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The Rubicon

1523 Views 18 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  DJSCJ79
Planning trip on the Rubicon in August, for those who have run it what was some of the mechanical failures that I could potentially perform some preemptive measures on or prepare for in advance on a TJ Unlimited Rubicon?
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You need rocker protection more sturdy than the stock sliders. An engine skid would not be out of place.

Aside from that, you don't really NEED anything. Stock TJs and LJs traverse the Rubicon Trail all the time. A Rubicon typically does so (because of the 4:1 low range) with less damage than a regular TJ/LJ.

If you have lots of extra money, a set of lower arms would be nice but not required. You can probably make multiple trips on the Rubicon before "using up" stock control arms.
How are you setup currently? I ran the Rubicon last spring/summer time frame and LOVED every part of it. I can't wait to go back there. I run an '05 LJ Rubi with 33's and every piece of under body armor I have is thrashed-well, CA mounts, diff's, etc. The Medic TT/Engine skid and Savvy gas skid did their jobs nicely with nothing other than a few scratches. The sliders got used a lot too so I'd say if you have that covered, you should be OK. It's because of that trip that I'm going to scrap my current suspension and rebuild entirely.

I run Rancho 9000 adjustable shocks and had my fittings mounted OUT thinking if I pointed them in, they'd contact the tube. I sheered both of them off the rears in quick order so after installing the manual knobs, left them where they were. I bent both my lower arms as well. Oh-also sliced one of my BFG MT's. They have over 55K on them now though so I'm not surprised. Blew a bead (my own stupidity) but other than that, faired pretty well. My engine was throwing misfire codes pretty good for a bit and it actually killed me coming down one obstacle that I'm pretty sure is where the arms up front bent. When the engine died, I fell off a rock and landed pretty hard on the front end.

The part about "stock" TJ/LJ's traversing the Rubicon I would like to see. We were told the second day at Rubicon Springs that we were just a couple hours at most from a paved road, so I opted to stay the night (for the 3rd night) thinking we'd get out early and get a good start home for our long journey back to WA. When we started out up Cadillac, two mostly stock TJ's were hung up at the bottom switchback, just up a hair from there. It took us most of the morning and into the afternoon to get the two of them out. They said they'd just made it to the springs and decided it was too much for their rigs, so they spent the night and headed back out the next morning. From what we had just done the two days prior, this was I think about the easiest section to cover. I'm not saying it's NOT possible by any stretch, just that I don't think I'd want to do it in a bone stock rig-you'd be pretty well trashed by the time you made it out. I think the setup I have is about the minimum I'd feel comfortable with knowing I had a 1400 mile drive back home.

A JK spent a few nights on the trail if I recall for a broken shaft on his steering gear-sheered it right off where the pitman arm attaches. His buddies in highly modified JK's made a few trips in and out trying to get back to him unsuccessfully. I bet TenaciousTJ could give you more details-I'm a little fuzzy at this point, and he and MTDirk spent another few days down there. Regardless, it was a bad break and tough recovery. A mostly stock old Willy CJ made it about 1/4 mile in before blowing his rear end and needing to be towed back out.

If you are armored well and have a small lift with at least 33's, I don't think you'll have any trouble other than some grindage underneath. I sure had a blast and it was one of, if not THEE most fun I'd had on a wheeling trip yet. That scenery there, the wheeling, the good company of some good friends, the trail itself-absolutely incredible. I LOVED every bit of it and can not wait to go back. Honestly, if I had a choice between going back Moab tomorrow or the Rubicon, I'd take the Rubicon hands down.

Be sure to take plenty of food, water, clothing just in case and some tools to be safe. Plan for two days on the trail minimum-you'll have a blast for sure and may want to stay longer. I bet you could do it in one LONG day but it wouldn't be as much fun I don't think as taking your time.

Have a blast and be sure to post up a ton of pics!!!

Best of Luck,

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As a matter of fact, every Jeep since the later AMC CJ-5 and up until the "Trail Rated" badges started getting attached, was offroad tested on the Rubicon Trail, as part of the standard tests for a new Jeep vehicle. So YES every Wrangler up to and including the TJ (in Summer 1995) and even XJ's and ZJ's have been driven over the Rubicon - and they had to complete the trip without breaking.

The drivers were the Jeep factory drivers. That's the variable here. Let's just say that with very experienced drivers, all the Wranglers have traversed the Rubicon without suffering damage. Unmodified XJ's and ZJ's even did so although they had dented/scratched rockers.

As you discovered, it's not a good first technical trail for a new Jeep owner - and fundamentally, armor underneath does nothing to increase the offroad capability, it's only purpose is to compensate for the driver's lack of skill.

