The Jeep Geek

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Alice Historical Society

Sea Level is for Sissies. That is the slogan of the community of Alice Colorado. Located at 10,800 feet above sea level, they certainly can make that claim. Life was hard here when it was a mining camp. It is one of few mining camps that survived and is a vibrant community of vacation and weekend homes high in the Rockies. The beauty of the landscapes here make this an idyllic setting with a rich history that is being documented by a small band of property owners that are interested in preserving this history.

Alice’s history is a mirror of the history of much of the Rocky Mountains in general. Many of the communities that exist today started as mining camps founded by a hardy group of pioneers following their dreams. As The Jeep Geek travels throughout this region, exploring the Jeep trails that run from the old mining camps, he is struck by how tough life was back in the 1800s when these camps were booming. The weather was extreme, supplies had to be carried up by horse drawn carriages and the gold and silver ore had to be hauled down the same way. Life was hard.

Many communities failed once the mines played out. In the lifestyle section of this site The Jeep Geek has documented many of these failed camps. Alice is a wonderful example of succeeding despite the odds against it. The mines gave out, but the community thrives due in large part by the beauty of the area. Located at the foot of St. Mary’s glacier, which feeds a couple of small lakes, the residents are a hardy breed that brave the harsh winters to enjoy the quiet splendor of this area.

Now for the point of this whole article...the Alice Historical Society (headed up by Jacquie Zegan) is a small group of property owners who are working hard to preserve the history of the area as well as build a tighter community. With almost no budget they have preserved the old Alice School house and converted it to a community center. The picture at the top of this article was taken in the basement where they are restoring the room to its condition in the early 1900s when it was the home of the school teacher.

This restoration work was accomplished with just a few hundred dollars and a ton of sweat equity. Last year, even The Jeep Geek could be seen slinging some paint to help out. This effort, although modest, was contributed because of The Jeep Geek’s belief that this important history is worth the effort to preserve.

Now for the appeal. The Jeep Geek is asking his site visitors to contribute to this effort. There are a number of ways to support this work. You could come up when there is a work party organized. You could contribute funds to this frugal group...if you saw how carefully they spend money, you would be impressed with how they stretch every dollar. You could come to the annual Pancake Breakfast (Labor Day) and eat a hardy breakfast and look over the historical documents they have gathered. You could purchase a couple of tee shirts that support their efforts. Maybe you are in possession of some documents from this area that can be copied and contributed. Anything is gratefully accepted. Jacquie is a gracious host and would be encourage just by having you visit and see what she and her team have accomplished. Please, just engage and be part of this rewarding work.

If you are willing to help, leave a comment, or fill out the form in the Contact Us section of this site with your offer. The Jeep Geek will connect you with Jacquie.

As always, The Geek abides


Random Thoughts from the Trail

The Jeep Geek and some friends were out off-roading this last weekend. As he was coming down the mountain this scene presented itself. The thought came to him that life is not as fragile as some make it out to be. Here is a tree that has been there for hundreds of years, right up by the tree line. This tree began as a seed that fell on a boulder. There it rooted in a small about of dirt that blew into a crevice. Even though the boulder would limit its growth, constricting the roots and impeding the trunk’s growth, the tree thrives in one of the harshest environments in rainfall, high winds, high altitude and cold weather. It is fighting for life despite all that would stand in its way.

Life finds a way.

The Jeep Geek and friends were on a trip up to the high country to visit a couple of ghost towns: Waldorf and Santiago. These are must visit sites if you have the equipment to get there. Stock Rubicons can reach them easily.

These towns were associated with mines owned by Edward John Wilcox (Waldorf Mining and Milling Company). They were started in 1868 as gold mines, but imagine their disappointment when very little gold was found, but in its place was silver. These mines pulled about $4 million dollars in silver out of the ground before they were exhausted.

Waldorf had a post office from 1906 to 1912. It was billed as the highest elevation for a post office in the country...11,666 feet above sea level. The town started to boom when the Argentine Central Railroad was built in 1906. Tourists from Denver arrived that year, and the train brought ore from the mines back to Denver. This railroad went up to the summit of Mt. McClelland.

Waldorf Colorado Post Office 002

Here is a picture of the old post office. Danny Tomlinson tells us he actually mailed a post card from this post office when he was 6...The Jeep Geek thinks he was joking...he doesn’t look a day over 90.


If you want to see how it looks today, go over to the lifestyle tab and see the pictures we took yesterday.

Robert Leaman Brown wrote a wonderful book titled “Jeep Trails to Colorado Ghost Towns” that documents the history of 59 ghost towns that you can travel to. Or, you can join The Jeep Geek and Danny Tomlinson (The Jeep Geek’s staff historian) as we go visit many of these on Sundays during the warm season.

The Geek abides


Styles of Off-roading

The Jeep Geek is often faced with a customer who expresses interest in Off-roading and building the equipment that they will need to accomplish their goal. Well, there is Off-roading and there is Off-roading. More questions need to be asked and answered before The Jeep Geek can help.

There are three basic styles of Off-roading. The Jeep Geek can build units that will accomplish any of these...but it is important to determine the style that is desired by the Jeeper. For example, a stock Rubicon can accomplish one style, but would be completely inadequate for the other two styles.

So lets examine the three styles:

Off-road Racing.

This is a style of Off-roading that requires a machine that is capable of lots of speed in order to win a race event. Duh. So an engine upgrade is needed, like a 6.4L Hemi conversion that will produce approx. 500Hp. So far so good, but when one travels fast over rough terrain the suspension experiences significant stresses. So a complete re-do of the suspension is needed. Dana 60 axles need to be installed front and back as well as a very heavy duty lift kit that will survive hitting bumps at high speed. There will be times that the Jeep will become air-borne and land with significant force...the suspension must comprehend these pressures. In addition the likelihood of a roll-over or other accident is increased so the roll cage needs to be reinforced. Racing seats should be installed that support a 5 point harness to hold the driver (and any passengers) firmly in the seat during violent crashes or landings. Finally the brakes and cooling systems need to be upgraded.

Building a unit that will work well for this style of Off-roading often makes the Jeep un-usable (or at least unstable) on the road. A lot of weight must be removed to make the Jeep competitive and that weight is often things like air-conditioning, body parts and other comfort items. This is not your daily driver and weekend fun machine.

Finally the budget for this style of Off-roading is large. To do the build, the costs will run over $150K and frequently there is significant damage that will need to be repaired after the race.

Conquest of Obstacles

OK...all Off-roading involves overcoming obstacles...but the distinction here is that finding and overcoming obstacles is the goal. These Jeepers will find the most difficult trail, regardless of the scenery and conquer the obstacles for the sense of accomplishment that this brings. The Jeep Geek feels that this is a very acceptable goal for Jeeping and has enjoyed this type of Off-roading in the past. Adrenalin junkies enjoy this style of Off-roading and their needs are met nicely. This is not to say that difficult trails are not beautiful...for example the Rubicon Trail in northern California is one of the most breath taking trails from both a difficulty as well as a scenic wonder. However these folks are out for the obstacles not the views. Stickers like: “I conquered metal masher” are what you will see on their rigs.

The equipment needed to accomplish this style of Off-roading are lifts (for ground clearance), bigger tires, lockers, winches, skid plate upgrades, body armor...yes, some scratches are to be expected, and at times a bit more power or lower gearing are needed. The budget for these mods is more affordable at approx. $10K - $15K (on top of the Jeep cost).

Some trail damage is likely to occur, so a budget for minor repairs should also be contemplated.

Scenic Beauty

The goal of this style of Off-roading is to get out in nature and enjoy the views...and the occasional wildlife that is seen off the beaten path. The Y-Hike Off Road club members fall into this style of Off-roading. Obstacles are encountered, as stated above, but the goal is not in conquering the obstacle, but rather getting past it to the next great view. These Jeepers move a bit slower so they don’t miss anything. Often this group will drive around an obstacle instead of driving over it.

The Jeep Geek is not currently in a position to afford trail damage...especially with two daughters in college and having just spent a lot of money on camera equipment. He is able to enjoy the occasional challenge that presents itself on these more moderate trails, but again, the goal is the view.

A stock Wrangler is fully capable of keeping up with us, in fact some of the Y-hikers drive other 4 wheel drive vehicles that are not as capable as a stock Wrangler. This group chooses trails that are less likely to cause injury or trail damage to the vehicles. The trips are pleasurable and the folks are a lot of fun to be around.

If you would like to join us on one of our trips, go to facebook and “like” thejeepgeek where trip details are posted in advance. Let us know if you are going to join us so we can plan food...yes, food is important to these trips.

The Jeep Geek hopes to see you out there.

The Geek abides


New Gear for Off-Road

The Jeep Geek is rocking some new off-road gear. Not what you are expecting...

Several of The Jeep Geek’s customers are professional nature photographers. They have been gripping about the quality of the photographs on this The Jeep Geek has been shamed into upgrading his photo gear. He has been using a small point-and-shoot Sony that fit comfortably into a shirt pocket. Sometimes he has used the camera that was built into his iPhone. But the point was taken, if you are out in some of the most beautiful countryside on the planet, why use a crummy camera.

Last week The Jeep Geek spent most of the family fortune on a new DSLR Nikon D5100 with two telephoto lenses and a bunch of other equipment...filters, remote trigger, tripod and the such. He used it on the last trip to Yankee Hill and some of the pictures are now on the lifestyle section of this site. They are much nicer than the other pictures and he is generally very pleased with the results. Now, more time photographing his adventures.

This new camera also shoots videos in HD, so there will be some off-road movies coming soon. Mrs. Geek has claimed ownership of the old point-and-shoot, but still needs to learn how to shoot with this new camera. This will represent a challenge for The Jeep Geek. Lots of adjustments are possible, and there are many more knobs and buttons to deal with...kinda like the new Wranglers...more knobs and adjustments.

let us know what you think of the quality will improve as he learns to use this new equipment.

The Geek Abides


Pi Day

OK, so this article doesn’t have a lot to do with Jeeping. The Jeep Geek is always in tune with geeky stuff so he is going to celebrate National Pi day. What is Pi you might ask...ok, you probably already know or you don’t really care...Pi is the relationship between the diameter of a circle and the circumference. Expressed as a number it is always 3.14159 (and keeps going). It is one of those mathematical ratios that has allowed for many engineering accomplishments and like the golden rectangle, it is a key fundamental of mathematics.

