I remember, as a kid in the 70’s, looking at pictures of concept cars and feeling a sense of exhilaration at the oddly obvious wedge-shaped styling that seemed to dominate that era. While I’m not a fan of driving a car that so closely resembles a doorstop, I think these styling trends transferred into some really beautiful designs like the DeTomaso Pantera and the Lamborghini Countach, both of which had large images that adorned the walls of my bedroom for the better part of my youth.
I then remember, as an adult in the mid-90’s, when an odd little Jeep concept vehicle made its inaugural appearance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the strong sense of disdain I felt for what was being presented to the masses as a possible design path for the Wrangler. We had just survived a generation of Jeeps that donned rectangular headlights in the Wrangler YJ and were inversely giddy with enthusiasm over the return of the iconic round headlights in the new Wrangler TJ. How had we come to this? Chrysler is going to boldly present this new concept to us and even be so daring as to name it “Icon”? As if having ‘Melrose Place’ on your TV at every turn was not punishment enough. We had somehow come to this…
The Jeep Icon was, from the outside and at a long distance, not far-removed from the venerable Wrangler and CJ’s of the past, with its federally-mandated 7-slot grill, round headlights and open roof design. It’s what lurked just beyond that first glance that seemed to cause the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Chrysler Senior Designer Robert Lester declared that the inspiration for the ‘Icon’ was drawn from elements found in high-end mountain bikes. These words were not completely wasted on me as I was likely to be shopping for such a mountain bike in the near future, as an alternative to driving the new Icon. While the designers felt that adorning the vehicles body with gratuitous Jeep logos at every turn would be a reasonable penance for the rest of the Icon, it felt more like an attempt to remind you that this was an actual Jeep, a mission made even more important by the misplaced independent front suspension, industrialized car-like interior and wheels that were clearly repurposed from a Camaro RS. Maybe this could be a baby Grand Cherokee, but definitely NOT a Jeep.
Despite the tepid response from the press and media, the Icon was still being heralded as the next generation in Jeep styling but with the added corporate spin of its intended purpose not-so-much-being a replacement for the Wrangler, but more a smaller platform to serve as direct competition for the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. As of 1998, there were patents filed for the Icon under the Jeep JJ platform and the likelihood of its making it to actual production seemed imminent. The Icon would feature four cylinder drivetrain borrowed from Chrysler cars and would find its segway into the American market as a Jeep for beginners and would be utilized, to a greater extent, in Third World markets. Approximately 60 vehicles were built as prototypes and were able to meet all of the quality and durability standards as mandated by Chrysler. The problem with the JJ Icon came when the vehicle was being tested for its “Trail Rated’ badge.
In order to proclaim the Jeep name, a certain amount of off-road prowess must be displayed. The JJ was limited to a fairly small diameter of tire due to its independent front suspension and limited body clearance. Although the Icon easily outperformed its small off-road market counterparts, it was unable to successfully negotiate the famed Rubicon Trail without the assistance of a tow rope which fostered serious concern over whether the JJ was a TRUE Jeep, a blemish that seemed to match the sentiment of the mass majority and the project was subsequently scrubbed. The 60 some-odd prototypes never left the confines of the assembly plant and were likely destroyed. Senior Designer of the Jeep Icon, Robert Laster, moved on to a lengthy stint at Ford Motor Company in 1998, where he aided in both interior and exterior design making significant contributions to the automotive realm with cars like the fabled Ford Figo and the Ford Ka (You can’t make stuff like this up) that are each icons in their own intended market places of China and South America. I can’t help but think that the original objective of the Jeep Icon may have been to lend Jeeps legendary off-road persona to a smaller fuel-efficient mode of transport that would largely appeal to an overseas market with the benefit of its greater capability, while not completely alienating the grass-roots customer base, who were likely left hoping for something more; many of the Jeep faithful would likely have been left with a dazed look, scratching their heads and wondering what just happened. The Icons compromising of its core values in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience was at the core of its undoing, which left me with a renewed faith in humanity and a reassurance that Jeep may have some reluctance to ever try and market a Jeep blessed with the spirit of a mountain bike. I’ll carry my ‘spirit of a mountain bike’ on a bike carrier on the back of my Jeep where it belongs, Thanks!
