Happy Thanksgiving, fellow off-roaders!!!
When I picked out my Jeep from the lot all I knew was that I’d always wanted a Jeep because they looked cool, the top came off, and you could do lots of off-roading. What I didn’t know was everything else… and what a learning experience it has been, and will continue to be! In the spirit of thankfulness, here are seven things I didn’t know about my Jeep when I drove it off the lot, but that I’m so grateful for today!
Jeep doors are made to be taken off! During the first summer after buying the Jeep, my husband asked me, “When are we going to take the doors off?” (He had previously owned Jeeps so he was fully aware of the Jeep-awesomeness). Say what?! For some reason I thought that having a Jeep with doors that came off was a special feature you had to buy. But, nope – by that afternoon the doors were off my Jeep and we were riding in the open air.
For the record, taking the doors off that first time wasn’t exactly easy. My husband and I both lifted together as hard as we could but they wouldn’t budge so I contacted some good friends who also have a Jeep. They advised that wiggling the doors back and forth while lifting may help, and after some [a lot of] effort that did the trick. Since then we’ve smartened up and put white lithium grease in the door hinges when putting the doors back on in the fall, to assist with easier removal in the spring.
Jeeps have drain plugs! In the fall of 2013 we received torrential rains in northern Colorado and I was still in the topless-and-doorless-summer-Jeep phase. As you might guess my Jeep filled up with water and I wasn’t sure how to dry it out (other than to start bailing, which didn’t seem very efficient). So, I asked our Jeep friends who said, “Oh yes, you just need to pull the drain plugs.” Say what?! Obviously I didn’t read the owner’s manual in entirety. Well, I found out that my Jeep has 12 drain plugs, all of which I pulled out at that time by feeling around in the brackish water, under the soaked (and nasty) carpet (which I then removed and the following year replaced with LINE-X). Well, voila! My Jeep dried out in no time and I now pull the drain plugs and store them for the season when I take the top and doors off each spring.
Trying to find your drain plugs? In a 4-door JK (JKU) there are 12 drain plugs: two in each front floorboard area, one under each front seat, one in each back floorboard area, one under each side of the back seat, one in the back cargo storage well, and one in the factory jack storage area. Can’t find your factory jack? Go to YouTube – that’s what I had to do to find mine the first time!
The front sway bar can be disconnected! While I love all the mods on my Jeep, if I had to pick just one favorite it would be the JKS Sway Bar Quick Disconnects. (As it so happens, this was probably the least expensive mod on my Jeep). When you disconnect the front sway bar on the Wrangler, you gain more axel articulation, which enables the Jeep to “sway” side to side, and to remain somewhat level even as the axel is angling over high obstacles on one side or the other. Basically it feels like you’re riding on jelly and it makes off-roading SO MUCH more comfortable!!
Taking the Quick Disconnects off and putting them back on gets easier with practice, and I make sure the sway bar is disconnected before tackling even a mildly rocky trail.
(Tip: parking on level ground makes disconnecting/reconnecting the sway bar easier. A rubber mallet may also help).
Tires can, and should, be aired down! I always thought that tire pressure needed to be kept at the psi listed on the tire, but I found out that’s not always the case. When off-roading, letting some air out of the tires (airing down) before beginning the trail results in a much smoother ride and helps with traction. With less air inside, the tires have a greater contact patch (more contact with the ground) and this equals more grip.
Carrying your own air (air compressor or air tank) makes airing your tires back up easy before hitting the highway to return home – don’t drive at high speeds on deflated tires. For my JK Wrangler with 35” tires and 17” wheels, I keep the psi at 30 for normal driving, and I air down to 20 psi for trail runs. I could go lower, but I don’t have beadlocks and I don’t want to risk popping the bead on my tires (essentially the tire pops off the wheel – this can happen if you air down your tires so much that there’s not enough pressure to keep the tire on the wheel. Beadlocks can be used to clamp the tire onto the wheel so this does not happen).
Jeeps can sport cool topless accessories! When we took the Jeep top off the first time I quickly realized that driving in the Colorado sun without any shade was not a good long-term solution (as enjoyable as it was for 15 minutes). Our Jeep friends offered to sell us their bikini top since they’d gotten a new one. Say what?! Yes, those pieces of fabric that are strapped down on top of Jeeps are called bikini tops and I’ve used mine every summer since. It’s a cool Jeep accessory that lets you ride in the open air while still being shielded from sun and rain. Since the bikini top purchase I've added other cool summertime Jeep accessories – a back net to keep camping gear secure, and net half doors and net “windows” for the back seat. This way, we can ride in the beautiful open air for almost half the year, but still have a bit of comfort – life doesn’t get any better than that!
Jeeps can crawl over bigger rocks than you think! When I first started off-roading I was so hesitant to try anything harder than a dirt road. And after my Jeep was modified with a lift and bigger tires (allowing more traction on the trail, and more clearance over rocks) it took me awhile to understand that even if the rocks are huge and the trail is steep, the Jeep can handle it. I just take it s-l-o-w, ask my spotter (husband) for help with tire placement when needed, and I am continually amazed at what this Jeep can do!
Jeeps have a club! When I picked out my Jeep the salesman talked briefly about “the Jeep wave” and I didn’t give it much thought. But I’ve learned since that buying a Jeep admits you into a very cool club of Jeepers who appreciate the Jeep life as much as you do! It’s great to drive down the road and give and receive waves from every Jeep I pass (or most of them - some people apparently don't care about the Jeep Club - boo!!). And, the best way to learn about Jeeps and off-roading is to have friends with similar interests. I’ve learned so much from our Jeeping friends and I look forward to many Happy Trails in the future!
Do you have a Jeep or other off-road vehicle? What's your favorite mod or feature of your vehicle? Leave a Comment below!!
Eat turkey, drink, be merry, and drive safe!