Cumberland Crawlerz

First off, a huge shout out to Jeff Daniel’s Jeeps for the awesome advice, spec’ing, and installing the lift on my Jeep.

A while back I took the Offroad Consulting 101 and 201 classes to be ready for today’s trip. Limited by the low garage entrance height, I wasn’t able to get the 35″ tires I wanted, so I ended up with 285s. Because of that, I had to pass up on some of the more challenging climbs. When I buy a house I’ll make sure the garage opening is high enough for 35″ tires and then some.

Harley-Davidson Road Glide laughs at Jeep Sport S

I joined Cumberland Crawlerz this morning at Rausch Creek Off Road Park. I got there a little past 9AM since the planned exit was closed off. There were so many people there, it took a while to find them. Finally found a bunch of Jeeps with the club name on the windshield.

Ok time to get to work.

First task, deflate my tires. I bought a set of 4 brass deflators, and tossed them into my console. This morning I realized that I should have taken the time to calibrate them…ok so I whipped out my house keys and digital tire pressure gauge and went to work. I stooped over each of the four tires, and sloooowly let the air out of each of them until they were all 15 PSI. What a PITA that was.

Noticing my frustration, some of of the folks in the group suggested getting an ARB EZ Tire Deflator. I love how I didn’t have to ask, this group is friendly and generous with their knowledge. They shared some stories and reasons for going with 35″ tires which let them go to 10 PSI. I wish I could do the same, but limited to 285s, it was safer to go with 15 PSI. Good to know. #mentorshipMatters

I took off the driver and passenger hard top panels, slid them into their protective bag, and secured the bag in the back. The forecast for today was 90+ and humid. Not sure if others do this, but if it gets too hot and I have the panels off, I just turn on the air conditioner. The Jeep’s air conditioner is the most powerful I ever had in a vehicle. So for a quick cool down I just turn it on for a few minutes and we’re good to go. Helps to keep the passenger and rear vents closed.

Next, I disengaged my sway bar disconnects. Brilliant design, though they need to bundle a small rubber hammer with the kit. Shout out to the folks who lent me theirs at the start and mid way point. This allows a lot more articulation at the front axle. When I took the training classes, they advised leaving them connected, so you get used to having slightly limited articulation. Well, today I finally got to use them. Wow, what a difference it makes when crawling those larger rocks!

I was told I could have gone up a bit further.

I checked my GoPro 7 Black to make sure it’s powered on, aligned, and set to video. Even though I knew after spending months tinkering with its settings, there is still no reliable way to set it to turn on when I start the Jeep, and turn off when I turn off the Jeep. I’ve come to terms with the fact that GoPro is really a great design for short timeline activities, but not for Harley-Davidsions or Jeeps.

This is the last GoPro I’ll ever own, since its doesn’t do what I need. I’m better off using my Garmin 46 dashcam. When I turn on the Jeep, the dashcam comes on. When I turn off the Jeep, the dashcam turns off. Can’t get any easier than that. Bonus points for ignoring Jeep’s new “Alrightly then you’re at a red light, I’ll just go ahead and turn off your engine for you, even if it pisses you off” bug (er, feature).

I packed my Yeti with four 1 liter water bottles, four yogurts, and four PowerBars, and I added a 7 pound bag of ice at the gas station. I chucked one of the water bottles and one of the PowerBars over to the front seat to be ready. This was easy because I removed the rear bench seat when I bought the Jeep (it sits in my garage, on top of the original tires (pretty convenient when you’re taking brakes while working on the Jeep).

The ride

This trip exceeded my expectations. It started easy. It got rougher as the day went on. We went past a few challenging spots where some went for it, and some waited and watched (me included). For these spots the vehicles with 35″ or bigger tires had an easier time. There was some damage to a few of the vehicles on those challenging parts, guess you can’t escape that.

I realized during the ride that I need to get skid plates, and a front bumper with a winch installed next. This way I’ll be less of a chicken shit when these folks get to those challenging climbs. Even with 285s, I really believe I can do some of of those challenging parts once my Jeep has the right protection.

I can now say I’m glad I got the Builtwell rock sliders. They attach to the body frame, and come down a bit. That’s actually a good thing, since the type of rock slider that sits against the body don’t give you much of a crumple zone. The ones I installed hang down a couple inches, and they provide a gap between the rock slider and the edge of the body.

The transfer case slipped out of 4 LOW a couple times. Each time it happened I jumped out in a panic that I may have snapped my drive shaft. I must watch too many rock crawling videos. The guy behind me noticed and right away knew what happened. Apparently you’ve really got to push down hard to make sure its completely set. Knowing that, I was good the rest of the way.

A few things I learned

The most valuable lesson I learned is that you’ve got to survey those rough spots and take the best line.

The trip was also a reminder that you can never have too much liquid and food. I ran out after the first half of the ride.

Don’t signal your turns. It makes you look like a confused mall crawler. Besides, bears and deer don’t know their left from their right.

I started to air up my tires and thank those on the ride I got to meet, didn’t meet them all. I like this group, and I definitely want to ride with them again. When I got home I found a couple Facebook invites, of course I accepted and sent a few of my own.

One more thing

SUSUSUSIO ain’t got shit on me!

