Monday, July 23, 2012

Jeep Wrangler Water Fording

One of the qualities that makes the Jeep Wrangler such a better offroad vehicle than just about any other 4x4 and SUV on the market is its water fording capability.  Jeep publishes a water depth rating of 30 inches for an unmodified Wrangler thanks to its high-mounted engine air intake and axle, transmission, and transfer case breathers.  Most other vehicles are much more vulnerable in much shallower water.

Jeep makes a big deal out of the Wrangler's water fording ability, and they produced this video to illustrate its capabilities:

The latter part of the video shows and discusses proper water crossing technique; it's unfortunate that the video's introduction glamorizes excessive speed, which can not only damage the vehicle by allowing the engine to inhale splashed water, but which also causes excessive erosion to the riverbed.

Proper deep-water crossing technique is demonstrated in this video:

Keep your speed down to minimize splashing.  If water enters your engine's air intake, it can be sucked into the cylinders.  Water doesn't compress like air does, so if you're lucky you'll simply stall the engine.  More likely, you will bend a connecting rod or punch holes in your engine block.  Matching the speed of the bow wave also helps keep water from entering the drivetrain where it contaminates your gear oil.  If not immediately flushed, water in your gear oil can cause rust that damages critical bearing and gear surfaces.

Proper water crossing technique will allow your drivetrain to stay safe in water deep enough to trash your Jeep's interior.  Drain plugs in the floor help with the draining and cleanup, but the carpets will be ruined.  Most 4wheelers who regularly cross deep water or mud holes will remove their carpet and replace it with Dupli-Color's brush-on, roll-on bedliner product that makes a terrific waterproof alternative to carpet.  Its textured finish also looks great when applied to bumpers and fenders.

Activist Environmental Lawyers Bilking Millions from Taxpayers

"Environmentalists" - it's not about the environment, it's about the money!
You've read about my numerous complaints about the anti-access faux-environmentalists for a while now, but it seems that the rest of world is finally starting to open its eyes and see the "green" organizations for what they really are: an industry of money-grubbing individuals more interested in fattening their wallets than actually preserving the environment.

You can't blame the true environmentalists for the problem - the vast majority of people (and companies) who simply cut a check to the Sierra Club, for instance, do so because they believe that they're doing something to help Mother Nature.  OHV users go a step further by volunteering countless man-hours working side-by-side with land managers on environmental projects so that they can continue to enjoy their sport of backcountry exploration.  While views on who has the right to access public lands may differ, the end goal is the same - protecting the health of the environment for current and future generations.

Contrary to the image they project, the "environmental" activist groups do not have the same goal.  They simply take advantage of people's passion for the environment by using (or fabricating) a catastrophe du jour to generate funds and gain political momentum for their real purpose: suing government land management agencies in court to then collect millions of taxpayer dollars in "attorney fees."  If the end result is another closure of public lands, it's no skin off their back.

Still can't believe you've been duped all these years?  Read this article from Evergreen Magazine for a glimpse at the scope of the problem:

The Advantages of Differential Lockers

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon differential locker

One of the defining features of the Rubicon equipment package on the Wrangler is the differential locker that Jeep installs in each axle.  A locking differential is a variation on the standard automotive differential; it provides increased traction compared to a standard "open" differential by preventing wheel speed differentiation between two wheels on the same axle.  It essentially "locks" both wheels on an axle together as if on a common shaft.  This forces both wheels to turn in unison, regardless of the traction (or lack thereof) available to either wheel individually.

An open differential will cease the transmission of torque to one wheel if the opposite wheel has little or no traction.  This may occur if one wheel comes into contact with mud, snow, or ice, or if the wheel is somehow removed from contact with the road after encountering an obstacle or area of soft ground.  In such a situation, an open differential will continue to spin the wheel with the least amount of traction but will transmit little or no power to the wheel that has more solid traction.  Basically, it will transmit only as much torque to both wheels as the wheel with the least amount of traction can sustain.  This can result in the vehicle failing to deliver enough torque to the drive wheels to keep the vehicle moving forward, at which point it will be stuck.

A locking differential solves this problem with its capability of delivering 100% of available torque to the wheel with the most traction.  However, a locking differential must be able to unlock for street use, however, because the tires need to be allowed to rotate at different speeds when it is required (such as when negotiating a turn).  Most automatic lockers (such as the Detroit Locker) work flawlessly off-road, but their operation on-road creates several handling quirks along with periodic clunking and banging.

