Saturday, December 29, 2012

Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing

And now for something completely different - Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing from RockBouncer:

Moab Tour 2012 with Indiancars and American Expedition Vehicles

Indiancars seems to be the French equivalent to American Expedition Vehicles with their tasteful, well-engineered Jeep conversions such as the modernized Jeep Honcho (Omaha) pictured above.  This appears to have been created from a Mopar JK-8 pickup conversion kit, further upfitted with AEV suspension and bumpers, and then customized with Indiancars' own body accessories.  They also perform HEMI conversions for those who want to liquify their rear tires, as well as less radical Wrangler customization.

AEV recently posted a video of their 2012 Moab Tour with the Indiancars crew and the JK Brute Double Cab Wrangler pickups:

Moab, Utah is definitely on my "bucket list" to visit one day.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Truck Trend's In-Depth Look at the 10th Anniversary Rubicon

I've written about the 2013 10th Anniversary Rubicon Edition of the Jeep Wrangler JK before, but more and more information keeps coming out on this world's-best factory-equipped 4x4.  Truck Trend Magazine has published perhaps the most in-depth review of this new special-edition Jeep in their April 2013 issue.  You can find it reprinted here on their website along with a huge collection of high-resolution photos of the Rubicon on the Rubicon.

Truck Trend's author Trevor Reed was definitely impressed with the Jeep's capabilities, as well as the majesty of the Rubicon Trail.  He wrote:
The jeep named for the off-roading heaven known as the rubicon trail is getting ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Back in 2003, it seemed impossible that a company would be willing to take the chance on building a special edition for rock-crawling with a 4.0:1 low-range transfer case and locking axles. Jeep took that leap of faith, and it's been a success ever since.
To celebrate a decade of fulfilling factory-built fun, Jeep is building a special 10th Anniversary Edition of its Rubicon models. In addition to all the standard features that made it a hit, such as the ultra low-range gearbox, electronic locking front and rear solid axles, and electronic front anti-roll bar disconnect, the special edition comes with additional items that are both functional and fashionable.

Editors were impressed that the Rubicons' offroad abilities surpassed even their high expectations:
The constant obstacles of the Rubicon Trail are no joke, but thanks to spotting help from trail guides associated with Jeep Jamboree USA, and the capability inherent in the low-geared Jeeps, the drama was limited to the scraping of skidplates and rock sliders with some clunks -- not surprising -- as the trucks dropped off rocks while we plodded along the trail.
. . .
The four-doors may have had a more challenging time than our short Jeep, but no one got stuck, broke parts, or caused damage to body panels. The expected scratches on some of the trucks' plastic fender flares were about the only changes other than a coating of trail dust at the end of the day.

But what surprised them most was its on-road refinement, given its focused intent on offroad abilities:
It was a lot smoother than one might expect from a dual solid-axle truck that performed off-road acrobatics earlier that same day. You might assume a truck with live axles front and rear and large chunky tires would be a handful at highway speeds, but Jeep has done a great job of tuning the suspension. The Jeep Rubicon's powerful engine and predictable handling make it a comfortable daily driver that can get you to the trail and back -- and the 10th Anniversary Rubicon lets you do it in a unique style you can't get with any other model.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Winch Line Acceptable for Towing?

Expedition Overland recently blogged about an eye-opening incident in which proper use of their recovery winch became an issue.  WARN even shared this story on their Facebook page because this is such an important lesson.

After the trailer nearly pushed their Land Cruiser off the side of the trail due to slippery circumstances, another 4wheeler offered to help right the vehicle by hooking the Land Cruiser's winch line to his truck's bumper and pulling.

A recovery winch is plenty strong to extract a vehicle, but it is not intended to be used as a tow device.  The shock-load forces that travel through tow straps to the recovery points on your vehicle are many times greater than the steady-state forces that a winch exerts during a proper recovery.  The winch drum's brake is not designed to absorb forces beyond the winch's rating and could result in damage to your expensive winch.

