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Jp Reader Letters to The Editor

Posted in Features on December 7, 2017
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Manual Override

Good to “meet you” (Trail Head, Oct. ’17). I have a ’02 Wrangler SE. I bought it in ’07 and have been reading Jp ever since. I’m not your typical Jeep guy, as I don’t go off-road. I don’t have an interest. I really like driving in the snow and ice, however. I’m an old trucker. I have been driving tractor trailers since age 15 (I’m 68 now). My SE is like a little truck. I took the back seat out and put a hardtop on it. It’s my little sedan delivery.

Anyway, I just really enjoy driving it around town and on country roads, on the highway not as much. I have no use for automatic transmissions. Why anyone with two functioning arms and two functioning legs would buy a Wrangler, Corvette, or anything fun with an automatic transmission is beyond me. Besides the control, durability, and so on, a manual is just plain fun! Unlike the manuals in my big trucks (non-synchronized), the synchronized manuals like in a Jeep are easy to learn to shift. For someone just looking for transportation as in a Toyota Camry, I have no problem with an auto trans, it’s just a pet peeve of mine. Thanks for listening!

Hey, what happened to the Jeep Chix in Jp? I haven’t seen that feature in a long while. A Jeep and a pretty girl is definitely a beautiful thing!

Thanks for a fun magazine!

Rick Passan
Bethlehem, PA

The public appeal of the manual transmission has been waning in all automobiles for some time. Today, just 5 percent of the new vehicles sold in the U.S. are sold with a manual transmission. Three decades ago, 25 percent of cars and 30 percent of trucks were sold with manual transmissions. It’s estimated that as few as 18 percent of current U.S. drivers even know how to operate a manual transmission. As a result, you can’t even buy a new 1/2-ton pickup with a manual transmission anymore, and the factory manual transmissions in 3/4- and 1-ton trucks have diminished too. Fortunately, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the last holdouts, at least for now. The new ’18 Wrangler JL is still available with a six-speed manual.

It used to be that the manual transmissions were more reliable, durable, and fuel efficient than their automatic counterparts, but that’s no longer true. It’s not at all uncommon for manual-equipped Jeeps and other 4x4s to receive detuned engines. This is often done to preserve the drivetrain.

Regardless of all that, we agree. We enjoy the sporty feel of a manual transmission. It makes us feel like more of an integral part of the Jeep than when sitting behind the wheel of a Jeep with an automatic transmission.

We’re glad you enjoy Jp. We try hard to make it fun and informative. As for the Jeep Chix, that department had run its course and was just not as popular as it was at one time.

Ratio Right

I recently saw a JK Unlimited Rubicon in the Rubicon Express booth at the Lucas Off-Road show in Pomona, California. It was sporting a 3.5-inch long-arm lift kit with 37-inch tires and Bushwacker fender flares. I told the Rubicon Express guy what I was planning on doing when I got my JK and he told me it would ride just fine, but he's the Rubicon Express rep. He’s paid to say that.

Two letters that I just read in Your Jeep (Dec. ’17) spurred me to write in about a possible solution to some reader’s questions about lifts, tires, and gearing.

You should get a bunch of Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited models together for a drivability test, or comparison if you wish to call it that. It should feature a stock JK and a number of lifted JKs with varying tire and gearing combos. I’ve found the most common tire size is 35 inches. More serious ’wheelers will make the jump to 37-inch tires while some go the next level in the 40-inch range.

So you should find JKs with 35-inch tires and 4.10, 5.13, and 5.38 gears. Then find JKs with 37-inch and 4.10, 5.13, and 5.38 gears and compare them all. We all know a lot of people buy JKs to be their daily drivers and weekend warriors as well. We like to fix them up to look cool and enhance off-road capability. However, we do spend most of our time on the highway and around town. A comprehensive comparison of fuel mileage differences, RPM at cruising speed, acceleration, braking, and so on could be done. See you on the trail.

Steven R.
Highland, CA

While your idea is a noble one, there sure are a lot of other variables to consider. Should we compare manual or automatic transmissions, or both? Should we compare them in the flats or in the mountains? Driving habits and geographic location have a lot to do with mpg and overall performance. Also, vehicle builds and tire and wheel combinations can significantly vary in weight. Some JK builds could be 1,500 pounds heavier or more than others! A JK with even a lighter tire and wheel package of the same size could significantly outperform an identical JK with heavier wheels and tires. Keep in mind that every 10 pounds of additional wheel weight is considered the equivalent of adding 100 pounds of cargo as far as braking and acceleration are concerned. Rolling weight is the worst kind of weight to add to an already underpowered and underbraked Jeep.

Now, all else being equal, we can give you a pretty good idea about how each of your scenarios would play out and compare. First, putting 40-inch tires on a JK with stock axles is a foolish undertaking. The tires are way too much for the factory axles and brakes. You’ll eventually need to upgrade to weighty 1-ton sized axle assemblies and gear ratios at and beyond 5.38:1. JKs built to be used off-road with 40-inch tires are generally tickling 10-12 mpg in fuel economy with the stock V-6 engine. As we’re sure you can imagine, a Jeep like this is not an acceptable road-tripper or daily driver for most people, although some do it.

Going with 37-inch tires and the stock axle assemblies isn’t a much better idea than the 40-inch tires. Mating the 37s with 4.10 axle gears will make the Jeep incredibly sluggish and nearly undrivable on high-altitude mountainous roads. We’d expect 10-12 mpg or worse on a build like this. A gear swap would be a must. The performance difference between 5.13:1 and 5.38:1 ratio axle gears would be negligible. Either ratio would be a vast improvement over the 4.10:1 ratio gears. Running 5.13 or 5.38 gears with 37-inch tires would likely get most drivers into the 12-15 mpg range.

