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Old 03-30-2018, 07:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
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High travel, high clearance & high octane, a streetable adventure LJ story

This new build thread comes at the intersection of my previous "Red the LJ" build thread and a honest conversation with Blaine (MrBlaine here on the forums) where, put simply, he told me that I need to start all over.

After a day of mulling it over, start over I did.
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Old 03-30-2018, 07:28 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Up until now I've treated my build like a Lego project. Building a little here and there, and when something broke I upgraded it. Not that there's anything innately wrong with that building style but I wanted more and the building bug has bitten me HARD. After talking with Blaine I started to have a deeper understanding of the complications that one component can have on another. I couldn't just slowly build what I had into what I wanted I had to jump ship and swim into the uncomfortable.

I listed parts for sale from my previous build that I wouldn't need and continued to refine the details and specs of my build.

Blaine had me pick a few specs to build to:
  • Tire size that I won't change from.
  • Belly height.
  • Wheelbase.

All of these effect each other. Change one and you must change another.

I decided on a balance for travel and clearance.
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Old 03-30-2018, 07:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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In order to accomplish my chosen specs I decided on fitting 2.5x14" coilovers on all 4 corners, mid-arm 4/3-link, and 37" tires. The stock 105" LJ wheelbase is ideal for the 37s and they'll allow for higher up travel compared to 40s. By running 37s on an LJ the overall offroad ability should be similar to a TJ on 35s.

Some challenges I'll face are that I want to keep my Jeep as narrow as possible to better fit on some of the narrow forest trails we have in Northern WI and Upper MI. I'll be using wider 65" WMS axles to get a little more stability but will still need to narrow the frame and tub in the back to fit in the 2.5" coilovers. Another challenge is that I want to keep my Jeep sealed to keep rain, snow, and dirt out. That's going to require some body work. I have also never welded before so this is going to be fun!

---

The axles arrived early this week on the warmest sloppiest day of the year. I had planned on meeting the semi truck with a rental truck that has a lift gate and driving it down to my garage and using a strap around the lift gate to lift the axles off the pallets but even the best laid plans sometimes don't work out. I ended up with a stuck Penske rental truck, friends stuck pickup truck, and my neighbor heard the commotion on our access road and came over with his old International tractor from his farming days and saved the day! It was a huge mess but I'm thankful for good friends and that it wasn't worse and the axles are safely in the garage!

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Old 03-30-2018, 07:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The stock Dana 30/44 combo that comes on an LJ won't hold up to 37s. The biggest issue is that the stock Dana 30 outer balljoints on the front are too weak. There's enough examples of even heavily built Dana JK 44s will wear out the internals over time if ran offroad. So for axles I decided on Dana 60s. Currie makes their version, the RockJock 60, which main advantage is that the ground clearance is higher than your junkyard 60s. Along with some other improvements Currie added which are great for offroading, which I'll go over, they were also able to build to my specs which saves me a lot of time vs piecing together my own from a junkyard.



A lot of planning went into speccing the axles to be just right for my build. It took about 2 months to get everything right on paper before giving Currie the go ahead. (As a side note, if anyone is wanting to repeat my order, make sure you buy through a reputable reseller as some of the discount resellers may not be worth the savings you receive. I purchased through Ricky at 4LowParts and he has been very helpful and had no issue putting together my order. He answered all of my questions without making me feel like I was wasting his time.)

Starting at the differentials, the RJ60VXR are a high pinion design, which results in the pinion running on the weak side of the ring gear teeth in the rear, this can cause the ring gear to deflect under high load and skip teeth. I upgraded to the RJ60VXR diff housing for the front and rear. The VXR housing adds a few benefits but the main reason I went with it was for the load bolt to prevent ring gear deflection in the rear. I also went with Ford Super 60 gears which are larger diameter and thicker than the standard Dana 60 gears. I wanted to go with a lower gear ratio in the diffs like a 6.17 but the lowest Currie will go in their housings is a 5.38, so that's what I went with, we'll have to make up for it with the engine later. ARB lockers front and rear were chosen for their reliability and ability to provide expected behavior on snowy and icy roads.

