity Reset Vehicle)

nwoods

Expedition Leader
Its been a long time since I had my own Offroad capable vehicle. Kids are off to college and career is looking solid, so it's time. I searched for YEARS looking for a clean 4th gen 4Runner without a sunroof (because I am tall), finally found one the same day I saw this WK. The 4Runner was $15,000 with over 200k miles and would have required a loan, the WK was less than 1/3rd of that and I bought it debt free. It has 155k miles on the chassis, but less than 700 miles on a total engine rebuild (including piston and rings). It may not match the 4Runner in overall quality, but for the price, I feel like it was the better deal for me.

The Vehicle
This SRV is a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with the 5.7L HEMI V8 and Quadra-Drive II 4wd system including electronic limited slip diff's front and rear. 3.73 gearing, and low range ratio of 2.72 with the NV245 transfer case. It's completely stock, and reprents a clean slate to build from.

Capability Goals
I run mild to medium trails. The hardest I could envision is John Bull in the Big Bear area. Lots of trails like Rattlesnake, Mojave, White Mtn, Cleghorn, etc (using local SoCal examples). I love going to Moab and exploring Utah and Arizona, I'm hoping this rig is cable of doing trails like Fins n Things, Hells Revenge, Poison Spider, etc... I know the WK doesn't flex much, but as long as the CG stays reasonable, 3-wheeling isn't too big a deal with this 4WD system. I love to go fast through sandy washes, I enjoy the dunes, and I like technical crawling over rock piles like Bullfrog and Cakewalk.

I do "camping trips" with weekenders or up to 10 day long explorations. We pack heavy, and bring everything including the kitchen sink, but there are only two of us now (myself and my wife) so that saves a little bit on space (won't have all the kids gear). We usually tent camp, so I don't know if I'll ever sleep in the back. I am 6'-7" tall and that just isn't usually an option for me anyway.

I will want sliders, skids, and recovery points for sure.

I think the front end offers a lot of clearance as is, and I don't need a winch at this point, so I will probably just do some bumper trimming and leave the front bumper on. I may replace the rear bumper though, as that butt will drag for sure. I'm targeting a 2.3" to 3" lift so that I don't need to do a diff drop or other significant modifications (unless the concessions is that 4" lift is necessary). I have found a LOT of spacer lift options, but I would really prefer a more functional spring lift, and my current suspension is tired and needs replacement anyway.

The Build
I'm not too sure yet on parts and pieces. I am open to ideas, suggestions, and hopefully, lessons learned from you'all. Budget is limited, but I have some ideas and goals.
  • OME 2.3" Suspension lift (Rocky-road.com ?)
  • Upper control arms (JBA or rocky-road)
  • Optional: Bilstien 5100's instead of OME nitro's
  • Tires: 33" (maybe 32"?) Falkien Wildpeak AT3's or BFG KO3's
  • Sliders?
  • Skid Plates?
  • Rear Bumper?
  • Upgraded Headlights? (LED or HID Xeon?)
  • Undercarriage rock lights
  • Radio comms (Midland FRS base station + HAM)
  • Exhaust! Need this thing to sound like a big V8
What else do I need? I already have all the kit for the interior, such as first aid and recovery gear. I have an ARB fridge.

Let me know your thoughts! I appreciate any and all comments. Even the ones that say I should have splurged on the 4Runner

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jpat30

Adventurer
What a cool blank slate to start with and kudos for buying a rig you can afford outright. Makes those mods easier to pocket..haha.. Jeep Grands make fantastic explorers, I had an 03 WJ that I built. It took my family all over the southwest. From the looks of things, I would say you have a good plan there. My vote would be to go with the OME HD springs on Bilstein 5100s. I ran this combo along with 32 in KO2s for years with no problems. It provided plenty of load capability while still giving a good ride on the hwy. Definitely invest in a set of sliders.. Grands have a lot of rocker real estate. As for bumpers, you may find yourself limited to the tried and true ARB up front and possibly custom out back. Aftermarket is not the best for the GC. There are a few great WK builds here on the portal; one that I have enjoyed is an 08 CRD built by member SSF556. His rig is sweet. Anyway, congrats again on your purchase and get out there an enjoy!
 

toastyjosh

Adventurer
Nice! I also have been looking at the same rigs over the 4th gen 4runners.


