CAT Scales and GVWR

My west coast overlanding buddies are sticklers for standards. They hammered home the significance of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). That’s the most your Jeep should weigh, including all your passengers, cargo, fuel, etc. Every modification you made factors into the GVWR. Like replacing bumpers, adding a winch, installing skid plates, getting larger wheels/tires, swapping axles, etc. Jeep doesn’t offer a lot of wiggle room, so this is something you should probably pay attention to.

A 2020 Jeep Wrangler Sport S two door has a GVWR of 5000 pounds, and a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon two door has a GVWR of 5350 pounds. Since we installed Rubicon take-off axles and an AEV DualSport suspension lift designed for overlanding, I decided to call Jeep to see if those two mods affect GVWR. I had high hopes on the call, and was happy to learn that the axles raise my GVWR to 5350 (same as the Rubicon model), and the beefy lift gives it another 100 or so pounds (they actually said 100-200 but I’m being conservative).

So based on that, my new estimated GVWR is 5450. This is of course an estimate, and not a Jeep recommendation. Of course Jeep legal needs to make sure they’ve got their diaper on. πŸ™‚ Apparently if someone was inclined and had money/time to burn, a documented adjusted GVWR is possible. Guessing only rich companies would bother to go down that road.

So to be totally honest, I did all the mods mentioned in the first paragraph. For my June trip I installed twin storage drawers, a fridge and slider. I had no idea if I was under or over the GVWR. I guess if I knew in the beginning this was going to be the direction I was taking, I would have been more careful with my purchase choices. Where weight would be one of the highest priorities. Oh well, live and learn.

A Jeeping/Trucking buddy told me I could get my Jeep weighed at a local CAT Scale location. I just needed to install their Weigh My Truck app on my iPhone, and configure it for payments. The nearest one is 20 miles, and they’re open 24 hours. I went there after work. I parked in the front most yellow square, where trucks’ front axles are positioned. I used the app to pay the $12.50, and I crossed my fingers.

I wasn’t as far off as I thought I’d be. I weighed in at 5400, that’s 50 pounds over the adjusted GVWR. Not too shabby. Well, my gas tank was almost empty. Figure 15 gallons would fill it, so 15 gallons at 6.3 pounds per gallon is 95 pounds. The fridge was empty, that’s another 20 or so pounds of food. Add 5 gallons of fresh water in a container, that’s another 31.5 pounds. All together that’s another 146.5 pounds.

So now we’re talking 5400 + 146.5 = 5546.5, fully loaded. That’s over my 5450 adjusted GVWR. I need to come up with creative ways to reduce total weight between now and June. I know I can shave off 50-75 pounds by removing the tools that I know I won’t need in June. #famousLastWords

Rausch – Crawl Daddy

What better way to test the strength of the cargo area build (twin drawers filled with recovery and kitchen stuff, and fridge on slider) than to wheel the toughest trail in PA? I joined the Cumberland Crawlerz group on Saturday to hit Crawl Daddy. Rausch Creek Off Road Park labels it a RED trail (extreme). Jeep’s Badge Of Honor app rates it 5-9, the most extreme, with the exception of the grand daddy of all trails, the Rubicon Trail, which is rated a 10.

First mistake, I got up late. I kept hitting the snooze button. That means I was tired, so in a way it’s a good thing I slept in. No point being tired and driving 100 miles to meet the group. It also gave me the chance to have a decent breakfast. Being hypoglicemic, nothing is worse than starting the day without food in your stomach, and a to-go coffee.

I had an epiphany when I got to Rausch. I ordered a MORRFlate Quad hose kit, hoping to finally give the ARB Dual Compressor (mounted under the passenger seat) a go. But. I ordered the one that didn’t include a pressure gauge. The hose kit is designed to pipe to all four tires concurrently, so my idea of checking pressure on one tire didn’t pan out. I just ordered the pressure gauge so I can attach it to the hose kit. So today I used Rausch’s air hose, which I think may be faster than using my compressor even with the hose kit.

Now to disconnect my sway bar links. This was easier than in the past, since now I have quick releases on both ends of the links, and a strap to hold the sway bar up. The links originally had a single quick release on the bottom, and a bracket to attach the sway bar link to, by swinging it up and attaching the quick release. Well as luck would have it, the upper brackets don’t work with after market wheel well liners, so the mod was necessary. Kudos to JKS Manufacturing for the sway bar link strap kit.

