Lana - My Jeep Build
I joined the Jeep world Fall 2016, knowing I needed a vehicle that could keep up with my lifestyle. I wanted a vehicle that could take me to some amazing place. Deep off the grid, crossing rivers, hammer through mud, and climbing mountains to access remote backcountry areas. So I purchased a used 2009 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. It was pretty much stock, but had a manual!
I am going the adventure rig route, because my Jeep is going to be my base camp. A place to call home, carry all of my gear, and work out of. I want to learn how to properly off-road her too. Given, I am not fully sure what truly needs to be done or where to start. I do know, I don't want a shop to just throw a lift and 35's on her. I want to put in the wrench time, learning about everything inside and out. Got my 2 year automotive technician degree during High School. Worked on cars on and off over the next 10+ years, at home. Working on my cars and friends/family's cars. Kind of forgot a lot, but I still have the mechanical understanding and ability to piece things together.
I'll figuring out what setup, addition, modification, or upgrades makes sense as things unfold. Also, by tapping into the amazing Jeep community! That's one of the biggest reasons why I went a Jeep route in the first place. Just a huge, welcoming, and helpful community of people around the world with some amazing builds. Builds and experience from all different routes. Rock crawlers, mudders, dune bashers, racers, overlanders, and all the other Jeepers builds out there. This is going to be fun!
Back in October 2016, I set off to get a Jeep. I had a Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which was apart of the emission scandal. I loved that car and it took me to every Minnesota State Park, but this gave me the perfect opportunity to make the switch. I opted in for the buyback. While I was waiting for my buyback date to come, I found a 2009 JKU Rubicon with a 6 speed and in the green color I wanted. Buuut it was in in Detroit, Michigan. I saw it online and instantly knew I wanted it. Plus it was $4,500 less compared to Minnesota market! This was an opportunity I didn't want to pass up, even though I still had my Jetta. Hopped on a plane with my dad, took it out for a test drive, fell in love, signed the dotted line, and hit the road home. Thankfully, my dad's side of the family lives in Grand Rapids, MI so we drove straight there to visit for a day or so. We then continued onward to my sister's place in WI for a few days. Finished out the drive to Minnesota and now a proud owner of a Jeep!
That's it for stock photos. You can find plenty more mixed within my adventures. Now to get this build going!
Stage 1: Getting Unstuck
My focus on this first stage was equipment to help get me unstuck when solo or with others. Had a rough parts list of what I wanted but was not fully sure what was the good stuff to get. Again, new to the whole Jeep thing. I have been following Jeep pages and forums to get a better idea of what others are doing. I came across Rob Spencer and really liked the direction he went with his build, expedition/overlanding over a crawler. I was reading different reviews on his website www.Venturethewild.com to dial in my parts list. I reached out to him with my list and he got back to me right away! So appreciated of individuals like him are out there! You can see the passion and love for Jeeps/Overlanding. Plus helping others get out on the trails with their rig. I bounced ideas off him, finally narrowed down my parts list, and I clicked the order button.
First, I Plasti Dipped my wheels, while I was waiting for my other parts to arrive. Seemed like a good way to get the looks I wanted but without the steep cost of new wheels set. Plasti Dip is a air dry rubber coating developed right here in Blaine, Minnesota. You can dip anything and everything. I got the standard black, which gave a slight textured look, love! I talked with multiple people about the product and everyone seemed to be really please with it. So I figured I would give it a shot and see how well it holds up Jeeping
Next up, front and rear bumpers! I went with Wilco Offroad. The MC2X front and rear aluminum chromoly composite option. I also added the aluminum recovery stinger for the front. The front is crazy light at 57 pound plus like 2 pounds if that for the stinger. This will keep my weight down but still supply front end protection, clearance, and a great platform for my winch. Rear is a little more beefy but still the aluminum option which is less weight over a full steel bumper. Plus same outstanding strength and awesome clearance.
Before I installed them I got all the chromoly and aluminum powder coated. I wanted an all black look instead of the two tone, since I like my Jeep to blend into nature over sticking out. I found a local guy Dayton Jacobson who hooked me up with awesome paint job! Super pleased how they turned out. I highly recommend him for your project.
Well I have to cut off that extra extension section to make this bumper work. No common thing to do with this bumper. Wilco Offroad was baffled by all of this, which they were incredibly helpful over the phone and email. Thanks guys!
