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How many field fixes does it take to get a JK through Pritchett Canyon at EJS 2016 Day 5 #EJS2016

Posted in Moab Experience: 2016 on March 24, 2016
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When you wanna ‘wheel hard, you wanna wheel hard. Even if the only Jeep easily at your disposal is the one you borrowed from your daughter. Go easy? Hell no – not if your name is Sean Angues and you’re the president of TMG, the company that owns brands like Rubicon Express, Smittybilt, and Pro Comp just to name a few. Sean flogged his little girl’s yellow JK Unlimited Rubicon hard even though he hadn’t had time to upgrade a lot of the factory or pre-production aftermarket components. The result? More than a couple field fixes. At the end of the day, the TMG crew, Verne Simons, and Christian Hazel managed to MacGyver, rig, winch, and pull it off the trail and now Sean knows exactly which parts from the TMG catalog to throw at it to make sure the next time it tackles Pritchett it’ll be smooth sailing all the way through the trail. Be sure to check back at fourwheeler.com for more finds through the week.

After completely mobbing all the previous obstacles, Sean’s JK took a bad slide while under heavy throttle on the second-to-last obstacle on the trail. As the Jeep’s rear fell into a severe undercut, the front left tire suddenly gained a ton of traction and – bam! There went the front axleshaft U-joint in the factory Dana 44. Field fix time!

When the axleshaft U-joint blew, it depressed the lower ball joint into the axle C and allowed the knuckle to drop slightly on the upper ball joint. Moving the Jeep forward or backward would completely take out the ball joints and blow the knuckle, wheel, and tire right off the vehicle so we had to effect the field fix right where the Jeep broke. We chocked the rig with rocks, set the E-brake, and tried pulling the tire. Naturally, a scissors jack didn’t have enough reach to get the tire off the vehicle.

Verne Simons grabbed the Hi-Lift out of his flattie while Christian Hazel ratchet-strapped the axle to the frame so the suspension wouldn’t drop out. Then we pulled the wheel and tire and tossed it under the rocker panel just in case the jack slipped.

We pulled the brake caliper bracket, rotor, and ABS sensor and then the three bolts holding the unitbearing to the knuckle.

It took a few whacks with a hammer and drift to get the mangled U-joint caps out of the stub shaft ears so it would pass through the knuckle.

With the hub and stub assembly on the ground, we hammered the caps all the way back in the ears so they wouldn’t pop loose and completely take out the ball joints while the vehicle was finishing the trial. Unlike a TJ/XJ/YJ/WJ, you can run a JK Dana axle without a stub shaft to hold the unitbearing together, but in the interest of time we left the stub in place.

We hammered the caps out of the remainder of the inner shaft and removed it from the axlehousing. Then we stuffed rags into the axletube to help keep the gear oil in.

With the shafts removed all that remained was getting the knuckle back up on the ball joints. While one person hammered the lower ball joint, Christian tightened the upper with a 22mm socket. We didn’t get it all the way back in place, but it was good enough that we felt the knuckle wasn’t going to rip off the axlehousing.

With the knuckle back in place, we tossed everything back together and removed the jacks. Sean motored on for another couple hundred yards when the rear driveshaft decided to pull and Elvis and left the building, effectively rendering the vehicle one-wheel-peel.

Sean’s Jeep was running an early prototype steering tie rod that he never swapped out for a current production piece. Earlier in the day it had sustained a slight bend and was pulled straight with a winch line. Just before exiting the final bowl climb obstacle – you guessed it – the tie rod end snapped most likely due to the strain of the one single driving tire exerting all its force against it on that side. Attitude is everything and even a challenging day on the trial is better than being in the office, so Sean gave a thumbs-up and we hooked the Smittybilt winch line to the company’s Hemi-powered JK on 40s at the top and dragged it up out of the slick bowl with only the passenger-side front tire pulling and steering.

Once at the top we still had to get the vehicle off to the side to avoid plugging up the exit to Pritchett. Christian was worried the drive-side tire flopping all the way to full lock and dragging into the ground like an anchor would not only cause undue strain on the winch lines and single remaining axleshaft, but would also rip the weakened ball joints out of the axle housing. He chained the tie rod to the sturdy steel Poison Spyder bumper to keep the driver-side tire somewhat centered.

With darkness creeping in we hooked the JK’s winch to the vehicle in front of it and made one last Herculean effort to get the JK up off the trail assisting with its own power when – bam. The last remaining axleshaft blew.

We only had a couple hundred feet left to go. Never ones to call it quits we rigged up a double-line pull off an anchor vehicle, knocked the offending axleshaft shrapnel out of the way so it wouldn’t spit the ball joints, and dragged it to the top with only the drag link attached to the passenger-side knuckle helping steer and then claimed victory (of sorts). Time to cue Rocky dance with arms raised in victory over heads and go place an order for some G2 crate axle assemblies!

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