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Month: February 2017

FCA Extends Warranty on JK/JKU Clocksprings

FCA Extends Warranty on JK/JKU Clocksprings

Does your airbag light come on and chime at you? Has your horn or steering wheel buttons stopped working?  If you haven’t experienced your clockspring going out, you probably have heard about someone else’s as it is a common failure on JKs/JKUs. Clockspring failures are not an all or none situation. Some of the below symptoms can have other causes if they are occurring by themselves. However, if there are multiple things going on like you have little electrical gremlins. (BTW…Don’t give the JK a bath or feed it after midnight…) Look to the clockspring as the culprit.

  • horn stops working
  • cruise control stops working
  • radio control buttons stop working
  • airbag light on and chimes many, many, many times
  • windshield wipers and/or washer fluid sprays suddenly while driving
  • horn suddenly goes off while driving

It is important to note that if your airbag light is coming on, even if it is randomly happening, it is important to have it looked it as soon as you possibly can. There have been instances of the airbag not deploying during an accident, as well as, airbags deploying while driving without any impact or accident occurring. I don’t know about you but that would be one serious pucker moment if the airbag deploys spontaneously! 😯

Given the number of complaints from JK/JKU owners about the airbag issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed multiple investigations. In the end, FCA issued a recall in May 2016 for certain 2011-2016 right hand drive models but it is only for the airbag failures. FCA has decided to take the situation a step further and extended the warranty coverage on the clockspring from the normal 3 years/36,000 miles to 15 years/unlimited miles.

We received the letter below advising of the coverage change.

 


 

 

 


 

They included with the letter a claim form for those that have already experienced issues with their clockspring outside of the original warranty period and had to pay for the repair.  One thing to note is that they say “you may be eligible to receive a reimbursement” in the letter. You will need to complete the online form (www.fcarecallreimbursement.com) or mail in the completed claim form shown below and include the original receipts, invoices and/or repair order. I am guessing they know they will be inundated with these and state that your claim will be acted upon within 60 days of receipt.

 


 

 


 

What I find interesting is that they are only extending the coverage on this item IF the air bag light is on or if the air bag circuit is compromised. I guess it’s back to the old school way of tuning your radio and maintaining a constant speed of travel. Oh and don’t mind the wipers and washer fluid spontaneously blocking your view while driving. 🙄

 

What do you think? Let us know by commenting below.

 

 

Shawnee State (Ohio) Forestry Roads

Shawnee State (Ohio) Forestry Roads

If you are looking for a little backcountry getaway, Ohio’s Shawnee State Forest may be just the right destination. Especially if you are looking for more of a drive than a hike. With the recent cold snap and projects on pause, this is just what we were looking for.

The forest itself is nearly 64,000 acres and is nestled between the Scioto and Adams counties. Nicknamed “The Little Smokies of Ohio” there are some similarities, but I personally think this is stretching it a bit. The Shawnee Forest is the largest state forest in Ohio but is far from an untouched resource. We were a bit saddened to see all of the logging that is present. Throughout our visit, evidence of past and current logging is evident.

The Shawnee is also one of the only state lands to have open forestry roads. These roads are very well maintained. There would be no problem exploring this area in any vehicle. To this point, exploration by car is likely the way most will utilize the area. An exception to this would be if you had horses. Bridle trails are plentiful and from what we could tell well maintained. A massive place for improvement would be in hiking trails. While the forest does have over 60 miles of hiking trails, they are not well suited for day use, but rather for backpackers looking to backcountry camp on multi-day hikes.

Our visit would begin on the north side of the forest and meander along the forestry roads in an serpentine fashion. We would be following a modified version of the “Panoramic Scenic Drive “. Our hopes were that we would catch the highlights of this loop but also get into the more remote areas. We used Maplets to navigate the park. The map below is the path we took.

 

Once in the forest, it didn’t take us long to realize a fall revisit is absolutely necessary. While many of the views were just a bit too masked for pictures, it was easy to see the through the trees in person to wonderful views of the valleys below the high spots.

 

About a third of the way into our loop we passed the Copperhead Fire Tower. We learned that this 1924 built structure was the first fire watch tower in Ohio and still stands strong. It is open for the public and, even though it was pretty cold and very windy, we decided to make the 60 foot climb to the top.

 

 

In a quest for pictures, I was the only one to make the full climb with Alana and Kegan stopping after about 40 feet for either being cold and/or being bothered by the wind.

I can’t wait for a fall sunset/sunrise revisit here.

 

As we headed back toward Klondike (and her heated seats and steering wheel). I grabbed this shot of the road we were on. As you can see, even the gravel/dirt roads are in excellent shape. There really is no reason any car couldn’t handle this journey.

