Jeep YJ Dash ReplacementMore Jeep 23 Dec 2013
My Dad got himself a 1988 Jeep Wrangler YJ, with a yucky old dash. He wanted to go for a more flat and clean look, so I installed this custom dashboard.
I first tore out the old dash, which was a good deal of fun. I found some Hotwheels cars stuck in places they shouldn’t be, as well as a lot of trash and nasties. I tracked and labelled all the wires I’d need, and cross-referenced them with the wiring diagram. This is where I started to find some hints of issues. One of the car’s previous owners swapped the original engine out with the hearty and common inline six, as well as switching it from a manual to an automatic. This means that the wiring harness has been messed with thoroughly. It is a conglomeration of multiple years and lots of weird changes. I found a remote start and two separate alarm systems under the dash, none of them working at the time we got the car. It was a mess.
I spent a lot of time cleaning up the dash, tracking down wires, fixing splices, and general maintenance. Many wires would run all around the car and then simply be unconnected at the end. I cut out lots of junk. It took too long and the Jeep needed to go on a big hunting trip, so I rigged up a temporary dash to get a speedometer and gas gauge running.
Here’s a picture up close of it. It’s made out of an old shoebox, that looks quite snazzy if I do say so myself. Those are the gauges my dad selected. We got the huge speedometer because the original plan was to use an old jeep CJ dash since those are flat. You have to redrill some holes to get it to fit, but it’s passable. The CJ had a massive speedometer though, and it runs on a cable drive. Some older YJs have a mechanical speedometer with a cable and can be joined to the CJ speedo, but our jeep uses an electric speedometer, hence the largest Autometer gauge we could find. Then other issues started cropping up. There weren’t any good gauges that would fit in the holes on the CJ dash, and we had to make a spacer for the speedo to fill the massive hole. It didn’t look good and it wasn’t the right solution.
About this time, I found Double D Fabrication. They make custom dashes for YJs in a variety of styles. We had a little back and forth to get the design hammered out, and placed an order. We got it in black powder coat, and it arrived looking perfect a couple weeks later. Here’s the backs of some of the gages. Since they’re in angled tubes to point them towards the driver, the standard plastic pieces that hold the gauges in place wasn’t going to cut it. I got a bit of aluminum bar and cut them to length and drilled some holes in them and used them as a backer bar.
These gauges didn’t have deeper tubes like the others did, so I used a bit of threaded rod and bars to keep them pushed back in their holes. This is plenty secure for this setup and they don’t vibrate at all.
The dash uses the classic CJ cable pull knobs for the heat and defrost control. The YJ also uses a cable based setup, but they’re obscured in a more benign looking set of sliding levers. I cut this apart and spliced the cables of the CJ knobs to the YJ cables. One of the cables wasn’t needed since we don’t have A/C, and it just so happened that the highest knob on the dash interfered with the windshield defrost vents. I had to hack a way a little at the knob to make it fit with the vent, but it’s okay since I don’t need that cable!
Here it is almost completed before I tied up some of the loose wires. I also added a radio and two speakers. Driving a car without a radio is surprisingly annoying, especially when it’s a soft top jeep with big tires. You can also see the grab bar and locking glove box that I installed. What you can’t see are the other status lights, and turn signal lights I installed by the steering column. It’s a huge improvement over the original dash and it makes me much happier to know that I cut out all the nonsense under the dash. Next stop would be fixing up the engine compartment!