Despite its demise, it’s easy to see that many of the design characteristics of the Icon concept have undoubtedly made it to production in platforms such as the Jeep Liberty and Compass/Patriot, and I, for one, feel much more excited about the future of Jeep based on the upcoming Wrangler JL and the handful of current concepts we’ve seen recently, like the Shortcut concept that made the rounds last year- Maybe even enough to hang some posters on my wall! OlllllllO
I was recently looking through the dockets from one of the larger collector car auctions (which shall remain unnamed) paying particular attention to the borderline bonkers amounts of money that is exchanged for restored vehicles these days. Granted, we are fairly far removed from those days, just over a decade ago, when an unassuming guy, known mostly by his telltale Ferrari ball cap, spent countless hundreds of thousands of dollars on car after beautiful car like they were neck ties. Turns out he was a curator for an automotive museum owned by a rather wealthy TV executive and not the average Joe that he appeared to be…a Joe that we imagined had apparently been printing off counterfeit hundred dollar bills for months and decided that a highly-televised car auction was the perfect place to try and pass them off. We all secretly wished we could be him-goofy Italian sports car hat, and all. Snatching up every dream car that came across the block with little regard for how many zeros were lined up after the first few numbers.
While I usually expect to see six digit prices on pristine Corvettes, Lambos or Cobras and an occasional million dollar sum for anything with a traceable racing heritage, I tend to pay more mind to the market values assessed to the decidedly more mundane cars, the ones that normal working folks may aspire to be able to purchase or, more remarkably, be able to restore with their own skillset and hands. While it does take a crazy amount of money to buy a vintage Ferrari 250, it takes a person of a clearly different sort of means to bring a car back from the brink of extinction and restore it to its full form and function. The amount of the expense involved with the restoration may vary greatly based on the subject. While a Jaguar D-type would mean the financial ruin of most anyone, the re-creation of the mechanics that comprise a 1950’s Willys Jeep could be accomplished by anyone on a lawn boy’s budget and apparently the potential return on investment appears to be equal in scale.
So what kind of enthusiast might consider undertaking the restoration of an early Jeep? Well, with the abundant availability of reproduction body tubs and sheet metal, you would not need to spend countless hours scouring scrap yards looking for pieces to complete your puzzle or even be forced to start with a rusty, rotten shell. From a mechanical aspect, the level of technology that is involved is, to say the least, pretty basic. The tolerances for the fit and finish of the final product are far from strict. Many of the original Willys Jeeps from the 1940’s were largely assembled in the field from components stacked inside a shipping crate and could be replicated by a do-it-yourselfer in a shop or garage with simple tools. You might find it much liking building a model car kit, without the smelly glue. The only unique skillsets that would be required would be a basic mechanical aptitude, large reserves of patience and persistence, and a reasonable attention to detail. You can find just about everything else you would need at http://www.omix-ada.com. Maybe you can be that special kind of crazy? OlllllllO
Protect your JK’s hood from unsightly damage caused by bugs, rocks and road debris with the Rugged Ridge Hood Bra. Our one-piece bra design is constructed of durable crush grain vinyl that defends against the hazards of everyday driving while the pillow-soft inner layer pampers your paints finish, shielding it from scuffing and scratches. Since this Hood Bra is made specifically for the Wrangler JK, it won’t interfere with factory or aftermarket hood catches and installs quickly & easily with an adjustable strap secured to the footman loop. Since when did protecting your paint look so great?
|12112.01||Hood Bra, Black, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK and JK Unlimited||$44.99|
Eclipse Tube Door Cargo Covers
Rugged Ridge Eclipse Tube Door Covers give JK owners the ability to enjoy the open air element of their Rugged Ridge tube doors while providing a higher level of containment for the passenger area and its contents. Nylon reinforced mesh construction offers a sturdy barrier that installs quickly and easily with the integrated bungee top and button retaining system. Highly functional and great-looking…you’ll wonder how you ever did without them! Set includes front and rear pair.