Manual or selectable differential locks such as the ARB Air Locker provide the best of both worlds - smooth and quiet operation with predictable handling on-road, with complete lockup whenever the driver engages it off-road.  The downside to manual lockers is they are much more expensive and complex than automatic lockers.  Thankfully, Jeep didn't skimp when it came to the lockers they install into the Rubicon's front and rear axles.  The Rubicon's electrically-actuated differential lockers are without compromise on-road, while providing a huge increase in traction on the trail with the simple push of a button:

Here is a similar video demonstrating the traction difference that ARB's air pressure-actuated Air Lockers make:

Australia's 4WD Action Magazine produced the following video to demonstrate the capabilities of open differentials, electronic traction control-enhanced differentials, and fully locking differentials on three otherwise identical Toyota Land Cruiser Prados:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Resurrection of Flat Fender Jeeps at the 60th Annual Jeepers Jamboree

Thanks to my friend Charlene Bower from Bower Motorsports Media for publishing the following information on next week's historic 60th Annual Jeepers Jamboree.  I'm lucky enough to be able to attend this year, riding into Rubicon Springs with a small herd of Flatfenders.  Be sure to check back with this blog for photos, videos, and a trip report after the event.

The 60th Annual Jeepers Jamboree will take place on the historic Rubicon Springs Trail July 26 – 30, 2012.  The longest running event of this kind, it is a historic accomplishment for certain.  There are many special features for this years trip including Movies on the Grass, Historical hikes and talks, Diamond in the Rough wine tasting supporting the Rubicon Trail Foundation, 60th Anniversary feature Jeep Giveaway & Raffle, largest vendor show to date and a Flatfender Show’N’Shine awarding a People’s Choice Plaque.

Everyone on the trip is welcome to show off their Jeep Flat Fender on Saturday morning at the meal area and guests are encouraged to vote for the People’s Choice Award.  The group that was commonly known as Flatville between the years of 1990 and 2002 will be hosting this social gathering.  “The rock trail that was once only used by these ‘ol flat fenders in the 1950’s when Jeepers Jamboree started is now a lot easier to maneuver with the bigger tires and suspension,” said Ben Bower, a founding father of Flatville.  “All the trail hands have been warned to bring old parts for this trip, its going to be a lot of fun to bring this whole group in!”  Typically in its heyday there were about 20 flatfenders camped together; they are anticipating that 20-40 will be converging for this historic 60th Annual Event.  To see additional photos from the scrapbook (literally) go to

History buffs will enjoy two separate events planned.  One is a hike and talk about the camp and surrounding areas hosted by Geologist George Wheeldon.  Steve Morris will talk about the history of Rubicon Springs and Jeepers Jamboree.  “There is so much history surrounding this entire area and 60 years of this trip that we thought it was important to offer guests an opportunity to hear about it,” said Bob Sweeney, Jeepers Jamboree Board of Directors.  The Movie on the Grass on Thursday night will feature the 50th Anniversary Movie and the Tip to Tip Darion Trip.

Rubicon Trail Foundation is hosing a Diamonds in the Rough Wine Tasting.  $25 per person, which includes a Souvenir plastic wine glass etched with the 60th Anniversary Logo and all participants will go into a drawing for a free bottle of wine.  All proceeds will go to the Rubicon Trail Foundation who is dedicated to enhance the future health and use of the Rubicon Trail, while ensuring responsible motorized year-round trail access.

60th Anniversary Jeep Giveaway and Raffle will take place on both Friday and Saturday nights while enjoying two bands: Papa Blues and Whisky Dawn.  The 60th Anniversary Jeep, which has been the focus of events across the country for the last year, will be given away to one lucky guest on Saturday night.  Sponsors include Jeep, Currie Enterprises, GenRight, Black Rock, Ten-Factory, Motogear, Goodyear, Arabia’s Overkill, KW Jeep,, RockHard and Eagle Radiator.

The Largest Vendor show in Jamboree history will be set up all day Saturday including representatives from 4 Wheel Parts, G2 Axle & Gear, Currie Enterprises, FishMouth, GenRight, MetalCloak, NorCal Rock Racing, Olympic 4×4, OilTek, OR-Fab, Paramount, Performance Acc., Poly Performance, Pro Comp, Quadratec, Raceline Wheels, Roggy Enterprises, Rubicon Express, SmittyBilt, Synergy, Trail Master, WFO Concepts, Arabia’s Overkill, Bio-Clense, Black Rock, KMF Offroad, Parts Mike, Rock Hard, Rubicon Ready, Savvy Offroad, Varozza 4×4 and Yukon Gear & Axle.

