Acceptance

Life Lessons from off the road

Acceptance

My first automobile race was an autocross in a parking lot at Tennessee Tech University. The race was held by the Golden Eagle Sports Car Club.

I popped off the hubcaps from my Datsun 710 and aired up my Michelin XZX tires. I was quite sure that I would be able to score at least a class win it not the fastest time of the day driving around the little course made up of construction pylons. That is, if I could just remember where the course went.

My heart was pounding and my palms were sweaty as I pulled up to the timing light to start my run. I soon learned a lot about my car and my ability to drive it as I found out that no matter how far I turned the wheel, if I entered a corner too fast, my car would just go straight. I had just discovered under steer!

Watching the other drivers maneuver their cars around the course, I was amazed at the control they had. I was sure they had made huge modifications to their cars to make them handle like that. I was convinced that it was tires, or shocks or a million other expensive parts that they must have hidden in their cars.

It took me quite a while to accept that it was really just their skill at driving the car that made them faster than me. Either through instinct or more likely by lots of study and practice, they knew how to make a car maneuver around a tight twisty autocross course.

Before I finally began to accurately perceive the reality of the situation, I spent a lot of time and money trying to make my car go faster and handle better. I read books on how to make a car handle and how to improve my suspension. I entirely overlooked working on the big nut behind the wheel.

I never made any real improvement in my autocross times until I accepted that I needed to work more on my driving skills and not so much on the car. In fact, I had pretty much lost interest in autocross racing before I fully accepted this fact of life.

My next great motor sports adventure was Road Rallying. Jeff, my former college roommate, became my navigator. Together we developed a computer software program to aid in our time keeping. We did not put much effort at all into studying the products that were commercially available because we felt they were out of our budget. We simply focused on what were could build with our limited resources and the features we wanted in our computer.

We became successful quite quickly. We even took home a couple of first place trophies in National Championship level events. We probably could have been competitive on the national circuit had we been willing to invest the time and money into travel needed to compete in events scattered all over the country. Our work situation made it very difficult for us to both be gone the same weekend, so we let a lot of those things get in the way of pursuing our hobby.

What we did not realize at the time was that our little computer program had a few features that the commercially available computers did not have. After some of the top competitors saw what we could do, they forced the main manufactures to add those features to their products. We, of course, got no credit for our ingenuity.

In this case, we never really accepted how good we really were. We often lost rallies right near the end due to our inexperience or sometimes we would frustratingly loose them in claims after the rally. Had we accurately perceived the reality of the situation, we could have made a much larger contribution to the sport and had a lot more fun.

As it was, our inaccurate perception allowed us to let other interests take over our passion for road rally. We never really tried to market our computer program. Had we accepted just how good we really were at that sport and what natural talent we had, I am sure we would have made some money and had a lot more fun.

My next automotive endeavor was organizing Rally Races. These events were huge fun to be involved in. Lots of people came together from various backgrounds and with various skills to make the event a success. The highlight of this phase of my life was the Cherokee Trails International Rally. It was a three day event in the Cherokee National Forest. Racers from all over the world came to challenge the gravel roads of east Tennessee.

The event was won by an Irishman on St Patrick’s Day. There was much rejoicing.

Again here I failed to see the level of my own skill. I did not have the confidence to speak up where I saw things that were not being done properly. Since I did not have as much experience as some of the others, I deferred to their ideas. I failed to accurately perceive that these people really did not have the skills needed to maintain an event of this caliber. I also did not accept that my social skills were not good enough to build strong relationships with the key players so that they would listen to my ideas.

Again, I found myself wasting effort working on the wrong things due to my inaccurate perception of the reality of the situation. I failed, or more likely refused, to accept what I was observing.

The rally organizing led me to building my own rally racer and racing it in several rallies. At the same time, I was enjoying the new sport of Rally Cross racing. By this time I had learned that the most critical element of this type of racing was driver skill.

Picking a good line through the course was also very important. I learned quickly that getting familiar with the course was way more important than tire pressures or weight distribution. I also accurately assessed that there were people who were much better at creating a new line through the grass than I was. I always tried to walk with them when possible and I definitely watched their runs to see what I could learn.

Through accepting my strengths and weaknesses in this sport, I was able to win many class victories as well as a few “fastest time of the day” driving my Jeep Cherokee against what should have been much faster cars.

I also enjoyed the sport of Rally Racing. Pumped up by the success of Rally Cross racing in the Jeep, I decided to build a dedicated race Jeep. What I failed to accurately assess about this reality was how heavy and underpowered my vehicle of choice was. It’s handling and reliability were great, just not the power to weight ratio. I also did not accept my inability to drive at high speeds with very little control.