|13579.52||Tube Door Covers, Full Set, Black, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited||$172.99|
|13579.50||Tube Door Covers, Front Pair, Black, 07-17 Jeep® Wrangler JK and JK Unlimited||$133.99|
|13579.51||Tube Door Covers, Rear Pair, Black, 07-17 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited||$93.99|
Paracord Grab Handle
Rugged Ridge Paracord Grab Handles are constructed of durable 550 nylon parachute cord that is woven into a brawny “Double Cobra” style knot that feels substantial in your grasp. Each handle secures to two OR three-inch diameter roll bars with heavy duty hook and loop straps for a firm and stable fitment. Your Jeep will love the attractive tactical styling, not to mention how much you’ll love the assistance getting in and out of your rig! Paracord Grab Handles are available in a variety of color combinations, with one to suit any taste: Black on Black, Red on Black or Gray on Black. Sold in pairs..
|13505.30||Paracord Grab Handles, Black/Black, Pair||$52.99|
|13505.31||Paracord Grab Handles, Red/Black, Pair||$52.99|
|13505.32||Paracord Grab Handles, Gray/Black, Pair||$52.99|
Dual Beam LED Light
No Jeep or off-road vehicle is complete without a full array of off-road lights and no light is more efficient at lighting your path than an LED. Rugged Ridge now offers an innovative LED light that provides that searing nighttime illumination accented by a functional and cool-looking running lamp allowing you to be seen without blinding other drivers. Each LED is constructed of a virtually indestructible black thermoplastic case that houses four bright white high-beam LEDs with a single center-mounted amber low-beam LED illuminating a unique “cross-hair” designed reflector giving you greater visibility in low light conditions. With a high-quality Fresnel optic lens and an IP-67 Waterproof rating, these LEDs are built to provide years of outstanding performance making them the perfect complement to your existing light package or as a standalone lighting option. Rugged Ridge Combo LED Lights are available with Cube or Round housings to t any application or suit any taste.
|15209.30||Cube LED Light, 3 inches, Combo High/Low Beam, 10 Watts, 900 Lumens||$106.99|
|15209.31||Round LED Light 3.5 inches, Combo High/Low Beam, 10 Watts, 900 Lumens||$106.99|
Switch Pod Kits
Looking for a handy place to mount your accessory switches that doesn’t require cutting or other modifications? This A-Pillar Switch Pod Kit from Rugged Ridge has pre-molded cutouts to allow you to mount up to four aftermarket switches, in easy reach, on the driver’s side A-pillar, and out of the way of the shifter handle. Our Pillar Pod has the textured molded finish just like the factory cover it replaces. It snaps into place just like the OE for a great fitment! Each kit includes the driver side A-Pillar Switch Pod and FIVE 2-position Etched Rocker Switches (Zombie Lights, Light Bar Lights, Sasquatch Lights, Rock Lights and Off-Road Lights)
|17235.70||Etched A-Pillar 4 Switch Pod Kit Left Hand, 07-10 Jeep Wrangler JK||$79.99|
|17235.71||Etched A-Pillar 4 Switch Pod Kit Left Hand, 11-17 Jeep Wrangler JK||$79.99|
|17235.72||Etched Lower 4 Switch Panel Kit, 07-10 Jeep Wrangler JK||$79.99|
|17235.73||Etched Lower 5 Switch Panel Kit, 11-17 Jeep Wrangler JK||$79.99|
One of the most unique and differentiating features of the Willys / Jeep vehicle has always been the presence of an externally-mounted spare tire. In the early WWII-era models, the spare was first mounted to the rear of the tub but was relocated later to the rear side panel as civilian models were introduced in the mid 40’s, making way for the new rear tailgates on the CJ2 and CJ3 models. While the external mounting of the spare was most likely done out of dire shortage of interior space, the fact that it still resides outside of the frame rails today, some 75 years later, is somewhat surprising. With all of the creature comforts and niceties that have found their way into the current Jeep platform, one would almost expect to see the unsightly spare tire hidden underneath the rear end or tucked away discretely inside the cargo area. That just isn’t the way Jeep has ever done it. Jeeps are about no-nonsense utility…if we have a humongous spare tire, we want it right where we can get to it! Otherwise, we would’ve equipped them with teeny, tiny donut-shaped space-saver spares that tucks underneath your passenger seat.
