The Jeep Geek

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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 SUVs...you 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 fuel...gives 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 gets...help 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.

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A New Jeep Pickup Truck JK8

Some of The Jeep Geek’s readers may be aware of the JK8 Pickup truck built on a wrangler unlimited platform. We have our first one here after 3 long months. The Jeep Geek saw the Mopar announcement that a conversion kit was available and ordered one for Pollard Jeep on the first day. The kit took a little over a month to get here, and about as long at a local body shop to be installed on a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.

It should be noted that it would not normally take 45 to 60 days to implement the JK8, but the body shop we chose used it as fill work when their shop was not busy, probably should take about a week to implement.

Enough about that, looks cool. The rear seat is lost, a smaller cabin gives way to an actual pickup truck bed. The rear gate and bumper are retained, so it has not lost any off-road capability due to a longer backend (reduced angle of departure). The Jeep Geek is also expecting a pickup truck modification from AEV in the near future, it will be interesting to see how they compare.

The Jeep Geek sat for a while enjoying this pickup truck and thought about its evolution from earlier Jeep pickup trucks. Jeep certainly has a history of producing them...maybe not as storied as the Ram pickups that other Chrysler stores sell, but a history still. The Jeep Geek discovered an interesting iPad app that provides an interesting history of Jeep and will use it to regale you now.

History of Jeep Pickup Trucks:

The Jeep Geek makes no representation of the completeness of this history, there may be some models that are not mentioned...if you are aware of some omissions, please add them through the comments section.

1947 to 1965 Willy’s Overland truck

This is the first Jeep Pickup truck based on the CJ platform, but with a longer wheelbase (118”). It had the same engine as the short wheelbase Jeep and was available in several configurations...pickup truck, stake bed, or bare chassis. They were available in either 2wd or 4 wd and were marketed to the modern farmer. The Jeep Geek guesses that modern farmer refers to any farmer at the time that didn’t plow with a horse.
01-Willys-truck-L

During the next decade Jeep had two pickup models, the Willy’s Overland pictured above, and the new FC-150

1950s FC-150

The Forward Control Series were the next evolution. Remarkable design that was built on the CJ frame made this little beast more maneuverable and the low bed made loading and unloading easier. Both 4 and 6 cylinder models were available. “More cargo space on shorter wheelbase and it goes anywhere.” is how it was marketed. The unique cab forward design enabled this claim. This design makes it look different to any Jeep of the era.

01-FC-150-L


1960s J-3000 Jeep Gladiator Truck

In 1962 Jeep totally redesigned the truck to look more like a traditional truck. We lost the 7 slot grille in the process. Go figure. They were still Jeep tough and resembled the Jeep Grand Wagoneer that would soon appear.

01---968_Jeep_Gladiator_J-3000_drivers_side_LARGE


1980s Jeep Comanche MJ

This is the last pickup produced by Jeep. It was built on the Cherokee (XJ) platform and is unique in that it sports a unibody. This is the pickup that most Jeepers remember when they ask for a Jeep pickup.


01_Commanche_MJ_sec

So The Jeep Geek hopes that you enjoyed this little jaunt through Jeep’s pickup truck history. Now, enjoy the new Jeep JK8 pickup that can be built at your local Jeep store. The Jeep Geek would be happy to build one for you.

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6.4L Hemi Powered Wrangler

The Jeep Geek just test drove a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Call of Duty Rubicon that we modified with a 6.4L Hemi engine. The Jeep store here tweaked the output to produce 500 horsepower, added some AEV accessories such as 4 1/2” lift, 35” tires, AEV wheels, AEV off-road bumpers and a Warn winch.

What a rush, The Jeep Geek was very impressed. The Jeep started with a wonderful throaty rumble giving a very satisfying feeling. At last a Jeep Wrangler with so much power that there was nothing on the road that he couldn’t pass. What a feeling. Acceleration was smooth, and accompanied by real head snap...don’t remove the head rests or you will experience whip-lash. The roar of this SRT8 engine was loud. So loud that it was almost distracting at around 50 miles per hour.