Why would The Jeep Geek care about Pi? He is glad you asked. One of the circles that The Jeep Geek cares about is the circle represented by tires. (You knew this was coming didn’t you?) For example a 32 inch tire has a circumference of 100.53088 inches. A 35 inch tire has a circumference of 109.95565 inches. This means that the 35 inch tire rolls roughly 10% farther than the 32 inch tire for each revolution of the tire. This translates to needing 10% more torque to move a jeep with 35 inch tires (than one with 32 inch tires) for a given distance. Hence, a 10% loss of power with these larger tires. To overcome this “power loss” either the engine torque has to be increased by 10% or the gearing has to be increased 10% to match the acceleration of 32 inch tires.

On March 14th...geeks all around the world celebrate Pi day (3/14). At 1:59 at Pollard Jeep, The Jeep Geek will celebrate Pi day by offering a free slice of pie to any guests that show up. This isn’t a holiday on par with Christmas, New Years day, or Halloween, but none the less is important to geeks everywhere. So come have a slice with The Jeep Geek.

The Geek abides


Fiat Lux

No...this article has nothing to do with Fiat cars. Fiat Lux is latin for “Let there be light”. The Jeep Geek was classically educated...a true renaissance man. He found this title while reading the it.

So our topic today is about lighting systems since many of you want to be off-road at night, wether conquering obstacles by moonlight, or simply camping in a nice remote area. The Jeep Geek feels that roughing it is spending the night in a hotel without room service so you probably won’t find him camping out there...but stranger things have happened.

While The Jeep Geek is a huge fan of the Wrangler, the headlights that come from the factory (while adequate for normal road driving) could use a bit of an upgrade for the trails. The standard headlamps are halogen, which is pretty hi-tech for a decade ago, now High-Intensity Discharge (HID) is the new high end for headlamps. These HIDs can be found on some of the Grand Cherokee models, but would be amazing on the The Jeep Geek did an experiment. He had some HID lamps (aftermarket) placed into Wranglers and while they did indeed throw a nice bluish light pretty far down the road, it was not without some problems...for example, there is a lengthy burn-in period where the light flickers and vibrates a bit for the first dozen or so hours on many of the units. New ballast units also had to be added to drive these lamps and this whole thing left The Jeep Geek with the impression that these mods would not be he is not a fan of that approach.

So adding more halogen lamps to the bumper and A pillar are the solutions that Jeepers have used for many years. As can be seen in the picture below, just increasing lamp count will throw more light...but also draw a lot more current. This may result in the need to upgrade the battery and charging system on older Wranglers...


This just might be the solution for most of you, some limitations, but if your lighting needs are modest, budget is limited, this is the way to go...and these units look just fine and are out-of-the-way.

Now many of The Jeep Geek’s readers are no-limits kind of off-roaders. They are looking for the perfect solution. Here it is. The Jeep Geek is a big fan of Rigid Industries’ LED lights. He has spec’ed light bars on several of his customer builds, and if Mrs Geek buys off, will add one of these light bars to The Hummer Recovery Vehicle.

Rigid makes a number of different configurations from 4 LED spots that can be mounted on the “A” pillar, short light bars that can be mounted on the front bumper...say on the grille guard of an off-road bumper, to a 50” light bar that fits at the top of the windshield of a JK Wrangler. These light bars come in two configurations, one with a single row of LEDs (50 LED lamps) or one with two rows (yep, 100 LED lamps). The unit that The Jeep Geek is considering is the single row 50” for over his windshield.


Now lets talk about light. This unit produces 16,000 lumens and draws 12.1 amps (173 watts). Lets put this in context. A 100 watt incandescent light bulb produces about 1300 this light bar produces the light of over a dozen table lamps for the power consumption of about 2. Now lets talk about life expectancy. These LED lights should last about 50,000 hours of operation. This is about 17 years if you ran them for 8 hours per night every day of the year. You will probably hand these things down to your grand children. That is reliability that The Jeep Geek can get his head around.

The light bar has a combination of spot and flood lenses so the lighting provides a great view down the trail as well as lighting any obstacles to the side of the trail. The picture at the top of this article is a demonstration of the lighting power of this light bar.

The Geek abides



Gone Fishin'

The Jeep Geek is eagerly waiting for warmer weather. He is not into the cold and, he and one other guy are the only two people in Colorado who don’t ski. The fellow in the picture certainly has earned The Jeep Geek’s admiration. That beauty will warm his heart as he enjoys his catch for a great dinner. Wonder if he would be willing to invite over The Jeep Geek...he does love salmon.

So what is The Jeep Geek to do other than wait for warmer weather? He could go ice fishing. (Probably not.) Here in Colorado there is a large community of ice fisherman who go out this time of year and their spartan lifestyle is rewarded with Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, and some other sundry species. For those of you in Colorado, a great website for learning what is biting is They have reports year around about what is biting, and how folks are catching them.

Another worthwhile source of information is the booklet “Fishing Close to Home” that is produced by the Colorado Department of Fish and Wildlife. This book won’t tell you what is biting, but it will tell you what is stocked in various lakes and streams. This is useful since if it isn’t swimming, it isn’t biting.

As a side note, fishing licenses are due for renewal on April 1st. So plan ahead.

The Jeep Geek is often asked what his favorite type of fishing is. He loves all types, but his favorite is fishing a slow moving stream when the weather is warm...a shady spot to sit, and a long cane pole with worms and a bobber. Not a lot of skill is required, but this is the picture of relaxing while catching dinner. Not a problem if the fish aren’t biting...they will eventually get hungry and The Jeep Geek will eventually have some pan fish to fry. Together with camp stove cornbread, some bacon wrapped scallops, and some juicy watermelon a feast finer than served to any king. That’s living.

The Geek abides.blogEntryTopper


Resolutions Jeep Should Make

Having just finished his annual self-indulgent article on New Year resolutions, The Jeep Geek turns his attention to Chrysler. So how does The Jeep Geek get off telling Chrysler what they should do with Jeep? Well, two reasons:

  1. He talks to Jeep customers all day long and knows what they want. He is one himself and knows what he wants. Chrysler needs to spend more time with potential buyers to even better understand their wants and needs.
  2. Someone has to. There are product features and options that have been missing and are keenly desired.

First The Jeep Geek wants to put credit where credit is due. In the last two years, Jeep has climbed back to the top of the SUV market. This was done with some great products, most noteworthy are the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Jeep Wrangler. The Grand Cherokee is the most awarded SUV in history and is truly a blend of elegant style and pure performance. Yes, The Jeep Geek is a fan. Then this year, Chrysler has fixed the only complaint with the Jeep Wrangler...they replaced the aging 3.8L (232Cubic Inch) V6 engine with the Pentastar giving us much more horsepower. Jeep’s quality has improved and is the top domestic brand for quality according to Consumer Reports (who have not been kind to Jeep in the past). All in all, they have done a tremendous job in a tough economy. But the competition is not sitting still and neither can Jeep.

So, The Jeep Geek’s list of resolutions for Jeep:

  • There is not a month that goes by when The Jeep Geek is not asked about a diesel Wrangler. The Pentastar engine takes some of the steam out of this request, but there are such significant advantages for the diesel engine. First, a diesel Wrangler already exists in Europe where emissions laws are as strict as here in the US. So what gives?? The diesel engine is very torquey at the low end where it is needed in off-roading. Fuel economy and fuel cost are both better for diesel and may provide some relief from government regulation that require improvements in Chrysler’s fleet. Finally, despite the improvement that the Pentastar engine provides, there is significant demand here in Boulder when many residents dream of converting french fry oil into diesel fuel. This could spark a large growth in the restaurant industry because of a demand for used cooking oil...think of all the jobs that this would create.
  • Build the JK8 at the factory. Recently The Jeep Geek wrote an article on the Jeep Wrangler pickup truck that we built. Mopar built a kit to convert a 4 door wrangler into the JK8. Overall a cool looking Wrangler, but this is an inefficient process resulting in a high price tag. Since the Wrangler is built using body on frame construction, it makes all this possible, but in reality it would be cheaper to build the JK8 at the factory than building a 4 door Wrangler. For example, the hard top is smaller saving money, there are only two door rather than four, saving money, there is no back seat saving money, the roll bar doesn’t have to extend all the way to the back, saving money. Overall a factory built JK8 could be built for less than the cost of the 4 door...and certainly for less than the cost of converting a 4 door to a JK8 at the dealership. So is there a market for a cheaper Jeep pickup truck. You bet, it would compete with small pickup truck offerings from the other manufacturers but would kick their butts off-road. If the JK8 kit was a market acceptance test, it was flawed. The cost to do in the field added $12,000 to the base price of the 4 door wrangler. Cost elasticity will put this $50,000 small pickup truck out of the mainstream market.
  • Lets refresh the Liberty. There is a mid-sized SUV market that the Liberty competes in, however the Liberty’s age is showing. It is getting harder to compete with an underpowered rolling box. Time to get the Pentastar engine and the Grand Cherokee’s 5 speed transmission into this unit (the 6 speed would even be better). Also, time for a re-design providing some nice shape to this unit. If Jeep does this with the same quality as the Grand Cherokee, then Toyota will not be able to sell a single Rav4. We need this product for 2013.
  • Next, build a version of the Grand Cherokee with three rows of seating. There is a market for this mini-van alternative here in Colorado where the snow makes a soccer mom’s (or Hockey mom’s) blood turn cold thinking about their precious cargo in a two wheel drive van.
  • Finally, lets advertise the Patriot and Compass a bit more. Last summer when Chrysler was running Compass advertising we sold a boat load of these great little SUVs. Stealth marketing just doesn’t work. The Jeep Geek guesses that Chrysler’s plan was to have the sales folks at their stores showcase these small SUVs to customers who show up at the showroom. The problem with that approach should seem obvious...the folks that show up at a Jeep store are looking for larger know, the kind that Jeep advertises. If someone is interested in a small SUV that is great on gas, they probably aren’t stumbling into a Jeep store. They go to a Subaru store where they are purchasing inferior product at a higher price. Subaru is the most popular car in Boulder Colorado...remember the residents here dream of converting french fry oil to diesel you a clue to our market. The fringe, however with the quality that Jeep puts into these small SUVs, they would crush Subaru if given nearly as much advertising as competition us help you.

OK, two days in a row of self-indulgent posts. The Jeep Geek will now rest from his labors and go back to more informative articles. If there are topics you would like to see covered, leave a comment. The Jeep Geek does read them.

As always, The Geek abides.


Questions Frequently Asked

Christmas is approaching and The Jeep Geek is looking forward to family coming into town. He just finished decorating the house (Geek Bunker) for the holidays and is taking a break this morning to answer some questions that he has been asked during the year.