 

Just around the corner from the spot above was a large overlook that was begging for a photo-op in spite of the fact we had yet to fully warm from the fire tower climb. I was hoping for a family picture here, but Alana and Kegan were not getting out so it’s another shot of Klondike in the landscape. As you can see the running lights are still on, this is because the Jeep is running with the heat on max!

 

Back on the road for some time, we were soon transitioning to the southern half of the forest that is split by SR-125. About half way along this transition is a small loop for access to Wolfden Run Lake. It’s not much of a drive at all, but is a gem of a location for fishing, day camp, or picnic. In our case…. It was another photo-op with just Klondike. I will take the blame on this one though as I backed here up to the water’s edge and it was a bit muddy to get out. (In truth, I asked if they wanted out before backing there and the mud was more of an excuse to stay in 😉 .)

 

While we enjoyed the drive through the southern part of the forest, there were not many special spots for pictures. This was largely due to the dark and chilly weather along with our unwillingness to get out and walk a bit. Normally, weather doesn’t deter us too much but we knew before we even set out on this trip we were not feeling like much more than a drive.

Another note on this area is that there is still a fair amount of visible damage present from the 2009 fires that charred approximately 2800 acres. As if this were not sad enough, it’s made even worse by the knowledge that the cause was ruled arson but remains unsolved.

As we headed out of the area we crossed a small bridge that had a stream running over a solid slab of rock. The reds in the stone and green of the moss was honestly pretty amazing in this otherwise very brown environment.

 

It might sound weird, but this little spot made our day. Alana rolled down the window and we just listened to the water for a few minutes. I’m pretty sure she even took some phone video.

 

It’s always interesting what you can find and enjoy when you just slow down and open your eyes. These little trips help ground us and realize the world and life is much more special than just working and paying bills. Take a break from the “hustle and bustle”…. Explore! You might find more than you expect.

 

Hopefully you enjoyed this. If so, please leave a comment.

 

Lots of progress on Ehu this week!

Lots of progress on Ehu this week!

I did my very best to capitalize on the warm weather we had this week and even took a vacation day Friday. The result is a fair amount of progress on our overland trailer. In fact, I almost worked myself out of work until a few more parts arrive.

What did I accomplish you ask? Well, for starters I modified the center-cap hole on the wheels to clear the EZ-Grease hub cap. I knew the clearance would be tight, but the JK center-cap hole was about 1/32″ – 1/8″ too tight. All that was really needed was to remove a small chamfer inside the hub. I did my best to get a picture of this, but it’s so little it’s hard to tell.

 

Another thing I needed to get going was some wheel spacers. I knew the JK wheels would not be able to swallow the depth of the trailer hub. My calculations on this were spot on. We needed at least 3/4″ more hub clearance. This said, I held off on ordering spacers because I also wanted to get the grease cap flush to just slightly protruding through the wheels when mounted and it would take 1 1/4″ to get this just right.

This will make more sense when you look at the hub below.

 

The custom spacers are now on order and should arrive Monday or Tuesday.

With this all figured out, I stopped by our local tire shop to have the tires mounted on the wheels. (Sorry, no pics)

I then began making some frame strengthening brackets for the Timbren arms. They have two mounting options: the outer bolts and frame stiffening brackets or the outer bolts and a tube to connect the two held in place by either bolting or welding. Since we know we will be beating on this trailer I opted for both.

The strengthening brackets themselves are 3/16″ plate with several gussets. I was pretty worried about all my layout work going to waste should my welding warp the thing out of wack, so I used several clamps to hold it in place while I welded it up and then left it clamped until completely cooled.

 

This worked well and I’m happy to report they remained flat and square! 🙂

Here is one all cleaned up and ready for install (front) and one just after being unclamped (rear).

 

While I was waiting on the frame supports to cool, I finished up the box framing. I still have one temporary support to remove, but decided to leave it on while we flipped the whole thing over for axle assembly.

 

Once the plates were cool and cleaned up, we flipped the trailer over. We also needed to get it out of the lift bay as Klondike is due for a tire rotation and I had some work to do on Dirty.

I’m not going to lie… We opted to weld on the frame support and then bolt the axles into place. It was VERY difficult to get the cross tube bolted on. If I ever do another one of these, I will up the tube wall and weld the tube in place as well. The only reason we didn’t do this is we wanted to be able to replace a single side if needed and not the pair.

 

Here is a shot of the frame support in place. Since I was worried about vibrations, I used lock washers and thread locker as well as the vertical bolts have locking nuts. This thing isn’t going anywhere!

