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Month: December 2015

FCA-GM Merger, Trackhawk Grand Cherokee and more!

FCA-GM Merger, Trackhawk Grand Cherokee and more!

A FCA/Jeep heavy post was made today by PowerNationTV!…rnation-daily/

After watching it I’ve learned that the FCA CEO is a bit nutty and seems hell-bent on an FCA-GM merger regardless of the fact GM seems disinterested. “It all starts with physical contact.”
(0:57) thru (2:22)

Then, while I know it isn’t Jeep news it’s still good news for me…. Clarkson, Hammond, and May have locked in a VERY lucrative deal with Amazon that will return them to our TV once again! If you don’t know who these people are none of this matters, but if you do you are likely as happy as us to hear this.

Lastly, the Grand Cherokee will officially be getting a Hellcat in the new Trackhawk edition. This is in spite of the fact that FCA has indicated they intend to kill off all their big V8s by 2019… So dig deep in those pockets and pony up now if you plan to be an owner of this monster.
(4:22) thru (5:18)

KC 4” Gravity LED G4 JK Fog Light REVIEW

KC 4” Gravity LED G4 JK Fog Light REVIEW

Anyone who has driven a JK at night knows how lacking the factory headlights are. In fact, within a matter of seconds most will turn on and begin to rely on the fog lights for decent visibility. Unfortunately, this is only a sub-par solution. The JK uses an odd-ball bulb type for the fog lights and thanks to the Pulse-Width Modulated (PWM) power they tend to blow often and are expensive to replace. Furthermore, as much as the fog lights help it’s still not far from a “fix”.

Luckily, there are solutions out there for headlight improvements and, while this review isn’t about them, they come up because almost all of these solutions will result in a headlight color that is much whiter than the factory beam color. The result for many (and us) is to no longer use our once trusted fog lights because we can’t stand the now VERY obvious yellow color they put out when compared to new headlights.

It didn’t take long before we were looking for a replacement LED fog light to match or at least come closer to the headlight color so we would once again use the fog lights and shed some light in those dark ditch lines. We opted to try the fairly new KC Gravity G4 Fog lights and ordered them from Northridge 4×4.

Packaging was more than sufficient from KC alone, but Northridge repacked the KC box in another and surrounded it in packaging paper to ensure the lights arrived safely. We purchased the KC SKU: 0497. This item number is for the JK 2010-2016 specifically and has the clear lens. While the lights came with the necessary bracketry to be a direct bolt on replacement for the factory fog lights, I was a bit disappointed that they were not also manufactured with a compatible electrical connector. They did include a nice water resistant connector, but it would need to be spliced into the factory harness.

Installation was extremely easy with most of the time being in the aforementioned electrical harness splice. The bolt holes matched up perfectly and the entire swap can be done in approximately 15 minutes.

Adjustments post-installation are much easier but more limited than those on the factory lamps as the KC lights only offer a vertical fine-tuning. In our case, we were mounting the lights on a Poison Spyder Brawler Lite bumper and the “tube” that the lights mount in limited height adjustments as the slightly larger globe of the KC lights made contact. While we were able to properly adjust them, it was only just barely. So, bumpers designed to fit very tightly to the factory fog lights could have some adjustment issues.

As soon as the evening’s darkness set in, we headed out to check the lights and try to capture some pictures. Capturing the effectiveness of light patterns with digital cameras is very difficult as the cameras make adjustments automatically to “improve” the captured image. Sadly, turning off all of these automatic settings seemed about as effective as turning off a JK’s electronic stability control and all of our cameras did what they wanted to anyway! Still, you can definitely see the difference in the light patterns below and how the lights performed.

The first picture below is of our headlights only. Note: we have Truck-Lite JK headlights with the anti-flicker harness. This is a vast improvement over the stock headlights but you can see some hot spots in the light pattern from poor beam pattern management.