I enjoyed the races and I did pretty well in events where the roads were tight and twisty. I did really poor where the roads were more open and top speed became a factor. I was just not willing to maintain momentum over crests and around curves where I was not sure what was on the other side.

It took me a few races to fully accept that I was never going to be the next Colin McRae. I did spend some more money on the Jeep just in time for my favorite race – Cherokee Trails – to be cancelled forever.

It took a few more months for me to accept the fate of the Rally Racing Jeep. I had just met a new group of friends who shared many common values and a love for Jeeps and driving them off road.

I quickly built a Cheap Jeep to see how I would enjoy the sport of off road driving. I did a couple of trips with this Jeep before I accepted that I really did enjoy off roading much more than any form of motor sport I had tried up to that point.

After that second trip in Scuffy, I went home and began converting the rally racer into a true off road machine. It took some commitment to finally cut the rear fenders to clear the big tires. But, by then I had accepted that I would never really be competitive in Rally Racing. Also, through a lot of encouragement from my new friends, I quickly accepted that I have a lot of natural skill at off road driving that I could quickly build from.

Getting Scuffy II’s first dent was another lesson in acceptance. I was surprised that it really did not bother me much. In fact I saw it as a badge of honor. A battle scar! Now, I look forward to each outing to see how much more I can push myself and enjoy building my off road driving skills.

Learning to accept the reality of a situation is the key to improving it. This concept is critical no matter what process you are trying to improve.

Whenever you are trying to improve any aspect of life, be sure to accurately assess the situation. What are your real strengths and weaknesses that are factors? What skills do you need to develop? What machinery or automation will make the process more effective?

Acceptance is the first step in process improvement. Learning how to properly assess the current state of a situation is one of the most import lessons I have learned from driving off the road.

To learn more about how to apply acceptance to your personal development see http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/self-discipline-acceptance/

Jeep Cherokee Shakes, Wobbles and Vibrations.

Does your Jeep shake quiver, tremble agitate, brandish, bump, chatter, churn, commove, concuss, convulse, discompose, disquiet, disturb, dither, dodder, flap, flicker, flit, flitter, flourish, fluctuate, flutter, jar, jerk, jog, joggle, jolt, jounce, move, oscillate, palpitate, perturb, quail, quake, quaver, rattle, reel, rock, roil, ruffle, set in motion, shimmer, shimmy, shiver, shudder, stagger, stir up, sway, swing, totter, tremor, twitter, upset, vibrate, waggle, water, wave, whip or wobble?

Nothing ruins a great drive in a Jeep faster than the many shakes, wobbles and annoying vibrations that can occur. These problems are made even worse when you start lifting the suspension and adding bigger tires.

The most common cause of shakes and vibrations in a Jeep are the tires. Jeeps use rather large tires often with heavy tread and with stiff sidewalls. All these factors add up to a rough ride if the tires are not well cared for.

Another common source of vibrations are the drive shafts. These rotating shafts have to be perfectly straight, and in proper alignment and balance to run smooth. Often the drive shafts can be misaligned as the Jeep is lifted or if the springs are damaged. They can be easily bent or knocked out of balance through off road use.

The most startling of all Jeep shakes is what we call Death Wobble. Death Wobble is the very scary sensation that occurs when the front wheels start to flutter like bad shopping cart wheel. The only way to deal with it while driving is to slow down until it quits. Right after your life flashes before your eyes.

Lets us look at the tires first. Other than being round and black, truck tires are very different from passenger car tires. Truck tires have much stronger sidewalls and thicker heavier tread. Both of these factors mean they may need much more weight to balance them. Also, as the tread wears the balance may shift.

Also, it is very easy to knock off a wheel weight when driving off road or sometimes move it to another place on the rim. Mud can also build up inside the rim and rocks can lodge in the tread. Any foreign object like this will cause an imbalance.

When you have a speed sensitive vibration, look first to the balance of the tires. It may be necessary to use an internal balancing system to deal with the changes in balance cause by tire wear.

Drive shaft vibrations are sometimes hard to diagnose. When you suspect a drive shaft vibration, start by inspecting the U joints. Make sure all the U joints are properly lubricated and have no slop. Replace them as necessary.

If your Jeep is lifted or has sagging or twisted springs, the drive shaft alignment may be off. Just couple of degrees of pinion misalignment can cause serious problem with the drive shaft. Also note that the alignment used for a double cardion shaft is different from that of a single tube with a single U joint at each end.

To isolate a drive shaft problem, try driving the Jeep with out the front drive shaft. The front drive shaft is easily removed and you can quickly tell if the vibes go away when the shaft is removed. To drive without the rear drive shaft, you will need some way to plug the transfer case if you have not modified it with a slip yoke eliminator. With the rear shaft removed and a suitable transmission plug in place, you can drive your Jeep using front wheel drive by placing the transfer case to the part time 4X4 setting.

