Back in the Garage

Having scored a pretty sweet deal on some accessories for the Little Black Jeep – front bumper, back bumper, winch plate with grill guard and some Hella lights thrown in to boot –  I figured it was about time to get them from the garage floor onto the Jeep itself. I was pondering how exactly that was going to go down since A. my garage is tiny B. I was pretty sure all the nuts, bolts, screws and other sundry fasteners were going to be near impossible to break free and C. some of that stuff weighed an awful lot.  (Also D. I had no idea what I was doing.)

Fortunately some people love to do this kinda stuff. (I know, I’m always kind of surprised to find that out myself.) And those folks tend to have well equipped garages, something that I most certainly do not posess. In fact I would say the garage barely even qualifies as a garage. It’s more of a lean-to on a small does of growth hormones. Wait…where was I? Oh yeah…the garage….. In other words, I lucked out since our friend Mike was looking for a new project. And he had a nice spacious well equiped garage, complete with heat, and a few free hours on a Sunday afternoon. SCORE! (A few free hours turned out to be more like six, for the record.)

After driving to Pittsburgh to pick up the winch I headed home to collect the remaining parts (plus the giant pile of random bolts, washers, lock washers and nuts that I figured were going to be needed) and the Jeep.  After hefting the winch from the Subie to the Jeep, Chad retreated to the house and mumbled something that sounded like  I’d come with you but… the end of his sentence became faint as he scrambled to the attic before I was able to take him up on his offer.

Nicely ensconced in a proper garage (be still my heart) Mike & I set about the business of pulling the Jeep apart. The back bumper seemed like it would be less annoying and so we decided to start there.  Earlier in the week I had, in my foolish optimism, thought I would at least get the ridiculous milk jug ends off the bumper while at home. Thus making it easier to get to the bolts once in a proper garge. Well I had failed miserably on that, managing to do not much more than apply an awful lot of PB Blaster.  I set to work with possibly the most frightening tool I had yet encountered – the pneumatic impact driver – and soon had the back tow point off.

That went remarkably well,  aside from being showered in PB Blaster coated sludge, and I thought for an all to brief moment that perhaps this might actually go smoothly. As usual, that brief moment of ….well whatever it was, shattered completely when it became all too obvious that the remaining torx fasteners holding the milk jugs on were either stripped or just simply not coming out. I tried yanking on them. Nope. I tried tugging. Nope. I considered just shearing them off (wow would that have been so cathartic).  But Mike had a better idea. Why not just use the grinder?  “The what?” I asked….not able to mask my enthusiasm. A grinder. With like sparks flying and stuff? Seriously? OH. MAH. GAWD. Because quite frankly, I wanted some serious vengeance on those stupid fasteners and to me, grinding them into oblivion was gonna feel real good.

Oh yes my pretties. It’s true. I was unleashed on those unrelenting torx fasteners with a grinder. After all, I had nothing to damage mess up destroy aside from the stock bumper (or myself I suppose). I was giddy with glee I tell you! GIDDY! There sparks everywhere. SWEEEEEET! After that the bumper came off relatively easy. I was rather surprised to find it to be not very substantial at all. Heck, I probably could have bent it in half.

After all that effort to remove the stock bumper, one might be inclined to think that putting the new bumper on would be easy. One might be terribly inclined to think that when the basic directions indicated that one must 1. Remove original bumper. 2. Install new bumper.  Pretty clear directions I thought. Until I saw that thing that indicated the new bumper would be attached with 8 bolts. Um, what now? How many? Because I only counted 4 bolt holes in the bumper.  Oh wait, there is a Page 2 to the directions. Yay. My favorite, the “some TJs clause“. That’s right. Some TJs may only have 4 holes. To rectify that issue, one must drill 4 more holes into the frame.

I was not really comfortable following a direction that demanded I DRILL HOLES in my vehicle. Really? You want me to put holes in this thing? On purpose. Holes. Through metal.  Clearly not thrilled about it, but it had to be done. And so holes were drilled. And in the process I managed to bruise my cheekbone with the drill. Yeah, you read that right. I smacked myself in the side of the face with the drill battery. (Right, show of hands who is surprised? No one. Good. You all clearly know me well.)

Despite the “some TJs clause” being accurate about the necessity of drilling, what the directions failed to indicate was that the construction of the frame and the location of the four new holes made it somewhat a little extremely difficult damn near impossible to A. put the bolts through said holes B. tighten anything.  It did definitely, however, encourage me to wedge my enormous noggin into the wheel well in an attempt to even be able to SEE the holes.

Fortunately, Mike is pretty clever and had encountered such a problem before. So take that stupid ill placed holes! I will have my bumper properly fastened! And it will not invole me kidnapping a pianist in order to make him/her deal with this problem. (I have stubby fingers and little in the way of manual dexterity.)

And so the Little Black Jeep had a new back bumper.

On to the front bumper…and winch plate….and winch. Woohoo!

The front bumper, shockingly enough, came off with no troubles at all. None. Whatsoever. The bolts came free without splattering me with PB Blaster coated sludge, there was no grinding required. Nada. Off it came. And once again I was shocked about how little it weighed. At any rate, the easy removal should have been an indication that nothing else was going to be easy.


So first things first. First you put on the bumper. Sure it’s a little heavy but not too bad. Nothing compared to the weight of the winch and really nothing compared to the weight of the winch bolted on to the winch plate, as we would later find out over and over again.

But wait…you can’t fasten the bumper on all the way because the winch plate bolts through it. Ok. So put the winch plate on next. No. DO NOT DO THAT! Why you may ask? Because if you do that you can’t fasten the winch to the winch plate. It’s like a puzzle with three pices that took us WAY longer to figure out than it should have. I’m sure the fact that the bumper directions indicated one should take off the stock bumper and install the new bumper. Again, thanks for your insight directions. I really, really appreciate all the hard work that went into writing those. Man.

So after loosely fastening the bolt into the bottom of the new front bumper (you really don’t want that thing falling on your foot – ask Mike), we set about fastening the winch to the winch plate. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? HA-flippin-HA. It was not. The captive nuts kept falling out (not so captive were they?) when we tipped the winch plate forward so we could reach the bolts. And without those, nothing was going to be fastened to anything. At any rate we managed to finally get the winch secured to the winch plate.

And so it was time to put THAT on the bumper, put the bolts through and congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

Except clearly it did not work out that way….as usual. Seems all the holes did not line up. No sir, they did not line up at all. And have I mentioned that the winch plate is really thick steel? Oh I hadn’t? Well it is. Very. Thick. Steel.

So, heft winch and winch plate off bumper to ground. Get drill, attempt to drill out holes enough that everything would match up. Pick up winch plate & winch. Place on bumper. Realize holes still did not match up. Rinse & repeat. Again and again and again. By the way, that thing is heavy. HEAVY.

Eventually we perservered and won the battle of the not aligned holes (but not before Mike’s poor drill committed suicide on the garage floor – but like I asked, what better excuse did he need to buy a bigger, better drill?).

After six long painful hours (but warm, the garage was warm, well lit and spacious) both new bumpers were on the Jeep, along with the winch, winch plate and grill guard.  And since it was already past 9:00 pm at that point, we called it a night. The winch wiring will come along soon enough. I need some ibuprofen, a cool refreshing beverage and a heating pad if you don’t mind!

Thanks Mike! I owe you!


chris on March 17th 2011 in Vehicles

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