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November 2006 4Word Editorial - Road Trips & Mishaps

Posted in Features on November 1, 2006
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For some people, including myself, the anticipation of a road trip is almost too much to endure. Our day-to-day sanity hinges on thoughts of a looming escape from the daily grind of life. It doesn't matter if the trip is a weekend getaway or a month-long hiatus, it helps us get through the year.

For some of you, this journey comes along once every year or so. Preparing logistically can span months for some people - it just depends on how fastidious a person might be. The trick to a successful adventure is knowing just what to take without loading yourself down. More than once I've stood on the trail scratching my head wondering why I hadn't brought a particular item. Then again, I am also guilty of bringing that same damn thing along on the next trip and not using it. Just remember that in these days of overpriced gasoline and the nation's dependence on foreign oil, the lighter the load, the better the fuel efficiency.

Prepping the vehicle is one of the most important aspects of any road trip. At the very least, hit the basics before you go - an oil change, cooling system check and/or flush, hoses, belts, spark plugs, transmission fluid levels, brakes, and steering. Depending on the adventure, there might possibly be some modifications needed. Just go prepared.

A good example of a much needed but much neglected modification surfaced on my recent journey to Montana for the Eaton/Detroit Locker Trail Tour. Before I left, Scott Frary from Eaton told me that on the first day there would be numerous river crossings. The first thing that went through my mind was "snorkel." Some people like them and some people don't, but they serve their purpose.

As it turns out, I didn't have time to contact ARB, nor did I have the time to install the snorkel even if I managed to get one before the trip. Well now I have the distinguished honor of being a member of the hydrolocked engine club. Project Grand Caddy rolled out of the river with a bent number-eight rod. I was very lucky that I was able to drive the Jeep out of the canyon - we would have played hell towing it out.

I knew in the back of my mind that I should have been floating the Jeep through the river, especially since I was running just under a 32-inch tire. Everyone else at the event was running 37 to 40-inch tires. Water levels peaked at about mid-door level on the Grand most of the time and crested the hood more than once. I had made it to the final river crossing when I took the fatal turn for the worse toward the bank of the river. I can read a river pretty darn well, so I should have known better.

A word to the wise: In most cases, a river with a heavy current after runoff will undercut at the bank. Always double-check your route across. My other river crossing tip is that if you plan on doing this type of wheeling, get yourself a good pair of polarized glasses. They will take the glare off the surface of the water and allow more depth of vision into the water.

So what do you and I get out of all this? Well, I get to clear quite a few hundred bucks out of my bank account buying a core and parts for a new engine. You, however, will get a complete performance build of Project Grand Caddy's new 5.2L engine in the Jan. '07 issue of 4WD&SU. I have recruited the talents of Tim Jenkins from DOA Racing to build the engine. Tim is world-renowned for his exceptional work on Toyota engines, but he initially honed his skills on small-blocks. The 5.2L engine is somewhat underpowered and not very efficient for a V-8. Tim will increase the engine's power range of horsepower and torque, as well as its efficiency. Hopefully, this won't result in me having to take out a second mortgage to pay exorbitant fuel prices!

If you are serious about building any type of Jeep engine, you can find Tim at Also, check out our awesome Trail Tour coverage beginning on page 46. Additional photos of the event can be viewed at Trails.Kevin

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