The Jeep handled very well, which is very reassuring, given I had 300 pounds of stuff in the cargo area. The fridge stocked with sammishes, ice coffee, and water, were easily handled by the American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) DualSport RT Suspension. I picked that solution since its designed for Jeeps that carry lots of cargo. I’m now comfortable that the build is Rubicon-proof! Well, I might still add a couple rachet straps over the fridge and drawers for added insurance. πŸ™‚

I signed up for Offroad Consulting‘s Rausch Badge Of Honor trip on April 25th. Yesterday’s trip was an eye opener. The 35s are definitely better than the 33s on Crawl Daddy. I can say that because I realized half way though the trail that I’ve been there before on my first Jeep. Definitely a better experience with full belly skids and 35s…and a winch! A couple guys spotted me yesterday, but I got stuck twice. With that said, one of my buddies had no problem on Crawl Daddy, despite being on 33s and having no lockers! WOAH!!!

The first time I got stuck, I was centered on top of a huge boulder. I picked the right line, but my driver side front wheel slid off a rock, and BOOM there I was. Enabling both front and rear lockers got me out of that mess. The second time I got stuck, I couldn’t get over a wet/muddy fallen tree. My buddies suggesting winching myself out. I had to back up a bit to be able to get out of the Jeep, then I had to carefully make my way to the back of the Jeep to get to the winch remote control (I’ll keep it in front from now on).

There were a couple interesting conversations about synthetic vs wire rope. I chose wire since I don’t want to be stranded if my synthetic rope snaps on rocks, and because it was cheaper. But there are good arguments for both options.

After that, I was told there were two more tough stretches. I got through the first stretch without any issues. Then on the last stretch I had to rely on my full belly plates. That was it. I did it with the help of some folks in the Cumberland Crawlerz group, a great group of wheelers. I know what to expect today, when I go to wash the Jeep…a ton of scratches, from all the thick(er) branches that I had to drive through. Thinking seriously about getting some vinyl covering to try to minimize damage when I get to Rubicon.

When I got to the air-up area, I cringed about not having a gauge on my MORRFlate Quad hose kit. Ironically someone pulled up between my Jeep and a buddie’s Jeep, each of us were parked in front of a hose. Another Jeep pulled up between us, leaving us little room to get to our tires. He asked if we were done, um, nope, we just got there. He then pulled up his hood and filled his own tires with his ARB Dual Compressor. When I asked him why he didn’t use it, he said it was slower than Rausch’s air-up hoses. LOL

I just ordered a gauge for the hose kit. Bought it from MORRFlate, this way I can be sure the kit is put together as designed. The company made a point about analog gauges being less accurate at higher PSIs, so at 36psi analog gauges can be 3-5psi off, where digital gauges would be right on. I’ll keep my hand held gauge handy but I probably won’t need it going forward.

Even though I only wheeled half a day, it was an opportunity to meet up with the Cumberland Crawlerz group. I got to test the fridge and drawers on the toughest trail in PA, feeling like I’m good for Rubicon. Kudos to Joe and Cody for spotting me, and tolerating my cringing. πŸ™‚

Here’s a good video that shows why I did Crawl Daddy as a precursor to Rubicon
With Crawl Daddy being PA’s most trecherous trail, its Moab, UT sister is Pritchett Cayon

The closer we get to June, the more I’ll scramble for the most hair raising, pucker worthy Rubicon videos.

New Shoes at 4WP

After spending a few months rolling with a used set of 35s, I decided it’s the right size for my June trip to Moab>Rubicon. They were mud terrain which made them super gripping off road, but were loud and not great on the road.

I saved up a few months and finally plunked down on a new set of wheels and tires. I love BF Goodrich KO2 tires, my OEM wheels still have them. They’re awesome on and off road. Though not great in mud, they get the job done. Picked up five of them at 4WP in Carlisle (35×12.50×17).

For wheels I went with basic alloy. Pro Comp Series 7069 wheels (17×9) with Pro Comp 8 spline keyed lug nuts. I’m not into bling, these wheels look nice and low key. Matte black.

I saved 24 pounds of rotating weight per wheel which is huge. They are quiet, where the old ones sounded like an Abrams M1 tank! They’re also better gas mileage wise, 3 mpg from the trip back from from the shop. Not to mention instant *and* mail in rebates saved me about $40 per tire.

Next will be re-gearing, from 4.10 to 4.56.

Fridge, Slider, & Compressor

I finally finished mounting the Dometic CFX3 35 fridge, and the Dometic Fridge Slider. I took my time in deciding what bolts and washers to use, to get the most secure setup. Since it all sits on 3/8″ plywood, I wanted to get the biggest washers possible underneath, to spread the stress.

Turns out I went overboard as usual, so its definitely not budging when I hit Moab and Rubicon. πŸ™‚ The slider itself is secured to the plywood twin drawers top by 8 stainless steel bolts. The fridge is bolted to the slider by 4 black stainless steel bolts, this is optional if you use straps to secure using the handles.

I bought two 96″ Angled L-Tracks, I ended up using 2/3 of one, so I have 1 1/3 of the 2 L-Tracks left over. I tried hacksawing the strips, but got a rude reminder of how horrible hacksaws are. I ended up getting a Milwaukee Hackzall, which uses the same batteries as my impact driver and impact wrench. It made the cuts so much easier. I had to take a Dremel 4300 to the ends to make them smooth.

