THE ADDICTED TO DIRT DAILY DRIVER
Skulking around the interwebs (when the boss isn’t looking) is one way we get story ideas and project direction. But what we get asked the most from readers is along the lines of “I really want an off-road rig I can drive to work every day, what should I do?” In an effort to answer that, our buddy Zoran offered up his new-to-him 2015 JKU Sahara as fodder to our transmutational inspirations in an effort to get a Jeep that handles great, looks good, wheels like a champ and doesn’t require any special care. If you, or a friend, are asking this same question, you’ve come to the right place.
The basic JK Unlimited platform is a great starting point for stepping into the murky waters of lake “Addicted to Dirt” with a plethora of suppliers with quality parts and upgrades designed to enhance the experience. With the big man behind us calmly stating “Don’t f#%k up my Jeep. Or else.” We went with what we KNOW works. End goal; just enough lift to fit new 35" tires and wheels and properly mount a spare, fender flares to get ample tire coverage, a quiet exhaust system that keeps the vitals out of harm's way, bumpers to deflect rocks and keep the sheet metal intact, and new peepers so we can ditch the horrific factory
lights. Overall, a tall order. The best part? Zoran wanted to be able to do the work himself to learn his rig first hand.
Clayton Off Road received the first shot across the bow and we ordered a 2.5" Premium lift complete with FOX Adventure series shocks. The basic kit desires nothing and we have great past experiences not only in dealing with the guys at Clayton Off Road but all of their products as well. They are known in the industry for using “unconventional” heavy wall square tubing control arms instead of the typical round tubing. Clayton didn’t go the square route for aesthetics or to reduce costs, as it’s more expensive to machine and create the weld bungs, but it is much stronger. Those weld bungs carry either Currie Enterprises “Johnny Joints” or an OE style rubber insert for a factory like feel. The boxes that arrive also contain beefy relocation brackets for the rear track bar, a complete set of Crown Steel Braded brake lines and JKS sway bar end links. No welders required.
What we really enjoy about Clayton Off Road and their products is the complete lack of BS and hype. In a world where everyone is trying to reinvent the wheel, they do as we do and use what they KNOW are top shelf components and designs. This is why you see many other manufacturer's parts in their designs without the need to cover that up.
The properly selected springs included with the kit have a slightly stiffer coil rate then the stock units and allow for the addition of some heavier equipment like bumpers and armour to be added without wearing out the springs prematurely.
For proper tire coverage, we went to Rugged Ridge for a set of Hurricane flares with a smooth finish. Here on the west coast, provincial laws require that we cover exposed tread with flares and/or mud flaps and in our experience, arguing with an officer is not how to plead your case… EVER! The flares were dropped off at White Stag Autobody in Kelowna, BC for a fresh coat of gloss black paint. The flexible and easy to install flares fit our requirement to a “T”. Unlike solid flares made of steel or aluminum, these will flex out of the way if bumped on the trail as opposed to transferring the force into the expensive Jeep sheet metal, but to ensure the paint will last through these movements, they need to be prepped and painted properly, which White Stag did.
Tires and wheels were an easy pick for us; we have been riding on Nitto tires for a number of years in different rigs and Trail Grapplers in a 35X12.5X17 were our match for this exploit. A tough and proven carcass with 3 ply sidewalls provide the strength, and a tread design with enough siping to keep the surface cool for long life and deter hydroplaning and chunking hit the mark. We’re always amazed when it comes time to balance a set of Nitto tires, as they never seem to require much weight. This can be attributed to the factories fully automated manufacturing process that creates such uniform tires. Keep an eye out for a full review once we beat on these a little more. The red lettering on this particular set was done by the artistically deprived Editor Irons with the use of a Tire Penz paint pen we scored at Canadian Tire for peanuts. We’ll see how well it lasts, but it was a fun art project that we’d be proud to mount on our rig.
For wheels, we went back to Rugged Ridge for a set of 17X9" XHD wheel in Gunmetal Grey. The wheel is designed specifically for the JK platform with a -12mm offset, which widened our track width slightly, but allows full movement without any rubbing. We ordered the powder coated “Rim Protectors” as a sacrificial lamb should Zoran get bashing the wheels into the rocks and chewing up the aluminum. For around $75 CAD, complete with stainless hardware, it was a no-brainer. For a little added protection and some colour, we took the rings to Liquid Venom Hydrographics for a colour matching spray and a dip in the tank. We chose a design called High Compression and the finished product speaks for itself. Now if/when the wheels get some trail scars, it will be much harder to tell and the Jeep won’t look like a rolling red dumpster.
A few other small, but very important items made their way into the shopping cart. A heavy-duty cast aluminum tire carrier from Rugged Ridge was an easy bolt on and a great way to secure a meaty 35" tire without bending the rear sheet metal. Rugged Ridge also drew us in with an in-dash phone holder for the JK to allow Zoran to keep his GPS tracking in sight at all times.
Another MUST is a way to adjust the JK computer to compensate for the larger tires' size and also be able to alter other features. We have used AEV’s ProCal module in the past, and will again in the future. Easy-to-alter parameters and simple operation make the Pro-Cal the most cost effective module on the market. From adjusting TPMS alarm set points to altering your day time running lights; the compact module and simple instructions are perfect for a growing project.
The very last list item this time around is the exhaust system. Personally, we HATE that the engineers decided to mount the beer keg sized muffler to the very back of the JK’s. It’s nothing more than a rock magnet and has to go. Most of the systems we see on the market for the JK are too noisy and sound horrific. Dynomax had the answer with the “Quiet Crawler” designed to keep the 2.5" mandrel bent system out of the dirt and your eardrums. A single stainless muffler and resonator replace the factory JK system from the catalytic converter back to the single polished 3" tip. The install took less then 20 minutes with the hardest part being removing the old scrap iron out from under the Jeep.
With all the parts in Editor Irons' shop, we went to work on a cold winter weekend to get all this installed. Here are the highlights, and watch out for a future issue where we ditch the plastic bumpers, lose the pliable rocker guards and finally get rid of the worst headlights ever installed in a Jeep. We can’t wait! >>>