Alrighty, now that we've been back in town, I should should probably share how our first Easter Jeep Safari went!
So... while we didn't have everything set up yet, this was a last minute shakedown trip... and it happened to coincide with EJS. Everything worked out with hotel redemptions, and with a fresh suspension setup, we couldn't resist. The question became - do we trust Banner to carry the entire family?
We didn't have a rear bumper yet (it was on order), so we had to put the spare in the trunk.... so the boys got to ride at the perfect height for max visibility.
We made it down to Moab without too much incident - but we did pick up a minor gremlin! After we got to the hotel, the rear diff locker intermittently came on in 2-HI and would not disengage. We couldn't find any obvious electrical or pneumatic issue, so we performed the tried and true emergency repair process number one: we turned it off and back on again... and it seemed to have resolved itself. (We essentially just cycled the diff locker several times).
We usually always start each Moab trip with an easy trail - our favorites are Onion Creek and Chicken Corners.
Because we were one our own... we even had a chance to pose!
The next day, we signed up to run Dome Plateau with the EJS group - it's a fun little touring trail that ends up at some caves on grazing land.
The moment the lil' dude realizes that it's another day on the trail.
Fun lil' story in the morning - we showed up to the meeting spot a bit early (as prescribed by the "first timers to EJS instruction manual")... and I was taken aback by the crowd that had already formed! The smallest rig was on 40s, and it was a full of influencers. We hop out in our lil' Jeep and join in on the riders' meeting, which was well documented by some serious professional cameras... and the hosts were talking about catered lunches. I finally asked around, and it turns out, we were too early and this was a privately sponsored run of Top of the World. Ooops.
There were still some famous and beefy rigs to check out though!
Finally, our EJS group started showing up, and we did the Safari version of Dome Plateau, that turned out to be a shorter half day route that hits the best sections. The best part? I didn't have to navigate the maze of trails up on the Plateau!
Yeah, these were our regular kind of rigs that we expected. It was a good sized group!
So far, we knew we hadn't challenged the LJ at all - but we were pleasantly surprised that he toured on the dirt roads just fine!
The next few days, we decided to test out the articulation.
Next up - Fins and Things ... one of the classic and easiest sandstone trails.... or as Blind calls it, Influencer Bait.
I didn't take my usual video since this was a public group run, but it's Fins and it's famous. My main goal this trip to was calibrate our butts to the new vehicle and suspension.... and erm, yeah.... Fins actually felt fun, tippy, and dare I say, even slightly dangerous! Yes!! With the new 4.5" lift, the LJ felt taller and with the front sway bars disconnected, you could feel every body roll on Fins. The best part though was that we could finally start running the more difficult lines on the trail.
After Fins, we hurried to the cti trailer to get our score!
The dog wasn't amused that he was left alone on the cti trailer.
Yay - the Metalcloak folks even complimented the installation saying, "Your installers did a great job!"
It was actually super useful to spend time with our suspension vendor and learning/talking about different parts that we would need. This articulation test was actually one of the chief reasons we came down to EJS - because apparently, the old school articulation ramps are scary.
We actually had Hells' Revenge on the docket for the next day, but we wanted to check out the vendor shows, concept vehicles and test rides... so we took a mid week break to bum around town and do some shopping.
My favorite out of the 2023 Jeep Concept Vehicles was the yellow Cherokee 4xe. Here are some of the details that may not have made it into the myriad of official promo shots...
During the Big Nasty, Banner the LJ actually surprised us. With front and rear lockers, we didn't actually need to use any speed! He totally was able to steadily and slowly crawl those rocks. Color me impressed...
For this trail loop, we found out we were going to be going down Wipeout Hill ...
Here's how it looks from the bottom:
Here's some onboard footage going down the obstacle. (I was focused on calibrating my butt so I didn't hop out to take any good video)
Honestly, in the video, you can see how well organized the group ride was.
With each obstacle, we got to know the LJ more and more every day. Our confidence increased, and on the last day, and we went to the group ride for Steel Bender.
It was super exciting because this was a completely new trail for both of us tucked away on the east side of the city.
Its most famous obstacle is called the Fall... which is essentially a vertical cliff drop about 2 meters high (with an undercut).
With our wheelbase, we asked to be strapped in - cheers to our wonderful trail gunners in the Gladiator.
What they don't mention about Steel Bender is that ... it's a relentless trail. You're constantly traveling between the rock layers, and it's essentially nonstop boulder fields and obstacles. You rarely get to take a breather with a sandy wash or small plateau.
We struggled through some of the obstacles... and erm, there were loud noises. (To be fair, @Blind_Io was getting used to offroading back in an automatic after a two decades).
... and voila - it was a productive week down at EJS. I highly recommend testing n tuning a rig during a big event. We learned a lot from both the trails and the attendees.
