The penguin's motorcycling and Jeep blog

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Exhausting work

Two weeks ago I put on a new Savvy aluminum gas tank skid plate. A week ago I took it out on the trail to test it. The skid plate works great -- it tucks the gas tank 1 1/2" higher than the OEM skid, and combined with the longer/stiffer rear springs means that I no longer bang my gas tank skid on every friggin' rock I drop off of. Unfortunately it also means that my exhaust pipe and my tow hooks were what now dragged.
You can see where the tow hook was mounted, I've already removed it in this picture, but it mounted through those two bolt holes to that tab welded to the bumper bracket. I don't need it anymore because I've added a receiver hitch D-ring. You can also see that the exhaust pipe extends well beyond the gas tank skid, and that it's somewhat beat up. In fact, it even got knocked upwards when coming down onto a rock to where it got a dent in it from that tab. But never fear, I have a solution to this issue:
Yes, Mr. Sawzall, complete with welding gloves and goggles to protect me hands and eyeballs. You can also see how far that exhaust pipe sticks back beyond that gas tank skid. If I ever backed up over a rock, I'd destroy my entire exhaust system. So I'm going to cut it flush with the gas tank skid with said Sawzall, and...
And voila. Cut off flush with the gas tank. Actually, slightly angled, so that the part near the gas tank is flush with the gas tank, while the part near the outside of the Jeep is a little forward of the gas tank. This should keep the exhaust pipe somewhat safer than when it was out there dangling in thin air. If you clicky on the picture to embiggen it and look at the piece on the ground, you can see that the tip of the exhaust pipe had been beat up so often over the years that it wasn't even round anymore!

And that's the end of this exhausting (heh) episode of Mod My Jeep...

-- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Springity sproing

So yesterday I finished the next step in project Put Bigger Tars On Teh Tuxjeep: I changed out the *rear* springs and put on a trackbar relocation bracket.

Note that I'd already changed out the front springs, so I had a spring mismatch between front and back. The Jeep was level when I was unloaded, but load it up and the back end was dragging like a cat in heat. It wasn't a spring height issue, but, rather, a spring rate issue -- the rear springs were the original factory springs with spacers on top of them to make them taller, and simply weren't up to the same standard as the front springs, they compressed under load more than the front springs. The front springs are some Old Man Emu 933 springs that I scored off a club member, so I decided to put the matching Old Man Emu 949 onto the back. At the same time I was also going to install an Old Man Emu trackbar relocation bracket, which accomplishes two things: 1) the original bracket has a "roof" on it and will get bent up if your suspension sags too much and the trackbar "tops out" in the bracket (as will happen if you lift the Jeep and put longer springs and shocks on it) and 2) helps relocate the axle back to under the center of the Jeep, which in turn helps the Jeep track better (duh!).

So, anyhow, here's how I dunnit:

