Preparing a Jeep for 1,000 miles of desert

Jp Magazine - - Nena Knows Jeeps - By Nena Bar­low jped­i­[email protected]­ Pho­tog­ra­phy: Nena Bar­low

The first year of the Re­belle Rally was 2016, and Emily Miller of Rod Hall Racing

had put to­gether an all-women’s off-road rally last­ing seven days and covering more than 1,000 miles of desert roads. The com­pe­ti­tion would not be for speed, but for nav­i­ga­tional ac­cu­racy us­ing only a map and com­pass—no GPS al­lowed. I was asked to prep some Jeeps for that first Re­belle Rally and de­cided to com­pete as well, and I have ever since. Hav­ing com­pleted our third year in the rally, we have fine-tuned an ap­proach to preparing a Jeep for such an en­deavor.

Since the tires are what ac­tu­ally touch the ground, we start there and work our way up to the steer­ing and sus­pen­sion com­po­nents. We in­spect and tighten all of our con­trol arm mounts, tie-rod ends, ball joints, steer­ing col­umns, track bar mounts—any­thing that at­taches the frame to the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing—to proper torque spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Shocks and springs are next, and any­thing that looks ques­tion­able gets re­placed. Air fil­ters (don’t for­get cabin air fil­ters), oil fil­ters, dif­fer­en­tial fluid, trans­mis­sion fluid, and trans­fer case fluid are all checked and cleaned, topped off, or re­placed.

Fi­nally, we look at what ad­di­tional equip­ment will be needed for self-suf­fi­ciency. On the Re­belle Rally, teams can have me­chan­i­cal or re­cov­ery as­sis­tance with the push of a but­ton, but they pay for it in penal­ties, so it’s good to be as self-suf­fi­cient as pos­si­ble. Re­cov­ery de­vices such as trac­tion boards, ki­netic rope, and ap­pro­pri­ate screw-pin bow shack­les and soft shack­les are a musthave. The fac­tory Wran­gler jack can be used to lift the axle high enough to change

a flat or get the vehicle un­stuck from many high-cen­tered sit­u­a­tions. We don’t pro­vide Hi-Lift jacks, but we rec­om­mend that par­tic­i­pants carry one if they know how to use it prop­erly and safely. The same goes for winches.

Be­yond the min­i­mum vehicle ba­sics, you should think about what spe­cific spare parts might be needed for your rig, as well as how to change them out in the field when you’re tired and hun­gry, at night, in the rain. Truly, the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenge of any long-dis­tance trek like the Re­belle Rally is over­com­ing the men­tal and phys­i­cal fa­tigue to make smart nav­i­ga­tion and driv­ing de­ci­sions for 10 hours a day, many days in a row.

Mas­sachusetts MJ

Rayn­ham, Mas­sachusetts, is home to Marc Her­bert and his 1987 Jeep Co­manche Chief. He swapped in a 1996 4.0L H.O. en­gine, and it has the Aisin-Warner AW4 au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and an NP231 trans­fer case with the Tom Wood’s Su­per Duty rear yoke elim­i­na­tor con­ver­sion. He runs 4.56 gears and ARB Air Lock­ers front and rear, and he has over 7 inches of over­all lift with a com­bi­na­tion of spring-over rear and 4.5-inch springs up front. This helps him eas­ily clear the 35-inch BFG MT tires. Marc tells us he still has a few tweaks to make here and there.

Past and Present

Joe Kor­piewski from South Dakota shared both of his Jeeps with us. His vin­tage 1947 CJ-2A is a full frame-off restora­tion with the ad­di­tion of a pair of vin­tage seat­belts from a 1958 fly­ing boat. He also sent in his daily driver 2006 LJ that he has cruised from Florida to Alaska and many places in be­tween. His LJ is out­fit­ted with a 2.5-inch lift and 33-inch BFG tires.

Bayou Baby

Sum­mer Cou­ture from Mar­rero, Louisiana, sent in her 2017 Jeep JKU named “Teeter.” This is her daily driver and ad­ven­ture vehicle. Teeter is equipped with a 3.5-inch Ru­bi­con Ex­press lift, Bil­stein 5100 shocks, 5.13 gears, an Ea­ton ELocker in the rear, an Aussie locker in the front, and Ten Fac­tory chro­moly axle­shafts.