Now for a picture of the KC fog lights only. We were really pleased with the light output and pattern. There were no visible hot spots. Note: there is some “tunneling” of the light and the full pattern width is not seen as some of the width of the light output is clipped by our bumper. (The lights are recessed fairly deeply in the Brawler Lite bumper.)

After looking at the two pictures above you may have noticed that the light is slightly warmer than the Truck-Lights. I was not able to find an actual kelvin rating of the KC fog lights, but it appeared to be about 1000-K warmer than the documented 5800-K of the Truck-Lites. This is more noticeable at night and on the road than when looking at the Jeep itself as seen below. This is MUCH closer coloring than the factory 2700-K light output but if you are looking for an exact color match you may be disappointed.

When the fog lights are used in conjunction with the headlights their real strength is observed. The fog lights do an excellent job of adding light to the darker areas left by the Truck-Lites and really help to reduce the visible “X” that they produce. The picture below has the fog lights on along with the headlight’s low beams.

When switching over to headlight high beams, the fogs do a great job of keeping near objects lit. (Note: We used our Superchips Flashcal to allow the fog lights to stay on when high beams are on.) The image below shows this. The reflectors that are seen in the distance are about 0.3 mile away.


We are extremely happy with the KC 4” Gravity Fog lights. In our opinion, KC had started to drift in quality over the years and we weren’t too sure what to expect as they jumped into the LED market. All apprehensions are gone! They are back in and in a very positive way. My only hesitation in suggesting these lights are to those who insist that the color output be an exact match to another light brand.

Wire Loom Guard for JKU (Carpet Removal)

Wire Loom Guard for JKU (Carpet Removal)

The decision on whether or not to pull the carpet from your Jeep is a tough one. There is no doubt that doing so will increase the sound and heat levels observed by the occupants, but it only takes a few trail rides with the doors and/or top off and you will be looking for easier post trail clean-up techniques. The removal of the carpet is an excellent way of doing just this.

When most people decide to pull the carpet, they also remove the sound deadening and thermal “dope” that the factory puts on the floor in an effort to smooth the floor. Often times in preparation of a paint or truck-bed liner finish. The problem with removing the dope makes the increased sound and heat issue worse. Furthermore, truck-bed liner finishes seem to be hit-or-miss when it comes to durability and, due to the texture, are often as difficult to clean as the carpet that was removed.

An alternative we prefer is to leave the factory dope and run floor mats to cover it. Most floor mats have small spikes to grip the carpet and these spikes create an air gap which helps the heat issue greatly.

For those of us who own JKUs there is one other issue with pulling the carpet in the rear. Both the driver and passenger door entries have a wire loom that runs along the floor and once the carpet is removed the wiring is left open and vulnerable. Sure, split wire loom would mildly help this, but being that it is split there really is no help for crush resistance. Since the carpet was extremely muddy in that section, I knew it was a common place for passengers to step.

My fix was to make a little kick panel. In the end, it was so easy to make and worked so well that I thought I would share it as others might find it useful.

What you need:

  • 20” of 2x2” square tube. (I used 0.120” wall because it’s what I had. Thinner would still work just as well and be easier to cut)
  • A way of cutting metal. (I have a Milwaukee metal circular saw. I used it in conjunction with a pneumatic cut-off tool and hacksaw.)
  • 5/16” drill bit suitable for drilling metal.
  • Buddy to make two small welds or a welder. (Optional solution later)
  • Files and/or metal sanding tools.


Now let’s get started!

1- Cut the tube into two equal lengths of 10”.

2- Then, make two cuts in each tube lengthwise to remove one corner, leaving ¾” on the two cut sides. One of the ¾” sides will rest on the floor and the other will sit on a lip inside the bottom of the jamb.

3- Cut an angle starting 2 ¼” from the rear of the tube to relieve where the door jamb starts to curve up at the rear.

4- Cut a second angle off of the top to allow the guard to better align with the stock plastic trim that is at the front of the rear jamb. I found a 1/2” to be about the perfect amount.

