My EJS story begins a couple of months before the actual event.
Around the December/January timeframe, I decided that it would be
therapy for the poor turns my life had taken if I were to go to
Moab. My Jeep was not what I considered "Moab ready,"
so I started looking on the boards for used lifts. As luck would
have it, I found a nice lift on the boards for a very fair price.
It took the better part of a week to install it, due to running
around getting parts. The result was very nice, but the 33"
tires were stressing out my 4cylinder engine with stock gears. I
found some 4.88's and a Lock-Right for the rear axle and purchased
the same for the front.
In early February,
I ran into a friend of mine who had recently become a mechanic.
He agreed to help me install the gears. Towards the beginning
of March, however, I was still unable to hook up with my mechanic
friend for the ring & pinion installs and instead found a
fellow student with the experience and willingness to help me
out. We installed the rear gears and lockers two weeks before
the Safari with plans to install the front the following week.
When he told me that weekend that he would be too busy to help
me with the front, I became rather frantic.
I was able
to find a transmission shop that would do the front install (most
places around here will not touch front axles) as well as put
in my remaining extended brake lines. Two of the brake lines were
too rusted for me to remove. The shop told me that with their
schedule they would need the Jeep for all of Wednesday, with a
possibility that it would take part of Thursday, but that was
rolled around and they were just finishing up with my Jeep. Luckily,
I went out a little early to pick the Jeep up. They had finished
the gears and the front brake line, but didn't put in the rear.
To address the oversight, they hurriedly pulled the Jeep in to
work on the rear. It didn't look good. The soft line was rusted
to the hard lines and so they all had to be replaced. After a
short wait for the parts store to deliver new lines, I paid my
bill and was off. To break in the gears, I drove the Jeep to school
in four wheel drive and enjoyed the quirks of automatic lockers
at highway speeds. (Editor's note- driving in 4wd on the street
is generally not a very good idea!)
The following day, I had to go to school, as well as make a couple
runs to the house I was selling, to move more stuff. Needless
to say, my plans to leave for Moab by 7:00 PM were toast.
I had a small trailer packed with gear behind the Jeep and was
on the road by 1:00 AM Sunday morning. I arrived at my first stop
by 3:00 AM. My sister lives in Manhattan, Kansas with the best
brother-in-law a guy could ask for, Scott. Our plan was to go
to the Tuttle Creek ORV Area on Sunday to try out the new modifications,
fix any little things, pack up, and prepare to hit the road to
make the fourteen-hour trip to Moab on Monday morning. Scott and
I took off around 9:00 AM.
was wonderful until we hit the first real obstacle - a medium
limestone stair step. The front tires went up with no problem
and then we stopped as we had before all the modifications. This
time the problem was different. Instead of spinning a front and
rear tire, both rear tires were spinning and the fronts were immobile.
I have a stock NP231 transfer case, it was not possible to be
in 2WD low.
I backed off of the obstacle and hurried to a flat spot to perform
the very scientific clutch-drop test. A drop in 4 Low showed only
the rears spinning and a drop in 4 High showed four wheels spinning.
Strange. A shift back into 4 Low and it was like I was in neutral.
Definitely NOT GOOD.
Plan A: driving
the Jeep to Moab on Monday was out of the question. Time to figure
out a Plan B. Prior experience told me that there was no way I
was going to find a junkyard that had my 3 requirements:
1) being open on Sunday 2) having a 4cylinder NP231
in stock 3) having the NP231 at a price I was
willing to pay for a transfer case I didn't like.
to Plan C: rent a truck and a trailer to pull the Jeep to Moab
where we will find an Atlas II transfer case and a new rear drive
After a few
quick calls we found a U-Haul that had an available one-way rental.
We drove Scott's 4 Runner to Topeka (an hour in the wrong direction),
picked up the 14 foot box truck and auto transport trailer and
took both back to Manhattan. We unloaded my small transport trailer
and put it in the back of the U-Haul. Then we put the Jeep on
the auto transport trailer and loaded our gear into the Jeep.
A quick stop for food and to update the family on our trip plans
and we were on the road.
for gas just outside of Hayes, Kansas, where a trucker in the
truck stop asked us which direction we were headed. Rather unsettled
at this stranger's interest in our travel plans, we told him that
we were headed west. He informed us that it would be in our best
interest to stop in Russell, the next town of any size, to find
a place to stay because the highway was closed at Hayes. Unable
or unwilling to believe this terrible news we headed for Hayes
to find out for ourselves.
Much to our
dismay, the information was correct and we were forced to stop.
We got a room in a hotel and then went to a gas station to try
and get some playing cards. It was only 9:30 PM. The station didn't
have any cards, but the attendant told us that the roads were
supposed to be reopened at 2:00 AM. In the grand scheme of things,
this was good news...if it was true. On a wish and a prayer, we
requested a 2:00 AM wakeup call. Armed with our road information
phone number, we attempted to sleep.
