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Month: September 2016

Will lifting your jeep make it unbalanced and unsafe?

Will lifting your jeep make it unbalanced and unsafe?

Ahh the age old dilemma – “To lift or not to lift”. For many of us there is only one answer to this question, but a more sensible person might want to consider things a bit.

“That really depends” seems sensible. But “depends” is a really stupid answer. It’s not even an answer. Its a stupid into to whats undoubtedly going to be a stupid answer. So I am going to go ahead and say no, your jeep will not get significantly unbalance or unsafe. As in yes, do it. You will be fine. Lift it!

Even though a lift, both body and suspension, raise the center of gravity of the vehicle – a suspension lift will do it more so, this is offset by a number of factors.

Wheels spacers help you keep your balance.

I got a 4.5 inch lift on my XJ – my daily driver currently. I really didn’t know how this would affect its handling. To offset it, I got 1.5 inch wheel spacers. That’t 4.5 inches of lift and 3 inches of track added. So even though you have made your Jeep taller, you have also made it wider and more stable. I don’t know if the two can be compared directly, but I am gonna go ahead and say that before I added the bigger tires, I had an effective 1.5 inch lift.

The thing is, even with an effective lift of 1.5 inches or more, whatever the actual math works out to be, I think my jeep is actually more stable than it was before due to this second factor.

Off-road Suspension probably performs better than your old factory pieces for on-road driving (provided you don’t remove and toss your sway bars that is).

Think an offroad suspension will make you a softie, increase your ability to absorb bumps? That’s what I though, until my lift kit arrived with front spring coils looking like they were twice as thick as my stock ones. One rear leaf spring seemed like weighed more than both of my wimpy ones combined. This stuff was for a tank!

The thing is that even though off-road vehicles have to absorb a lot more terrain that regular vehicles, which you would think would make their suspension soft, this is not the case at all.

The suspension is from a truck, because offroad vehicles have to absorb all those rocks and tree stumps and live to tell about it. They are stiff. In a road configuration, if you keep your sway bars, and get disconnects for offroad, your aftermarket lift kit will probably make your vehicle handle pretty well, even with a higher center of gravity.

I went from a tired, worn out, soft, sagging suspension, to a stiff monster. The thing had so little flex, I was wondering how it would ever be able to go over rocks.

I have very little body roll compared to before. I can actually drive aggresively on on-ramps and off-ramps (aggresively for a lifted jeep). Most days I find myself impatiently waiting for the bmw or Audi in front of me to gather up the balls to use something other than the brake while turning.

The point is that the new suspension actually feels better and more confidence inspiring. All things considered, you are still in a lifted Jeep, and when that tipping point comes, it will come quick so I try to not push it. But that’s not the point. The point is that your lifted Jeep will still be very roadworthy. Sound like an oxymoron? There is another one coming up.

Off-road tires have massive road grip (compared to the common belief that they are only good off-road).

With a lift, you are getting bigger tires. It’s a given. Don’t even.

But… what the hell? That doesn’t make any sense. You need slicks for maximum grip on pavement. Your mud terrain tires have big knobs on them, which makes for a poor contact patch with the asphalt. They have huge sidewalls, which would make them squishier in turns. The knobs look like they would wear down to nothing in a few thousand miles, wasting your expensive investment. They should be terrible driving on the road right?

Wrong. Offroad tires are good. I have 31 inch GoodYear mud terrains, and even though my Jeep sounds like a biplane going by, it grips and stops way better that my wheeny road tires.

Size is a key player here. Offroad tires in most cases have a significantly bigger diameter than stock tires – of course, exactly how much bigger all depends on which ones you choose. This makes for a much larger contact patch – same reason people choose 29er mountain bikes. Off-road tires are also wider in many cases = larger contact patch.

The knobs on your tires flex, generating heat, making the tire warm up faster = even more grip. The sidewalls are big and squishy, yes, but they are also reinforced with materials like kevlar, meaning they are much less squishy than they look.

So your contact patch with the road and along with it, your grip may actually increase over your stock street oriented tires.

All weather performance? Many of us would probably agree with the statement that all weather performance tires such in all types of weather and if the manufacturer adds a “performance” aspect as well, that just seems like a joke.