WARN's own advice:
WARN: When you introduce a quick, sudden load to a winch, that's called a "shock load." Imagine taking a piece of rope in both hands, then quickly pulling it taught-that's a shock load. Shock loading is very stressful on a winch's internals. Proper winching gradually places a load on the winch, which is how it is designed to be used. You should never use a winch rope for towing due to shock loading. While you may have the best intentions of gradually introducing the load while attempting to tow a vehicle, the vast majority of the time it doesn't happen that way, and the winch will receive shock loads. Always use a proper tow strap for towing. For those attempting a recovery with a strap, be sure to have the proper unit as well. Recovery straps will have a bit of elasticity to them that allow for that rubber-band effect that aids in recovery. Tow straps do not have that elasticity.

I have a WARN M8000-S winch on my own Jeep's WARN Stubby Rockcrawler Bumper.  The winch itself is rated for an 8,000lb. line pull, and the synthetic WARN Spydura synthetic winch line is designed for a 10,000lb. winch, but I use an inexpensive Smittybilt recovery strap rated for 30,000lb. pulls when I'm towing vehicle-to-vehicle.  The WARN front bumper has two ultra-strong recovery points to attach D-ring clevis shackles included in the WARN recovery kit.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TeraFlex Tech: Choosing a Lift for Your Jeep

Teraflex has put together a great video to help Jeep owners determine the right suspension lift for their Jeep Wrangler JKs.  There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right setup, including tire fitment, ground clearance, performance on various types of terrain, budget, and even just physical appearance.  This video outlines the various considerations that go into sorting out the broad selection of suspension options.  Other than an idiotic comment about Suzuki Samurais at the 9:12 mark, it is a very well-done video:

Choosing the right suspension is a topic I've discussed before, and while I did not find that Teraflex's options were right for my own Jeep, the information they share in their video will be very helpful in determining what's right for yours.  Other Teraflex videos in their series are also worth viewing, such as the one I included in a previous post about choosing the right size tires.

AutoWeek Drives the Jeep Mighty FC Concept

I've written about the Jeep Mighty FC Concept before, and the rest of the automotive press continues to ravely review this fun, unique concept truck that has taken the automotive world by storm.

AutoWeek Magazine has produced a video of their ride and drive in the Mighty FC.  You can watch the video that accompanies their drive review article here on their website.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jeep Wrangler Moab Wins 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year

Four Wheeler Magazine's annual Four Wheeler of the Year award is hotly contested among 4x4 manufacturers because the winner boasts major bragging rights since Four Wheeler is the definitive authority on unbiased 4WD information.  To be eligible for inclusion in the test, the editors state the following:
The purpose of our 39-year-old Four Wheeler of the Year competition is to test and rate all-new or substantially-revised sport utility vehicles. The goal of this test is to assist you in your SUV buying decision, or at the very least, keep you up to speed on what's new in the SUV world and how that newness works. To be eligible, each vehicle must also have a two-speed transfer case, a production run of at least 1,500 vehicles available in the U.S., and be on sale by January 15, 2013.
It's unfortunate that most of the SUV market has abandoned their roots as true off-road-capable vehicles, and have rather focused on churning out glorified AWD station wagons with rugged-looking bodies.  Thus, only Jeep produced any new or substantially-revised vehicles that qualified for the 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year comparison: the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab.

I've already written about the Moab Edition of the Wrangler, and while it does not have all of the offroad capabilities of the Rubicon (which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary) it is still a nice big step above the standard Wranglers because of its uprated steel bumpers, more offroad-oriented tires, and most importantly, its available rear differential locker.

In almost all offroad terrain, a proper pair of solid axles will put independent suspension to shame.  Jeep has spent over 70 years refining the onroad ride and handling of their open-top solid-axle 4x4 to the point that it gives up little to the independent front and rear suspension in the Grand Cherokee and its other competitors.  The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is still a decent offroad machine, but in Four Wheeler's own words:
In the end, the Moab dominated the Trail Performance category of scoring, which helped give it the win over the very capable Trailhawk. If you're looking for a vehicle you can comfortably commute in all week and then wheel on the weekend, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab would serve you well. Strong power, an array of comfort features, and good fuel mileage make it easy to drive daily. The flexible suspension, grippy tires, and locking rear diff help make it easy to wheel. It's a well-rounded machine with incredible off-road capabilities, and it's our 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year.