At 2:00 AM the recording on the road information number still
listed the roads as closed. Ever optimistic, we set the alarm
for 3:00 AM. Checking the road information number at 3:00 AM,
we happily learned that the roads had, indeed, been opened. We
packed up and took off. The roads were a little snowy and the
wind kept snow in the air, so our highway speed dropped from the
pre-stop 70 mph to 40 mph. It didn't matter. We were moving and
our destination was Moab. The weather cleared at about the Colorado
border and we were able to increase to the posted 75 mph.
through Denver and keep following I-70 to Utah. The rest of the
trip was uneventful, if you don't count the gas scare. There is
a portion of I-70 where there are no services for 56 miles. We
were not quite ready to make a fuel stop when we saw the sign
and unable to stop in time to make the exit. It was close, but
we made it to the filling station on the other side. There was
5 gallons of gas easily accessible in the Jeep, so at most, it
would have been an inconvenience.
into Moab at 3:00 PM and found a place to camp. We then headed
for Moab Off Road to purchase an Atlas or find out where the vendors
were to get one there. Moab Off Road informed us that an Atlas
II transfer cases are special-ordered, built specifically for
each application and the usual delivery time was 4 to 8 weeks.
I was crushed. The only other option was to find a used 231. As
luck would have it, Moab Off Road had a used 231 in their shop.
As luck would also have it, it was for a 6 cylinder. (Editor's
Note: The 4 and 6 cylinder 231 cases have different input spline
counts, so the 6 cylinder 231 will not readily bolt up to a 4
I was going
to go elsewhere to find the proper transfer case when I remembered
thatI was a thousand miles from home on a vacation that required
the use of my Jeep for full enjoyment, I knew very little of this
town, and the chances of my finding another transfer case were
very, very slim. I bought the 6 cylinder transfer case and took
it back to the campsite where we planned on changing the input
shafts. We set up camp and got to work on the Jeep. We pulled
the broken case with very few complications. Using the U-Haul's
Mom's Attic (space over the cab) as a work bench, we proceeded
to crack the case. We were able to remove all the bolts except
one, a reverse Torx that I didn't have a tool for. Exhausted and
defeated, we threw everything in the truck and went to sleep.
missed trail + 2 transfer cases + 9.5 hours of waiting = 1 running
We took our time getting ready in the morning because we didn't
figure that Moab Off Road would open before 9:00 AM. We were at
their door at 8:55 AM, and learned they had opened at 8:00 AM.
The guys at Moab Off Road said that they would be able to have
the input shafts swapped and the undamaged case installed by noon.
We were shocked. We headed for town to kill a couple hours. Some
souvenir shopping behind us, we got back to Moab Off Road shortly
after 12:00 PM, and were very disappointed to see that the Jeep
had not moved since the morning. A quick stop inside confirmed
that they had not been able to begin yet, but we were next in
line. We were told to check back at 3:00 PM.
killing exercises and lunch brought us to 3:00 PM and the Jeep
had still not moved. This time we were told to return at 5:00
PM. At 5:00 PM the Jeep was still where we had left it, but the
transfer case was being worked on. Instead of leaving, we wasted
time by playing frisbee in the parking lot and watching all the
fun vehicles as they passed on the highway and pulled through
At 6:30 the
Jeep was finished, I paid my bill, and we took off in the Jeep.
Moab Off Road's earlier diagnosis had been correct. The fluid
had drained out of the transfer case through the poor rear seal,
the planetary gears overheated and subsequently failed. We filled
both vehicles up with gas, cleaned the road salt and slime off
the Jeep and the oil off the trailer and out of the rear of the
By then, it
was time for the good stuff. We parked the U-Haul and put the
top and doors in the back of it, bundled up and went for a spin
around town. Finally, we were cruising around Moab, Utah in our
on the trail
rolls of fun
next morning was an early one. We met with the Rockcrawler.com
group at the City Market at 6:00 AM. After introductions, we aired
down and headed for the Golden Spike trail. The trail was everything
we expected and more. The only thing detracting from the morning
was the persistent smell of burning automatic transmission fluid
as my newly rebuilt transfer case gleefully spewed it on my exhaust.
The scenery was beautiful, the obstacles ranged from super easy
to hard. All of my modifications were working great. I laughed
every time I took a rather tight corner because my tires were
chirping. Ah, lockers! Scott thought I was a goof for that. Later,
I let him drive and he was doing the same thing, of course.
