THINGS WE SHOULD NOT DO TO OUR RIGS
This past weekend, my sons and I loaded up the flat fender on the trailer and headed off to Hollister Hills to do some wheeling with the 4×4 club TDO. The second I pulled my tow rig to a stop at Hollister, my oldest son hopped out of the truck and unloaded the Willys off that trailer in record time. He was beyond excited to put some rubber on some rocks. As I was shaking hands and greeting friends that I had not seen for some time, both my boys were standing by the Willys irritatingly repeating over and over, “DAD! Come on! Let’s go!”
I finally gave into their impatience, jumped into my buddy Noah’s rig and followed my boys up the hill to the nearest set of obstacles. As my kids crested the top of the hill where the trail hit an intersection, they stopped the jeep and we could see that both of them began staring off into the distance to their left. At the exact same time, my sons both turned back and looked at myself and Noah with expressions that looked like disgust, amusement and dis-belief all mixed together.
Their expressions looked as if they were both trapped in a horrendous “pea-soup” smelling fart cloud that they both knew was coming my way and I would soon have to deal with it. That fart cloud passed in front of them on the road from left to right, in the form of one of the most hideous Jeep XJ’s that I have ever seen in my life.
The XJ had a massive stinger front bumper that protruded out in front of it like a giant erect phallus, it had enough light bars stacked on the front of it to light up a baseball diamond, and flashy, huge rims that would be much better off on a lifted SEMA show truck that will never see dirt.
After the atrocity passed, next to me in the driver’s seat, Noah erupted into unrestrained laughter, I put my hands to my head and started yelling “Oh my God!”, and both my boys threw their arms up in the air screaming “Cringy! Cringy!” which I guess is a millennial code word for “appalling.”
Now, to each his own I guess, that guy is probably very proud of his Cherokee. But you really don’t want to be “that guy” unless you are totally down for having your Jeep being labeled as a “Mall Crawler”.
In the off-road world there are certain things that you never should do to your vehicle, and certain 4×4 fashions that went out of style years ago. If you commit a four wheeling faux pas with your Jeep “upgrades”, (embarrassingly enough, for years I pronounced that “Fox Pass” when it is actually pronounced “Pho-Pa”, which is a faux pas in itself. But I am, not French, so whatever) you run the risk of making your rig and yourself look goofy.
If you currently have any of these mall crawler “upgrades” on your vehicle, please do not take offense from my article, instead think of it this way: have you ever had a massive booger hanging from your nose that you didn’t know about, and thankfully a good friend tells you about it to save you from embarrassment? That is exactly what I am doing for you here. Hey, it is your vehicle, do what you want, and these are just my suggestions. Some of these things actually USED to be in style, but the following is a list of things that you should currently never do to your Jeep if you want to look like a real Modernjeeper.
1. Lockers before Light Bars
In the old-days, it was all about the round KC halogen lights with the yellow “KC” covers. Everyone had them, including myself. Two of them were sufficient, having four was cool, but having more than four was way overboard. Now the latest fad is LED light bars. Having one light bar over your windshield is fine, but PLEASE stop there. There are rigs out there covered in light bars, on the hood, on the fenders, below the windshield, etc.
If you do take the time and money add a light bar to your vehicle, you will find something out fairly quickly: unless you are racing in the Baja 1000, you will almost NEVER use it. They are illegal to use on the road in most states. If you are wheeling at night with a group of vehicles, then you are blinding everyone in front of you, so only the lead vehicle turns theirs on, and really, just how often are you “night wheeling?”
Always remember this mantra: Lockers before light bars. Your money and time is better spent on things that are useful and can make your vehicle wheel better. On my trail rig, I have only one LED light. A small 4 by 4 inch rear facing light up on my roof rack that I use to light up camp or help my unload gear at night. If you really want to spend money on lights that are useful, buy one of those or get yourself some LED rock-lights, they are a godsend when wheeling in the rocks in the dark.
2. Don’t be Mr. Snuffleupagus with a Snorkel
There has GOT to be some water in this desert somewhere!
Mr. Snuffleupagus was Big Bird’s imaginary elephant friend on Sesame Street that only Big Bird could see. He was all pretend. And if you have a snorkel on your vehicle, chances are, you are all pretend too. If you are doing a water crossing on public lands in the continental United States that is so deep you need a snorkel, chances are, you are wheeling illegally.
Off-hand, I can only think of one exception, which is on Fordyce trail when the flow rates are high. Furthermore, water crossings are more dangerous than you would expect, and they can wreak total havoc on your vehicle in multiple ways by water getting into multiple places.
I could possibly see having one if you wheel in Alaska, if you are going to run the Darian Gap between Panama and Columbia like Mark Smith, or are planning an expedition through the deepest parts of Africa, but you are not. Nothing screams “poser” more than a snorkel. Again, save your money and time on gears, lockers and the like.
3. Stinger Envy
Does this stinger make my butt look fat?
Let me start with this: Stinger bumpers ARE cool. A medium sized stinger sticking out in front of your winch is a good look. However, a MASSIVE stinger where it looks like your Jeep is flipping everyone off is just atrocious. They are even dumber when you have to do an 87 point turn on the trail because you just made your rig way too long.