 

While it was flipped over, I went ahead and worked on the bottom side of the tongue frame work. I added the rear support for the toolbox and some cross bracing that will double as a tie-down point for the spare tire. With the addition of these supports the frame is 99.63% done. 😛

 

This is where she sits. With the cold front moving in and some much needed family focus time, I doubt much more will be done over this weekend.

Before I flip it over, I want to get the rear hitch mounted but that shouldn’t take long.

As soon as the wheel spacers arrive, we can turn this into a rolling chassis. This will be nice, as this thing is about all we can handle as is moving around the shop.

 

Tell us what you think…

The overland trailer starts to take shape

The overland trailer starts to take shape

We were very productive this weekend on our overland trailer “Ehu”. There is still a ton of work to be done in order to have it ready by late spring, but I think we will make it! This week’s warm weather sure is helping progress but part of me worries the cold will return about the time we are ready to paint. 🙄 I’m sure it will all work out… There is plenty of work to be done before that anyway, so there isn’t much point in stressing about it now.

As for the work this weekend… It started pretty early Saturday. So early that my first cup of coffee was made while watching the sun pop up. This is somewhat normal behavior for me when I have a bunch I want to accomplish, but it was assisted by Kegan’s alarm clock going off that he had forgotten to mute for the weekend.

 

Once I made my way into the shop, I got to work on cutting the pieces that would make up the storage box and rack. The outer walls of the box will be formed from 1.5″ angle, with exception to the corners that double as the rack uprights. The rack uprights and cross bars are 1.5″ square tube.

 

Once these pieces were made, it was time to tack and weld the structure together. We began with making the two sides. First, tacking it all together and then checking square before welding. Putting the cross bars for the front/back on was a bit tricky, but after I tacked some temporary scrap pieces in the corners and clamped a piece of angle between the two sides it was fairly manageable. The hardest part was getting it all together while maintaining square and plumb everywhere.

 

We had plans with friends Saturday evening, so other than cutting a few pieces for the trailer frame this is pretty much all that was accomplished before we needed to clean up.

Sunday started a bit later (just after sunrise). I got right to work on cutting the remaining pieces for the frame structure. The hardest part was the angled pieces at the front. I wanted these bars to match the angle of the tongue tool box, but also extend to the full width of the trailer. I had measured the box as best I could with a tape measure and drew it all in CAD, but when the result ended up being 31°/59° cuts, I assumed there was error in my tape measurements and they should be 30°/60°. This was a mistake that cost me a fair amount of time. Luckily, the error resulted in longer pieces than were needed so I was able to correct the angles to the crazy 31°/59° and fix the lengths.

Here is a picture of everything laid out, minus the main center tube that is 2x2x0.25″ tube. All of these pieces are also 2×2″ but 0.120″ wall.

 

…and now with the center tube in and all tacked up. This main tube is VERY heavy and frankly overkill for the trailer itself. The main reason we went with such a heavy piece is we envisioned a possible need to be pulled backward with the trailer attached. I haven’t decided if I will be adding a D-Ring tab or fixing a trailer receiver to the end for this purpose yet.

There will be a few more (lighter) supports in the front tongue area for the back of the toolbox and shelf just behind it. This shelf will likely become the home of the spare tire.

 

While I had been cutting, grinding, and welding, Alana (Mrs. SSS) was working her rear-end off cleaning up the wheels. The wheels had not been pre-treated prior to being sprayed with Plasti-Dip and it had been on for quite some time so the removal was fairly labor intensive. To be completely honest, I would’ve never gotten them to look this good… She is amazing!

 

She didn’t stop here either… While 4 of the tires that came with the wheels were completely used up, the spare has never seen the road. It already had the Plati-Dip removed and I thought it was okay, but it wasn’t up to Alana’s standards so she cleaned it up too.

 

Once I got the frame all welded up, it was time to join the box/rack with it. I ran out of time, but now the temporary pieces that were installed to keep the storage box and rack square can be removed. I don’t think they will be needed, but if there is any racking, I may install more permanent ones later.

 

The main tube is longer than what is needed for now. I wanted to make sure I had enough length in this tube to open the tailgate on Dirty with the trailer attached. The final length will be at the back of the tape-measure shown here.

 

As for what is next: I’m not sure. Part of me wants to get this thing rolling as it’s already a bear to move around in the shop, but adding the axle(s) will make it more difficult to get on it’s side to gain easier access for welding some of the structural pieces that are needed for the top and sides of the box. I also need to get the side doors temporarily mounted so I can locate the axles. I want to push them forward as far as possible to reduce some tongue weight and the front doors are the interference point.

Speaking of axles… look what UPS just dropped off. 🙂 These things contain much more beef than I had anticipated!