The load bolt can be seen near the middle:


For the yoke, it is high pinion (HP) which will improve driveline angles and keep the yoke out of the rocks. I went with a 1310 yoke to allow for the maximum driveline angle when at full droop, to act as a fuse to prevent damage to the transfer case, and because it's simply strong enough to run even larger tires than I will be. There's simply no reason to go to a bigger ujoint.

The rear has a AR500 steel skid under the diff, the same material that bulldozer buckets are made from. It's strong and doesn't gouge and "grab" onto rocks like an aluminum skid would. For the front Currie forgot to include a skid but for now I won't be running one up there, Blaine mentioned that the fronts like to get caught on rocks and rip off anyway (which immediately made sense when I actually thought about it). Currie is sending a skid over if I later decide to put it on.

Because of the angle of the RockJock 60 covers they built in a dip stick to check fluid levels:


The VXR includes 3.5" .375" wall axle tubes. I omitted all of the brackets except for TJ lower control arm brackets and bridges. This will be correct for the 4 link rear and 3 link front. There is no room for coil buckets on the front at 65" WMS, even the driver's side LCA mount is partially frenched into the diff housing. Part of the reason why I'll need to go with coilovers.



RCV shafts were chosen for the front for their ability to give constant wheel speed in case I need to drive home across the country in front wheel drive after breaking something in the rear. I also have a theory that they may provide better handling on snowy roads while in 4wd since they won't break traction with every revolution. RCVs added strength and warranty is a cherry on top but not a reason for upgrading.



On the ends up front I went with a '04 Ford style balljoint design on the iron knuckles, the unit bearings are based on the F450 design and include a sane 5x5.5" bolt pattern with 1/2" studs. Front brakes will be later built by Black Magic Brakes. Yukon manual locking hubs will be used up front which are narrower and stronger than those from Warn.

The upper steering arms should have included a hole to be in shear with the lower steering arms but due to a recent change at Currie they are unable to provide those and a strange combo was sent to me instead. Currie is mailing me the correct blank steering arm design which I will be drilling to work with my custom crossover steering.

In the rear the simple option would have been to go with Explorer brakes flip the left to right to get the calipers to the front of the housings and call it a day. And that would have been fine and held up long term combined with the semifloat shafts. I wanted a 35 spline full float rear so I could drive home on a broken rear shaft if necessary and to further prevent deflection on the ring gear. The main contenders here were either expensive and complex designs made for Ultra4, full size truck brakes, or Currie's Wilwood brake kit. But I didn't want to compromise or run junk brakes. I ended up going with the Currie JK floater spindle (https://www.currieenterprises.com/CE-0013JK5L). This full float design uses OEM JK brakes which are reliable, available, and they'll allow to me have the correct 75/25 braking ratio with the front without messing around with a proportioning valve. Awesome! With some ingenuity I should be able to make the parking brake connect up with the TJ cables. They are finished off with Currie drive flanges. Oh, and Currie welded the snouts to opposite sides for me so that there would be more room for coilovers in the rear by placing the calipers on the front!





The 3.5" tubes are sleeved down for the rear snouts and JK backing plates:


Pictures don't do these axles justice. They are large, beefy, and precise without being overkill.


Last edited by toximus; 03-30-2018 at 07:33 PM.
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Old 03-31-2018, 11:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Nice. That green stuff is my envy drooling down my shirt.. Giterdun..
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Old 04-01-2018, 07:40 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Rockjocks for the win!! Badass. There will be a set of these under mine someday after I work enough overtime. Just a matter of time.
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Old 04-24-2018, 07:37 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I test fit the drive flanges in the front, in this case Yukon Hardcore Locking Hubs (part number: YHC70002). These have the strongest design to the extent of my knowledge of any manual hubs. I decided to go with manual hubs vs a traditional drive flange in the front so that if I end up with vibes due to the higher driveline angle and harmonics of deep gearing I can unlock the fronts while on the road. I'll be able to set proper caster angle without worrying as much about pinion angle.



