2012 Jeep Wrangler: Dirty Jeep (Done Dirt Cheap)
January 09, 2012
The gates were open. The dirt roads up to Santiago and Modjeska peaks, together known as Saddleback, were fair game. I called my buddy Mike (not that Mike, or that Mike, or that Mike -- you don't know him) to see if he wanted to ride shotgun in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler and head up there for some geocaching.
Mostly, these are fire roads that any cute ute could tackle. But there are always washouts and the place is sprinkled with tall water-bars. Good approach and departure angles are nice to have. Knobbly tires and 4-Low aren't strictly necessary if you stick to the Main Divide Truck Trail, but there are always spurs and side roads to investigate.
This particular side trail might have been beyond reach with our Jeep's original stock tires. Remind be to build a tool to measure how much our approach angle has improved with these 33-inch BFG Mud Terrain T/As and the extra 2 inches of lift they provide.
This is one of many Forest Service helipads that are sprinkled atop the numerous peaks along the ridge. It's steeper than it looks here and the lip is taller than a curb. The muffler actually kissed the asphalt (no harm, no foul) as the rear tires dropped in.
Easy hillclimb. Yawn.
You can see this soccer ball thing from many parts of northern Orange County. It sits at the top of Black Star Canyon. Called Beek's Lookout, informally.
Another random hilltop helipad.
Shadows started to get long before Mikle and I hightailed it back down the mountain to the Silverado gate, some 20 miles distant. It was pitch black by the time we got there.
Admittedly, this wasn't much of a challenge for the Jeep, but a few things became clear:
The stock final drive ratios have got to go. I spent most of the time in 4-Low, not because of the steepness, per se, but because of the combined effect of the factory gears (which are fuel economy specials to begin with in the 6-speed Sport) and the bigger tires.
It needs new shocks and springs. When I opened it up a little (a whole 30 mph!) the heavy unspring mass of the new tires had their way with the suspension as we crashed over the bumps. A big hike in damping is needed to keep them planted on the ground.
A lift kit would be nice. The rear tires rubbed inside the fender wheels a couple of times. Not very often, mind you, and certainly not very hard, but enough to tell me that I could have a problem if I got into some serious frame twist action. This is not so much news as it is confirmation of our earlier RTI ramp results.
All in all, it was a good day. We went where we wanted in the knowledge that the vehicle wouldn't be the thing that held us back. That's what Jeeping is all about.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,245 miles