Swapping a CJ Dashboard Into a YJ

Dec. 01, 1998 By Chad Crowell

Many Jeepers believe that the YJ is "not a real Jeep", or at least not as real a Jeep as a CJ. Some even rank it lower than the TJ. While it is true that the YJ was designed to be more comfortable and safe, it can easily be built to perform right along side...or even better than... the CJ and TJ off-road.

Scott Peterson loves his 1988 YJ. He is pleased with its handling and performance on- and off-road. He does think, however, that the large plastic dash of the YJ was a big mistake by the designers. (Wonder what he thinks about the TJ!) So one day, Scott decided to collect all the pieces of a CJ dashboard and retrofit his YJ with it. The results are amazing!

By Chad Crowell

Here is Scott's Jeep. It is a 1988 YJ with the following modifications:

4" Pro-Comp suspension
33" x 12.5" BFG MTs
American Racing wheels
Ramsey Pro-Plus 9000 winch
Tomken U-bolt skid plates
Hi Lift jack
Tuffy console
Complete CJ dash
Weber 32/36 carb
Jacobs Omni Pak ignition
Automatic transmission
Currie Steering box brace
4:10 axles from 1990 4 Cyl. YJ
Full hard and soft tops and bikini
Basic CB Radio for trail communication
Conversion of rear yoke strap-and-bolt to u-bolts

Standard Disclaimer...

I make no guarantees that this swap is legal in any states (or mine, for that matter). Removing any emissions maintenance or check engine lights is not recommended, and any changes to steering columns, wiring, or the like should always be done with caution and correct parts and practice.

This is not written as an instruction, or to say that this application is right for you. No guarantees of fit, function, or legality are implied in any way, shape, or form. This information is provided for fun and discussion only. That said, I think it's a great swap and one of the most rewarding modifications I have made to my Jeep.

It's all personal taste, but I think Jeep really blew it with the removal of the CJ dash and going plastic. It's also relatively easy, if you take your time and think some things out. It took me about 2 weeks to complete the job, working weekends and evenings, after months of planning and research. It is still only about 95% complete.

By Scott Peterson

I REALLY hated the YJ dash in my Jeep, and from looking at many a CJ, I had dashboard envy. The metal, big speedometer, the real grab bar, etc. Knowing that the tubs are often interchanged from YJs to CJs, I knew that the dashboards were a bolt in, but figured there'd be lots of changes that would be required. I have since completed about 95% of this swap, and the Jeep is running and looking great with the swap. Just say NO to plastic!

Here are the issues that need to be addressed, and will be addressed in the write-up:

Heater controls
Defroster ducting
Speedo cable
Wiper motor cover, and linkage

First steps - Research:
The first steps for me involved doing some initial taking apart of some parts of the YJ dash, and making some measurements, and learning how the whole thing fits together. The most difficult part of the swap was going to be the defroster vents. The CJ has the defroster coming up into the windshield frame, and the YJ has it as a part of the big dash pad. My original plan was to retain the YJ dashpad, as it houses the defroster vents, and bolt up the CJ dash underneath it. The YJ dashpad has 2 side parts that hang down on the ends, and the left side would interfere with the stock speaker hole that is in most dashes, and the glove box on the right hand side. So, when I went shopping for my dash, I looked for one that did not have the left side speaker hole, or a glove box. I also didn't need the radio cutouts, as my radio is in a Tuffy console. I will also keep the wiper control on the steering column, at least until it breaks.

Spending money:
Stock YJ Dash HAS TO GO!!!! I bought a complete used dash out of a CJ from a guy with a big Jeep yard for $125. This came with a nice condition speedo, all 3 heater cables and some spares, a complete wiring harness including a fuse box, all switches for heater and fan, all little square light things, bolts, grab bar, glove box door, little plastic column boot-thing, etc. VERY complete, not rusted, and orange in color. The dash just needed to be lightly sanded and painted. I was able to find a dash without the left side speaker hole, but all the dashes he had (about 6 or 8 to choose from) had the glove box, and I didn't want to pass up the nice condition one. I figured I could work around the glove box issue. I don't know what year or CJ (5, 7, etc) my dash came out of, it was in a pile of dashes.

I also didn't know what to do about the gauges. I didn't want to play with sending units, YJ / CJ stock gauges, etc. So, I bought new gauges from Autometer, oil press and water temp. These are about $30 each. I bought a mech. Oil pressure and an electric water temp gauge, in standard 2" to fit in the 2 holes in the CJ dash. I figured I would not use the temp gauge in the speedo cluster. As for the gas gauge, various sources reported differing resistance values for the gauges, and it seems the YJ has a 0 ohms =full, 44=1/2 and 88 = empty. Seems the CJ is about opposite, with 73=empty, 9 = full. I'm not sure what will happen with this yet. Right now I am running with no gas gauge.

Starting work:
So, getting the dash home, I first started cleaning everything up, and taking it all apart, after taking a picture of how it looked. I started to lay out in pencil on the CJ dash where the YJ pad would be, etc. It looked like I could put a small cover over the opening, or move the glove box door over a few inches to clear the YJ pad. I figured I would worry about this after the dash was in.

Take it apart!
Just say NO to plastic. Take out all the YJ stuff. Dash pad, gauge cluster, tach, speedo, etc, until you are left with just the flat metal part. The wheel needs to come off, and for my automatic, I had to pull the shifter stick. It is pretty straightforward to take apart. On the YJ you do need to fold the windshield forward to get the dashpad and the metal portion of the dash out, as they screw to the top of the tub, underneath the windshield. This involved unbolting the YJ's windshield roll bar extensions. The YJ speedo cable does not screw into the back of the speedo, it snaps in. So, I bought the 80" long cable from "forget" It was $14.95. It screws in fine to the NP231 on the YJ.

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