Thankfully this fad has almost run its course, but there are still many rigs out there with ridiculous stinger bumpers. You know that old saying some people make about lifted trucks? The “What is THAT guy making up for?” saying? Well, if you run a massive stinger, you just verified the stereotype.
4. Hi-Lift on the Hood Hosers
Hi-Lift jacks are an essential tool for off roaders. I can’t even count the number of times I have had to use one. One word of warning in using these jacks however, they are WAY more dangerous than you would expect. PLEASE take a clinic on how to use one.
After years of using one, thinking I knew it all, listened in on a clinic held by the Diablo 4 Wheelers and it scared the hell out of me. You really need a Hi Lift, but you also REALLY need to learn how to properly use one.
A big issue with these jacks, is where to store them on your rig. In a regular wrangler, a Hi Lift won’t just fit in the back, there is not enough room, and the last thing you want in a roll over or flop is that heavy jack flopping around and cracking you in the head. They need to be bolted down.
I have mine bolted to the side of my roof rack, my son has his mounted on his front bumper. Those are both good options along with mounting them on a rear rack or tire carrier, just make sure that the Hi Lift does not stick up past your cage if you have it mounted straight up and down on a rear rack. But got GODS SAKE, PLEASE don’t mount it on your hood. It’s not a freaking hood ornament.
I honestly cannot give a solid argument as to why not to mount it there, other than the only people that seem to do that are the guys at the mall.
5. Blinging Wheels
I am SO ready for the trail……of red carpet into SEMA
A nice set of wheels can really make a difference as to how cool your Jeep looks. Wheels are very important in terms of looks. I have always loved Raceline’s Monster bead locks. I also think Trail-Gear’s Creeper Beadlocks with the multi-colored bead lock rings are dead sexy. (Did you read that Matt? Hook a brother up!)
But here is what you have to keep in mind: if you are REALLY wheeling, expect damage to your wheels. Aired down and off camber in the rocks, and you may very well scrape them up. Rock rash makes you look cool anyway when it comes to 4×4 fashion. If you go out and buy some blinging 22 inch wheels that you are worried about dinging on a curb, then you bought the wrong wheels unless you are just sticking to pavement. If that is the case, maybe you should have bought a Cadillac or a BMW instead.
6. Name-tagging your rig.
Ever since the dawn of recreational four wheeling, people have named their rigs.
Back in the 50’s, Grandpa would get some paint and write out “Ole Betsy” in script on the side of his CJ and cruise her over the Rubicon with a cow-bell hanging from the front bumper. Well, that cow-bell idea got real old after a while, and so did putting your rig’s name on your vehicle.
Some of the most iconic rigs in off-road motorsports have names: Slinky, Tiny, Goliath, but you know what they do not have? THE NAME OF THE RIG ON THE WINDSHIELD. It may have been cool back in the day, but it has gone from “cool” to a “clue” you are a mall crawler.
Recently it all seems to be super hero names. In my town I have seen “THE PUNISHER,” “DEADPOOL” and “THE HULK-STER” If you run a massive name tag sticker for your rig, you may as well change the “Rubicon” sticker on your hood to “Rubi-can’t.”
7. Angry Grills
Yeah. Do I really need to say anything here? Just don’t.
8. Totally Not Tubular
Another fad from another age, are chrome tube bumpers on Jeeps. Chrome tube bumpers were all the rage in the 70’s and 80’s. EVERYONE had them. Yeah, they were kinda cool back then. But you know how in the 80’s people used to say “totally tubular man!”? You know how no one says that now? Yeah…same thing. They went out of style when mullets did.
9. Low hanging rocker bars
A rocker rail is a nice addition to your vehicle. Even cooler is a rig with nice flowing lines of tube fenders that match up with a functional rocker panel.
The mall crawling world however, has decided that there was a need for low hanging, rock grabbing, rocker rails that are just ridiculous. Clearance is key, and you do not want anything hanging way down below your vehicle that could high center you or get hung up on a rock.
It is fine to have a step on a rocker rail, but you don’t want essentially a ladder that sticks down a foot and a half. Pick your rocker panels and rocker rails carefully and always keep clearance in mind. Very quickly you can find companies that understand real wheeling and what is needed, and companies that cater to the mall crawling set when shopping for these.
10. Diamonds are not a Jeeps best friend.
There was a time when every Jeep on the road seemed to have chrome diamond plate corners. Then the chrome went out of style, and everyone went to black diamond plate corners. It was cool looking to have that diamond plate on your back corners of your YJ. At least back then.
The biggest problem was it is not the greatest armor, and a lot of those corners were not really custom made. Since those days, many companies have come out with much better options with thicker plate that looks much better. So diamond plate has gone the way of the Do-do bird and is less cool than it used to be. Admittedly, diamond plate is still kind of OK, but your Jeep really deserves better.
3 L’s — the Bottom Line
When it comes to additions on your vehicle, it is really about function over looks. That is the bottom line. Remember the 3 “L”s and spend money on those first: Lift, Larger tires, and Lockers. With gearing following up close behind those. Many people stay away from upgrades like lockers or gears because those are things that people can not see, but they will make a HUGE difference in terms of performance for you when on the trail.