Searching for the “Why” in the 87-95 Wrangler YJ

1It seems as though everyone has at least one sordid skeleton hiding in the dark corners of their closet; something that they would happily volunteer to just forget about; just go on living like it never happened to begin with. Take the Detroit Lions, for example, who went through their entire 2008 NFL season without winning a single game! They managed to chalk up a disgraceful 0-16 record!! To put that into some perspective, I never even got out of my recliner the entire season and I still experienced considerably less humiliation than they; just imagine if I had exerted some actual effort! Oh, the possibilities!! You might even consider The Beatles, who are largely considered to be one of the most successful music acts on record; surely when they hear their zany refrain “Yellow Submarine”, they try and pass it off as some Jethro Tull tune or maybe some gibberish from those mop-heads in The Monkees. Unfortunately, our less-than-perfect moments seem to haunt us in our memories more deeply than our successes. When it comes to Jeeps that one less-than-ideal masterpiece firmly founded in history is likely the Wrangler YJ.

I feel the need to be completely honest with you right up front and disclose that I currently own, enjoy and regularly drive a lifted YJ – a fact that has landed me on the receiving end of more than my fair share of torment over the years, all well-intended of course. They always seem to ease up when I start crying. Countless times I have heard “Real Jeeps don’t have square headlights” as an attempt to negate the premise that any YJ even deserves to be called a Jeep at all. While basic geometry has clearly defined for all of us the differences between a square and a rectangle, I will agree that the documented history of Jeep is certainly chocked- full of round headlights, always mounted nicely into slotted grilles; leading one to believe that they are both, indeed, fundamental elements of any real Jeep.   In the half-century previous to the newly designed YJ, you would be hard-pressed to find any vehicles that didn’t have round headlights. It never was exclusively a “Jeep Thing” but, somehow, now defines it? The fact that Jeep designers chose to use rectangular headlight in the redefined YJ can be lent to the fact that they were purposely striving to make a sportier, more road-friendly Jeep that would easily appeal to a wider market than ever before. The U.S. automakers had largely switched to rectangular lights by the late 1970’s, based on their increased overall efficiency and lower cost to produce. This was deemed an acceptable evolution in exterior design and, once implemented, would undoubtedly guarantee that the YJ would receive some level of preferential negative treatment from the Jeep community for decades to come. So, out with the round and in with the squa-err, ….rectangles!

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Once you got past the desecration that was the front grille and rectangular headlights, the new Jeep Wrangler was really a nice progression, in terms of driver ergonomics and comfort. While the CJ had always been outfitted with a dashboard that resembled a massive roadside billboard with oddly-placed gauge holes, the YJ dash was somewhat contoured, tapered and much more carlike; with recesses and varying depths that made it seem less an offspring of its purely utilitarian forefathers. The front bucket seats were appreciably more supportive than their predecessors had been. The folding rear bench, however, maintained perfectly it’s limited level of passenger comfort while solidifying its dual purpose design; allowing it to be used as a child torture device on any road trip lasting longer than a handful of minutes. If you are going to do it wrong, do so without compromise.

3Underneath that new controversial sheet metal, the YJ stuck with the tried & true – a 2.5 liter 4-banger and 4.2-liter straight-six engines, dropping the latter for a potent 4.0 liter, in late 1990, that supplied Wrangler owners with a smile-inducing 180 horsepower, aided by a remarkably better fuel injection system. Power plants were nestled inside a frame structure that was virtually identical to that of the previous CJ7, although it was given a slightly stronger box section and front shock towers. The YJ continued, as well, with the age-old leaf sprung suspension, however, spring packs were widened while sway and track bars added in an all-out effort to improve the Wranglers on-road mannerisms without compromising its off-road integrity. While the YJ is a bit more docile on the highway than the typical CJ it replaced, it seemed to serve undeniable proof that the limits of the leaf spring suspension would always fall short in delivering a luxury car ride in, what was, essentially, a truck.

I can only imagine what kind of public reception would have been offered if the later TJ, released in 1997, would have been offered as the replacement for the CJ. Would its peculiar coil spring suspension and lavish interior been too much for people to handle, if not for the YJ having made such significant strides in regards to change. We may have never gotten to know the beauty of unadulterated off-road articulation that the Wrangler TJ and JK would eventually bring us for our enjoyment. If only we knew then that we would eventually get our glorious round headlights back…we just had to endure that awkward phase first. You know, that time of your life that you would just as soon forget? A time when the difference between a square and a rectangle was not so clear?