Good luck!
 

RainGoat

Member


My Mom had an ‘06 JGC Overlander that she drove over every CO pass but Black Bear & ALL over Southern UT. It’s a very underrated platform. Ours just had a 2” lift, rear AirLift bags & sliders with the front air dam removed & a prerunner bar for auxiliary lighting & a Yakima rack. My Mom loved that she could sleep in the back & went everywhere with her dog. I once encountered an unseen washout over a crest & had that truck hanging at almost 30* with only the front driver & rear passenger on ground. That truck just backed out of, no drama.

The reason you have a new engine us that the 5.7L hemi was notorious for dropping its valve seats. We lost #4 at around 150K & that was the end of it. That engine is a blast to drive - loads of torque & fantastic application of power to the road with full time 4WD. Also, the cylinder deactivation works surprisingly well & there was a sweet spot about 2,000rpm where we could get a predictable 19-20mpg even in high speed, high elevation road trips.

Be wary with electrical modifications as that truck was VERY temperamental. I did a simple LED conversion & ended up with years of center stack problems - radio, HVAC, lighting. I never did figure it out. It’s well worth putting glow fuses in the interior fuse box because access to that is TERRIBLE - wear gloves because it will cut up your wrist & kill your back.

Ours had OEM skids which were very stout & stood up to alot of abuse. I would recommend those protective ring washers though as we sheared off several skid bolts & it was a huge pain extracting them.

As a lifelong Japanese owner & with my Mom remote & solo in her 70s in very remote areas, I wasn’t onboard with a 3rd Jeep. We looked at GXs but she couldn’t sleep in the back. Ultimately, we bought a 5th Gen 4Runner & built it out. It’s a monster & very capable but I bring it up because I NEVER hear the end from her about why she loved her JGC more. (I literally just texted her about the sweet spot & her reply ended with “I still wish I kept it!”).

Have fun. I have great memories of that truck & it’s always fun to have something a little different than everyone else!

Here’s a guy on IG I follow out of residual love & respect for that truck.
 
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nwoods

Expedition Leader
Josh, thanks for those links!

RainGoat, dropped valve in #4 at 154k miles is exactly what happened to this one. It was at a service shop, and the owner didn't want to put more money into it, and so the service shop rebuilt it and sold it to me. Yeah, they made a profit, but I still can't argue with the price! These things are now cheaper than Monteros, which is hard to believe. Interesting to note about the LED's, as I have read that they (WK's) can be temperamental with electronics. I do want to upgrade my headlights....perhaps ballasted HID Xeons are the way to go?

My first drive home, was loafing at 70mph at 2,000 RPM and the engine did this strange surge thing, thought perhaps the throttle position sensor was going wacky, only later to read about the MDS system and the cylinder skip system. Will take some getting used to, but its nice to know its intentional and perhaps beneficial.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
Josh, I just found this site that also offers a number of goodies for the WK:
 

