Since this topic has come up again, I thought I would post this.. Yes, after 2500 miles I am finally claiming success! I have an 84 CJ-7, and I did a gear swap to 4.27's and installed ARBs in both axles without any prior R&P experience. I spent alot of time researching every aspect of this job until I felt I knew enough to try it.
Here's my story, and what I think is important if your thinking about doing this job yourself...
1) Be mechanically competent. This is probably 2nd only to an engine or tranny rebuild in difficulty, and here, being close won't cut it. The tolerances for error are incredibly small. I have been a aircraft mechanic(A-10's for the Mass ANG) for 14 years, and am pretty good with precision equipment and tools so I was confidant in my abilities.
2) Have ALL the proper tools. I bought a 12 ton shop press from Harbor Freight for about $100, and also ordered some gear pullers, bearing seperators, brass punches, and other small stuff. I borrowed a friend's dial indicator and dial calipers. Even though I spent money on tools, it was still cheaper than the labor costs to have the work done, and I get to keep the tools for other jobs! Another tip is to buy a spare set of bearing, and hone the press fit out of them. This allows you to easily slide them on and off for the hundreds of times you'll change the shims. Also, I couldn't find marking compound anywhere, so try to get extra when you order your gears.
3) Make sure you understand the job completely. I read alot of sites on R&P setup, how to read gear patterns, and how to change to shims to move the pattern around. There are TONS of links out there, and they are just a www.dogpile.com
4) I think this is most important. BE PATIENT AND TAKE YOUR TIME! I was very aware of the fact that if I messed up, it would cost me more to get my mistakes fixed by someone else. I was lucky enough to have a spare front axle to experiment on. This allowed me to take my time without the pressure of having to get it on the road by Monday. It probably took me 30 hours of time total over the course of a few weeks to do that front axle. I pulled the carrier out so many times I lost track.I also intentionaly set the gears up wrong several times at each extreme so I would know what the pattern looked like when it was off.
After I swapped my front axle in, I soon did the rear. This time I had no spare, so I made sure I did it on a long weekend, and got started early. It took a while, but by this time I had a better idea of what I was doing. I was pretty nervous the first time I took it for a spin around the block but it didn't make any funny noises. After 300 miles I changed the oil, and nearly had a heart attack when I saw shiny bits in it. During my tense phone call to WCD I found out the gears are coated with a phosphate coating so they don't rust on the warehouse shelves and this is what I saw in the oil. PHEW! I changed the oil again at 600 miles, and finally began to feel comfortable enough to turn the radio back on and not strain my ears to catch the sounds of imminent drivtrain failure. MY gears don't make any noise at all!
I think now everything is gonna be alright! And I saved enough to buy a new set of rims and tires to boot!
See ya on the trail