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So when you see that YJ out wheeling down the road, be sure to give them a wave. They are as much a part of the Jeep family as any other. Sure, they weren’t the Homecoming Queen, and more than likely didn’t even make the homecoming court, but they were at the dance; in the corner looking a little more awkward than everyone else but present, nonetheless. OlllllllO

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May 2017 Monthly Update

Steel Body Armor Cladding

No matter what outdoor adventures you put your Jeep through, we’ve got you covered in the most important area with our Steel Body Armor Cladding for your rocker panel. Constructed with 3 mm thick steel plate that shields your JK’s lower body panels. Design that features a rugged black textured powder coat that offers impressive looks and superior résistance to rust and corrosion, backed by the added assurance of our 5-Year Limited Warranty. Available for both 2 and 4-door JK models.

Part Number Description Price
Steel Body Armor Cladding, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, 4 Door 11615.10 $333.99
Steel Body Armor Cladding, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler, 2 Door 11615.11 $266.99

Stubby Trail Mirror Kit

Taking your doors off your Jeep shouldn’t mean horrible visibility, with our Stubby Trail Mirrors you’ll be driving safe. Each mirror arm is reduced by three inches, allowing the mirror to hug more tightly to the vehicles body. Available with both round and rectangular mirror heads, Rugged Ridge Stubby Mirrors textured black powder coat looks great on any paint color and installs easily with the included mounting hardware. When it’s time to put the doors back on, these mirrors can be removed quickly with a few turns of the convenient thumb screw. A convenient bolt-on mirror solution for when you want to leave the doors at home – also great with tube or safari doors. Each mirror includes a mirror head, mirror arm, mounting bracket, bushing, thumbscrew, gasket and hardware (pairs include two complete mirror assemblies).

Part Number Description Price
11025.19 Stubby Trail Mirror, Round, Textured Black, 97-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $46.99
11025.20 Stubby Trail Mirror, Rectangular, Textured Black, 97-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $46.99
11025.21 Stubby Trail Mirror, Round Pair, Textured Black, 97-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $86.99
11025.22 Stubby Trail Mirror, Rectangular Pair, Textured Black, 97-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $86.99

Spartacus HD Tire Carrier Kit

Carry your tires with ease and without the extra heavy weight of a steel mount carrier with our HD Tire Carrier. Perfect for 97-06 Jeep Wrangler TJ, Rubicon and Unlimited that delivers the perfect balance of strength & stability. The Spartacus HD Tire Carrier incorporates a brutally strong die-cast aluminum hinge casting, forged steel hinges and hardened steel pins that replaces the feeble stock tailgate hinges for greater load-bearing capacity while still allowing smooth, one-handed access to the cargo area. The HD Tire Carrier Wheel Mount is constructed of sturdy steel so it can handle those over-sized wheel & tire combinations while retaining the factory high mount brake light. Both the hinge casting and wheel mount are protected with a durable black textured powder coat to fend off the elements in even the harshest off-road conditions. Compatible with OE and most aftermarket rear bumpers, the HD Tire Carriers design makes it the most versatile and functional tire carrier on the market today. No drilling required.

Part Number Description Price
11546.60 Spartacus HD Tire Carrier Kit, 97-06 Jeep Wrangler TJ $599.99
11546.61 Spartacus HD Tire Carrier, Hinge Casting, 97-06 Jeep Wrangler TJ $527.99
11546.62 Spartacus HD Tire Carrier, Wheel Mount, 87-06 Jeep Wrangler YJ/TJ $93.99

Rugged Ridge introduces new Elite Fast Track Light Bar for 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler JK/JKU

Modular Design Offers Versatility for Any Season or Off-Road Activity

Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today introduced its new Elite Fast Track Modular Light Bar for 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler JK and JKU models.