Your all terrains, mud terrains and rock crawlers rule all types of terrain. And they rule all types of weather on pavement also. Got rain? Ok. Hardly noticeable. If you look at the tires formula one uses for rainy weather, you will see – they have knobs on them! Why? because the extra heat generated from the flexing of the knobs means the tire can heat up, and stay at the right temperature for maximum grip in rainy weather. Rain? Check.

Snow? Yes please. I have very good grip on snow with my mud terrains. When we have snowstorms and all the parking spots are covered in 4 foot high snow banks, I just plump my Cherokee right on top of that snowbank. With the extra heat generated from off-road tires along with those massive tread blocks showeling snow out from under you like its their job, you may not even have to use four wheel drive that often in the winter.

Bad drivers – they stay away.

This may be funny, but ubderskilled, inattentive, and inconsiderate drivers pose a serious road hazard. But not to you. When you are barreling down the road, they notice, and they pay attention. Inconsiderate drivers stop being so inconsiderate, for fear you will just roll over their Honda and keep going if they cut you off.

Lift it already!

As you can tell from this article, I am fairly one sided on the “To lift or not to lift” issue. I think I made some good point though. If you agree, its time for you to lift it!

This company builds Amazing Jeep XJ’s – That you can still take wheeling!

This company builds Amazing Jeep XJ’s – That you can still take wheeling!

A while back a stumbled on a youtube video of a nice modified Jeep Cherokee XJ. The video was a walkaround and the vehicle was for sale. The company that built it was Davis Autosports.

Looking into what they do, I found out that they make tons of beautiful, purposeful, and capable XJ’s. I wanted to write a post about them, because their work is worth checking out.

Their products are expensive, I admit. How do you feel about putting down 20 grand on a vehicle that is close to 20 years old, its not a full restoration, meaning that those aging components that tend to break, will break. You have to think about it at first, but after seeing the vehicles the build, I would hands down throw the money down if I had it, 100 times over buying some fancy luxuty car.

The on thing I like about them is that they spend the money where it counts, on the important bits. They leave the spartan interior as is in a lot of cases. They don’t do stupid shit like putting TV screens in the headrests. They don’t even bother with massaging the engine internals that much. I’ve seen them throw on custom headers and header back exhaust, but that is about it. But hey, you don’t need it. The 4.0 is a capable engine. You will get way more fun out of that long arm suspension than a custom intake manifold.

This may seems like a shameless marketing post, but its not. I honestly like the classy way these guys modify the jeeps. I really like that they are giving the ol’ XJ some love, and I like that they seem really into what they do.

Their pricing is steep, but the quality is outstanding. It’s worth it if you want to pay someone to build you a one of a kind Jeep.

I would estimate most of their regular builds to run between $10,000 and $50,000

They sell different kinds of XJ’s:

  • Original, low mileage XJ’s in pristine condition. One example with 31,ooo miles is being sold for $17,900
  • Built XJ’s with different levels of mods, from subtle to drastic. They tier their products in stages. I think their highest level is currently stage 6 or 6+
  • A stage 5+ Jeep will run you about $40,000 – ouch. A more subtle Stage 2 build will be around $20,000 – I think this is more reasonable since its the price of a vanilla entry level sedan. When you put things that way, suddently these XJ’s become more of a deal.
  • They also do custom builds to the owner’s specs

Below is a gallery of some of their build that I personally like. Their modifications levels range from the understated to Mad Max. Regardless of the mod level though, all their builds that I have seen so far are very tastefully done.

Green Stage 4 Jeep Cherokee XJ – Just a nice build


Details Page

Sand Dune Stage 4+ Jeep Cherokee XJ – That paint job…


Details Page

Black Stage 2 Jeep Cherokee XJ – Good looking simple build with a little added flair


Details Page

Stage 3 XJ – That rhino-lining looking paneling is their “Kevlar Package” Nice feature if you’re gonna be wheeling in the woods


Details Page

Stage 4+ Jeep Cherokee XJ – Shiny! This one is $26,000


Details Page

White Stage 2 Jeep Cherokee XJ – Love how understated this build is


Details Page

Red Stage 4 Jeep Cherokee XJ – Winch bunper, rear quarter panel armor, tastefully done


Details Page

Stage 2 Jeep Cherokee XJ  – Another tasteful understated build


Details Page

White Stage 3 Jeep Cherokee XJ – A stage 3 build – quite a bit louder than the subtle stage 2


Details Page

Baby Blue Stage 4 Jeep Cherokee XJ – A bit different. No flashy paint job. Just a solid build


Details Page

Gloss Blue Stage 6 Jeep Cherokee XJ – Low miles, nice paint and upgraded interior. Pretty much a brand new truck, with some character that you just don’t get in new vehicles these days.