This years Jeepers Jamboree is currently sold out, however we encourage you to put the dates on your calendar for next year.  It is a trip not to be missed.

Contact: Charlene Bower
Phone: 714-394-1716

4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility Magazine's contributor Chris Collard wrote a terrific article covering the event.  Photos and the story can be found here on their website.

JP Magazine's associate editor Pete Trasborg covered their efforts building up their mothballed TJ and getting it to the event, as well as their journey along the trail.  JP's perspective mirrors that of many attendees to the event, which makes for a very interesting story.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Recreation Organizations File Lawsuit Against Tahoe National Forest

The Forest Service's Travel Management Rule continues to infringe upon the rights of Americans to responsibly recreate in our National Forests.  The latest battle is in the Tahoe National Forest, in which the Forest Service has engaged in lies and deception for 2 years to cover up the fact that they illegally removed 800 miles of rights-of-way from the road inventory.  Diverse recreational and environmentalist groups (Friends of Tahoe Forest Access, Nevada County Woods Riders, Grass Valley 4-Wheel Drive Club, High Sierra Motorcycle Club, Webilt Four Wheel Drive Club, Friends of Greenhorn) have tried to work with the Forest Service to right these wrongs but have gotten nowhere, so they have employed the services of the Pacific Legal Foundation to file a lawsuit.

The case, named Friends of Tahoe Forest Access v. U.S. Dep’t of Agriculture, asserts that the Forest Service has failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, a powerful federal statute that demands honesty and candor in environmental decisionmaking.  The lawsuits asks the federal court to invalidate the Forest Service’s misleading Travel Management documents, and to order the Forest Service to redo implementation of the Travel Management Rule in a manner that is fair to and protective of all those who have a recreational interest in the Tahoe National Forest.

Nevada County's The Union newspaper is covering the lawsuit, and so is the Auburn Journal, while the editor of Redding's The Record Searchlight is blogging about TNF's similarities with the Forest Service's closures in his local Shasta-Trinity National Forest.  The Outdoor Wire compares this theft of public lands by the government to the government's taking of 2nd Amendment rights.  The Calaveras Pine Tree has a great article that really sums up the situation.  The Sacramento Bee so far has published only a disappointingly small blurb of coverage on this issue so far.  For the most in-depth coverage, check out the discussion in's Land Use Forum.

Pacific Legal Foundation posted a video on YouTube that helps illustrate why the Tahoe National Forest's mismanagement of public lands and their bait-and-switch tactics necessitated this lawsuit:

Pacific Legal Foundation also produced a second video along with representatives from the aforementioned recreation/conservation organizations as a press release to announce the lawsuit.

If you would like to help Pacific Legal Foundation in their efforts to fight against Big Government for the rights of the "little man," they accept tax-deductible donations.

 ***UPDATE*** has jumped on this issue, with its forum members thanking the Adolph Coors Foundation for their prior contributions to the Pacific Legal Foundation by way of the Coors Light Facebook page.  In classic Pirate4x4 style, they're rewarding members with photos of the beautiful Rock Zombies bikini girls from last weekend's Land Use Bikini Rig Wash.

The story has made it to the front page of with the complete text of the Pacific Legal Foundation's press release.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Choosing the Right Suspension System

Of all of the modifications I planned to make to my Jeep, the single most important and most difficult choice was which suspension system would be right for me.  One of the Jeep's biggest assets - its huge aftermarket support - can make it difficult to narrow down which combination of parts is best suited to any one particular owner's needs.  As I mentioned in my very first blog post, my Jeep's duty is as a daily driver, a comfortable road-tripper, and a capable 4 wheeler.  The challenge I faced was overcoming the fact that trail prowess and street performance are generally inversely proportional.

It was my intent to combine the best parts from across the aftermarket to build what I consider to be the perfect Jeep.  My definition of "perfect" is based on versatility.  My goal was to build a Rubicon Trail-capable Jeep with better-than-stock ride and handling on-road.  Working within a modest budget, was this even going to be possible?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Okinawa's WW2 Jeep Graveyard

World War 2 ended on September 2, 1945 when Japan's Emperor Hirohito signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay:
It took many years after the war to return American troops and equipment home, but many of the tools of war were simply left behind.  I stumbled upon these photos of a Jeep cemetery on and was both impressed and humbled by the scene.
Millions of dollars worth of military vehicles were dumped  on the Island of Okinawa after the war.
These photos were taken on November 11, 1949 by Carl Mydans, on assignment for Life Magazine.  Willys MB and Ford GPW Jeeps were the predominant vehicles used in the war; these photos simultaneously illustrate how valuable the Jeep was, yet how disposable they were considered to be.

