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Month: October 2016

Don’t lose your rig to rust, prep for winter!

Don’t lose your rig to rust, prep for winter!

If you have ever seen the bottom of a vehicle that is from an area that requires snow and ice prevention, you know what it does. Lately, transportation departments have employed some new countermeasures that, while very effective at snow and ice prevention, are down right brutal to the metal on your precious ride. Today, you will not only find granular sodium chloride (salt), magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate, and potassium acetate, but also liquid forms are being used for pre-snow treatments. These liquid forms are far more effective at finding their way into areas of your Jeep that are difficult to clean and leaving them in place is a sure fire way to accelerate rust development.

It seems many of you have already felt the wrath of salty water on metal, as my little post yesterday about us winter prepping our Jeeps sparked several questions on exactly what we do and use. So, I tried to document the process I use while prepping Dirty (the JKU) today. For what it’s worth, we do most of this every time we trail ride, regardless of the season.

The process for us begins with a good cleaning. I’m not talking about a drive through the car wash and call it good “clean”, but rather a put on a good rain suit and crawl under the Jeep with a pressure washer kind of clean. I also tend to keep a rag handy and actually wipe everything down because I have found that no amount of water and spray will get off what a little rubbing with a rag will. When done, we like to go for a small drive before parking and letting everything dry overnight.

When you crawl under the Jeep the next morning, or whenever you get back to it, prepare to be a bit disappointed. No matter how hard I have worked under the Jeep with the pressure washer and rag, there are always a few spots I have missed that looked clean when everything was wet.

Here are a few pictures of what our belly looked like after this first cleaning once dry.

I know how tempting it is to just grab some spray paint right now and go to town, but I have learned that any cut corners and you might as well not even bother. Every step is the foundation for the next. There are undoubtedly spots of surface rust around some rock rash and maybe some burs that need to be sanded down. I have an arsenal of sanding and polishing disks I use on a die-grinder to clean up all the rust spots and burs.

Next, it’s time to put some elbow grease into it and clean the bottom again… 😯 You heard me… clean some more. Why, you ask? Well, the light surface dirt you see will cause any primer and paint to adhere poorly. Not to mention there is likely a bunch of dust from the sanding you just did that should be cleaned off. The better you clean, the better the end result will be. I like to use a multi-purpose/glass gleaner along with an old towel.

The pictures below is where I ended up after the final cleaning.

I know you are itching to paint, but hold on… 😛 I highly recommend taping and masking off anything that you don’t want to paint. Even if you think it is out of the way and you won’t hit it, take the time to do this. If you ignore me… I have found that a bit of acetone on a rag will wipe spray paint off, but it’s pretty hard on whatever you are cleaning the paint off so it’s best to just mask it on the front end. We keep our paper towel rolls. A quick cut down the side and they make for easy masks for most of the parts you are likely trying to avoid.

Now, it’s time to grab a rattle-can, but not paint…. I prefer to first hit any of the areas that had rust or spots I took to bare metal with some zinc enriched primer. I have had really good luck with Rustoleum as a product, but their new cans that spray upside down have a serious nozzle problem that seems to clog easily so be sure to wipe it off in between coats.

Give the primer time to dry and then grab that paint can! It’s time to go to work.

Quick protective equipment note: You really should use a breathing mask and some sort of eye protection for all of this. I have done it without before and it’s just stupid. Even when I am lucky and avoided getting crap in my eyes, I picked paint boogers out of my nose for days. I can’t imagine it’s too good on the lungs.

Anyway, here is the post paint belly.

It is at this point where I often call it quits as this is our normal stopping point after a trail ride or before a show type event. However, with winter looming and all those rust promoting chemicals just on the horizon, I take it one step further. This is to add some additional prevention measures (beyond just paint). In the past, I have used the WD-40 product shown below. It has worked amazingly well for protection all winter long. This said, everyone keeps telling me that Fluid Film is far superior. Both are roughly the same price at $11/can, but the larger Fluid Film can was enough to tip me over the edge and give it a try.

I’m not sure exactly what the WD-40 is, but I liked that it dried into a solid and didn’t stay oily. Fluid Film is a lanolin based product which is safe on just about anything. I could have sworn I also read that it is supposed to dry solid, but even after a day it still seems oily and wet. Initially, I didn’t like this but, after more thought, I like that it has more time to run and penetrate more spots than the WD-40 did. The fluid film also came with a small straw for application into really tight spots.

