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Month: July 2017

Dirty gets new shoes!

Dirty gets new shoes!

This post is a little late, but we’ve been pretty busy prepping for our overlanding trip so time has been scarce. You may be wondering why Dirty is getting the love when the plan is to use Klondike for this trip… Well, there are a few reasons but the largest being we return from our overlanding trip for only a few days and then head out for Topless for Tatas 9 in Dirty. With laundry and gear to repack, we need her ready. Second, we had a scare with Klondike and were worried she might not be able to make the trip. Thankfully that has passed, but we still wanted Dirty ready in case she needs to step up and bail her sister out.

The very first thing that needed attention was the tires. The 37″ Goodyear MTRs we have ran on Dirty for the past ~2.5 years have been absolutely amazing. They have seen about 32k miles of fairly regular and hard use. They have been across the country several times and not only performed well on the trail but the pavement as well. Still, there is some room for improvement and one of them is in the sidewalls. The MTRs don’t have an overly aggressive tread on the side of the tire and this leaves them vulnerable to sidewall damage. In our case, the small cuts and chunks of missing rubber leave us uneasy with the often long interstate travel we have between destinations. With that said, what started as a tire cleaning and inspection resulted in the last time these MTRs would be mounted on Dirty.

 

Here is where things get interesting… We knew this time was coming and really wanted to try the Maxxis RAZR MTs. So much so, we reached out to Maxxis to discuss our uses and see if we could work together. Maxxis was interested in us using/testing their tires and after some paperwork, we were “sponsored”. We are not talking about full on sponsorship here, but rather we just have access to their tires at a discounted rate. In trade, we would review the tires, provide some media pictures, and of course, run their logo. Unfortunately, once the pricing was evaluated there was still far too much of a gap in tire cost to justify running them. We were literally able to go to a local tire shop and get 37×13.50r17 Cooper STT Pro tires mounted, Road-Force balanced, tax and everything for less than our tire purchase price from Maxxis. With shipping and mounting/balancing still to be added, running the RAZR MTs would mean spending nearly $80 more per tire and we couldn’t swing it.

With 5 Cooper STT Pro tires on order we went to work on a few other things I’ve had on the “to-do” list.

The first was something I’ve wanted to do ever since Poison Spyder came out with their body mounted tire carrier. We love our aluminum Genright tire carrier, but adjusting it for an easy open/close is kinda tricky. I’ve long thought it would be pretty easy and worth it to add an eccentric washer to the upper bolt and a jack screw to allow similar adjusting to the Poison Spyder and I finally put that idea into fruition. I gotta’ say…. It works GREAT!

 

Another thing that I’ve been needing to do ever since we got the Fox Shocks was make a little tweak to the rear sway bar. Dirty has a lot of down travel and the result is the sway links not being long enough to accommodate this. The thing is, if the links get any longer they will hit the brake lines that are along the frame at full stuff. The simple fix is just to lower the sway bar a bit and a $6 block of aluminum I ordered to fab some spacers did the trick.

 

Since Dirty was on the lift, I put Road Runner to work on transporting the new shoes. This ended up being pretty funny looking. The hitch shelf thing we have is made for the Jeeps that have a much higher hitch mounting point. When you compound this with the soft springs the 4-Runner has, she was sagging butt pretty bad all the way home!

 

Once the tires were home it wasn’t long before we had them on and, I have to say, the little bit of beef that was added by the inch of tire width is pretty nice looking! 😛

 

 

 

With the new rubber on, I wanted to verify the ball joints were still in good shape as I thought I found a little movement on the last inspection. Luckily, they are just fine… Unfortunately, the movement was in the unit bearing, so we have one of those on the way, and hopefully a maintenance write-up on the swap will follow. Honestly, the latter will come down to time. It’s WAY faster to just do the job versus taking video and/or pictures for a write-up, but we will see.

 

 

Backroads and Abandoned Awesomeness

Backroads and Abandoned Awesomeness

We’ve got lots to do before our big overlanding trip, but with this weekend’s amazing weather we just couldn’t focus on it and had to get out of the house for some exploring. We weren’t really sure what we wanted to do so we geared ourselves up for a potential hike, but also packed Klondike for some dirt work should we find ourselves way off the beaten path. After typing some GPS coordinates into the navigation to get us close, we were off!

The destination was the Zaleski State Forest and surrounding area, but we decided to start south of there a bit by the Vinton Furnace State Forest and explore our way north(ish).

It didn’t take us very long before we were winding our way along tree covered roads without another soul to be seen or heard. Almost as soon as we found our zen, we stumbled upon an abandoned tunnel.

 

Initially we thought we would explore it by foot, but visibility inside the tunnel quickly diminished to a point where we were unsure of our steps. So, after checking the depth of the mud hole at the entrance of the tunnel, we decided to nose Klondike in to shed some light on things!

