1997 TJ Wrangler Sport

1997 TJ Wrangler Sport


The 1997 jeep wrangler was purchased in 1999 as a standard vehicle. At this time there was no intention to modify it. After visiting Jeep Fest in 2000, a set of 30” bfg mud terrain tyres was bought second hand from a guy at jeep fest. Following the instalment of mud terrain tyres, the Jeep spent more and more time off roading. This led to the instalment of a 2” spring spacer lift, and quick disconnects.

30" Mud Tyres with 2" spring spacer lift

This set up was run for a year before the instalment of a 4" trailmaster lift, shortly followed by a set of 33" bfg mud terrains on 10" wide rims in 2003

The Trailmaster lift came with 4 springs and shocks, disconnects, drop pitman arm and a rear track bar drop bracket (RHD one). The front track bar was relocated via means of re-drilling a new hole ¾" of an inch away from the original. Recently I have made my own adjustable front track bar replacing the ball joint for a rose joint and relocating the bush end back to its original mounting hole. This cost about £20 in parts from ebay.

Custom adjustable trackbar

The trailmaster shocks soon wore out and there were replaced for some better quality bilistien 5100 shocks. A full set of Rubicon Express superflex control arms were purchased second hand from a guy who was upgrading to long arm. These control arms are much stronger units and give more flex and more adjustment of the pinion angle.

I soon found out that a 4" lift was too much for a standard propshaft to take even with a transfer case lowering kit. The jeep had consumed a couple of U-Joints and bad vibrations were found setting off in lower gears. This led to the instalment of a slip yoke eliminator on the transfer case allowing the fitment of a tom woods double carden joint propshaft. This type of propshaft can cope with the higher driveline angle and reduces vibration.

Under body protection was also fitted to the wrangler in form of a front skid plate, protecting the majority of the steering linkages, rear aluminium tang guard and a front diff guard. The dented front and rear stock bumpers were replaced with Warn bumpers and a Warn tire carrier which copes with the load of heavier tyres. Warn rock sliders were also installed for sill protection.

The warn 9.5Ti winch has been a good performer and was fitted in 2003, but its not been without its troubles. Over the years its had to have a new motor, but I don't think sinking it in water for long periods without correct maintenance after did any good for it. An optima yellowtop battery was used to cope with the extra demand for the winch, and has been a good performing battery over the years, I got it in 2003 and it is still going strong.

The 33" tyres were run on standard gearing for 2 years before the diffs were regeared for 4.56 ring and pinion ratios and powertrax no slip lunchbox lockers, the off road crawl speed give much better control than the stock gears on bigger tyres.
This gear chart may be usefull to select the best gears for you - Gear Chart

Newly fitted 33" tyres - click here for gallery of the TJ with 33" tyres

Choosing which lockers to get was much more difficult. ARB's are defiantly my 1st choice, but my funds just couldn't stretch to the cost of the ARB's at the time.

Up front I went for a Detroit ez locker, I was lucky enough to buy this cheap from a friend who was changing to ARB front and rear. I found out that this locker would be invisible in 2wd on road and provide excellent traction off road. So I was happy to have this installed.

For the rear, I went with a powertrax no-slip locker. The Powertrax No-Slip Traction System is the latest design in traction adding differential technology. It combines the smooth operation of a limited-slip differential, with the traction performance of a locking differential. A precise synchronization mechanism eliminates the ratcheting sounds typical of other locking differentials. Special gear and spring design reduce the backlash and therefore driveline windup. Only ultra strength material is used which is 67% stronger than titanium.

Installation is simple because no ring and pinion set-up is required. In addition, no special tools or oils are needed. I can say from driving on the road with the locker I was pleasantly surprised. It is noticeable driving on the road, but it had no real effect on handling. I have had the odd click and bang, when at low speeds turning a tight corner. Off road, this setup was much improvement over stock. As for the front locker, when if 4wd steering is more difficult and turning circle is reduced. Installation notes can be found at this link here: No slip locker install

In 2008 these lockers got replaced by ARB Air lockers.

A few months after the lower gear ratio's were installed a set of 35" BFG mud terrain tyres on 8" wide rims where then fitted. Although I liked the look of the wide rims, I experienced a few problems popping the tyre bead off the rim, so this time I decided on a morrow rim, so that the tyre holds its bead better, I soon found out that the 35" tyres rubbed on the wheel arches, and went for a 1" body lift which provided enough extra lift to accommodate the 35's.

