Mark's Alpha Build

How you built it

Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:33 am

After installing the lift a portion of the factory UCP was not going to fit without some modifications. The UCP has served me well for almost 10 years on two different H3s but had seen better days. While there are definite pluses for the ladder style design there were also cons such as it was good at getting hung up on rocks so I decided to make new skids versus modifying the OEM equipment.

I needed to make two sections, mid section from the diff cross member to the next cross member under the transmission and rear from that cross member to the next under the transfer case. I decided to go with 3/16" steel.

Started with the rear section by getting my mounting holes and cutting slots in the steel. The slots are for both cooling and drainage. Not the prettiest but not bad considering it was done with an angle grinder and cut off wheel.

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I slotted some of the mounting holes so the plate could slide above the plate for the forward section versus having to hold both sections up while trying to line up all the bolts. Make it a lot easier to mount by yourself. Did the same with the mid section.

Next I added 1/4" x 1 1/2" "ribs" to the top side of the plate for added strength. These are overkill and could have gone with 1/2" tall but better safe than sorry.

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The section of three slots without "ribs" is where the transfer case is positioned and there is no room for the "ribs".

New was the mid section. I had to put two bends in this section of about 10 degrees each. I first cut a groove across where the bend was about 3/4 of the way through the plate. Then I took several pieces of square tube with the right angle cut in them and clamped them to the plate to align with the groove and bend it to the right position with a sledge hammer. After doing both bends then welded up the groove that was cut and added a bead along the other side just for good measure. This pic is before it was welded up.

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Due to the angle and the additional space between the plate and transmission I didn't think there was a need for cooling/drainage slots in this section but I did add 3 "ribs", one on each edge and one in the middle.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:45 am

Plates finished up and painted.

Mid section...

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Rear section...

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All installed looking from front of truck toward the back. Initial section you can see if the front skid plate that comes with the Rancho lift which is under the front diff.

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Rear section...

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Rear section from the side...

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Mid section...

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Mid section from the side...

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I originally planned on putting the bolt protectors around each of the mounting bolts. The more I looked at it the more they looked like big catch alls that would constantly be getting hung on rocks. Once you make it tall enough to cover the bolt head and large enough to allow for a socket and be protective they get pretty big. Going to run it like this for a while to see how the bolt heads hold up and see if I need to add protection. Figure worst case I have to cut the bolt head off.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby 650Hawk » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:11 am

To protect the bolt heads, how about just a small wedge/ramp just in front of the bolt? :duh:
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:39 pm

Was thinking about trying something like that. Original plan was to completely surround the bolt head with room for a socket which ended up being 3 or 4 times the size width wise as the bolt head and just slightly taller. Will be doing a test run this weekend and see how they do. If I need to do something my first change will probably be as you suggested and see how that works.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:00 pm

I never did a writeup on how I did the PVC tube on the rack for holding half shafts and tie rods and have had few people ask so here are some details. Unfortunately the smallest size PVC I could find that would fit a half shaft is 6" which also isn't easy to find around here but luckily a friend who is a plumber had some. Glued a rounded cap on one end then a screw cap on the other for access. I mounted the tube to the rack using a couple Quick Fist Clamps bolted to the rack. I went with the Super Quick Fist Clamps for 2 1/2" - 9 1/2" diameters. It's been up there for about 7 months now and seems to be working good.

Super Quick Fist Clamps

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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon Apr 25, 2016 7:59 am

Needed to pull the skid plates to check my front diff and figured it was a good time to see how they were holding up and if they were cleaning out as I had hoped. So far they have seen one trip to the local off road park, a week wheeling in Kentucky and some pretty good abuse on the modified course at a local 4X4 event. At this point I had not done anything to clean them out and there had been some serious mud in Kentucky.

Most of the mud fell off as I was pulling the back section under the transfer case. Considering where it had been there really wasn't that much and as you can see it primarily collected toward the back at the crossmember which is not surprising. Looks like the slots did their job as no mud collected there. If I were to do them again I would make the slots go further back toward the crossmember.

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Only bend in the plate as at the back right corner and was minimal. This corner is where the crossmember turns up toward the frame by the torsion bar adjustment bolt so there is no support on this corner. Really doesn't matter or affect the skid plates functionality so not worried about it.

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The overall surface held up very well and there are no deformities at all other than that corner.

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The mid section under the transmission cleaned out very well too considering there are no slots in it. The only place to collect mud and not much is at the front against the Rancho crossmember. I believe this is in part due to the design and shape of the crossmember which catches mud there and only allows for it to go in one direction. Due to the design of the skid plate it should be easy to clean any mud out without pulling the plate itself.

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As you can this section also held up very well with no deformities at all.

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While the front section which came with the Rancho lift does well and took the abuse it definitely collects mud worse than the other two. I believe this is 100% due to the slots in the front of the plate which is at an upward angle when installed. This allows any mud that might hit the plate to be pushed through the slots and collect there. Shouldn't be too bad for cleaning out without pulling though.

