21,000-Mile Update On Our Project JK
At first we were painfully reluctant to change much on our '07 two-door Wrangler Rubicon. How could we not be? It's been comfortable and reliable enough to make a daily 60-mile round-trip commute. It's also served as this editor's primary wheeling rig for the last six months. And with a quick wash, wax, and vacuum, it's been out on date night. Although the truth is, it hardly ever gets washed and there is rarely anyone sitting in the passenger seat. Overall, our project JK has been a pretty sweet ride. The T-boning incident in Los Angeles traffic set us back a few months, but since those repairs, we've been spinning wrenches and logging miles, and here's what we've learned. (For the first log entries, check out "Ready-to-Run, Part I," June '07.)
Mile 7,604: On the way home from a desert trip it began to rain. I was behind a fast-moving sports car while climbing up the Banner grade to Julian, California. The car couldn't ditch me without spinning out. The Jeep's ESP kept me on the road. And it surely frustrated the car's driver, whose rearview mirror was full of Wrangler grille despite his best efforts to rail around the corners and through the straights.
Mile 10,073: Plastic interior parts, like the dash and door panels, get nicked, scratched, and dinged easily-even from my fingernails. In a high-pressure car wash, the upper driver-side door seal let a few drops of water through. Everywhere else seems as watertight as a frog's butt.
Mile 10,785: I can't believe it took me this long to figure out that the cupholders in the JK are not big enough for a 7-Eleven Big Gulp or 1-liter soda bottle. Way lame.
Mile 11,037: An excruciatingly annoying rattle has manifested behind the top center of the dash. And for some reason, the satellite radio got shut off. A quick call turned the sat radio back on for the remainder of the free trial period.
Mile 11,140: Dash noise disappears after installing Daystar dashpanel.
Mile 15,238: Added a ShrockWorks front bumper and Warn Powerplant winch. The new front bumper and winch improve the look of our JK but noticeably sag the front suspension.
Mile 15,346: Our project JK got centerpunched by a Honda! The driver-side door won't open. Driver-side door, fender, flares, rocker, rocker guard, front wheel, and rear quarter-panel are damaged. The ESP system is all pissed off because the steering wheel isn't straight. Still manage to drive the JK home 30 miles from the crash site. Two days later I put it on a trailer and towed it to a body shop.
Mile 15,392: More than two months and $6,365.84 later, the Jeep is finally fixed ... kinda. The correct parts are hard to get and take forever. The rocker area is supposed to have a curve to it but doesn't. There is a scratch in the driver-side window and the top was slightly damaged when it was removed before the side of the Jeep was painted. Ultimately, I have to accept the fact that no matter what, a Jeep (or any vehicle, really) will never be like-new after a wreck. Whatever- now I don't feel so bad about modifying it or scratching it off-road. Yee-haw! It's no longer perfect! Time for a desert trip!
Mile 15,425: While the JK was in the shop I spent way too many miles in a rental car. I forgot how well the JK handles the bumps. The ESP in full-on mode is worthless off-road unless you're just cruising. The halfmode setting is perfect for fast trails. For dunes and mud, shut it all the way off and run in high-range 4x4 First and Second gear. This keeps the rpm up where the 3.8L likes to rev. The 4:1 low-range is really too low for anything but rocks and yanking stuck vehicles. I'm seriously thinking about installing a regular NV241 in place of the NV241OR. The rear seat has become pretty much worthless in our two-door. It's not easy to get to and it's difficult to remove when I need to haul stuff. I hardly ever have someone back there, so it has been permanently removed as of now.