The Jeep Geek took one of his friends (who used to race Jeeps off-road) and his friend was duly impressed with the performance. This is likely the most powerful Wrangler in the US today. The Rubicon gearing delivered a tremendous amount of torque to the wheels even though they were very heavy Goodyear M/TR Kevlar 35” tires installed on black AEV wheels.

As can be seen in the photo at the top of this article, this unit looks as tough as it performs. Very muscular appearance with the AEV modifications adds to the excitement of this one-of-a-kind Jeep. Everything on this package says “get out of my way” including the exhaust roar.

The AEV lift performed just as The Jeep Geek expected with a smooth ride...just like the factory ride. Mrs. Geek had a little bit of trouble climbing up into this Wrangler, but once in, she was blown away by the power. She has consented to letting The Jeep Geek add some of the mods to his incoming Wrangler...lift, wheels, tires, bumpers tire carrier and such. The Jeep Geek doubts that he will be able to sneak the expense of a Hemi conversion to The Hummer Recovery Vehicle II. At least not in the near term. However with the new Pentastar engine, he doubts he will need such a boost.

So what would The Jeep Geek do differently to the 6.4L Hemi powered Wrangler? Well, he did notice a slight throttle lag from a dead stop, this is easily corrected by boosting the throttle voltage a bit to improve the throttle response. This won’t add any power, it will just deliver the power a little bit sooner when the accelerator is depressed...other than that, it was a perfect experience.

By the way, this Jeep is for sale. If you are interested in purchasing this one-of-a-kind Wrangler, drop The Jeep Geek a short message and he will get you pricing and details regarding the modifications.

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Armor Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 starbucks...life 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 hinges...it’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.

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AEV is In the House

The Jeep Geek has always been impressed with Mopar upgrades for Wranglers for the simple reason that they are well thought through and just work well. He has not changed his mind despite this article. The Jeep Geek likes to have options, choices, you know...like most jeepers, he likes to break the rules sometimes and do something totally different.

A week ago, The Jeep Geek tested a wrangler that had been outfitted with a 3 1/2” lift, Hemi engine, off-road bumpers, heat reduction hood, side armor, 35 inch tires, off-road wheels. It was quite eye-opening.

Of course the Hemi engine provided a good deal of head snap as expected, The Jeep Geek still feels that this is a bit of overkill. What really impressed him was the suspension kit. The AEV 3 1/2” SC lift performed beautifully on the road. Most do not. Even the Mopar lifts show a bit more stiffness on the highway...not really uncomfortable, but noticeable. The engineering on the AEV lift allowed for a very smooth ride on the highway. The way the arm brackets are dropped, allow for the feel of a very long arm suspension, which puts the energy absorption of bumps into the springs and shocks, rather than the trailing arm link. Very clever. This combined with the progressive rate springs yields a ride that is as close to unmodified as The Jeep Geek has experienced. On the trail these lifts have proven themselves to be as capable as any on the market.

What The Jeep Geek appreciates is that this lift has the best ride on highway of any lift he is familiar with, and is as capable as the best off-road. It is able to use all the Electronic Stability Program functionality...just like the factory suspension. Another virtue of this lift is the price. While this lift is priced in the premium portion of the market, it is about the same price as the Mopar 2” lift, and the 4 1/2” version is much less than the 4 1/2” Mopar lift. It would not surprise The Jeep Geek if Mopar assigns a part number to this lift soon, as they have done to many of the other AEV products.

So, AEV is in the house. For all of you in the Boulder Colorado area, we are having a big event on Saturday June 18th. AEV, the JK krawlers group, and Pollard Jeep are putting on a Jeep show, swap meet, and various informational presentations. Come out and join in the fun. Meet other off-roaders so you can connect to some of their outings and get the most out of your rig.

If you are new to jeeping, this is a great opportunity to see what is going on, test drive some rigs, and get the information you need to make this hobby safe and fun. The Jeep Geek will see you there.

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Gears, Gears, Gears

Jeep performance is as much about gearing as it is engine horsepower. To improve vehicle performance the goal is to get more torque to the wheel...where it will be imparted to the ground. Traction does play a factor in all this...it does no good to stomp on the accelerator and spin the wheels...no power is imparted to the ground...speed is not attained. However, the primary issue is getting the power to the wheel.

