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Get That Junk Jeep Home or Else!

Posted in How To on June 1, 2011
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Of the 14 project vehicles that this author has purchased in the past decade, only five would start and move under their own power. And of those five that actually ran, only two were in a condition able to be driven on public roads. But did that stop us from buying them and transforming them into enjoyable and memorable project builds? Hell, no! And the rest of the Jp staff is just as dedicated to retrieving languishing projects equally full of potential.

Buying a fully functional, drivable project is kinda boring. There’s no adventure or sense of accomplishment that first time you roll up to your garage door in it. Much like a hillbilly bride, we prefer to carry our new projects across the threshold in the arms of our loving, well-used trailer. So, when you’re browsing the on-line ads looking for your next Jeep purchase, don’t let the words, won’t start, hasn’t run in decades, or missing engine and transmission sway you from your cause.

Tools of the Trade
Whenever we’re in the market for a new project, we keep the following components close by so that they’re ready to load into our tow rig at a moment’s notice. After all you snooze, you lose.

Toolbox: Full of common hand tools, breaker bar, large adjustable wrench, electrical connectors/wiring kit, fuses, bulbs, multi-tool

  • Plenty of assorted ratchet and vehicle tie-down straps
  • Jumper cables
  • 5lb or 10lb Power Tank
  • 5 gallons of gasoline (or diesel depending on project)
  • Recovery bag: Ours is a well-used Warn medium-duty winch accessory kit (PN62858) with two D-ring shackles, a snatch-block, 30-foot tow strap, tree saver, and leather gloves. We toss in a Warn 10-foot length of choker chain (PN 26083)
    Shovel: You never know when you’ll have to hide a body
  • Quick-disconnect battery leads
  • Optima Blue Top equipped with marine wingnut-type terminals
  • Winch controller for trailer winch (if applicable)
  • Driving Ms. Donkey
    If you’re thinking of driving a junk Jeep home, do yourself and everyone else on the road a favor and give go through a quick pre-flight to make sure you’re not going to crash and burn.

  • Steering box bolts and pitman arm nut tight
  • Ball joints, wheel bearings, and steering linkage tight and undamaged
  • Fuel filter(s) clear and fuel pickup(s) not clogged or contaminated (use compressed air to blow out lines)
  • Fuel lines from tank to carb free of leaks/fire hazards
  • Wiring system free of shorts: no sparks, blown fuses, smoke, or hot wires
  • Cooling system functional/reasonably leak-free
  • Hoses in decent condition
  • Headlights (if night driving home) and brake lights work
  • Seat belts operational
  • Brakes functional/no leaks
  • Proper fluid level in engine, gearboxes, and axles
  • No Trailer, No Problem!
    So you don’t own a trailer? Don’t worrythere are other ways to get your pile o’ project home.

    Flat Tow: You can buy a bumper-mounted tow bar for most early Jeep and even Wrangler models. Fullsize and larger Jeeps may pose more of a problem. Bring along a cordless drill and plenty of spare batteries for the installation (we don’t really like U-bolt-type tow bars). You’ll want to disconnect the vehicle’s front and rear driveshafts unless you’re confident in the condition of the transmission and T-case lube and bearings. Check the front and rear axles for gear lube, front hubs and steering components, tire inflation, wheel lug torque, and connect a bungee cord from the steering wheel to the brake pedal to help return-to-center after cornering

    Tow Dolly Rental: Most major moving companies rent tow dollies that roll under a vehicle’s front or rear wheels. It’s always better to put the front wheels on the dolly for stability and safety. Rates and conditions will vary depending on your state, age, and location, but it’s an easy option. Once again, disconnect the rear driveshaft and check tire pressure and lug torque.

    One quick word of warning when winching a junk Jeep onto your trailer: Don’t forget to throw a block of wood or something else to chock the tires and prevent the Jeep from rolling straight off the front of your trailer and into your tow vehicle. Once you get your new project onto your trailer, use ratchet straps to tie down any body pieces that may come loose or blow away while towing.

    Trailer Rental: Depending on your location and the company you’re dealing with, you may or may not be able to rent a flatbed trailer to transport your vehicle. Some companies will only rent flatbed car trailers if you’re using one of their moving vans to tow it with. Others impose stipulations on the tow vehicle, such as a minimum weight, minimum tow rating, and even whether or not it’s a hard-top-equipped SUV.

    Roadside Assistance Service: Depending on the company and the level of roadside assistance you purchase, some companies may tow an unregistered project vehicle you’ve just purchased home for you. This is really the easiest way, since they can send a snazzy flatbed with a winch and skilled operator to pick up and deliver your new junk purchase. Keep in mind that some companies may require the vehicle to carry registration and insurance. Others leave it up to the driver’s discretion, which can sometimes be swayed with a good ol’ sawbuck of finski (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). You can often call to upgrade your service to cover additional miles if your project is far from home. When in doubt, call your service provider first and check.

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