Once done the pieces should look like this:

Sorry this is a little out of focus but this is how it should fit in the door. (Note: This is the passenger side)

You may have noticed two small center-drilled dimples or holes in the top of my guard. I’ll talk more about that later….

For now, let’s focus on securing the guard.

I made a small tab that had a 5/16” slot in it. I then welded the tab to the bottom inside of the guard. The slot goes over a stud that was in place for the factory harness loom. This stud isn’t really threaded for a nut but I found a ¼-20 Nut worked really well on it! If you are unable to weld or find a buddy who can, you could make a thicker block or L shaped bracket and use it to wedge the guard into place. It won’t take much as the ¾” lip locks into the inside track very well.

My guard is now painted and secured in place.

If I have lost you, here is some help! Here is a drawing detail of the kick-guard and the bracket I made.

NOTE: The location of the tab is only a rough measurement. My passenger side was 3” and the driver’s side was 3.25” So you need to check and measure your Jeep for this. It’s seems there may be some variance.

This drawing is for the passenger side ONLY. A mirrored version will be needed for the driver’s side.

Now, let’s chat about those small holes you are seeing on the top. Well, I ditched the factory mats and went for some AEV ones. This was for a couple of reasons that really aren’t important here but one thing I really like about the rear is the coverage they have for this area. Now that I have this guard, I have a place to attach the mat. This will help keep it located and from flopping out in the wind when on the highway naked. I used two ¼” push pins (or a name I recently heard them called and liked “Christmas Tree Pins”)

This is what the finished project looked like.

I still have a little clean up to do. I have some split loom on order. We plan to leave the sound deadening dope the factory puts on to keep the resonance down and help with heat transmission. So, even though we pulled the carpet, we plan to always run mats. We haven’t decided if we are going to coat the floor. The paint cleans easier than just about any liner so time will tell. To be honest, this whole thing is a test. The carpet may go back in but so far so good. The heat and sound hasn’t really been that bad, only marginal differences, but time will tell. None-the-less, I know many of you have committed to running carpetless and I thought this might help.

Happy Jeeping!

2018 Wrangler: closer rendering, four tops?

2018 Wrangler: closer rendering, four tops?

Some good (IMO) was just released on Allpar a few moments ago. According to David Zats, there will in fact be a full soft top version! He also stated that we could start to see more accurate renderings soon.

What are your thoughts?

Jeep is working on a new Jeep Wrangler, a tough combination of severe off-road capability and throwback designs, whose buyers mainly expect it to be a good road car that can be taken on the toughest terrain.

The production Wrangler is not expected until 2017 at the earliest, for the 2018 model year.

An Allpar source said we would be happy about trail worthiness and the soft top, which is likely good news.

Another source provided information to Susan Rand, we will go over what went into that rendering soon.

An Allpar source not connected with FCA wrote that there may be a non-removable hardtop, to fill in for the “XJ” Cherokee, a removable hard and soft top, and a combination hard/soft top.

One Allpar contributor wrote that the soft top could get a semi-automatic system, with a spring assist: “This new system, if used, helps keep everything aligned as you pull it up and into place. The complete removal of the top could be problematic unless there was a quick-release system for the header.” He wrote that there is no clear evidence that this would be used, though.


Cincinnati’s Ghost Ship

Cincinnati’s Ghost Ship

We are lucky enough to have our older son visiting for the holidays who is in the Navy. When things got a little bored around the house I decided it was time to go check out something I heard about over the summer and had been researching for a day trip.

Our destination would be the “Circle Line V” or what has become better known as Cincinnati’s Ghost Ship. The 186-foot steam-engine yacht was abandoned and has sat decaying in a stream off the Ohio River for the last 30 years, but led a colorful life prior.

