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Month: December 2016

Klondike is getting some armor!

Klondike is getting some armor!

Klondike’s sliders have arrived!

It seems the only purchasable options for KL Cherokee rocker armor is with Rocky Road Outfitters (RRO) or Mopar. We were trying to work with a few other fabrication shops but they have decided they are too busy with current projects and/or are not interested in supporting the KL. We had even considered making our own for a time and possibly selling them. The thing is, when SSS started to design them for what we were looking for, they were so similar to the Mopar sliders we just decided to go that route.

We were able to negotiate the price down from the MSRP of $1189 to $685 at our local dealer. This may seem like a bunch, but when you consider the metal, hardware, finishing, and consumables, it really isn’t that bad. We know the the RRO offering is still less expensive, but we are just not that impressed with the fit and finish of them.

Here is what the Mopar’s look like (featured on the Jeep concept “Trail Carver”).

Beyond the lift and tires, this is the first step we have made toward this overland rig project and are pretty excited to get them installed.

Look for the install write-up soon!

“Ehu” Our Home Away From Home

“Ehu” Our Home Away From Home

As we begin to set sights on our explorations and journeys for 2017, we have come to the realization that we need to up our game. Specifically in our ability to stay off the grid for longer periods of time.

In the past, we have always been ones to go pretty hard during the day playing in the dirt, but relish the hot shower and warm dry bed found at a local hotel in the evenings. The problem is, we have been venturing farther and farther off the beaten path and hotels aren’t always there when we need one. Even when they are, our regular travel starts to take a toll on the wallet and hotels aren’t getting any cheaper! If for no other reason than the overland trip we are planning for next year, something needed to change.

So, without further adieu… I’d like to introduce you to the first step on a new project named “Ehu”.  Ehu is the Cherokee word for home (dwelling). It is quite fitting as this will be our home away from home. While our planning for ’17 is still very much in its infancy stages, we are already looking at 45 nights worth of need with the first being in early May, so we need to get cracking!

To kick things off we ordered an awesome roof-top tent and annex from Freespirit Recreation (gofsr.com).

This is just the first step to a much larger project though as we will not actually be mounting this to a roof at all, but actually to the top of a small trailer. This will allow for use with any of our three vehicles. So, whether we are traveling and exploring with Dirty (JKUR), Klondike (KL Cherokee), or Roadrunner (more on this one soon), we will be just as prepared!

To be completely honest, we are still on the fence as to whether the trailer will be one that we design and make for ourselves, or purchase turn-key, but we are leaning toward making our own for our specific needs and desires. It would, however, end up being very similar to the Freespirit Recreation Trailer seen below.

This trailer is actually very close to what we want, but we need to incorporate the following and by the time that happens it seems we would be better off making one ourselves.

  • 3-axis hitch
  • Spare tire provisions
  • Jerrycan or RotopaX (need to carry at least 10 gallons)
  • Water (Need to carry at least 10 gallons)
  • Provisions to hold 4-6 Maxtrax
  • A small tongue box for recovery straps and gear that may get muddy.

The tent in the two trailer pictures above are not what we ordered… We went with the Extreme Series Canopy in Medium and also included the Annex which is where Kegan will actually stay on a cot while Alana and I are above in the tent.

We are pretty excited about this project and the opportunities it opens! Check back often as we will be pretty active with this project over the next few months as we prepare for next year!

Wrangler JL, Scrambler JT: Rumors Fade

Wrangler JL, Scrambler JT: Rumors Fade

As the estimated release of the JL and JT creep closer, some of the rumors are starting to be confirmed.

We will, in fact, see some new powertrain options as well as “upgrades” to the existing Pentastar V6 that is currently offered in the JK.

A diesel has been confirmed (which is good) but that diesel will be the 3.0l VM/Motori engine so I don’t expect much wind to be caught by these sails.

While still a “prediction”, chatter on a 2.0l “Hurricane Four” continues. This said, one has to wonder though why two engines with such similar performance characteristics will be offered. The Pentastar is presently at 292-305 HP and this Hurricane Four is expected to be ever so slightly shy of this. So, my prediction is the Pentastar (as we know it today) will be swapped for the new 2.0l a few model years down the road.

Transmission confirmations have also been made and the 850RE will be put to the test in the new Wrangler. While the tech will not change much from other transmissions currently in use, the JL will see 8-speeds. Don’t get too excited about this though. Our Cherokee has 9-speeds, but only 7 are used through 75 MPH, so unless you travel at warp-speed you likely will not be able to make use of the big overdrive gearing.