  1. Approximately 2 hours before starting any of this, blast the bolts you're going to unbolt with PB Blaster, Liquid Wrench, or other penetrating oil of choice. (For list of bolts, see the things we're going to unbolt below)
  2. Put the Jeep into 1st gear (or Park if automatic), 4-Lo, and put on the emergency brake
  3. Chock the front wheels front and back. (Yes, making *sure* the Jeep doesn't roll while I'm under there!)
  4. Remove spare tire from back of Jeep (so there's room to use the Hi-Lift there)
  5. Get axle jack from beneath passenger seat of Jeep, and its assorted rods and such
  6. Get Hi-Lift jack out of Jeep
  7. Line up your new parts behind the Jeep -- the springs, the bump stop extensions (if you don't have bump stop extensions already on there, necessary to keep the springs from overcompressing), a short piece of fuel line and two couplers (to extend the breather hose for the axle, which otherwise tends to top out against the trackbar at full droop) and the trackbar relocation bracket. (Sorry, I don't have specs on the fuel line and couplers, they were already in my junk box).
  8. Line up tools behind Jeep, including: Tall jack stand (do *nothing* under a Jeep supported by a Hi-Lift jack, they are inherently unstable, which is good if you're on the trail trying to move your Jeep around off a rock it's grounded out on, bad if you expect your Jeep to *stay* on the Hi-Lift), lug wrench, and hand tools.
  9. Disconnect rear sway bar at both ends
  10. Disconnect rear track bar at both ends (because we're going to need it out of the way to install the bracket, and it's easier this way)
  11. Disconnect both shocks at the bottom.
  12. Jack up the DRIVER's side with the Hi-Lift from the bumper until the spring starts to get loose in its seat, then put the jack stand under the frame just in front of the rear control arm mount and lower the Jeep onto it. Move Hi-Lift out of the way.
  13. Place the axle jack under the spring mount, jack up the axle until the tire is off the ground, and remove the tire.
  14. Lower the axle with the axle jack until the spring is loose in its seat. The spring should then be easily removed by lifting it and removing it to the rear.
  15. Remove the rubber bump stop at the top by simply grabbing it and wiggling and yanking downwards until it pops out of its seat.
  16. Remove the bump stop seat via unbolting the bolt in its middle. If you previously had a spacer lift, this will allow you to remove the spacer. But note that even without a previous spacer lift this makes installing the new spring *much* easier since you won't have to work it around the bump stop, and the bump stop will go through the coils of the spring. You'll also be installing bump stop extensions at the same time if you didn't already have them on there.
  17. You'll notice that the breather hose for your axle is basically taut with your axle at full droop. Extend the breather hose by cutting it above the fuel tank (easier if you have a body lift on your Jeep) and patching in a few inches of fuel line so that you'll have some slack at full droop.
  18. You already removed the trackbar above. Install the trackbar relocation bracket using the directions in the OME packet, including all the drilling and stuff (the real reason why we bothered lifting the Jeep so high in the air in the first place was to give clearance to the drill under the floorpan of the Jeep). Don't bother trying to put the trackbar into it right now, it won't go because the bracket is twisted by the axle droop, we'll put it back on after the Jeep is back on the ground.
  19. Install the *SHORTER* Old Man Emu 949 spring here, on the driver's side. It should just pop right in. Jeeps tend to sag at their passenger rear due to the weight of the spare tire carrier and the torque of their engine, so the taller spring goes on the passenger side.
  20. Work the bump stop extension, bump stop seat, and bump stop bolt through the coils of the new spring, and bolt them into place. You can't get a torque wrench up here so it's probably a good idea to use blue (medium strength) threadlocker on the bolt too, to keep it from going anywhere.
  21. Work the rubber bump stop through the coils of the new spring, and push it into place. A prybar prying against a coil of the springs can help get that last little bit of oomph to get it seated.
  22. Jack up the axle enough to match the bottom of the shock with its crossbolt, and install the rear shock again. This is easier than compressing the shock by hand to install it after the tire is back on.
  23. This also jacked up the axle enough to put your tire back on. Do so. Torque your lug nuts in criss-cross pattern to 100 ft/lbs of torque. (This is *IMPORTANT* -- use an actual lug wrench here, if you overtorque your lug nuts, you *will* stretch your axle studs and cause them to fail on the trail, and of course undertorquing them is equally a bad idea since wheels that come off while you're driving down the road are unwanted).
  24. Lower your axle jack and remove it. Note that this will be using your shock as a limiting strap holding the tire off the ground (usually it's the trackbar that limits downtravel here), but this won't hurt it here.
  25. Jack up the Jeep from the rear bumper with the Hi-Lift enough to drop the axle stand and pull it out of the way, then lower the driver's side to the ground.
  26. Repeat the process to remove/install the spring on the passenger side (remember, the TALLER spring goes on the passenger side), with the exception that on the passenger side you don't have to install a track bar bracket (doh!).
  27. Now, with the Jeep back on the ground on its own four wheels with the new springs and no jacks or jack stands under it, reinstall the track bar. It *should* match up hole-wise on both ends, because the geometry of the control arms naturally wants to center the axle (though not strongly enough to do without the track bar) and the new location of the axle end of the trackbar is in the proper place where, with these springs, the trackbar should match up. If not, you may need to get a piece of 2x4 and pry between the tire and frame until the axle is centered and you can bolt the trackbar into place.
  28. Reconnect the rear sway bar.
  29. Put the spare tire back on the Jeep (duh!) and replace all the jacks and the lug wrench into their proper nooks and cranny in case you have a flat.
And done! Note that when you reinstall bolts, you should torque them to factory spec if at all possible. If you can't get a torque wrench on them, at least use blue threadlocker on them to keep them from coming loose and sending you into a ditch (your suspension falling apart on the highway is *not* recommended as a recipe for health and happiness!).