As for the application, it really depends on the vehicle. For our rigs that will see lots of winter driving we spray just about everything pretty heavily. For Dirty, who sits in the shop on blocks most of the winter, I only hit the troublesome and sweet spots.

So, there it is… yes, it is quite labor intensive, but we feel it’s worth it. We use Dirty pretty hard, and while we can’t avoid the dents, we think her belly looks pretty good for a nearly 4 year old Ohio chassis. A few side benefits; we don’t have mud and dirt falling in our face when we work on her and the bolts don’t have to get cut off every time we need to take something off, we also have found many items needing some maintenance while cleaning BEFORE they got to the point of failure.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

It’s winter prep time!

It’s winter prep time!

Yep, it’s that time of year…. It’s time to prep the Jeeps for winter and try our best to slow the cancer that the salted roads creates.

Last year we used a product from WD40 that worked pretty well but everyone tells me Fluid Film is where it’s at… So we are giving it a go! Time will tell…

Hellcat-Powered Grand Cherokee Spied on the Street

Hellcat-Powered Grand Cherokee Spied on the Street

Turn up the volume (you’ll have to because it’s far more composed than I would like) and enjoy the sound of the 707HP supercharged asphalt eater!

Video is courtesy of YouTuber Sinister Life who spied the lightly-camouflaged Cherokee rolling around Detroit. I know some of you will argue it’s just another 470HP SRT Cherokee, but check out those giant Brembo brakes at about 2:14 and who could miss the belt-driven supercharger whine?


What do you think? Hellcat or Homebrew?


Rausch Creek October 15th, 2016 “Fall Season Closer Run”

Rausch Creek October 15th, 2016 “Fall Season Closer Run”

Every year we tend to wrap up our heavy off-roading season in mid to late fall so that we have time to clean and protect our rigs before winter (and its salted roads). This year there were only three rigs that were able to make it, but the small group size helped us keep a fast paced day with lots of trail coverage.

We began our day on CV Trail to Walk in the Park. Then, we took the hill out and grabbed Yellow Jacket on our way to play over on 8 for just a bit. With trail 8 being so short, it wasn’t long at all before we were done and decided to head over to Death Trap.

Since Death Trap lets out into Rock Creek, we had no choice but to bounce our way across it before hitting 13A out. We were planning to take 20 back up towards the East property, but as we nosed in I saw several Jeeps pointing opposite directions and none of them were moving. So, we decided to back out and take 12-A to 12-C the same direction. While they are much easier trails they are still kinda fun. I will say the logging that has been done in this area of the park still will leave you confused on where to go at times. There was some thought of grabbing Crawl Daddy, but it too had several rigs jammed up on it so we kept rolling.

Our eventual destination was the black hill climbs on the far east side of the property by Jotters Way. Here we played on Stair Step and went up/down a few of the hills before calling it a day.

It was a great time and, while the group ended up being very small, it enabled us to keep a really good pace and cover lots of challenging yet fun trails.

So with all of that said, how about some teaser pictures? …and check back for some video soon. Our son Kegan took a fair amount but I haven’t gone through it yet to know how much is usable.


…and to wrap up how about the video 🙂 😀 🙂

Shimmy, Thump, and Pfffffffflat!

Shimmy, Thump, and Pfffffffflat!


We need to get caught up on a few things here….
We noticed the new rubber had audible “thumps” while driving at highway speeds and a slight shimmy was felt in the steering wheel late last week. So, just before we headed out for our little weekend adventure (more on that later), we did a front to back rotation to try to identify the culprit tire. Sadly, there was no change which means they all need to be rebalanced. I was worried this might be the case as Goodyear tires are known to be a tough balance and, while the place we went to has a Road Force balancer, they didn’t use the feature.

Then, while out exploring, we picked up a screw and had to swap the spare on making the revisit to the tire shop a higher priority.

The screw barely broke through and was an easy repair, but getting the tires to properly Road Force out was trickier. In fact, two tires never achieved spec and had to be replaced.