The most alarming news I read was the one-liner about “There will also be new axles, likely more efficient than the current ones”. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean lighter… Don’t get me wrong. I love saving weight, but the JK axles start out great in the center-section and then go into cheap mode as you move out. The light materials that have been used is one of the biggest weaknesses of the axles and, since there isn’t much that can be done to improve the efficiency of a solid axle beyond weight and size, I’m concerned to say the least!

Check out the post from Allpar.com below, and tell us your thoughts.


The Jeep Wrangler “JL” and a related pickup are still on the way, according to sources, with dates and options firming up.

As Automotive News predicted, one engine option will be a 2.0 liter “Hurricane Four,” which may debut on the Cherokee first. This is likely to be around 240-280 horsepower, depending on application, with SRT trying to get their version to hit 300 (the Pentastar V6 is rated at 292-305 hp in cars). The Wrangler has already been photographed with this engine.

Jeep Wrangler JL

Jeep purists can be mollified by the appearance, at long last, of a diesel, now believed to be the 3.0 VM V6. This isn’t especially surprising, since dealers already have training, tools, and replacement parts for that engine. The four-cylinder VM or FPT diesel thought to be viable for the Wrangler may have been dropped due to its length, expense of certifying for US emissions, or power.

A new 850RE transmission will debut for the Wrangler; we believe this is not just a minor change to the 845RE, but is based on the second generation ZF eight-speed automatic.  There will also be new axles, likely more efficient than the current ones.

The other options discussed for the last year or two on Allpar — a power soft top, three-piece hardtop, glass-panel roof option, new UConnect 8.4 navigation, and upgraded Pentastar V6 — have all been confirmed.

The new Jeeps will likely be launched sometime in summer/fall 2017, with ordering and production by the end of the year. The pickup will follow around a year after the main Wrangler.


SOURCE

WeatherTech KL Cherokee “FloorLiner” Review

WeatherTech KL Cherokee “FloorLiner” Review

There are many things we like about our KL Cherokee. We have come to enjoy exploring with some comforts and this little Trailhawk has a bunch of features that make long road or trail days nice. One feature we don’t really like (or even understand) is the carpeted floor Jeep has made standard across its vehicles. Sure it cuts down on heat and road noise, but it’s tough to keep looking decent.

The most common solution to this would be to get some rubber floor mats. And when we were ordering Klondike this is exactly what we did. Sadly, the factory floor mats are lacking coverage in some places sure to see lots of wear and tear. The dead pedal that is built into the driver’s side floor is completely left uncovered.  Oddly enough, this usually isn’t something we care about with an auto transmission, but find ourselves putting our left foot there with Jeep fairly often. The result in just 5k miles is carpet that is matted and dirty.

 

With winter knocking at the door and all the salt, road grime, and wetness that comes with it, we began looking for other options. After a fairly extensive internet search and some phone calls, we settled in on WeatherTech’s FloorLiner kit.

We purchased them directly from WeatherTech for just over $189.90 plus shipping. The kit would include both driver and passenger front mats (liners) but also the rear, which is a large one-piece instead of the factory two.

 

We couldn’t be happier with the fit and finish of these liners. They dropped and locked into place absolutely perfectly.  Our only slight dissatisfaction is that the dead petal is still not completely covered. Still, coverage is greatly improved.

 

Here is a shot of the passenger side. Nearly every bit of the carpet is now protected.

 

The rear mat is in a whole new realm of carpet protection. Again the fit was absolutely perfect! Another very slight negative that is best visible in this picture is the color that is close, but still off just a bit. They don’t match the plastic, carpet, or leather, rather falling somewhere in the middle of them all.

 

In Summary:

The fit of the WeatherTech FloorLiner is absolutely perfect. Coverage is greatly increased but there still are some areas where carpet will see wear and dirt.

Color is close, but not exact. We suspect those with the more popular black interior rather than our chocolate wouldn’t have this issue.

There is less texture with these liners than with the factory mats, while we got in and out several times (almost trying to slip) and always found the traction we needed, our feet were clean. Adding a covering of mud may change this.

Would we order them again? Yes, without hesitation.

KL Cherokee 3.2L Pentastar Engine Oil Change

KL Cherokee 3.2L Pentastar Engine Oil Change

No matter how you use your vehicle, routine maintenance is a necessity. Changing the engine oil is one of the higher frequency ones. Sure, you could visit the local quick change place and have them do it for you, but really, it’s a pretty easy job that can be done with a few simple hand tools and time.