I have information from very reliable sources, from people that have actually experienced an off-road vehicle roll-over firsthand, and they all unanimously proclaim that, in the event of such an occurrence, you do NOT want anything on the inside of your passenger compartment larger or heavier than a small stuffed animal. Cellphones, toolboxes, tire irons, roofing hammers or, heaven forbid, a 30 ounce stainless steel thermal tumbler filled with scalding-hot coffee are all transformed into barrel-rolling projectiles of terrifying mass that will dent, beat and bludgeon anything and everything in their path. While I agree that the spare tire mounted on the outside is still going to wreak unbelievable havoc if you go belly-up, I am much more comfortable with it not using my lap as a starting point for its dismount. For that reason, storing the spare tire outside the Jeep seems to make a great deal of sense.
Another dilemma that is not so easily solved is what do we do in the event that we have a damaged tire and need to use our spare? First of all, if your Jeep has even a small suspension lift and larger tires, you will find that your original equipment jack is of little OR no use to you, other than keeping the jack mounting brackets from rattling. You are going to need to utilize a hi-lift or farm jack and some level of ingenuity in your execution of its use in order to change your flat tire. You will also face a similar problem when it comes to decide where to stow your jack. I prefer a hood jack mount for two reasons: first, the fact that the jack is easily accessible regardless of your vehicles positioning. Secondly and more importantly, those unknowing passersby who seem to inevitably mistake it for some sort of machine gun mounting apparatus always yield some really humorous conversations at the fueling station. Many people opt for mounting the jack right next to the spare on the rear bumper or tailgate which has its own merits. Of course, you could mount the jack on the inside of your Jeep, too (see paragraph above).
Once you have a hi-lift jack mounted in a convenient location on your Jeep, yet another dilemma rears its ugly head. Gravity was happy to assist you when you removed the spare tire but now it’s time to remount the flat tire on your carrier and you have seriously underestimated the weight of a wheel and tire combination, even when it’s flat. Hopefully, you have someone riding with you that can assist with the task of lifting the tire. Even a 35” diameter tire can be cumbersome to lift, if not impossible for some, especially when physical exhaustion and uneven terrain become factors. If you have a 37” tire or larger, I might suggest digging a shallow grave to bury it in or hide it under an immense pile of brush temporarily and return later with a friend/accomplice to retrieve it. However inconvenient this may seem at the time, it pales in comparison to the deflation of being found days later, after an extensive search, with only your arms and legs protruding from under the giant spare tire.
Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today announced its new LED Interior Lighting System for 2007-2016 Jeep Wrangler models.
Designed to add additional lighting to the Jeep JK interior, the Rugged Ridge LED Interior Lighting System delivers various colors of lighting to both front and rear foot wells and rear cargo area to allow Jeep owners another way to personalize their Jeep.
The LED Interior Lighting System includes a wired controller allowing system power, light pattern adjustment and pause functions at one’s fingertips. A built-in microphone with variable sensitivity allows for the interior music to control the system’s output for a spectacular light show.
The Rugged Ridge LED Interior Lighting System includes everything needed for installation including six LED tubes, wiring, connectors, controller, mounting clips and easy-to- follow instructions.
The Rugged Ridge LED Interior Lighting System is backed by Rugged Ridge’s industry-leading five-year limited warranty and will be available online and through select Jeep and off-road parts and accessories retailers nationwide with a starting MSRP of $132.99.
