I Love to Fix Stuff

How can I make this work?

I like to fix stuff. Even some stuff that's not even broken. It gives me great satisfaction to figure out how I can make something work in the face of adversity. Generally, I don't like to fix stuff the entire trip if it's not necessary, but it often happens. On my trips (sometimes known as Rick Trips), it seems like a never-ending ritual of fix this, or fiddle with that, or replace some doodad or thingamajig. But make no mistake—95 percent of this stuff I'm fixing on my Jeep was fine and working correctly before the trip began. Believe it or not, I'm a stickler for prepping properly before an expedition, but problems can search me out regardless of how meticulous I can be. These stories often end up being legendary.

On a Jeep trip trailering to Moab from Phoenix I had a double whammy. First, the master cylinder on the tow rig failed on the way there, and then an alternator went kaput on the way back. To make matters worse, I was towing one of my other jeeps on a trailer with my 1979 fullsize Cherokee—so brakes were kind of important. Needless to say, replacing a master cylinder in a NAPA parking lot is pretty standard fare in the Jeep world, so that wasn't a big deal. The alternator, on the other hand, happened to fail on a dark and stormy night while the snow began to fall, which ended up being an epic storm that closed the freeway—after I was on it. Headed downhill. At night. With no electricity to light the road, work the windshield wipers, or, for that matter, blow heat into the passenger compartment.

Now, fortunately my other jeep was perfectly happy back on the trailer. I put it in Neutral, fired up the engine, and ran jumper cables from its battery through the back window of the Cherokee, out the side window, and under the hood to the Cherokee battery. Problem solved—it seemed. However, the electrical load was high due to the wet snow, so I had to pump the idle up on the jeep with the Premier Welder throttle cable. That delivered full electrical power to heat the headlights to melt the wet snow off of them so I could see, and to power the wipers to push the slush off the windshield. And no, the heat never quite came up to that comfortable mark, but for 100 miles I survived the onslaught and made it back to civilization and the warm comfort of home. All the while my trailered jeep hummed merrily along, following me down the mountain and out of the blizzard to home sweet home.

That's why I like to fix things—to see if I can make them work regardless of the worst circumstances. Jeeps are known for having quirks that may leave you stranded, but hopefully you can figure out what you need to do simply by asking yourself this: How can I make this work?
—Rick Pewe
jpeditor@jpmagazine.com

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