The Jeep Geek has explained (in previous articles) how to improve the performance of the engine. In this article he will take a different approach to accomplish the goal of more power.

So a little basic math is involved...the Wrangler Sport (or Sahara for that matter) come with differential (final gear ratio) gear ratios of 3.21:1 What this means is that for every rotation of the tire the drive shaft rotates 3.21 times. The Rubicon has a final gear ratio of 4.11:1...this represents a 28% improvement in power (Torque) delivered to the wheels. Instead of 3.21 turns of the drive shaft causing one turn of the Rubicon’s wheel, it takes 4.11 turns of the drive shaft to turn the wheel once. This increase in torque is called the torque multiplication by gearing effect. This is why The Jeep Geek’s Rubicon is able to accelerate so rapidly...gearing...even though it has the same engine as a Sport.

In fact, the effect of this increase due to torque multiplication is the same as adding 60 horsepower to the Sport engine. (The standard 3.8LV6 engine in the Wrangler produces 208Hp...a 28% increase would be near 60Hp). Wow...gearing can really help energize a Wrangler. So is it possible to upgrade a wrangler gears with those with higher gear ratios? Yup...plenty of gear choices out there and you should consider this option. Especially if you are putting a lift kit on with oversized tires.

So if one adds larger tires (tires with a larger diameter) then this effect works against us because the tire must travel a larger distance for each revolution...this robs power. Adding a higher gear ratio can overcome that effect.

The Jeep Geek recommends that you increase the gear ratio of a Wrangler to 4.88:1 if you are running 35” tires. If you want to run 37” tires, then consider a jump to 5.13:1 gears. Both of these are widely available and will provide good power without unduly sacrificing fuel economy. It may be difficult to get these higher gear ratios into a Rubicon’s differential and still maintain the electronic locking differential functionality. It can be done, but the gears may not fully mesh...check with your local jeep technician.

Gearing may be the way to go if you are trying to boost power...especially if you have an automatic transmission powered Wrangler. In these units, the computer for the automatic transmission tends to de-tune the engine so some milder engine modifications don’t seem to unlock the engine potential.

A word of caution...if you change the gear ratio...be sure to have the odometer/speedometer adjusted to reflect this change. If you don’t you may find you are collecting speeding tickets...just a thought.
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Hemi Powered Wrangler

The Jeep Geek has written articles on improving the horsepower of the Wrangler engine...this one involves discarding the engine altogether and replacing it with a 5.7Liter Hemi...probably the most extreme modification in this area.

The Jeep store where The Jeep Geek works has such a modified 2011 Wrangler Unlimited with a Hemi engine and The Jeep Geek took it out for a short test drive (short for The Jeep Geek...also known as “The King of the Long Test Drives”).

First impressions were that this unit develops enough torque to give you a wonderful head snap when the accelerator is stomped on. The acceleration was smooth (as one would expect from the Hemi). There was the slightest torque steer to the right when The Jeep Geek stomped on the pedal while traveling at 45 miles per hour...nothing that can’t be dealt with, just a bit of a surprise.

It is expected that this unit produces 400 Hp because a cold air intake and cat-back exhaust was also added. The Jeep Geek has not dyno-tested this one.

The modifications were made in town here (Boulder Colorado) and Pollard Jeep provided the new Hemi engine, as well as the Wrangler.

So what is involved in this modification...well quite alot. The engine is replaced (obviously). The new engine is significantly more powerful than the previous engine, so the transmission must also be upgraded. Pollard Jeep used a Dodge Truck Heavy Duty Transmission (an automatic...see The Jeep Geek’s last post). The radiator must also be upgraded since this engine occupies more space in this smaller engine compartment. Pollard Jeep used a Griffin Radiator as well as some custom fabrication. Finally, the conversion requires a kit of stuff like Wiring harness, Pollution control module (PCM), mounting hardware, fuel lines, steering shaft relocation bracket, power steering high pressure hose, exhaust kit, A/C lines, basically bits-and-bobs as it were to make it all work. The Kit used here was the Burnsville Off-road (BOR) Conversion Kit. Simple right? Well, not really, but it is a wonderful result.

