1997 Jeep Wrangler - Mayhem To Moab: Part 5

    Tube-Sock's Done And We Only Screwed Up A Little

    Fred WilliamsWriterMike GreenePhotographer

    Our little TJ, Tube-Sock, is all done. It was built in just a few weeks and made it to Moab, Utah, for the annual Easter Jeep Safari, where it was a blast to wheel over the majestic red rock trails. We added a ton of new parts without adding too much weight, and ended up with a Jeep that could putt-putt down the road and still flex like a yoga master over boulders. However, as with any mad rush build, we made a few mistakes, forgot a few important parts, and learned a few lessons while on the trails in Moab.

    We know there is a love-hate relationship out there for Jeeps, but we really like how this little TJ came together, and you can’t deny that the aftermarket makes building a Jeep easy. There’s not much we would do differently, but there are a few things we would do better. And of course when we say Tube-Sock is done, we really just mean it works great until we start changing stuff again—which we most assuredly will do eventually.

    My friend Tony had come over to help me finish up Tube-Sock and get it ready for Moab, and getting a friend’s help is something I did right. Having a friend help makes a project twice as much fun. Tony was there to laugh at me when I was singing along to the radio, I was there to laugh at him when he busted his knuckles, and we were both there to laugh at nothing in particular when it was 3 in the morning and we were still wrenching. Plus, Tony’s boss lent us this awesome Ram 3500 tow rig to drag Tube-Sock to Moab with, and that was really nice.

    We made it to Moab and spent our first morning there installing a pair of driveshafts from Tom Wood’s Drive Shafts. The company was able to take our measurements and ship the driveshafts straight to our hotel in Moab, and we bolted them in on the trailer before heading to the rocks. Both driveshafts have a CV joint at the transfer case for vibration-free performance. Little did we know that later that day we would be removing both driveshafts.

    As it turned out, during our assembly of the Teraflex 4-to-1 low-range transfer case gears we forgot to install the front input seal retainer. We soon noticed gear oil pouring out of the transfer case on hill descents. Lucky for us, the guys at High-Point UTV Rentals let us stop by and put Tube-Sock up on the rack. We quickly had a new front output seal sourced from the nearby Moab 4x4 Outpost to get us back on the trail.

    While we were at High Point, head shop fabricator Joe helped us fix another annoying problem: The BDS coil springs would pop out under full articulation up front because we forgot to add a coil retainer to our Currie Rock Jock 44 front axle. Joe welded a small piece of tube to the coil bucket and screwed the coil into the tube to hold it in place under full droop.

    As much as we love our PRP suspension seats, we probably got overzealous by ordering the Competition low-back seats and not the Daily Driver versions. The side bolsters of the Competition seats hug us great while jostling off-road, but a lower side bolster would make getting in and out easier, so keep that in mind if you use your Jeep for daily driving. We also should have ordered the wide version because we drink too much beer and eat too many donuts.

    Another issue we had was that the rear JKS bumpstop unscrewed from its mount and got battered around inside the rear coil. A healthy coating of Loctite or a more conventional clamping-style mount would have been a better idea.

    In the back of Tube-Sock we have a Poison Spyder Customs lightweight aluminum tailgate, a BFH bumper, and a GenRight steel skidplate under the aluminum fuel tank. We like how good these components are at keeping the rear departure angle clear, light, and well protected. In the back of the Jeep we dropped an ARB Fridge Freezer for keeping our drinks cold and our sandwiches dry. However, all these parts meant there wasn’t much room for a spare tire, a problem we would soon encounter.

    The BDS long-arm suspension and coil springs was set up for just 2 inches of lift, but when combined with the Chris Durham hood and fender trimming we could easily clear the 37-inch Pit Bulls under full flex. The Jeep rode great with front and rear Fox shocks, and the Currie Anti-Rock sway bars really helps stabilize the Jeep both on rocks and road. In front we added a Warn Zeon 8-S winch and a pair of ARB’s IPF off-road lights and IPF headlights. We were amazed that the IPF lights used a mounting bolt that was the exact same thread pitch as a factory threaded hole in the TJ frame and still fit just beside the winch on the Poison Spyder front bumper.

    While in Moab for EJS, we did a lot of wheeling and tried to run trails both day and night. It just so happened that on the final night of 4-wheeling we lost one of our ATX beadlocks and 37-inch Pit Bull rocker tires while on a long trail known as Porcupine Rim. We had equipped Tube-Sock with a 191⁄2-gallon GenRight fuel tank and we were diligent about filling it up every day, while our friends who went with us were running stock tanks and came to the trail with half a tank of fuel. By the time they got to a quarter tank it was decide we should turn around. We had been leading the trip, and when we turned around we were then running tail. Of course our friends were hauling butt back to Moab when we lost the wheel, and because we had no cell service or CB to call them back, we were all alone.

    10 Our first mistake was not retorquing our wheels after the first trail ride of the week. Our new Aluminum ATX wheels had been powdercoated a funky olive-brown to match our seats, and even though they fit just fine, it’s always a good idea to retorque those wheel lug nuts after miles or wheeling abuse. In addition to that, we were stranded in the dark with no spare wheel, spare tire, or jack. Lucky for us, Tube-Sock had the Zeon, and we were able to winch it up a tree enough to get the axle off the ground and tire back on. However, we had broken two of the five wheel studs, and wallowed out the lug holes in the wheel pretty bad. At first we stole a lug nut off the other three ATX Chamber Pro wheels to get us back on the trail, and we were soon able to coddle poor Tube-Sock to a place where we had enough cell coverage to call our friends to come back and help us. When they returned, we swapped the damaged wheel onto the rear where the axle still had five wheel studs. This gave us more wheel lug nuts to help hold the wheel on. Plus, we put a good wheel on the front axle with only three wheel studs.

    We limped Tube Sock back to town, loaded it on the trailer, and headed home from what was the best trip to Moab we had ever had. Yes, we broke a few things but we also wheeled every single day and many nights while in Utah. Upon further investigation when we got home, we realized that somewhere during the week of daily 4-wheeling we had dented the wheel (we admit we were driving Tube-Sock pretty hard all week). This type of abuse likely got the wheel lugs to loosen up and eventually caused the rest of the wheel and stud havoc, but our lack of a post-trail-ride inspection is really to blame. We have already replaced the ATX with a new one and ordered up a spare tire and wheel that we’ll stash in the back. We like the light weight of the Jeep without a spare, but maybe we’ll just have to go to a bigger engine when we put that spare in the back. Hmm, Jeeps are never, really, done.

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