Jeep Windshields Suck

Jeep’s windshields stink more than a bucket of armpits. There, I said it!

There are plenty of articles and videos out there regarding Jeep’s windshield cracks. Well, I’m now a victim of this defect. #sigh

At first cracks developed on the lower corners of the windshield. They grew longer over time. The crack that started on the lower left is now about a foot high, leaning to the right. The crack on the right grew long enough to intersect with the crack on the left. How is this even possible?

I called Jeep and they told me their warranty does not cover windshield cracks. Even those that were not caused by impact. The crack on the left was definitely caused by a pebble. The crack on the right has no trace of any impact, it just showed up one day. I’m not a happy camper. I’m not really concerned that the windshield will implode on the highway. I’m worried about getting a damned ticket.

So I called Geico, and they told me it is covered by my comprehensive coverage. I have a $500 deductible. Yay. So I went through my policy with the very patient representative. We added a few recent mods, reviewed some coverages, and lowered my deductible to $100. My premium went up by $135. Not bad considering if my windshield breaks once per year in the next thee years, I come out ahead. 🙂

I have my appointment on Tuesday to replace the windshield with OEM glass. Geico uses the cheapest glass they can, so if/when it happens again, I pay $100 and I take whatever Geico gives me. On the bright side, I select the shop.

I started a thread on one of the forums, got some interesting responses:

Jeep windshields suck massive <redacted>


jeepuniq Mounts

Now that I have all my important devices mounted and the wiring hidden, it was time to order a mount that would hold my Garmin inReach Explorer+ and provide another mic holder. The two would be stacked on the new product, and would attach to the passenger grab bar.

The jeepuniq mount I had in mind was the perfect design, item number CG-K18JL-G100-B-M1-27137. Nothing to drill, just wrap the base around the grab bar and slide a bracket to hold it in place.

When the product arrived today, I ran to my Jeep to confirm that the fit was as perfect as my buddies said it would be. They were right, the quality and manufacturing tolerance was as good as it gets. I confirmed the mic mount was nicely designed, securely holds the mic. Impressive given the reasonable price. They provided two platest to slide under the grab handle, presumably to deal with any Jeep grab handle manufacturing tolerance issues, or from general wear and tear over time.

So the Garmin inReach Explorer+ would mount to the top of the product by way of Garmin’s charging cradle. I expected the assembly to be simple and easy. I had a couple issues. The bolts were too thick, or so I thought. Their chat support instructed me to push the bolts thorugh the Garmin charging cradle’s holes so the steel liners can be pushed out. That worked, the holes are now big enough for the bolts to go through.

Once I got the bolts installed, I found another issue. The bolts protruded 2-3mm, which I was able to resolve by adding a couple washers to each bolt. The washers should have come with the kit. Not sure if it was an oversight, or if the bolts were just not the right size. In any case, two washers per bolt and things mounted fine.

Once the Garmin charging cradle was secured to their mount, I confirmed the washers fixed the protruding bolt issue. At that point I went back to the Jeep, mounted it to the grab bar, slid the Garmin inReach Explorer+ onto the charging cradle that was mounted to their product, and I put the mic into the product’s mic slot. The whole thing is extremely sturdy, snug fit onto the brab bar, not expecting anything to bounce off while the Jeep bounces off boulders in Moab or Rubicon. They give you two sliding brackets, presumably to tighten their product should it loosen over time.

Overall, I’m very happy, it was well worth the wait. My minor gripes include lack of clear instructions, and the bolts being the wrong length or missing washers. To be fair, they’ve got a huge number of designs to cover the different Jeep models and a vast number of devices. Though for this kind of dual design, you only really need to show how to mount the Garmin charging cradle, and how to attach the product to the grab bar. No instructions are needed on how to put the mic into the slot.

I highly recommend jeepuniq. Its a very high quality product, built to incredible tolerances (except for bolt length, or needing to include washers), and brilliantly designed. Kudos to whoever was on the other end chatting with me so late at night, thank you for going above and beyond.

Would’a, Could’a, Should’a

Believe it or not, I’m still wrestling with the cables connecting my CB and GMRS radios to my tailgate antenna mounts. I understimated what I was up against.