 

Stay tuned and tell us what you think!

More Ehu parts arrive!

More Ehu parts arrive!

Well, we rolled into last weekend rather optimistically… Unfortunately, we had a run of funk roll through the whole family that left us under the weather and not fit to work out in the shop. It may have worked out for the best as this weekend’s weather is shaping up to be even better!

In spite of the lack of frame progress, we are making headway in other areas. The largest being that we finally pulled the trigger on our axle type. We decided to go with the Timbren “Axle-Less” system. The ones we got are specifically designed for off-road tires and heavy-duty use. They will provide a much smoother and quiet ride over a traditional leaf sprung axle while increasing ground clearance.

You can check them out in action in the video below.

I also picked up the front tongue tool-box today while I was out. I was initially planning to go with an aluminum box here, but with the cost of the plastic and it being even lighter I decided to just go with it.

 

In the same trip, I picked up two of the wheels I had dropped off at our local tire shop to have the old tires removed. I know they don’t look like much now, but that is just Plasti-dip so they should clean up nicely. This is a job for Mrs SSS though… I don’t have patience for it.  🙂 With so many JK wheels available, the price was too good to pass up.

As if this were not enough, I pulled in the drive to find that the doors had arrived that we ordered a few weeks ago. I am super happy with them! I’m glad I waited before pulling the trigger on making the box frame though. I had originally intended to rivet these on. After looking at them in person, I think they will need to be bolted. This may force a rethink on the frame structure as two sides were going to attach to square tube. I don’t think the 0.120″ wall is thick enough to hold threads, and the tube means access to put a nut on is impossible. I’ll figure something out. 😛

Whelp, that’s all for now… This post is keeping me from the welding and fabricating I need to get at!

 

Give us your thoughts and comment below!

 

It’s finally time to throw some sparks!

It’s finally time to throw some sparks!

We finally found a place that would deliver the metal to us and would allow for hand unloading. This said, the truck driver  wasn’t too happy about it… None-the-less, we now have all the structural steel for the frame as well as the aluminum for the box so it’s finally time to begin some actual fabrication.

We are still waiting on the aluminum tool box doors to arrive so I am hesitant to do too much in the way of the box or rack until it arrives. If the supplier was able to provide better dimensional drawings I would go ahead, but what they supplied is pretty lacking so I think I will wait until the parts are in hand to ensure we don’t waste metal getting ahead of ourselves.

Still, if we are going to have Ehu ready by mid spring, we need to get cracking on the parts we can. I may even try to work on it in the evenings a little to capitalize on the continued (and abnormal) warm weather we have been having. With any luck, the frame will be roughed in by the end of this weekend. This may be a challenge as we are pretty big on family coming first and our son Kegan is celebrating his birthday. Family rules mean he is the master of what we do.

Stay tuned and feel free to comment!

Exploring the Eastern Smokies of TN and NC

Exploring the Eastern Smokies of TN and NC

With the exception of last year because we went on a Caribbean cruise, we always find ourselves in a pretty dark place this time of year. This year hasn’t been much different in spite of the fact it has been a fairly warm winter. Warm or cold, the sun rarely pokes through the clouds over Ohio and there are only so many shows to binge on before the cabin fever is too much and we need to get out.

Sensing we were all approaching the tipping point of sanity, we planned a quick getaway down south. Sadly, not as far south as the Caribbean…  We decided to head to the Smoky Mountains! We knew when we planned the trip the weather would be a gamble, but if nothing else we hoped the change in scenery would distract us enough and offer some moments to fill our outdoor needs.

We’ve visited this area several times before, but we almost always hang out on the south-west side of Gatlinburg, toward Cades Cove. For this trip we wanted to head more to the east and south east to explore the North Carolina side.

In spite of our ultimate goal, our anxious start to the day offered some time to kill so we decided to check out the Gatlinburg area that we normally bypassed. This is our first visit since the fires that rocked the area last fall.

It didn’t take long to be saddened by what we saw. In truth, we had buried our heads in the sand to the event a bit and hoped it was just overplayed by the media. Having now visited and seen it with my own eyes, I can assure you, if anything, the fires were underplayed.

Our path would take us out of Gatlinburg on Cherokee Orchard Road. Our plan was to make the connection to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail but this leg was closed (presumably from damage that had not yet been repaired from the fires). So, we had to take the short loop just after the Ogle Place and go out the way we had entered.

 

I have no idea what was done to save the Ogle Place structures, but it was clear there were some massive and successful efforts. Evidences of significant burning were just feet from the buildings.