This conversion will set you back about $20,000...and Pollard Jeep keeps your old 3.8Liter engine and transmission. However the cost doesn’t end here...it will also cost you your warranty. Chrysler will not stand behind any of this. So once these modifications are performed, the warranty on the power-train is voided. Warranty should still cover basic stuff like power windows, radios and the like. But for those who don’t care about warranty, and have the need for speed...this may be the answer you have been looking for in the Wrangler.

So if you desire a large aggressive lift, 37” tires, and don’t want to pay the performance hit that you will take by making these mods, then consider the advantages of a Hemi conversion.
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The 4 1/2 Inch Lift

The Jeep Geek has been promising this article for quite a while and he hopes that the article meets with the enhanced expectations due to the delay. It has been a very busy time for The Jeep Geek as Jeep sales are up quite a bit over last summer and things certainly look like we have turned the corner economically here in the Front Range of Colorado. Not everyone who wants a job has one yet, but things seem to be getting better every month...or maybe we are learning to settle for less...The Jeep Geek doesn’t know which, but he has time this morning to write this.

The higher the lift, the more complex the engineering issues become. This is because the geometry of the suspension changes, and with larger tires, the forces on the drive line increase. These changes and increased forces have to be dealt with or damage to the drive line becomes more likely. In fact, some significant safety issues can be injected into a poorly designed lift.

So the first issue, short-arm or long-arm lift? The Jeep Geek recommends long-arm lifts if you are going to lift more than 2 inches.


Pasted Graphic 1

Short Arm show above. This lower arm is located here from the factory. If the suspension is lifted more than a couple of inches (say 2), the mounting point remains the same and the angle becomes more obtuse and is not able to withstand the forces that will be encountered off-road.

Now for the Long arm:


Pasted Graphic 2

Notice that the lower arm is much longer, in fact in this picture you can see the original mounting bracket and the long arm attached quite a distance beyond this. This geometry allows for a more robust connection to the frame and makes it possible to withstand greater forces on the wheel. From the two pictures, you can see that the material is also more solid for the long arm, further strengthening the suspension.

Another consideration in these more extreme lifts is drive shaft angle. It is not possible to re-use the factory drive shafts with this much lift as the angles will be greater than the 10 degree maximum for a universal joint. The replacement drive shafts used in the Mopar 4 1/2” lift kit are heavy duty and have double cardon joints. The heavy duty part is a result of the added drive line pressure from moving larger diameter tires. In fact up to 20% more force on the drive shaft from the larger tires. The double Cardon joints are composed of two U-joints which effectively doubles the amount of angular change.

For those who purchase a third party lift kit, buy the upgraded drive shafts otherwise you will be presented with a recovery event when your drive shaft breaks at the U-joint. With 20% more force on the factory drive shaft, coupled with a more severe angle than the U-joint is designed for, there will certainly be a failure...probably on a trail where AAA will be hard to contact.

So a word about shock absorbers. Most third party kits don’t include these...don’t skimp here. With the more extreme lifts like the 4 1/2” lift, making them perform on the highway safely becomes more difficult...especially tuning them with the Electronic Stability Program which rides on the ABS. It becomes harder to make all this work with cheap shocks whose characteristics are radically different from the OEM ones, and cheap shocks change their damping characteristics more quickly than better shocks. What this means is that cheap shocks that worked right after installation, don’t 5000 miles down the road.

In general The Jeep Geek likes the Mopar 4 1/2” lift kit because all of these issues have been addressed (together with half a dozen other issues that The Jeep Geek will discuss another day). While the cost of the Mopar Kit is higher than other third party kits, if you add the missing components to the third party kits, the cost is very close to the Mopar kit.

A couple of last minute considerations. Just like with the 2 inch lifts, The body pinch weld needs to be clipped near the rear tires. Also, the stock OEM bumpers will rub a 37” tire when they articulate up, so when installing the lift kit, it is time to replace that bumper.

Also, the stock OEM wheels will not work with the 4 1/2” lift kit. you will need wheels with a 4” positive offset to clear the frame members once the lift kit has been installed.