On the way home, we got the call that our rear bumper was ready to be picked up and got our new shocks ordered.
Actually, funnily enough, as we rolled out, we even ran into our friend whose LJ originally inspired our build. We got to do the friendly neighborhood catchup ... on the freeway home. We got good at shouting and miming.
... but we finally got a clear day today, so I had a chance to conduct final damage assessment.
Smittybuilt bumper got some extra color!
Stock gas tank skid did its job.
New rear diff cover got a nice new ding... along with the aforementioned exhaust love tap.
I may have also lost a rear sway bar bolt. Oops.
I didn't tighten it properly during the suspension install, but after one failed trip to the dealership*, I should have some correct ones on the way from ebay.
Overall, not bad.
* Yo, Mopar - I know it's been almost 20 years since the parts fiche was published... but if ya update a part, it would be nice if you updated the part number as well. Luv, your friendly neighborhood ninjamonkey
We also have some fun non-fix-the-fuckup projects in queue.
It's also the most unproductive update ever 'cause behold plastic covered parts!!
We went with a ExpeditionOne rear bumper + tire carrier. #shoplocal
Oh, and the A shocks came in too!
These fuckers are beefy too. Online reports were estimating waits of 6-9 months... but we were super lucky to meet a rep straight from the manufacturer who "checked the back warehouse" and shipped these to us like 2 days later.
Since this is my first foray into off road shocks, and I wasn't sure if I needed to order anything custom or specially valved. The rep listened to our setup and use case (i.e., kiki freaking out about whether we'd need special valves), hid a faint smile, and confirmed we'd be fine with an out of the box catalog item.
Funnily enough, these are marketed as part of the "OEM Performance Series"...
Banana for scale... and OEM performance my daisy yellow fucking ass!
Finally, in case anyone is wondering why everything is still covered in plastic and why I haven't just thrown on the shocks in the time it takes me to write this post... it's because we apparently have ratified yet another house garage rule: do not disassemble any four wheeled vehicle if said vehicle is the only one that works.
When did the rescue project become the sole working vehicle? No idea but yes, I'd question our decision making skills as well.
Hnnnngh, those King shocks are gucci as hell. Amazing units, the only reason they call them "OEM Performance" is that they include the mounting bits to install them to your factory mounts - same internals as their regular smoothbodies with remote res.
Thanks all - I'm looking forward to getting everything installed and getting the utility out of the parts... instead of just staring at 'em. We have the spare fuel can carrier coming next week, so after that, I should have a healthy weekend worth of projects to install.
Oooh that makes more sense about the OEM fitment for the shocks! It was funny - I wasn't sure what exactly was going to be in the box (I blame some of the King shops out there with their myriad of custom options), but apparently, for the TJs/LJs, they offer 2.5s ... which puts 3.0s in perspective for the biiiiggg trucks.
I'm honestly looking forward to learning how to rebuild these shocks with hand tools at home. We'll see - that's the plan at least.
I'm just am glad to have some rebuildable shocks - I learned from Blind's setup with having spare coilovers on hand, which has been super helpful anytime his primaries needed to be serviced.
Because the spare fuel can carrier has transportation ability, I was given the all clear to put Banner on stands again. Shocks are all on!
Fronts went on pretty smoothly:
The rear shock mounts were a pain... even though we just had them off. They sure look beefy though!
We took the driver rear apart and confirmed that we needed offset brackets from King because we have the larger fuel tank. It was cute - I love the "Anyway" in the installation instructions:
No problem - I got those ordered from our awesome rep (holy crap, their customer service is fantastic), and the new brackets arrived when we were outta' town.
We got home and got the new brackets installed. The rear upper shock mount bolts are notorious for stripping out - which we previously discovered during our suspension upgrade (during the previous owner's suspension install, they had stripped out the upper shock mounts so now it's a 12 & 14mm up top)... so Blind had to modify the bracket. Easy peasy.
Then, we got the bracket tightened up - which was an adventure by itself. Long story short -
Good: I have very small hands that can fit into tight spaces.
Bad: I also suck at spatial reasoning and managed to get the ratchet end stuck between the frame and the upper shock mount bolt. Rookie mistake.
We almost ran out of open wrenches to get the ratchet unstuck... but we got the rear top mounted.
The rear bottom shock mount bolt is actually an M12 metric bolt ... but guess what happens when we try to get the bolt in there after Blind does his herculean shock curl up? The factory bolt no longer fits now because the bottom of the king shocks turned out to be a 7/16. SAE strikes again!
Anyways .... I will say, the new shocks feel fantastic - we have everything set to super soft, and it's been performing really well on the street.
Oh, and my first order of business after getting the new shocks installed?