The good news is that the thumping is gone and the balance is MUCH better…. the bad news is that we now have a pull to the left. 😯 This will need more troubleshooting, but for now we are focused on getting Dirty ready for this weekend’s Season Closer Run. 😎


Lifted Trailhawk VS Stock Limited

Lifted Trailhawk VS Stock Limited

We happened to park next to a standard stock KL Cherokee over the weekend… It illustrates the differences between the Trailhawk, lift, and tires we have changed pretty well. Granted we are comparing to a standard Cherokee, but still… 😉

KL Cherokee Trailhawk Fender Liner and Pinch Seam Trim for Larger Tires

KL Cherokee Trailhawk Fender Liner and Pinch Seam Trim for Larger Tires

Whether you are a fan of them or not, the KL Cherokee is still a Jeep and this means its owners will likely want to modify it. We are certainly no different! Although our plans are to keep our KL build mild, we still wanted a little bit better stance and larger tires that would offer just a bit more ground clearance.

We are still fairly new to the KL and its nuances, but others have been experimenting and building them since their release in ’14. This, of course, means there is information on the internet about what you can and can’t get away with. Unfortunately, we are learning that much of this information is inaccurate (imagine that?).

According to other sources on the interwebs, a KL with a mild lift like the one we are running can run 245/70r17 or 265/65r17 tires with very little to no trimming. Supposedly, it isn’t until you push into the ~32” diameter realm where a grinder is needed for fitment. Since we didn’t really want to trim that much, we opted for the 265/65r17s which measure very closely to a 31×10.50.

Imagine our surprise when we found that we were not able to turn the wheel more than 180 degrees off of center before the tires made significant contact with the rear portion of the front wheel-well. So much so, that with only a dozen or so turns (made as wide as we could) we had completely worn through the wheel-well liner and started to make contact with the pinch seams.

So, whether we liked it or not, we were in for some fender liner and pinch seam trimming. The steps below will walk you through what we had to do to get about a ¼” of clearance at ride height from lock to lock on the steering wheel. NOTE: We haven’t hit the trail yet, but it is possible that this may need to be opened up a bit more but we want to creep up on what is needed and not remove more than is absolutely necessary.

To begin, park the Jeep on level ground. Practice safety guidelines for jacking and removing one of the front wheels and grab the tools below.

  • 1 or 2 small flat blade pocket screwdriver(s)
  • Push-pin removal tool
  • ¼” drive ratchet
  • 6mm ¼” drive socket
  • Long zip-tie or short bungee cord
  • Razor knife (optional)
  • Cutting and sanding tools (referenced later)
  • Eye/ear protection
  • Vinyl or plastic shears

You will need to free the rear portion of the inner fender liner to gain access to the pinch seams that will need to be trimmed. To do so, remove the 5 push-pin retainers (indicated in red below). If you still have the factory plastic slider, you will also need to remove the retaining clip that holds the liner to it (indicated in green below).

The push-pin retainers used have two steps for removal. First, slightly pull the center portion out a little more than a quarter of an inch (see below). We like to use one or two small pocket screwdrivers for this part. It is easy to accidentally pull the center portion out completely. Don’t worry if you do, it can be put back together for reuse at reassembly.

With the center portion pulled out, the rest of the pin can now be removed. We like to use a body panel or push-pin removal tool, but it can also be done with the pocket screwdrivers if you are careful.

Using the 6mm socket and ratchet, significantly loosen the screw on the “slider” where the liner meets it. The screw does not have to come all the way out but it doesn’t hurt if it does.

Once loose, the clip can be pried out. This fastener is the plastic equivalent of a “Molly Bolt”. It will take more effort to get this clip out than the others. Once out (or by looking at the picture below) you will understand why. This clip will not be reused.

Once the clip and all of the push pins are removed, the rear half of the liner can be pulled loose and folded over to gain access to the pinch seams that need to be trimmed. A zip-tie or bungee cord will work to hold it in place. NOTE: You could also remove the liner completely, but this seemed to be more hassle than it was really worth.

An optional step… We like to remove as much of the factory pinch seam seal material that we can prior to cutting. We have found that it causes a bunch of smoke and abrasive cutting disks to work less effectively when left in place. A simple razor knife will remove it easily.

Before you start cutting, we HIGHLY recommend marking where you intend to cut. It is really easy to get ahead of yourself and off track. This is definitely one of those “measure twice, cut once” moments. Below, is where we marked prior to cutting… You can also get a feel for how much metal will need to be removed.

I won’t lie to you… This is where you will have to toughen up a bit if you’re timid to cutting on your Jeep. This part of the job is relatively violent. I used all of the tools below to complete the job.