As long as you are doing all this, might as well put an off-road front bumper (with a winch) on your wrangler. All in, you are looking at about $15,000 to perform all the modifications assuming you use a shop to install these items.

Here’s the complete list of stuff:

  • 4 1/2” long Arm Lift Kit Including shocks, drive shafts, shimmy shock - $5700

  • 5 wheels and tires - $2500 (including the tire pressure monitors)

  • Rear off-road bumper - $750

  • Tire Carrier for rear bumper - $750

  • Front bumper and winch - $2500 (can be a little less, but budget for a good one)

  • Flat top off-road fenders - $1200 Gives a bit more room for full articulation

  • Labor to install all the stuff - $2500 (This will take a good technician 4 to 5 days to get it all done correctly)
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All 2 inch lifts are not equal

So in the last post we discussed clearance issues to determine how much lift is needed. In this issue we will focus on 2 inch lifts and discuss the various considerations in picking a particular lift. The Jeep Geek will also explain why he feels that the Mopar 2 inch lift is ideal for most cases.

The Jeep Geek knows of lift kits that cost under $400 that include 4 2” spacers and four shock absorbers. The idea is to leave all the stock components in place (except for the shock absorbers) and place the spacers on the top of the coil spring to extend it’s size. These will give 2 inches of lift and permit the installation of larger tires, but there is a problem.

These kits are dangerous. They limit articulation so they are not good for off-road. (In fact they can articulate down and rip out the brake line...but cannot articulate up.) In addition they are not safe for on-road use as they change the suspension geometry and leave the vehicle subject to severe vibrations (sometimes called death wobble). If you cannot afford a correctly engineered and installed lift kit...wait...don’t install a cheap one or it will cost you much more in the long run.

So briefly lets look at a budget to do a lift. There is the cost of the lift kit, new tires, new wheels (yes the stock wheels will not work as you will need wheels that are offset to allow the larger (and wider) tires to clear the body, a rear bumper with tire carrier (you can’t mount the larger wheels and tires on the stock tire carrier). A reasonable budget will break down similar to:

$1600 for the lift kit
$3500 for 5 new wheels and tires (could be as low as $2500 for really cheap tires)
$1500 for rear off-road bumper with tire carrier
and about $1000 - $1500 for installation labor. Yup, there is a lot of work involved to get all this installed correctly.

So, how smart did it seem to put a $400 lift kit on in light of the other expenses. Bottom line is a $400 lift kit is unsafe at any speed.

At a minimum the lift kit you choose should include 4 heavy duty longer coil springs. 4 high quality shock absorbers, steering linkage to maintain steering geometry, anti-sway bar extenders, new bump stops to prevent over-articulation, an oversized steering stabilizer, and either new brake lines or a kit to move the brake line links to allow for articulation.

So why heavy duty coil springs? The Jeep Geek is glad you asked. You jeepers insist on bolting things like off-road bumpers, winches, gas cans, cargo baskets, etc to the bumpers. These add weight and have to be compensated for with heavy duty springs.

So lets assume that you have all these parts, are you good-to-go?
Not necessarily. Do the parts work together, are they engineered as a unit? Are they tuned for highway speeds, cornering, to work with the Electronic Stability Program of the Wrangler? If not, then there may be drivability issues. This is why The Jeep Geek likes the Mopar engineered solution. It was designed to work with these systems in the Wrangler.

As you can clearly see in the picture above, the lift includes a heavy duty steering stabilizer. Without this, any lift could be prone to high speed instability. A number of Jeep forums have documented this “Death Wobble”. In all the examples that The Jeep Geek has seen, this occurs on poorly lifted Wrangler JKs. If your lift doesn’t include an upgraded steering stabilizer you are asking for trouble down the road.

Now it is important to discuss some installation issues. First, the Mopar kit allows for full wheel articulation. This may require some modification to the body and fenders if 35” tires are mounted. The pinch welds of the body pans near the rear wheel will have to be trimmed slightly (just about an inch of the corner). If the factory rock rails are installed, they will also need to be trimmed slightly as well (to match the body trim).