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Overall I am very happy with how they have held up and work as designed. While the OEM UCP is great I have definitely noticed a difference running these. While there is less clearance loss due to only being 3/16" lower than the crossmembers the biggest advantage I found was they slide over the rocks so much better. I always liked that the OEM UCP doesn't hold in heat or mud but they hang up on the rocks versus these which allow you to slide over.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon May 16, 2016 7:13 am

Not really build related but carnage I finally got time to work on. Almost a couple of months ago I thought I blew the front diff. Once I finally got a chance to investigate about 3 weeks ago I found the diff was fine but there was a puncture in the axle tube for the stub shaft. Ordered the parts which took a little while and finally got it fixed this weekend.

The puncture in the tube that lead me to what the actual issue was. It appears that one of the chunks that broke off probably got wedges between the shaft and the tube causing it to build and rip open.

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Did a real number on the shaft and as you can see there were a lot of pieces in there.

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Look at all the shaving in the tube, not good at all. The good news is the tube was being replaced anyway and since the two pieces of the shaft stayed in place all the metal shavings were contained in the tube and not able to get into the diff.

tubeinside.jpg
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All back together and ready to play again.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Wed Jun 15, 2016 7:10 am

So I ran the trans cooler for about 8 months with one trip of a couple thousand miles over a week in there and it did great. The only issue was that these were in the cooler months of the year and the trip was in Kentucky during February so not exactly warm weather then either. Did one trail ride here in FL in May and it was in the upper 80s low 90s that day. Trans temps never got too high even on slow trails but was also only in 4 lo for a few minutes, most of the time in 4 hi. Overall I think I would be in pretty good shape on the trail but decided to switch to a cooler with a fan just in case and really for on pavement stop and go traffic on hot days where I suspect it to get even hotter. Decided to go with a Derale 13950 Atomic-Cool Remote Cooler which I mounted in the same location. I am running a 185* thermostat switch for the fan which will turn back off when the temp gets down to 165*. Have been running it for about a week now and seems to be doing the job. It's a slightly larger cooler so it takes even longer for the temps to get up to 185* than with the old cooler. I have it wired to full time 12v so it will continue to run when I shut the truck off but only for a few minutes so far. So far I think it's going to do the job nicely and I will be testing it on the trail again this weekend so hopefully it will get more time in 4 lo this trip.

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Did have one mishap right after install. Took a test drive and was hammering on it pretty hard to get the temp up so the fan would come on when all the sudden I see ATF hitting the windshield. Ended up blowing one of the lines off the cooler and there was ATF everywhere :wall:

On the bright side the engine bay looks nice and shiny now like it was detailed :lol: :wall:
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:04 am

Back in March I finally pulled the trigger and added an awning to the rig. I went with the ARB 8' model and it's been installed since March with zero issues. Had not gotten a chance to use it yet but yesterday in 100 degrees in a clay pit with zero shade it was very nice to have. Will do more of a writeup on it the future.

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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:34 pm

Since I don't drive the H3 as much these days I was getting a bit tired of paying for XM that was rarely used. At the same time I always appreciated having XM when on some remote trail with either no FM radio stations in range or at a minimum no good radio stations. Factor in since I installed the snorkel and did't want the antenna sticking further out I have been running without one at all. I had been using Schwarttzy's quick and simple audio input which allowed me to play songs off my phone which was nice but also wanted a better way and with the NAV disc in the factory head unit getting more and more outdated I decided it was time for a change. I don't generally do mods unless they either increase the capabilities of the truck off road or it's functionality as an overland vehicle being lived out of for a week at a time. Normally I wouldn't mention changing out the head unit but it's actually does have a benefit when wheeling but more on that later.

I had been looking at the features of CarPlay for a while and being a iOS guy liked what I saw. Factor in what you can get in a CarPlay head unit for much cheaper than a standard NAV head I decided that was the route I was going to go. Did a lot of research and comparison and settled on the Kenwood DDX6702S. Could have gone with something with a slightly larger screen or more bells and whistles but I didn't need them and for the money this had everything I was looking for.

Kenwood DDX6702S with 6.2" display
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CarPlay on the DDX6702S
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Added the rear camera to the obviously scratched of bumper. Will see how I like this position of if I want to change it when I go to a new bumper.
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One feature I like about this head unit (I am sure it's becoming more common if not on most now) is that I can pushing the volume knob for a few seconds at any time and pull up the rear camera view, no need to be in reverse. This will be handy when following one of the cardinal rules of wheeling, always keep the guy behind you in view.