Drive shat work can be expensive so it is often cheaper to swap in a used replacement rather than having yours fixed. Look for any warps or dents in the tube and replace the shaft if you find any problems.

Death wobble is normally a combination of factors. While stock Jeeps can have death wobble, it is much more common on lifted Jeeps. Bigger tires and the angle of the control arms exaggerate the already unstable inverted Y steering of the Cherokee.

Do not attempt to mask death wobble with a steering stabilizer. Replacing or adding a steering stabilizer may appear to correct the problem, but it will simply be masked until the source gets worse.

The most common source for death wobble is the track bar. Usually it wears at the frame end. This is a tie rod style joint with limited flexibility. If you have lifted your Jeep, you have already used up much of its range of motion and it will be easily damaged if the axle drops lower.

To test the track bar, place your hand on the axle end joint and have an assistant move the steering wheel back and forth. If you feel any play in the joint at all, the track bar needs to be replaced.

Note that many aftermarket track bars have poor life expectancy. I have found the ones from Crown Automotive to be well made and reasonably priced. Let me know if you need a quote on one.

Another common cause if the track bar is OK is wear in the control arm bushings. The axle end upper joint is sometimes damaged by oil dripping from the air box if blow by is an issue. The bushings are difficult to replace in the control arms them selves and it is sometimes cheaper to buy new control arm than to buy the two bushings.

Other things to check are the bolts that hold the steering box to the frame and slop in the pitman arm. Worn tie rod ends can also contribute to death wobble.

In extreme cases or where you have to drive a Jeep that is subject to death wobble, try altering the steering alignment a bit. Toe out will usually stop death wobble. It will wear the tires, but it will stop the wobble. I also fixed one by removing all the caster shims from the lower control arms.

Follow these guidelines and you will be driving a smooth running vehicle that can take you anywhere. Just realize it will take some attention to details to keep your Jeep running smooth.

Jeep Cherokee Spark Plugs

XJ FAQ

Many people ask about what spark plugs I recommend in the Jeep 4.0 engine. I prefer the Champion RC9YC. Many people cross this to the Autolite 3923 which I have also used successfully. However Lee of Hesco has this recommendation:

The plug for the 4.2L head that works is the RC12YC @ .037 gap, if you get ping try RC9YC @ .045 gap. The 4.0L head likes the RC9YC @ .040 GAP.

In my daily driver I am currently running the Champion RC9YC with a .045 gap.

I have experimented with things like the Bosh platinum and other expensive plugs. However the standard Champion plugs seems to work the best. The Autolites work almost as well and will do when I can’t get the Champions. Lee says that the Autolite is a hotter plug and can cause pinging.

Reccomended Jeep Cherokee Lift Kit

My favorite lift kit for the Jeep Cherokee is part number ZX071866W from JC Whitney. This is a three inch lift that includes an extra leaf for the rear spring pack and a block. It also comes with new front springs.

Click the link below and search for ZX071866W. The price is currently $120 but it varies from time to time.


JC Whitney Free Shipping!  Click for details

I have this kit installed on my 88 XJ with 33″ tires. I had to cut the fenders a bit to fit 33’s. Jenny has the same kit on her Jeep with 31″ tires.

It is amazing that this kit comes with new front springs and an extra leaf for the rear andf blocks for the rear for just $120. Most lift springs alone cost more than this.

Trouble Shooting Will’s Jeep Cherokee

Jeep Engine Repair

Will’s 1991 Jeep Cherokee 4.0 has been running poorly lately. It started dieing at traffic lights. We cleaned the idle air control valve several times. Each time we cleaned it, his Jeep would run fine for a while and them stall again. Naturally it would stall at an inopportune time.
Eventually his Jeep got to where it would run rough all the time. I began pulling plug wires to isolate the bad cylinder. The number one cylinder was dead. It seemed that the injector simply was not firing.

There was good spark, just not firing in the cylinder. Removing the plug wire did not change the engine speed at all.

The plugs were nice and tan but very worn. We replaced them along with the wires to see if it would help. The engine ran smoother but there was still the dead cylinder.

We posted the questions about the Code 27 that the engine computer was showing on a couple of bulletin boards. Both the XJ list and Hesco forums suggested that we test the injector before looking at the ECU.

Code 27 indicates trouble with the injector firing circuit.

The injector tested fine at bout 14 ohms.

As I was showing Will what was involved in swapping out the ECU, we noticed the connector looked strange so I wiggled it around a bit. When Will restarted the Jeep it ran fine.

Later we pulled the connector and sprayed some cleaner on the contacts. So far his Jeep continues to run great with no more stumble.

Hopefully all his troubles were related to this simple bad connection at the ECU.