The boat was originally known as The Celt and was commissioned for a rich railroad executive. Launched April 1902 in Wilmington, Delaware, the vessel would spend its first 15 years serving the intended purpose. When World War I broke out and Great Britain struggled to cut German supply lines, the need for small fast boats capable of outmaneuvering the German U-Boats was needed. As America prepared to join the war, The Celt was rented by the US Navy and renamed the USS Sachem.

The USS Sachem was outfitted with depth charges and guns to counteract incoming torpedoes. It was during this period that Thomas Edison used the boat for testing and defense development for the US Government. By 1918, the war was over and The USS Sachem was returned to the owner and renamed the Sachem.

The vessel changed hands several times during post-WWI years and eventually became a recreational fishing vessel captained by Jacob Martin of Brooklyn, New York. Martin capitalized on the economic conditions of the Great Depression and purchased the boat for a very low price. He then let anyone who wanted to ride the boat do so for $2. Some wanted to party on the boat while others used it to fish in an effort to feed their families during the trying time.

On December 7th, 1941 the country was dealt a blow by the Japanese Navy in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within days, World War II had begun. America was once again in need of as many ships that they could find to guard our shores and Sachem was returned to US Naval service after being refitted with armaments and christened theUSS Phenekite in 1942. During WWII, the vessel was used mostly for naval training and Long Island area patrol. When the US Navy no longer needed the ship’s service, it was returned to Captain Martin and reverted to its previous name of Sachem.

Just before the war ended in 1945, the Sachem was purchased from Captain Martin by the newly formed Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises in New York. The vessel would be renamed the Sightseer and become the flagship of the Circle Line fleet. Sometime during this life the boat took on its new and final name the Circle Line V and was also adorned with the color scheme that, while faded, is still seen today.

In the early 1980’s, and with the ship having served for nearly eighty years, the Circle Line V was cut from the Circle Line Fleet and left abandoned at a New Jersey pier. Six years later, Robert Miller (a Cincinnati resident) purchased the ship for $7500. While Miller was attempting to make the vessel seaworthy enough for its upcoming voyage to the Ohio River, he was approached by a representative of Madonna. The resulting conversation meant an appearance by the ship in Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” music video.

The Circle Line V can be seen in a flash at 1:54 and with Madonna on board at 2:48

In sort of a “last hurrah”, Miller would host a party to celebrate President Ronald Reagan’s relighting of the torch on the Statue of Liberty. As the celebration, music, and fireworks were in full swing, the Circle Line V was loaded with partygoers. Sadly, shortly after this, the ship would embark on its final journey to Northern Kentucky. While Miller purchased the boat with intentions of a full restoration, it seems these aspirations fell short and the Circle Line V has sat alone in a small creek off the Ohio River for the last 30 years.

The “Ghost Ship” has become a common kayak destination for locals and it is certainly a much more legal way to visit it. We approached via a small road that runs alongside the creek. We noticed what appeared to be new “No Trespassing Signs” and thought our destination attempt was foiled. But, as luck would have it, the property that is directly alongside the boat is for sale and there was legal viewing access to the boat. We ended up talking to some local residents that seemed to genuinely embrace our presence and even took some time to talk to our son about the boat and normal water levels, which were quite low, and allowed us access via river easements.

Wagoneer to make a revisit, and with some power!

Wagoneer to make a revisit, and with some power!

It seems Allpar is dropping all sorts of bombs lately and this one is no exception. According to a recent article posted by our favorite David Zatz it is confirmed that the Wagoneer will make a revisit in 2019. What is uncertain is what that really means or will the vehicle will become. But it sounds like the it’s sure to produce some smiles with a Hellcat engine offering (although it reads like the plans are to de-tune it a bit). Tell us, what do you think?


Long ago, Chrysler and FCA requested trademarks for the Grand Wagoneer and Trackhawk names; they already appear to own just-plain-Wagoneer, at least for ordinary cars (not RVs).

Now, according to an Allpar source, both projects have finally been green-lighted. Wagoneer has already appeared on investor-show long-term plans, but it seems that the company had not decided what, specifically, it would be.