Modifications done! Now time to bolt this baby on! Plus add on my Smittybilt X20-10 Comp Gen2 Winch with Synthetic Line, cut my hook to add Factor 55 Flatlink E, Warn D-shackles, and Optima Yellow Deep Cycle Battery all from Quadratec. Oh I also added the Wilco Offroad Fairlead which is Military grade Teflon® impregnated hard anodize finish to help reduce rope friction on sythetic lines. Makes For one sexy front end!
Stage one is complete! Now for a photo shoot :)
The Unexpected: Goodbye Clutch
Had a blast attending my first ever Jeep Jamboree event at the Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica, IN. During the first day, I snapped my transfer case cable towards the end of the day and smoked out my clutch the second day on a hill climb. You can read all about it on my journal entry. Clutch did not want to do anything at all. I was a sitting duck. I had to take it to a shop in Wisconsin. Sadly, I was not able to help due to legal reasons in the shop.. Makes sense and I get it, but I was hoping I could pull it out and helpout. Plus, learn some more about my setup. I at least got some photos during the process.
Shop: Frank Boucher Chrysler Dodge Jeep VW of Janesville, WI
Breakdown: Clutch Kit (pressure plate and disc), Flywheel, Pilot Bearing, Output Shaft Seal, Oxygen Sensor, Clutch Release Bearing, bunch of bolts/screws, and any other mics. parts to get the job done right.
Stage 2: Upping my Game
Time to start the second stage! I wanted to get a little more body clearance, since I kept getting hung up at my last two Jeep Jamboree events. So I got the Teraflex 2.5" Budget Boost with Shock Extensionsto see how that would work for me. Good amount of Jeepers said it was a good starting point, would also allow for bigger wheels down the road too. Oh got a K&N 77 Series High-Flow Performance Kit to help her breath a little better too. Instantly could tell a difference on the test ride. Oh also got a bunch of skid plates, but I am getting to those another time.
Pretty easy install. Took it for a test drive and WOW! Can fell and hear the difference. Always loved K&N!
Now time to get after that Teraflex boost.
Well crap that totally sucked.... So I put an order in for a set of Falcon Series 3.1 Piggy Back Shock Kit. Yeah I know kind of a jump. I am not one to replace stock with stock, since I know the end goal of my build. Think that would be a waste of money. Unless stock is the best options. But, pretty sure Falcon Shocks are better than stoc. Again, I know my end goal. I needed something that would last me a long long time. Along with handling the weight from all my gear and motorbike (coming 2018). As I was waiting for those to show up, I put on my Poison Spyder EVAP Skid Plate, since it is a pretty easy install.
Didn't even bother with photos really. Very straight forward, but the printed instructions pictures sucks ass. So look them up online, if you're not sure.
Now for the crown jewels! Here are some sexy new shocks :)
The shocks were so easy to put in! I do have to say, they look amazing! I got it all installed two nights before I took off for a day of wheeling in Indiana. That's where I got to put these upgrades to the test! Commandeered by Pirates will show all the wheeling fun we had :)
Naming of the Jeep - Lana
Kind of funny, I just spent the day wheeling with an awesome group of Jeepers, called themselves Pirates. The group formed from the Jeep Jamboree trail guides at Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica, Indiana. I was hanging out with few of the guys, when Jerry (creator of the club) and I start talking about Jeep (car) names. I mentioned how I didn't have one for my Jeep. I have thought about it but was never picked one..
On my 9-10 hour drive home Lana popped in my head. I started to think why Lana. Oh Archer. The T.V. Series that I love. Shit crakes me up and one of the main characters is named Lana. If you know the show, you know her personalty. If you don't, well I guess watch the show or ask me in person :)
Stage 3: Cover Your Belly Lana
After running a handful of trails, Jeep Jamboree events, and club rides I came to realize that I needed some extra underbody protection. JKUs are much longer and tend to get hungup high center and/or bash the crap out of the gas tank skid. My factory crossmember has been taking some serious pounding too. So I decided it was time to replace that along with the other skid plates and diff covers.
I went with the Extreme Heavy Duty Poison Spyder Crossmember as my replacement. It's beefy and can handle the abuse JKUs tend put on them. At the same time, I wanted to upgrade my diff covers as well. Got a pair of Poison Spyder Bombshell Diff Covers. I got both of those RAW. That way, I can paint them with POR 15, which is a rust preventative coating I found at my local auto shop. Painted all of this while doing my last build stage so I could get enough coats on and allow enough dry time.
