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.