Second, the rear fender may have to be replaced with a high clearance fender to allow 35” by 12” tires to fully articulate up. The Jeep Geek has seen some fender rubbing with the factory fenders. Mopar has released some flat fender flares that handle this issue nicely as well as provide a handsome and muscular appearance. These can be purchased for about $950 for all 4 fenders. The Jeep Geek will post some pictures of this shortly.

Now you are ready to do some serious rock crawling. Have fun out there.
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Getting a Lift

You have seen them heading down the road...maybe you’ve seen them out on the trails...Jeeps with oversized tires. So how do they fit on a Wrangler? Simple, you add a lift to the Jeep to make room for the Tires. Other mods may be needed as well depending on tire size.

This article is the first in a series on lift kits and considerations that you should think about before lifting your Jeep. The Jeep Geek has helped many people find the perfect lift for their Jeep and will contribute his expertise here.

The Jeep Geek is often approached by customers who see a Jeep ,like the one in the picture above, that has been lifted with a 4 1/2” long arm lift. They tell him that they want one like that. The Jeep Geek then begins asking a number of questions and in the end saves them a lot of money and they end up with one that will serve their needs a lot better.

The Jeep Geek would like to comment at this point that he loves the Mopar 4 1/2” kit shown above...but this lift may not be the right solution for everyone. He has at least one customer who purchased this lift and had to modify their garage door to accommodate the added height of the vehicle. A little prior discussion may have yielded a more harmonious solution for the home.

So here’s how The Jeep Geek makes the determination as to the type of lift to recommend. First, are you going to off-road with this Jeep? Some folks buy the lift to put larger tires and just are interested in the appearance. Nothing wrong with this, its all about personal preference. In this case The Jeep Geek determines budget. A 4 1/2” lift kit costs about $7500 installed, the 2” Mopar lift kit is about $2500 installed.

If the answer is that the owner wants to lift it for off-road use, then The Jeep Geek wants to know where and what type of obstacle they intend to try to conquer. If their intention is extreme rock crawling, the Mopar 4 1/2” long arm lift kit will probably hold up better than a short arm 2” kit.

But the bottom line is what size tires does the driver want to put on. On the JK Wranglers the 2” lift kit will support 35” tires. The 4 1/2” lift kit will support 37” tires. Now we are just discussing clearance issues with the body and frame. Another consideration is the model Wrangler the customer owns (or is intent on purchasing). For example the Rubicon has Dana 44 differentials on both front and back axles. The Sahara and Sport have in Dana 44s on the rear axle but have Dana 30s on the front axle. The Dana 30 will support 35” tires, but the Dana 44s will support 37” tires. So if they don’t have a Rubicon, The Jeep Geek recommends a 2” lift.

The point of a lift is to improve off-road ground clearance. A 2” lift will provide 2 inches of clearance for the frame, but the Differentials will remain at the same ground clearance. The larger tires is what gives more ground clearance for the differentials. So if the Jeep has 32” tires standard and we add a 2” lift and put 35” tires on, the ground clearance at the differentials will have improved by 1.5” (half of the tire increase in size). However in this example the overall height of the vehicle will have increased by 3 1/2”...2 inches for the lift and 1.5” for the tires.

Now there is more to a lift than just size. In the next article The Jeep Geek will discuss some other considerations i
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Snorkels may be the Solution

In previous articles The Jeep Geek observed that a drawback of a supercharger or cold air intake is that it reduces the ability of the Jeep to ford rivers. So how can a Jeeper who loves to ford still get the power increase that they want?

The Jeep Geek has carefully researched this vexing question and has come up with two solutions. One solution is a technique discussion that will comprise the next article, but for this article we will look at an equipment solution.

The solution to having the air intake too low is to raise it. Yes, The Jeep Geek knows that this is obvious. Here is how to do it.

Use a snorkel. Here is the catch...sigh...there is always a catch. Most snorkels on the market are not cold air intakes...in other words they use the OEM air box and just connect a longer pipe to the intake port on the top of the air box. This approach won’t allow for the performance gains we have been talking about since it will continue to restrict the input side air flow.

However, Volant has created a combination cold air intake and snorkel that replaces the OEM air box and opens the input side nicely. The Jeep Geek has included a picture of a Jeep that has been modified with the Volant Snorkel.