The new Rugged Ridge Modular Light Bar allows for numerous lighting and accessory configurations on 07-16 Jeep Wrangler JK models. Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

The new Rugged Ridge Modular Light Bar allows for numerous lighting and accessory configurations on 07-16 Jeep Wrangler JK models.
Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

This new Modular Light Bar for Jeep JK features the ability to arrange and configure lights, trail mirrors, camera mounts and accessories in countless arrangements, for ultimate versatility based on any Jeep owner’s exact needs. Both the vertical A-pillar sections of the light bar as well as the horizontal top bar are built from sturdy extruded aluminum and feature integrated channels that allow for mounting of various light and accessory brackets that can be reconfigured easily and repeatedly when the need arises.

The Elite Fast Track Modular Light Bar works with LED lights regardless of length – curved or straight – while the upper crossbar features an aerodynamic design to alleviate airflow turbulence that often results in unwanted soft top buffeting and whistling.

“We wanted to engineer a light bar that was uncompromising in that it allows Jeep enthusiasts to customize their vehicle to fit any specific need,” said Patrick Bennett, Product Development Manager at Omix-ADA / Rugged Ridge. “With the new Modular Light Bar, trail mirrors and action cams can be mounted in the warmer seasons, yet can easily be swapped for driving lights when the winter weather sets in. We like to think JK owners can have it all with Rugged Ridge’s new light bar.”

The Rugged Ridge Modular Light Bar makes no compromises in materials, using high-quality 6061 T6 aluminum for the A-pillar sections and upper crossbar, with steel mounting brackets and Grade 8 hardware for sound structural integrity. A durable textured black powder coat provides protection from corrosion and keeps the light bar looking new for years to come. The Rugged Ridge Modular Light Bar is backed by an industry-leading five-year limited warranty and is available online and from select Jeep and off-road retailers nationwide with a suggested MSRP of $439.99.

For more information about the Rugged Ridge Modular Light Bar and 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.

Part Number Description MSRP
11232.05 Aluminum Windshield Light Bar, 07-16 Wrangler JK $439.99

5 Steps to Keeping Your Cool When Things Get HOT

1Every year, about this time, our vehicles undergo a transition of tremendous proportions. After braving several consecutive months of frigid temperatures, we now find ourselves basking in the cool pleasantness that Spring always brings. While this seasonal shift seems to provide us with a much needed period of repose, it’s important that we shift our focus to the relentless summer heat that surely lies in our not-too-distant future. Taking the proper steps to insure that your Jeep is ready to deal with the inevitable onset of grueling temperatures is crucial to surviving the summer season unscathed. Choose to ignore the obvious threat on the horizon and your rig may just make this summer one you will occupy your every thought, but not in a good way like a beach vacation or a hammock under a shade tree. Here are an even handful of easy pointers to help you get prepared for some primetime Jeepin’ weather:

  1. The most important element to keeping your vehicle running cool is….the cooling system! While this seems to be a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ statement, it bares being restated largely because the cooling system is often forgotten about unless the temp gauge tells you something is wrong or, worse yet, your radiator decides to evacuate the entire systems contents into a cloud of steam on the highway. Taking the time to drain the radiator and thoroughly flush the vehicles cooling system is a practice that should be observed religiously every 40,000 to 60,000 miles. If your vehicle is used heavily in off-road conditions, erring on the side of caution is definitely recommended.

    While performing this maintenance, take the time to clean the radiator and A/C condenser cores with a garden hose and a soft scrub brush to remove any buildup of dirt, bug shrapnel and debris that may have formed inside the fins. Any improvement in the amount of air flow through the core will help with heat transfer later. It’s also important to note that any vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission will likely have an internal transmission cooler built into the radiator assembly.Properly maintaining the tranny with the proper ATF fluid levels and a clean filter will result in a cooler running transmission and will lessen the cooling burdens for your radiator.

    After your system has been flushed out, make sure radiator is refilled to the manufacturers recommended capacity with a proper 50/50 mixture of coolant and distilled water to insure the best cooling performance. Never use only antifreeze/coolant or only water when you refill the system as they lack the stability to perform independently of each other in such a wide temperature range. Using tap water in the mixture is not advised as it is filled with minerals and contaminants that will calcify inside your engine and will undoubtedly damage your cooling system over time, causing inefficient operation and premature failure.