With the buzz surrounding the new 2012 Wrangler and the new Grand Cherokee, there have been a lot of folks who have never driven a Jeep, or even considered one that are suddenly at the Jeep store. They are bringing a boatload of questions with them. So here are a collection of a few of these questions. This might generate some discussion in the comments section below this article.

  • The Jeep Geek is often approached by people that ask either to see a Rubicon or to see a Jeep. What they are asking for is a Wrangler...after some careful questioning to determine what they are really looking for. So why are they asking for one of these two things? Well, for many decades the name of the product was a Willy’s Jeep. It wasn’t until the 90s that the Wrangler name showed up. People who have not been interested in a Wrangler are remembering the Jeeps of their youth...didn’t we all drive them in high school and college? Other folks have seen a Wrangler Rubicon with the Rubicon name there on the side of the Hood and assumed that all Wranglers were Rubicons. So what type of Wrangler should I consider for purchase?

  • There are three models in the Wrangler Family. It is not the traditional Good, Better, Best product positioning...leave it to Jeep to do something non-traditional here. The Sport (formerly the X) is the most popular. It can be configured to be more like the other two models, either dressed up like the Sahara (which is the model that is more refined) or can be built into an off-road beast like the Rubicon. The sport is the model that The Jeep Geek recommends for those whose budget is a bit tight, and will add to their Jeep downstream. Also, this model is good for those that intend to build an off-road monster and change axles (go to dana 60s), engines, suspension (lifting them) and wheels and tires. There is not much sense in starting with the more expensive Rubicon when you are going to replace all the Rubicon running gear.
  • The Jeep Geek recommends the Sahara to those who are going to need a daily driver and want to go off-road occasionally. These folks often want the added comfort and refinement of the Sahara like upgraded sound system, 18” wheels and tires, slightly firmer suspension that will yield a more pleasant driving experience every day.
  • The Rubicon is for those that want extensive off-road capability right from the factory. The Jeep Geek often helps these owners modify their Rubicon to give them more capability without massive replacement of the running gear. The stiffer suspension of the Rubicon, combined with the BF Goodrich tires give a more jarring ride than the Sahara, but this Jeep can be driven as a daily driver as well, it has some of the upgrades like the same sound system as the Sahara that make it a pleasant driver.
  • Two door or Four door is the last question. Families with younger kids will appreciate the 4 door. You can get into the back of the 2 door if you are a Russian Gymnast. So why would anyone want a 2 door? Well, they are fun to drive. The Jeep Geek’s drive is a 2 door Rubicon. The two door models are a bit more nimble, while the 4 door are a bit smoother ride on the highway.
  • The bottom line is you should carefully consider what you want in a Wrangler, what your lifestyle desires are, and select the model that best suits you. The Jeep Geek is happy to help if you desire that.

  • Which top configuration should I consider for the Wrangler?

  • There are three choices here. A soft top is standard. In fact, this choice on the Wrangler Unlimited nets the only production 4 door convertible in production today. The soft top is perfectly capable to handle the cold weather of winter here in Colorado and keeps the occupants warm. They are also much quieter than previous generations of Wrangler soft tops, but not quiet has quiet as a hard top.
  • The soft top can be upgraded to a 3 piece hard top which is how most Wranglers here in Colorado are configured. This enables the driver to remove the two panels over the front seats to get some open air feeling. Additionally the top can be completely removed for those weekend trips to the country.
  • Finally the Wrangler can have both tops (called the dual top option). In this configuration the hard top is left on during the winter months and around April or May, the hard top is removed and the soft top is installed for the summer months. Then in October or so, the soft top is replaced with the hard top.

  • Which is better, Manual or Automatic transmission?

  • The Jeep Geek has written an entire article on this question, you can search the archives to find his thoughts on this subject. The bottom line is both are good choices, get what you prefer. The new 5 speed automatic is a vast improvement over the older 4 speed and closes the gap nicely between the 6 speed manual and automatic.

  • What else should I consider as options?

  • There are a couple of very nice to have options. First, the Limited Slip rear axle is a very nice (and inexpensive upgrade). This will provide a bit more stability in slippery conditions. While all Jeeps have electronic stability control with traction control, having the mechanicals prevent slippage is better than having the brakes correct it when it happens. If your Wrangler doesn’t have a limited slip rear axle, don’t worry, it will operate just fine...the upgrade is worth the couple of hundred dollars in peace of mind.
  • Second, if you have a manual transmission, the Jeep Geek recommends upgrading the final gear ratios from the 1:3.21 to 1:3.73. This is a $50 option from the factory and will provide a nice bump in power delivered to the wheels. This year, the Rubicon’s 1:4.10 final gearing is also an option that The Jeep Geek highly recommends for the same reason.
  • Leather seats, heated seats, power this and that, Blue tooth hands free cell phone, and various radio options are available and make driving the Jeep a much nicer experience if they fit the budget.

One should also consider a whole host of aftermarket upgrades such as off-road bumpers, lifts, bigger tires, body armor and slush mats. The thing about the Wrangler is that it is a platform for your individual expression...there are a ton of options to make your Jeep uniquely yours. Go out and have fun in your new Jeep. It is a Jeep Thing after all.



The New Hummer Recovery Vehicle

Well, The Jeep Geek is ecstatic now that the new Hummer Recovery Vehicle is in. This is a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to replace the 2008 which is now sold. (It sold within 24 hours.) The new Rubicon is everything that The Jeep Geek had hoped.

Changes for 2012 include the new Pentastar 3.6L V6 engine developing 285 Hp and 260Ft/lbs of torque. This is exactly what the Wrangler has needed all along. In addition, the 5 speed automatic transmission makes the hill climbs much more enjoyable. Now on I-70 The Jeep Geek can maintain highway speed without being stuck between gears...lugging in a high gear or listening to the engine race in a lower gear. Very nice!!

Some impressions after one week of driving this Jeep.

First, The Jeep Geek is surprised at how much smoother and quieter the drive line is. The old 3.8L push rod engine did generate more noise (not throaty exhaust notes) than the new overhead cam engine, but also seemed to vibrate more. The new Jeep is just dead quiet...hard to believe in a Wrangler.

Engine power is significantly improved. There is now almost enough power to get into trouble on the road...The Jeep Geek has had to back off the throttle a bit in a few circumstances. This is not Hemi levels of power, but The Jeep Geek is sure that this engine will reduce the size of the Hemi Conversion market. The incremental power (that the Hemi provides )may not be worth the $20K (over the new Pentastar powered Wrangler) and warranty issues any more.

Compared to the 2008 the new Wrangler interior is much nicer. Arm rests on the door and higher center console enable The Jeep Geek to rest his elbows when driving on the road. The seats seem to be a bit more comfortable, and the all black interior is visually nicer contrasting with the Bright White exterior of the new Hummer Recovery Vehicle. The addition of a tray above the radio on the dash also provides a place to put a handheld radio for the trail, pens, paper, coins, various bits of stuff that all seem to collect in their travels.

Finally, The Jeep Geek is loving the new electronics. While the 2008 had the Media Center 730N radio, the new one has the same 730N, but it is not the same. The addition of Bluetooth and a USB port for the iPhone makes this a significant upgrade. Not only can The Jeep Geek answer phone calls in the Wrangler, but he can stream music from his iPhone wirelessly...right from his pocket. Now his entire collection of old cowboy songs is available for enjoyment by all who ride with him. An update to the radio now supports the iPhone 4. Some may have read on the forums that Chrysler doesn’t support the iPhone’s Bluetooth...not true, it works great and the iPhone 4 is on the official list of supported devices at

The Jeep Geek has not had a chance to get this new Beast off-road yet. Probably won’t happen here in Colorado until the spring, but might just be worth a road trip to Arizona to check this out.


New Web Site

Welcome to the New Site layout for The jeep Geek’s Blog. This has been a long time coming and The Jeep Geek is pleased that his new website is more Web 2.0 compliant. This update has occupied many hours to bring into being.

By clicking on categories you can view articles that contain that subject...should make wading through all this much easier. Also, there is a section where The Jeep Geek can post more pictures of his (and his friends) off road adventures. All in all, hopefully a better overall experience.

Hopefully, if all has gone well, you can also leave comments on each of the Blog articles. This is functionality that The Jeep Geek has been wanting to get for some time...He’d truly love to make this a more interactive discussion. Just click the comment link below each blog entry and let me know what you think.

The Jeep Geek will be adding more features and content now that the major part of the design and software work is done...whew!!

Then off to some more changes that are planned podcasts, and videos that will prove entertaining...once The Jeep Geek figures out how to make all that work on his site.


The HRV is For Sale

OK...The Jeep Geek wasn’t supposed to write another article in this format. He is working on the new Jeep Geek website...lots of work. However, this is important so he took a break to jot some of his thoughts down.

Recently the 2012 Wranglers have arrived, with the new Pentastar engine. The Jeep Geek drove a few of these and his life was suddenly made more complicated. The lease on the Hummer Recovery Vehicle is up at the end of October. His plan was to purchase it and then begin his build know...lift, tires, wheels, bumpers, armor, all that stuff that has been discussed all this time. However, the new engine has changed those plans.

The new Wrangler has another ~90 horsepower and lots more torque. It is married to a 5 speed automatic transmission which will allow this to perform well on mountain highways...always the weak point for the JK series Wranglers. Something else...this thing is even quieter than the pre-2012 Wranglers. So what is The Jeep Geek to do, other than order a new 2012 Wrangler and sell the Hummer Recovery Vehicle.

This delays The Jeep Geek’s dream buildout by another 3 years, but allows for the build to occur on a much stronger platform. Overall a more satisfying proposition.

The new HRV II (Hummer Recovery Vehicle II) will be a white 2 door Rubicon, 4.10 axle ratios (now optional in 2012) Dual Top, 730N Nav Radio, Connectivity group (since The Jeep Geek likes to stay connected), power convenience group, Automatic transmission (he prefers automatic for rock crawling), and remote start...for those cold mornings here in the Rockies.

This brings us all the way back to the title of this article. The Hummer Recovery Vehicle is for sale. If you are interested, use the contact us tab and The Jeep Geek will send you specifics.


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.


State of Yo

Today The Jeep Geek was able to achieve a heightened state of Yo. He remembers watching the Smothers Brothers comedy routine featuring the YoYo Man. Hilarious. Tommy would achieve a heightened state of Yo and perform amazing yoyo stunts, all while cutting up with brother Dick. Good times.