For more information about the LED Interior Lighting System or Rugged Ridge’s complete line of high-quality Jeep and off-road products, or to find an authorized retailer, please contact Rugged Ridge at 770-614-6101 or visit www.RuggedRidge.com.
|11250.09||LED Interior Lighting System; 07-16 Wrangler JK||$132.99|
New XHD Stinger Guard Gives the XHD Steel Front Bumper an Aggressive and Cutting Edge Look
Rugged Ridge, industry leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today announced the addition of the new XHD Stinger Guard as an addition to the popular XHD Steel Front Bumper series, which is currently available for 1976-2016 Jeep CJ/YJ/TJ and JK models.
The Rugged Ridge XHD Stinger Guard is a one-piece design constructed of a high-strength stamped steel plate that is contoured to match the dimensions of the XHD Stinger (11540.13) and then finished in a tough, trail-ready black textured powder coat for durability and rugged aesthetics. The center area if the XHD Stinger Guard is vented to provide better airflow to the grille and radiator while still providing increased protection hazards on and off-road.
Since the Rugged Ridge XHD Stinger Guard is designed specifically for the Rugged Ridge XHD Stinger, installation is simple with only minimal drilling required and all mounting hardware and instructions included. The XHD Stinger Guard will allow for full use of the XHD Stinger Winch Hook Holder when properly installed, preserving all of its functionality, but with a new and integrated look.
The Rugged Ridge XHD Stinger Guard is backed by Rugged Ridge’s five-year-limited warranty and is available online and through select Jeep® and off-road parts and accessories retailers nationwide with a starting MSRP of $95.99.
For more information about the XHD Stinger Guard, or Rugged Ridge’s complete line of high-quality Jeep and off-road products, or to find an authorized retailer, please contact Rugged Ridge at 770-614-6101 or visit the company’s website at www.RuggedRidge.com.
|11540.29||Stinger Guard, XHD||$95.99|
I recently read an article expounding on the virtues of the recently announced Ford Bronco, a vehicle that is currently scheduled to be released in the year 2020, which is eons of time in terms of automotive technology, and how it might possibly compare to and compete with the Jeep Wrangler. While I readily admit, the prototypes and artists renderings I have seen of the new Bronco look pretty impressive; so rarely does the actual production version of the vehicle even closely resemble the prototype in real life. You can reference those 1960’s images of glitter-covered winged spacecraft they predicted we would be driving, come the year 2000, and how little they resemble an actual Pontiac Aztek . It’s kind of like saying “This is what we’re shooting for and then this is what we’ve settled for”. Hopefully consumers will ‘buy-in’ to the concept and, with any luck, see enough of that original concept present in the final production car to warrant making a purchase. It’s a bit of a gamble to be overly-aggressive visually only to have significant compromises made to the design before it comes to market. With each redesign, styling advances in steps and technology in bounds to the point where we are literally at the cusp of having cars that will do the driving for us and look pretty incredible doing it.
So, how is it that we can even begin to determine if a new vehicle that is not even in production yet will have the street cred to compete with another vehicle, one that is complete with a storied past, that is likely to undergo vast changes in that same time frame. I think the basis for such a question is best answered by saying that the new Bronco is not likely to compete with a new Wrangler, or any Wrangler for that matter, if it is not able to compare to it.
The Jeep Wrangler is a relatively new nameplate, with its origins dating back a mere thirty years to a time when the first Jeep YJ, equipped (or, better yet, plagued) with square headlights, rolled off the Ontario assembly line in 1986. Gone was the age-old “CJ” moniker, short for ‘civilian jeep’, giving a strong suggestion to its military roots. The new ‘Wrangler’ name was deemed as a more relatable term, intended to appeal to a wider consumer audience as AMC strived to make the YJ a more comfortable option, lower slung and suitable for average drivers. The unmistakable boxy styling, off-road lineage and removable top remained intact as did the legendary four wheel drive capability and solid front axle that has always been at the core of every Jeep CJ and Wrangler model. The interior and exterior have surely become vastly more civilized over the decades but never at the expense of detracting from its legendary past, a history that dates back some 75 years.
