The Jeep Geek

The Jeep Geek's Blog
Aug 2011

Wild Flowers

One of The Jeep Geek’s friends (Danny Tomlinson) was up on Kingston Peak this past weekend to photograph the wild flowers...and a few other surprises. You should visit his site at The Jeep Geek was privileged to help build his Rubicon to allow him to arrive at some of the most beautiful locations in the Rocky a bit more comfort. After all, as Danny asks, Why Hike?


Wildflowers are part of the natural beauty of the mountains here in Colorado. This beauty can be found just a few dozen minutes from downtown. The trails are pretty easy up there and shouldn’t present a problem for any trail rated Jeep.

So what are you doing this weekend? Looking for a suggestion, then it is probably time to pack up the spouse, kids and go see our backyard. What else can you do for almost no money (a few drops of gasoline and some water and snacks for the crew). You never know who you will meet out on the trail. For example:


On this past weekend, Danny shot this picture at the top of Trail Ridge Road. Clearly humans aren’t the only species that are interested in frolic’ing among the wildflowers. Have your kids ever seen Elk in the wild? Have you? Jeeping is all about being out in nature. Experiencing the wonder and majesty of what God has created.

On a personal note...The Jeep Geek has been busy with a few items and as a result the updates to this site have been a bit less frequent than The Jeep Geek wants. He has been learning a new software package that will allow for some more features and a different look-and-feel for this website. So over the next few weeks he will be heads-down to transition to the new website. These have been things that The Jeep Geek has wanted to do for some time...such as tagging the articles by subject so they can be more easily searched, providing a comments section for each blog to encourage a bit more interaction, and also to get some feedback to determine the type of articles the visitors want to see. The new layouts will also allow The Jeep Geek to put up a few targeted ads to help pay for all this...don’t worry, this won’t become something that detracts from the fact, it may be a benefit to the visitors as these will be links to The Jeep Geek’s friends that will likely be of interest to most of you...hopefully.

The Jeep Geek has been tracking site traffic and is extremely gratified at the results. There is a geometric increase month over month, with some 400 unique visitors each day lately. Thank you all for your support. This kind of success allows The Jeep Geek to invest more in making this a better resource for all of you.


Armor Up

The trails are pretty much all open...a little late this year, due to the significant snow pack...but open none-the-less. The Jeep Geek has seen the beginning of Wrangler season at the Jeep store where he hangs out. Many Wranglers, many modifications, many questions, all signs of the start of the season.

Some of the questions that seem to pop up are regarding skid plates and side armor. What do I need? What about armor on the differential? Is that plastic thing below the bumper really a skid plate? Is that rock rail, on my rubicon, really enough?

Like so many things, the answers to the questions depend...they depend on how the Jeep is to be used, the type of trails and the skill of the driver. They also depend on something The Jeep Geek refers to as testosterone poisoning. This is a not-so-rare condition in which the male is driving too aggressively for the trail conditions. The situation is made worse by the presence of friends who are cheering the testosterone sufferer to go faster, or take the most aggressive (if not impossible) line on an obstacle. No amount of armor will protect the Jeep (or its occupants for that matter) from this. But for the vast majority of Jeepers, the skid plates that come with their Jeep are fine. There is a reason for this opinion.

The skid plates in general lie within the frame members of the Wrangler where they should not be impacted. If you dent one of these skid plates, you are doing something horribly wrong. Scrapes and scratches are another thing all together...that will happen. But a dent means that the driver did not take the correct line on an obstacle.

The Jeep Geek will explain. If you encounter a boulder on the trail, (if you live here in Colorado you will) the best line is to place one of the wheels on top of the boulder. This allows the Jeep to rise up over the obstacle and lifts the differential up out of harms way. (Thanks to the solid axles of the Wrangler.) Once the wheel starts down the back side of the boulder, the rock rails come into play...they are gently rested on the boulder and the Jeep slides down the boulder to the rear wheels...where the back is again lifted out of danger. That is, if all goes according to Hoyle.

So, Nature is random. Sometimes there is no way to avoid centering on a boulder. Cliffs, rock walls, trees, etc., sometimes dictate our lines. These are the conditions that make additional armor a nice-to-have accessory. By going slow, the only skid plate addition that is likely to be needed is to replace the plastic mud shield below the front bumper with a thick (at least 3/16”) skid plate to protect some of the suspension components such as the electronic sway bar disconnect and steering components. Front differential armor can be added as well. This won’t give a lot of protection, but will allow you to scrape the differential (on a rock) if you have to.

Now, side armor. Remember the tree on one side of the trail and the rock wall on the other? Yup, you may have to squeeze through a narrow opening, or you may have wheels on the left up so high in a ravine that the right side scrapes the ground. Here is where a bit of side armor might save some body work and paint. The Jeep Geek generally likes the body armor that extends 3 to 4 inches from the bottom of the door(s) and which can be used as a step. These are made from thick walled pipe and bolted to the frame for strength.

AEV makes some nice corner armor that is inexpensive enough that this makes sense to add just to give the rear corners a bit of protection. The Jeep Geek has seen several Wranglers that have slid down backwards and dented a rear corner...while this is not a severe disability for the vehicle, it is nice to avoid, and for a few hundred dollars this might make sense.

Now we come to bumpers. There are a number of off-road bumpers available so the Jeeper should be able to find a style that he (or she) likes. Tublar, sheet steel (again real thick here), shorty and in one case, a hunk of lumber bolted across the frame extensions. The front bumper is not a battering ram as one of The Jeep Geek’s customers found. It is a protection for slowly crawling over a high obstacle. It is also a platform for mounting a winch, if desired, or additional lighting...or both. Things to think about with a front bumper are:

  • Pick one that improves the angle of approach over the tires. Some Jeepers even mount shorty bumpers and leave nothing in front of the wheels.
  • The shape should also protect the fenders. Here the shorty bumpers don’t do anything for the fenders so you may end up leaving the fender on the trail one day. Not a big deal, opportunity to upgrade fenders when that happens!!!

The Jeep Geek thinks that the main reason to install an off-road rear bumper is to mount a tire carrier when the tire size is increased. Many tire carriers can be modified to carry gas and water cans, air bottles, and extra gear in general. The consideration for which bumper chosen is to improve the angle of departure somewhat, but this should not be traded off for protection of the rear muffler. While the Jeep can be driven with a damaged muffler, these are expensive parts and need to be cared for when exiting an obstacle.

The Jeep Geek often consuls his customers to go out and run some trails before they armor up, see what they encounter, and from that experience base chose the armor, lifts and tires that make sense for where they want to go.

A final word. As stated earlier, armor is not a replacement for common sense. Testosterone Poisoning is real and should be avoided at all costs. You are the one paying for the damage you incur on the trail...don’t let go of your sense on the trail, and the hobby will be enjoyable and far less expensive.