I learned the hard way that even the best CB and GMRS radios come with crimped RG-58 (PL-259 to SO-239) cables. I learned how quickly you can blow through that kind of cheap cable, after failing over and over again to get a decent crimp while trying to shorten the cable. It doesn’t take long to find yourself staring at your internal trim panels, cursing at yourself, knowing you’d have to run cable again. I decided I needed to get a quick lesson from an expert, to get up to speed.

I drove to The Ham Outlet in New Castle, DE, to ask for some advice, and to buy whatever I needed to get the job done. I didn’t expect the level of expertise and selfless mentorship those guys offered. For every question I asked, I got a lesson. It was an incredible experience. I walked away with some valuable knowledge, and the right RG-8x (PL-259 to SO-239) cable with soldered connectors, and a hand full of RG-8x connectors, so I can trim the wires down once I ran them again.

Sounds like a lot of work, but I really want the cables to be run properly, to avoid any interference or noise. I learned it is OK to run cables for both the CB and GMRS along the right side of the Jeep if you’re only going to run one radio at a time. The cables need to run through the CBBAR, through the side trim panels, through the tailgate, and to the Teraflex dual antenna mount.

I have power cables running along the left side of the Jeep. This includes Dometic’s hard wire kit (to power the fridge), and wiring for the rear facing LEDs. Once I have the storage drawers installed, I’ll have to build a power station that will mount my PBL-40 battery and my 150W pure sine wave power inverter. Those wires will run along the left as well.

So why does it seem like I’ve been doing this wiring for so long?

Part of the reason is that its friggin’ 20 degrees and snowing, and I can’t work in the garage because I decided last week to install my 35s. So my Jeep is too tall to get through the garage opening.

Another reason is that I still have not run the extended wiring harness that I created from the ARB Twin Compressor (that I recently mounted under the passenger seat) to the Jeep’s battery. So if that was done already, I could have aired down my tires to get the Jeep into my garage.

Yep, CB/GMRS wiring would have been done by now. Heck, all other wiring work would be done by now. So when will I have the ARB Twin Compressor wiring completed? I dunno, its cold and snowing…

I Got Big Boy Pants On

I never understood what the big deal was about having 35s instead of 285s that Rubicons come with. After getting up to speed on gearing and tire size, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to get away from what Jeep considers the perfect combination. Yet almost everyone I know has 35s or bigger. Heck, some of my buddies have 40s, and they’re running their stock 4.10 gearing. That’s insane!

Having upgraded to Rubicon axles in November, I have 4.10 gearing and lockers. So I knew that moving from 285s to 35s would subject me to compromised gearing, and the sluggishness I felt when I moved from 245s to 285s with 3.56 gearing. I knew I would lose 8th gear. But I decided to do it, after realizing that I have so much fun wheeling with the Cumberland Crawlerz. I’m able to keep up most of the time, even when I’m lured onto Black trails (even though I only find out afterwards).

I knew that in order to move to the next level, I needed to upgrade to 35s. As I prepare for my June trip to Moab>Rubicon, I knew I needed to bite the bullet. The sooner the better. This way I can wheel with the group and get used to the bigger tires, different accelleration, braking, steering, etc.

I wanted steel, since I needed the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t end up with catastrophic failure at Rubicon. I mean, yea, so aluminum looks great, and they’re lighter. But they get scratched up easily, you can’t bend them back into shape, and you can’t just paint them. I started to price tires and wheels, and fell off my chair a number of times. I ended up buying a used set of tires and wheels from a buddy. He was moving away from steel and and onto bigger tires.

He sold me a set of five Pro Comp 97 steel wheels (17×9), and four Nitto Grappler MT tires (35×12.5×17). The tires have more than half the tread left, and I was able to find a fifth tire, though its a Nitto Ridge Grappler (35×12.5×17), on Facebook Market Place for cheap. Total cost came in at under 1/3 the price if I had bought it all new. Quite a steal if you ask me.

I will no longer walk up to my buddie’s Jeep thinking “Man I wish my Jeep looked like that!”

