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August 2013 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on July 5, 2013 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Jp Archives

Other than situations involving me personally, I’ve never been afraid to discuss contentious or embarrassing issues. Likewise, if I have something that needs to be said, I don’t pussyfoot around. No beating around the bush, no sir. Just come right out and speak my mind, yes indeed. No losing my train of thought, although that does remind me of this time when I was four-wheeling and found traces of an ancient wreck along an abandoned railroad....

Oh sorry, I don’t usually wander off so badly in the opening. My general M.O. is to wait until at least the third or fourth paragraph, but this time I’m on a roll.

Back on course now, it’s time to have that little talk. We need to discuss a common viewpoint about guys who drive 4x4s that have been lifted sky high. We’ve all heard the snickers and whispered comments. In a nutshell, everybody knows if a guy has spent big bucks to make his Jeep tower over all the others, it can only mean one thing: The bigger the Jeep, the smaller the you-know-what. It’s a private matter no man wants to admit, but to those guys so affected, you don’t have to be ashamed. (Editor’s note: Thanks for the kind words. What about those pills that supposedly add inches? Just how big are the pills? What holds them in place?) (Author’s note: You probably should have read my entire column first, as I was talking about shrinking bank accounts.) (Editor’s note: Sorry, once again, that was awkward.)

I couldn’t find infinity-grade engine oil

Yep, drive a heavily modified Jeep and you may as well put up a sign stating you’re broke. Actually, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve gone for the high school drug dealer look by putting huge tires and a lift on your Jeep. A bone stock restoration, or most anything in between, will also cause the same results on your bank balance. There’s no getting around the fact that Jeep parts are expensive. In my mind, which is quite a roomy place seeing as it’s unencumbered by much gray matter, Jeep parts should be far more reasonably priced. (While I’m on my soapbox, how come one-size-fits-all socks don’t really fit us guys with size 13 feet?)

With Jeeps, the problem isn’t so much the price of the big items, but the number of peripheral parts required. For example, consider some recent repairs on my ’48 CJ-2A. It had a pretty bad rod knock and the lazy man’s fix had well passed its expiration date. 10W-40 had given way to 20W-50, followed by progressively thicker grades of oil. Even I realized it was time for a proper repair when I couldn’t find infinity-grade engine oil.

The crankshaft needed to be resized, but that’s only about $100 or so at a machine shop. A new set of rod and main bearings is a bargain for another $100, so no complaints there. A couple hundred bucks plus my free labor means my wallet should be safe, right? That’s a good one, isn’t it? Since I’m cracking jokes now, have you also heard about the penguin who takes his car to the mechanic?

Okay, fine, you’ll have to look up that one on your own. Back to my $200 repair, the total quickly ballooned, but you already knew that. The oil had to be drained, of course, so that’s another $20 for a refill. I might as well figure on another $20 to replace the coolant, too. The radiator hoses were getting a little long in the tooth, so once again my wallet whimpered. Let’s not forget gaskets and other little trinkets, but naturally, that’s not the end of it. Even though the old clutch disc was probably fine, it seemed foolish not to replace it and the throwout bearing while the engine was pulled. You all know the chorus, so everybody sing along! You’ve obviously overlooked something important if an initial estimate doesn’t at least double by the time you’re done.

This is where some proactive (That’s a bingo!) overachiever will chime in how about how they always plan for those contingencies. It goes without saying such people make me sick. Actually, “people” is the wrong word. These sub-human mutants probably even plan projects carefully to avoid the financial surprises that the rest of us encounter on a regular basis with our Jeeps.

Furthermore, if a doubling of a project’s tally doesn’t even raise an eyebrow, then a Jeep owner’s financial priorities are all wrong. Compare this to a vehicle’s anti-skid system. Maximum braking effort is reached at that fine line just before the tires break free, right at the verge of a skid. The same principle applies to Jeep fiscal matters, too. If you’re not sweating when the rent is due, you could have splurged on the Jeep side of the ledger. Why forgo a new set of shocks when the landlord isn’t going to evict you the first time your check is late? On a similar note, utility companies tend to bluff a lot. Relax, because they have several degrees of so-called “final” notices. You only have to worry about the warnings printed on red paper. Don’t feel bad about sinking money into some much-needed Jeep projects instead. Even if you’re in the middle of something, it’s not like the electricity will just be abruptly

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