Of course, if you're looking for the most capable 4x4 straight from the dealership, the indisputable leader is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

Four Wheeler's Ultimate Factory 4x4 Shootout

Four Wheeler Magazine's annual Four Wheeler of the Year award is a heavily contested bragging right because Four Wheeler's test emphasizes real-world offroad capability in addition to day-to-day utility over brand cachĂ© or the number of cupholders.  It is an honest-to-goodness comparison of the contenders' hardware and capability, but the competition is only open to new or significantly improved vehicles.  This has made it hard to determine how all of the currently-available new vehicles directly compare.  In Four Wheeler's own words:
With every Four Wheeler of the Year competition comes the inevitable deluge of mail from our readers asking how we selected the vehicles we did and why we don’t test every 4x4 on the market. Because OTY is setup to only evaluate those vehicles that are all new or significantly revised, we decided a new shootout was in order.
To answer our OTY critics, we partnered with our friends at and invited every current 4x4 offered with a factory off-road package to Michigan to battle head-to-head for off-road package supremacy. This test would focus primarily on wheeling, with none of the scoring taking in to account how smooth of a highway ride these rigs offer, whether they have heated seats, or which truck has the best stereo. No sir, this shootout is solely about function on the trail.
These new criteria to test the best new vehicles in their most-upfitted offroad packages produced seven entries, of which four were pickup trucks and three were SUVs:
  • Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
  • Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
  • Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
  • Nissan Xterra PRO-4X
  • Ram Power Wagon
  • Toyota 4Runner Trail
  • Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series.
The seven contenders
This is a great cross-section of the 4WD market, and every single truck on this list has serious off-road abilities.  The only vehicles that I think are missing from this list are the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra (General Motors declined the invitation to participate), the Toyota FJ Cruiser (which is equipped nearly identically to the 4Runner in this test, and which has already been demonstrated as inferior to the Jeep Wrangler in the 2007 Four Wheeler of the Year competition) and the Mercedes-Benz G-class Geländewagen (which was recently compared to the Wrangler).

The Power Wagon and the Raptor gave the Rubicon some serious competition, but the Jeep came out the winner while costing over $10,000 less than either.  Admittedly, each of these vehicles is best-suited to very different needs, but in all-around performance the Jeep was found to be the most well-rounded and offroad-capable truck you can buy.

The best 4x4 you can buy
You owe it to yourself to read the entire article, but an excerpt on the Jeep's win as 2013's Ultimate Factory 4x4 is reprinted below:

It took a week of grueling off-pavement testing, but once again it was Jeep’s Wrangler that proved which company is king when it comes to making the best factory 4x4. Reading like an enthusiast’s wish list, the Rubicon is equipped with solid axles, coil springs, monotube shocks, front and rear electric lockers, and an electronic disconnecting front sway bar, which allows the flexy Wrangler to make quick work of any trail and at a price that was the second lowest in the test.
The 285hp 3.6L V-6 had no issue motivating the Wrangler up our hillclimb, but like the solid-axle Power Wagon, it did suffer from some axlehop, just nothing as violent as we saw in the big Ram. As a side note, the 3.6L absolutely screams, however all that high-rpm power comes at the expense of low-end torque, which is one of the few areas that could be improved on the Wrangler. Thankfully the manual transmission’s gears are spaced nicely, so finding the proper gear was never an issue. It also helped having a manual on the hill descent where an incredible 73.1:1 crawl ratio negated the need for an HDC system.
Using a zigzag line, the uber-maneuverable Wrangler easily conquered the stairsteps, picking off one ledge at a time. The short 95.4-inch wheelbase could sometime feel a little wonky for those who just got out of the 149-inch Power Wagon, but the adjustment was easy and the stability of the Wrangler was impressive for its short length.
When it came time to tame the rock garden, there wasn’t a vehicle more at home. The compliant suspension conformed to the boulder path and the low gearing allowed the Wrangler to just mosey along. Thanks to ground clearance, good skidplating, and rock rails, you never had to worry about placing the Wrangler perfectly. It has a margin of error built in that no other factory 4x4 can match.
During our testing, we rarely felt any electronic nannies try to take control away from the driver. The Wrangler is a driver’s machine and it is impossible to get behind the wheel and not have fun. If you’ve ever driven a Wrangler on the trail, you understand and if you haven’t, you’ll never know what you are missing.
With an unmatched mix of standard features, affordable price, and overall capability, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes out the winner of our first-ever off-road package shootout, making it the Ultimate Factory 4x4.