Wait. Yea, I probably will keep saying that. Since he moved to bigger tires. #sigh

Well I finally decided it was time to get the 35s installed. A neighbor helped me schlep the five wheels and tires to the local Monro service center. I had five new Chrysler 433mhz TPMS units. I asked Monro to install them on all five wheels. They were done installing the TPMS and fifth tire, and balancing, in under two hours. After they took it for a spin, I hopped in and rolled off into the sunset.

The Jeep felt taller and a bit sluggish, as expected. But I knew to expect that, and I know I’ll need to re-gear to 4.56, or more likely to 4.88, before the June trip.

Happy to report SUSUSUCIO no longer looks like Mr. Universe with chicken legs.

Rugged Ridge Max Terrain Fender Flares

Parent Company: Omix-ADA
Company: Rugged Ridge
Retail: Quadratec

I get a lot of questions about the fender flares on my Jeep. They are Rugged Ridge Max Terrain fender flares, sold by Quadratec. They sit a couple inches higher and they stick out 1″ farther than the stock fender flares. This is great when you run 35″ or higher tires.

I like that they’re made of plastic, so while they might scratch in June when I’m scraping up against boulders and trees at Moab and Rubicon, they’ll bounce back. Metal will scrape up but they won’t bounce back, so you’ve got a more serious problem.

So why am I posting about them? Well, I found several issues with the front fender flares that I think folks should know about before spending $599 on the full set. The rear fender flares are fine, no complaints.

First, the Daylight Running Lights (DLRs) don’t come with wiring instructions, which is an issue given the number of Jeep model and lighting variations. I have a Sport S which does not come with DLRs, while other models or variations might. So when these DLRs are installed, there is one male and two female wires, without a clue what to do with them.

I called Quadratech, and after waiting over a month, they finally got the manufacturer to send me a replacement set of DLRs. Those failed too, since they were the same DLRs, with the same issues. So I called again and have been waiting for a response for a few months…I continue to wait.

Second, the DLRs are not sealed properly. After a few weeks they started to get filled with water droplets. The DLR function eventually failed on both. The signal light function still works, the yellow light flashes fine when I’m turning. But the DRLs are dead.

Second, the DLRs don’t align with the fender, as you can see above (mine) and below (screenshot from their video).

Third, probably the most important, is that the front fenders pull away from the body. This is because they were designed to ignore the two two clip holes that are positioned by the Jeep’s side vents. So the back side of the front fender flares are not mounted securely. I get that the fender flare sits much higher than the holes were meant to accommodate, but why use all the clips but those two by the Jeep’s side vents?

Rugged Ridge would do well to address the above issues. Until they do, I wouldn’t recommend these front fender flares to anyone. The rear fender flares are fine.

Applied Powder & Coatings

I spent a few weeks looking into the different options for getting my DirtWorks bumper and tire carrier cleaned and coated. Some of my wheeling buddies suggested looking at Line-X. I’m familiar with that type of coating, but I wasn’t crazy about how that would look on the bumper and tire carrier, though it is an attractive and durable finish.

I really wanted to get it powder coated, so I started looking around for local powder coating shops, hoping the shop can handle the size and weight of the bumper and tire carrier. I found two nearby shops. One of them had a website that had no real information other than “call”, so I did, and as expected I got a ridiculously high botique style estimate. Sorry, not interested in high end cash grab shops.

The other place I found is Applied Powder & Coatings is in Media, PA. They have a useful site, so far so good. I called them and someone picked up right away, that’s good, very responsive. After a few minutes on the phone, they gave me a rough estimate for price and turnaround. I strapped the bumper down to the cargo area, wishing I had installed the platform sooner, and off I went to drop off the bumper.

So I dropped off the bumper and tire carrier on Thu, Dec 31st. The estimate was spot on, so I left figuring I’d hear from them in a couple weeks.

On Wed, Jan 6th, they called me to let me know the bumper and tire carrier were “in the oven” and would be ready for pickup at 0730 today, Thu, Jan 7th. I was both excited and bummed. I took the day off to install my new platform, but didn’t think I’d get the opportunity to use it so soon! I ended up taking today off to pick up the bumper and tire carrier and to have it installed. Trying to schedule these things during the week is rough, and weekends are out.

