Monday, May 25, 2015

Tire Tech: Tire Puncture Resistance

There are numerous benefits to airing down your tires when driving off-road.  As I've written about before, the obvious improvements that every 4wheeler knows are ride quality and traction.  What fewer people realize is that tires are more resistant to punctures at lower pressures.

Cooper Tires teamed up with Australian 4WD Action Magazine to demonstrate the dramatic difference that tires of all types realize at various pressures.  To accompany the article, they produced a video that illustrates the testing procedure and its eye-opening results:

Obviously, a tire with heavy-duty construction will be more puncture resistant than a light-duty tire, but owners of all pneumatic tires benefit from proper inflation pressures.  I continue to be impressed with the ease (and more importantly, the accuracy) of the Staun Tyre Deflators I use.  I find that I'm much more likely to air down when it's so quick and convenient to use these deflators.  They have never failed to shut off at their exact pre-set pressure.

Just don't forget to air up again before hitting the highway!  There are countless compressors that are available for the offroader, from the inexpensive but decent MV-50 to converted York engine-driven compressors, but the best combination of cost, power, and simplicity is the Puma Compressor.  I've been using this for nearly a decade, and its combination of a fast compressor and a 1.5-gallon pressure tank allows me to very quickly inflate all four 35" tires (plus my two trailer tires!) faster than anyone else in my 4wheeling group can typically inflate two.  Additionally, the blast of air that's provided by the pressure tank is sufficient to reseat a blow bead.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Next Wrangler Will be Partially Aluminum

Automotive News and Car and Driver are reporting the latest update from FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne on the future of the Jeep Wrangler JK's replacement.  Regular readers will recall that I have discussed the construction material and assembly location quite a few times already.  Marchionne's comments indicate that the Wrangler's going exactly the direction for which everyone's hoping:
There will be a large portion of that vehicle that will be aluminum. It will not be all aluminum.  We've run the numbers and we've simulated mileage and the impact.  Because of the difference in cost -- not just of the material but the actual assembly process -- I think we can do almost as well without doing it all-aluminum.  I think we can get very close.
This likely means a steel ladder frame and body tub, while the fenders, hood, doors, tailgate, roll cage, windshield frame, and other add-on body parts will be made from aluminum.  Reading between the lines, Marchionne is stating that this combination of alloys will provide the best cost/benefit ratio, as the Wrangler is a low- to midrange vehicle that is both in dire need of improved fuel economy and the retention of its benchmark-setting offroad performance.  The definitive Jeep must meet certain government-mandated requirements without compromising its appeal to the core enthusiast market, or else the "Wrangler magic" will be lost and the vehicle's reputation and desirability will suffer tremendously.

Much to the relief of patriotic Jeep brand fans and the people of the Toledo Assembly Plant, this will also likely mean that Toledo, Ohio will continue to be the home of the Wrangler.

Jeep has been hinting at a "lightweighting" of the Wrangler for years, most conspicuously with the 2013 concept Wrangler Stitch that they exhibited at the Moab Easter Jeep Safari.  This was a follow-up and expansion to the 2011 concept Wrangler Pork Chop that was exhibited two years prior at the Jeep Safari.  These concepts prove that a lightweight Wrangler can certainly still meet the performance benchmarks of a proper Wrangler.

2013 Wrangler Stitch
2011 Wrangler Pork Chop

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jeep Wrangler Excels in Frontal Crash Tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) implements much tougher crash tests than the standards that the federal government requires automobiles to meet.  One of the toughest is the small-overlap frontal crash test, in which only 25% of the vehicle's front-end collides with an immovable barrier while moving at 40mph.  In a recent test of medium-size SUVs, the IIHS found that the Wrangler Unlimited is among the top-performing midsize SUVs:

The IIHS describes this crash test as follows:
The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test. That's because, in a small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle's front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy. The occupant compartment can collapse as a result.
Although the Wrangler's removable doors and roof are frowned upon by the IIHS for limiting occupant protection in side-impact and rollover accidents versus thick, fixed alternatives, this did not affect the vehicle's ability to excel in this common collision:

The strength of the Wrangler's chassis plays a key role in its ability to limit structure deformation and intrusion into the occupant area.  The wide, overbuilt frame rails deflect the Jeep away from the object and slows the rate at which energy is dissipated, which in turn lessens the impact on the occupants and lessens the severity of the vehicle's deformation.  The Wrangler performs better than most vehicles in spite of its lack of side-curtain airbags.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hendrick Commando: Military Wrangler JK