The Ford Broncos history, on the other hand, only dates back to the mid-60’s to a time when there was very little to compete with the venerable Jeep CJ, outside of the International Scout. The fact that the Bronco’s styling lends strongly to that of the popular Scout may be no coincidence, with its relatively flat sides and broad grille. Ford built the slight and nimble Bronco on an all new conventional ladder-style frame but chose to mount the front differential using trailing radius arms and a track bar so that coil springs could be used in the front suspension. This decision gave the Bronco considerable articulation and a pleasant road manner, unlike its leaf-sprung SUV counterparts. The Bronco was revamped in the late 1970’s where it essentially adopted the persona of its Ford truck sibling, sharing all of its front end trim and sheet metal- a trend that the Bronco maintained until its eventual demise in 1996, giving way to more family friendly platforms where the focus is on-road capacity rather than off-road capability. The Broncos legacy, in many people minds, is the ever-popular and much-publicized appearance made by a white ’93 model Bronco that was viewed by countless millions of spectators as former NFL running back O.J. Simpson, driven by his associate A.C. Cowlings, attempted to elude the LAPD in what might be the most televised and arguably the most boring car chase in history, even preempting the NBA playoffs primetime coverage. The car chase ended very anticlimactically without any fireworks or explosions, as did the reign of the Ford Bronco.
So, while the 2020 Ford Bronco may very well end up being a vision to behold, a thrill to drive and compete valiantly for the dollars of prospective off-road capable SUV buyers, it will never compare to the only true American icon- the one & only Jeep. I do hope Ford offers an O.J. Simpson Special Edition Bronco, maybe with some retro-themed graphics that say “Go, Juice, Go!” OIIIIIIIO
Is anyone else growing weary of today’s political circus? Not to say that politics today are any flakier than they have been in the past but we are certainly positioned as helpless victims by a media that is relentless in their delivery of the headlines, appropriately skewed to an angle that is in line with networks values. It is enough to make me want to go back in time; back to a time when we didn’t have an entire world of information at our fingertips. Can’t we just go back to the days when Chuck Norris was responsible for keeping the bad guys in-check? It wasn’t that long ago that our nation’s highest-ranking elected leader drove a Jeep CJ with a manual transmission and shared the ride with a trusted golden retriever named ‘Victory’. Those were the days…
We live in a truly incredible world today, one that seems to have advanced so rapidly by developing technology that I often wonder what we may have lost in the transition. We can go online and purchase an automobile, arrange financing without having to shake a banker’s hand and have it delivered without ever leaving the house. We even flock to purchase cars that are called “hybrids”, a term which used to have a less-than-desirable meaning not that long ago. We are literally raising a society of children that drive around carelessly in their cars in an attempt to capture imaginary cartoon characters that appear only on the high-definition displays of their expensive smartphones but have never had the experience of having to locate a desolate payphone late at night, scrape together coins from the gooey ashtray of a meager-excuse-for-a-first-car just so they can call their parents to tell them they are going to miss curfew. Heck, they probably can’t comprehend the need for this thing you call a… “Payphone”? So, what has changed??
When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he had already established himself as a political figure to be reckoned with. He had previously made two runs for the office of President, in ’68 and again in ’76. He was not familiar, in any way, with the word QUIT. I kind of like to think that the word ‘quit’ wasn’t even established in his vocabulary. Despite having failed to as much as make the Republican ticket in 1976, losing out to a soon-to-be ousted incumbent Gerald Ford, he went on to become, what was at that time, the oldest man to ever be elected to the office of President in 1980. At the spry 69 years of age, Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter to become the 40th President of the United States, an achievement not easily attained by those who spend their time frivolously.
Then in 1981, just 69 days into his first term as president, Reagan fell victim to an assassination attempt outside of a Washington, D.C. hotel at the hands of one, John Hinckley Jr. – a guy whose infatuation with a movie star proved to be more than he could deal with. Nonetheless, a ricochet shot to the old noggin from a small caliber handgun was not enough to deter a man such as Reagan. You see, Ronald Wilson Reagan had a humble upbringing and it showed in the manner in which he approached life. While Presidents are often captured on film being chauffeured around in bullet-proof limos, Reagan looked most himself behind the wheel of one of his Jeeps navigating through a pasture on his farm in beautiful Rancho del Cielo, CA.