I got to the shop around 0800. The bumper and tire carrier were at their loading dock, ready to go. I’ve got to tell you I was excited. When I got up close, I was very impressed at the quality of their work. From every angle the thing looked like it just rolled off the assembly line. This is the first time I’ve ever had anything powder coated. Now I know what all the hubub is about!

They graciously helped me load it into the back of my Jeep which now has the new platform installed. It was so easy to secure, so happy I chose that platform.

The guys at Applied Powder & Coatings are down to earth professionals. They love what they do, and it reflects in their work. They took the time to explain the process to me, showing me some of the different textures and colors they offer. If you ever need something powder coated, you can’t go wrong with this shop. They’re straight shooters, and they have fair prices and turnaround times. Highly recommended!

On the way home I stopped at a diner to have a late breakfast. Thank you Governor Wolf for loosening the state’s lock down rules. While I was eating I looked for a local shop that can handle the install. I was going to look over the weekend, didn’t expect the powder coating to be done so fast. I found one just a couple blocks away. Nice family shop, friendly people. They’re working on the install now.

More to come…

American Adventure Lab – Part 2

I installed the American Adventure Lab platform today. Its a pretty straight forward install, though on two door JLs there are only two of the three required holes on each side of the cargo area. That meant having to install the platform and drill the two remaining holes, then removing the platform, installing two netserts, then reinstalling the platform and bolting it all down.

I assembled the platform, and slid it into the cargo area. I bolted down the two rear most holes on the left and right, and gave them a little torque so the platform wouldn’t move.

Then I drilled through the two front most platform holes, using progressively bigger drill bits, so the nutsert could be inserted into the hole. The first bit was the smallest, it went through easily. The next drill bit was a little bigger, it also went in easily. When I used the biggest bit, I felt a lot of resistance, on both the left side and right side holes.

I removed the platform to see what was happening. As it turned out, there’s already a threaded hole in precisely the right spot. When I reported it to the company, they seemed surprised, but relieved that my accuracy was perfect. I’m guessing most customers won’t be as precise, and would probably force the drill all the way through. Good thing I stopped when I suspected something was wrong.

Now that I knew the two remaining holes were there, and already threaded, I put the platform back in, and torqued down all six bolts. The platform is very strong, so glad I went with American Adventure Lab’s kit rather than the wooden Goose Gear kit. This platform will last as long as the Jeep, and I’ll never have to worry about cracks in the coating leading to issues with the wood its made of.

Now that the platform is in place, I attached the eight Single Stud Tie-Down Rings. I never knew these existed. As it turns out the holes on the platform are L-bracket type, which uses these things. Brilliant design. Press the ring down, exposing the stud, insert the stud, slide the round base of the stud to the center of the peanut shaped hole, rotate ninety degrees, and release. Brilliant! So many options!

Now that the platform is in place, I can start planning on installing the twin drawers. This part requires partial disassembly, so I’ll wait until it gets above 40 degrees before I start on it.

American Adventure Lab Platform

I spent more than two months agonizing over what platform to buy (or make!) for my 2020 Jeep Wrangler Sport S two door build. Most of my buddies recommended Goose Gear, but 99% of them never bought or used that brand. So they were basing their recommendation on what they Googled or on some really expensive marketing campaign Google decides to SPAM you with during your browser session. So I started reaching out to folks who actually do overlanding, and the responses I got were pretty diverse. Its out of scope for this blog post, but the take away was, don’t be fooled by fancy ads.

I looked into making a platform out of plywood. A buddy at work connected me to someone who has all the tools needed to cut a platform out of wood. I started to get large cardboard boxes from the local U-Haul, to create a template. I’ve got to tell you, trying to make a platform template out of carboard is about as much fun as having your naked body dragged over broken glass.

I was about to give up and splurge on a boutique priced Goose Gear platform. But I couldn’t make myself pull the trigger. I don’t mind paying more for good stuff, but I think its stupid to spend $650 for a piece of coated plywood. Not my idea of rugged and reliable, given how coatings can fail, and how even the best coated wood won’t do well if moisture gets through a crack. There just had to be a better solution out there, so I kept looking.

