Many people pack their Jeep with hundreds of pounds of spare parts, tools, and equipment for dealing with all possible scenarios of broken. While I am often guilty of over-packing, I go through my equipment regularly to see what I use, what is used up, and what is just taking up space.
My kit changes seasonally and by location, but some items that are a must for any of my backcountry trips are a pair of ratchet straps and a couple of two-foot lengths of 3/16-inch, grade-30 chain with a few bolts, nuts, and washers. With these items I can limp out vehicles with a wide variety of ailments. Here are some ways in which I have used my cute little pieces of chain and my colorful ratchet straps over the years.
Axlehousings can and do break. That can be a crippling event for your Jeep, especially if you don’t have the equipment necessary to hold the two sides closely together while limping off the trail.
To help hold a broken or separated axletube together, hook one end of a ratchet strap to the frame on one side of the Jeep and the other end of the strap to the opposite axle end. Then repeat this with another strap on the other side so you end up with the ratchet straps crossing like an X.
Broken front axlehousing: I have driven JKs with the dreaded cracked axlehousing for miles out of a trail to a waiting tow truck using only two ratchet straps. The idea is to keep the axlehousing as close to one piece as possible by pulling the now separate ends together. Hook one end of a ratchet strap to the frame on one side of the Jeep and hook the strap’s other end to the opposite axle end. Then repeat with another strap on the other side so you end up with the ratchets crossing like an X. Be careful not to bind any steering components.
A length of sturdy chain, with the proper nuts, washers, and bolts, can be used to secure a broken track bar mount to the axle to which it’s supposed to be attached well enough for you to limp it out to the highway for a tow or trailer. This can also help get your rig safely off to the side of the trail where a better fix can be performed.
Broken track bar mount (front or rear): Use one or both pieces of chain to crisscross over the busted track bar mount and hold it as firmly as possible to the axlehousing to which it is supposed to be attached. Wrap around a spring perch or control arm mount to keep the chain from sliding around. Use your bolt, nut, and washer selection to connect the chain ends together. A hook and eye turnbuckle can work very well for tightening up a chain wrap.
Wrap a ratchet strap around the circumference of the tire and tighten it down so that it squishes the tire bead onto the wheel’s bead surface and holds the air in as air pressure builds up enough to pop the tire bead into place.
Reseat a tire bead: While many simply use their muscles to hold the tire in place while inflating it, I prefer to keep my hands and face as far away as possible from an 80-pound tire popping onto the wheel. Wrap a ratchet strap around the circumference of the tire and tighten it down so that it squishes the tire bead onto the wheel’s bead surface and holds air in as the pressure builds up enough to pop the tire bead into place.
Let’s clarify: These and many other trail fixes do not necessarily make the vehicle roadworthy, but they will at least get you to a safer and easier place to work on your rig or to pavement where a tow truck can pick up your Jeep for a safe ride to a respectable welder.
Why not carry a trail welder? Yes, I own a wonderful trail welder, but there are two problems that can arise with its use. There are often fire restrictions about welding on public lands (know the current status of anywhere you are traveling). I’m a lousy welder. With those two things taken into consideration, I find that it really is best for the vehicle, bystanders, and the fire department for me to do all I can to not weld. That’s why I’m enthusiastic about non-welding trail solutions that can get my rig to someone who can lay a stack of dimes without catching the Jeep on fire.
The possibilities for chains and ratchet straps are endless—tie up broken leaf springs, control arms, driveshafts, tire carriers, hood latches, and more. Use your imagination. Once again, your brain is the most important piece of equipment to bring with you!