His favorite Jeep was an old, rickety ’62 CJ6 that his loving wife Nancy had given to him as a Christmas present back in 1963. Reagan was known to put the Jeep through its paces regularly in any number of projects around the farm. This was in no way a show truck but rather a bona fide workhorse that shared in its owner’s belief that there is invaluable greatness in simplicity. There’s no automatic transmission or power windows here, only a PTO-driven winch and rigid place to sit, but only long enough to catch your breath before you get back to work. To know that the former president often referred to his ranch home as “heaven” (or at least in the same zip code, he would joke), it’s clear that Jeeps were considered an essential component to his own perception of happiness; uncomplicated, imperfect, somewhat unsightly but absolutely essential.
Ronald Reagan’s ‘other’ Jeep was much more of a head-turner- a 1983 Jeep CJ8 Scrambler that he called “The Gipper”. Another gift from his wife Nancy, this sky blue Scrambler seemed much more suited for hauling the leader of the free world around than clearing trails on the back forty acres. Ironically, when Reagan hosted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the ranch in 1992, Reagan wasted no time in dressing Gorbachev in an obligatory cowboy hat and wheeled him around the ranch. At the close of the Cold War when Reagan made his renowned declaration “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”, something tells me that Gorbachev knew deep down that if he didn’t tear it down, Reagan and his trusty CJ probably would have hooked up a winch line and done it themselves. That’s just how a Jeep owner thinks.
While I would like to proclaim that Jeep had a gigantic part in ending the Cold War, I can’t. The truth is more likely found in the simple premise that a genuine Jeep-loving American patriot, who held steadfastly to his ideals and convictions, played a much larger role. Heck, we didn’t even need to break out Chuck Norris to get it done after all!
You don’t have to be involved in the Jeep community for very long at all and you’ll hear about “it”. Much like the boogeyman, its shady reputation precedes it deep inside the inner circles of the Jeep world, secretly inciting as much fear and anxiety as any horror movie monster ever could. “It” is the dreaded “Death Wobble” and no other mechanical phenomenon is responsible for alienating more “enthusiasts” from their beloved hobby than this. I’ve even heard of people walking away from their almost-new JK, leaving it on the side of the road, too afraid to drive it again. Who can really blame them? Afterall, do YOU really want to drive around in a vehicle that is obviously possessed by the devil himself?? If you have ever experienced “Death Wobble”, you can relate. If you haven’t experienced it, say your prayers that you never do. On second thought, let’s put fear aside and try to put this infamous condition into some better light and maybe we can diminish some of the anxiety people may have
What is “Death Wobble”? Well, I am by no means a rocket surgeon but it can be best described as an oscillating condition that occurs in the front drivetrain of any vehicle with a solid front axle and coil springs, usually one that relies on a track bar for the centering of the differential. By “oscillating”, I mean that the front end of the Jeep moves from side to side, on an less-than-stable axis, in such quick succession that it will feel like it is going to eject itself from under the vehicle in a very violent fashion. Loss of vehicle control is a side effect of the dreaded death wobble; however, restoring the integrity of your basic steering controls IS the key to eliminating death wobble. As your steering and suspension components age or are exposed to the harsh service conditions of off-roading, they are no longer as tight as they need to be, all of which are accentuated by larger tires. The cumulative total of all of the ‘play’ in these components could result in this condition or it could be a critical failure in just one or two components.
If you experience “Death Wobble” in your four wheel drive vehicle, first ask yourself if this happened out of nowhere or can it be associated with a recent event, like a recent off-roading adventure or the installation of a new lift kit. This will help you decide what components to check first. Contrary to popular opinion, steering stabilizers are not usually the cause of “death wobble”. The installation of a quality steering dampener can minimize the symptoms making you think it has been remedied but it will be back as the underlying problem still exists.
The fundamentals of your front suspension are the first things to check out and, to our satisfaction, don’t usually cost a thing. Are your tires properly inflated to the manufacturers specs? Do you notice any troubling wear patterns on your front tires or are they wearing evenly? Has the vehicle been treated to a proper front end alignment, especially after the installation of a lift kit or steering components? Make a thorough visual inspection of your front steering linkage and look for anything that is bent, damaged or loose.
