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Old 09-30-2012, 08:13 PM
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Smile Lessons learned from my Jeep Vacation

Just got home from a 16-day vacation in my 1994 Jeep YJ. Left Dallas/Fort Worth area on September 15 and just got home. Drove 5044 miles and used 241 gallons of gas. When you figure it out, it is 20.9 mpg!!! I kept track of my mileage during the trip and was almost shocked at each fill-up at the performance my 4-cylinder engine gave. Depending on how I drove, each tank ranged from 18.9 to 23.2 mpg.

I weighed the jeep fully loaded minus two hefty adult males (me and my brother). The jeep weighed 3650 pounds. I figure my brother and I added another 500 pounds, so this little 4-banger was hauling a big chunk of weight over those hills.

Some of the places I drove included:

- Chain of Craters Back Country Byway (Cibola County Road 42) near Grants, NM

- US 180 / 191 from Springerville to Clifton, AZ through the Apache- Sitgreaves National Forest

- The Apache Trail (AZ Highway 88) from Apache Junction to Lake Roosevelt

- BIA Route 7 from Fort Defiance through Canyon De Chelly National Monument

- Million Dollar Highway (US-550) from Durango through Ouray, CO

- Monument Valley / Valley of the Gods

- Phantom Canyon near Victor, CO

And numerous other back roads and trails. I pretty much drove 50 mph or less on paved roads except the short times I was on interstate highways. On the back roads / trails, I ran about 10-15 mph on average. I regret that I pissed off a lot of folks who were in a hurry to get somewhere, but I pulled over to let them pass when I could. Being heavily loaded, the Jeep bogged down on hills requiring 3rd gear at times to make it up.

Around Day 7, I noticed I occasionally had to force the shifter into first or second gear. It seemed to work ok for 3rd, 4th and 5th. It would grind but go into reverse. So I figured the clutch must need adjusting. Finally, while driving through Monument Valley, things started getting more serious. If I left the jeep out of gear when I shut it off or stopped at a traffic light / stop sign, it was impossible to get it into 1st. Ultimately, I put it into 3rd, revved it up and eased off to get it moving, then was able to force it into first. So I made a conscious effort to put it in first before I stopped.

That night, being somewhat illiterate when it comes to matters associated with the transmission, I decided to seek professional help. I figured I was in Moab, so there had to be someone around who could handle this. I had restless night thinking about some of the stories I have heard about people waiting for several days to get their jeep repaired or stories of price gouging. I expected this might be the end of the trip, so was running scenarios about renting a truck / trailer to haul the jeep home to Texas.

I did a lot of research that night trying to figure out where I might go to get it looked at. I checked Better Business Bureau and AAA recommendations. I ultimately chose to go with Arches Repair Center (I promise I am not affiliated with them – just a very pleased customer). They gave me a reasonable estimate to diagnose the problem which ultimately turned out to be a problem with the Master and Slave cylinders for the clutch. I had already checked for estimated parts / labor costs online for this. Their price was actually a little less than I was expecting to pay. Their hourly labor rate was less than what I have been paying in the DFW area.

So I showed up at their shop right when they opened. Nothing like being first in line. They looked at it and said it was going to take a couple hours and asked if we wanted someone to take us to a local diner (Moab Diner) where we could drink coffee, get a bite to eat while we passed our time. After a while, they called us and told us the jeep was ready.

Afterwards, the clutch / transmission worked like a champ. Still had the hill climbing problem, but that was probably because of the excessive weight… just because it says Jeep on the side doesn’t mean infinite power.

So, some of my lessons learned included:

1. Be careful not to overload the jeep!

2. A heavily-loaded, well-tuned jeep 4-cylinder engine can give pretty good mileage if you drive slow and easy

3. If you need repairs in Moab, check out Arches Repair Center.

4. If you need good coffee / breakfast in Moab, check out Moab Diner.
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Old 09-30-2012, 11:48 PM   #2
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Excellent post glad to hear you foundan honest mechanicplace to work on your JeeP!! Sounds like on heel of a great time on vacation.

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Old 10-01-2012, 12:30 AM   #3
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Just finished a 2100 mile road trip. I packed very lightly, didn't do that much off-roading, and drove mostly highways. I also have a 4-cylinder ('95) and was surprised that I could maintain speeds of 75+ on some of the flatter interstates as long as I wasn't driving into a headwind but my mileage suffered compared to yours. I have a leadfoot to begin with and because of averaging 70+ on the freeways most of my trip, I got barely 15mpg.

Not complaining though, it was a LOT of fun.
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Old 10-01-2012, 12:54 PM   #4
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Sounds like a nice trip....
1989 Jeep Wrangler YJ (Sahara), 5 Speed manual, 4.2 Inline. 4.5 inch rough country lift with 33 inch tires.
214K miles and counting.
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Old 10-01-2012, 01:03 PM
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My 94 also will push up to almost 80 mph on the freeways on flat land and not much of a headwind. But you have to work at it... you don't just push the pedal and jump right up to speed. Plus, handling starts to get a little squirlly, so I step into my "old man" mode and slow it back down.

My jeep is so aerodynamic (about like an 8" cinder block) that when going down a hill, it would slow down to about 45 mph. I demonstrated this to my brother several times on the trip on different roads and different days, so headwind was not always a factor. I figure this must about be equal to a "terminal velocity" where the mass pulling downhill was equal to the aerodynamic resistance. I actually had to press the acellerator to speed up going downhill.

Prior to my trip, my mileage around home had dropped to around 13 mpg. I did a complete tuneup including changing the fuel filter and O2 sensor. Initial results around town only showed marginal improvement up to 15 mpg. So I budgeted for 15 mph on my trip.

One thing I noticed was that once you get out of Texas / Oklahoma headed west, you run into E85 gas. Stations will advertise the E85 price which doesn't look too bad. However, I have to use at least 87 octane... which is a "mid" or "plus" grade which is a lot more expensive. Realizing this, I budgeted for $4.25 per gallon.

Early in my trip, I realized the difference in price for 87 and 91 octane was minimal (about 15-20 cents / gallon or $3-$4 per tank), and usually within the $4.25 per gallon budget. So I splurged and gave my jeep a taste of the good stuff. I don't want to attribute this as the reason, but about the same time, I saw my mileage improve to over 20 mpg. So basically I gained 25% mileage with a 5% increase in price. So being the superstisious kind of guy I am... I bought premium gas the rest of my trip.

Of course, all of this may be an artifact of how the gas is blended in different regions. I will try burning premium gas around home for a week or so to see if the results continue or if I revert to my 15 mpg.
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