Details Page

Matte Green Stage 6 Jeep Cherokee XJ – Finishing off with one of their more extreme builds


Details Page


This about wraps up this page. This list encompasses the builds that stood out to me. Davis Auto has a bunch more builds on their site here.

Their vehicles are interesting to explore partly because they also are very detailed in telling you what went into each build: all of the suspension components, any service or repairs done, etc. The one thing they are not always upfront about it the price. But that is understandable. The higher end builds on this list probably top out at around $50,000 – 60,000 based on the prices that I did see.

For many of us, owning an XJ is about getting something that has seen better days and repairing it into a usable vehicle and then building it into something awesome that is uniquely our own and just the way we like it.

In that vein, paying $50k for a flawless XJ that someone else built takes away some of the fun. I paid $1000 for my XJ. But if I am going to ever spend that kind of money for a new car anyway, I would definitely consider this as an alternative. My logic is that if you got multiple jeeps in your yard, at least one should be in working order to get you to where you want to go.

What I can appreciate about these guys though is that they like doing what we like doing. They have invested a lot of time and effort taking a utilitarian Jeep that many would overlook, and turning it into something that kicks butt.

A fitting tribute to the iconic XJ.

Things to look for when buying a Jeep

Things to look for when buying a Jeep

Jeeps are amazing vehicles. There is nothing else like them. There are very few things that will make you feel like they do. There is a reason we fall in love with them.

Even though, generally speaking, Jeeps are well built vehicles and easy to work on, they do tend to have a lot of issues.

Here is what to watch out for when buying a used one.

  • The XJ had a 17 year model run and there are some important differences between the models. Jeep switched up the transfer cases at one point. The later 90’s ones have a more robust one – NP42 is the preferred one.
  • Rear main seals tend to go bad around 100k+ miles. Look for oil covering the oil pan – although you can live with this
  • If you hear a grinding noise coming from the engine, the water pump is bad – again around 100k+ miles – relatively cheap and simple to fix
  • Check the aux coolant tank. If its very low, chances are there is a coolant leak.
  • Check the serpentine belt pulleys to make sure they are good. Make sure the power steering one does not wobble and make sure the AC compressor is not binding.
  • If it cranks for a while before starting, it could be a clogged fuel filter/bad fuel pump. You have to take the gas tank off to replace it.
  • If you hear any kind of clunking while turning, one of the front axle U-joints could be bad. That’s a cheap part, but a PITA fix.
  • Look for brake fluid leaks where the master cylinder connects to the brake booster in the engine compartment on the driver’s side. If its leaking, it could start binding up your brakes in hot weather
  • Aside from that oil leaks, the XJ is pretty solid as far as being able to get you from A to B, assuming you have a little oil and coolant left in it.

Happy Hunting!


Places to go wheeling in the North East – The Pine Barrens

Places to go wheeling in the North East – The Pine Barrens

Living in New England, we don’t have a lot of offroad parks. People here it seems just hate fun. I have been trying to find places to wheel for quite some time. This one is a gem.

The Pine Barrens in New Jersey is amazing! If you live in the North East, it is definitely worth the drive, and even and overnight stay if you must.

It is not a hardcore off-road park. Its mainly woods trails. There may be an occasional sand trap, and you can try fording some shallow ponds if you are daring, but those are the only obstacles you are gonna face.


Blasting through those paths at a quick pace is a blast though. Its a huge and picturesque area and there is a lot to explore.


The Pine Barrens is a huge area. The place to go wheeling is actually in a state park called Wharton State Forest in central New Jersey. Wheeling there is completely legal and there are many who do it.