Hopefully this “How-to” write-up will inspire you to give it a go.

 

Before you begin:

As I mentioned you will need some basic hand tools. Rummage through your tool box and make sure you have the following:

  • Oil Catch Pan (One with a pour spout is a plus)
  • Funnel
  • 13mm socket and ratchet (a 13mm wrench can also be used)
  • 24mm socket and ratchet w/6” extension (I use a t-handle rather than the ratchet)
  • Small pick (a small flat head screwdriver can also be used)
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Drive up ramps or jack and jack stands (optional)

Beyond tools, you will also need to make a trip to the local auto parts store for the following:

  • 6 quarts of 5W-20 ¹
  • Oil Filter ²

 

With the above items handy, let’s get going!

 

Begin by pulling the nose of your KL up onto some ramps to gain some extra clearance for the work that will be done underneath. Alternately, you could jack up the front and support it with Jack stands. In truth, this is optional but makes the job a bit easier in the long run.

Ensure the vehicle is in Park and the emergency brake is set. Then, open the hood and remove the oil fill cap and set it aside. It can be found on the front passenger side of the engine. This is to allow air flow so the old oil will drain better.

 

 

Next, grab the oil catch pan along with the 13mm socket and ratchet. Place the catch pan under the drain plug (which can be found on the passenger side of the engine).  Shift it toward the back of the Jeep as the oil will drain in an arc, especially in the beginning.

I like to loosen the plug with the socket and ratchet but remove it completely by hand as it allows for better control. This helps prevent accidentally dropping the plug into the pan with the old oil.

 

As mentioned, the oil will come out in an arc so account for this when placing the catch pan.

 

You will have undoubtedly gotten some oil on your hands and the plug… While wiping up, inspect the drain plug seal for any cuts or damage that could lead to leaks.

 

Once the oil flow has drained to a drip, reinstall the drain plug but there is no need to crank on it. While I never torque it, the specification is only 25 ft-lbs.

Give the pan and plug a final wipe down. You’re all done with the underside work!

 

The 3.2L Pentastar that is found in V6 Cherokees share a similar oil filter design to its 3.6L big brother. The oil filter housing is part of the engine and only the filter media itself is replaced.

Access to the filter housing is gained via an access hole on the passenger side of the engine cover. Turn the cover counter-clockwise about 30 degrees before lifting the cover.

 

Once the cover is out of the way you will see the oil filter housing and cap below.

 

Loosen and remove the oil filter cap using a 24mm socket and extension. Note:  the cap is spring loaded, so it will feel a little odd when being unscrewed.

Once completely loose, remove the cap and filter which will be attached to it. There will be some oil dripping from the filter so have some paper towels and/or rags handy.

 

The filter is held in place by a small plastic detent. To remove it from the cap, just give it a little tug. Your new filter should have come with a new cap seal (o-ring). Be sure to swap the o-ring out on the cap before snapping the new filter onto it.

 

Once you have replaced the oil filter cap seal and snapped the new filter into place, reinstall the assembly back in/on the engine. I was unable to find a torque spec for the filter cap, but it will be clear when it is fully screwed in. There is no need to over-tighten it.

Replace the inspection cover.

You are now ready to install the new oil.

We typically purchase a 5 quart jug of oil and one stand-alone quart to save some money. The larger jug can be tricky to start pouring even with a large funnel. A trick I learned is to cut a small opening from the foil seal along with a port for air rather than just remove the foil all together.

 

Once all 6 quarts of oil are poured in you can reinstall the oil fill cap and you are done!

 

“Wait” you say? “I forgot to check the level!” In my opinion there really is no need to check the oil unless you can’t count to 6 and think you may have missed a quart or you spilled a bunch. But since I know there are many that will disagree, here you go:

Start the engine and let it run for at least two minutes. Then turn it off (Oil level can only be checked with the engine OFF). Wait another two minutes. Remove the oil dip-stick (yellow ring at the very front of the engine). Wipe all oil off of the stick with a rag and reinstall it.

Remove the dip stick again and look at the oil level which will be found at the very bottom.

Sorry for the bad picture, but you can still see the markings on the dip stick above. The markings indicate the 6th quart. The oil should be touching or at the upper marks when the engine oil is full. If the oil is at the lower marks, the engine is one quart low.

Note: Ours looks just a touch low because I didn’t wait the two minutes to ensure all the oil had drained back into the pan prior to taking this picture.

