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Topic: ***AJ's Rock Rails Install Write Up***

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***AJ's Rock Rails Install Write Up***

Got some Rock Rails the other day...  clap.gif  Been waiting for these for a while, money was tight buying a house.  They are a 3/16" Super Square Rails. I talked to AJ and told him that I would be doing a write up on the install.  Some of these instructions will be copy and pasted from his website (what I add will be Italicized).  The one thing that I didn't do that I wish I would have, and I would have if I thought of it, was put the rails on without them painted.  Then taken them off and painted them so that they wouldn't get scratched.   So for future reference it might be better to paint them only after they have been test fitted on the XJ.

Here is a pic of the Rails as they came to me:

 


PAINTING

So let's get down to the nitty gritty of painting, don't be intimidated by it, anyone can do it. The key is PREP PREP PREP. Start with a coarse scotchbrite pad or light automotive sandpaper and give them a once over to scuff up all the surfaces. Clean with xylene, brake cleaner, laquer thinner, something that doesn't leave a residue and gets all the dirt and grime off.  I used this sand paper and paint thinner:





Regardless of what coating you want to apply I would prime the metal with a metal etching primer. You can buy this at most any auto parts store, even Wal-Mart. Follow the directions! Apply light coats instead of one heavy coat. Taking your time up to this point will pay off. Regular old primer works ok but I've had much better luck with the metal-etching type and it's only a couple dollars more.

This is the primer that I used:



TYPES OF COATINGS
 
Good old tried and true spray paint, semi-gloss black. Cheap paint isn't necessarily saving you any money as they usually have less paint solids and it takes more coats to cover. Again the key is several light coats with adequate dry time between coats.  
 
Hammered finish paint is become more popular and a lot of people have had good results with it. Looks really nice and seems to hold up better than standard spray paint. Because of it's slightly hammered finish it makes touchups almost invisible and some of it can be applied directly over light rust. Rustoleum Hammered Finish is what I recommend. 

 
I used the Rustoleum Textured Finish paint in flat black.  I used this because I couldnt find a flat black in the Hammered Finish.  Here is a pic of the can I used:



Here are pics of the rails after priming:



Here is a pic of the rails after the first coat of Black paint:



As you can see in that last pic I applied all paint very thin and applied many times as apposed to 1-2 thick coats.  The primer, I used 2 cans; covered probably 5 coats of paint.  The Textured paint I used 2 cans; covered probably 3-4 times.
Here is the final pics of the rails after all the painting is done:



On to the Install

TOOLS


·        
7/16 wrenches and/or socket
·         9/16 socket ·         21/64 drill bit (for self threading bolts)
·         9/32 or 5/16 drill bit (anything slightly larger than 1/4" for pinch seam bolts)
·         3/8 or 1/2 drill bit (for rear spring hanger bolt)
·         vice grips
·         something to mark holes (marker, scribe...)
·         center punch and hammer

INSTALLATION

 
First thing to do is trial fit and mark the holes you'll need to drill out. This is best done before you paint the rockrails so you don't bang up the finish anymore than you have to.  Looking at the rails you'll notice the plates that mount to the frame are different on each end, one is T-shaped (front mount), the rear is L-shaped. Best way I've found to hold the rails up in place is with a pair of vice grips clamped to the pinch seam and pinch seam mount. Either have a friend help lift them up into position or just sit with your legs under the Jeep and use your knees to help hold them up before clamping them.





A few key points about positioning the rails. The rear mount needs to be pushed back against the spring hanger.



The pinch seam mount needs to be up as high as possible. If you find they aren't high enough to have sufficient metal to drill/bolt to then feel free to mark where the frame leg mounts are and grind/cut away some of the pinch seam to raise it up.  (I was not sure what he was referring to here but I just cut on little section where the front fender ties into the rest of the XJ.   Here is a pic that you can see the gap in that we are getting rid of to make the rails fit high enough for you to tie into the pinch seam)







After cutting that I took a hammer and with some love pushed the fender up a little to minimize the gap. No after pic, my bad.
Here was a pic of the pinch seem before the cut and the holes on the rail.  As you can see the rail was not high enough for the pinch seam holes to do anything.



Once you have them clamped to the pinch seam, give the mounts on the framerail a kick or smack (real technical here) upwards. BE CAREFUL YOU ARE NOT UNDER THE RAILS WHEN YOU DO THIS!! The vice grips can let loose and SMACK...believe me, they hurt falling on your knee, not that I know from experience.