I came across one potential issue because RCV does not groove the stub shafts for the 1999-2004 Ford D60. Because the inner shaft has room to move 1" in further to the differential, under the right conditions, it was a concern that this could lead to failure of either the shaft or the drive flange if the stub doesn't have full engagement. If the stub shafts were grooved and a snap ring in place the shafts would be sandwiched into place by the unit bearing and unable to slide around. I considered a few ideas for grooving them myself, which RCV said would not void the warranty and there's quite a bit of tolerance for error so I have no doubt they'd work fine, but in the end I decided to send them to RCV for grooving as it was the easiest option and I think they'll look the nicest when I have to look at them every time I take the front axle apart.



RCV has constantly provided me helpful customer service and never once made me feel like I was wasting their time despite my multiple long phone calls. Even when I wanted the shafts grooved, even though they said it's not necessary, they did not make me feel bad about it. If I need other shafts in the future I will not hesitate to buy from them.

One trick I figured out to removing the shafts from the housing if they don't just pull out is to slip the orange RCV boot off and fit a c-clamp on the CV joint ball face and the unit bearing face on the knuckle to push the shaft out. This does in minutes what I was unable to do by just tugging on the shafts.

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Old 04-28-2018, 07:28 AM   #8 (permalink)
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For my steering I will be copying a crossover steering design that Blaine has perfected. Bumpsteer is virtually non-existent with this design. I'll try and cover the specifics and theory of why as I go through laying out the steering. It allows for straight linkages which are simple to make, stronger, and cleaner looking. His steering page is worth looking at and studying if you're looking to build something similar.

Up until recently, Currie could optionally mill their upper steering arms to place a hole to be in shear with the lower arms. Unfortunately they will no longer do this custom work. Blaine and I brainstormed some ideas for placing the 3/4" hole on the upper arm to be in line with the lower, and this is what I came up with after combining some of our ideas into a simple and reproducible jig for projecting:


(Blank upper steering arm from Currie)

1) We start with a 1/2" countersunk bolt that is 2" in length. A longer 6" bolt would be better so that the drill bit does not deflect later but this is as long as I can find with it still being fully threaded and I don't want to spend the time threading and drilling the longer one.



2) At your drill press take a centering bit (or other small bit and work your way to a 1/4" drill bit) and place it upside down in the chuck, don't tighten. Run the bit down and clamp it into a lower vice so that the bit is centered with the DP chuck.



3) Place your 1/2" bolt into the DP, threads first, and tighten the chuck.

4) Spin up the DP and drill a 1/4" hole perfectly down the center. You might need to raise the bolt every so often to allow chips to clear.



Take the bolt and bring it over to your knuckles.

a) Place the bolt through the lower steering arm on the cast knuckle, from the bottom up.

b) Take a 1/2" washer and nut and tighten the nut down on the bolt. Torque it just enough so it won't move on you. Both sides of the steering knuckle are machined flat in perfect parallel with the upper arm. This jig is a 2 part method for projecting the lower hole onto the upper, #1 is that the countersunk head places the bolt perfectly in the concentric center of the lower steering arm hole, #2 is that by using a washer and tightening the nut down on the other side we perfectly center the bolt in the vertical plain.



c) The hole in the bolt should now be perfectly guiding a 1/4" drill bit to the top arm. I used a commonly available 12" long 1/4" drill bit. Use a hand drill to place the 1/4" hole into the top arm. Be mindful of how much pressure you're applying so that the drill bit does not flex and travel on the surface.



d) Once you're all the way through the upper arm with the 1/4" drill bit you can finish with a 3/4" drill bit in either a hand drill or drill press.



e) Finally drill your lower steering arms with the 3/4" bit to remove the current TRE taper. And test fit your 3/4"x8" grade 8 bolt.



If anybody is trying to recreate this and you do not have a drill press, I started this idea by playing around with a vented bolt that had a 1/8" hole down the center. Another idea is to use a tapered lug nut off your Jeep for the nut side and use a flat head bolt and washer on the other side. Alternatively, I can mail you the jig and 12" long 1/4" drill bit for the cost of shipping as long as you will return it once you are done.