East Coast LJ

Mark Stout from New Hamp­shire gave us limited in­for­ma­tion on his 2005 Jeep Wran­gler Un­lim­ited Ru­bi­con. It’s the Sa­hara edi­tion, and he tells us it is num­ber 336 of 1000 and only has 37,000 miles on it. Mark added a 4-inch Rough Coun­try X-Se­ries lift, Smit­ty­bilt front bumper, Smit­ty­bilt X20 winch, KC Grav­ity Pro lights, Adams drive­shafts, and 33x12.50x15 Goodyear MT/R tires.

Squeaks—It’s a Jeep­Thing

Marco Sierra didn’t tell us what part of the world he and his Jeep known as “Squeaks” call home, but he did give us the low­down on his build. Marco has owned the 2001 TJ for more than 14 years. Un­der the hood is a mostly stock 4.0L backed by a five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion and a 4-speed At­las trans­fer case. A pair of Dana 44 axles with ARB Air Lock­ers and 4.56 gears have been beefed up with chro­moly shafts. The sus­pen­sion is a Rock Krawler X Fac­tor 3.5-inch long-arm kit with a 5-inch rear stretch and Fox re­mote-reser­voir shocks. Squeaks runs 35x12.50R15 BFG KM2 tires on Race­line bead­locks.


Tra­verse City, Michi­gan, res­i­dent Terry Biglin sub­mit­ted his 2004 Jeep TJ. He bought the Jeep in 2005 and be­gan mod­i­fy­ing it right away. Terry pieced to­gether a 4-inch sus­pen­sion he calls a “Franken­stein” lift to clear the 33-inch tires, and he told us the rear axle is a Su­per 35 with a Detroit Locker and the front 30 sports a True­trac. It has a cus­tom front bumper with a VR8000 winch. He fre­quents Drum­mond Is­land in Michi­gan and at­tended the 2017 Jeep Jamboree there.

Sal­vaged Scram­bler

Pre­ston Rhea from Auburn, Cal­i­for­nia, re­sponded to our In­sta­gram call to ac­tion for Jeep Shots. He sent in his 1984 Jeep CJ-8 Scram­bler he res­cued from a lo­cal shop where it had been sit­ting for many years. He has done a lot of work to get it back on the road. With a 1995 EFI 4.0L it is Cal­i­for­nia smog-le­gal. It sports a T5 trans­mis­sion and a stock Dana 300 trans­fer case. The Dana 30 front has 4.88 gears and a Spar­tan locker, and the AMC 20 rear has one-piece axle­shafts and a Spar­tan locker. Old Man Emu springs with shackle con­ver­sions on all four cor­ners make up the sus­pen­sions mods.

Jeep­ers for Life

Bill and Jan Finkel from High­lands Ranch, Colorado, sent in their 2015 Wran­gler JKU Ru­bi­con. They have been wheel­ing for 40 years on trails in Colorado and around the coun­try. They were with Jp Mag­a­zine on the 2017 Dirt ’N Drive event and were cho­sen for 2018, but un­for­tu­nately couldn’t at­tend. “Red Dog” is equipped with a

BDS lift, Rock­Hard bumpers, and rides on Goodyear MT/R tires.

1. What will your Jeep have to en­dure for 1,000 miles of desert? 2. How old are your tires?The date is the last four dig­its, “1517” in this case, which means this tire was pro­duced in the fif­teenth week of the year 2017. In our dry en­vi­ron­ment, and in our com­mer­cial world, we don’t like to see a tire that is more than 3 years old. 3. Ex­tra front lower con­trol arm skid­plates are cheap and easy in­sur­ance against un­for­giv­ing desert rocks. 4. Don’t just look at all of your bolts; torque them with a wrench. Some­times things don’t ap­pear loose, but a mere quar­ter­turn can make a dif­fer­ence. Also, have a friend turn the steer­ing wheel back and forth while you ob­serve the bush­ing move­ment on track bars, con­trol arms, and all steer­ing com­po­nents.5. Air fil­ter, cabin air fil­ter, and oil fil­ters should be clean to start a long trip. We of­ten shake or blow out air fil­ters mid-trip, too. 6. This road doesn’t look that tough, but drive “wash­board” like this for 30 miles and then care­fully feel your shocks. The con­stant vi­bra­tion is fric­tion that can cook weak shocks to death. Make sure your shocks are large enough ca­pac­ity for your Jeep, and that they are in good shape be­fore you leave. 7. These are the ba­sic items that we stock ev­ery Re­belle Rally Jeep with, and this is part of a larger kit that goes in ev­ery guide Jeep.8. Trac­tion boards such as these Max­trax are in­valu­able in any soft sur­face—sand, mud, snow, or cin­ders. Make sure you have at least one trac­tion board.

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