Then one day one of my buddies sent me a link to American Adventure Lab’s solution. After beating my head on my desk for not finding them when I was searching, I took a look at their products. Well hello there! Their platform is made of thick CNC’d aluminum plates. Now that is durable! They offer their platform solution in bare aluminum (my preference), as well as some powder coated colors. They have their own proprietary mounting solution, but you can also buy tie down adapters.

So I ordered the platform in bare aluminum, and I added 8 of their Single Stud Tie-Down Rings. I plan to screw down my IronMan4x4 twin drawers, and I plan to use the tie down adapters to add some reinforcement, and to secure some other stuff that I plan to schlep on my June trip to Moab>Rubicon. The box arrived today, and as expected, it was at most 30 pounds unwrapped.

The platform being the foundation to my build, and the time I spent researching, collaborating, whining and bitching, etc., I don’t mind saying I was excited to open the box. The product was very nicely packaged. It came with some very well designed instructions, technically accurate and in color! Wow, this is already exceeding my expectations!

Here are some pictures. I’ll post again once I start the install.

DirtWorx Preparation

The DirtWorx rear bumper and tire carrier arrived, and I’m stoked! I loaded them into the back of my Jeep. I used a couple of moving pads to wrap them, and then I strapped them down.

I’m heading to Applied Powder & Coating in Glen Riddle, PA, so they can sandblast and powder coat them. They seem to be able to handle small and large projects, and are highly regarded by some of my buddies.

Once they’re powder coated, I’ll take them back home and drill a few holes for the RotoPAX 2gal containers. The HiLift holes are already there. Once mounted I’ll post some more pictures.

I’m thrilled at the workmanship. The top mounted hitch receiver is brilliant, opening up a slew of options. For example I can order his cargo carrier, which can then hold a shower WaterPORT!

I ordered the bumper with cutouts for 2×2″ LED lights, so glad I did.

Class III receiver is a plus if I ever want to tow anything, hope I don’t wreck it at Moab/Rubicon where descents can be extreme.

35s, Lockers, And Trails From Hell

The stock 245/70R17 tires that came off my Jeep in May have been gathering dust in my garage. I took them off the Jeep when it had under 300 miles. So the tires were pretty new. Someone in the Cumberland Crawlerz group posted on Facebook about what to do with OEM tires that are removed when modifying a Jeep. I hijacked the thread to offer the tires to anyone who can come and get them. Luckily a couple buddies showed up the next day to remove them from my garage. I now have more space!

My Jeep is currently sporting a set of 285/70R17 BF Goodrich KO2s, mounted on the stock aluminum wheels. I went with this size because my garage entry is not very high, so that’s as big as I can go if I want to park the Jeep in the garage. I will need to move to 35s for the June trip to Moab>Rubicon, so I bought a used set from a buddy. Pro Comp steel rims with Nitto Grappler 35×12.5x17s mounted on them. They’re in good shape, with more than half the tread left. I plan to swap the wheels in May, so I can wheel with the group a couple times to get used to the different size.

I was in denial for quite a while, regarding 35s being considered a mandate for the most extreme trails. I mean, if Jeep sells a Rubicon model Jeep, why does it come with 285s, and why is it marketed as suitable for The Rubicon Trail? Well, I should have known, having spent a few years in branding/advertising environments. While it is possible for a stock Rubicon to survive The Rubicon Trail, it is also possible to roller skate from New York City to Los Angeles. Get it?

My trip will include half a dozen hard trails in Moab. The one I have high hopes for is Hell’s Gate at Hell’s Revenge. I wanted to do the climb on my trip last August. Nobody wanted to spot me since I didn’t have 35s and at least one locker. It was a heart breaking lesson to learn, since my entire trip was built around that challenging climb. I’ll be more than prepared when I go back in June. I now have 35s, and Rubicon take-off Dana 44s (M210/M220) axles, which both have electronic lockers. They had <7,000 miles on them when I bought them.