In my case, the process was made more difficult by the fact that my original trackbar bracket was bent up from the trackbar topping out against it due to the extra sag allowed by disconnecting my sway bars up front, the longer Old Man Emu shocks, and the spacer lift. The lesson there is that if you install *any* lift, even a 2" spacer lift, you need to relocate the trackbar bracket at that time rather than at some later time because the trackbar bracket becomes the limit on downtravel at that point. So I had to sort of hammer and bend and press things into shape again. But it's all together now.

So how does it work? Well, the rear end of the Jeep is now about 1 1/4" higher off the ground than the front end of the Jeep. On the passenger side, from rocker to ground is 22" immediately behind the front wheel, and 23 1/4" immediately in front of the rear wheel. So when I put a full trail load into the Jeep (tools and water are *heavy*), the rear should sag to the point of basically being level.

But does it make it too harsh on the pavement? Well, remember, I'm using the Old Man Emu shocks that are basically matched to these springs. I decided to put things to the test and, uhm, I can't notice any difference from previous. The ride is firm, but not jittery or harsh. It helps the handling a bit, it seems, but not by much. Probably just psychological on my part.

So anyhow, I'm done with getting clearance. I may add some bump stop extensions up front to put 33" tires under here, but it appears that I only need 1/2" of additional bump stop up there to clear 33" tires under my fenders. While bouncing me Jeep up and down to test for things that go "clunk" when they shouldn't, I also noticed that one of my front sway bar links has gone bust and has movement in it that it shouldn't have, I'm sure that replacing that will help the handling a bit, luckily I have a spare in my junk box. So anyhow, that's that... the next step is going to be the expensive one, re-gearing to 4.56 front and rear, installing lockers, and actually purchasing 33" offroad tires to put on the thing. The re-gearing and lockers will be over $2,000 (eep!), the tires and wheels (to replace the bent-up ones) will be over $1,000 (gulp!). Oh well, it's still cheaper than buying a new Jeep!

-- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Diesels in American vehicles

If you go to Europe, you see diesel-powered vehicles everywhere. Diesel engines typically get roughly 40% better fuel economy than gasoline engines -- for example, the VW Golf gets 23/33 city/highway in gas trim, 30/42 in diesel trim.

So why aren't diesels so popular here in America? Well, let me count the ways...

  1. No market for fuel economy. Fuel is $10/gallon in Europe right now. It's "only" $4/gallon here in the USA. So people don't care about fuel economy, they get the engine that's cheapest, and a gasoline engine is generally cheaper than a diesel because it doesn't have to be built as sturdy (due to lower compression and less torque).
  2. Poor diesel fuel. Even current "low sulphur" diesel fuel here in the U.S. would be illegal to sell in Europe, because it still has enough sulphur in it to cause soot (the black smoke you used to see coming out of the back of diesel-powered vehicles). This in turn means it's extremely expensive to certify diesel vehicles here in America, because you must add filters and traps and possibly urea injection in order to deal with the poor fuel. Not to mention the number that the crappy diesel fuel sold here in America does to injectors and fuel pumps... you go by the VW TDI forums, you'll find that VW has been replacing thousands of fuel pumps because gas stations mixed gasoline in their diesel tanks and wrecked the lubricousity of the fuel, thereby depriving the pump of lubrication and causing it to self-destruct.
  3. No volume. It costs roughly $100M to certify a new engine/transmission combination if you have to do major work to it in order to . If you sell 10,000 vehicles per year over the next 5 years with a given engine/transmission combination, that means you need to charge roughly $2,000 extra apiece to pay off the EPA certification costs. And see #1.
This situation especially pisses me off because I want to see a diesel engine in the Jeep Wrangler because the extra fuel economy would make longer expeditions more feasible. Fiat has a good 2.7L dual-turbo TDI engine that would work in the Wrangler. But they only sell 90,000 Wranglers per year so, assuming that they'd sell 10,000 diesel Wranglers per year (about what they sold the last time they put a diesel into the Grand Cherokee), it just doesn't make financial sense for them to do so. It just takes too much money, time, and effort to certify an engine/transmission combo to make it worthwhile to make a Euro-diesel engine work in a U.S. vehicle.

