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jeepchimp 03-28-2011 01:29 AM

How to maintain an off-road Jeep?

Recently bought a jeep, have been off-roading every weekend ever since. The kind of off-roads I'm talking about is 3-rated trails in the "backcountry adventures" series books.
My question is what's the routine for a full-time off-road vehicle? What do I need to regularly check: Suspension? Steering? Oil pressure? Brakes? Etc. And how? What's the easiest way to make sure your jeep is on the up and up without taking it to a mechanic every time? Like are there some bolts that need tightening after every trip or something? I'm just trying to be proactive.

Any advice would be appreciated.

GroundHawg 03-28-2011 02:24 AM

Nope. You maintain it as you would a regular vehicle. Change it's fluid, brakes, air filter, tune-ups, etc.

My passenger cars I don't rotate tires. When the fronts wear out, I stick em on the rear, and buy new front. Don't do this with 4x4's. 2 drive axles it's essential to have even wear on all 4 and rotate often.

Check the trans oil, engine oil, axle oil, and coolant after every trip off-road. You don't want water getting in there and hanging around long. Pull the air filter out and bang all the sh*t that flies around in the woods out. I find leaves, wood, dirt, a bee...all kinds of weird stuff.

Anything like vibrations or wobbles, pulls, flighty steering...get it checked out. Don't drive around on the street with bad handling. You'll know when something isn't right. You don't need a mechanic to tell you.

chensley 03-28-2011 02:55 AM

only thing I would add to groundhawg's statement is pressure washing all the junk out from under the bottom and picking out sticks and branches.

jeepchimp 03-28-2011 03:36 AM

Is it true that it's best to deflate your tires to about 15 lb when offroading on sharp rocks?

scgeek12 03-28-2011 05:19 AM

ive never let mine down to 15psi, but ive never been on "sharp" rocks, when i go offroading i usually let mine down from 35 psi to 20-25, you can look out your driver side window and watch your tire going over a rock and it will actually form around it at lower psi, helps alot IMO

Kate 03-28-2011 06:43 AM

I'm of a little different opinion than the folks above and I definitely think you have the right mindset for taking care of your rig.

I think that keeping a close watch on your Jeep if you wheel it regularly is VERY important. It helps you to catch possible issues before they become a problem when you're out on the trail. It can also help prevent premature wear to components and save you money in the long run.

Aside from the usual oil changes and maintenance, those are a given. It sounds like you're right on top of that too and good for you! :thumb:
If it's been particularly dusty - air filter! From the research I have done - No K&N are not the best - WIX Gold will keep more particulates out of your engine.

Suspension: Regularly check to be sure that all your control arms bolts are properly torqued and while you're there, if you have bushings, check them for any signs of damage or slop. It's not a bad idea to have an extra set of bushings on hand. (think Currie brand)

Check the bolts that hold your shocks, make sure they are good and snug.
Same thing with lug nuts, never hurts to check them.

Tie rod, track bar ANYTHING THAT MOVES watch your joints for slop and bolts for tightness.

Check both drive shafts, be sure that you keep your U joints lubed. You can use a needle tip on a grease gun to get grease inside the cv joint, but will have to drop the front shaft to get to it. It will keep you from getting "angry sparrows" and save money in the long run on worn parts.

As far as lubing, anything with a zerk should be full of grease and if you go out "muddin", clean everything with a pressure washer and then squirt them full again to help push out any crud that will cause premature wear. A good synthetic (green) grease is what I would recommend.

A good torque wrench will make all of that a whole lot easier to do, you set it to where it needs to be for each item and it will tell you if you need to snug it up or not.

If you are out in a lot of water for an extended period of time even though it can get expensive it doesn't hurt to change the fluids in your differentials. If you've been in DEEP water, think transmission and transfer case as well.

I know there is more that I am forgetting.. dang it.

On airing your tires down. I don't know exactly what you're referring to as "sharp" rocks, but when rock crawling it's generally a good idea to air down for a couple of reasons. First, you get MUCH better traction. Your Jeep won't bounce as much when going over an obstacle and lastly, ride comfort overall it will keep your Jeep from beating you to death.

The recommended pressure you go to is generally determined by tire size. The type of tires that you run can make a difference as well because tires with stiffer sidewalls will not be as forgiving as a softer sided tire.

For instance, I run 35" Dick Cepek Mud Country radials on my Jeep on a 15" rim. I have a lot of sidewall. I like it that way. I started airing down to 17psi (from 27 hwy), then down to 12psi and still needed a bit more grip on the rocks. I have finally found my sweet spot at 10psi. Great traction and no problems on the trail.

You can pick up a couple of things to make it easier. There are "deflators" out there by companies like Staun (cheaper is NOT better) and there are other systems as well that work great. You can set them at the desired psi, screw them on and they deflate to where you want them. It's important to ALWAYS double check with a tire gauge though, just to be sure that everything is where you want it. You can also pick up a pretty good little portable air compressor at Harbor Freight for about $60 so that if you're out somewhere that you don't have access you can air up again.