An even more extreme example of the importance of having (at least) 35s and lockers, is the infamous, gut wrenching, trecherous The Rubicon Trail. The June trip is focussed on this tail, the only one in the US that is rated a 10 on a 1-10 scale of difficulty. Its considered a bucket list trail for serious wheelers. This time, I did my research, and I will be totally prepared. From tires, to axle lockers, to overlanding style kitchen and storage build, I’ll be more than ready.

For an overview of The Rubicon Trail, check out these two videod by one of my favorite bloggers, TrailRecon.

Jeep Jamboree – Rubicon 2021

Jeep released their Jeep Jamboree Rubicon Trail requirements for 2021. As expected, they now require 35″ tires, and both front and rear lockers. I knew about this, which is why I upgraded my axles to Dana44s, and I bought a used set of 35″ tires.

Some of the requirements seem extreme. I get why GMRS is a must, and CB is being kicked to the curb. Saw that coming for years now. But restricting Jeeps to 1997 or later just seems so incredibly wrong. Many of my wheeling buddies are pissed, and I can’t blame them.

Here’s a link to their event page:

Rubicon Trail is the toughest trail in the US, it is the only trail rated a 10. That means a lot. Though I struggle to come to terms with how Jeep can cast out the majority of their loyal customers.

I get it. Liabilty. Wait. Rubicon is a 10. Scratch that.

The Golden Arm of Dirtworx

Modifications are exciting, especially when your build is designed to accommodate a 7,000 mile 3 week off road trip through Moab and Rubicon. I have three badges from Moab, and I plan to pick up another four to six. Then off to Rubicon to hit the infamous Rubicon Trail.

Rubicon Trail is a trecherous 22 miles of endless boulders, fording, climbing, and descending. Its a three day trip, including two nights of camping. To do this kind of trip, you need a vehicle that can accommodate a fridge, a cooking stove, a decent tent and sleeping bag, 5 gallons of drinking/washing water, 4 extra gallons of gas, a set of tools, and some spare parts to deal with any repairs or emergencies.

Communications, first aid, and recovery stuff is needed too. For communication, I have small but powerful CB and GMRS radios, and a couple handhelds for technical spotting.

I have a compete first aid kit, not from Walmart/CVS. For recovery I have all the stuff needed to winch myself or someone else out of tough spots, and a Hi-Lift to deal with flats or other sticky situations.

Basically you want to survive the trip without being a burden on others, and not be eaten by bears.

One of the most important build decisions is your rear bumper and tire carrier. A couple of my wheeling buddies recommended DirtWorx, a one man shop owned a professional fabricator. This guy designs and makes custom offroad and overlanding solutions serious wheelers and overlander folks. He is highly regarded, which means a lot.

I called the guy and we went over what I was looking for. The bumper and spare tire carrier has to distribute the weight across both ends of the bumper and lock securely. It has to accommodate a 35″ spare, a couple of 2 gallon RotoPAX fuel containers, a horizontal mount for my Hi-Lift X-Treme 48″ jack, and it needs to have a couple of recessed 2×2 LED backup lights. I kind of thought I was pushing my luck with the LED stuff, but he was like “Sure, no problem”. Wow!

His work is shipped unfinished, so after researching optinos, I decided I’d spray it myself with black Rust-Oleum sealer first, then spray over that with black Rust-Oleum metal paint. This seems like the easiest finish to manage over time, and I should be able to do that in my garage. Famous last words, right? 🙂 He contacted me a couple days ago to say he’d be shipping out the bumper and tire carrier before Christmas.

He sent a few pictures of his work. Its amazing what a professional fabricator can do. He’ll send more pictures of the tire carrier before he ships it out. Once I get those pictures I’ll post them here.

Here it is with the wheel carrier, which will hold the two RotoPAX fuel container and the Hi-Lift jack…I’m stoked!

Sleeping at the Rubicon Trail

I’ve been using an REI half dome one person tent for a few years now, and have been happy with it. Its the perfect tent to take with you on a cross country motorcycle trip. Now that I’m doing these trips in my Jeep, I decided to get a two person tent.