So next thing I'm waiting for is the 3.6L Pentastar engine to make it into the Wrangler. The Pentastar makes almost 300 horsepower. It was supposed to make it into the 2011 Wrangler but didn't, probably because it turns out that it makes too much horsepower for the old transmission and they had to use a new transmission but the new transmission is three inches longer, meaning they had to relocate the engine slightly forward to make room for the new transmission, meaning they had to put slightly longer sheetmetal on the front of the Jeep to make room for the engine being further forward, meaning it required more work than just swapping a new engine into the Wrangler. But with the 3.6L Pentastar and new sheetmetal, the Wrangler ought to get better mpg than it currently does. Not that this would be difficult... my Wrangler is averaging 12mpg in the city. Something to do with the aerodynamics of a barn door and big sticky tires...

-- Badtux the Auto Geek Penguin

Monday, April 11, 2011

Removing "wheel locks"

Do you have some of those "wheel locks" on your wheels that have a serrated set of teeth on the outside that a "key" fits over to allow you to remove the wheel? Guess what: Those things are nothing but a waste of time. They certainly won't stop anybody from removing the wheel if they have access to tools. I know, because I just did it.

So I go to rotate my tires, head into the console to get the wheel key, and... err... no key. And no idea where it went. I cleaned the car out so I know it's nowhere on the floor of the car, but it's not in the glove compartment, console, nor in the coin cup, the map pocket, or the door pockets.

What next? Well... I tried getting a pipe wrench over one of the "locks". Nope, my offset's wrong for that. So next I tried hammering a 16mm socket onto the head of one of these things. It went on okay, but didn't bite deep enough and stripped out. So next thing I did was hammer a 5/8" socket onto the head of one of these things and... success. Removed it like it was intended to come off that way. Getting the 5/8" socket off the "wheel lock" took a large bench vise and two large prybars, but if I were intent on stealing the wheels I would have just brought a handful of 5/8" sockets with me... not that anybody is going to steal rusty steel wheels in a size that fits almost no vehicles anyhow, sheesh!

So anyhow, now I've replaced these so-called "wheel locks" with lug nuts from my stash of random junk (what, you don't have a stock of random stuff like lug nuts, tie rod ends, and so forth? Sheesh, next thing you tell me is that you don't even have a torque wrench!). So I'm good to go tomorrow on rotating my tires. But sheesh, what a PITA.

-- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin

Sunday, April 3, 2011

50,000 miles and five years

The TuxJeep now has 50,000 miles on it and is five years old. It seems like yesterday that the silver demon forced me to bring it home, but no, it's been five years. So I'm starting to change out all the fluids, just on general principle. First up was engine oil, which had about 6,000 miles on it (max 7500 mile change interval on this engine). This weekend I swapped out two gallons of coolant for two gallons of 50/50 Zerex G-05 HOAT and distilled water, just to start the process of refreshing its anti-corrosion properties.

Now, a note about anti-freeze. There's basically three kinds of antifreeze out there. The first kind is the old-fashioned green shit that has to be changed every year and which causes deposits in your radiator if you mix it with anything other than distilled water. This is what's available at your local Wal-mart. The second kind is the GM OAT (Organic Acid Technology) coolant, which is dyed orange, which has a bad tendency to eat pot metal parts of your engine such as the thermostat housing. This is *also* available at your local Wal-mart. The third type is a hybrid, HOAT, which has silicates to protect pot metal but also has the long-lasting organic acids to combat corrosion of the other metals in your engine. Ford and Chrysler have settled on this one for their new cars, both use Zerex G-05 HOAT coolant, dyed yellow for Ford (and for the aftermarket), pink for Chrysler. (Yes, *PINK* -- there are sources on the web that say that Chrysler's HOAT is dyed orange like GM's OAT, but the factory fill in my Jeep was quite blaringly PINK). Unfortunately only professional auto parts places like NAPA and Carquest, or dealerships, carry the HOAT coolant -- unlike the OAT or the green shit, you can't get it at Wally World or Auto Drone. And it's *expensive*, $15/gallon at NAPA...

