Unlike last year’s project, this year’s $800 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer hasn’t required a transmission or engine rebuild (yet), and because of this, I’ve been procrastinating big time. And that’s a problem, because I’ve still got a crap-ton of work to do.

Last year’s project, a 1948 Willys CJ-2A, was in such horrible shape that, even a month or so out, I was freaking the hell out about whether I could meet my deadline. Late in the game, I recall having a crankshaft sitting on my dryer, a differential with a bent ring gear flange, a transmission that wouldn’t shift into second gear, and no electrical system.

But this year, after replacing a bunch of ignition components including the coil, plugs, distributor cap, and ignition module, my 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer ran fairly well. One carburetor rebuild and EGR blockoff plate later, and the AMC 360 was sounding like a dream.

It was this early success that had me resting on my laurels, certain that I could get this year’s project done without issue. But now I’m down to about 16 days before I have to leave, and let me just say: there’s a crap-ton of work to do, yet. And I’m an idiot for waiting this long.

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I’ll begin with the good news—great news, even. My friend Travis came over to fix the steering wheel wobble that made driving the Jeep feel downright frightening. As Travis owns a Chevy Monte Carlo with a similar Saginaw steering column that used to wobble like mine, he knew exactly what needed to be done.

The first step involved popping off the horn button, and removing a big nut at the center of the column. Here’s a look at what’s behind that horn switch:

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From there, he used a special T-shaped puller that threads into the two holes shown above, and pushes against the center column to yank the wheel off:

With the steering wheel off, Travis was staring at a steering lock plate, and a white turn signal cancelling cam underneath:

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He then used a special tool to press down against the lock plate (which was spring loaded) so he could remove a little lock ring:

Here’s the lock plate and the turn signal cancelling cam:

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Travis then removed a few screws from the turn signal switch and the turn signal lever, removing the latter, and moving the former out of the way after unhooking a connector under the dash:

After removing the ignition switch, Travis took the top section of the column off. Just look at all the play in this thing:

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Eventually, after Travis took out some springs and pivot pins, he ultimately found the culprits:

That external torque bolt above, and three others like it—which hold the tilt mechanism in place—had wiggled loose, turning my steering wheel into a floppy mess.

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But Travis cranked those suckers down with a bit of loctite, and before putting it all back together, he even pulled out my old ignition switch, which had a tendency to seize up, and replaced it with a cheap one I bought at Autozone. Here’s the old one Travis removed:

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And here’s the new one:

Thanks to Travis’s hard work, I’m now the happy to report that my steering column woes are behind me:

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So yes, even though I myself have been dragging major ass on this project, I’ve luckily got a few friends willing to keep this project afloat, including Brandon, who’s wearing my Grand Wagoneer as a helmet in this picture:

Brandon and I tackled the right front brake and hub assembly, removing all but the knuckle itself, which was so stubborn, I later spent over an hour hammering on that bastard before those ball joints finally let go.

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But as hard as it was to knock that knuckle off the axle, nothing was harder than trying to press out a crusty u-joint from an axle shaft, especially since the retaining clips were rusted in place. So I had to break out the angle grinder:

With the old U-joints out after the cutting operation, Brandon and I hammered the new ones into the axle shaft, and then I used an Autozone rental ball-joint tool to press the old joints out of the knuckle, and impact-hammer the new ones in.

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Long story short, the passenger’s side of my Grand Wagoneer has new ball joints and a new axle u-joint:

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I’ve still got to button up the hub and install the new caliper with its new pads and new brake hose. And on the driver’s side, the hub is mostly disassembled, but the axle still needs to come out to have its u-joint swapped (and hacked off, I’m sure), and the knuckle needs to come off still to get new ball-joints (which I’m sure will require some serious sledge-hammering).

The good news is that I did replace the sway bar bushings (which, normally, I wouldn’t worry about, but since I’ll be towing, this seemed like a good call), and also the shock on the passenger’s side front, though the steering tie rod ends—whose replacements are in the mail headed my way—still need to be unbolted and thrown into the trash.

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So basically, in the three weeks since my last update, I’ve gotten the steering column fixed, and a few minor things done to the front passenger’s side axle and brake assembly.

I still have a leaky transfer case, dry-rotted tires, a bad transmission cooler, no fan shroud (though a reader is sending me one!), no reverse lights, no trailer harness, a rear cargo door that won’t open, no fuel tank skid plate and stuck rear brakes. Plus, I have to adjust the transmission’s bands, and figure out why the Jeep is stuck in four-wheel drive.

Sixteen days is a long time, though. Right?