I had to experiement with different sized counter sunk stainless steel machine screws to get the strongest size while making sure the screw heads were sunken. Its really important for the O ring studs to slide smoothly. I like how it turned out. Strong and easy on the eyes. I might put a piece of the L-Track along the rear outer wall of the twin storage drawers, to help secure stuff behind the driver and front passenger seats.

I finally got the compressor wired up. Two 10 AWG positive lines (each with 40 AMP inline fuses), and a single 8 AWG ground wire. I made sure the wires were exactly the right size, and I used solder seal so the connections are solid and waterproof. I covered the wires with split wire loom tubing for protection.

This is one wiring job that has to be perfect. I learned a lot about how to create durable wiring harnesses for high power applications. I decided to run the wire from under the passenger seat, and under the carpet and through the A pillar on the passenger side, and secured to the big 3 battery terminal extensions.

Now for the moment of trugh. Was this all worth the time and effort. The ARB Twin Compressor (CKMTP12 converted to a CKMTA12) combined with a MoorFlate took 4 minutes to bring my four 35×12.50×17 tires up from 15 LBS to 36 LBS! Wow! No more getting back to the camp ground after dark.

Airing down is still a bit of a PITA. I used to use Staun Automatic Tire Deflators (made of brass), but they didn’t seem very accurate. Not to mention they take so damned long. So for airing down I use the ARB E-Z Deflator that was recommended to me by the folks at Cumberland Crawlerz.

Now I need to start planning how and where to store the Dometic PLB40 battery and the GoPower 150W Pure Sine Wave Inverter, since power management is so important.

Rugged Ridge Fender Flare Redux

After contacting Rugged Ridge’s parent company OMIX-ADA, to alert them of the fender issues, they sent me a replacement set of Daylight Running Lights (DRLs) for their Rugged Ridge 11640.51 Max-Terrain Fender Flares for 18-21 Jeep Wrangler JL.

Today I carved out some time to replace the DRLs, only to find they sent me the same exact part numbers. Geez, man, really? I went to Home Depot to get some dielectric grease, to hopefully glase over the spot where the wires come into the body.

I also got instructions this time, which explains how to deal with the relay and wires. I don’t think the relay and wires will corrode anymore, since the heat shrink encapsulates the relay and wires, and I used a ton of electric tape to fend off any water getting in.

I took the opportunity to replace the crappy plastic clips that FCA decided was a good idea, or a way to cut corners on fender mounts. American Adventure Lab (AAL) makes the perfect solution, easy to install, and they even strengthen the fender flares. Brilliant design, highly recommended.

Ever since I installed my wheel well liners, I lost the ability to use my JKS Quicker Disconnects’ upper mounts, so today I upgraded my JKS sway bar links. I replaced the upper threaded posts with stainless steel quick release posts. I also replaced the red grease caps after greasing them up. Good as new.

I was grungy after the DRLs were done, so I decided to finally respool my winch cable. I did so using my body weight, probably would have been better to use a tree. The cable is neat again, ready for Moab/Rubicon in June. πŸ™‚

Speaking Of The Dirtworx

I always wanted a rear bumper that spreads the weight of the tire carrier across both ends of the bumper. This just makes sense to me. Its physics. Its math. I felt so close to nirvana when I ordered a Dirtworx custom rear bumper and tire carrier a few months ago. With a lead time of two weeks, I finally got the bumper more than two months later. I took it to a local powder coating shop, then I had a shop handle the install.

I got a call from the shop. The bumper doesn’t fit, the mount brackets are inches off. Apparently Dirtworx fabricated the bumper for a JK and not a JL. I spoke with Dirtworx and they offered to pay a local shop to fix it, or I could ship it back and they’d cover the cost of shipping. I wasn’t willing to risk any more issues, especially since I was already in the hole for more than $500 in powder coating and shop costs.

I decided to ship it back and get refunded. Dirtworx admitted they don’t do a lot of JL work, and so they assumed the JK and JL models had the same rear bumper mount spacing. Mistakes happen. What I expected was for them to split the cost of powder coating and shop time, since it was their mistake. Dirtworx took the position “we sent you the wrong part”. Um. Nope. Sorry. Dirtworx was negligent.

I hesitated over whether to leave the glowing blog posts up, or to take them down. I took them down today. I also didn’t want to “out” Dirtworx for their negligence, but a friend convinced me to alert the community, so the same thing doesn’t happen to the next guy.

So here we are. I’ve had a couple months to decide what to do. I decided to let the Jeep community know what happened, so they can decide whether they want to do business with a company like Dirtworx. They were highly recommended to me, and now those who recommended them are as off put as I am about how they handled their mistake.