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  2. Check the condition of your cooling system hoses for signs of wear and poor structural integrity. Be sure to check the entire length of the upper and lower radiator hose for cracks, abrasions or for noticeable swelling, as any of these could be a sign of a potential failure. It’s a good idea to squeeze the hose firmly in your hand while the engine is still warm. A hose that is in good physical condition will feel firm but never hard like a baseball bat. A hose that is in need of replacement will feel soft, spongy or like it is easily misshapen, particularly around bends in the hose. Any sign of these conditions should result in a replacement hose being installed before the need is escalated by a complete hose failure. Remember to perform the same sort of inspection on your vehicles heater hoses which are a smaller diameter and should enter the firewall in close proximity to each other on the passenger side of the engine.3
  3. Part of your cooling systems effectiveness can be determined by the condition of your engines drive belts. A V-groove or ribbed serpentine belt that has become worn or stretched due to age may not do a sufficient job of driving a mechanical fan which will reduce the amount of air that is pulled through the radiator. A visual inspection of the engines belts for signs of excessive wear, as well as an observation that the belt is under adequate tension, can aid in a properly operating cooling system Any drive belt that is in less than ideal condition should be replaced immediately and not expected to continue to perform miracles at 3,000 rotations per minute.4
  4. Mind your lubricants! Seeing as friction is as efficient at creating heat as it is at reducing efficiency, the task of reducing said friction can be a vital element to keeping a cool running engine. While utilizing a quality full synthetic oil will give you a more stable temperature range in the summer months, just making sure your engine is properly filled with good, clean motor oil that is properly filtered can make a noticeable difference in overall engine operating temperatures and can even help with your fuel economy. While you’re at it, a fresh air cleaner element can’t hurt and don’t forget to check the levels on transmissions, transfer cases and differentials, too! Less resistance makes your engines job of propelling you down the road a whole lot easier.5
  5. Lastly, check all your tires for proper air pressure levels as well as inspect the tread for any signs of improper tread wear. While a flat tire won’t make your engine overheat, changing a flat tire in July on the side of crowded highway is the farthest thing from keeping cool. Summer heat can push rubber tires to their limits so making sure that they are up to the task can keep you safe and out of harm’s way. Tire pressure should be checked, if at all possible, before your trip as tire pressures will increase as the tire heats up on even a short trip in warm weather. Therefore, an under-inflated tire that has been driven on for any period of time may appear to be properly inflated.

While these tips are far from being a comprehensive maintenance regiment, they represent a concise and simple plan that you can implement to help guard your Jeep from the hazards that a long, hot summer can pose. Whether it be a new radiator, radiator hoses or just a new bikini top to keep the sun off your head, Omix-ADA / Rugged Ridge has the replacement parts and must-have accessories you need to keep your Jeep dream alive. Check us out at www.omix-ada.com and www.ruggedridge,com and we hope to see you out there rolling down the road and not parked on the side of it! OlllllllO65

Rugged Ridge expands line of Eclipse Sun Shades with new Cargo Barrier to include 2007-2016 Jeep Wrangler

A Simple, Effective Solution for Keeping Cargo Inside and Harsh Sunlight Outside

Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today announced the expansion of its line of Eclipse Sunshades for 2007-
2016 Jeep Wrangler JK to include a Cargo Barrier for both two and four-door models.

Rugged Ridge’s Eclipse Cargo Barrier is designed with mesh and integrated bungee retaining cords to allow for an open-air feel while driving. Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

Rugged Ridge’s Eclipse Cargo Barrier is designed with mesh and integrated bungee retaining cords to allow for an open-air feel while driving.
Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

The new Rugged Ridge Cargo Barriers are designed to provide the feel of “open-air” driving while protecting the rear seat passengers from harsh sunlight and battering winds. It also serves as a barrier to prevent anything inside the Jeep from blowing out of the cab. Eclipse Cargo Barriers also offer a more secure option for any pets that accompany along for the ride.

Featuring a mesh construction with integrated bungee retaining cords, the Eclipse Cargo Barrier has three sections that install quickly and easily by securing to the sports bar tubing and tub rail. This allows for it to be installed or removed in minutes. The barrier can also be partially removed to gain access to the seating area, if necessary. Additionally, it can be left in place when a soft top is re-installed.

Rugged Ridge’s Eclipse Cargo Barriers are backed by an industry-leading five-year limited warranty and are available online and through select Jeep® and off-road part & accessories retailers nationwide with an MSRP starting at $106.99.

