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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.

 

 

JK/JKU Parking Brake (E-Brake) Adjustment

JK/JKU Parking Brake (E-Brake) Adjustment

If you own a JK or JKU, and especially if it happens to be a manual transmission, you know how crappy the factory parking brake is. There are a few factors to this. For one, it seems the lever and activation mechanism is prone to breaking and, even when it is working “correctly”, seems to not reset well. The other major factor is in the drum itself. While it is supposed to auto adjust (we don’t see how), we have never seen one that does so. Thus this write-up on how you can manually tweak them in and get your JK/JKU holding again.

Now, this write-up begins with the assumption that you are already fairly familiar with auto maintenance and are comfortable with safely jacking and lifting the Jeep, along with removing the wheels and calipers.

With the above said; this video should help you with everything else…

 

A few additional points you may want to focus on a bit more are pictured below.

The red circle depicts the actual wheel that spins like a nut to extend the screw and spread the shoes apart (this is the fixed side). The lever in the cab pulls on a cable that spreads the opposite side to engage the brake. When the fixed side is too loose there isn’t enough throw in the lever/cable to spread the moving side far enough to make the brakes grab.

The green arrow is the access port where you can adjust the parking brake without taking the drum/rotor off. Our issue with doing this is the missed opportunity to clean and inspect the area.

Here is how this inspection/adjustment port would work. Note: The spring not only holds the shoes in place and tight to the adjuster, but also works as a prevention method to keep the adjuster from free spinning.

 

I know this may have been the Cliffs notes version for many, so if there are any questions please post them as we are happy to help. 🙂

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.
To Beadlock or not to beadlock, that is the question….

To Beadlock or not to beadlock, that is the question….

We took the opportunity to jump on a recent sale Pit Bull Tires was running and have 5 new 37″ Rockers on the way. The question we ask ourselves now is what to do about our wheels?

It’s not as easy a question to answer as it seems, we know we want beadlocks…. But do we spend money on them now. You see, we plan to upgrade at least the front axle on Dirty next year. This will likely turn into both front and rear axle swaps and the need for new wheels anyway with a different bolt pattern.

Having said this, we have often wanted to air down just a bit more than we do with unlocked beads and this was on our “D” rated MTRs. With the “E” rated Rockers we are concerned we will not get enough tire flex at the pressures we run….

Oh, what to do, what to do?

Jeep Models by Lug Patterns

Jeep Models by Lug Patterns

When you are ordering rims or axles, it is important to know what lug pattern you have on your Jeep. Order them with the wrong pattern and you’ll have large paper weights. We’ve also had people ask us “Which lug pattern does my Jeep have?” So, I decided to make a list of Jeep models categorized by their lug pattern.

5 on 5” or 5x5”
2007-Present Wrangler (JK/JKU)
2006-Present Commander (XK)
2005-Present Grand Cherokee (WK)
1999-2004 Grand Cherokee (WJ)

5 on 4.5” or 5×4.5”
2002-07 Liberty (KJ)
2008-12 Liberty (KK)
1997-2006 Wrangler (TJ/LJ)
1993-1998 Grand Cherokee (ZJ)
1987-96 Wrangler (YJ)
1984-2001 Cherokee (XJ)

5 on 5.5” or 5×5.5”
1945-86 Wrangler (CJ)
1966-73 Commando (C101/C104)

Love/Hate Tire Balance Beads – What I’ve Learned

Love/Hate Tire Balance Beads – What I’ve Learned

The following is a post I made on several forums long ago. Now that we have a place of our own I thought it made sense to post it here. After 44 thousand miles and four years on our tires, my opinions have not changed one bit…. I hope you enjoy.


After extensive research on balancing techniques, it became clear to me that some praise and swear by balancing beads while others think they are a total waste of time and money.

In the midst of all my reading, I formulated an opinion that many that hadn’t had success might not have used an appropriate amount. Since balancing beads are always moving to offset the imbalance in a tire, you can never really have too many, yet too little will never work. The bottom line is I decided to give them a go when I purchased my new 37s. Since I wanted to keep my TPMS and often air-down, I selected the Off-Road Dyna Beads that are a larger bead. I consulted with Innovative Balancing on the appropriate amount of weight per tire and purchased five 10oz bags.

I found that the actual installation of these beads is a bit of a PITA when using narrow traditional wheels. These beads are to be poured in and while the directions stress to keep them out of the tire lube it is near impossible to do so. If you were using wider rims it would be better, but really the only way this can be accomplished without some beads touching the tire lube would be with bead-locks.

Once the install was done, I hit the road and my first impressions were not so good. In fact, they were pretty bad. But, as I mentioned, I did have some beads get into the lube so I was hoping maybe some were stuck and would free up once the lube dried. The following morning I had to take the rears off to better trim the pinch seam and as I moved the tires about my shop I could clearly hear the beads moving and they sounded free. Optimism began to grow but was extinguished quickly on the next test drive. The only way I was able to make the balance even sub-par was to white-knuckle it to 70MPH and then slow down to an appropriate speed of 55 on my country test roads. When cornering I could actually feel the beads move and cause instability. On two occasions this wouldn’t settle until I came to a complete stop and restarted.

Before I sucked the $120 in beads into a shop vac I called Innovative Balancing again for a consult. This time I spoke with another person which I later learned was the owner. This resulted in a fairly lengthy conversation where, after I told them what I was experiencing, they said the beads alone wouldn’t work for me. Before I get into the details, I would like to express my dissatisfaction with the fact that I was not informed of the possible balancing inadequacies when I called to discuss my application the first time. They also were unwilling to refund even a portion of my purchase on a product I was unable to use.

So if you’re still with me, here is the skinny:
The balancing with beads “technology”, if you can call it that, was developed for over the road truck tires. These tires have a bunch of tread weight variance, but the sidewalls are pretty consistent and have little variance. This created an up/down imbalance as the tire rotates and the beads work very well at correcting this type of imbalance. Unfortunately, most off-road tires DO have a bunch of tread on the sidewall and therefore have sidewall weight imperfections. This not only creates an up/down imbalance but also a side-to-side imbalance that beads can never correct for as centrifugal force is pulling the beads away from where they would need to be.

My tires had a severe amount of lateral (side-to-side) imbalance and, if anything, the beads made the whole thing worse. According to Innovative Balancing there is a procedure to use traditional weights in combination with the beads, but this requires a balancer that can spin a tire very fast and for a long time. Unless you find a shop that is still using really old equipment very few balancers still do this. Besides, if I am going to rely on traditional weights what is the point in the beads?

I ended up sucking the beads out of the tires and doing a traditional balance. And after driving several hundred miles with them balanced this way I have NO noticeable vibration. I am quite pleased actually. I accept that this is something that I will have to keep an eye on and likely have to have redone.

The reason I posted this is I think it gives some insight to why some love and some hate beads. I still like the idea of beads. If I were to rip off a lug, or have tires full of crud, the beads (in theory) should adapt to this change. But in practice they didn’t work for me. I wish there was a cut-and-dry list of tires that they will or won’t work with but to the best of my knowledge there isn’t. It seems to be a hit-and-miss thing even amongst the same type tire. I know two guys that I wheel with that have had VERY good experiences with the same beads that failed me. All I can say is if you are going to try them, you should be prepared for the possibility of them not working.

As a side note, if you drive on a bunch of 25-45MPH roads the beads will likely disappoint you, even on an ideal application as the tires haven’t spun up fast enough to get the beads where they need to be. (An imbalanced 37 gets a pretty good bounce at 30MPH.)

Anyway, this is what I learned, hopefully it helps you. Happy Jeepin’, and I hope to see you on the trail.