If you own an older Jeep, I suppose the risk level would be acceptable. Since Dirtworx admitted to me they hardly do any JL work. If you look at their site, they seem to (continue to) think JK and JL models share the same specs. Sorry but they don’t. Given their mistake, you’d think they’d have learned, and updated their site. They haven’t, which helped me make the decision to post about this.

I’ve wrestled with the idea of reporting them to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), still haven’t decided whether to do that. I have a full paper trail where they admit they made an assumption, and how they felt their mistake is not their problem. Basically “tough”. I’ll decide at some point whether to further escalate this issue to the BBB.

Hope this posts helps prospective customers decide. Integrity is a thing. So is ethics.

</rant>

Putting My Drawers On

I’ve been waiting for the weather to get better, so I could finally put in a few hours and install my IronMan4x4 twin drawers and Dometic CFX3 35 fridge. A few months of calculating, measuring, and planning. Today was the day that I dove in and got it done.

I love the American Adventure Lab (AAL) platform, I was able to schlep stuff and tie things down so easily. Love the L-Track design! I knew I’d end up bolting the twin drawers onto it, but I decided not to remove the platform, even though I could have. The twin drawers offer two floating cross members that I could have lined up to the cargo floor holes. But I wanted the ability to strap stuff down to the exposed edges of the platform.

Based on some calls I made to both AAL and IronMan4x4, I bought some M10-1.5 x 25mm stainless steel bolts and some steel M10-1.5 nutserts. These were needed to bolt the IronMan4x4 twin drawers onto the AAL platform.

Once the 8 nutserts were installed, I reinstalled the AAL platform. This time I took the advice of some Cumberland Crawlerz buddies. Stainless steel bolts and steel nutserts require some anti-seize so I won’t need to use a blowtorch to disassemble after the June trip! Using an impact wrench set to medium, the reinstall of the AAL platform went smoothly.

I started removing the twin drawers from their frame. Then positioning the frame onto the AAL platform, and marking where I needed to drill the 8 holes. I then removed the AAL plate, and used a 1/8″ bit to start the hole, then a 1/4″, then a 3/8″. Eight holes later I installed the nutserts using a threaded rivet tool. Man it was so easy! I wish I knew about these kinds of solutions, so many opportunities lost!

I bolted the twin drawer cross members in eight spots. That bad boy isn’t going to come loose. Then I slid the twin drawers into the frame, and reinstalled the drawer stops. Given the limited space on left and right sides of the twin drawers, I came to the gunfight properly equipped with a right angle racheting screwdriver. Confirmed the drawers don’t hit the tailgate frame lock (1/2″ clearance) or the tailgate joint arm (1/2″ clearance there too!).

There are a couple inches room on the left/right sides of the twin drawers, Not sure what I’m going to do with that space yet. There’s plenty of space between the twin drawers and the tailgate. 3/4″ on the left, and 2″ on the right.

The next step was to install the two carpeted plywood lids. I installed the one on the right, and snugged it down. Then I installed the one on the left, but I didn’t tighten the screws, since I need to calculate/mark the spots where I need to bolt the fridge slider. I planned to use M6 bolts and 1″ washers, this way the carpeted plywood lids would not suffer stress cracks. That went a lot smoother than planned!

I had a choice to make regarding securing the fridge to the fridge slider. The fridge slider came with four bolts to attach the fridge permanently to the slide. I didn’t want to go that route, since there may be times when I spend more than a night in a camp spot. If so, I’d want to move the fridge to a table. So the alternate option made more sense, use the four straps that came with the slider to tie down both handles on both ends. Very secure, but easy to unmount when needed.

Throughout these past weeks of planning, I kept in mind that my stove would sit on the tailgate table, so the fridge would be mounted on the left side of the twin drawers, and that while I’m cooking, the right drawer would not open. So I have to be careful what I put into the drawers. Kitchen stuff in the left drawer, and tools/recovery gear in the right drawer.

I went with twin drawers, as opposed to two stacked drawers, so I could avoid having to put stuff on the fridge. I realized tonight once the drawers and fridge were installed, that there’s plenty of space for my Expedition 134 storage box, the tent, sleeping bag, a Pelican 1535 for storing my clothing, the Dometic PLB40 battery, and more. Since I ruled out the roof rack (at least until 2022), I plan to secure some stuff behind the seats as well.

Speaking of seats, of course the rear bench seat got removed the day I drove the Jeep home from the dealer. πŸ™‚ One of the concerns I had when I ordered the twin drawers, was whether I’d be able to move the seat all the way back and recline. As it turned out, both seats go all the way back, and they recline enough for naps. When the seats are in their normal position, I’m able to store the tent, sleeping bag and mattress behind the driver or passenger seat.

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. πŸ™‚

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>

#firstWorldJeepProblems

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.

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.