Installing 35-inch tires on an otherwise stock JK is the sanest route you could take. In most cases you would match up the 35s with 4.88:1 ratio gears. Those that do less high-speed highway driving might step into 5.13 or 5.38 gears, but these would be overkill for all but the heaviest of JK builds. You could very easily get away with 4.10 gears and 35-inch tires, especially with a manual transmission or if you spend most of your time in the flatter parts of the U.S. We’d expect a JK on 35s with 4.10 gears to get 13-16 mpg in most cases. Bumping up to 4.88 gears might be worth 1-2 mpg. The 5.13:1 and 5.38:1 ratio gears matched with 35-inch tires would make the JK more sporty and fun to drive around town or in mountainous areas, but top speed and mpg would suffer.

In general, a JK with 4.10:1 or 4.56:1 ratio gears is best matched with 33- to 35-inch tires, a JK with 4.88:1 ratio gears is good for 35- to 36-inch tires, and a JK with 5.13:1 or 5.38:1 ratio gears is good for 37-inch tires. However, if you use the Jeep off-road regularly with tires bigger than 35 inches, you should seriously consider swapping out the axle assemblies for something beefier than stock.

All Get Along

I loved Trail Head (Nov. ’17). I bought my ’16 Wrangler Unlimited Freedom Edition in March of 2016. I have never owned a vehicle that I have enjoyed so much. I was warned by a friend, who is also a Jeep owner, of the perils of Jeep ownership, such as the mod bug, the itch to go off-road anywhere. I can attest, it’s all true!

For the purists who feel the JK has ruined the Jeep and the Jeeping world in general, I’d like to suggest they don’t judge, but rather respect. Enjoy whatever model Wrangler or Jeep you happen to own, regardless of its alphanumeric designation. I love every Jeep, whatever model it is. Those seven slots on the face represent a great history and to me reflect a community of people who are Jeeples, people who enjoy and love the Jeep brand. I don’t get caught up in what model it is. I’m too busy enjoying mine. I wave every time I see another Jeep. If I get a wave in return, cool. If not, so be it, life goes on. I use my Jeep how I want to. I don’t judge others based on how they use theirs. Like I said, I’m too busy enjoying my Jeep. Every day I look forward to getting behind the wheel of my Wrangler.

Thank you for putting together the issue focused on the JK (Nov. ’17). I know some purists may glance through it with their eyes rolling, and that’s fine. Just respect other Jeeps and their owners. Just because the JK is available with more creature comforts doesn’t make it less of a Jeep. I’ve seen stock Jeeps do amazing things off-road.

The JK is a big part of Jeep’s history and its traditions. I’m proud to be a JK owner. Let’s all respect one another, let’s all respect the Jeep brand, whatever model you own. Let’s all get out there and enjoy our Jeeps!

Thanks again for a great article and a great issue.

Ed Birch
Newtown, PA

Wave or Not

I’ve had lots of Jeep CJs and always waved to other Jeeps on the road. I now have a ’79 FSJ Cherokee. I still wave, even at someone in a new Jeep, regardless of if they look at me funny and drive on by.

Eric
Via email

We suppose that’s not unusual. Many of us are juggling a cell phone and a $5 cup of coffee while trying to plug in a cord to charge said cell phone and steer with the free knee. A wave back could result in a head-on collision with you. Be thankful you didn’t get a return wave in some cases.

SEMA Soured

Regarding the Mopar and ’18 Wrangler intro video from SEMA. I really don’t think there are many things Jeep could do to truly upset most people. The purists are always easily segregated into their own levels and I think the last of them stopped caring with the introduction of the JK. However, I think it was a marketing mistake by FCA for not putting someone with an American accent on the reveal stage at the show. I couldn’t care less, but from a marketing perspective it was the wrong move. Personally, I think the turning point for me was when Jeep stopped making the grille out of metal. But then, my rig is a ’76 with an AMC V-8, so I might be biased.

Jim Kallaher
Via facebook.com/JohnCappa4x4

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a company like Jeep does what it does. However, in this case it might be more easily understood given the circumstances. You see, Pietro Gorlier, the speaker you mentioned at the SEMA Show, is Head of Parts and Service for Mopar. Of course, Mopar is an aftermarket supplier, which is what the SEMA Show is all about. Mopar introduced 200 new aftermarket products for the new JL Wrangler before the ’18 Jeep was even released, which is a pretty big deal for the aftermarket. Now, at the same time, Jeep was ramping up a media long lead in New Zealand, meaning pretty much every Jeep engineer, designer, and group head was in New Zealand too, getting ready to rub elbows with media types like Jp Editor Rick Péwé. Sometimes the Jeep executives just can’t be everywhere they should be.

Wonder Wobble

Some of your readers may find this interesting or useful. I had to chuckle at myself recently. I had finally decided to get to the bottom of the steering slop I was experiencing in my ’05 LJ. Previous cursory inspections had not revealed the source of my problem. I now had my wife sawing the steering wheel back and forth while I got down in front of the Jeep, carefully inspecting all of the standard sources of excessive steering play. Everything was tight, no worn steering gear, no sloppy tie-rod ends, nothing! Then, finally in a moment of enlightenment, I took a broader view of what was going on and realized that there was some movement in the track bar attachment at the axle, not much, but as was proven to be the case, enough to cause the vehicle to wander as I drove down the road. Now, we all know in retrospect, of course slop in the track bar mounts can cause steering problems, but in the heat of battle it is so easy to overlook.

Larry Waite
Sunnyvale, CA

It never fails, 9 times out of 10, death wobble and steering wonder can be attributed to a worn or lose track bar or draglink. Glad you found your issue before it became an even bigger problem.

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