TJ with 35" BFG Tyres - click here for more images of TJ with 35" BFG's

A warn free wheeling hub conversion and chromolly shafts all round were an upgrade not long after adding the 35" tyres. Running a locker in the front with 35" tyres was too much for the front axle to take, and as a conscience I snapped a shaft. I've been running the hub conversion since 2005 and I have had no problems or breakages, I've just had to replace 1 UJ in that time. 

The hub conversion also required the use of a fully cast brake rotors at the front, so I changed to powerslot disks, which have been an impressive improvement in braking performance for a small change.

Warn Free Wheel Hub Conversion

The engine remains fairly standard, all I have added is a poweraid throttle body spacer, and an K&N filter, with a snorkel. A borla cat back exhaust was added, which sounds awesome. These mods have given some slight noticeable improvement in performance, but nothing major.

In 2008 my 4.56 ring and pinion gears and bearings front and rear were totally shot, I don't know if this was due to poor installation or lots of abuse, but I expected them to last a little longer.

So having to spend the cash on new ring and pinions plus installation, I decided to upgrade my lockers from a lunchbox powertrax no slip locker to the ARB air lockers I always wanted. These lockers provide driver select ability for on and off, unlike the no-slip. I have been very impressed with the ARB's and have had no trouble so far with them. The ring and pinion installed this time was 4.88, which I am finding slightly better with the 35" tyres. These were fitted by Mik at rednexx (http://www.mikstan.freeserve.co.uk/) who I highly recommend for axle work.

I changed my worn BFG mud tyres for some Mickey Thompson Radial Claw tyres early 2009. not only did I fancy a change from BFG mud terrain tyres but I wanted a slightly more aggressive tread whilst still retaining good road manners. A few members in the club have been running Mickey Thompson tyres for a while and they have been performing very well in muddy conditions.

35" Baja Claw Radials

Current Specification


  • 4.0L, I-6 Engine
  • 5 Speed Manual
  • Advanced Adapter SYE
  • Tow Woods Rear Driveshaft
  • K&N Air Filter
  • Safari Snorkel
  • Poweraid Throttle Body Spacer
  • Borla Cat Back Exhaust
  • Optima Yellow Top Battery

Suspension / steering:

  • 4" Trailmaster Springs
  • Custom Front Adjustable Trackbar and Rear Trackbar Relocation Bracket
  • Trailmaster Quick Disconnects
  • Rubicon Express Upper and Lower Superflex Control Arms
  • Bilstein 5100 Series Shocks
  • 1" Body Lift
  • Rubicon Express Heavy Duty Tie Rod
  • Skyjacker Steering Stabiliser

Front Axle:

  • Dana 30 with 4.88 Ring and Pinion
  • ARB Air Locker
  • Warn Free Wheeling Hub Conversion
  • Warn Heavy Duty Inner and Outer Half Shafts
  • Alloy USA Axle Tube Seals
  • Powerslot Slotted Disc Brakes, Braided Hose and Hawk Pads

Rear Axle:

  • Dana 44 wth 4.88 Ring and Pinion
  • ARB Air Locker
  • Alloy USA Heavy Duty Half Shafts

Wheels & Tires:

  • 35 x 12.5" MT Baja Claw Radial
  • 15 x 8" Black Steel Wheels


  • Warn Front Rock Crawler Bumper
  • Warn Rear Rock Crawler Bumper With Tyre Carrier
  • Warn Rock Sliders
  • Warn 7" Trail Flares
  • Warn Dana 30 Diff Guard
  • Custom Alloy Fuel Tank Guard
  • Custom Full Front Steering Guard


  • Warn 9.5Ti Winch
  • Dyneema-Bowrope 125ft Synthetic Winch Rope
  • Goodwinch Synthetic Rope Fairlead
  • Warn 2" Rear Receiver Shackle With D-Ring
  • Front Bumper Mounted D-Rings
  • Hi-Lift Jack


  • Bestop Replacement top
  • Bestop Tinted Windows
  • Bestop Secure Boot (Add a Trunk)
  • CB Radio
  • PIAA 80pro Driving Lights
  • Window Mounted Ring Driving Lights
  • Bug Deflector
  • Pioneer CD Player
  • Roll Cage Mounted Rear Speaker Pods with Lights
  • Warn Winch Kit
  • T-Max Heavy Duty Compressor
  • ARB Compressor for Lockers


Current Specification Gallery (below): 35" MT Baja Claws on 15" x 8 " wheels with 4" lift and 1" body lift (2009)

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