The Quiet Months
The juxtaposition of the publishing world and the real world creates a skewed view of time. As I sit here writing, it is only three days before Christmas; yet I am already beginning to work on the May '03 issue of 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility. In the real world, I've scarcely begun winter, while in the publishing world, I'm already halfway through a year that technically has not even begun. Einstein was right: time is relative.
So, while my profession dictates that I begin looking at stories on such things as mid-summer trail rides and how best to protect your rig from soaring temperatures, reality demands that I look at how best to protect my rig from what promises to be a very cold winter. Like thousands of other four-wheelers around the country who live in cold climates, I've pretty well packed up my rig for the year. Yes, I know, as our annual winter special attests to, there are those who revel in snow-wheeling, but I will be using the coming months to tinker with my Jeep in the warm confines of my garage rather than crawl through hip-deep snow drifts in below-freezing temperatures.
Before I pull it into the garage, though, one of the first things I'll be doing is crawling beneath the Jeep with a scraper to get off all the muck that I should have sprayed off months ago. Now it has hardened to a rock-like consistency, and if I don't get it all cleaned up, it will eventually start rusting out the floor pan and various parts. Unfortunately, the average temperature has been running in the 40s lately, which is going to make for a long couple of hours.
Once I'm safely tucked away in the garage, I plan to put the XJ up on stands, pull off the thrashed Baja Claws, and begin methodically going through the rig from top to bottom. Something I've been meaning to do for a while is cut out the front and rear fenders to create enough room for the 35-inch BFGs I'll soon be mounting up. One of the reasons I've put it off so long is that I don't like doing things half-ass, and if it's not done correctly, it will drive me out of my mind. Now that I have some leisure time, that won't be a problem.
I've also noticed some tranny problems over the past few months that are going to require some attention. It feels like the torque converter is cutting in and out, but I suspect the computer is at least partially at fault because when I turn the engine off, let it sit for a minute, then crank it back up and take off, everything is fine. Now, I've spoken to dozens of Cherokee owners, and not a single one of them seems to have ever had any problems of this sort. In fact, they usually delight in regaling me with stories of how their XJs have run reliably for well over 200,000 miles with nary a glitch. Aren't I the lucky one?
Beyond that, it sounds like I have some bearings going in the front driver-side axle, which isn't surprising considering the kind of miles I put on my Jeep and the kind of terrain I pound it through. So that will be next on the list. And the other day I noticed some coolant beginning to puddle on the ground and eventually discovered the piece-of-junk plastic OE radiator finally cracked. So I guess I'll be replacing that, too. The list grows long.
If you have similar plans for your rig this winter, know that you're not alone. Thousands of us across the country will be turning up the heat, grabbing our tools, and settling in for a long winter's night.