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Some questions


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Hello everyone,

First time MJ owner here.  Long time TJ owner.

I just picked up an '86 MJ XLS and have lots of questions but I'll keep it to the most important ones right now.

First up, steering.
The truck drives great but I'm wanting to tighten up the response time on the steering.  It seems to have lots of play in it compared to every other vehicle I've owned.  Is there anything I can do to tighten this up outside of replacing the steering box altogether? Or should I just do that?

Second, Security.
I live in Utah.  LOTS of people compared to the little town in Indiana I recently moved from.  I have followed several FB pages for jeep groups out here and have noticed a recent uptick in stolen jeeps.  I'm from a quiet town that I could leave my jeep out all night with the keys in it and know it'd be there in the morning.  Not so sure of that out here.  I've been researching security measures for vehicles in general and would like to install a dizzy switch.  I bought this jeep from private seller and so am lacking a proper owners manual.  However, I found a couple diagrams and some info on the fuse system and have learned there doesn't seem to be a fuel pump fuse in the setup under the dashboard like my wrangler does.  I wanted to use that for the switch, is there another way to do that or are there other options that might work better?

Final question, for now, Lift kit and tire/wheel sizes.
I've been shopping around for a simple lift kit for this.  To clarify, this is not going to be an major off-road crawler.  I have the wrangler for that already.  This is my daily driver.  However, that being said, I still want to lift it a little and put some more aggressive wheels on it both for the look and utility.  My question here is this.  I don't want to go over 3" of lift and what I'm trying to figure out is what size of lift and wheels would be good to give me the nice look/utility as well as not look like its shoes are to small for its feet.  So to speak.  It doesn't need to be overly fancy as again, daily driver and perhaps dirt roads here and there.  I've been looking at a simple rough country 3" lift with some 15" black steel wheels and 31" tires.

Jeep Model: 1986 Jeep Comanche XLS MJ , 2.5L 5speed manual, Longbed.

tumblr_p1hvzrJgdK1qgztxmo1_1280.jpg

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It is very clean.  Well, age wise.  It needs a bath right now LOL.  The only major rust spots I could find was a patch under the driver side wheel well, bottom of tub, abut 7 inches long but not to bad.  And then the back bumper is rusted bad.  Its getting replaced though so no big deal.  I bought it for 3400, dumped 2600 into having all the major repairs they could find done.  New starter, new gaskets all over, new engine and transmission mounts, new clutch etc etc.  LOTS.  

fiatslug, the lights up front are both original one is just missing the little emblem on it, aged off I guess.  They don't actually turn on right now.  I'll be replacing them with something newer after I do the other projects first.

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That's too nice to mess it up. You can run 31x10.50s with NO lift, but it would look just about perfect on 30s (IMHO).

 

Back to question number 1: the steering. It uses a GM Saginaw steering box. There's an over-center lash adjustment you can try playing with, but go gently or you'll trash the steering box.

 

Remove the air cleaner so you can see the top of the steering box. It should look something like this:

418I5KILx9L._SX425_.jpg

 

The cover is held on with three bolts. In the center of those is a threaded rod with a recessed hex socket in the end, and a locknut. That's the adjustment screw. To adjust, be sure the steering box (not the wheel, the box) is set at straight ahead. Hold the adjusting screw with al Allen key while you loosen the lock nut. Then VERY gently turn the adjusting screw clockwise -- screwing it down into the box. I like to do it with the steering wheel unlocked, so I can wiggle the input shaft while I adjust the screw. You want to take out "most" of any slop or lash, but you need just a little to prevent the steering box from binding up and wearing prematurely. Once you get most of the lash out, retighten the locknut, replace the air cleaner box, and take it for a drive.

 

If the screw bottoms out and there's still slop, you need a steering box.

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Very nice looking MJ there. Love the color (mine is the same color ). 

 

Second question: I'm not well-versed on various security options, but my previous MJ had a kill switch in the engine bay that would disconnect the battery. It wasn't in an obvious place so someone would have to poke around for a while to find it if they knew what was going on. I agree security is a valid concern and I'm also considering options for my current MJ; in just the few years I've been on this site I've seen a few members report stolen MJs. I see it on CL too. 

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the old sag box steering design can't match the feel of a modern rack-n-pinion.  keep that in mind as you go forward.  :thumbsup:  

having said that, have someone saw the steering wheel back and forth while you poke your head underneath and look/feel for slop in the joints, especially the track bar (both ends).  I wouldn't touch the box until you're certain that everything else is nice and tight.

 

one more vote for stock height and 30s.  as good as they may look, your engine isn't going to like a big fat tire for daily driving.  :( 

 

and welcome to the addiction!  :waving: 

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1 hour ago, DracoSedentis said:

...lights up front are both original one is just missing the little emblem on it, aged off I guess.  They don't actually turn on right now.  I'll be replacing them with something newer after I do the other projects first.