Hot: Price, maneuverable, go-anywhere capability
Not: Limited cargo room, light on low-end torque
Our Take: The best factory 4x4 available

Monday, December 10, 2012

AutoWeek Drives the New Jeep Wrangler JK Moab

After an initial preview article, Autoweek Magazine has published a video review of the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Moab after a ride & drive media event at Jeep's proving grounds:

The Moab Edition is a bit more than simply a sticker & trim package, as it is essentially a more offroad-equipped Sahara model; it is available with upgraded front and rear bumpers from American Expedition Vehicles, Mopar rock rails, slightly more aggressive all-terrain tires, and an available rear differential locker.  It is not a dedicated offroad machine like the Rubicon model is, but it's a nice step up from a standard mallcrawler Sport, X, or Sahara models.

Will this be a one-year-only uprated model like the 2011 Jeep Wrangler Mojave, or will this be a standard production model that stands the test of time like the Rubicon which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10th Anniversary Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition
It's hard to believe that we're already celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the introduction of the most capable Jeep model ever built: the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.  Jeep first created the TJ Rubicon model in 2003, and continued to improve the model over the years.  It was such a success, they made a Rubicon edition of the JK Wrangler from 2007 to present.  To celebrate this decade-long milestone (and as a friendly jab to the ribs of all the naysayers who insisted that a hardcore offroad version would never succeed) Jeep is releasing a special 10th Anniversary Limited Edition of the Rubicon this Spring.

Available as a 2-door Rubicon and a 4-door Rubicon Unlimited, the 10th Anniversary package upgrades over the standard Rubicon edition include slightly wider BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 265/70R17 tires, heavier-duty front and rear bumpers, Mopar rock rails, red seats and tow hooks, a ventilated hood, and commemorative plaques, badges, and embroidery scattered throughout.  Much more than just a sticker package, the Anniversary Edition's uprated tires and winch-capable front bumper with removable end caps for additional offroad clearance are appreciated upgrades that really ought to be included on all Rubicon models.

Jeep outlines the 10th Anniversary Edition's upgrades on their blog.  The automotive media have really taken a liking to the 10th Anniversary Edition.  You can find articles written by Expedition Portal, Autoblog (twice), Car and Driver, The Car Connection, MotorAuthority, allpar, gizmag, Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Cars, Examiner, Kelley Blue Book, The Torque Report, World Car Fans, and countless others.

I'm not a fan of the gaudy red seats and tow hooks, but I appreciate the commemorative badges and the unique RUBICON hood decals.  I wish that Jeep would offer a factory-equipped version of the Rubicon with a 3-inch suspension lift and 35-inch tires, but today's litigious society would never allow them to get away with such a "dangerously tall" vehicle.  Oh well; the Jeep aftermarket industry is there to take over where the lawyers and judges cut Jeep's engineers off.

*** UPDATE 12/21/2013 ***

Motor Trend's YouTube video series IGNITION shot an in-depth review of the 10th Anniversary Rubicon on the Rubicon Trail.  As expected, the Jeep impressed with its world-class, benchmark-setting capabilities:


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AEV JK Brute on Adam Carolla's CarCast

Adam Carolla's CarCast recently interviewed David Harrington from American Expedition Vehicles to discuss their Brute Double Cab pickup that's based on the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Rubicon.  In addition to the obvious pickup conversion, the vehicle also sports a broad selection of AEV's upgraded parts, including suspension, wheels, and bumpers.