The Jeep Geek’s heightened state of Yo has nothing to do with yoyos. Since the hard top came off the Hummer Recovery Vehicle and the soft top was placed on, it has rained every afternoon here in Colorado. The Jeep Geek has been wanting the top down and the doors off so badly that he has actually been quite the bear this last 6 weeks. Finally a two day break in the monsoon pattern is here, the top is down, the doors are off, and all is good in the world. He is in a state of Yo!!! or something like that.

The Jeep Geek finds himself laughing at the suburban wild life again, small children are charming again, and he is winking at the ladies at the local is good. What has released these long pent up emotions? Freedom. Like those involved in the Arab Spring, he has attained his freedom from the humdrum. The Sun is warming his bronzed skin, the wind is blowing his blond locks, life is good (oh yeah...he said that already).

So what is involved in taking the doors off you might ask? Well 4 things:

  • His kids are grown so no concerns that a youngster will fall out as he is screaming down the streets surrounding Boulder.
  • Rear view mirrors have to be relocated...there is a kit for this, but the law requires two rear view mirrors on a motor vehicle to make it street legal. One is located on the windshield the other is mounted to the “A” frame by the door opening.
  • Disconnect the electrical cable to the door. This contains the power for windows, door locks, power mirrors (in 2011 and on) and the door open sensor. In the old days, when a Jeeper took his door off, he had to use a bull dog clip to “defeat” the door open sensor to shut off the overhead light. The JK’s have that sensor run through this cable so it just has to be disconnected...quick release connector is located down in the foot well of the Jeep.
  • Remove the bolt heads that are below the’s the black thing at the bottom of the hinge. Use a Torx T-50 wrench to remove this. In fact The Jeep Geek has never replaced these so he doesn’t have to remove and re-attach these after the first time.

Over the last three years, there has been a build up of gunk in the hinge. Gunk being a technical term for the dried oils, metal shavings, and road dirt that has entered into the hinge and caked itself on the hinge pins. This made the doors especially hard to remove today...but The Jeep Geek just asserted himself and was able to break them loose. This weekend he will take some light machine oil and some de-greaser and clean and lubricate these parts so they will release a bit easier for the remainder of the season.

The Jeep Wrangler is all about having fun. Mrs. Geek thinks that The Jeep Geek is having his second childhood...The Jeep Geek knows it is still the first childhood...latest manifestation. If you are into fun to drive, fun to play in, fun to off-road in, just all around fun, then consider the Jeep Wrangler.

It always puzzled The Jeep Geek at the number of people who traded BMWs, Corvettes, Harley Davidsons, Mini Coopers, and the like in on Jeep Wranglers. There is no similarity in how they drive...but he has decided that there is one similarity...they are fun. Jeep owners are a fun loving crowd.

Let your inner YoYo man out...take the doors off and drop the top and get out and have some fun.


2012 Wranglers are Close

The Jeep Geek was poking around the tool that enables the Jeep store (where he works) to order vehicles from the factory. Lo-and-behold the 2012 Wranglers are available for order. Oh happy day. Barely able to contain himself, he had to check to see if the Bill of Materials showed the long awaited new engine. More on that subject in a minute.

Scarcely a day goes by when The Jeep Geek is asked about the new 2012s. This has gone on since last summer...when we were getting our first 2011s. What changes will be made...the answer...we just don’t know. Wranglers have been the top seller for Jeep as long as The Jeep Geek can remember...2011 stands in contrast. The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee has taken top spot. Two factors have contributed to this reversal. First, the Grand Cherokee was completely redesigned for 2011 and Chrysler did a stunningly good job. Every automotive magazine and reviewer agreed. It has won so many awards that it is hard to keep up with all of them. But this is not the chief reason for the reversal. The Jeep Wrangler sales have fallen dramatically. The market was ready for the new Pentastar engine in 2011 but Chrysler was not ready to ship this powerful engine, in the Wrangler, at that time. Potential customers decided to wait and see if the 2012 model would have this engine. Wrangler sales slowed significantly...for no other good reason. Yup, they slowed in a rising market.

The 2011 Jeep Wrangler market did not fall to zero, there were (and still remain) good reasons to purchase this very capable machine. One reason is to get out on the trails where the difference in horsepower is not an issue. The 200 horsepower of the current model is sufficient to move the Wrangler through almost any obstacle one might find out there...remember that speed on the trail is not a virtue.

The Hummer Recovery Vehicle (The Jeep Geek’s main ride) is a 2 door Rubicon. The Rubicon gearing together with the adaptive engine controller allows for very good acceleration and is able to handle highways, hill roads and the like just fine. The Jeep Geek is able to get his yayas out.

So why all the pent up demand for this new engine? Everyone wants just a bit more power from time to time in their vehicle. The Jeep Geek doubts that anything short of infinite power would satisfy everyone. Some forums’ users have labeled the 2011 Wrangler as severely underpowered...this just isn’t true. This is not a modified fuel is an off-road beast...the best on the planet for off-roading. In fact, nothing is better in bad weather on the road either. This is a mighty capable vehicle and should not be dismissed just because it might be better somehow. What vehicle can’t be improved? Do people use that same criteria when talking about other vehicles?

So back to the subject. The Bill of Materials list the 3.6L VVT engine and a new 5 speed automatic transmission as included in the new 2012 Wranglers. The 6 speed manual transmission is still an available option. The Jeep Geek can’t tell if there is any other change to the Wrangler based on the Bill of Materials. But in all likelihood there is not much else that has changed. The 2011 had a pretty extensive interior refresh in 2011, so it is unlikely that much will change here. The exterior won’t change much since the appearance of the Wrangler is iconic. Will a couple of body panels change shape? Possibly slightly, but uncertain.

Additional changes are that the Rubicon can be ordered with matching body colored hard top and body colored fenders (similar to the Sahara model). Colors that are available are White, Sahara Tan, Flame Red, Cherry Red, Natural Green, Cosmos Blue, Silver but at this time no Black...although that may change. Chrysler had a pigment supplier that was located in Japan and their production was halted due to the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. More colors may become available once their production is restored.

So what should you do? Wait for the 2012 to get the new engine? Or purchase the 2011? Well the answer is, it depends. If you have a JK might want to wait to upgrade. If you don’t, then the 2012 won’t be on lots until late September or October. This is the end of the off-road season...most Jeep trails are only open from July to October due to snow and snow melt. If you want to get off the pavement this summer, the 2011 Jeep Wrangler is a very satisfying vehicle that will let you get out and have fun in the great out doors.

Late September or October? Do you really have to wait that long to get one of the 2012s? No, you can order one today and it will probably be delivered in late August or early September. Dealers probably won’t see Wranglers in their inventory til later because of the pent up demand. Customer orders are prioritized over stock units. So most of the units that will be built in August will be customer (pre-sold) orders. It is likely that stock units will not be built until September. Those won’t arrive at dealers until late September or October. You can order today and be one of the first to receive these new units. The only hitch is that you won’t be able to test drive one before you order.

What can you do if you want the horsepower of the new units before the 2012s are available. Buy a 2011 and upgrade the engine power via one of the methods that The Jeep Geek wrote about earlier. You can read these articles in the archive section of this website.

As The Jeep Geek has written about, the key is getting torque to the wheels. The current 3.8L engine is a very torquey engine, even at low RPMs. The delivered torque can be improved by changing gear ratios, adding cold air intake and free flowing exhaust, or by bolting on a supercharger. All this can be accomplished easily and without voiding the factory warranty...of course, you can also swap the 3.8L V6 engine with a 5.8L VVT Hemi conversion that Pollard Jeep has done a number of times. This conversion will give you much more power than even the new Pentastar engine will provide.

Or you can just wait and see what the new units will be like. If it was The jeep Geek’s decision, he would buy now and enjoy the trails and see what the new engines were like next year.



Spring has Sprung

The temperature has warmed, school is coming to a close in a few weeks, The Jeep Geek saw the first Robin of the year two days ago, it all means it is Spring in the Rocky Mountains. While we are facing a couple more months before the Jeep trails open fully, our minds wander to such outdoor activities as fishing. Yes, the fish are biting and a fresh caught trout in the broiler is surely a taste treat for The Jeep Geek’s family.

The Jeep Geek has memories of fun fishing trips with his father, and even some memories of taking his daughters fishing. As they come flooding back, the emotions run high. That is the way it is with distractions, just family bonding and great fun. Nothing can bond a father and son together better than a fishing trip. Treasured memories for a lifetime will be created... guaranteed.

For example, when The Jeep Geek was just a lad of 12 his father returned from the Vietnam war. To celebrate The Jeep Geek and his father (the Colonel) took a week long fishing trip to Michigan (where the Colonel was raised). A week at a cabin right on Lake Chippawa complete with their own boat. On the way up, the guys stopped at a bait shop and general store and loaded up. Worms, lures, fresh line for the poles, bobbers, hooks...the lot. Fresh green tomatoes were purchased as well as general cooking flour for breading the tomatoes and the fish we were going to for the Colonel and soda for The Jeep Geek were also purchased. Then it was off to the cabin.

First day was sunny and the deal of the century was struck. The Colonel offered to cook the fish, if The Jeep Geek would clean them. The Jeep Geek still thinks he got the short end of that deal, but 12 year olds are easily taken advantage of. That evening they sat in the cabin eating fried green tomatoes, fried Blue Gill, and they played Stratego (a chess like board game).

The guys lost a couple of days of fishing to rain, but most of the days were spent fishing out on the lake, and playing games at night while enjoying their catch. The Colonel had to make several supply runs to the general store to get more green tomatoes...and probably beer.

The Colonel has passed away, The Jeep Geek is much older, but those days will stay with him forever. He can still taste the fish and fried green tomatoes...even though he has never eaten green tomatoes since...just wouldn’t be the same. Great times.

Some years back, The Jeep Geek took his family camping along side a different lake, in a different part of the country. The Jeep Geek’s middle daughter (The Chic Geek) was about 5 years old. The family pitched camp and then headed to the banks of the lake to get in some fishing before nightfall. The Jeep Geek and his three daughters...4 rods and reels...4 hooks to bait. His girls would not touch the bait or any fish they caught. The Jeep Geek never got to get his line wet that afternoon. His time was spent untangling line, baiting hooks and removing the occasional fish.

At 5, The Chic Geek was a bundle of motion. Never still. The Jeep Geek would have bet (and lost as it turns out) that no fish would bite on the line connected to The Chic Geek.