Lift finally complete

Before the lift was installed
After the lift was installed

Shout out

Jeff Daniel’s Jeeps did a beautiful job on the lift installation. So glad this time I asked them to choose the kit. That was the key decision, this bad boy has some serious articulation. Stay tuned for some offroad pics.

Rock Sliders

It took me a while to pick out a set of rock sliders. The whole idea behind rock sliders is to protect your side body panels from wrinkling and deforming if or when you hit a rock on the bottom edge of the side of the Jeep. They’re attached to the Jeep’s frame for strength, and most function as side steps.

I found one style to be more aesthetic than protective. The type that sit flush on the body edge, with no gap, so if you hit a rock hard enough, there’s no “crumple zone” to absorb the impact. Also this type doesn’t provide side steps. This doesn’t seem like a lot of protection for the investment. I’ll pass.

4 Wheel parts offers the Smittybilt Apollo Rock Sliders with Steps (part 76733). It provides the protection that I want. It sticks out farther and lower, provides a gap between it and the edge of the body, and provides a side step. You lose a bit of clearance, but my Jeep is lifted a couple inches higher than planned, so no big loss.

I won’t have to worry about parking lot dings (the other car will!), and runaway shopping carts will bounce off. I’m happy to have the extra protection, and they look great.

Rock slider closeup

Front bumper and winch

The last items on my mods list are front bumper and winch. I need to do some research on both. Will ask Jeff Daniel’s Jeeps for their suggestion, since this is their wheelhouse.

The front bumper will be steel, but I don’t want one of those stubby ones that offer no front wheel protection, since this is my daily driver. I found a couple that protect the front wheels, but still offer enough clearance for Blue level trails.

The winch will definitely be water proof. I need to figure out if I want the cable to be steel or synthetic, and not sure yet about capacity. I’m not going cheap on the winch, since it’ll need to work if there’s an emergency.

The winch market is mind boggling. Since they’re used by all types of vehicles, there are tons and tons of offerings. So finding a waterproof winch with the capacity I need and the type of cable I need should be fun.

July 4th quick getaway

Bummed that my lift installation has been delayed by a week (back ordered tires), so I figured I’d go out on a weekend getaway. I didn’t want to go too far, but I did want to be away for two days (at least). I had two places in the area I wanted to see. Three Mile Island and Bethlehem Steel. Lets avoid highways along the way. Why not.

Early Friday morning I packed a change of clothing and bathroom stuff in my Pelican Air 1535, and tossed it into the Jeep. I filled my RTIC 20 Cooler (a rebranded Yeti 20 Roadie) with half a dozen bottles of 20oz water, some bottles of apple and orange juice, some sammishes, and some yogurt

Three Mile Island is the other place I wanted to visit, near Harrisberg, PA. It opened in 1978 but had a meltdown in 1979. The whole place shut down last September, but official completion isn’t until 2053. I wasn’t able to get past the sign, and I was too lay to try to cross the river to get pics. So all I got a pic of the lousy sign. 🙂

On the way out of Harrisberg and on the way to Bethlehem, I pulled off the highway to look for a bathroom. Who would’ve thought I’d find a Cabela’s right at the exit! They have a bathroom!

Two hiking shirts secured for my next trip, I was soon back on the road.

Allentown (by Billy Joel) was mainly about the Bethleham Steel plant that closed down in 1995. I’ve always wanted to visit the plant, but as it turned out it was cordoned off for the July 4th weekend. I did manage to take a few pictures. Just didn’t get a chance to go inside the plant. Bummer

I saw a couple things along the way, like the home of Bridadere General Joseph F. Knipe, who I never heard of and I’m sure nobody gives a crap about. I stopped by South Point Marina since they had some food trucks there.

Not a very exciting holiday weekend, even if finally getting the chance to see Bethelem Steel plant was cool. Bad timing I guess.

So 285/70R17 it is!

Lift got pushed back by a week, Jeff Daniel’s Jeeps is flooded with business now that COVID restrictions have loosened. They’re worth the wait. 🙂

As it turns out the biggest tire size that’ll give enough clearance to get in and out of my garage is 285/70R17. That’s the size I had on the soft top Jeep that I totalled a month and a half ago, which had 285/70R17 Nitto Grapplers. Since I now have a hard top, pretty sure we’ll be good with that size.

I updated my previous post, but here is the comparison between the OEM size 245/75R17 and the new 285/70R17:

Someone turned me on to a site that gives you more technical info on the wheels and how they’ll sit under the vehicle. The new size will have more width (a plus given how BFG KO2 have much befier sidewalls). The OEM wheels have 44..45mm offset, and given how the lift and tire size match the last Jeep’s mods, I’m sure I’ll be totally happy with the end result.

My 2020 Jeep Wrangler Sport S has 3.45 gearing, which should be fine with the new tires. #tongueInCheek

Read on that if you go up too much, and don’t adjust your wheel size (tazer or flash), you won’t ever get to 8th gear on the automatic. Luckily the lift kit includes a flash.

The Rubicon model comes with a 4.10 gear ratio which and 287/70R17, and Dana 44 axles front and rear. The Wrangler Sport comes with 3.45 and Dana 30 (front) and Dana 35 (rear) which appears to be to small to move up to 4.10.