Fall Foliage Ride with Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance

Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance had a Fall Foliage Ride on Sunday, October 16th. It was close by and the weather was beautiful, so I joined them. The ride started about a mile away. I packed lunch and drinks in the fridge and headed out a little earlier than I needed to, since I didn’t know if we needed time to air down.

10 Jeeps showed up at the Thunderbolt Lodge starting point. I asked the ride leader about communications, and it turned out there was no recommendation, and some folks had no radio. I came prepared as always with CB, GMRS, and HAM. This had me a little concerned, since it’s easy for a ride to break apart if there’s no communication.

I was able to take a picture of 9 of the 10 Jeeps that showed up for the ride. Different models, colors, and setups.

The first part of the ride was awesome. We spent most of it on the road and some of it on gravel roads. Lots of colorful foliage, guessing in a couple weeks it’ll all be gone.

The lunch spot was in a hiking trail parking lot. Most everyone took a hike to an observation post. I stayed in the lot to keep an eye on the Jeeps, and to have a sammish and drink.

As the group prepared to head out on the second part of the ride, I asked where we were heading, and nobody seemed to know. So we took off. After a number of bogies disrupted the ride, it got fragmented. I decided to peel off myself, not comfortable trying to hang with a group that hasn’t coordinated communications. Oh well, it was a fun ride none the less.

Needed A Leg Up

From the day I bought this 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, I knew some day I’d get rock sliders that can be used as steps. So many third party solutions, but they all look so, well, third party. I wasn’t aware Mopar made rock rails that stuck out just enough to provide a step. That is, until I joined Ridge Back Guide Service LLC on last month’s MLO New England 2022 Trail Ride Series in Vermont.

One of the Jeeps was a two door Rubicon that had really nice looking rock rails. Not too far out, but enough to step on to get into the Jeep. I spoke to the Jeep’s owner and he told me they’re made by Mopar. I was surprised, since I never knew Mopar made them. When I got home I found the Mopar Performance Parts Rock Rails on the Mopar parts site.

They came in a few days ago. I was a little concerned that they mount to the body and pinch welds, and not the frame like most third party rock sliders do. When I installed them, I saw they mounted exactly like the stock Rubicon rock rails. Three bolts attach to the body, and six bolts slide through the pinch weld holes. So my concerns were off base, since the stock Rubicon rock rails took a real beating at EJS2022 in Moab, and didn’t cause any pinch weld or body damage.

It took under 40 minutes to remove the stock Rubicon rock rails, and install the new Mopar Performance Parts Rock Rails. I reused the nuts and bolts, so I have a new set of nuts and bolts if I ever need them. As always I made sure I torqued the nuts and bolts down as recommended.

Easy enough for a cave man to install, and they look good, and function well.

My next blog post will take a couple/few weeks, since I’m waiting for my Goose Gear Camp Kitchen to come in. I hope it gets here soon, it’s getting cold outside!

Barney Rubble or Bam Bam

Following up from my last blog post, I’ve got to add some armor to my Jeep. First up, my front diff cover (M210) got banged up, and the bolts got shaved by the Barney Rubble (AOAA) rocks. The Tie Rod also got scraped up but I can scrape/paint it to prevent any rust from spreading, not a priority for me right now. The rear diff cover (M220) didn’t get damaged, but I decided to get both to be safe and so they match.

It took a while to decide on which covers to get. I knew I wanted nodular iron, recessed bolts, and I wanted them to be able to take abeating. I decided to get the ARB diff covers. They’ve got a solid reputation and are reasonably priced. None of the local shops had them in stock, so I had to get them on Amazon. I believe in supporting our brick and mortar stores, but stock is going to be a problem for another year or two.

I’ve never swapped diff covers before, so I did a lot of reading and watched a bunch of videos. As it turned out, it’s not difficult at all. But details matter, like the viscosity of the gear oil and additives, and the torque values for the bolts, and even how to deal with the old oil. I figured I was ready this weekend so I got to it.

There are tons of videos and reading material on how to do this, so I’ll spare you. I’m glad I paid attention to the folks who do this a lot. The toothpaste style 1qt bottles are worth their weight in gold. In fact, I was told to hold on to them once they’re empty, in case I can’t find them the next time I decide to change the gear oil.

I was happy to find the gaskets are reusable, that made the job easier. Once I replaced both diff covers, I wiped both diffs down and went for a 10 mile drive over rough roads. When I got back I checked, and nothing leaked, so I feel like I did a good job. I wouldn’t want to do this for a living, but it was a good experience.

Before this last trip to AOAA, I planned to get diff skid plates. I thought diff covers were bling. Boy was I wrong. The front diff cover hit a rock, and if the impact was just a little harder, my gears would have been damaged. Luck, and a lesson. These two images of the outside and inside of my front diff was an eye opener.

I was happy to find nothing more than slight metalic peach fuzz on the diff cover magnets. I kind of expected that in the front, but was surprised that the rear was nearly perfect too. Good to know Jeep nailed it when they assembled my vehicle.

I’m glad the diffs are protected now, and to be honest, yea, they kind of look cool. If you’re a Mall Crawler, none of this matters for you. If you off road, might want to upgrade your diff covers. Lesson learned.

Next up, if I can summon up the strength, is to replace my stock Mopar Rock Rails with Mopar Performance Parts Rock Rails. The stock rock rails are not beat up too bad, but the new ones stick out far enough to help getting in and out of the vehicle. They’ll also help when folks swing their doors open without paying attention, and when folks leave their empty carts in the mall parking lot.