At one point, when all the hooks were re-baited for the umpteenth time, and The Jeep Geek was trying to ready his own line, he noticed that there were only two bobbers visible. “Chic Geek...Where is your bobber? I don’t know daddy.” It should be stated for the record that they were trying to catch some Brim, just to give the kids a real expectations. So The Jeep Geek dropped his line (again) and moved over to The Chic Geek’s line and pulled up to set the hook. He had a fight on his hand. A few minutes later he landed a 3 to 4 lb large mouth bass. Largest catch of the weekend...hooked by the wiggly 5 year old...he just couldn’t imagine that a fish as cunning as a bass would hit that hook.

That bass sure tasted great as they fried it that night along with the few brim that they caught. The Chic Geek was beaming all during dinner as they all enjoyed her catch. Good times!

Memories are great things. They (to a great extent) define us and our relationships. The Jeep Geek recommends that any Jeeper build those wonderful family memories by getting out into nature...and catch some fish in the process.


Computers Everywhere

The Jeep Geek was driving his daughters to school today (and then on to work). The conversation centered on the many computers in cars today. You might want to know why this obtuse conversation occurred...well The Jeep Geek just paid $1600 to replace a computer in his daughter’s Volvo (as well as a few additional bits of maintenance). Sigh. The computer that was replaced was the one that controls the steering wheel. When this particular computer dies, then the turn signals don’t work.

The Jeep Geek observed that when the computers work, every thing is wonderful. We all love all the gadgets, capabilities, luxuries that the many computers in a car provide. But the law of increasing numbers works against the reliability of simple solutions to problems. For example, if a company has 30 computers in their organization, and the average failure rate is one in 10 years, then this company will see 3 failures per year. Guess what...many modern cars have over 30 computer modules in them. Three failures per year would be unacceptable to any car buyer. The auto industry average is between 1 and 1 1/2 failures per year overall. Chrysler’s scores in this area are improving against the is interesting to note that the Japanese auto companies don’t stack at the top for reliability any more... US companies have overtaken them.

But The Jeep Geek digresses. If one can expect regular repair bills to replace computer modules how does one afford such a situation? Well, two things here. First, the computer modules in the auto are far more reliable than the ones we buy for our homes and businesses...most of the failures that are discussed above are not computer module failures...many are little things that don’t cost much money...some are expensive computer modules.

The Jeep Geek sells many Jeeps with the optional Lifetime extended warranties to those customers who typically keep their vehicles longer than 3 years. The cost of these warranties are typically about the price of a computer module failure...or other major component failure and is a good way to prepare for the unexpected. A recurring theme in The Jeep Geek’s life...he is, after all, married to a reliability engineer.

Failures are often preventable by good design, careful manufacturing and regular maintenance...but until GOD makes the vehicle there will be failures. Jeeps are particularly reliable these days thanks to the 6 sigma quality programs that Chrysler has put into place, but everyone should be prepared to deal with the cost of a failure of their vehicle...either by making sure that a good warranty is in place, or by saving up for repairs.

Hopefully you will experience problem free driving that most of us Jeep owners experience. But mechanical things do break and The Jeep Geek hopes you are prepared.

Thinking Outside the Box

The Jeep Geek is a traditionalist. He enjoys the simple esthetic of function over form. The boxy shapes of the Jeeps occur in this vein. Having established this, The Jeep Geek does appreciate fine lines in a vehicle when he sees them.

Recently Jeep refreshed the 2011 Jeep Compass. The designers gave it the front and hood look of the new Grand Cherokee. What a sweet little Jeep this unit is. Beefy 2.4L VVT engine generates 172HP (more than the 4L inline 6 of previous generations of the Wrangler). Yet the aero dynamics of this unit, combined with this engine allow for close to 30 MPG. This mileage is almost unheard of in a true 4 wheel drive package.

The Compass is front wheel drive in 2wd mode. It has all the electronic stability control, electronic roll-over mitigation, and other safety features of bigger Jeep models. The roll cage is a little something that we got to keep in the divorce settlement from Mercedes...a high strength, low weight metal that is only used in the highest end sports sedans. The Jeep Geek wouldn’t think twice about putting one of his daughters in this safe little unit.

Now, if you are thinking that this is a cheap your father’s, it just isn’t true. While the price is pretty low for a true 4 wheel drive vehicle, there is nothing cheap about this vehicle. For a price in the low $20Ks you get the beefy 2.4L engine, a continously variable transmission(CVT) (a word on this in a minute), power windows and door locks, nice sound system, iPod connection, 115VAC outlet, and great comfort. Lease payments on this unit are in the mid to upper $200 per month, making this a great choice for those who need to keep the budget under control.

Now the transmission is what The Jeep Geek really likes about this Jeep. The CVT utilizes two pulleys and a steel belt between them to change the drive ratio. A typical transmission has between 3 and 6 speeds (read gear ratios). This unit has an infinite number of when you are up in the mountains, you are never “between gears”...that awful place where the engine is either racing in too low a gear, or lugging in too high a gear. Even Goldilocks would say the drive ratio is just right.

When driving down the road, the transmission controller biases for fuel economy, when the driver stomps on the accelerator the controller changes to performance within 30 milliseconds...changing the drive ratio to give you acceleration that will surprise you for a Jeep.

Additionally, there is no jerking of the vehicle when moving from a stop like almost every other vehicle on the planet. With a traditional automatic transmission, the vehicle jerks a bit as it shifts gears, not this one...smooth acceleration regardless of the speed.

If luxury is your thing, the Compass Limited is available with leather, Nav radio, extra chrome and all those power goodies.

Now the million dollar question...Can you take this thing Off-road? New for this year is the off-road package that makes the Compass “Trail Rated”. This includes some skid plating, tow hooks, an extra inch of ground clearance and a two speed transfer case. Might not conquer the Rubicon Trail, but will perform well enough to get you to some nice old mining camps around here, and will handle our winter snows just fine.

This little Jeep is The Jeep Geek’s best choice for College Students or young marrieds that want something to drive daily and get up to ski country in the winter.


Rumors, Rumors, and More...

The Jeep Geek is often asked about future products from Jeep. It is true, The Jeep Geek can see into the future. But the images are sometimes dark and fragmented, so much is left to interpretation. In this article, The Jeep Geek will comment on a number of rumors regarding Jeep...and maybe some other topics as well.

Rumor #1 The wrangler with a Pentastar engine. OK...The Jeep Geek deals with this on a weekly basis. The Pentastar engine provides almost 100 additional horsepower and about a 10% improvement in fuel economy in other platforms...probably will show similar benefits if placed in the wrangler.

sub-rumor - Jeep will de-tune the engine - The Jeep Geek doubts this sub-rumor. There is no advantage to de-tuning the engine. The only complaint from Jeep owners is lack of horsepower...what could possibly be the rationale for detuning the engine to prevent if from solving the only issue with this great product?

sub-rumor - The Pentastar engine will ship in April. No way. The Jeep Geek cannot order one at this time...ordering for a new model opens about 60 days before scheduled production runs...from the production run it takes about 30 - 45 days to reach the Jeep Store that The Jeep Geek works at. So, at least 90 days out...probably more.

Regarding Rumor #1. The Jeep Geek thinks it is likely that this wonderful new engine will be included in the 2012 Wranglers. Likelihood if this rumor being accurate...85%. Here’s how we will know if it is coming in the 2012 model year. Jeep will provide significant rebates to 2011 Jeep Wrangler purchasers to move out this inventory. If we see large rebates, then the new engines will be just around the corner.

Rumor #2 - Jeep will introduce the Wrangler with a CRD (Common Rail Diesel) engine. Proponents of this rumor have the fact that Jeep sells this configuration in Europe and has done so for a number of years. It is one thing to design a vehicle/engine combination for European regulations, and quite another to make this fly in the US.

It would be nice to have a diesel variant here. The Diesel offers impressive torque, especially at the low end where you want it for off-roading. It also provides a bit better fuel economy. The Jeep Geek is all in to get a diesel wrangler...however he doubts this rumor will become reality. The Pentastar engine solves the problems of lower performance and fuel economy of the current engine nicely, Americans are not as in-tune with diesel as Europeans, so it will be a niche engine, not really the sort of thing one does when re-building a car company...better to offer fewer configurations that focus on larger markets. Likely hood of this rumor being accurate - less than 10%.

Rumor #3 - Wrangler will lose its solid axles in favor of independent suspension. Tilt. The basis for this rumor is two-fold. First, Fiat doesn’t understand off-road and they are calling the shots at Chrysler. Second, the solid rear axle in the Grand Cherokees was replaced by an independent rear axle in the 2011 Grands.

The Jeep Geek will take a deep breath and try to unravel this gordian knot. First, the head of Jeep is a gentleman by the name of Mike Manley. His Wrangler team is largely intact. The Wrangler kept Chrysler afloat into and through bankruptcy (Ram trucks did well also). No Fiat executive wants to tinker with the success of Jeep’s most iconic brand. While an independent suspension would yield a tamer on road ride...and perhaps a bit better fuel economy, it will limit the off-road performance in numerous ways. Not the least of which is: it is easy to lift a vehicle with solid axles, quite a bit different altogether to lift independent suspensions. Solid axles can take more we see on Jeep trails. So if someone wants better on-road performance, almost every vehicle on the planet is available...however if someones wants the ability to go almost anywhere in a Jeep, only the Wrangler will work...removing this capability will create quite a hole in the market.

Likely hood of this rumor being accurate - near nil (The Jeep Geek computes this to be 1:100,000,000,000,000.) If it does become true, you will know in advance because The Jeep Geek will become The Mini-Van Geek.

Rumor #4 Chrysler won’t make it. The rumor runs along the lines that Chrysler was the weakest auto company in the US and didn’t have the product lineup to compete with Ford and GM.

The Jeep Geek is committed to the long term success of long as it owns Jeep. This fact alone should settle this rumor. No other manufacturer on the planet has The Jeep Geek.

So lets de-construct this rumor. First, Chrysler has a world class management team, some from Fiat (where they have completely turned around this company from a weak player to a world power in the automotive market). Second, the debt removed, union contracts re-worked, and products refreshed, this company is on the rise. In fact Chrysler is growing market share every products, new marketing, new management and money in the bank. Things are looking pretty bright here.

With the redesign of the Ram lineup and the Grand Cherokee, we have won almost every award worth wining for these key vehicle segments. New Chrysler sedans are turning heads and likely to follow (Ram and Grand Cherokee) in successful new product introductions.

With the Mercedes ownership, Chrysler implemented new Quality programs such as the 6 sigma. These new programs take time to implement and bear fruit, they are now doing so. Chrysler’s quality is a strength in the new models and make their overall brands highly competitive.