 

After walking around a bit in the light and getting our feet good and covered in mud, we decided the path looked clear for Klondike to make the distance and, since we were dying to know what was on the other side, we did just that!

 

The picture above doesn’t really do justice to the length. I’m not certain, but I’d put it close to 900 feet long in all.

 

Once out the other side and with GPS signal regained, we realized we had essentially cut through the hill and were right back on the same road we’d left that took the long way around. This is our kind of shortcut!

After a short jaunt on pavement, we took a turn on some gravel. It was on gravel or dirt that we would spend most of our time for the remainder of the day. Alana and I love these rural roads and, while we love the scenery that often accompanies them and captivates us, Kegan often grabs a nap as he is put to sleep by the sounds of gravel under the tires. We are never sure if we should wake him or not… We see where it’s kind of boring for a teen so we typically don’t press the issue and are just happy he is hanging with us.

 

Since we had already stumbled upon one abandoned tunnel, we decided to make our way over toward the Moonville Tunnel which was nearby. It has been nearly 20 years since we were last there and we were curious how it was holding up.

 

Thankfully, the tunnel itself seems to be holding up pretty well. It’s biggest nemesis being vandals over father time. It is for this reason we are intentionally being a bit vague on the location of our first tunnel.  So many of these amazing spots are damaged by people which results in either closure or gating to prevent exploration. When we find something that has been relatively untouched we tend to protect it more and leave it for others to discover as we did.

 

Shortly after leaving the Moonville Tunnel we took a small track off the main road. It turned out that it lead to the old Moonville Cemetery. I know some think it’s a bit morbid, but we like visiting old cemeteries. Alana and I like to look for the old dates and wonder what life was like for them… What did they do? What was their life like?

I know this picture isn’t clear enough to read, but in person the dates are 14?? – 150? That’s right, this person was laid to rest here over 500 years ago! This is by far the oldest date we have ever read. In fact, we wonder if this headstone was replaced at some time as it’s usually on headstones of the early to mid 1700s where they become too weathered to read. Being that this date is precolonial and this person would’ve lived during Columbus’ voyage that landed him here, we studied it very carefully and are quite certain of the numbers. We can only wonder if this person was an early explorer from Europe or perhaps someone with Viking heritage (who explored North America from 1000-1200)? With the name portion of the headstone now missing, that’s all we are left to do…wonder…

 

After a quick snack, we were back in Klondike and stirring up dust.

 

We found some pretty amazing and remote roads, but nothing quite as neat as what had already been discovered. While there were some nice tracks that shot off to destinations unknown, they were often accompanied by a locked gate or “No Trespassing” sign which we always respect.

 

This is a major difference when exploring east of the Mississippi as compared to west of it (generally speaking). When we make our way out west it is generally accepted that you can explore and be just about anywhere unless it is posted otherwise. There are lots of public land and it’s uses are not nearly as restricted in the east. While the “law” still works the same way, actual land use is fairly challenging as many feel it should be considered trespassing unless signed you CAN be there. Even roads that are on county or township maps are regularly blocked by local land owners for their personal use and not much is done about it.

This has long been the way things work though and this picture shows that better than words ever could.

 

These roads are so infrequently traveled that you never know what you may stumble across. Case in point, being this downed tree we came across. While we worked to pull the tree clear so we could get by (which took about an hour and is an entirely different story), we didn’t see another car or person.

 

Between Klondike’s light weight and the way this tree fell, we ended up having to reposition and use a snatch-block for a better pull angle. This one is Alana scoping out the dog that showed up to watch the show.

 

Having gotten all sweaty clearing the road, we decided to make a lazy way for home. The road we took back toward pavement was pretty nice and ran along some marsh land for over a mile. I won’t lie, the road and land had a very southern feel to it.

 

…and just like that, we were home and prepping for our return to work and those responsibilities the day had distracted us from.

We hope you enjoyed!

Road Runner gets her first mod!

Road Runner gets her first mod!

It might seem pretty trivial, but a mod is a mod! 😛

Tonight we added a splash of color to Road Runner and we couldn’t be happier! The orange made the blue pop a bunch and with it being vinyl it will be an easy removal should it be needed.

Bonus points if you can pick out what else we did 😉 😈

Klondike can now breathe a little easier

Klondike can now breathe a little easier

This is a little bit of old news to our Facebook and Instagram followers, but about a week go we installed an AFE Power cold air intake.

Normally, we are not fans of CAIs, especially with the Pentastar engines. We know several people that have pretty severe oil consumption after running their JK/JKU (3.6L) in dusty environments. Sadly, many ultimately needed a new engine to resolve and the fault was put on the CAI they ran. Even the Mopar branded intakes did not shield the warranty denials. Compound this with the fact that we tend to believe all those power gains felt are a placebo effect from spending money and not wanting to admit it was a waste of it. After all, if it were that easy why wouldn’t the manufacturer do it?