I've written about this pickup before, but it's always worth another look!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jeep Wrangler Wins 2012 SEMA Hottest 4x4 SUV Award

2012 marks the third straight year that the Jeep Wrangler has won SEMA's Hottest 4x4 SUV AwardThe SEMA Award winners represent the models that industry experts—the SEMA Show exhibitors—most often feature in their booths as the hottest rides for the enthusiast market.  No other 4x4 SUV came close to the number of Jeep Wranglers that the aftermarket industry supports.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Who Hates 4x4s in Utah?

Four Wheeler Magazine has published a blog entry covering the anti-access faux-environmentalists' recent push to get OHV users locked out of 1,400,000 more acres of public lands in Utah.  BlueRibbon Coalition first shared this announcement with the 4x4 community, and since then many other news sources have reported on the letter to President Obama in which these groups are trying to lock you out of the 4-wheeling mecca known as Moab.

As usual, the anti-access groups' reasoning is full of lies.  For instance:
Federal land use plans inappropriately open scenic and undeveloped land to drilling and mining and fail to address exploding off-road vehicle use that is damaging riparian areas, cultural sites, soils and solitude.
Not only are OHV users not damaging the land or cultural sites, but motorized use has not been exploding - quite to the contrary, over 50% of public rights-of-way have recently been stolen from the public and closed down by the Bureau of Land Management's latest travel management plan.  The key point in the robbers' statement though is SOLITUDE - they're obviously trying to get these public lands closed to all but their own elitist community; they aren't willing to share public lands and recreational opportunities with the rest of the public.  They gloss over the fact that OHV users are Nature-lovers too, a group who does more to help BLM and Forest Service officials with environmental protection projects than any others.  Shouldn't every American be allowed to responsibly recreate in the backcountry areas they love?

This is organized theft and is UNAMERICAN.

Americans for Responsible Recreational Access and their numerous partners have sent this letter to President Obama in response to this attempted theft.  ARRA has a tool on their website to help you compose and send a letter of your own to the President - please do so! has a petition that you can sign to show your support for public access to these public lands.

The White House website has another petition that you can sign.

Utah's delegation has also sent a letter to President Obama in opposition to the proposed land grab. 

So what else can you do to help in the fight to keep these public lands open to the public?  First and foremost, join and financially support BlueRibbon Coalition and Utah's Shared Access Alliance since they're the ones who spend time and money fighting in court against these land closures on your behalf.  Secondly, DO NOT SUPPORT the companies who endorse this letter and are actively trying to lock you out of your public lands (note that many of them ironically cater to mechanized recreation, such as Patagonia, North Face, Teva, Jansport, Red Wing Shoes, Camelbak, Outdoor Research, New Belgium Brewing, and Burton Snowboards:

*** UPDATE 11/20/2012 ***
BlueRibbon Coalition has published an update on this debacle with some additional important information.  Well worth reading!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jeep Plans to Offer Turbodiesel Grand Cherokee Again

News that a turbodiesel engine for the WK2 Grand Cherokee is rekindling hope that the JK Wrangler (or its successor) may also be made available with a diesel option.  Automotive News' blog entry Will Jeep lovers blaze a new trail for diesel? updates us on Fiat/Chrysler/Jeep's plans to try offering diesel powertrains again.

Jeep has offered turbodiesel engines in the American market in the KJ Liberty and WK Grand Cherokee, managing to easily sell out of every one they produced.  Demand has always been greater than supply, which has boosted the resale values of these Jeeps well above their gasoline engine counterparts.  Diesels have always been a narrow niche in the United States thanks to the dirty, poor performance of the cars and trucks that introduced us to diesels.  However, with the recent surge in popularity with the modern clean diesels offered in Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, and Volkswagen's cars and SUVs - and the ongoing demand for turbodiesel-powered Dodge, Chevrolet, GMC, and Ford pickups, the success of diesel Jeeps seems assured.