There are choices: a custom body, a Durango with a Grand Cherokee suspension, a lengthened-beyond-Durango Grand Cherokee, even just an extremely plush Grand Cherokee. That’s not even including the Ram options — just as the Jeep Rescue concept was based on a Ram, the company could up-fit the Dodge Power Wagon to create a serious Jeep Wagoneer.

As for the Trackhawk, rumor still has it containing a somewhat downtuned Hellcat engine, but it could also simply be a new name for the current Grand Cherokee SRT.


Some Cherokees recalled for rare issue

Some Cherokees recalled for rare issue

Voluntary recall of many KL Jeep Cherokees announced.

An Article from David Zats on that was just released today (12/18/15) stated the following:

Jeep is voluntarily recalling around 53,000 Cherokees with power lift-gates to install better moisture shielding for their electronics. The recall affects only Cherokees made after February 18, 2015, for the 2015 and 2016 model years.

There was a similar recall in June, for Cherokees made before February 18.

The company is not aware of any related accidents. This latest campaign affects certain model-year 2015 and 2016 Jeep Cherokee SUVs, but is limited to vehicles equipped with power lift-gates. Customers will be contacted; modules that appear to have been exposed to water will be replaced, and all work will be done free. In the meantime, Jeep asked affected Cherokee owners with power lift-gates to keep their cargo areas dry, and if needed, to contact the company at 1-800-853-1403. The recall does not affect Cherokees with manually operated lift-gates.

Can the new Cherokee beat the old one?

Can the new Cherokee beat the old one?

According to David Zatz with Allpar it might just be doing that. On Tuesday (12/15/15) David wrote the following:

When the “KL” Jeep Cherokee came out, people immediately compared it to the popular “XJ” 1984-98 Jeep Cherokee, which is still surprisingly prevalent on the street. Jim Morrison and Jeep Cherokees

From January 1 to November 30, Jeep sold 196,211 Cherokees. How does that compare to the original, which was sold at a time when there was minimal competition, but also when few even considered an SUV?

AMC built roughly 100,000 Cherokees per year from 1984 to 1987; then the numbers climbed, peaking in model-year 1989, with 208,213 made in the US. Many of these American made Cherokees were sold in other parts of the world, mostly Canada.

U.S. sales in the second generation were generally over 100,000 but well below 200,000.

The overall top year for US production was 1996, when, allegedly, 235,102 were made — but just 148,544 were sold in the US; in 1997, that number went down to 130,041.

Thus, the current Cherokee is on track to beat the best of the original XJ Cherokees in U.S. sales, especially with dealer-level incentives growing — in a much tighter market, albeit one where SUVs and crossovers are not only accepted but preferred.


More information and the full article can be read here 

Tell us, what are your thoughts?

EV Wrangler ?!?!?

EV Wrangler ?!?!?

Have you ever heard of an all electric TJ? Well, I hadn’t until our friend Chad shared this video with me and I couldn’t help but put it up here for discussion.

This Jeep was built by John Norbeck. Those of you that know me well, know this is the kind of project I can really geek out on and likely the reason that it was shared with me to begin with. I think this is pretty darn cool but what are your thoughts?


Tire Rotations

Tire Rotations

Tire rotations are something that are very easy to do on your own with the proper tools. Here is a little how-to as well as some information that will hopefully make the job even easier.

The Why?

Regular tire rotations are important for any vehicle but especially for those of us running larger and higher void tires. They will maintain a better wear pattern which makes the tires last longer and a better contact patch on the road. Both of those benefits keep you safe and your Jeep headed straighter down the road.

Get informed!