BUT before doing all the skid plates was to replace the crossmember. That was actually super easy to do on the ground, but make sure to support your tranny/transfer case.
Ok the skid plate system was not cooperating at all... Shit is so heavy and trying to line stuff up was not happening. But with the use of a floor jack and extra hands from my dad we got it started before calling it a night. Next morning, I went at it again with a different approach, which was so much smoother. Then when I was doing final torquing the wrench slipped off and bashed me in the forehead. Splitting it open and popped my safety glasses clean off.. Nothing a little super glue could not fix :)
Now for the "easy" diff cover install. Again, got the Poison Spyder Bombshell diff covers RAW, which I painted them with POR 15. These sucker are beefy as heck and I pained mine all black, don't like to stand out. So the easy install goes: loosen the bolts, scrape the gasket off, spray the gears down, install, and fill them up back up with oil. Sounds easy right! Well on the rear of my Rubicon has the track bar that bends around the diff. There is no clearance to get a socket or wrench onto one of the bolts. Plus they over molded/constructed the material around the bolts, which I get adds protection, but they didn't leave enough space to fit a box end wench. So I had to remove my passenger rear wheel and disconnect the track back... Not something I wanted to do two days before I was going Jeeping. But whatever got to do what you got to do.
Stage 4: So Much More Room for Activities!
With me always on the go and always ready for adventure, I wanted to make a bed platform for while. Something about sleeping on my backpacking pads/mat just was not cutting it for me. I tend to have one shoulder hang off the pad, which is no biggy out in the backcountry. But when I am sleeping in my Jeep it kind of hit me like, "WTF am I doing", my shoulder would fall asleep. Plus I am taking up so much restate from being able to haul my gear. So platform just seemed like the right thing to have. I was first thinking about just making four legs, but didn't like the idea on how I would lose space with the one leg in the middle of the trunk. I could fit a paddle board under there if the leg was not there. I thought about a hammock, but could not stretch it far enough to sleep in it without sagging to the floor. Light bulb went off and I decided to make the platform floating, by utilizing some of my NRS straps (holds 1500lb per stap). So I built a platform out of discounted lumber from Home Depot, which they cut to my dimension, for FREE! Used left over screw from other projects we had in the garage. Then I got some felt on sale thanks to a lovey lady that hooked me up with her coupon, to wrap it the platform. That was to help smooth out the corners/edges and be a nice barrier for the straps to lay against. Plus gives it a nice finished look. Added a 4" heavy density memory foam pad, which I only had to cut off a few inches off the end, width was perfect. Finishing touch, was a Interstellar Connection Plush Blanked from iEDM, which I got to say turned out amazing and gave it an out of this world look :)
The Unexpected: The Rub
Alright here is the rub of my situation. I head a squeaky break around day 3-4 on my 4,800+ road trip, Hopping Around the Rockies. I originally though it was a rock. By the time I got into Utah it was still taking place. Ok this is not a rock, it has to be my pad, but I should be able to get through the road trip. Just a squeaky pad right..? Well I must have worn all of the pad away and ended up grinding on just the metal part. After a couple more thousand miles, the problem got worse (duh), until it stop making noise all together. Just like I thought, I lost the pad and was using my caliper piston for stopping. Thankfully, I have a manual and could engine brake my way home. I made the call to make the push home 983 miles across Nebraska and up Iowa home. Popped off both rear wheels to see what is going on.
Ended up replaces both rotors (upgraded to heat treated), pads (upgraded), and a caliper (OEM) on the driver rear side. The emergency brake pads looks to be in great shape, so I didn't do anything with those. Plus, as all Jeepers know that shit does not really work anyways lol. Tossed it all back together in 20 minutes, test drive, and called it a night. I also checked out the fronts, which a look for now. Once those wear out I am going to upgrade them to a bigger brake setup.
Stage 5: Getting That Air Flowing
So I have been having issues with overheating when off-roading. I have heard a ton of people that love their hood louver. So I decided it was time to cut some holes in the hood and add my own. I used Poison Spyders Hood Louver System, from Quadratec, which the template worked out fantastically! Love the final look and really excited to see how well it works out for me!
Stage 6: Getting that Front End Lined Up
So I was out wheeling around with my buddy Jay. I kept hearing this loud scraping sound whenever I was in 4WD. Took a look and saw I was missing a part to my U-Joint, kind of an important part to have. Knowing I was getting new tires the following week, I figured now it the time to give the front end controls an upgrade too!