To quote the article:
Chrysler Group's go-anywhere brand will answer these petitions early next year when it begins selling Jeep Grand Cherokees in North America outfitted with a highly regarded 3.0-liter diesel engine currently used in Europe. . . . Make no mistake, Chrysler will use its diesel-powered Grand Cherokee next year as a test. If consumers flock to it, Chrysler will offer diesel engines on other models, including the vehicle that most cries out for diesel's many benefits -- the Jeep Wrangler. But if consumers are put off by diesel's premium price at the pump, the automaker is likely to put diesel engines in the United States back on the shelf for a few more years.
The VM Motori 2.8-liter turbodiesel that is fitted into export-market Jeep Wrangler JKs does not meet American EPA standards or the more stringent CARB emissions standards that several states have adopted.  Diesel conversions have been performed on JKs with limited success.  Enthusiasts are clamoring for a factory-installed turbodiesel in the Jeep Wrangler.  Let's hope Jeep delivers.

*** 12/05/2012 UPDATE
Ward's Auto has published an article with some additional information on Jeep's future plans, including the diesel options for the Grand Cherokee and other models. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jeep Wrangler JK8 Pickup with a 392 Hemi

The aftermarket industry keeps developing more and more performance enhancements for the Jeep Wrangler JK platform.  Jalopnik and MSNBC give us a peek at VWerks' Steel Bender Jeep packed with parts that improve its looks and performance both on-road and off.  The primary mods include a pickup conversion and a 392 Hemi V8 producing 465 horsepower!

I've written about VWerks and JK pickup conversions before, but this one is undoubtedly worth drooling over again!

Ten Best Used Overland Vehicles

Expedition Portal and Jalopnik have published an article covering the ten best used vehicles for backcountry exploration.  The author, Scott Brady from Overland Journal, based these opinions on five primary categories: Capability, Capacity, Durability, Reliability, and Value.  Naturally, the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Rubicon is ranked at the top of his list.

Although my backcountry exploration focuses more heavily on rockcrawling capability, I took the same factors into consideration when I made my own decision to buy a Wrangler versus any other vehicle on the market.  My experience with various Land Cruisers, Grand Cherokees, Samurais, Sidekicks, pickups, and other SUVs led me to decide on the Rubicon for my needs, and so far I am completely satisfied that I made the right decision.

The entire article is well worth reading, but the following excerpt explains why the Wrangler belongs on the list:
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK was a game-changer for Jeep as an overland vehicle. These vehicles have proven to be reliable, supremely capable and easily modifiable. More so than any other vehicle on this list, you could take a stock Jeep Rubicon Unlimited and drive nearly any road, anywhere in the world, without modification. From the Rubicon Trail to the jungles in Guatemala (I have done both with them). They are simple, robust and have considerable interior storage space. They are also available on most continents now, including South America, Australia and Africa, so service infrastructure is improving. However, the Jeep Wrangler is a bit harsh and unrefined, so driver fatigue will be higher and NVH will take its toll on longer road sections.

  1. Class-leading capability
  2. Simple design and highly modifiable
  3. Ready for a round-the-world, right from the factory (Rubicon trim)
  1. Rough and tumble nature results in more driver fatigue
  2. Limited payload (about 1,000 pounds)
  3. Difficult to mount roof loads
Summary: Jeep surprised us all with this runaway hit. It is the real deal.
Editor's Field Experience: Editor has owned or long-term tested a half-dozen variants of the JK Unlimited.  One was owned for two years and driven the length of Mexico and Central America to the Darien Gap.  Current fleet includes the long-term test Overland JK.  Overland Journal had an 18 month long-term test JK.  We have yet to experience a single warranty claim with any of these vehicles.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Inside Look at AEV

Regular readers will recall that I chose American Expedition Vehicles' 3.5-inch DualSport suspension for my own Jeep.  A lot of factors went into that decision, but I can sum it up by citing their engineering and build quality that are second to none.  Their high-dollar turnkey vehicles are out of reach for most, but individual pieces such as their suspension kits and bumpers are reasonably priced for even the average Jeep owner like me.

Here's a video that gives us a look at the people and the technology behind their products:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

7 Steps to Increase the Jeep Wrangler JK's Power and Mileage

JP Magazine publishes some of the best Jeep tech articles in the industry.  Since the JK Wrangler is not known for being a powerhouse and many owners have saddled what mediocre power their 3.8-liter V6 can muster with an automatic transmission, big tires, improper gearing, and lots of heavy bolt-on accessories, Christian Hazel's article covering bolt-on performance accessories is appreciated.