 

Wrapping up:

Another reason I like to purchase oil in one large 5 quart jug and then add a single quart is also for the clean-up. My catch pan has a pour spout and I turn around and pour the used oil I just took out of the engine, right back into the now empty new oil jugs. This makes for easy transport to the oil recycler.

There are also some catch pans that have lids or can transport the oil to the recycler without this step.

Recycling used motor oil works differently depending on where you live, but it’s an important step. Here in Ohio, any place that sells motor oil, must also accept it for recycling.

Just a few more comments:

¹ Jeep recommends oil that meets or exceeds MS-6395. This is an old and outdated specification and it can be tricky to find oil with it. The type of oil we are using in this write up has NOT been tested for MS-6395. It does however meet or exceed the required specifications.  If you are concerned about warranty ramifications, Mobil Super Synthetic does have MS-6395 approval but was not available for us locally. It also is vastly more expensive.

 

² We use either Wix or Mobil-1 filters based on availability. The filter part number we used here is a Wix WL10010.

PUG Update (Engine not the Dog …or is it?)

PUG Update (Engine not the Dog …or is it?)

David Zats with Allpar released an “update” (if you want to call it that) on the almost forgotten upgraded Pentastar V6s. If you read that sarcastically, that is good because the update is that there isn’t one beyond “it’s still coming”.

That’s right… no dates, no information on what vehicle will get it, nada!

There is some chatter about competing with other V6s backed by multi-speed transmissions. To this I would say, work on housekeeping of what you have before developing something new. Our Cherokee has Jeep’s first “9” speed transmission. The 9 is in quotes because we have to be going north of 75 miles-per-hour and on stone flat land to sneak in a few moments of the 8th gear. The slightest upgrade and it is immediately dropped for 7th and sometimes shoots straight to 6th. Personally, I think it’s nothing more than marketing as a 9th gear seems impossible. The result is worse fuel economy than a Ford that has a larger engine, less speeds, and weighs far more….

Still (and to relax from my negative attitude a bit) who isn’t excited about the idea of more power?


It’s now literally been years since we first talked about PUG, the Pentastar engine UpGrade. It’s still coming, even after an initial set of improvements to Chrysler’s sole V6 — which is also, heavily modified, used by Maserati.

Pentastar V6

The Pentastar is competitive as is, with up to 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque coupled with good economy, but there are still improvements to make, including adding direct injection. The company apparently also has plans to use a double-roller cam, better cam phasing, and forced induction.

Sources within Auburn Hills have told us that the Saltillo plant will be dedicated to PUG production, while Trenton and/or Mack Avenue will make the “legacy” Pentastar until they switch over as well.

We don’t know which car or truck will be first to get the upgraded V6, but we have heard that the next Ram 1500, coded DT,  is due for a twin-turbo V6, which will do battle with Ford’s turbocharged sixes.  Truck powertrains are increasingly competitive, with Ram’s eight-speeds being challenged now by nine and ten speed Ford and Chevy transmissions, and the VM diesel finally seeing domestic competition.

Source

JCR Offroad JK Inner Knuckle (“C”) Gusset Review

JCR Offroad JK Inner Knuckle (“C”) Gusset Review

With every Jeep generation release there has been improvements when compared to it’s predecessor. Unfortunately, sometimes these improvements create weaknesses in other areas. This is exactly the case with the JK’s inner knuckle or “C”. The JK Inner knuckle is larger than previous Wrangler generations which allows for larger u-joints. The larger u-joints are great, but it seems opening this knuckle up to make room for them increased the leverage just enough that the “Cs” themself are now a weakness and are prone to bending.

To compound the issue, JKs are able to fit pretty large tires with very little modification. Trimming fenders and widening the stance is about all that is needed to clear 35s. The added tire mass and lower wheel backspacing (stance) only makes this already venerable area more prone to bending.

Once bent, which can be detected by negative camber during an alignment or often visually, there is little that can be done. Upper offset ball joints can bring the camber back into spec, but they are often weaker and more prone to wear versus a standard ball joint. Since JKs (especially ones with large tires and/or a wide stance) seem to eat ball joints as is, most are either faced with poor tire wear and handling or shopping for a new housing.

An alternate solution is prevention… A whole host of manufacturers make off-the-shelf gussets that are ready to be welded on to strengthen the Cs. We have personally installed Teraflex, EVO, Synergy, Rock Krawler (Upper only), and now JCR. They all do the job but each has their own little differences. There are essentially two types of gusset designs. Teraflex and Rock Krawler use a single piece of metal that is fairly thick to support the center-line of the knuckle (“C”). EVO, Synergy, and JCR use a plate design that supports the sides of the knuckles. We prefer this latter design.