Likely hood of rumor being accurate is less than 10%. Continued economic distress on the nation as a whole, and return to high gas prices will place strain on the entire industry...while companies with no or low debt (like Chrysler) are well positioned to weather any economic storms, no company in this industry is a certain winner.

Rumors will be with us forever. It is The Jeep Geek’s experience that the number of rumors increases when there is less information. That certainly seems the case these days. It would be nice if Chrysler were to just let everyone know what it is planning and what is off-the-table.


Winter here in Colorado is rough. That’s The Jeep Geek’s story and he is sticking by it. While we are having a mild winter this year, we have still had some snow, ice and some extremely cold days (-8 F). Every one of these days The Jeep Geek was glad he was driving a 4x4...although if he were not he may have gotten a few days off this winter.

While there is not much happening off-road this time of year, The Jeep Geek is seeing a lot of vehicles coming off lease with corroded chrome. Being the curious lad that he is, The Jeep Geek began investigating the cause of this malady.

Turns out that the very de-icing compounds that are used in the winter weather cause this corrosion. People on the east coast understand this salt damage on the underside of their cars...the salt is on the road for a large part of the winter, however here in Colorado we don’t get that much snow down here where it is only 1 mile high. So our under-carriages don’t rust fact very few vehicles here have any body rust.

However we do have chrome damage. There are three things that can be done to prevent this problem here in Colorado.

  • Don’t buy a Jeep with Chrome. The Hummer Recovery Vehicle only has one tiny piece of chrome on it...the Jeep Logo on the front of the hood. The Jeep Geek prefers this approach since an off-road vehicle will be damaged on the trail anyway...scratches and scraps are common and referred to as Colorado Pin Striping. Chrome and scratches just clash. The Jeep Geek is such a fashion horse that he would not be seen in such a vehicle.
  • Wash the Jeep every day that it is driven in snow. Get the Mag-chloride off the chrome before it has a chance to react with it. This approach seems like too much work to The Jeep Geek so he does not recommend this method. But some of his customers are this anal and use this to keep their Jeeps show room clean.
  • Chrysler has a couple of products that can be installed at the Jeep store that bonds to the chrome (and paint for that matter) and prevents the mag-chloride from attaching to the vehicle. This is the approach that The Jeep Geek recommends to his customers who purchase Jeeps with lots of chrome on them, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. These are beautiful vehicles and will benefit from the application of Mopar’s Master Shield products.

Master Shield lasts for about 3 years and re-application is free at the Jeep store that The Jeep Geek works at. This approach provides a lifetime guarantee for all the chrome and painted surfaces. (as well as a free detail every three years!!!).

The value of any vehicle, when it is traded for a new vehicle, is based on two things...miles on the odometer and the visual appeal of the vehicle. Does it look like it was cared for or does it look like it was trashed. This will determine if the vehicle is in execellent condition or is it in poor condition. This can contribute up to a $3000 difference in the value of the vehicle.

So you can choose from the three choices listed above to deal with the ravages of mag-chloride. Life is too short to stop and wash your Jeep after a tough commute in the snow.


How to Buy a Jeep

The Jeep Geek has seen a number of customers who come in to buy a Jeep, but are completely unprepared to do so. Not a problem if they encounter The Jeep Geek, however most do not and their unpreparedness costs them money and grief.

Many of the principles that The Jeep Geek will discuss below, will apply to the purchase of any “big ticket” item. Research, prepare, deal openly and honestly, look for outstanding service...these will help you get long term satisfaction from a large purchase as well as a reasonable price.

First, research the product. A good source is (It goes without saying that the site you are currently reading is also a good source.) At the Jeep website you can determine which models and options are important to you...this will guide you in deciding what to test drive later as well as help you to understand how the price for the particular vehicle you are interested in is built. What each option package is worth is different to different people...only you can do the math. Is a Hard Top for a Wrangler worth $700? Is the dual Top option worth $1500? This exercise will likely generate questions that you can ask the salesman. Write these down.

After the Jeep website, go to some third party websites and see what they say about the product. The Jeep Geek is not a fan of Consumer Reports as they tend to develop a hatred for certain brands and their bias shows through everything that they rate, but Edmonds, and some of the off-road magazines’ websites will give you an unvarnished view of the product that is fair and balanced...they have no axe to grind.

The goal of your research is to narrow down the field to a few vehicles to test drive.

Now test drive the vehicles you are interested in. Don’t skimp on this step, a particular vehicle might look good, but drive poorly, or a highly rated vehicle might be comfortable to one person, and not fit a different body type. Is this vehicle right for you?

The test drive should be more than 4 right turns around the lot. You need to see the vehicle on the highway, up mountain roads, on sweeping turns on country roads, in city traffic...basically you need to drive it in the type of conditions you tend to drive in your life. If the salesmen won’t let you take a long test drive, run, don’t walk, away from that store.

As well as determining the length of the route, you need to pay attention to how the vehicle is driving. Is it quiet on the highway, how does it handle turns...will it hold the line at higher speeds? Test the maneuverability, for example, spin some donuts on the car lot (you can and should do this slowly...don’t light up the tires) this will give you a sense of how easy it will be to maneuver in tight traffic and how easy it will be to drive...some SUVs are car-like in their handling and some drive like dump trucks. Check acceleration and braking on the test drive... do you like the way this acceleration smooth and quiet, or does it sound like the vehicle is coming apart? Braking should also be smooth and rapid, without pulling in any direction.

Do not succumb to a salesman’s pressure to purchase his vehicle before you have finished test driving all the vehicles you are considering. If you are being pressured, leave...that salesman is a jerk...unfortunately there are plenty of those out there.

Once the test drive is complete, the next step is to pick a dealership that you want to build a relationship with. It’s fine to contact several in the area to get price quotes, but resist the temptation to buy from the lowest price dealer...use the low price to improve the price at the dealer where you want to have your Jeep serviced. This is the point where you ask your friends and neighbors what their experience has been with a particular dealer. If you find one that is close and has a great reputation for service, then contact their sales department.

Finally, interview the salesman you encounter. Does this person know a lot about the product? Are they treating you with respect? Do they listen to you? If you feel that the salesman is professional, then great, if not, request a different salesman...don’t experience the brain damage of dealing with an idiot...these exist at almost every store and should be avoided.

A good salesman will not only help you get exactly the Jeep you want, but they will be helpful throughout the time you own the vehicle. They can answer questions that come up, they can help with service, they can make recommendations on modifications you are interested in, they can give you tips on driving off-road or in special situations. A good salesman will be proactive, looking for problems before they become noticeable to you. If they are not adding value to the whole purchase and post-sales experience then they are not worth referring your friends and co-workers to. If a salesman doesn’t understand this, they need to be starved out of the business.

Once you know the vehicle you want to purchase, you have selected a preferred dealership, selected a salesman you are ready to work on price.

Every dealership has the same tools for pricing as all the others for any given brand. They have the same rebates, incentives, invoice prices, marketing support and the same desire to make a deal. What might be different is inventory, availability, and the passion of the salesman. Take your best email price quote to your salesman and let him get you their best price...if they are close to the best price, and this is the store (and salesman) you want to build a business relationship with, buy the vehicle. Saving a couple of hundred dollars by purchasing out of town will come back to haunt you when you need or want just a bit more support from the better, closer store or more knowledgeable salesman. The Jeep Geek spends a lot of time each week supporting his customers, but does not offer any support to people who bought elsewhere. It is economics, he has so many hours in the week, it is impossible to service his existing customers, sell Jeeps to new customers and support people who have purchased their vehicles elsewhere. His customers deserve his undiluted attention.

If you don’t do your research, or don’t test drive, or if you accept a dull salesman or poor dealership, your ownership experience will be diminished. A car that doesn’t fit, can’t be adjusted afterwards, a poor salesman won’t be able to help you down the road, a store with a sloppy service department will only be a source of the work up front and your experience will actually be pleasant.

The whole process can be accomplished in a few afternoons (depending on the number of competitive brands you are considering).

The Jeep Geek would like to dispel some popular car buying myths.

  • The end of the month is the best time to get a good price since the salesman and the store will be desperate to meet quota. This is patently false...every salesman wants to sell a car every day...every store will do the same deal every day of the month. If you wait until the end of the month, then you are likely to be part of a large crowd that doesn’t get the best attention of the salesman...we are pretty busy during the last few days.
  • Cash is offering to purchase a Jeep for cash, you will get a better price. This is also false. Most stores want to place a loan with a lender and get a fee to do so, by offering cash, you are reducing the amount of money the store can make. This won’t get you a better price. (The Jeep Geek actually had a customer dump a pile of cash on his desk as part of a negotiating tactic. He guesses that the mere sight of a pile of cash was supposed to so overwhelm his mind such that he would cave and lose money on the transaction...not!)
  • By being abusive to the salesman, you will show him who is boss and who will be setting the price. The Jeep Geek doesn’t work with such people...he turns them over to the dumbest salesman on staff. The Jeep Geek wants to make money on every transaction, but also get a good price for his customers...if both parts aren’t there, a deal will not be had. The Jeep Geek likes people and wants to get to know them and help them. He doesn’t like mean people and would prefer to have nothing to do with them.

Prepare for your next big ticket purchase and you might actually enjoy the least you will get a better deal.


Jeep is 70 Years Old

The Jeep Geek does not write fluff pieces...this one may be close, but he is proud of the rich history that embodies Jeeping and Jeeps in particular. So he will commence crowing now.

1941 is when all this started. The Military wanted a replacement for it’s odd collection of motorcycles, Model Ts (yup, Model Ts) and sundry 2 wheel vehicles. They sent out an RFP (Request for Proposal) to a number of manufacturers. The specifications where for a 4 wheel drive vehicle with a two speed transfer case, 75 inch wheelbase weighing no more than 1300 pounds and able to carry 600 pounds of men and equipment.

The contract was awarded to Willys (with Ford building some of the vehicles). The rest was history...ok, so this part was history as well. But that is the point of this whole thing...70 years of history. No other brand has this rich history, sure, some brands have been around longer, some have more carlines but none have been involved in defeating our enemies for decades...what other car ensured the defeat of Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini? What other car brand brought wounded heros back from the front lines of Korea and Vietnam...not to mention that it was sold to countless militaries around the world?

Jeep also created the whole off-road industry that boomed after WWII. The Jeep Geek freely admits that other manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon by producing fairly good off-road vehicles...but they still call them Jeep Trails. Yes, The Jeep Geek is mighty proud of the unique history of the much so that he has changed his middle name to Jeep.