Another thing, do you have a trail kit on board? If not, it might be a good idea to put one together and remember - TREAD LIGHTLY. If you pack it in, pack it out and ENJOY!

Mitchness 03-28-2011 12:03 PM

I'm with Kate. How can you you regularly push a vehicle to its extremes but maintain it on an average basis? :crazy:

Research up on the weakest known links of your specific year/model. Keep a close eye on those areas during and after wheeling. I found a shackle hanger was cracked pretty severely while upgrading my steering recently. I got lucky because I forgot to go over the Jeep after the last wheeling trip. :facepalm:

Traditionally your steering, axles and skid plates will be the points of most impact. Anything with a ball joint or u-joint should be inspected and repaired/replaced if it/they have taken too much abuse. Let your Jeep speak to you. If something seems "off" about it afterward then it most likely is (how I found out about my bent tie-rod).

Check/change your fluids after outings where you went mudding or fording. You don't want water getting in the diff, tranny, and Tfer fluid. Also power wash/hot wash the underside to get as much mud off the frame and other components as possible to keep rust at bay. Depending on the year of Jeep this may be more or less crucial.

jeepjones 03-28-2011 12:26 PM

I too have to agree with just everything Kate has mentioned except for the tire pressure, 10psi or lower is not recoomended if you are NOT running a beadlock type of wheel. If your running a stock or steely NON beadlock I would not go any lower than 17psi. It all depends on what you wheel and how, 10psi does not leave much pressure to lock the beads to the rim and in an off camber situation it may become quite dangerous if the tire leaves the rim.

Kate 03-28-2011 12:49 PM

What JeepJones says has a lot of value, again, it depends on how stiff the sidewalls are on your tires. I know a guy who ran at about 5lbs and STILL had problems... it's all in the right pressure for your tires and wheels.

If you look at this picture (last weekend) at 10 lbs, mine are still pretty stiff.

POS YJ 03-28-2011 02:24 PM

You should be doing much more than just routine maintenance if you actually "wheel" your Jeep. The added stress of bigger tires, lockers, low air pressures and the types of trails you wheel on, means more maintenance and more frequently. I check all fluids every trip, and at least give the suspension and steering a once over as well. Every 2-3 trips I will re-torque the u-bolts, drivelines and have someone turn the steering wheel back and forth while I check for play in the steering. TJ owners should check all of the suspension bolts as well as the track bar too. I have seen plenty of rigs lose tires, knuckles and steering components while just doing minor wheeling, most were caused by lack of maintenance and not repairing worn or missing parts. As for the tire pressure thing, I have 37" MTR's on 15x10 Rock Crawler steel wheels. For summer wheeling I go straight down to 8-10lbs for a better ride on the trail and better traction. Yesterday in the snow(well over 5 foot), I went straight to 3psi(usually I go to 5 to start). I have only lost one bead so far at these pressures, and that was doing a sideways winch pull to extract a Toyota that was snagged hard on a rock. I CAN NOT endorse everyone doing this as there are several different things that come into play like, weight of the vehicle, tire size, wheel type and terrain. Talk to people with similar rigs and watch what others do on the trail, you may pick some things up that will make your trip more enjoyable.

POS YJ 03-28-2011 02:30 PM

Here is an air down chart that may take some of the fear out of airing down. Make sure you have on board air, a high lift, valve core tool, a chain to wrap around the frame and axle, and a good ratchet strap if you do need to seat a bead back on the rim.
Tire Air Down Guide

jeepchimp 03-28-2011 03:40 PM

Thank you for making it easy, Kate.
I have an off-road kit and a hi-lift jack, and I carry both with me any time I go off-roading.
By the way, the tires are 33" micky thomson baja claw. This is precisely what I have: 33 x 12.50 R15, Mickey Thompson Baja Claw Radial Tire|Zaib4x4.Com

Kate 03-29-2011 04:58 AM

Well, I don't know about "easy" (and there is surely some stuff that I missed) but that will get you pointed in the right direction.

One piece of advice that I could offer that will be a BIG help is to find a Jeep club near you and get involved. You not only get to meet a bunch of like minded folks, you have friends to wheel with and if you get involved with "lift parties" and "wrenching weekends" then you can learn SO MUCH!. Clubs are a great way to be involved. Where are you located?

I'd love to be able to tell you what you would want to air down to, but unfortunately my brain is like an old floppy disk, doesn't hold that much information and what it DOES hold is often sketchy at best. There are charts out there that can give you a starting point and then you just fine tune from there.

Here are a couple of links:
Welcome to ROCKCRAWLER.COM (Denis Baldwin Talks About Airing Down)

Tire Air Down Guide

Happy Trails!

jeepchimp 03-29-2011 10:20 PM

I'm in Phoenix AZ. Certainly will look for some kind of a jeeper club.

Kate 03-30-2011 06:35 AM

Oh, you should have some GREAT places to go out there! I lived in Phoenix many years ago and used to go out in the desert in my Chebby. It was really beautiful out there. You can prolly find groups via Google "Jeep Club Arizona" Happy Trails!!

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