While similar in design, there are a few things that make the JCR Offroad gussets different. For one, the upper knuckle is supported slightly lower than with the EVO or Synergy variants. This is nice if you are trying to install these and save the ball joints but does offer slightly less support as a result.  Another difference is in the lower gussets. The JCR lower gussets are not ambidextrous. There is one that is specifically made for each side. This is nice as it allows for more welding surface on the back of the axle, but could be an issue for those running some coil-over or lower shock relocation brackets.

While somewhat trivial, JCR also takes the time to weld the seam on the lower gussets. It’s not that big of a deal to do with the EVO or Synergy ones, but it’s nice to have this done out of the box.

One thing I didn’t care for with the JCR gussets was their fit. There were larger gaps in multiple places where a fair amount of filling had to be done. While this is also common with the EVO and Synergy installs I’ve done, it was much more pronounced with these. This is best seen post install by the gap at the bend, near the top of the upper gusset. This is a normal spot I leave open, but usually this is only a 1/4″ or so. These were closer to a 1/2″.

If you have installed (or inspected) other similarly designed gussets, you will likely notice how much further down these sit on the upper “C” near the ball joint.

We were also replacing the ball joints while installing these gussets and the biggest issue I came across was when reinstalling the knuckle. It is pretty common for the wheel-speed sensor bracket to rotate while installing the castle nut. For the driver’s side the direction turned the bracket toward the gusset and actually caused a pretty bad interference, so much so it bent the bracket when turning the knuckle to lock.

To correct this I had to get a helper to hold the bracket in place with a small pry bar (rotated the opposite way) while I tightened the castle nut. Again, no biggie, but if you are working solo or miss this it could lead to a damaged sensor cable. This has not been an issue with any of the EVO or Synergy gussets we have installed.

In summary:

There is nothing wrong with these gussets, they are cheap insurance for a known weakness on the JK housings. Having installed other variants, these are not my preference, but I wouldn’t hesitate to install these again should a friend be in need and this is what they had.

 


 

Other notes on Installing Inner Knuckle “C” Gussets:

  • Not all welders (the people or machines) are the same. I have seen a ton of people get these installed at a muffler shops. Most muffler shops have small welders that are designed to weld fairly thin metal. The result can be poor penetration and a weld that is literally just sitting on top or the metal making the gussets look cool, but be totally useless. If you can’t weld yourself look for a shop that does fabrication work. They will be better prepared for this type of job.
  • While the install looks really simple and quick, the preparation is a bear. Welding quality is as much about the preparation as the welding itself. The paint/rust is tough to clean and lots of consumables and time go into it. I used a small die grinder and used a course wire brush, two 2″ paint removal disks, and a 2″ sanding disk. They are not cheap…. Keep this in mind when shopping for someone to install them for you.
  • Be prepared to install ball joints as part of the install or shortly thereafter, especially if you still have the stock ones. A great deal of heat is put into the knuckle around the ball joints and it damages the them. While we have successfully installed them and not damaged the stock joints, it greatly increases the time of install and usually means another person needs to be present. The second person is used to cool the series of small welds (~1/2 to 3/4″) with a wet rag immediately after completed. Most shops are not interested in adding the labor and/or time.
Factory Half Doors Returning on JL Wrangler

Factory Half Doors Returning on JL Wrangler

I learned some amazing news today about the next generation JL Wrangler…. It will have three door options that mimic the JK’s offering of manual, power, and HALF. The first two may not surprise you much, but the last (half) is pretty big. Especially since there was a time when it was rumored there wouldn’t even be a soft top version of the vehicle.

Beyond the door options being a huge relief for us half door fans, this also sheds a great deal of insight on the top options we will see when the JL is officially revealed. Why? Well, I can’t imagine a half door package that was not fitted with a soft top. (Sure, I know people that run hard tops and half doors, but in my opinion they are weird! 😛 )

half_door_1

Some of you that have been following Seven Slot Syndicate for a while, or know me personally, know that I work in automation. I work for a local automation distributor so I am in lots of factories all over the Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee area. My customers are engineers and maintenance type folks and I assist them in the design and upkeep of automation equipment. Today I visited a customer that is making the assembly equipment and line for the JL doors. So, my source is rather solid…

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any doors around as the line and equipment is still in its early stages. Even if there was, I wouldn’t have been able to share… 🙁

For now, you will have to find comfort in the news and that the JL might not be the “abomination” it once seemed to be destined to become.