The really hardcore Jeepers don't even traverse the Rubicon in Summertime when it's so crowded, they wait for Winter and do the "Snowbicon" trip.
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Drivetrain: OEM Ft Axle Shafts, 10 factory rear shafts, TW driveshafts at both ends
Suspension: 4" ft, 5" rear, short arms, TFP LCA, OEM UCA, Bilstein shocks
Armor: 1/4 plate DYI at both ends and on the side
Driving experience: over 3 decades, unless you count my unofficial farm time then it's 4
Tires/Wheels: 1 inch spacers with 295 (33.4") BFG A/T's
Trip plan: 3 days on the trail, 1.5 to get there and 1.5 to get back

No issues with control arm mounts, track bar mounts ripping off? Tie rod ends holding up? O'yeah I have the big daddy tie rod as well. I don't have an engine skid and ran some gnarly trails, maybe I ought to rethink that one
C4, sounds like if you use sound judgment you will be fine. Slow and easy wins the race. Bring spares if you can of axles and Ujoints.
C4-you should be very well equipped. While I didn't have any on ME, it was sound advice above to carry spare axle/joint setup. I didn't break, nor have issues with that at all. Yes, my CA mounts are all trashed on the LCA's, but aside from bending the arms up front-again, due to engine misfire and dieing on the obstacle then falling off, everything would have been fine had that not happened. Aside from damaged mounts of course. I don't think you should worry about tearing mounts from frames or anything like that-a sensible wheeler knows their limits. Sounds like you have a great trip lined up. I'm envious!

I cannot comment on the following statement:

"So YES every Wrangler up to and including the TJ (in Summer 1995) and even XJ's and ZJ's have been driven over the Rubicon - and they had to complete the trip without breaking. "

other than to say it's not entirely accurate.

Again, I'm NOT saying by any stretch of the imagination that a stock rig couldn't do the trail, just that I wouldn't want to do it knowing I had to drive the same rig 1400 miles back home. Maybe I'm just "overly cautious"??? I've spent many nights miles from nowhere in a disabled rig in the past-perhaps I'm just getting old. :laugh:

On the engine skid-may not be "absolutely needed" but I'd sure feel better having it. Mine was used a fair amount. Then again, I don't think I really took any of the bypasses, and was running with guys on 37s.

Have a GREAT trip-it is a blast!!!

Best of Luck,

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C4, I have never run the entire Rubicon. I have only gone in from the Tahoe side to the lake and back out that way, twice. I think it's about 8 miles in. It's always been on Labor Day weekend and the trail was absolutely crowded with rental ATV groups.

I was on 265's but if you notice my sig you will see I do have a lot of other stuff.

Based on my limited experience on a partial trail, I would give serious consideration to installing an engine skid. The other stuff, like the broken brackets, could happen on just about any of the harder trails you have probably run in Moab as they could on the Rubicon. If you've spent any time in Area BFE or maybe gone over to GJ and run 21 Road or some of the other trails in Mesa County then you will definitely be good to go on the Rubicon. Hec, you may even find it a little anti-climatic.

I was very lucky my 1st time. I met a group that was from Torrance and Alhambra, CA and they helped me a bunch. They were very cool.

You can read all kinds of stories. People with stock Rubi's make the whole trail without issue. People with hardcore rigs that flop on their side. I think there was a women's group that ran it in Hummer's a couple years ago. The Jeep Jamboree has a run and provides Jeeps to the participants.

I think you should be be fine. Have fun!

Almost forgot. I was told to be very aware of rattle snakes. I haven't seen any there but I was told there are plenty.
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LOL, the buzz worms can't be any worse than they are in Utah and Arizona. Ran into plenty of them, a few times within 2 or 3 feet for a few minutes. One time while I was relieving myself. Talk about putting a knot in it. :D Never fails either that it's the time that I don't have my 40. Thanks for all the advice, I'll be the small one in the bunch for sure. All the knuckleheads I'm going with are running on 37's and 40's.
In fact (whether anybody wants to believe it or not) the de-facto factory test for new Jeep models was the Rubicon Trail. The last new model to be so tested was the TJ, and the original tests are well-documented in various 4x4 magazines. The TJ was still in production when Jeep built and began using a new test track in place of the Rubicon trail, and the "Trail Rated" badges represent Jeep models (except the TJ) which did not get initial testing on the Rubicon trail.

About the 5th or 6th time they traverse the trail, a skillfull driver approaches this level of performance, adding little or no "character" (aka trail damage) to his Jeep.

IMHO Moab is a better place to hone driving skills, on shorter trails with more variety in obstacles. If you want Rubicon-like terrain, but without the crowds, try the Dusy-Ershim trail. You can literally go for days and see nobody.
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Kaiser has a pretty accurate account of stock jeeps doing the Rubicon. The "without damage" part is the debatable term though.

If by "damage" you mean "mechanically functioning properly" then yes...
body damage on the other hand....not so much. :wink:

I'm pretty sure it was a "testing ground" used by the AMC engineers around the mid seventies that kind of evolved into a measuring stick for them and was passed on. I can tell you that I first heard about it back when I was a kid.

I can also tell ya that they also did extensive testing in very cold extreme climates also. Testing for the XJ included leaving one parked for a few days/weeks in -20 to -40 temps and then driving them around.