 
I didnt do this step.  I will explain later.

Now that you have them in position you'll just need to go through and mark all the holes for drilling, pretty straightforward. The pinch seam holes can be kind of a pain, use a short drywall screw, short pencil or a q-tip dipped in some paint. To prevent the drill bit from walking go ahead and center punch these holes. You can get good drill bits that won't walk on you though.

I didnt do this either.  I just marked on the opposite side of the pinch seam with a Sharpie and then used the technical way and guessed the right space of the holes.  Basically as low as you can get the hole drilled without falling off of the seam is how low they will need to be.  Here is a pic



Here is a pic of the holes on the frame rail before attaching:


 
TIME TO DRILL! The frame rail mounts holes get drilled to 21/64, this is critical for the self threading bolts to bite properly. Pinch seam gets drilled to something slightly larger than 1/4 as indicated, you can use 1/4" but it will be a snug fit when installing the hardware. The spring hanger mount uses a 3/8" bolt so anything slightly larger than that will work fine. Now a quick word on drilling the holes. The key is to use sharp bits, go slow and don't be afraid to use some sort of coolant if necessary(I used water in a spray bottle). Heat destoys drill bits and makes the metal harder to drill so go slow or just pulse the drill. Use good pressure to get the bit to bite, if it seems like it's getting hot spray it with some WD-40 or dip it in some motor oil to cool it. Drill the holes in the framerails as best you can, meaning don't wobble them out or anything.  
 
Now would be the time to apply some finish to your rails, I'll go more into that process later.  The key to mounting them is to get all the hardware started, but nothing tightened down.
·         The framerail mounts use the self-threading bolts that take a 9/16" socket. Don't go crazy when tightening downs as the framerail metal is not that thick. Not many people strip these out so don't worry about it.
·         The pinch seam bolts use a 7/16" wrench/socket.
·         The 3/8" bolts go into the rear spring hanger. This is something I added in the last few months, wasn't really needed but it adds strength so why the heck not!
 
You may notice slight gaps between the mounts and the metal of the XJ, this is normal and not a problem unless they are pretty big. All my rails are built using a fixture so there is little to no variances in those. After speaking with an engineer who was involved with the production of XJ's throughout the years I found there were variances in the unibody itself.
 
This is the part that I didnt hit the rails when they were clapped.  I noticed that when clamped it dropped the rails a little.  So when I put mine up after drilling the holes I mounted one self tapping screw on both the front and back.  I then took a car jack and jacked up the rails to get the holes to line up on the pinch seam.  That way there is no droopage and the rails are up as high as they can be, closest to the body.Here is a pic of the rails mounted to frame from underside.



And a pic of pinch seam.  One thing to think of when putting these bolts in that I didnt think of till I saw the pics is that you might want to put them through the holes in the other direction.  This will allow the rails to protect the threads.  The way that they are mounted they will get covered in mud, maybe hit by things you are driving over.  I dont think that it is a big deal just something to think of next time.



And now the final pics:
 










Hope this helps some of you out there.  I love these rails, and would go nowhere else if I were to get another set.  Hope that some of you follow in my footsteps buy some of AJs rails and this write-up helps you out. 



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Looks good andy.

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Why the square outer tubes over the round?

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I've had excellent luck with Krylon epoxy enamel paint. I painted my sliders with it and the finish is holding up WAY better than the powdercoat Tomken put on the rear bumper/endcaps. It dries in less than 30 minutes too.

I'm with you on the self etching primer though. I've always used Rustoleum's rusty metal brown primer. When I finally get the rear bumper and endcaps sandblasted I will use the self etching primer. We use the same primer at work you used to rattlecan small parts before we spray them with Steel-It.

I looked at the same set you bought, but I got such a deal on the set I have I couldn't pass them up.

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I got the square rails becuase I like the looks of them better.  No real reason other then that.

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looks good.

now you need to test them biggrin.gif

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89eliminator wrote:

looks good.

now you need to test them biggrin.gif



Plan on it the first chance I get.  I just need to get my DPG Belly skid on and I will be set for armor.



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I like the square tubing. The color of that etching primer is on my favs list, but can understand the black.
Nice write up too.

-- Edited by threeEs99 at 22:48, 2008-07-29

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looks good andy!

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I like those better then mine

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