A Crescent Wrench and a Creeper
We all want to have a “mean machine” as ModernJeepers on the trails, but being clean is more important. We save our trails by not trashing them or leaving a mess behind. It’s about maintenance.
Just pass on by this article if you’re a real mechanic who knows tools (and his/her Jeep) like the back of your hand. This is about land use, saving trails maintenance for the non-mechanic.
Here’s how to do both, be “mean” yet be clean, even if you are not a mechanic. In fact, this piece is geared towards the busy Jeeper who is not inclined to wrench a lot or get greasy up to the elbows.
ModernJeeper ladies check their rigs!
Some simple Tips for Jeep Maintenance
Nothing slows down the fun like a mechanical failure, no matter your choice of off-road recreation. Fixing stuff on the trail can be fun; but usually it’s a pain and is never done as well as it would have been in the shop. The best solution is to prevent the breakdowns! It’s all about preventative maintenance if you want to maximize your fun and minimize the down time, while saving trails. Here are some tips.
When it comes to 4×4’s, (Jeeps, trucks, toys, buggies, etc.), it’s as simple as a crescent wrench and a creeper. It may sound a bit simplistic, but it’s about getting under the rig and touching and checking for lose, broken, about to break or leaking stuff! Find it before it’s a problem.
For side by sides, ATV’s, snowmobiles, etc., it’s more about the touching and looking, but the idea is the same.
Use a simple large Crescent wrench to check all important nuts. If they appear to be loose, use the Crescent or get out the right tool; but get it tight! If something is supposed to be torqued to specs, use a torque wrench and do it right. The handle of the Crescent can be used to pry and nudge things like long arm connections, bushings and Heim/flex joints. If you have unusual movement, figure out why and fix it – or take it to your shop.
Pry, push and prod for loose bushings and connections.
For smaller “toys” that you can’t get under, something as simple as cleaning and touching the parts and connections can help you find lose or worn parts. Be sure to look for welds about to give up the ghost also. I like to clean my toys to the point of ensuring I touch about everything important, or at least give it a good eye-balling.
Typical trail failures…
An online parts seller friend of mine, Mike Monahan, known as Parts Mike (http://www.partsmike.com) says that in his experience it is steering components that fail the most often on 4×4’s. “Stock steering linkage and parts are not engineered to withstand the stress of bigger build ups and tires,” says Parts Mike, “and the best solution is to buy the right stuff and improve what the factory gave you.”
Mike also told me, “Most four-wheelers do not pack the front wheel bearings as often as they should, and failures are common on the trail.” Most professional fab techs will say that one of the worst things they see is back-yard fab work that fails miserably on the trail under stressful conditions. You can quote us on this: “If you’re going to weld on your own rig, learn to do it right or have a certified welder do your work. It’s not worth the chance of disaster or death when it comes to rig safety.”
Some off-road shops will give your rig a pre-trail and post-trail inspection to let you know what might need fixing or is about to break. In my thinking, this is cheap insurance for a better trip next time. Besides, who wants to be the guy holding up a trail ride for a break that could have been prevented with some simple crescent wrench and creeper time before the event?
Another off-roading friend, Scott Becker of MetalCloak and Cloakworks4x4, explained how many wheelers love a powder coated finish on parts. It protects the raw metal from rusting and is more durable than paint. It does give a long-lasting finish; however, it can hide problems, “Learning to spot a failing or damaged weld under powder coating takes skill and practice,” Scott says, “you can do it with close inspections.”
Scott adds that “moisture will sometimes work its way through cracks or scrapes in the powder coating. Rust showing on the outside of a weld that is power coated can be an indicator of a damaged weld.” Scott further explained that MetalCloak has moved away from powder coating on critical parts and now uses a zinc process that is easier to inspect for damage and bonds into the surface providing better protection from the elements.”
Avoiding bad juju…
Whatever your build or materials used, getting on your back, on your creeper, in your driveway before your trips can mean the difference between fun and bad juju. And be smart about buying from businesses who are on the team, helping raffles and doing their part to save trails.
Pre and post inspections of your rig, especially underneath, can prevent a lot of down time on the trail. You and your buddies will be happier with a good maintenance program. Get it done’ and get it done as simply as a crescent wrench and a creeper.