So why is this important? Well, first of all, don't put the orange shit into your car unless that's what your car came with. OAT works by allowing the metals to corrode, then bonding with the corrosion to form a film. Thing is, some metals don't corrode with the correct chemistry for OAT to bond with to create the anti-corrosion film, and you end up with Bad Things Happening. So only cars designed for OAT (i.e. with the correct metal alloys exposed to its cooling system) should get OAT. But if your car came with OAT, you should stick with OAT for one good reason: all other chemistries will, over the long term, clog up your radiator and cooling system with silicate deposits. Only OAT is guaranteed to never do that, for the simple reason that it has no silicates.

Secondly: For everything else, HOAT is the correct thing to use. I've talked to people who restore old cars. To a man they recommend HOAT for *everything*, because it stops corrosion without unduly clogging up your cooling system and is safe for *all* metals, not just the ones that OAT chemistry was designed to bond with. Which is why any shop worth its salt should have only two coolant types in its quiver: the GM Dex-Cool OAT (orange), and the Zerex G-05 HOAT (yellow). The green shit should be consigned to history along with leaded gas and carburetors, it just doesn't work as well as the new stuff. Yet the green stuff is still the most common coolant even shops put into cars... despite the fact that it's crap. But it's cheap. Which is all that counts when someone cares more about profit than about their car's lifespan.

So anyhow I scored some Zerex G-05 (yellow) for about $5 a gallon less than the pink-dyed MOPAR HOAT at the Chrysler dealership (pink), so now have kind of pinkish-yellow coolant in my Jeep (since the cooling system holds a total of about 2.65 gallons and I put a little less than 2 gallons of coolant into it, the rest was in the heater core and other places in the cooling system). Note that the G-05 *IS* the MOPAR coolant, Zerex simply dyes it pink rather than yellow. It seems that pink is a stronger color than yellow, so 3/4th gallon of pink makes 2 gallons of yellow pinker than you'd think. Curious, eh? So anyhow, mixing G-05 with G-05 should be fine, I just refreshed the anticorrosion package with my infusion. Since I only changed out around 2/3rds of the coolant with the radiator and reservoir change, I'll go ahead and do it again in around three years, since I put around three years worth of anticorrosion additives in there with the new coolant.

Next thing I did was change the front differential fluid. I had two quarts of Royal Purple 75W140 left over from my last differential fluid change, and used that. What I discovered inside the differential was that the old Royal Purple fill had sludged up a little since my last change of the front differential fluid, at 20,000 miles. So this is the last time I'm filling with the Royal Purple, the next fill is going to be the Mobile 1 75W140 synthetic. I've already purchased the Mobile 1 plus the limited slip additive for the rear differential and will be changing that out shortly.

Some other fluids that can be changed:

  1. Brake fluid -- probably the most important one to change. Chrysler uses low-spec DOT 3 brake fluid. Going to DOT 3/4 should get me better specs as well as get rid of any moisture that's accumulated in the system over the past five years. I have a Mitey-vac vacuum pump somewhere, I need to find it (haven't used it since I moved to the "new" place eight months ago)...
  2. Transmission fluid -- this uses Synchromesh fluid. Chrysler doesn't even have a fill spec on this, it's supposedly a "lifetime" fluid. Probably going to leave this alone for now, and change it at 90,000 miles just on general principles.
  3. Transfer case fluid -- this uses ATF+4 automatic transmission fluid, which is good stuff (much better than the old GM Dexron III from days of yore). It's spec'ed to be changed at 80,000 miles. Won't hurt to change it anytime between now and then.
  4. Power steering fluid -- this, alas, got changed last year when the moron ran the red light and broke my steering box with the side of his car. So I'm fine there.
So anyhow, that's pretty much all she wrote for now. I'll change out the rear diff fluid sometime in the next few weeks, find my pump and turkey baster and suck the old fluid out of the reservoir, replace it with fresh, and then bleed the brakes to suck the old DOT3 out and put the better DOT3/4 fluid in, and then I'm pretty much done maintenance-wise for the moment.

Oh, while I was at it I put some new light bulbs into my lights. But I'm not telling you what they are, because they're a bit, err, not DOT-certified. But at least I'll be able to see at night!

-- Badtux the Blindingly Bright Penguin