As stubborn and opinionated as we are, we still listen and keep open minds. So, when so many people over at The Jeep Cherokee Club mentioned not only felt performance gains, but also increases in fuel economy (something we have struggled with), we thought it made sense to give it a try.

To make a long story short, Jay and I can’t believe the difference the intake has made. We have noticed fairly significant throttle response improvements and while it’s a little too early to tell for sure, we think our average MPG has jumped by about 2! These aren’t the only gains though, the little 3.2L sounds pretty amazing! We had no idea she had such a pretty voice 😛

The changes are literally so drastic, it got me wondering why? After all, even AFE only advertises a 9HP/10lb-ft increase. It’s hard to imagine this change on top of the 3.2L’s 271HP/239lb-ft stock specification would change the vehicle’s performance so drastically.

The only real answer I have is where the power is added…. See the dyno chart below.

The 3.2L Pentastar has a VERY steep HP and torque ramp in the 2,000 – 2,400 RPM range. After this, the torque is very flat and the HP follows a nice (and far shallower) ramp. The thing is, the ZF9 transmission that the KL Cherokee uses keeps the engine in this very low RPM range where even the slightest wind, hill, or load change forces a drop in gear, or even multiple gears, for the engine to find enough power to handle it.

This is just my opinion, but since the largest gains the CAI provides seems to be right in this area, it makes for a fairly drastic drivability improvement. There are small grades that Klondike used to downshift for where she now easily holds onto the current gear.

So, all-in-all, we are extremely happy with this mod and recommend it to just about any 3.2L KL owner.

In the spirit of full disclosure, AFE needs to reevaluate the hole location for the air temp sensor. Ours barely reached the hole they provide and this was after removing some tape that held it to another harness which allowed for more direct routing. Also, notice the sharp increase the AFE intake provides at ~2200 RPM… This is felt when driving. It almost feels like the engine hits a “power band” like a 2-stroke 😛 . From this point until about 2600 RPM is also where the largest sound change is, so it’s hard not to step into it a bit for the sound. In any case, it does take a little getting used to when putting around town. 🙂

 

Klondike finally gets a PTU skid!

Klondike finally gets a PTU skid!

Long ago when we first evaluated Klondike’s belly we noticed the PTU was left rather exposed. Since the independent suspension often means the best ground clearance is right down the middle of the vehicle, the PTU’s location there meant we needed some protection on it for when we attempt straddling rocks and logs.

Since the KL Cherokee remains largely unsupported by aftermarket part manufacturers, this means we had to break out the welder and metal and get fabricating. Luckily the PTU has some extra holes on the casting that allow for the mounting. This said, they are not really suited for taking much of a hit so my plan was to try to keep the skid as tight as possible on the PTU (touching) so the PTU itself still handles the weight of the vehicle, but the steel protects the soft aluminum from the abrasion of impacts.

Here are a few shots of the mounting holes I would be using. As luck would have it a 5/16″ bolt works perfectly in these holes.

A few of these hole location uses were fairly straight forward. The trickiest by far to use wad the two staggered ones on the front of the PTU. I knew all along it would mean making some sort of tab and drilling and tapping some threads for the bolt but just decided to wing it and start with bending up the main skid.

I honestly thought this part of the job (bending of the main skid) would be pretty easy, but it took FAR more time than I had anticipated. It seemed as simple as the idea of this skid was, the practice of making it was far more involved. I had anticipated a few hours for this project but it took the better part of the day. The bigger bummer to this is I had hoped to be able to take notes to share with others and maybe even make a few at one time, but this just wasn’t practical.

So, after a bunch of bending, tweaking, grinding, and welding, I had the bulk of the skid made up. The main lower skid is 3/16″ plate, the locker actuator and connector is protected by some slightly lighter material but I was working with what I had in the shop.

I am fairly happy with how it turned out. I did end up adding another piece to the driver side after these pictures, but this is pretty much it all fabbed up.

The front mounting did prove to be the most cantankerous. I was able to weld a nut to the plate for one mounting hole location, but the other did need a fancy little tab.

 

This is the side where I added the additional side skirt. The plate I used was barely wide enough and I wanted just a bit more coverage.

 

After I added this piece, it was time for some paint. I’ve had a can of hammered silver in the shop for some time. It’s the paint we used on the cage we had in Lil-Punkin’ (our 2-dr JK). I can’t see a need for it and, since this paint is more about rust protection than anything else, it seemed like a good time to make use of this paint.

 

There you have it… All painted up and mounted hopefully it will do the job!

I know some other KL Cherokee owners that are likely looking for more coverage. I can even see where this looks like I haven’t added much but in reality, the other bits are fairly hard to get to. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if something is in there, we have other issues and it’s time to break out the recovery gear and Maxtrax.

As I mentioned, I had hoped to make a few of these and/or provide drawings, but once I set out making this it turned into more of a one-off project. Even if I had been able to do this, I’m not sure the hole locations are good enough to rely on.