I was excited to take the Jeep out and do a bit of back country exploring with my son who is home from college and miraculously didn't have plans with his girlfriend. After striking out at a couple of our favorite local areas (e.g. Miller Jeep Trail and connectors) due to road closures, and not being able to get back into some areas we wanted to scout for Fall deer, we "punted" and headed back toward Dome Springs, which has a couple of "easy" loops (mixed in with some harder optional obstacles) along a river bed and surrounding pine scrub forest with low rolling hills.
We dropped gear and set up a quick base camp, then headed out to explore the trails at around 3:30 pm. We had some fun acquainting ourselves with the basic operations (this is my first "fancy new Jeep with automatic everything). I'm old school and grew up on CJs, Scouts, and FJ40s with manual steering, locking hubs and manual disconnect sway bars, etc. Electric fans were a fancy "upgrade" back when I cut my teeth off-road.
Some background - my "new" Jeep is a '17 JKUR that was completely outfitted by the previous owner, and I picked it up at a local dealer for a very good price considering all the add-ons and low mileage. Apparently soccer moms and mall crawlers don't want a manual 6-speed.
What I have figured out so far:
3.5" lift w/ Rock Krawler springs (found name and part# on springs)
Adjustable lower control arms & track bar that I'm assuming are aftermarket
Not sure about upper control arms or the rear control arms
Sway bar links with removable pins
Blistein 5100 series shocks.
Tom Woods front & rear 1310 shafts
Back to the story...
Once we got things figured out ("Why does the sway bar light keep blinking...?" "How do I turn the front locker OFF...?!") we aired down to 20 psi and ventured forth to explore the mild trails. We did a mile or so of rocky but easy trail along with some steep drops into creek beds and climbs back out and were immediately impressed by the isolation between the cabin and the suspension. Wow. Super plush, very stable and "planted" feeling. So far so good.
We decided to go to "stage II" and climb a steep narrow and uneven trail to the top of a knob, then once there, we found what looked like a challenging off-camber drop back to the main trail. It was a very tight left turn between manzanita trees and boulders to make the drop, and no place to do a multi-point turn to get a better line. So I cranked the wheel all the way left and eased forward off the top. The front began to drop and weight shifted to the right front corner while I continued to ease forward. Suddenly there was an explosive PFFT! noise, which I initially thought was the gas tank skid plate scraping, but my son who was spotting for me yelled "THE TIRE JUST WENT FLAT - STOP!!". Since I was beginning to slide down the lip, I quickly reversed back up to the top and got out of the Jeep to see this:
Considering the way it happened and the noise it had made, I figured that I'd pushed the sidewall so hard that I lost the bead. I've lost beads on tires a few times (though NEVER at 20 psi!) and it sounded the same. Unfortunately we were in a very uneven area at the top of a knob surrounded by brush and boulders. NOT a good place to swap to the spare... We jockeyed the Jeep for a while (grinding away on the brand new JLR wheel) and got to a position where it felt safe to jack and swap to the spare.
Since at this point it was starting to get late, we decided to head back to camp, have dinner, then do a night time exploration down along the creek bed where the trail is pretty wide open.
On our way back to camp I was still puzzling over why I'd blown a bead, and planned to put a ratchet strap around the tire and hit it with the air compressor to re-seat the bead once we got back to camp (where my ratchet straps were!) so I'd have my spare for later in the evening.
All went well until we reached another spot where I had to make a very tight left hand turn (this time I was just being too lazy to do a multi-point turn to line up, even though there was room). This time we got video. Here's a screen grab of the moment of truth:
This was truly a head-scratching moment. The realization that (1) I now had 3 out of 5 tires left - not enough to get us the 3 hours back home and (2) WHY do these JLR wheels keep blowing the beads at 20psi!???
Again, we backed the Jeep onto a level area and decided to jog the 1/2 mile back to camp to get the ratchet straps so that we could re-seat the bead on one of the tires with our compressor.
15 minutes later, with the sun starting to set, we jogged back to the Jeep with ratchet straps, flashlights and jackets. We pulled the flat spare off the carrier and discovered that we had not lost the bead - that the tire was actually SHREDDED on the inside sidewall. Then we realized that the same was probably true of the one we'd just lost...
You know that feeling when you were holding out some hope for a better outcome and you realize that you're actually totally screwed? Yup, that's what we felt. We tried to figure out what went wrong, and while poking around I realized that the upper sway bar link on that same side was all shiny, indicating that it had come in contact with the sidewall (despite being a good 4" away while sitting level)
Hmm... Father/Son moment - now what...? We weighed our options. It was a Thursday evening in a pretty remote area that doesn't see much activity when its not hunting season. We're a good 2 hour drive from the nearest town and the last 30 minutes of it down a rough dirt road. No cell phone service.