In addition to all these Jeeps, the number of Bantam trailers that were abandoned is quite staggering:

And of course, each of those Jeeps and trailers needs tires on which to roll:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Trucks and SUVs You Can Still Get With a Stick

Motor Trend Magazine's sister publication Truck Trend just published an article entitled Trucks and SUVs You Can Still Get With a Stick, and of course the Jeep Wrangler was praised.  From the article,
The Wrangler stays true to its roots by offering a six-speed manual on both two-door and four-door Unlimited models. Unlike many of the other vehicles on this list, the manual is offered on all Wrangler trim levels, from the entry Sport to the top-of-the-line Rubicon. Although a case can be made for why an automatic is better for off-roading, we're glad Jeep still gives us a choice and doesn't force us into the hair-shirt trim level to get it.
While I may not agree that an automatic transmission is better for off-roading, I can certainly agree with their appreciation for the Wrangler's availability with a manual transmission in every trim level.  As I mentioned in my second-ever blog entry explaining why I chose a Wrangler, I would not have have even included the Wrangler on my list of potential vehicles if it was not available with a manual transmission.  I fully back Car and Driver Magazine's crusade to Save The Manuals!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fox News Brings Clarity to the Jeep Wrangler "Death Wobble" Fiasco

As I reported twice before, the news media have jumped on Chrysler's back with a fabricated disaster story regarding the absolutely normal and expected front axle "death wobble" that comes as a result of worn-out front suspension and steering components.  The story has worked its way up to the point that now even Fox News is reporting on it in an article entitled "What You Need To Know About the "Jeep Death Wobble."

Unfortunately, many people these days are as dismissive about their choice of news agencies as they are about their politicians, but regardless of your opinion on Fox News, their story is well researched, unbiased, and completely factual.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated and found that there is no significant problem worthy of mandating a recall or service bulletin or any other meddling in private enterprise.  After all, with only 0.00074% of affected Wranglers have had any formal complaint regarding "death wobble" (402 vehicles out of 542,134 total).  Yet in spite of this, California Democrat Congressmen Henry Waxman and Anna Eschoo felt compelled to write this letter to FIAT/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

In addition to the links for diagnosis and repair that I mentioned in my previous two articles, the Fox News story links to another good source of info at

*EDIT* Autoblog is also covering the updated issue.
*EDIT* Automotive News has also provided an in-depth explanation of the issue.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rubicon Trail Law Enforcement in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

El Dorado County's Sheriff's Office has just issued a press release regarding a much-appreciated upgrade to the patrol of Eldorado National Forest's world-famous Rubicon Trail.  The improved program provides a well-equipped Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to Deputy Tim Peterson to allow him to patrol in cooperation with OHV Community-based volunteer patrols.  California's most popular backcountry area now has the recognition and public service it deserves.

Deputy Petersen is a terrific asset to the Sheriff's Department and the citizens of - and visitors to - El Dorado County.

OHV recreationists and Nature-lovers have now officially teamed up full-time with our local law enforcement officers to preserve and protect the Rubicon Trail for everyone's enjoyment.  This is an important step in the fight to keep the anti-access faux-environmentalist groups from succeeding in their quest to lock the public out of these public lands. has a thread in their forum discussing this.  The official press release follows:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dangerous Drives: Extreme Off Roaders

Speed TV has a terrific program series named Dangerous Drives.  Their best episode yet centers on off-roaders, from extreme rockcrawling to overlanding exploration.  The episode features Dave Harrington of American Expedition Vehicles and Scott Brady of Overland Journal and Expedition Portal driving a couple Jeep Wrangler JKs, a TJ Brute conversion, and a Land Rover Discovery.

A team of adventurers trek across inhospitable deserts from Arches National Park in Utah to the dried out lake bed of the Sevier Lake, once the floor of a prehistoric inland sea that later became the Great Salt Lake.  The show documents the dangers of route planning, variable weather and general overland travel that occur while doing jobs that are 4WD dependent.  In this instance weather was the name of the game, with the team pulling into Moab, Utah in early December to the worst storm Moab had seen in 40 years.  This caused some on-the-fly route changing and made product testing that much more difficult.  Sub-zero temperatures and up to 30” of snow for six days of camping made the normal Moab trails a bit more challenging than usual.

Expeditional Portal's members discussed the episode on their forum.  Thankfully, if you missed the episode you don't have to wait for Speed to re-air it; Hulu offers the Extreme Off Roaders episode here or you can watch it on Amazon Instant Video.