Logging Miles On Our Ready-To-Run '07 Wrangler
We were likely less than 100 miles away from catastrophic failure.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could road test a new car to death before actually buying one? Well, that's kinda what we've done for you here. Our project JK may be less than 3 years old but we've logged over 55,000 on- and off-road miles. And not only that, we've modified it in realistic ways that you would modify your very own Jeep. In "Ready-To-Run Part II" (May '08) we left off with nearly 21,000 miles on our '07 Wrangler Rubicon. Since then the Jeep has been on several 1,000-mile-plus road trips, it's been over the Rubicon Trail, all over Moab, Utah, and through many local trails, mud pits, water crossings, snow drifts, sand dunes and so on. You could say we know our Jeep pretty well. So how has it held up and what mods has our Jeep rejected? Read on.
A trip to the Pismo Dunes in California once again confirms the lack of power in 4-Hi and that the 4:1 is too low for sand use. Why can't we have a factory three-speed transfer case? Dune bashing nets us an actual 7.7 mpg for fuel economy. So no power and the fuel consumption of a small-block V-8 in the dunes. It's impressive that it's even possible.
A road trip resulted in an actual 20.5 mpg! Not bad for a Jeep Wrangler on stock mud tires. Two things we've noticed that improve mpg are frequent oil changes (every 3,000-5,000 miles, depending on how much dirt you see) and keeping the engine rpm below 2,250 rpm on the highway. Changing out dirty oil has netted us as much as a 2-mpg improvement. The mpg gauge in our Jeep is still inaccurate by about 1-2 mpg so check your mileage manually at the pump.
Our rear locker problem was eventually solved by simply replacing the entire rear axle assembly. Both front and rear lockers work again.
We bolted on our 4-inch Black Diamond suspension kit. It went on fairly trouble free in our garage with hand tools. We used a Pro Comp Accu Pro calibration tool to match the speedometer to the new 35-inch tires. For the full install and driving impressions check out "Home Schooled" (Nov. '08).
We get the best on-road wear from our 35x12.50R17 BFG KM2 tires mounted to 17x8.5 AEV wheels with 25 psi all around. Off-road we'll drop 'em into the low teens and even single digits in the sand thanks to the beadlocks.
We've come to the realization that the addition of a 4-inch lift and 35-inch mud tires has cost us about 1 mpg in fuel economy. And the hood buffets because the Jeep is no longer nose-down. No biggie. We'll live. At least it looks cooler and goes further up the trail.
We installed Poly Performance skid-plates. Pretty slick setup. Check out "Flat Bottom Baby" (Nov. '08) for more info.
We started smelling burnt grease and heard a new whirring noise. It turned out that the short factory rear CV driveshaft of our two-door Wrangler couldn't handle the 4-inch lift. The CV boot tore and all the grease spit out onto the exhaust. We were likely less than 100 miles away from catastrophic failure. So we unbolted the driveshaft, shifted the transfer case into 4-Hi and drove home 120 miles in front-wheel-drive.
We installed a bolt-in J.E. Reel U-jointed driveshaft out back along with some Rubicon Express adjustable upper control arms to adjust the pinion angle. The very next day we hit the road for the Rubicon trail. We decided to keep the stock front CV driveshaft in place to see how long it would last with the lift. So far so good.
With the Rubicon swaybar electronically disconnected, the driver side suspension somehow overextended on the trail and then compressed. This caused a swaybar link to bend. No biggie. We simply unbolted the link, hammered it straight, and bolted it back in again. The problem has not reoccurred since.