Luckily I had my Delorme InReach and had just activated it for the season a few weeks back. We were going to need a flat bed tow, but we were still on a rough 4x4 trail with tight turns that a tow truck would not be able to navigate. Thankfully we were only about a 1/2 mile from camp, which WOULD be accessible by flat bed tow truck.
The tire was already destroyed, but this spare rim was still in decent shape. The rim on the first tire/wheel however was beat up from having to back up to a flat area to swap out to the spare about an hour previously. We set about swapping the spare OFF the Jeep and putting the original (scratched up) rim and destroyed tire back ON the Jeep. As nightfall came, we climbed back in the Jeep and I gritted my teeth and drove achingly slow the 1/2 mile back to camp, grinding the wheel and flopping the useless tire around. My son walked along in front to make sure that the tire carcass didn't separate and catch the suspension, doing even MORE damage.
We managed to limp back to camp and figure out our next move. At least we had cold beer and a cooler full of some good food to make for dinner... But the thought of an $800 tow bill (in addition to the $800 worth of destroyed tires and wheels) was weighing on us...
My son contemplating our fate. (You can see the green blinking light of the Delorme on the camp table - we'd just sent a message to Mom to tell her of our fate.)
After dinner we talked through our options and then it dawned on us that I had the original JKR wheels and tires sitting under my carport at home! All we had to do was get a hold of Mom and convince her to somehow load up my son's truck with the wheels & tires and drive the 3 hours out to rescue us.
My wife is amazing. Despite having plans Friday night and Saturday (because the boys were gone) she canceled them both to help plan our rescue. She contacted some friends to help her load up in the morning and patiently interpreted my cryptic messages about where to find ratchet straps, what a bottle jack looks like, and how to find the jack stands. I didn't even try to explain where to find my portable electric impact wrench and correct size sockets, or even my 4-way lug wrench... (the Delorme is a life-saver, but there can literally be gaps between messages of anywhere between 2 and 20 minutes)
The next morning I awoke to frozen water bottles, made coffee, and thought about how my joy over having a new Jeep had soured so suddenly...
I spent the early morning staying busy and warm by cleaning up all the trash around the camp site left by the previous occupants (which included piles of used toilet paper, despite the camp site being about 50 yards from a pit toilet... GRRRRR)
The sun warmed, my son emerged from the tent, we had breakfast, and then went for a hike and found some horny toads. That was pretty cool.
A few hours later the rescue squad arrived, and it was time to go to work
Jacking up all 4 corners in the dirt using bottle jacks and a scissor jack, and using the OEM lug wrench wasn't difficult, but it sure was tedious. Luckily I had my son to help, and we were completely done within about an hour and had his truck loaded up with the broken wheels and tires, and started the journey home...
If you've read this far, thanks - I hope it NEVER happens to you! It could have been much worse. We could have slid down that first hill into a ravine that would have been IMPOSSIBLE to drive out of with a flat tire, and no way to change the spare. Someone could have been injured. I might not have had an extra 5 wheels and tires, and I might not have had such an awesome wife willing to drop everything to come help us... So despite destroying two BRAND NEW BFG KOs and at least one BRAND NEW JLR wheel, I still feel grateful.
BUT... I want to recapture the joy I felt about this Jeep prior to this incident. I need to figure out a way to make this setup WORK RELIABLY. I don't want to create a situation where I will be endlessly chasing problems with the suspension. (this is one of the reasons I was sticking with OEM wheels and 33" tires and not going up to 35's). I don't plan much "recreational wheeling" - this Jeep was purchased to get me to hunting and fishing spots off the beaten path, which may include hundreds of miles of highway travel to get there and back. It may at times include difficult terrain, but I'm not going to be seeking out off-road challenges just for the sake of testing my equipment.
If anyone has some recommendations as to how to proceed, I would LOVE to hear your opinions and thoughts. I now have a full set of JKR wheels with 32" BFG KM2 tires in very good shape (that I was planning to sell on CL) and 4 good JLR wheels and one messed up JLR wheel with 3 NEW BFG KO2 33" tires.
, the backspace and offset are nearly identical between the JK and JL wheels. The 285's on the JLR wheels are about 1.5" wider than the 255's on the JKR wheels.
1.5" Spidertrax Spacers?
How do I even go about making SURE that I won't have tire contact issues? Looking at this setup, I never would have thought that the sway bar link would have moved so much..
Thanks in advance for any advice you have for me.