So what are the guys and gals in Detroit doing to commemorate this occasion? Well at this last weeks International Auto show they rolled out the 70th Anniversary editions of several jeep models. Pictured above is a Jeep Sahara in the new Bronze Star color. The picture below shows the seats in the 70th Jeep Grand Cherokee...the design elements remind one of the military. This brings up a story about The Jeep Geek’s father (who won three Bronze Star medals during his 28 year career in the Army).


As the story goes, during the Vietnam war The Jeep Geek’s father (a Colonel) was driving in a remote area in a Jeep. This area had a road between two rice paddies that the Colonel was driving on. He heard a snap sound that reminded him of the sound a hand grenade fuse makes when the lever is released. From the corner of his eye he sees an object heading for his Jeep. This left the Colonel with only one option, leap from the moving Jeep. So that is what he did. He ended up in the ditch between the road and one rice paddy, the Jeep ended up in the opposite ditch.

Turned out that the hand grenade was a dirt clod thrown by a small boy. The locals gathered around laughing at the spectacle. The Colonel limped back to his wrecked Jeep and radioed for help...pride was the worst injury, but also ended up with a couple of broken ribs. After a couple of hours his Jeep pulled out of the ditch and the Colonel back at the base he regaled his colleagues with this tale (for which he did not win a Bronze Star).

For several years afterwards, at the Officer’s club in Saigon, during the Christmas season, the officers would sing the 12 days of Christmas and substitute “10 Colonels a Leaping” for “10 Lords a Leaping”.

The Jeep Geek thinks this story belongs in the greater lexicon of great Jeep moments in history.


Trail Rating

As The Jeep Geeks stands ready to help prospective new Jeepers at the Pollard Jeep store in Boulder, he is often asked about the trail rated badge on some Jeeps. “This is just Marketing hype isn’t it?” On the contrary, it is an important aspect of off-road performance for Jeep. Some Jeeps are good off-road, some are not.

Now of all the 4 by 4 vehicle manufacturers, only Jeep has developed a set of standards to measure the ability to go off-road. This is key, because it is a guide to their engineering department to make sure that Jeeps continue to perform in the sticks.

Trail Rated as a badging came out in the 90s. Does this mean that Jeeps built before this didn’t perform well off-road? Of course not, it just means that Jeep engineers gave some significant thought to what is required to go off-road, and codified these characteristics. They have always built great off-road vehicles...more from instinct than measured against a set of standards. Now they either are awarded Trail Rated badges or not depending on how they are equipped.

To achieve a Trail Rated badge a Jeep has to pass criteria in 5 areas.
  • Traction. The Jeep has to have 4 wheel drive and have a low range in the transfer case. Some Jeeps are 2 wheel drive (not here in 4x4 country, but some parts of the country value 2 wheel drive jeeps...The Jeep Geek doesn’t know why.
  • Articulation. This is the ability for one wheel on the axle to stay on a surface while the other wheel goes over an obstacle such as a small boulder. If one wheel is on the boulder and the other wheel is hanging out in space, it provides no traction. (the co-efficient of traction of air is near 0). At some point even a trail rated Jeep is limited in it’s articulation...go over a high enough obstacle and even the vaunted Rubicon will experience a wheel hanging in space.
  • Ground Clearance. Occasionally The Jeep Geek is asked what the ground clearance of a particular Jeep is. His eyes glaze over and he begins to stammer and stutter. It is more complicated than measuring the lowest point of the Jeep to the ground. While Ford may measure ground clearance that way, it is a meaningless number. Ground clearance is not expressed in is expressed in know...degrees. The Jeep Geek will explain. In addition to how many inches of clearance for the lowest part of the Jeep, the issues are “Angle of Approach” This is the angle between the ground and a straight line from the bottom of the front tire, past the bottom of the front bumper. This will determine if you can start an uphill ascent...if the angle of the uphill ascent (like up a boulder) is steeper than the “Angle of Approach” you are not going to make it up, regardless of how high the lowest part of the vehicle is in relationship to the ground. “Angle of Departure” is the opposite of this effect...once you are coming down the hill (or the other side of this boulder), you want to make sure you can exit without leaving your bumper, fuel tank, or muffler behind on the trail. So the “Angle of Departure is the angle between the ground and the bottom of the rear wheel to the lowest point on the rear underside. Finally, the third relevant angle is the “Break-over Angle”. This is the angle formed from lines drawn from the bottom of the front and rear wheels to the bottom of the frame of the Jeep at the mid-point between the two axles. If your “Break-Over” angle is not good, you could find yourself “High Centered” on a large boulder that you are trying to conquer. The 2 door Wrangler has a better Break-over Angle than the 4 door Wrangler. This is one of the areas where short wheel base vehicles shine.
  • Maneuverability. There are obstacles on the trail that are better driven around than over or through...trees and boulders come to mind. The ability to turn sharply is needed on the trail. This is why full size pickup trucks struggle on the trail. Great 4x4 systems on say a dodge truck, but the length requires a lot of space to turn...(break-over angle also is not good) . Jeeps have always turned sharply, and this attribute also pays dividends on the road. They drive more car-like in that they are easy to park, move down narrow city streets, etc. Being able to maneuver is key to making it back home when off-road.
  • River fording. If you are going off-road, you are likely to encounter water...even in the desert. Streams, rivers, lakes, bogs, washes, ponds, etc dot the landscape. Frankly the most beautiful scenes that are encountered off-road are near water...this is where the trees grow, where the animals are, and if you enjoy fresh caught fish for dinner, you will be near water. The Jeep Geek has written an earlier article on river fording, but without the right stuff, you can’t get your vehicle into the water. Trail rated Jeeps have the right stuff.

You might end up on a Jeep lot and see two of the same model of Jeep, one that is trail rated and one that is not. There may be several reasons for this. Some models of Jeep have a choice of transfer with a low range, one without. The one with a low range may be trail rated, while the one without will not be. Also, sometimes a Jeep will have oversized tires and wheels that limit articulation, these won’t be trail rated, even with a low range transfer case. Replace the wheels and tires and you are good to go...or lift the thing. Ground clearance is low on the Jeep Compass and most of these are not trail rated...but for 2011 Jeep has produced a Compass that is trail rated.

In summary trail rated is about meeting standards. If your Jeep has the trail rated badge, you should be able to take it off-road...might not be able to conquer “Hell’s Revenge” at Moab, but you should be able to tackle moderate trails in your neck of the woods.

Merry Christmas

A sense of humor is a good thing any time of year. The Jeep Geek posted an article about winterizing your Jeep, and this picture shows something you can do with your Jeep while you are waiting for the trails to open in the summer.

The Jeep Geek’s family is gathering this Christmas and he is looking forward to seeing all three of his daughters and his father-in-law up from Texas. Yes, The Jeep Geek married a west Texas gal... decades ago.

This time of year, one considers the path one’s life has taken and takes stock of all that he has valued and pursued. The Jeep Geek is no different in this regard. He is considering those changes he wants to make to his life and some things stand out:

  • He intends to become a more skilled Jeeper. The goal here is to increase the number of people he can help get into Jeeping...and maybe sell a couple more Jeeps in the process.
  • The Jeep Geek has been using a software package called iWeb to create this site, but the limitations are starting to drive him nuts. (Anyone who knows The Jeep Geek knows that is normally a short drive as The Jeep Geek lives in that zip code.) So The Jeep Geek has committed himself to a path of self enlightenment by taking up the challenge of learning to build websites using Dreamweaver, WordPress, and a few PHP tools. This means that will received quite a face lift in the coming year.
  • The Jeep Geek intends to lose a few pounds as well. Nothing radical here, just getting to a more healthy diet...fewer Cheeseburgers, french fries, and chocolate shakes for lunch... maybe a bit more restraint in the evenings as he reads or watches TV (fewer snacks).
  • A bonus Goal, if the economy permits. The Jeep Geek would like to upgrade The Hummer Recovery Vehicle a bit. Again, nothing radical here...just a few off-road upgrades to help The Jeep Geek get to some places with a little less scraping and dragging.

How about you, what changes do you want to make in 2011? Drop The Jeep Geek a note in the contact us section of this site and let him know.

Preparing for Winter

So where you are the weather may be fine...where The Jeep Geek lives we are preparing for the long winter here in the Rocky Mountains. Most of the Jeep trails here are closed (or rapidly closing) and won’t re-open until mid-summer. What is a Jeeper to do in the winter here?

Well, two options. One is to go somewhere else. Duh... There are still some Arizona trails open that are gorgeous...neat red sandstone formations...great critters that can be encountered as well.


You can take the next few weeks and winterize your gear. Here’s what The Jeep Geek recommends:

  • First, clean the jeep. The Jeep Geek recommends that you steam clean the engine compartment and underside of the Jeep...get all that mud and caked dirt off the jeep.
  • Inspect the underside for bare metal areas that may rust when road salts hit them. Apply a bit of rustoleum paint to these areas. Remember this is the price you paid when you scraped bottom on those rocks last summer.
  • If you have a is the time to pay out the line and if it is steel cable, inspect it carefully for frayed or kinked areas. Also a little oil wiped on now will go a long way to extending the life of the cable. If you have a synthetic lucky dog...inspect it for frays, you just don’t have to be as careful as steel cable frays will cut your hands pretty badly. Replace any line that is frayed, steel or don’t want to risk a break on the trail just when you need the line to hold. Also clean and lubricate the winch and slowly pay in the line and wrap it neatly. Did you hear, oil the line alot if it is steel.
  • Inspect your winch kit. Look for frayed tree straps and recovery straps. If they are frayed, time to replace them. Check the condition of your heavy duty leather gloves at this time...not the place to skimp...there should be no holes. Finally, inspect the snatch block. Look closely at the central bearing area...check for any slop here or binding...time to replace this if it isn’t perfect. These things are cheap to replace and if they fail can cause expensive damage.
  • Check Hi-jacks, shovels, axes etc. A dull and rusty axe or shovel is dangerous. The heads should be cleaned and oiled. You should take this opportunity to sharpen them fresh. Also, inspect the handles should be free if splinters and in general should be in good condition. The Hi-jack should be inspected for damage, worn holes or ratchets and should be cleaned and oiled.
  • Now go down to your closest Jeep store and have your vehicle serviced. Particularly a lube, oil and filter service. Also have them check the radiator...these things get a lot of abuse on the trail, good time to get the radiator flushed and pressure tested so you won’t be left stranded on the trail. Also, Brakes get a real workout on the trail and these should be inspected. The Jeep Geek recommends that all this be done at a Jeep Dealer because they don’t use skinny high school students to perform these checks...they use trained and certified technicians...many of whom share your passion for off-roading. The store that The Jeep Geek works at has very low cost maintenance packages buy one oil change and get three free. What ever you do here, make sure whoever is under your jeep cares as much about it as you do.
Now that all this is done, your rig is clean, lubed, and all your equipment is put away in the garage until summer you have nothing to do till the trails open up. How will you survive till then?