Most shops rotate tires “front to back” regardless of the type of tire you have or the vehicle it is on. So, what’s the problem with that? Well, believe it or not, your front tires are not pointed straight and this is by design. We won’t dive into the why on this here, but know that this causes some “feathering” in the tire wear that can only be offset by running the tires on the other side of the vehicle. Most shops are happy to do a “cross rotation” but you do need to ask for it and, in some cases, there is an up-charge. The only instances where cross rotation is not recommended is when the front and rear are different sizes or the tires have a directional pattern.

Do you have a full size spare? If so, you should really consider including it in rotations as well. Tires actually have a shelf life. While the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t site a specific age where tires become unsafe, some testing models show material degradation “at a level of concern” in as early as 6 years. I personally don’t want to pay for rubber and not use it. Given that your set will last 20-25% longer when you include the spare in the rotations, it is really a win-win.

Regardless of what type of rotation pattern you choose, the image below should help you get it done correctly. Just remember to stick with the pattern you start.

Enough rambling, let’s get to work!

Okay, I’m assuming I’ve talked you into a five-tire rotation so that is what I will be doing here on my daily driver (Lil Punkin’). Depending on your Jeep and shop, the tools you will need may be different. If you do not have a spare to rotate in, you will have additional steps and tools since you will need to have 2 tires off of the Jeep at one time. The list below are what I consider to be the minimum tools needed to do a five-tire rotation.

Grab the following:

  • ½” Drive Breaker bar
  • ½” Drive 6” extension (this will depend on wheel style, but use the shortest possible)
  • ½” Drive Lug Socket (In my case it’s a 19mm)
  • A Jack (Bottle, Hydraulic Floor, or Scissor)
  • A Jack Stand
  • ½” Drive Torque Wrench (Needs to be capable of 85-110 ft-lbs)
  • Wheel Chocks (I have fancy ones but a decent rock or piece of wood will work)


  • 1 – Park your Jeep on level ground.
  • 2 – Remove your spare tire and place it near your passenger rear tire but out of the way.
  • 3 – Place wheel chocks or whatever you are using on both sides of a tire that will remain on the ground.

  • 4 – Place the jack stand under the rear axle towards the passenger side but leave room for the jack to be placed next to it.
  • 5 – Extend the jack until it just touches the axle.

  • 6 – Use the breaker bar, extension (if needed), and the socket to break the lug nuts loose. You only need to rotate them about 90-180 degrees for now.

  • 7 – Jack the Jeep up until the tire is off of the ground a couple of inches and extend the jack stand insuring it is squarely placed under the axle tube.
  • 8 – Release the jack so that the axle is sitting on the jack stand and the tire is still off of the ground.

  • 9 – Completely remove the lug nuts and set them aside.
  • 10 – Remove the tire and place it near your passenger front tire but out of the way. (Note: This is a good time to check your lug studs, brakes, and remove any excess mud/debris.)

  • 11 – Place your spare tire on the Jeep and start all of the lug nuts by hand.

  • 12 – Run each all the way up and tighten as best as you can to secure the wheel to the Jeep. It is best to jiggle the wheel while tightening to make sure it is properly aligned and seated.

  • 13 – Extend the jack back up to the axle tube until you can remove the jack stand from under the Jeep.
  • 14 – Remove the jack stand.
  • 15 – Release the jack slowly to let the Jeep back down to the ground.
  • 16 – Set the torque wrench to the appropriate setting (we use 95 ft-lbs for our wheels) and use the extension (if needed) and socket to torque the lug nuts in a star pattern.

  • 17 – Repeat steps 3 through 16 for the passenger front, driver rear, and driver front.
  • 18 – Place your “new” spare tire on the Jeep and properly secure it.

Good Job! You are all done… but not quite. Make sure to check your tire pressures, especially if there has been large temperature changes since your last rotation… and then you are done.

So, when is it time to have all this fun again? I like to do tire rotations every 2500 miles on our Jeeps with large void tires (I put my Duratracs in this category). This may be a bit of overkill but I would rather do this often and early than push for longer and be fighting poor wear because I overshot.

Hope this helps you or was at least a good read!