The United States military has a long history of utilizing proven civilian vehicle designs and upfitting them for military use.  While the original CJ (Civilian Jeep) was based on a military vehicle, and today's Wrangler is little more than an evolution of those first Jeeps.  All has come full circle, it seems, with the Hendrick Dynamics Commando returning the civilian Jeep to military duty. has published an interesting and in-depth article on the development of the Hendrick Commando.  The vehicle has a lot of unique features designed to let the Jeep fit the big empty slot between the HMMWV (Humvee) and the militarized UTV (side-by-side) in terms of both size and capability.  From utilizing a 2.8-liter CRD diesel for foreign-market JKs (modified to run standard JP8 military jet fuel) to upfitting with lift/tie-down points, a stout roll cage, a winch, and gun mounts, Jeep was a big help in making this COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) vehicle a military reality:
First off, Jeep was a big partner in it with us; they really do take their support of the military and their heritage seriously, so when we reached out to them that we needed diesel-engine Jeeps here in the US they made that possible out of Toledo, Ohio.  It’s kind of wild – it’s the same factory that was building military Jeeps starting back in 1941, that same place is putting out military Jeeps for that program, which is pretty neat, so Jeep was a big help.  -Marshall Carlson, GM of Hendrick Dynamics
For more pictures of the Hendricks Commando exhibition at the 2015 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, head on over to's story.
It’s a really great success story, the vehicle has performed flawlessly with no issues at all.  Really good feedback. It started with [the military] really reaching out to industry to solve a problem that traditional defense contractors weren’t able to figure out.  -Marshall Carlson, GM of Hendrick Dynamics

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jeep Beach 2015 and a New World Record

Jeep Beach 2015 landed in the record books (quite literally - it set a new Guiness Record for the Largest Parade of Jeeps, totaling 1,846) as thousands of Jeep owners decended on Daytona Beach, Florida for the annual event.  A video showing the impressive number of Jeeps can be viewed below:

A parade won't draw this many people from every corner of our country, however.  The rest of the event included mingling with other Jeep owners, meeting representatives from dozens upon dozens of Jeep aftermarket parts companies, and driving on man-made obstacles inside the Daytona International Speedway.

Even the easier non-rockcrawling obstacles resulted in some scrapes and bruises.  The following videos show the importance of knowing your vehicle's breakover and departure angles:

And of course Jeep Beach would be incomplete without getting some sand on the tires during the obligatory drive down Daytona Beach itself:

Jeep Beach is a lot different than the typical Jamboree-, Trek-, or Safari-style offroading event we're used to out West, but the Mid Florida Jeep Club has developed this unique and fun event to rival any others in popularity.  Even 4wheelers who never attend Jeep Beach benefit from this event, as the Club makes huge donations to the BlueRibbon Coalition for use in the fight to keep public lands open to the public.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thrillcraft: Junk Science and Elitist Propaganda

As a nature-lover who enjoys backcountry exploration primarily in a Jeep, I'm far more concerned than most people with the health and protection of the environment.  Most OHV users, whether they drive 4x4s, ride motorcycles, ATVs, mountain bikes, kayaks, hang gliders, JetSkis, snowmobiles, or simply drive their Prius down a dirt road to a picnic area, are also true environmentalists.  The following video, produced by elitist anti-access faux-environmentalists, is a shameful propaganda piece that shows the true colors of the extremist "environmental" organizations.

Exaggerated claims, out-of-context references, junk science, and outright lies make up the bulk of the video and the book they are trying to sell: Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation.  While fully exploiting their fabricated stereotype of the hillbilly OHV land abuser to make their point, the editor and publishers of the book just so happen to perfectly fit the "armchair environmentalist" stereotype: rich liberal San Francisco elitist urbanites.  The quotes from the front page of their website summarizes their despicable claims:  "Thrillcraft threaten our national heritage" and "It's time to take back our lands!"