I actually got my tires put on a few days before I started all of this. Tires were pretty shot and needed something new. Said that, 4 Wheel Parts was having a big sale on tires. Which I was able to get 2" bigger for the same price! Pretty sweet and put me just shy of a 35" (34.9" actually) and a tad wider. I also went with the BF KO2 All Terrain over the mud tires again, because I do a lot of winter driving. Mud tires don't work the greatest in snow. After I got them installed I added a fresh coat of Plasti-Dip to make them look brand spanking new again!
The Rub with Lana and I
I originally put Lana up for sale Spring 2019. Just felt to be too much vehicle for me, since I don't off road all that much, compared to years prior. Given, I still find myself getting stuck in mud, blasting through snowbanks, and driving 2 track dirt roads. The day to day driving seemed to be a bit much for her. Yeah, I love how much stuff I can pack in, strap my SUPs to the top, and hang stuff off the back. It's truly an ideal 4 person adventure rig for sure. I just think it is over kill to get me to work everyday, but my motorcycle helps a ton in the summer time. I looked into alternative options like trucks, vans, or bigger passenger cars. Came out to wash once built out or even more expensive. Spend more to save more. Somewhat all balancing out in the end. Plus, what I really want to do technology wise, is slowing coming out and everything is an automatic these days. I would lose part of what I have built over the years, in the direction I want to take my adventures. Further, deeper, higher, and longer trips. For paddling, hiking, hunting, fishing, or simply to take in the views. The open road of adventure. So Lana and I are sticking together and finishing what we started! Here are the photos from the for sale ad.
The Build Continues - SUB Relocation
So I decided to keep Lana. Her and I are looking to take on the TransAm Trail, but our version of it. Maps are ordered and I am waiting to do a ton of planning. In the meantime, I decided to relocate my Subwoofer, using only what I had laying around in the garage. Had a piece of aluminum diamond plate, which I made a template out of cardboard first. Then scored and bent the diamond plate to make a nice little bracket to relocate the sub up on the wheel-well.
DIY Tailgate Table
After my long road trips, I knew I wanted a tailgate table. Just for these quick meals, extra space to help with packing my bag, and just nice to have in general. I didn't need anything super fancy or expensive, which I looked on YouTube to see what others are doing. I came across a few sweet builds and took their ideas and made it into my own. Utilized scrap plywood from when I made my bed. I purchased a $3-4 hinge and $3 magnet (26lb holding force), and some $6 Gorilla Mounting Tape (30 lb holding force). Did the Japanese fire burning technique on the wood and added a few super thick layers of poly. Screwed the hinge onto the board and used the mounting tape on the tailgate, so I didn't have to dill into my tailgate. Little paracord on the one side to stop the table at level. Magnet is added to the one corner to "lock" it in place when not using. So the whole build is under $30 to make, instead of those $300+ ones on the market. Not going to lie, I think it looks awesome!
Fixing that pesky pre-rust crap
After a few Minnesota winters I started to notice a few areas that needed some attention. First, was my winch. Second, was my door hinges, which also were getting pretty tough to open/close. No joke people had to use two hands or their body to close my rear passenger side door.
Swaying Upgrade - Antirock!
We me taking on the TransAm Trail I wanted to switch out to the Currie Antirock Sway Bar System, since I will be offroad more than on pavement. Given, I heard these do great on pavement for daily drives, from what my buddy told me who has this system. I went the aluminum everything I could get, to help prevent rust. Plus, gives it a sweet look. Install is a cake walk, but my Wilco Offroad front bumper no longer works. They taper the sides right into the sway bars, which I had to modify to work with my factory system already. Antirock is even larger and the amount I would have to cut off the bumper just didn't make sense to me, better off selling it. So I put in an order for a different front bumper.
New Front End
Gave Lana a face lift. Mostly due to my old bumper not being able to work with my new Antirock sway system. I went with JCR Offroad Mauler with skid plate. I love how it is a recessed winch compared to my old one. Allows for better airlow and protection to the winch itself. Really digging the looks and the taller stinger compared to before. Just need to figure out something for my fog lights still, hummm.
Playing in the Snow
Well with all the stuff I have put on over the years, I wanted to play in deeper snow this year. Given, I only have 34.9" wheels and 2.5" lift. So not crazy far above factory ground clearance. Said that, things like mud, water, and snow is all about ground clearance. Still I wanted to see how Lana would handle backing down my buddies cabin driveway, that had not been plowed this season.