I had a bunch of REI credit, well, this weekend was a good time to cash it in. I went with a Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 2 tent. Don’t laugh, but I pitched it in my apartment and it was surprisingly easy to set up and to tear down. Great reviews, reasonable price, what’s not to like? 🙂

The sleeping bag I’ve been using has been ok, although for the Rubicon part of the trip I need something that’ll handle cooler/colder temperatures in early June. It needs to be bigger than the one I have now, since my legs have felt kind of cramped. After a lot of research, I went with Big Agnes Torchlight 30 Regular. Expandable and temperature rated at 30 degrees.

Two very important camping items are your tent and sleeping bag, and I only trust REI for those things. More stuff to get, likely through Amazon/eBay, and at Lowes/HomeDepot. More to come.

Skids for the new Dana 44s

So if you’ve been reading my blog, you’d know that I swapped out my Dana 30/35s for a set of Dana 44s about a month ago. I toyed with the idea of regearing the stock axles, but decided that would be silly. Ok, so my buddies talked sense into me. I’m so glad I listened, Cumberland Crawlerz is an incredibe club.

I assumed I could buy the same Rough Country differential skids for the new axles, but they don’t make them for Dana 44s. So I started looking around. Some of my friends recommended Metal Cloak, but while their rear diff skid plate was the perfect design, their front skid plate requires also requires their diff plate. Um, nah.

I did a lot of research, and asked a bunch of people, including folks who have YouTube/Wordpress blogs. The feedback I got leaned heavily towards skid plates and not diff covers. Probably a 60/40 split. The only skid plates I could find to fit the Dana 44s are made by Rancho. Pretty good design at 1/4″ thick steel. These meet my requirements, including providing the ability to slide over anything I might land on.

Rancho’s front diff skid attaches with four front facing bolts, and a U bolt to hold the back end up and out of the way. Their rear diff skid is much the same design, though the U bolt is replaced with a bent piece of the same 1/4″ thick steel. Here’s the installed product. Clearance loss is minimal at 5/16″, less than 1/8″ distance between the diff and the skid plate.

A few of my buddies are all saying I should get diff covers, but based on my riding style, and the research I’ve done, they don’t make much sense for me. That said, WhistlinDiesel might need diff covers, since he’s…well…

Cooking On The Rubicon Trail

The Rubicon Trail will be a three day trip, so I need a decent cooking kit.

I spent weeks deciding on what tailgate table to buy. I needed something that could hold a decent stove. I also wanted it to be easy to clean, and it had to have a slide out. I went with an Outback Adventures TrailGater. Its a smart design. The table is stainless steel (easy to clean), and it has a slide out bamboo table. The backsplash is made of thick powder coated aluminum.

I was pleasantly surprised to find they’re rated at 40 pounds, more than enough for my needs. The quick releases are brilliant, just a bit of pressure secures the table in the stowed position. No rattling, extremely stable when stowed. The back splash part is heavy duty, and the hardware is high quality…and American made!

The hardware is very well designed, the unit doesn’t rattle at all.

I decided long ago I was going to get a Cook Partner 22″ 2 Burner Stove. I met a number of folks at Moab last year who swear by this model. Its made of very thick welded aluminum, designed to be easy to disassemble and clean, is fully serviceable, and weighs 17 pounds. Partners Steel has an 8-10 weeks lead time, but I was able to find a place that had one in stock. I got a veterans discount, free shipping, and no tax.

Having hypoglicemia, the stove is one item I was absolutely not going to cut corners on. Partners Steel makes 16 and 18 inch models, but those aren’t wide enough to heat a 10 inch pan and coffeemaker at the same time. These stoves are ultra tough, so they’re easy to store away, you can even stack stuff on it.

I need to get a 5 pound propane tank, but I need to sort out how it’ll be refilled. I want to avoid having to swap tanks, since I will be mounting it to the roll cage on the right side of the cargo area. Of course I bought the stove that has the propane hose connector on the left. The plan is to not have to move the tank, since it’ll be secured, but just run the hose to the stove.

The twin drawers should be installed in a week or two. I need to fabricate a cargo area platform. I’m not interested in paying the rediculous price of a commercial offering. Besides, everyone I met at Moab created their own. The stove will mount on the left, so it can slide out when I need to get to it, and I’ll have a 5 gallon water container with a hose and spigot for cleaning things.

More to come…