Bmb1878

New member
I bought a 2010 wk with the qd2 a few months back and have done or am in progress on most of what you're talking about. I feel like I have enough off-road time on the suspension to offer a decent opinion now too. I ended up going with bilsteins front and back with h and r lift springs. I replaced the strut mounts and coil isolators at the same time along with the upgraded moog upper control arms. I shopped the rocky road and jba upper control arms but I'm glad I saved my money as there is really no point. I heard stories of the stock arms hitting the strut when you lift it but I have a ton of room so I have no idea what that's about (probably when using a spacer). It handles great on the street and is pretty firm offroad unless your loaded up. I wouldn't try to get your front end past 3 inches of lift as all your geometry will get wacky. You definitely have to get the front pinch weld flattened out along with melting your wheel well liners back too. I'm running spydertrax wheel spacers with the conversion studs to jeep jl rubicon takeoff wheels along with 255/70-17 bfg ats that they came with. They rub a decent bit when you're wheeling it but nothing of real concern. I wanted to go 285/70-17s but I'm questioning that now with the amount of rub I already have and not being able to get a spare in the stock spot.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
Bmb1878 - did you need to run the spacers and stud pattern conversion plates because the wheels where from a JL? Does that mean the WK pattern is different? Do you know if the JK is also different? I'm not up to speed on such things these days.

Sounds like a Frankenstein lift might be the way to go:
  • OME HD springs and Leveling Pack from RockyRoad
  • Bilstien 5100's from...somewhere
  • I was thinking using either RockyRoad UCA's or JBA UCA's, but on reflection, I can always add that later if I determine it to be necessary and/or beneficial. You are supposed to get a little bit more droop with new UCA's sized for a lift, but I can save up for that a little later.
  • Without new UCA's, I will plan on getting new MOOG ball joints. Any idea on a part number or source?
  • I am thinking about getting swaybar disconnect links for the front.
Did you yank the rear (or either) sway bar out? Oh, I have no idea what H and R springs are.
 

Charles R

Adventurer
Sounds like you're going with a good plan. A little lift, a little tire, and a bunch of armor and you'll be able to go pretty far. Bmb1878 mentions the pinch weld mod, and the problem with trying to go to high with the front end. Check my signature line for a run down of my build, as I think it's a pretty solid combo. I've removed both sway bars, and have no issues on or off pavement. But that does contribute to the amount of tire rubbing I get when wheeling.

The WK uses a 5x5" bolt pattern, just like the JK's and JL's. There is a slight difference in the offset of the wheels, but the real issue is the design of the wheel spokes. Many of the OEM wrangler rims spokes hit the front brake calipers when mounted without a spacer. It's a slight hit, and some have ground off material. But that's not my preference. I feel a spacer is a good idea regardless because taller tires will rub the unibody "frame" at less steering angle, and the upper ball joint bolt may hit your taller tire anyway. It's a very close bolt as it is.

Let me talk about the upper control arms, and hitting the struts thing for a moment. Basically, if the struts allow too much droop, the upper control arm can swing down enough to allow the spindle to contact the spring perch. But something to keep in mind here, is that's only if the ball joints don't bind up first! That's kind of where the spacer lifts can get you in trouble. The ball joints themselves end up being the "droop stop", and that puts a ton of stress into them. A new Moog Upper is a good way to at least make sure the joint is fresh and strong... but the JBA and others alter the geometry slightly to ensure the joint is no longer the stop. I single out the uppers because as near as I can tell, they're hitting the limits first. But it's a close race with the tie rods. They also bind up with too much droop. Besides the tie rod ends, this can also damage the steering rack bushings by pulling down hard on all those components.

The Bilstein and other strut based kits don't really allow for much more droop than the OEM struts. They just reposition the spring perch. That said, from experience I can tell you that even the Bilsteins have a potential to over extended and bind up those joints. They have an internal stop to limit extension, and I've broken a couple, which then gives them too much droop. (First one was before a redesign Bilstein did to strengthen the stop) Now I just use a limiting strap.

For the 33's I run, I had to roll the rear fenders quite a bit. I've got pics in my bookface album, but they're not organized.


And here's a few vids wheeling
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
Progress Update 4/12/21

I removed the seats and cleaned up the interior of the car. There was 15 years of kids' food and stuff poured into the cracks in the backseat, and it was growing....so disgusting. Shampoo'd the headliner, visors, seats, seatbelts, and carpets. So much better now. Fixed the rear hatch (gas struts for the glass panel were frozen and couldn't operate the glass), and installed a seat cover over the torn drivers seat. Car looks kinda almost new now.
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I installed wheel spacers (1.5") all the way around in preparation for bigger tires. I bought a set of used Falken Wildpeak AT3's (33" - 285/70/17), just waiting for a lift.