Take your time. No matter how much of the factory seal material you removed, there will be smoke. Make several small cuts and take breaks to minimize it. It isn’t a bad idea to have a fire extinguisher handy just in case, especially when using abrasive type cutting tools. Be sure to pay attention to spark/and chip directions and wear eye/ear protection. TAKE YOUR TIME (yes, I meant to say it twice).

Once satisfied with the amount of material removed, be sure to clean up/smooth out the rough edges.

Another optional step… We like to take a little JB Weld type putty to smooth some voids. This is largely to help cleaning, but also seal any openings that were opened due to the cutting. (If you live in the rust belt like us, we highly encourage this step.)

While the JB Weld putty (or in our case a coat of primer) sets up, you can turn your focus to the liner that will need trimmed.

In the two images below, you can see what we needed to remove for reference. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear direction I can offer on this. It’s more of a trial and error thing. I used vinyl siding shears and it worked amazingly well.

The line in red below is, more or less, what you will be shooting for.

Before you put the liner back into place and reinstall the push-pins, complete the priming and painting of the freshly cut metal and area. I used a zinc enriched primer (Rustoleum) and some rubberized undercoating to cover and mask the modifications.

Once the primer and paint is dry, reinstall the liner and use the factory clips to hold it in place.

NOTE: I found the liner wanted to fall toward the tire a bit and ended up adding a ¼” push-pin to resolve this. These pins can be purchased at any auto parts store. If you are more of an online shopper, this link will help. PUSH PIN LINK This will mean drilling a ¼” hole through the liner and metal. If this bothers you, automotive grade double-sided tape (emblem tape) may also work.

That’s it for the rear portion of the wheel-well, but there is a little spot on the front that needs some attention before you remount the tire.

The lowermost portion of the wheel well surround extends just a bit too far inside and will need to be cut off or trimmed back.

I used a pneumatic reciprocating (body) saw and buzzed it off in just a few seconds. Just a 3-4” was sufficient for us.

…and there you have it! One side done! Repeat on the other side.

Once you’re back on the ground be sure to check the clearances again and make adjustments as necessary. It took us a few times to get where we are and, as I mentioned earlier, trail flex may show a bit more is still needed.

Slave Cylinder?

Slave Cylinder?

Whelp… it sounds like the slave cylinder is about to go (popping and creaking). Mrs. SSS has been taking advantage of the good weather and driving Dirty all week for some naked Jeep time and noticed it tonight on the way home.

Hopefully, the issue is just this or the master cylinder as much more and we will be done with this Jeep for the season. According to the interwebs, this is a fairly common issue.

We went ahead and ordered one… Part number 52060133AD $58.46 from Quadratec. All the dealers wanted more than two times that and didn’t have it in stock. The only issue I have with ordering from Q-tec is the wait. They are only one state away but it always takes 7-9 days to get their stuff. This should be fine though. To be honest, I think we are planning to just have one ready and try to finish the wheeling season with it making noise. 🙄 🙁

How about ground clearance?

How about ground clearance?

I just finished trimming the fender and pinch seams (I may have some tweaking to do yet) and will work on the article this weekend.

While I was out there I took some measurements now that Klondike is at the ride height she will be at for the foreseeable future. She has 12″ of clearance to the ground on an almost completely flat belly. The only exceptions are at the front lower arms which at their lowest point are 10″ and the rear lower arms which drop to 8.5″ of clearance. These low spots are only at the corners where the goal will be to have the tire anyway.

To put this into perspective a bit… Dirty only has 12″ of ground clearance at the differentials. If the rear shock mounts were stock they would hang even lower…

31×10.50 Tires ON!

31×10.50 Tires ON!

Having sold the Firestone tires that came on Klondike, we were in the market for new rubber and fast. Since we had so much luck with the Goodyear Duratracs that were on Lil-Punkin’, the choice was easy. Especially since there are so few options in this tire size and even less if you are looking for a passenger tire and not a heavy load “LT”. Luckily, the local shop had some available in the size we wanted and just like that… our little KL was on 31s.


The good news is we love the new stance and ride… The bad news is, in spite of all the information in the interwebs, some fender trimming in the front WILL be needed for this KL to clear the ~31 inch tires. Additionally, the spare will not fit in it’s storage area either. So, we are working with the tire shop to swap out the tire to a 245/70r17 which will have the same diameter (height) but be slightly narrower than the 265/65 which are ~10.5″ wide.