While this approach should provide both the performance gains that come with a cold air intake or supercharger, it will also provide protection while fording by lifting the intake to a position at the top of the Jeep...say 72 inches above the ground (or more if you have lifted your Jeep).

So will the maximum depth that you can ford suddenly become 72 inches just by adding this snorkel?
No. There are other limitations such as the electrical system and...of course the ability of the driver to breath under water. What the Snorkel will do is prevent the dramatic engine damage when water is sucked into the intake system. If the electrical system gets flooded, it is just a matter of drying the system out and you are on the road again...a cheap fix. The Jeep drive line, electrical system, and passenger compartment are somewhat water resistant...but your Jeep is not a submarine.

So are there any drawbacks to the snorkel...is this the perfect solution? Sorry, no, not perfect. Adding the snorkel will require more cutting on the hood of your Jeep. If you have added the Avenger supercharger as we discussed in a previous article, then you are getting to the point where there is not a lot of the original hood left. Aside from the modifications to the hood, the Volant snorkel has a flexible section in the snorkel pipe to allow the Jeep hood to be opened, however it will require a bit more work and will not open as widely as an un-modified hood. This is more of an issue for the friendly technician who works on your Wrangler as they usually lean the hood on the windshield to get it out of the way. They won’t be doing that with this setup.
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Superchargers are Super

Superchargers are super...or are they? In this series of articles The Jeep Geek has attempted to show that there is more than one way to get more power from a 3.8L V6 powered Wrangler. In case you have missed any of the previous articles, there is a stage one upgrade that opens the breathing of the engine, a stage two that involves adding a supercharger, and possibly a stage 3 that involves replacing the 3.8L V6 with a Hemi engine. This is pretty extreme, but will result in maximum horsepower and torque.

So back to superchargers. The Jeep Geek likes this solution for several reasons. First, the Supercharger is not an extreme solution like a Hemi conversion (that involves replacing engine, transmission, possible transfer case, drive shafts, upgrading differentials, etc.). Second, the supercharger allows for the increase in power to result throughout the RPM curve...in other words, you get boost at the low end where you want more power. This is especially true for off-road use. Compared to a turbo-charger which provides the increase in power at higher RPMs, the super charger gives a flat (good) response throughout the range of engine speed.

So what makes a supercharger work? The Jeep Geek is glad you asked. Remember from yesterday’s article that adding cooler denser air enables a better burn in the cylinder...what what the supercharger does is pump air into the intake of the engine. Depending on the demand (pedal on the right...yup, gas pedal) it provides between 0 and 8 PSI of additional air pressure. It is dense and loaded with oxygen. It is also cooled by the inter-cooler which uses an additional radiator that is mounted in front of the main engine radiator. The pump runs on a belt that is driven by pulleys on the front of the engine...this means at idle it is driving air pressure and makes the boost available at low RPMs as discussed above.

A turbo-charger also provides additional air pressure, but runs by a turbine fan that is driven by exhaust gas on the output of the engine...this is generally not available at lower engine RPMs.

So why wouldn’t a person put a supercharger in their Wrangler? Well, the same issue exists with a supercharger as a cold air intake system, the intake is lower and this will impact river fording.

Also, there are some minor issues, first, it is still unclear if the addition of a supercharger will impact factory warranty. The Jeep Geek knows if the supercharger is not setup correctly and provides too much boost the engine will “lean out” and this will burn up the pistons. This repair is expensive and will not be covered by Chrysler. There is also a local issue which we may be able to resolve soon. Every two years here in Boulder County we have to have our vehicles’ emissions inspected. Part of that process has the technician (at the inspection station) open the hood and see if there are modifications to the engine. Modifications are OK if there is a sticker under the hood indicating that the manufacturer of the modifications has passed a certification for emissions. If there is no such sticker, hang it up...it will not pass and you will not be able to license it to drive it on the road. Many localities have similar inspections and they could be problematic.