This forum and the Rubicon model EXIST because a couple Jeep engineers took a bean counter to that trail in a slightly modified TJ and had him drive it on that trail.

My commander has a trail rated badge...but they literally DRUG it though the trail and D/C engineers decided to drop that trail as a "Jeep" measuring stick...and use a badge instead.
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I ran the Con in a 93 yj with ARB's front and rear on 33's, , D35 c clip rear. I was careful and not at all afraid to stack a rock or two. I carried spare axels just in case. I had no problem. If you are careful and take your time and don't go alone, you should be fine. The climb out of the Springs can be tough.
I've run it twice now, and the only mechanical failure was a not-very-fun one... Last time, my driver side front brake line got a pinhole leak that opened up just as we were pulling up to Little Sluice. Had to cap it off and drive the rest of the trail with very limited braking ability. Pretty scary!

Failure was caused by the brake line rubbing on the Full Craption relocation bracket.
The trail changes all the time. Even between June and August it could be very different in parts. There is a ton of snow up there which means after the runoff you can expect more changes this year. Sounds like you are going after the Jeep Jambo so you'll be fine. After they get those bazillion jeeps through threre, it almost becomes like a paved road (I'm exagerating!)

The rubicon is not that technical .. the whole thing is just very grueling couple (or 3) days of very very slow crawling over boulders. Jeep Rubicons are pretty much made for that terrain. 4LO, locked up, 1st or 2nd gear and just point and go.

So you shouldn't expect any more mechanical failures than most common trails (axle shafts, ujoints, steering linkages, shocks and shock mounts type stuff).

1. Tires tires tires. That's why you go in a group. It is easy to blow the bead or lose a sidewall since you will be airing down quite a bit.
2. As mentioned, rockers and corner protection (assuming you care)
3. Oil pan protection for stock TJ Rubicons (my oil pan skid plate and control arms took a beating when I was stock)
4. Steering box skid would be a good idea. The front can smash down on rocks.
5. Diff cover protection

I have seen people there with everything ranging from snapped ujoints, to blown up axle pumpkins, to granaded transmissions and t-cases, to rollovers (mostly flops), etc. But the most challenging thing at the Rubicon is the traffic. If you pick the wrong weekend, there could be hundreds of other rigs on there (so check major club events). Otherwise, most of the summer the trail is well traveled and help usually not far away.
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By the way when I say not that "technical", it doesn't mean its not hard. :) It is harder than most trails because you have to be focused like all the time. If you are focused, careful, and deliberate about your lines, you will make it over everything easy. But as soon as you lose focus, or rush, or don't pay attention to your lines, the trail WILL get you.

In the 5 or 6 times I have run it in the last few years I haven't had any major problems thankfully. I did blow the bead once and as I said, when stock my lower control arms took a beating but I did drive it about 400 miles (at the time) home and then swapped the lower control arms later. We've also never had to leave anyone behind in our groups though we have had to fix bent tie rods, weld back broken brakets (shock or rear track bar mount type stuff), swap snapped u-joints, and deal with bad steering parts (PSC hydro) etc. Also one of the toyotas once blew a bierfield joint on the gravel part driving OFF the trail! The thing locked up literally a few hundred yards or so from pavement after 3 days of trail work :)
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As noted earlier, a jamboree runs it in stock rented rubicons. I've read several times that they don't airdown and don't disconnect. The trail is so well stacked and smoothed by trail guides that it is quite doable. I believe the trail gets smoother/easier as the season progresses due to the many jamborees. I've driven it on 33's/3'' lift in early June. It was tough, but I had great spotting. No damage and made the return trip back to WA. Sounds like you'll be capable.
Also, Buck island is the greatest camp site imo. It's about half way and way less mosqitos.
seapahn said:
it almost becomes like a paved road (I'm exagerating!)
Maybe you are BUT maybe not. Funny you used the term "paved road". I'm sure you know all about the "paving" going on as a result of CAO. I'm not going to drag up all the politics. Del Albright has a great site for info. I also read the Mountain Democrat.

There are some seriously dedicated volunteers that have put many hours into doing their best to help to keep the trail open. A trail that happens to be a county rd.
I will say the trail has had a lot of maintenance done to it recently that will help with water run off and in turn did smooth out the trail. But I think the integrity of the trail is still there.

So just stay focused like the others have said and you will do fine. Stay away from liquid courage and please clean up after yourself. There is and will be patrol on the Con. :D
"LOL, the buzz worms can't be any worse than they are in Utah and Arizona. Ran into plenty of them, a few times within 2 or 3 feet for a few minutes. One time while I was relieving myself. Talk about putting a knot in it. Never fails either that it's the time that I don't have my 40. Thanks for all the advice, I'll be the small one in the bunch for sure. All the knuckleheads I'm going with are running on 37's and 40's."

Sorry--couldn't pass this one up---
"Talk about putting a knot in it" and "I'll be the small one in the bunch for sure" LOL LOL LOL
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