If they're in decent shape they're worth some $$, check out eBay don't throw them out.

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There are a total of five tie rod ends in the MJ's steering/suspension, so even a small amount of slop in them can make a big difference. The track bar's condition would also contribute to loose steering as well. The best thing to do would be have someone else turn the wheel while you check for any movement that shouldn't be there. No matter what you do it'll never feel like a modern rack and pinion system. That's just the nature of the beast.

 

Another vote for stock height. And don't junk those Marchals.

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Thanks for all the tips guys.  Seems to be a popular opinion of just running stock height with some 30's.  I'll certainly look into that.  If you guys have any reference pictures that would show what that might look like I'd be grateful.  As for the steering and looking for slop, I'll check the joints and track bar system first before I go messing with the steering box.  Out of curiosity would it be worth upgrading the steering track bar to something beefier?  I remember a couple years ago reading up on swapping an XJ or some other models tie rods and trackbar to my wrangler for a tougher kit.  Would that be recommended here? 

I will not get rid of the Marchal lights either.  I will keep them and perhaps work on re-conditioning them to be functional again.

I'd also be interested in any information you guys might have on 4 point harness bucket seats, steering wheel swaps, and the rare roof mounted visors I've seen on some Comanches.  

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Here's some recent ideas posted on security kill switches. Another suggested adding a factory rocker switch as a kill switch as it would be easily accessible, but not obvious. Something like a rear wiper or a power/comfort switch from an XJ.

 

On 12/31/2017 at 6:06 PM, youngfred said:

On my 69 el Camino, I wired a switch, in-line with the HEI Distributor's - +12v. wire that ran to the Ignition Switch. Inside the cab, I installed a 1/4" jack, like those used on the old headphones from that 'other world'(analog-a). Thieves look for a switch or something that moves. The 1/4" Female Jack is flat, so trying to feel around for a switch, the flat Female Jack will be bypassed.

 

My keychain would separate in half with the push of a button, so My Key was the 1/4" Male Plug that had the two leads Soldered together, internally, in order to complete the circuit, when the ignition switch was used.

 

Without the 1/4" male plug installed into the jack, the motor would turn but no power got to the distributor.

 

I always worried about - current draw, through the 1/4" Plug/Jack circuit which was set up for audio circuits but it was never a problem.

 

I never lost the elky.:banana:

 

youngfred

 

On 12/31/2017 at 5:43 PM, Pete M said:

oh, and if you do a simple inline switch, you'll need to remember to turn it off each time or else it won't work as a deterrent.  :D  

 

the switch will need to be located in a spot that is both easy to reach for you, but hard to find for anyone else.  but since you're not using it as the cranking switch, it can be somewhere that is easy to reach as you get into the truck or before your buckle up.  :thumbsup:  

 

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Thanks for this, fantastic, I'll look further into these options and see what I can do for the security.

I've done some digging this morning as well on the no lift everyone keeps thumbing up.  I'm starting to lean towards that.  I managed to find an old thread here that talks in good detail about that in particular.  I have more questions on it though as I've found some other potentially helpful info I need clarified.

They've said both 30s and 31s will work without to much issue outside of lower control arm rubbing.  
A solution I've seen for running both sizes in the same thread is swapping the lower control arms on my MJ to WJ lower control arms since they have a boxed in style along with a "S shape bend" in them that give some movement room on turns without rubbing.  My question with that is, what year WJs lower control arms will fit with my MJ if I go that route, and are they a direct swap or a bloody knuckles and cussing swap?
I've also read that it works with only "jeep rims" they don't specify what jeep rims though.  I've got the stock spoke style rims on this jeep , OLD ones, like what is in this picture: 
 052817-1986-Jeep-Comanche-1-630x473.jpg

 

I'm wondering if these below are what they mean by 'jeep rims':
51psUoP0XoL._SY355_.jpg

 

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by "jeep rims" they mean nearly any factory rim that has the 5 on 4.5" bolt pattern.  with just a couple exceptions they are all 15x7 or 15x8 with a 5.25" backspacing.  this includes any rim from an MJ/XJ/YJ/TJ/ZJ/KJ/(and at least one of the newer small Jeeps I can't remember which, patriot?).  

 

when choosing between 30s and 31s, keep in mind that the taller the tire, the less power your engine will seem to have (in essence it lowers the effective gear ratio number).  

 

my 88 back in the day on 30x9.5s:

 

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Good things to know.  The swap job on the control arms doesn't sound that bad.  I've done harder jobs on my wrangler lol.  Sounds like 30s will be the way to go with some WJ control arms.  Thanks for clearing that up for me guys.

 

I'll do some research on steering work and see what I can find out on that.  If you guys have any other suggestions that you think would help me or make better anything I'd be happy to receive them!