The Jeep Geek would also like to point out that the installation of most supercharger kits (including his favorite...the Avenger) requires that a large hole be cut in the hood. This can be covered up with a hood scoop, but it won’t appeal to everyone and will require some body work (and associated expense) to make this look good.
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A Little More About Power

In yesterday’s article The Jeep Geek mentioned a stage one performance kit adds 20 Hp and 30 ft-lbs of torque. Subsequently he read in some forums comments that some folks have posted that indicated that they were less than satisfied at the performance gain they received by just bolting a cold air intake on. If this is all they did, The Jeep Geek is not surprised. Let me explain.

When you look at performance increases you have to take a systematic view of the problem you are trying to solve. By only adding one component you may not see anywhere near the performance gain that a manufacturer advertises for that component.

So are the manufacturers lying about their performance improvement numbers? Not specifically. What a manufacturer typically does is tests a population of their products (say around 10) on a number of Jeeps. They then either average the performance gains...or pick the best result and advertise that. If they bolt the product on a unit that is in need of a tune-up they will not get much gain...if they bolt it on a unit where the exhaust system is upgraded, or otherwise opened up a bit, then they get a better result.

So back to the issue of cold air intakes. They work pretty well, but only show gain if they are paired with other components. Think for a minute about the engine as an air pump. If you open the intake, but don’t open the output side, then you only move the tight spot from the front (intake) to the back (output). Any improvement in efficiency is limited by the restriction from other components.

No (or little) gain will come from just putting on a cold air intake system by itself. However when paired with a throttle body spacer and cat-back performance exhaust the improvements are noticeable.

So how does a cold air intake system actually work? There are a few effects that happen when they are added. First, the filters have more surface area and therefore provide less restriction to the air flow. Second the pipe leading from the filter to the throttle is smoother and provides less air turbulence to the air...turbulence slows the air flow. Third, it pulls the air from lower in the engine compartment where the air is a bit cooler. Cooler air is more dense and therefore has more oxygen so there is better combustion in the cylinder.
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The Hummer Recovery Vehicle

If you live in or near Boulder Colorado you may have actually seen The Jeep Geek roaring by you in the “Hummer Recovery Vehicle” (probably on his way to a Starbucks). Yes, roaring by...in a 2008 White Rubicon with the 3.8L V6 mini-van engine...a concession to the old school Jeepers out there.

So this will likely raise an eyebrow or two...this engine has more horsepower and more torque than the old 4.0L I6 engine. The Jeep Geek actually dyno tested this and can prove it. Sitting high on his office wall is a torque curve, measured at the rear wheel proving this audacious claim. So why does this vintage of Wrangler feel so sluggish? The Jeep Geek thinks it may be because the JKs are a thousand pounds heavier than the older TJs. acceleration is a function of power to weight ratio and the point in the torque curve where max power is developed.

What can be done to boost the torque and horsepower of the JK models? The Jeep Geek is glad you asked. There are a few things that can show a noticeable difference...short of a Hemi conversion...

Stage one is replacing the OEM air box with a cold air intake, adding a throttle body spacer and replacing the exhaust with a higher performance cat-back system. This is only worth doing on a manual transmission version of the JK as the automatic transmission computer tends to de-tune the engine controller thereby reducing the output. However on the manual transmission JKs we are seeing an increase of 30 ft-lbs and 20 Hp. These improvements were measured by The Jeep Geek at the rear wheel and can definitely be felt by even the most dull drivers.

Stage two is bolting on a super-charger. There are a number of kits out there, but caution is needed. Boost over 8lbs can cause damage to the engine...so only kits that have boost limiters should be considered. The Jeep Geek is aware of a kit that was developed here in Colorado (at altitude). The avenger supercharger kit includes an intercooled supercharger, larger injectors, and a complete engine software map. This kit will provide a greater than 50% increase in torque and horsepower making it a dramatic improvement in Jeep acceleration. You will have to cut a hole in the hood to make room for some of the components that are bolted high on the engine. Avenger makes a hood scoop to hide this hole, otherwise a good body shop should be able to fashion something that will look better.

The stage one upgrade will not impact the Jeep’s warranty, The Jeep Geek is still trying to get clarification from Chrysler on the stage two modification.

Costs for these mods:

Stage one is about $1750 installed with Mopar parts

Stage two is going to be around $5000 with some budget for a body shop to help make the hood scoop look good.

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