I added a USB port to the driver side of the center console below the center stack. This is used to plug the phone into the unit for CarPlay to work but you can also read media off a USB device. Have not yet tried but need to see if I can view video files recorded on to SD cards by the DVR using a USB SD card reader.
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For better FM reception since I am was not running an antenna I installed an amplified antenna from AntennaX.com. Ran the cable up the passenger A-pillar and mounted the antenna in the upper right corner of the inside of the windshield. Using it out in the Ocala forest a few weeks ago I would say the reception is at least as good as it ever was with the stock antenna and there is nothing to hang up on tree limbs.
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Now the feature that really influenced my decision to go with this unit and will be a benefit when wheeling was the ability to have second forward facing camera. I installed the camera in the center of the plastic facia just above the winch bumper.
frontcamera.jpg
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When wheeling I can pull up this camera when say cresting a hill or dropping off a ledge where you can not see anything in front of the truck or picking a line through some rocks. I can think of many times in the past where this would have come in handy and should frequently eliminate the need for a spotter.
Just a parking lot view but you get the idea of how this will be handy on the trail.
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With the limited use I have had with it so far I am very happy with the selection of this unit. Has the features I needed/wanted and the NAV will be much better with CarPlay since it's constantly updated and has traffic. Hopefully they will continue to add more features and open it up more and more to developers. Would like to see them allow apps such as Dash Command which i am using on the iPad now to read my OBDII reader. Would be nice if that was on the head unit all the time.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:05 am

When I build the drawer system and moved my tools down from the Pelican case on the Gobi rack I removed the case but still needed someplace to store spare parts like the CV axles. I didn't want to store them in the cargo area because they just took up too much valuable space and weren't items that you would hopefully need to access very often if at all. A little over a year ago I mounted a PVC tube to the rack with a pair of Quick Fist clamps. The only tube I could find that would fit a CV axle had a 6" inner diameter.

tube.jpg
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This served the purpose and carried the axle and a two each inner and outer tie rod ends but I had a few issues with it. First it sat at a total hight of about 8 1/2" and was really wasted space. The minimum inner diameter I needed was right at 4 1/4" to fit the axle so it sat higher than I really liked. Two other issues I found were if you do need to get into it the screw on PVC cap I put on it was extremely hard to get off and even with caps on both ends it was not water tight. So the search started for a new solution.

I thought about building my own box but then came across the Plano 108362 all weather tactical case.

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With and interior size of 37" X 13" X 5" there was enough room without being too tall or too long to fit in the Gobi rack. The case is water tight with a built in pressure value like the Pelican which had zero signs of moisture inside in the 5 years it was up there. It also has locks built into two of the latches. I mounted it the same way as I did with the Pelican, bolted through the bottom to the Gobi. The holes drilled into the case are the exact diameter of the bolts (tight enough they had to be threaded through) with gasket material and fender washers on either side of the case to help hold out water.

While I could have had room to store even more stuff I left the pluckable foam so everything has it's place and there won't be any shifting or rattling.

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Perfect storage for items I always carry but hope not to have to use, spare CV axle, two each inner and outer tie rod ends, u-joint, fluids, serpentine belt, spare parts and specialty items for changing tires on the bead locks as well as a few specialty tools that would not be regularly accessed.

Overall I like the fit and at 5 1/2" its not nearly as tall. Might add some anchor points to the lid. Will see after a few trips if they are needed.

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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby bunger » Mon Sep 26, 2016 10:04 am

I like that box Mark. I've been looking for something of that size for a while.
I was afraid that a rifle case like this wouldn't be waterproof enough to stay out in the elements for long.
Let us know if it stays water tight after a few good rainstorms.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Mon Sep 26, 2016 10:21 am

The Pelican case I had stayed absolutely dry for the years it was up there 100% of the time. I am hoping this one is as good. It does have a water proof seal so hopefully it is. Will post after it has been up there a while.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:41 am

I checked over the weekend and it was getting wet inside. I had been concerned from the start about the fluids because you could see a bulge in the lid where they were when closed. Thought it might affect the seal so I took everything out to test. We have had a few rains since then including some heavy rains overnight last night so I checked this morning and it was dry inside. I think if I trim the foam on the top or the bottom where the fluids are that will relieve the pressure and allow it to seal properly. With the hurricane coming the next 36 hours will be an incredible test on how weather tight it is and I will post the results. If it keeps out the rain with the up to 70-90 mph winds we are supposed to get I'd say it's doing a great job.
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Re: Mark's Alpha Build

Postby Mark » Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:16 am

Changed out the rear bumper for the Thor Parts rear. It's a very solid and well designed bumper. First I made a bracket to move my license plate to the spare tire and ran the wiring for the lights. The bracket uses the existing threaded holes in the wheels used for assembly. Might got back and redo the mounting holes in the bracket as the holes in the wheels don't line up to be level when the tire is mounted on the carrier. Doesn't look bad but is noticeable.

Next I drilled a hole to mount my rear camera. Of course I painted the hole after drilling to prevent rust and as you can see got a bit of paint where it wasn't supposed to be but that cleaned up.

camera1.jpg
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Tire covers about the upper 1/3 of the shot but this was the best place for the camera and does the job. Unfortunately it will probably be useless when I have the Trasharoo on the spare.

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I also mounted a D-ring on the driver side so it now has one on each for the four corners. This is tied into the frame and a fully functional recovery point.

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Overall I am very happy with the look, finish and function of the new setup.

fullview.jpg
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