Not all of the trails are on the maps. Many of them aren’t


It is a beautiful place with forests opening up to picturesque plains. But you never know whether you might be trespassing on someone else’s farmland


There is some interesting history here, including some abandoned settlements


From open fields and into the woods we go. Some of the woods paths are very narrow, with branches enveloping and brushing by your rig.


The terrain often changes from packed earth to loose sand. It is fun to put the truck in RWD and slide around. Just be careful of the trees. Sometimes its tight. You can go pretty fast down these paths and get away with it, but you have to watch out for hidden surprises, like rocks tree trunks, and deceptively shallow mud pits.


Some narrow pine paths In the Pine Barrens.


There are endless criss-crossing paths leading deeper into the woods. You can never get bored here. But you might get lost. I would recommend filling up beforehand or bringing extra gas. The area is probably not large enough for you to run out of gas and ge stranded, but you wouldn’t want to cut your trip short because of a silly thing like that


The Pine Barrens is a very interesting place. There a re rumored to be abandoned settlements around this area which seem like they would be a blast to explore. I could not find any though. I think my intel about their locations might have been off. But even so, it was a great time.

Wheeling in the Pines was an absolute blast.

Spend a little extra on quality tools – They make all the difference

Spend a little extra on quality tools – They make all the difference

We have all McGyvered a solution to a problem when we don’t have the right tools to solve it. When it works out, it feels awesome. The thing is, going by the rule of averages, most of the time it won’t work out, and will leave you frustrated, waste your time, or your money if you ruin whatever it is you are working on.

Most McGyver fixes I know about involve using a bigass hammer and a blow torch to remove a stubborn part like your pitman, instead of using a puller and some presoaking in Kroil.

I used a sawzall once too to “remove” a stubborn part. But in my haste I didn’t realize a crucial detail, which left me drilling out a half inch flared fitting for a day and a half.


Save yourself some dough on repairs – Diagnose your issue correctly

Save yourself some dough on repairs – Diagnose your issue correctly

Unlike my advice in the title suggests, I don’t do this. Ever. I don’t ever learn from past mistakes.

When something brakes, I throw parts at it until something sticks. Expensive parts. I jump to a quick conclusion, convince myself that this it what is causing the problem and nothing else, and borrow a car to head down to Oreilly’s.

More often than not, I am wrong though.

Just the other day, after my brake failure fiasco, I got myself some Rubicon Trail braided lines, installed them, and started bleeding.

The pedal to my disappointment never got stiff when all the valves were closed, and I kept hearing a “whoosh” sound coming from somewhere in front of me, in the engine bay.

I inspected the situation and noticed some heavy leaking between the master cylinder and brake booster, that seems like it has been happening for quite some time.

Immediately I decided that it must be the master cylinder, even though I replaced it not even a year ago.

I headed over to Oreilly’s got myself a $100 master cylinder – only the best for me from now on, because the $40 Amazon one “failed”

I also decided to pick up the brake booster since the master good have been leaking as well – another $90. After driving around to 3 different stores, and visiting one of them twice, I finally got my booster and master cylinder.

I installed them, started bleeding, and to my dismay, again I hear a “whoosh” when I press the pedal, and while I was bleeding the right side caliper, a substantial puddle of brake fluid built up on the floor a bit aft of the driver’s side front wheel!

!!! I thought. So I inspected the engine bay once again. This time I pinpointed exactly where the leak was coming from. The master cylinder was leaking, yes, but it was not leaking nearly as bad as the driver’s side brake line I cracked while installing my new steel braided lines.

Cost to replace a brake line: <$10 in most cases. Since I already had some spare brake line, fittings, and a flaring kit that I bought earlier, for me the cost was free.

Moral of the story is I could have saved $180 just by taking a little extra time to investigate where the leak was coming from.

Am I going to now go back and return the parts I didn’t need, along with all the little impulse buy doohickies I got? Hell no! Them new shiny parts look nice!

But that is quite foolish though. That $200 could have gotten me a sweet ARB onboard compressor, or I could have put it towards a rear locker.

Save your cash on repairs, spend it on upgrades instead. There is value in learning how to diagnose your issues correctly