Last edited by toximus; 04-28-2018 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 04-28-2018, 07:45 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Here's a look inside the front differential:



I had to take a look at something inside or else I would have left it on until the first oil change. Currie installed the cover with a gasket and RTV on one side. I am replacing with a LubeLocker. It's a bit of a gamble as I have heard of some issues with them leaking when hammered offroad. Since the RJ60 is at an angle the cover is a bit out of the way so I think it may be better protected. If it ends up leaking at least it won't dump fluid like a D30 or D44 would and I will switch back to RTV. That said, using RTV isn't a big struggle here since there's a lot more work that needs to happen when taking the cover off anyway (like the truss needing to be removed first). I always feel like I'm going to get old RTV bits into the diff when I clean the surfaces, so if the LL ends up working: great! If not, I don't envision it being a big issue since I can apply RTV right on the trail.

Doing it for science!

Last edited by toximus; 04-28-2018 at 07:47 AM.
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Old 04-28-2018, 08:02 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I removed the passenger's side knuckle and unit bearing and sent them over to Black Magic Brakes for fitting front brakes.

One cool bit about these '04 Ford style outers is that there is a sleeve on the top ball joint for adjusting caster. The sleeves installed are 0*.

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Old 04-28-2018, 08:11 AM   #11 (permalink)
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That's a cool trick to locate the hole in the steering arm. I'll remember that one.
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Old 04-28-2018, 08:42 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I ground off the rear factory control arm mounts and clamped the new Savvy mid-arm 4-link brackets on. Something neat about this kit is that it allows you to secure the frame side brackets into place with c-clamps and fully cycle the axles. Once you are happy with the placement you can burn the brackets on.







For removing old brackets from the first side I used my Dewalt 20v angle grinder. It took so long and I went through 4x 4.0ah batteries twice that while they were charging again I broke down and treated myself to a Metabo WP12-115. This did the same work in a fraction of the time. The ergonomics of it also fit just right in my hands.

While adjusting the new brackets I looked over and noticed that some rust had caved in inside my frame. I thought I had completely taken care of the issue last year when I fully cleaned out my frame and used Eastwood Internal Frame Coating and POR-15 outside. Bummer!







I did some measurements and figure that the frame is between 2/3 and 1/2 of it's original thickness in spots. I don't think that's enough to get worried about and it's far from rusting through, but I am welding new brackets onto it and investing quite a bit of time and money into the frame. So rather than worry about it continuing to rust I decided I will be replacing the middle lower frame rails. Rather than a frame swap I am going to recreate that section of frame with new tubing by translating the bends, skid mounting nuts, and body mounts. The tubing is an elusive size at 2-1/2" x 4" so it might be a couple of weeks until I can get some in. I'm glad I chose to learn how to weld!
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Old 04-28-2018, 07:49 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I assembled the control arms with a healthy dose of antiseize. Oddly one of the jam nuts was threaded at an angle. I'm sure it'll get exchanged no problem though!



Aside from that I've just been cleaning the garage and thinking through how I'm going to support and brace the Jeep to replace those frame sections. I'm excited for Monday to talk to a few companies about getting the steel I need and getting a better picture of when it can be delivered.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:10 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I took the MetalCloak fenders off and something is clearly wrong with the metal they used for the brackets. The driver's side was super crumbly and I couldn't even get a picture of the passenger's side since it decided to return to the earth in a pile of rust as soon as I started removing it. I'm glad to be done with MetalCloak's fenders. Looks like I'll need to touch up the paint where they met the grill and tub.





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Old 05-08-2018, 08:14 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I forgot to mention that Savvy took care of that JJ nut without issue. As always they provided great product support.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:33 AM   #16 (permalink)
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My steel came in yesterday, less than a week after ordering it!


(The 2.5"x4" for the frame is on the bottom under the 2x3.)

Overall the process went very smoothly between the steel yard and the freight. I will not hesitate to buy from them again in the future if I need bulk as it was cheaper and way less driving for me compared to my local steel yard 3 hours away.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:45 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by toximus View Post
I took the MetalCloak fenders off and something is clearly wrong with the metal they used for the brackets. The driver's side was super crumbly and I couldn't even get a picture of the passenger's side since it decided to return to the earth in a pile of rust as soon as I started removing it. I'm glad to be done with MetalCloak's fenders. Looks like I'll need to touch up the paint where they met the grill and tub.