 

This area was hit hard by the fires. Many buildings were lost and the bottoms of nearly every tree are blackened from the nightmare just a few months ago.

This area is filled with amazing hiking trails and we took the opportunity to explore by foot a bit. It will be interesting to see how the forest recovers from the event, but for now the area needs to be visited with extreme caution.

 

For those (like us) who are willing to dredge on, there are still plenty of amazing views to be had. Just keep an eye out for dead overhead branches and be a little more aware of your footing.

Once we were back in the Jeep, we headed out of town along 321 before turning on to 32 for a short jaunt.  Not long after 32 turned to gravel we decided to take the local Trail Hollow Rd to work our way east.

This road is definitely off the beaten path. While the largely brown and dormant trees offer a drab background, the resting summer foliage allowed us to see through the road side trees to some views that are likely missed in the warmer seasons.

 

Although we had covered a fair amount of ground, it was still pretty early and there were lots of animals out and about foraging for their breakfast. Some deer we came across couldn’t have cared less that we were there and barely moved off the road enough for us to pass.

 

Eventually we had to rejoin 32 (Mt. Sterling Rd.) to reach some high clearance forestry roads we were itching to explore just over the North Carolina border. The path to do so was one of the worst visibility intersections I have ever seen. Not much was visible beyond the sky and the grade was so steep the Jeep had to scratch a bit to find the needed traction to get off the gravel.

This intersection was also marked by some interesting brick and castle-like pillars. I’d like to get the history on them someday…

 

It wasn’t long at all before we were again off pavement and back on dirt. In some ways, I was a little disappointed in how well the forestry service had maintained their roads thus far.

 

Before we knew it, it was close to lunch time. So, we set our sights toward the top of Tower Trail where we would enjoy the views and feel sorry for the people we could see traveling on I-40 WAY below us.

 

To be completely honest, just about everything we had done thus far was doable in anything and 4-wheel-drive wasn’t needed, even the water crossings were minivan safe with well-maintained wood bridges.

 

The afternoon would offer some trails and roads more becoming of a Jeep as we moved deeper into the mountains. Soon water crossings (while still maintained) no longer would keep the tires dry and the term “high clearance” became warranted.

This wasn’t anything that Klondike couldn’t handle, but it might be the limits of some lower clearance AWD type SUVs.

Then, just when things started to get interesting, a reality check hit us that the day was starting to get a little long in the tooth and with the short winter days, it wouldn’t be long before darkness settled in. So, with this said we began to work our way back toward civilization.

Before we made it, we happened upon several elk enjoying the heat from the last few hours of sunlight the day would offer.

 

Our plan was to continue south-west where we would eventually intersect the Blue Ridge Parkway to hopefully catch the sunset from one of the many overlooks along the route.

Sadly, when we got to the parkway, it was closed in preparation for some snow in the forecast the following day. This forced us to not only take “normal” roads, but also set our path on the wrong side of the mountains where the sunset would be blocked. 🙁

The following morning we headed back home as I needed to be in Toledo by the end of the night for work the following day. Still unwilling to blast along the interstate we set the GPS to avoid highways. We are always amazed at the things we discover by making this simple change.

In this case, our new discovery was the Douglas Dam and Douglas Lake. I’m sure this isn’t news to any of the locals, but for us out-of-towners, places like this are often missed.

 

Shortly after this we became caught up in conversation and before we knew it were home once again. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about our little weekend getaway.

 

Tell us what you think and leave a comment!

 

 

Metal and hitch system for Ehu finally on order…

Metal and hitch system for Ehu finally on order…

I finally got the final frame design wrapped up and ordered the metal. The frame itself will be steel, but the doors and skin will be aluminum. The aluminum was a tough pill to swallow cost wise but I think it will be worth it in the end.

The biggest hurdle was actually finding a metal supplier that would deliver to me. In the past, we have always ordered cuts that could be easily loaded into a vehicle or put on a trailer. For this project, I really wanted full sticks so transporting the 24 foot pieces would be tricky. When I did find metal suppliers that delivered, they wouldn’t allow hand unloading and required I have a fork truck. 😯

The good news is, I did eventually find a supplier. The bad news is, it will not be delivered until Monday which means another fabrication weekend lost. 🙁

 

We also finally made a decision on the hitch system. We will be using the “Lock-N-Roll” trailer hitch system. Compared to others we found, we liked that it offers fixed trailer side options that should cut down on rattling. The 3-axis pivot will help when we are offroad and the terrain gets crazy.

One thing I haven’t quite worked out yet is how I plan to adapt the hitch height. Currently, Dirty’s hitch center is right at 25″ and Klondike’s is at 22″. I’m thinking I may just shoot for the middle but time will tell.