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There are two places to adjust the steering box. The one was pointed out.. The other is the front of it. There is some article on how to adjust the box. I think it was on a Wrangler. The manual is with an inch-lb torque wrench. I did pull the one on my XJ and used a torque wrench. Then I checked as per the article. It was real close. If I remember right the top one was tighten, then back off 1/4 turn. The front was the same I think. One mine the front seal leaked after that. I was pressed for time so I bought a rebuilt one from Advanced. I'd look over there stuff ie ball joints, tie rod ends etc. There is an upgrade with one of the ZJs front end parts.

          I like the rims you have. I'd keep them. Don't see them much. If a road vehicle, I'd only lift it if your tall and getting in and out is a bit of a problem. Not sure if I'd do a budget boost or not. Check Zone or BDS for a lift kit, also. I'd lean towards a 30 X 9(.5) tire. With the 4 cyl it might be better off.

       The steering box might not equal rack and pinion, but they can be pretty good. I have my XJ were I can be hand off and it tracks straight. I do have OTK steering, though. There are some other options. I forget what it is called, but some vendor makes a polyurethane bushing for the Y suspension. It suppose to work well.

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6 minutes ago, 75sv1 said:

There are two places to adjust the steering box. The one was pointed out.. The other is the front of it. There is some article on how to adjust the box. I think it was on a Wrangler. The manual is with an inch-lb torque wrench. I did pull the one on my XJ and used a torque wrench. Then I checked as per the article. It was real close. If I remember right the top one was tighten, then back off 1/4 turn. The front was the same I think. One mine the front seal leaked after that. I was pressed for time so I bought a rebuilt one from Advanced. I'd look over there stuff ie ball joints, tie rod ends etc. There is an upgrade with one of the ZJs front end parts.

          I like the rims you have. I'd keep them. Don't see them much. If a road vehicle, I'd only lift it if your tall and getting in and out is a bit of a problem. Not sure if I'd do a budget boost or not. Check Zone or BDS for a lift kit, also. I'd lean towards a 30 X 9(.5) tire. With the 4 cyl it might be better off.

       The steering box might not equal rack and pinion, but they can be pretty good. I have my XJ were I can be hand off and it tracks straight. I do have OTK steering, though. There are some other options. I forget what it is called, but some vendor makes a polyurethane bushing for the Y suspension. It suppose to work well.


I like the rims as well, trying to decide if I want to put the new tires on them and put the stock wheels on new rims or vis-a-versa.  After reading the responses here I'm thinking I'm going to forgo the lift since this is just going to be a daily driver and some occasional dirt trails and back wood driving.  No rock crawling for this jeep.  If I need to lift it I'll do it much later.  I'm a a little taller than most but not enough to warrant needing a lift much, I think the height gained by the larger tires will be perfect for what I'm using it for.  And yeah its an inline 4 so I'm trying to get the off road utility and look as close as I can without making it sluggish.  My wrangler is an inline 4 on 35s (bought that way) and it is SLOW lol

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16 hours ago, Pete M said:

 

having said that, have someone saw the steering wheel back and forth while you poke your head underneath and look/feel for slop in the joints, especially the track bar (both ends).  I wouldn't touch the box until you're certain that everything else is nice and tight.

 

 

Very good point. The steering box should be the last thing you check, not the first.

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11 minutes ago, Eagle said:

 

Very good point. The steering box should be the last thing you check, not the first.


Yup, After looking further into that I think I'm going to hold off on messing with it since there is a potentially high possibility of muffing it up by doing it myself.  I'm pretty capable  when it comes to mechanic work but I don't want to mess up my steering LOL

On a side note, anyone know of a decent steering wheel that wouldn't be hard to swap out?  I'd like to have one with a bit more surface area to grab onto.  The stock Comanche one is about the width of 2 pens taped together....

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15 minutes ago, DirtyComanche said:

It's a GM steering column, so basically any aftermarket wheel meant for a pre-airbag GM column will fit.

 

I'd look for another Jeep wheel personally.


Agreed, I'd rather have another jeep wheel but I really don't mind as long as it is thicker than what is on there now.

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4 minutes ago, DracoSedentis said:


Agreed, I'd rather have another jeep wheel but I really don't mind as long as it is thicker than what is on there now.

 

Go look in a junkyard if you have time, I think you'll find the later ones are a bit thicker.  I don't know what wheel you have now, but there's some variations over the years.

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7 minutes ago, DirtyComanche said:

 

Go look in a junkyard if you have time, I think you'll find the later ones are a bit thicker.  I don't know what wheel you have now, but there's some variations over the years.


I plan on doing that soon.  I have 3 or 4 pull-a-parts near where I live, hopefully I can score the WJ lower control arms, maybe a steering wheel.  There seem to be a lot of jeeps availible at these places near me.  Maybe I'll luck out. 

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