You should really read the article for yourself, but here is a rundown of the 7 steps they took to revive their trusty JK's performance:

1)  Baseline measurement
2)  Oil Change, Fresh Air Filter, Clean Crankcase
3)  Cold Air Intake
4)  Performance Exhaust
5)  Throttle Body Spacer
6)  Headers & Ignition
7)  Engine Tuner 

Their initial measurement, a 1-mile uphill acceleration, resulted in a trap speed of 59mph.  After all these mods were performed, their 1-mile uphill trap speed increased to 68mph.  On top of that, they measured a gain in fuel economy from 16.1mpg to 17.6mpg.

Of course, if performance is of importance to you, a manual transmission is a much better option than an automatic.  If you've lifted your Jeep to fit bigger tires, your biggest performance boost will come from a deeper set of ring & pinion gears.  The following gear ratio charts can help you pick the appropriate ratio to extract the most from your Jeep:

Click to zoom in
You can see how terribly mismatched the automatic transmission's gearing is to the tire size even in factory-original configuration.  My manual-transmission Rubicon's original gearing is better-matched to my 35-inch tires than a bone-stock Rubicon with an automatic transmission is to its original 32-inch tires!  This is why it's usually automatic-equipped Jeep owners who complain about their "gutless" engines, not the manual-transmission owners.  All the engine performance mods in the world can't fully compensate for incorrect gear ratios.

The Appeal of 4WD Ownership

I'm sure most of the readers of this blog understand the appeal of 4WD ownership, and I've written about this sport's appeal before, but many others (especially the anti-access faux-environmentalists) have no idea what 4wheeling is all about.  Andrew White from 4xForum offers a fabulous introduction to the reason why we enjoy owning a 4wd vehicle:

There's a lot more to the 4wheeling experience than those who have never experienced it could ever understand.  You don't even need a serious 4x4 to get out into the backcountry and enjoy motorized recreation - most trails are totally accessible by any standard-clearance car.  Don't let yourself be locked down in the city or the suburbs - get outdoors and enjoy Nature while you still can!

Jeep Wrangler JK-based Campers

The latest of several Jeep Wrangler JK campers

The Jeep Wrangler JK is nothing if not versatile.  What other vehicle can serve as a comfortable daily driver and successfully traverse the Rubicon Trail right out of the box?  There are countless companies that have found ways to further extend the capabilities of the JK platform, but perhaps the most imaginative are those that convert it into a miniature RV.

Rooftop tents like the ARB Simpson III have been gaining popularity over the last decade and there are many companies offering them today.  They are relatively quick and easy to remove and reasonably affordable, but they do not provide room to stand up inside or store much gear since they're little more than a double mattress with a fabric cover.

ARB Simpson III rooftop tent
AutoHome's hard-shell rooftop tent
The EarthRoamer XV-JP was the first cabover camper style semi-permanent setup for the Jeep Wrangler.  It was a hardtop-replacement unit with a giant fold-open rooftop tent with standing room, a small bench seat, a sink, a toilet, and other conveniences.  Sadly, the manufacturer discontinued development and sales.

EarthRoamer XV-JP

Thankfully, Ursa Minor Vehicles (J30 & J180) and Adventure Trailers (JK Habitat) have teamed up to offer a much less expensive, lower profile, and lighter weight hardtop-replacement camper option.

Ursa Minor J30
Ursa Minor J180
Adventure Trailers JK Habitat
If this is still a bit too basic for you, a new alternative that's closer in concept to the EarthRoamer is the new Action Camper by Thaler Design that has generated a lot of buzz recently.  Your Jeep will weigh 440lbs. more with this cabover camper installed, but that will be offset by a wallet that's lighter by roughly $53,000 (not counting the Jeep).

Action Camper cab-over camper

Another option would be offroad-capable camper trailer, of which there are dozens to choose from.  I happen to own a Lifetime Tent Trailer which I tow behind my own JK on challenging trails with only a few customizations to increase ground clearance by way of larger tires, but even Jeep's Mopar division offers camp trailers designed specifically for your Jeep.

Mopar Jeep Camper Trailer