The Jeeping Experience

Jeep produced a great video shot at the 2015 Easter Jeep Safari at Moab, Utah explaining the Jeeping Experience.  The video illustrates the comeraderie of Jeepers; how this vehicle brings together people of all different backgrounds from all across America (and the world!) into an immediate friendship that comes from a shared love of our vehicles and of Mother Nature.  Anti-OHV organizations may paint an ugly picture of Jeepers, but this video shows who we really are:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Jeep Reveals Another Round of Awesome Concepts at Easter Jeep Safari

Every year, Jeep and Mopar unveil a collection of concept vehicles at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.  The offroad community and media anxious await the reveal of these vehicles, with some years showcasing more exciting vehicles than others.  After last year's uninspired offerings (so bland that I didn't even bother to cover the story) the team at FCA really upped the ante for 2015 - the best collection since 2012.  You can find my coverage of the concepts for 2013, and 2012 by following the links.

Jeep loves retro, and this year's Jeep Chief modernizes their 1970's heritage.  Built on a 4-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited platform, the Chief is a reinterpretation of the classic Cherokee Chief with a focus on the laid-back Hawaiian beach vibe., Jalopnik, and Car and Driver published their own reviews of the Chief, and judging by the world's response, Jeep has created a real hit.

Even more retro is the Jeep Staff Car, which pays homage to the original World War 2 Willys Jeeps.  The open-air top, minimalist interior, blackout lights, tools, and NDT military tires all show the modern-day Jeep's direct link to its military ancestors. and Car and Driver gave it a very favorable review.

The Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Responder is clearly inspired by Discount Tire Direct's famous RESQ1 backcountry support vehicle.  The extended wheelbase and service bed carry tools and parts for remote vehicular rescue.  37-inch tires make up for the long wheelbase's breakover angle, while Dana 60 axles provide an appreciable increase in strength to stand up to the weight and leverage.

My favorite of the bunch, however, is the Jeep Wrangler Africa.  The closest to production of all the concepts, the Africa expands on the Wrangler's capabilities by pushing it into a niche occupied in other parts of the world by the Land Rover Defender 110/130 and 70-series Toyota Land Cruiser.  With a 12-inch stretch to the body, a raised roof, and a fixed hardtop, the Africa is the perfect expedition vehicle.  A 2.8-liter turbodiesel engine is the icing on the cake. and Jalopnik give it rave reviews.

Jeep produced three other concept vehicles based on the Grand Cherokee, the Renegade, and the Cherokee.  These were all upfitted stock vehicles rather than true "concept vehicles" and are outside the scope of this Wrangler-centric blog.  You can read about these and the above-pictured Jeeps at Expedition Portal, Autoblog, Four Wheeler, and  Four Wheeler put together an awesome photo gallery of all the vehicles.  For more information on the Mopar Performance Parts exhibited on these vehicles, visit's article.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Environmentalists at Moab's Easter Jeep Safari

Self-proclaimed "environmentalists" such as the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance enjoy demonizing OHV users at every opportunity, but at the 2015 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah a large group of real environmentalists took time out of their vacations to pour some hard manual labor into a trail restoration project.  Four Wheeler Magazine covered the Tread Lightly! Restoration For Recreation project with a thorough background and several photos of the project.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

UAW Confident Jeep Wrangler will Remain in Toledo

The Detroit News is reporting that United Auto Workers Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower is expecting that Toledo, Ohio will retain production of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler.  I've reported several times before on Toledo's fight to remain the home of the Wrangler, and it sounds like the community's efforts will pay off.  From the article,
Baumhower, whose local represents workers at Toledo Assembly Complex, home of the Wrangler, said Toledo and Ohio officials have presented “a very attractive package that answers all of (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne’s) concerns.” He believes that will lead the company to keep production of the Wrangler in Toledo.

“I think the proactive approach that we’ve taken over on the shop floor and in our local government, I think it’s going to work out for us,” he told reporters Wednesday on the sidelines of the UAW Special Convention in Detroit.
Why does it matter to Jeep owners or the factory workers whether the Toledo Assembly Complex is the site of the Wrangler's production?
“It’s a certain pride,” said UAW Local 12 delegate Samantha Price, who works on Wrangler assembly. “We tell people we work at Jeep, we don’t say we work for Fiat or Chrysler. Everybody knows Jeep in Toledo, and all around the world, really.”
America is proud of its Jeeps, and the people of Toledo are honored to assemble this most patriotic of brands.  Read the article for more details on this latest development.