It couldn't possibly have anything to do with your environment? Are you blaming daimler chrysler for the holes rusted through your frame as well?
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:53 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I took the MetalCloak fenders off and something is clearly wrong with the metal they used for the brackets. The driver's side was super crumbly and I couldn't even get a picture of the passenger's side since it decided to return to the earth in a pile of rust as soon as I started removing it. I'm glad to be done with MetalCloak's fenders. Looks like I'll need to touch up the paint where they met the grill and tub.













Those jack stands though!!!!!!!




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Old 05-08-2018, 08:57 AM   #19 (permalink)
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It couldn't possibly have anything to do with your environment? Are you blaming daimler chrysler for the holes rusted through your frame as well?
There's no rust holes in my frame. My concern is that it's getting thin and may in another 10 years. I actually do partially blame Jeep for designing the frame without drain holes.

I have no doubt that my environment doesn't help. But I have serious doubts that it's the sole cause of this issue. These fenders have been on my Jeep for about 5 years and the OEM panels were on my Jeep for 9 years before that rust free. I think it's safe to say that either my environment changed in those last 5 years or the quality doesn't match OEM.

That said I'm not really into blaming people or companies for issues I'm facing. Hence why I'm doing something about it and not just sitting here whining.
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:35 AM   #20 (permalink)
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The quality issues were probably with the rust treatment and the paint on the fenders. Not the actual fender. I donít believe that a jeep part is galvanized. What kind of paint did you use on the fenders?
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:58 AM   #21 (permalink)
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What kind of paint did you use on the fenders?
MetalCloak fenders were powder coated by MetalCloak. I'm pretty sure they also had powder coated that bracket too. I do not know what they did beyond that. The aluminum inner fenders were bedlined by a local company (who also bedlined a bumper for me, and painted the grill for me at the same time. I would not use them for bedlining again but their paint has held up great on the grill.).

I'm looking into options for galvanizing my frame once I'm done and will try to include anything else I can in the same batch.
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Old 05-11-2018, 04:54 AM   #22 (permalink)
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This might work for your frame; Eastwood Internal Frame Coating 14 oz Aerosol
Item #12515Z-15275Z
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Old 05-19-2018, 09:06 PM   #23 (permalink)
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There's been some delay as I've been practicing my welds and stress testing to verify my welds are stronger than the surrounding material.

I did make a few fish plates today out of 3/16" that are worth showing:



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Old 05-19-2018, 09:09 PM   #24 (permalink)
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This might work for your frame; Eastwood Internal Frame Coating 14 oz Aerosol
Item #12515Z-15275Z
I had used that last year but my frame must have been too far gone with layered rust that it didn't seep down into. The areas that it did work in seem to be holding up good though.
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Old 05-22-2018, 02:26 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Disclaimer: Like all Jeep work, you're taking your own risks. Don't copy my frame repairs under the assumption that it's safe or proper. Do you own homework before working on your Jeep. This is how I did it -- nothing more. There's many ways to safely weld the frame. I did numerous stress tests on test welds before working on the frame and in each case the metal fatigued before my welds failed.

That disclaimer said, I encourage you to learn, be uncomfortable, and try stuff. I never thought I would be cutting my Jeep in half and yet it's the most frustrating and enjoyable work I've done on it yet!

---

After using a laser level to level my frame and taking numerous measurements, I cut the frame at the rear right before it turns up, and at the front splitting the difference of where the mid-arm bracket will be going. This way the mid-arm bracket will act as a reinforcement and I won't need additional fish plating at that cut. When I cut there was some force release and the frame shifted by about 1/2" -- something for me to keep in mind later.



You can see here how the frames like to rust from the inside out. My frame measured 0.075" at the bottom in the rear -- less than half of the original thickness. I'm glad I decided to go through the extra work of replacing these frame rails!

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