For more information about the Rear Cargo Barrier 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.

Part Number Description MSRP
13579.41 Eclipse Cargo Barrier; 07-16 Jeep Wrangler JK 2-door $111.99
13579.42 Eclipse Cargo Barrier; 07-16 Jeep Wrangler JKU 4-door $111.99

April 2017 Monthly Update

LED Brake Light Ring

Add a unique flare to your Jeep with our LED Brake Light Ring. It enhances visibility while your on the road while adding a cool factor with the torch-red LED’s. Designed to work with various rim diameters from 15 to 20-inches on Jeep CJ / YJ / TJ and JK models having either a 5 lug bolt patterns with 4.5, 5 or 5.5” spacing. Made with waterproof connectors to withstand the elements for consistent all-weather performance.

Part Number Description Price
11585.04 Accessory Brake Light LED Ring $93.99

Trek5 Aluminum Hub-Centric Wheel

Switch up the look of your 2014-2017 Jeep Renegade with our Trek5 Wheels. Made with aluminum alloy to be light weight and a one piece construction merge for a flawless design. The rims hub-centric design delivers a factory- quality tment that meets or exceeds all SAE J2530 standards for safety. (Includes center cap)

Part Number Description Price
15307.01 5 Spoke, Black, Aluminum Wheel, 14-17 Jeep Renegade BU $213.99

Rugged Ridge adds new Dual Battery Tray for 2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK/JKU models

Dual Battery Tray Allows for Increased Amperage Capacity for Off-Road Capability

Rugged Ridge®, an industry leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today announced the addition of a new Dual Battery Tray Kit for 2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK models equipped with the 3.6 liter engine.

Rugged Ridge’s new Dual Battery Tray for ’12-’16 Jeep JK is designed to allow for a second battery, essentially doubling the overall power capacity. Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

Rugged Ridge’s new Dual Battery Tray for ’12-’16 Jeep JK is designed to allow for a second battery, essentially doubling the overall power capacity.
Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

Rugged Ridge’s new Dual Battery Tray provides the ability to support a second on-board battery for double the power capacity of stock power source, allowing the vehicle to have the kind of amperage needed to power off-road lights, a recovery winch and stereo equipment while not starving the vehicle’s electronics of the current crucial for proper operation. Most importantly, a back-up battery to support vital engine starts in dire situations is always ready and waiting.

The Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Tray is designed specifically for 2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK models, ensuring a proper fit. The tray itself is constructed of heavy gauge steel for strength and durability, finished in a gloss black powder coat and includes battery-retaining straps and necessary mounting hardware. The Dual Battery Tray for 2012-2016 JK is recommended to be used in unison with the Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Relay Kit (17265.01) for optimal performance, which allows for proper charging and isolation of the second battery during normal operation.

The Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Tray for 2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK models 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, with a suggested MSRP of $144.99.

For more information about the Dual Battery Tray, 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.

Part Number Description MSRP
11214.54 Dual Battery Tray; ’12-’16 Wrangler JK/JKU, 3.6 L $144.99

Rugged Ridge introduces new LED Interior Lighting System for 2007-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK/JKU models

11250.09_installed1Provides the JK Interior Colorful and Vibrant Illumination

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.

Rugged Ridge LED Interior Lighting System offers lighting options in a variety of colors to allow for additional personalization of Jeeps. Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

Rugged Ridge LED Interior Lighting System offers lighting options in a variety of colors to allow for additional personalization of Jeeps.
Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

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.

Part Number Description MSRP
11250.09 LED Interior Lighting System; 07-16 Wrangler JK $132.99

Rugged Ridge adds new XHD Stinger Guard for XHD Bumper-Equipped 1976-2016 Jeep CJ/YJ/TJ and JK

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.

Rugged Ridge's new XHD Stinger Guard combines aggressive off-road styling with an increased level of protection for the grill and radiator, whether on the trail or the highway. Photo Credit: Rugged Ridg

Rugged Ridge’s new XHD Stinger Guard combines aggressive off-road styling with an increased level of protection for the grill and radiator, whether on the trail or the highway.
Photo Credit: Rugged Ridg

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.

Part Number Desciption Price
11540.29 Stinger Guard, XHD $95.99

The One That Your Mother Warned You About…

1You 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

2What 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.

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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.

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