Different Differentials

The Jeep Geek is often asked what the differences are between the Sport and Rubicon (they both look similar). When he tries to answer the question it becomes clear that often the questioner doesn’t have a fundamental understanding of four wheel drive systems. So The Jeep Geek thought it would be good to lay out the different differentials that one encounters in 4 by 4 systems.

First, the differential is the pumpkin sized bubble roughly in the middle of the axle. In the case of a four wheel drive vehicle, there is one differential on the front axle and one on the rear. These connect to the transfer case which splits the engine power (from the transmission) to each axle.

The job of the differential is to enable the wheels on an axle to turn at different speeds. Yup, different speeds. The Jeep Geek will explain. When a vehicle turns around a corner, the wheels on the outside of the corner turn at a faster speed than the wheels on the inside. (The radius of the turn is shorter on the inside of the turn by the width of the car. This makes the outside wheels travel a greater distance in the same amount of time...hence faster.)

If there was no differential it would take two men and a strong boy to turn the steering wheel, and the vehicle would buck violently as it makes the turn.

The power going to the axle moves to the outside wheel (which is turning faster) whenever the vehicle makes a turn. This is an “Open Differential”.

Open Differential

Most 4 wheel drive vehicles have open differentials. This improves drivability on paved roads. It also makes steering easier and reduces stresses on the steering system, tires, front suspension and driver’s nerves. All-in-all an elegant solution with only one drawback.

The trouble with open differentials is when one wheel loses traction (such as off-road or snow) then all the power on the axle goes to the wheel that has lost traction. If the transfer case is also an open transfer case, then all the engine power goes to the wheel that is slipping uselessly...and you are stuck.

Now there are ways of dealing with this situation if you have open differentials and are stuck. One method is to apply the brakes (lightly) which will slow the spinning wheel. At the same time apply gas to the engine and the differential will “think” that the formerly slipping wheel now has traction and move some of the power back to the other wheel(s) which hopefully do have traction. This effect is at the heart of all modern traction control systems. They automatically apply some brake pressure to a spinning wheel to make sure that all the power doesn’t “leak out” of the axle.

So what if someone designed a differential that only transferred some of the power to the wheel that was slipping...say 60% of the power and retained 40% on the wheel that had traction (or in the case of going around a corner, only transferred 60% of the power to the outside wheel)? That might be called a “Limited Slip Differential”. How would that be?

Limited Slip Differential

A limited slip differential does just what the name suggests. It limits the slip of the power from the wheel that has traction to the wheel that lost traction. In fact it keeps 40% of the power with the wheel that has traction and only allows 60% of the power to slip. This enables enough slip to make it easy to navigate a turn on dry pavement and still leaves enough power in each wheel so that if you are off-roading you won’t lose as much traction and momentum.

Most manufacturers offer limited slip differentials on the rear axle only, leaving the front axle open. This is done to improve steering and ride quality while still giving some ability to get out of a difficult situation. It’s not perfect, but offers good performance in snow and normal off-road conditions.

On the subject of limited slip differentials not being perfect, here is a story about one of The Jeep Geek’s friends. He was driving his large 4 wheel drive pickup trucks in farm country. After passing the road he wanted to take, he tried to do a u-turn and ended up in a deep drainage ditch, nose first...rear end sticking up in the air...rear wheels off the ground. Since his truck had an open differential and limited slip differential in the rear, he was stuck. One of his front wheels was slipping and all the power was sent to this wheel, no traction at all in the rear (air has low co-efficient of traction). He had to be pulled out of the ditch by a friendly farmer and his truck was no worse for wear.

While the story above is an extreme example of what could happen to defeat the power of a limited slip differential, most people will find that this type of differential works best for their needs. If it doesn’t, wouldn’t it be nice to throw a switch and turn off the slip and lock up the differential when needed? That’s possible.

Locking Differential

The third type of differential that we will look at is the Locking Differential. This differential is normally open. So as you drive around with this vehicle you find that it drives normally. But when you approach an obstacle (in low range please) you can throw a couple of switches and a relay (or air supply) causes an extra gear to engage in the differential that locks the two wheels on the axle to turn together at exactly the same speed. No power is transferred across the is locked 50%/50%.

This setup is ideal for rock crawling where one wheel may be hanging in space when the other wheel is crawling up a large rock. This setup allows the maximum mechanical energy to be left with the wheel that has traction. No traction control braking to slow down momentum. No power slipping out the spinning wheel, just a slow steady crawl up a boulder strewn path.

The only downside of this solution is that the Jeep is very difficult to turn while the axles are locked...again two men and a strong boy are needed. Some Jeepers just lock the rear axle and leave the front axle unlocked when they approach an obstacle that may require some maneuvering to avoid things that can’t be crawled over. This at least provides optimum traction in the back, ok traction in the front and the ability to turn. Then when the path ahead is clear of the need to steer, the front axle can again be locked.

So the type of differential that you need depends on the conditions that you expect to encounter. The Jeep Geek loves the locking differentials that came in his Rubicon...but they are not perfect for every condition and perhaps a Limited Slip Differential is a better choice for you.

The Jeep Geek is willing to provide a free consultation to any of you who would like his advise, just drop a note on the Contact Us page and he will respond.

The Soul of a Jeep

Last night The Jeep Geek was sitting in his favorite Cigar lounge having a stogie with a few of his friends when one said something that sparked this article. First, his friend is an Economics Professor at University of Colorado, so the topics we discussed were wide ranging from economic theory (The Jeep Geek is a neophyte here), moral implications of car theft (also no experience), tax laws and their impact on business, boating in Wisconsin, and finally a description of test driving a Toyota sedan. The Jeep Geek’s friend said something like “I thought the Toyota drove fine, no problems, did everything I asked it to do, it just had no you know what I mean?”

The Jeep Geek thinks he does. The soul of a vehicle is part of the personality of the vehicle. The soul of a corvette is sleek, sexy and very fast. The soul of a mini-van is mom protecting and conveying her most precious cargo. The soul of a pickup truck (such as a Dodge Ram...sorry for the shameless promotion) is working tough.

When The Jeep Geek was a young lad in college, he had a MGB convertible that was colored British Racing Green. It had the habit of backfiring every time he took his foot off the accelerator (such as to shift gears). The Jeep Geek’s mom named the MG “The Green Grouch”. It had personality...and was quite the temperamental little beast, stranding The Jeep Geek on numerous occasions.

The Jeep Geek believes that the soul of a vehicle attracts certain personality types that purchase the subject vehicle. In the case of the subject Toyota (with no soul), it attracts purchasers who have no personality. Subaru is very similar...bland, no personality.

So, what is the soul of a Jeep? It is embodied in the american dream...self-reliance and the ability to get to a preferable future. If you can’t get there in a Jeep, you can’t get there. The Jeep’s soul also contains a bit of a confident, almost cocky edge. This is part and parcel of the spirit of adventure. “You wouldn’t understand, its a Jeep thing.”

So it is no surprise that Jeep owners share certain psycho-graphic characteristics. They are an adventurous group that love the outdoors. Jeep owners tend to be much more active, more independent thinkers, and also are risk-takers. (After all, only a risk-taker is willing to go around the next bend in a trail just to see what is there.)

Finally, no vehicle, Jeep or otherwise, can fully satisfy a large segment of the population. In fact no Jeep can satisfy the demands of just Jeep owners. That is why so few Jeeps are left unmodified. The Jeep Geek refers to the Wrangler as a platform for the owner’s individual expression. Some modifications are just for getting there across difficult conditions...some modifications are for looking good. Chrome won’t help you conqueror metal-masher, but it looks good on the road. A set of ARBs can’t be seen on the road, but will help you get over a gully full of boulders.

So consider what you want your Jeep to be, and tune it to meet your needs. While you can tune the soul of a Jeep, you can’t fundamentally change it. It is what it is.


Stiffer is Better

So The Jeep Geek promised another article on lifting Wranglers, but he is sidestepping a bit with this article. This article is regarding the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. This is not going to be the typical fluff piece that The Jeep Geek has been reading all over the is pointed at the totally lame marketing he sees at Jeep HQ in Chrysler. He does have hope as there are a series of commercials that are about to debut this month that make The Jeep Geek’s heart beat faster.

The subject of stiffness will apply to lifts and The Jeep Geek will develop this thought regarding lifts later this week.

The concern centers around a commercial that has been running that shows a bunch of robots welding a Grand Cherokee frame. The announcer says something like “why do we use 5400 welds on the new Grand Cherokee? Because we aren’t just building a new car, we are building a new company.”

What??? The Jeep Geek has a marketing background and has seen slick ad agencies pitch slick ad concepts that do nothing to promote either the brand or communicate the central value proposition of the product. The ad in questions falls into that category.

Here is why The Jeep Geek cares about 5400 welds (and why you should as well). The new Grand Cherokee has a body that is 146% stiffer than the previous body. Now the previous body was pretty good as far as stiffness is concerned. Some of the reason why the new Grand Cherokee has a stiffer body is the number of welds.

So why do you care about body stiffness? The Jeep Geek is glad you asked. There are several benefits of a stiffer body. First, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee handles better in high speed corners. This is because when a vehicle turns at high speed there are forces exerted on the body and it flexes a bit. When the body flexes this change in shape often changes the steering geometry. Not a big deal in slower turns, but becomes a big deal in high speed turns. The Jeep Geek can tell you that he has personally taken the 2011 Grand Cherokee on test drives with high speed turns and it holds the line beautifully. Better than anything in its class.

Second, a stiffer body yields a quieter cabin. The 2011 Grand Cherokee has a quieter cabin than most of its competition...The Jeep Geek has seen this personally as he has driven these competitors against the Grand Cherokee in a number of situations.

Third, the stiffer body allows for the doors to be opened when the Grand Cherokee is rock crawling with opposing wheels fully articulated. Not all competitors can say that. It isn’t a good thing to be stuck on rocks and not be able to get out of the vehicle because the body has flexed so much that the doors are jammed.

“So why do we use 5400 welds in the new Grand Cherokee? Because we are intent on building the highest quality, best performing vehicle in its class.”