My first investigative task in a such a case of ‘Whodunnit’ is to identify the most likely suspect based on my prior experiences- when it comes to death wobble, this seedy character is clearly the Track Bar. On a leaf sprung suspension like a Wrangler YJ or CJ, you can toss the front track bar in the scrap bin and drive down the road with no significant issues. The leaf springs linear design keeps the differential pretty well centered under the Jeep and perpendicular to the frame rails. On Jeeps with coil springs however, the track bar is absolutely vital to maintaining steering and vehicle stability. Any ’play’ in the bushings, sleeves or even loose attaching hardware can be cause for great concern and would need to be addressed. Often you will find that the bushing is wallowed out around the metal sleeve allowing it to move slightly. The same methodology can be used inspecting both upper and lower control arms, checking for any degraded bushings or loose hardware. Keep in mind, the lower control arms are used for setting the front end alignment so a trip to an alignment shop should be on your short list of things to do if the control arms are replaced. The steering linkage can then be examined for problems. While a helper slowly turns the steering wheel back and forth, you can observe the steering linkage, checking for any excessive wobble in any of the tie rod ends. You can also grasp the tie rod end by hand and try moving the outer tie rod end up and down looking for movement of the ball in the socket. Inner tie rods should be checked for forward and rearward movement and replaced if suspect, again, with a visit to the alignment shop after replacement.
Lastly, check the upper and lower ball joints for excessive play. This can be done by jacking up the front wheels and setting the axle tube on a jack stands with the tire a few inches off the ground. Have a helper place a section of 2 x 4 or a short piece of pipe directly under the tire and pry upward from the face of the wheel while you examine the ball joints for any movement, also listening for any clunking or clicking from the joints. Any excessive movement or noises calls for replacement ball joints which, due to the level of involvement this job requires, should be replaced as a complete set by a skilled, experienced professional.
While it is possible that there may be multiple root causes for your particular case of “Death Wobble”, it is crucial that each component be evaluated thoroughly and not bypassed based on any preconceived opinion. For example, “I just replaced that track bar a year ago, there’s no way it could possibly be faulty”…think again! As you identify issues with your steering and suspension and resolve them, short test drives can be taken to evaluate your progress. It’s possible that the speed at which the wobble occurs may change or it may develop into an occurrence that is only triggered by a bump in the road or dip of the suspension. Stay the course and remember to give attention to the details. Persistence will surely prevail and you can then return to enjoying your Jeep without fear.
Resists Damage from On and Off-Road Hazards
Rugged Ridge a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep, truck and off-road parts and accessories, today announced the release of its new line of Armor Fenders for 2007- 2016 Jeep Wrangler JK / JKU models.
Both front and rear fenders attach high on the body for increased tire clearance and feature beveled edges with hidden weld seams relaying a bulky, muscular image.
The Rugged Ridge Armor Fenders for JK are constructed of a high-strength steel plate and finished with resilient black powder coat for a surface that resists damage from the hazards. The front fenders are notched to allow use of both OE and aftermarket hood latches and are stamped with a screened vent behind the wheel opening to help vent the engine heat. The rear fenders two-piece design utilizes a separate rear tail light guard for added protection.
The Rugged Ridge Armor Fenders are compatible with Rugged Ridge XHD bumper systems and the XHD modular snorkels and can be installed using the factory Jeep wheel liners, with slight modifications, or, for best results, can be installed with Rugged Ridge All Terrain Wheel Liner Kit.
Rugged Ridge Armor Fenders are back by an industry-leading-five-year warranty and are available online and through select Jeep and off-road parts and accessories retailers nationwide with an MSRP starting at $933.99
For more information about the new Armor Fenders or any Rugged Ridge’s complete list of high-quality Jeep and off-road products, or to find an approved retailer, please contact Rugged Ridge (770) 614-6101 or visit www.RuggedRidge.com