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I took the SRV for a maiden voyage this weekend, and headed out to Joshua Tree to run through Berdoo Canyon and some other backcountry trails. While being much too low to the ground, the QuadraDrive II system is the real deal and I was able to go through some fun rock piles and some highly articulating trail sections with zero drama other than the occasional touch noises from being too low.

IMG_6575.jpgI do have a wicked bad clunking in the steering wheel though. Doesn't do it on pavement, but in the dirt, the steering wheel chatters and knocks like its alive and very unhappy. I am guessing that I need to replace all the steering related ball joints, but I am not too sure. Nothing under the truck seems loose when I pull, kick, or knock on the various members. Is there a bushing inside the steering column on the interior side of the firewall?
 

Bmb1878

New member
Bmb1878 - did you need to run the spacers and stud pattern conversion plates because the wheels where from a JL? Does that mean the WK pattern is different? Do you know if the JK is also different? I'm not up to speed on such things these days.


Did you yank the rear (or either) sway bar out? Oh, I have no idea what H and R springs are.
The spacers were just to fit the tires and allow for the larger studs that come on the JL. You can bolt JL wheels up to any of the 5x5 bolt pattern jeeps but the stud size of the older models is smaller.
I'm running both my sway bars but will probably come up with a disconnect for the rear. For the front sway bar I made custom links with rod ends and switched the factory bushings to the blue moog ones. I had a lot of suspension noise that was difficult to pinpoint after doing the struts/springs and control arms that ended up being the sway bar bushings. The end links were smoked too but did not contribute to the noise significantly.
I think I'm going to make 285/75-17's fit with the main concern being the rear. As Charles R commented above about having to roll the rear fender I imagine I'll have to do a bit of massaging. I'm also going to make new rear control arms that are a half inch longer as that should put the tire far enough away from the door during max articulation. And maybe lower/extend the bump stop.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
Update 5/3/21:

I have sourced some stock Gladitor wheels to replace the heavily scratched up stock aluminum WK wheels. I also did the Pinch-Weld mod inside the front wheel wells. I have ordered HD Springs and shocks from OME for the front and rear. It's taking FOREVER to get the front struts shipped to my house. Been waiting a month. I have a complete inventory from MOOG of every wearable part for the front and rear end, such as tie-rods, bushings, clevis's, etc.... I ordered and installed front Recovery Points from Goliath Offroad, and rock sliders from Bash at HK Offroad. I have a quick trip to Texas to make, and then I will start rebuilding the front end and installing the lift.
 

Attachments

nwoods

Expedition Leader
I'm getting a really annoying shake/clunk/rattle/juddering in the steering column. Not sure how to solve it. I am hoping one or more of the replacement joints will do it, but check out this video of the clunking. Also, here is a photo of the steering column, and it easy to flex and jiggle a bit in my hand. Not sure how to secure that. Any suggestions?
 

Attachments

nwoods

Expedition Leader
Quick update:

Got the OME lift done, finally. I went with HD springs and shocks in the rear, and MD springs and struts in the front, because HD's were completely out of stock in the entire country. It was really hard sourcing the front struts. Took almost 2 months to finally get them.

Done some minor interior work (replaced center console and front seats), went through a number of complex electrical issues related to the engine throttle/intake system and got that all sorted. Replaced tie rods and ball joints, pulled out the rear sway bar, and fitted 33" tires on Gladiator take-off's.

I have some major rubbing issues in the rear, but will be rolling the rear fenders soon, and I ordered extended bump stops for the rear to help negate that issue. Rock sliders from HK Offroad are on order and should arrive in a few weeks!

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