All of the
obstacles were great. We'd wait for a while then we'd get to roll
up. That's really all it took, with decent clearance, sticky tires,
and dual lockers, my little Jeep rolled up everything. The morning
was almost through when we came to an off-camber rock ledge. Everyone
popped right up it, including the Liberty in our group. It had
done this all day, making the rest of us look really silly with
our lifts, lockers and big tires.
out of the Jeep to take pictures because he thought there could
be some good articulation shots. I got a little excited and gave
it a little too much gas and over I went! A 3/4 roll on my first
big trail ride. Driver's side, top and passenger's side. I was
having too much fun to be upset. I knew what I did wrong and was
just amazed about all the stuff I'd read about happening to me.
When I started
over. I knew it was going to be a roll and I knew what I had done
to cause it. I was worried about all my stuff in the back. Luckily,
I always have my Jerry can and toolbox tied down. I didn't have
any way to tie down the rest of my stuff and I didn't want it
to fall out and hurt anyone, but was too late to do anything about
it at this point. I remember thinking, "wow, fuel injected
engines really do run upside down!" Then I reached forward
and shut the engine off while I was rubber side up.
As the last
quarter roll completed I heard TXJEEPER shout , "good job
of staying inside, man!" Everyone was asking me if I was
okay. Aside from being shaken, there was nothing wrong. I was
surprised to see a head pop up to my right. Cole had slithered
under the Jeep after determining that it was stable. He informed
me that he was going to help me out of my seat belt and if I fell
on his head that he would be none to happy with me. That's the
I was safely out of the Jeep, there was nothing for me to do.
The amazing group of people that I was riding with had already
collected all my stuff and everyone was working to right my Jeep.
It was a very professional operation. After making sure that my
Jeep was in gear and had the parking brake on, one Jeep winched
from uphill and the other from down. Initially, the downhill Jeep
did most of the work, pulling my Jeep upright. Once there was
tension on the uphill Jeep's cable, he slowly lowered my wheels
to the ground.
and Cole quickly cleared the oil from the upper part of my engine
and got the Jeep started. Then Cole helped me get my sound bar
somewhat back together with the help of a BFH. Everyone was laughing
that I had to have my stereo fixed before we could get rolling
again, but it is the rear mounting point for my very heavy CB
Rack. I didn't want that flopping around. All the damage from
the rollover was cosmetic and I was able to drive away very easily.
The rest of the group had eaten lunch while Cole and I worked
on my sound bar (he sat on my CB Rack while he was working on
it...just to let you know how stout the thing is). Scott &
I ate a quick bite and the group hit the trail again.
I drove for
a while to get the heebie jeebies out of my system and then let
Scott take over. When we came up on the Golden Crack I took over
and traversed it with very little problem. It was great! I let
Scott drive again after that and the trail was very uneventful
(that's not to say boring) for quite a while.
As the sun
began to set we pulled up on an obstacle and Cole told us to go
left. Scott went slightly left and kept on, but Cole continued
to point us to the left. We weren't getting far enough left. Frustrated,
Scott put the Jeep in reverse and pulled a very tight u-turn.
We were awarded with a nice sound, somewhere between a snap and
a pop. I thought it was the Lock Right. However, while attempting
to traverse the small gulley Cole had been pointing us to, we
discovered that the front passenger side u-joint and axle shaft
had broken. We backed out of the gulley and Cole winched us up
the bypass that we had been heading for earlier. We were missing
the proper socket so the spare axle was stuffed with a shop rag
and taped closed. I drove out of the Golden Spike in 3-wheel drive.
I was constantly amazed at what that little Jeep was capable of.
not to cause any more problems I followed Cole closely for the
remainder of the trail, except I took the easier lines where he
tried to find the hardest. We were compression braking down the
trail in the dark when we were separated from the rest of the
group due to a slight stuck, TXJEEPER's broken tire bead and poor
Cole and I
were averaging about 1.3 mph per his GPS, just waiting for the
rest of the group to catch up. Most of the time we could see their
headlights behind us but we never heard them on the radio. After
a while, the trail flattened out and became a silty twisty road.
Cole went Baja and I couldn't keep up. Part of it was probably
due to the two additional cylinders his Jeep has that mine doesn't,
but most of it has to be do to the fact that he's a performance
driving coach and I'm an ex-bus driver. I wasn't too worried at
first because I could just follow his cloud of dust (his lights
were long gone). Then I started seeing branching trails and the
trail started climbing. I thought I was at the end of the trail
and almost went General Lee off a cliff, which was the end of
my trying to catch up with Cole.
I turned around
and got Scott on the CB. He was calling for the Rockcrawler.com
group and I was busting my tail back the direction we came. We
finally met up with the group and were able to drive out at a
saner pace. We met up with Cole at the end of the trail. After
a little chatting about the problems we had just experienced we
went to dinner in town.
it doesn't end there! No, not at all! Read On!