Wheeling and Wrenching in Harlan Ky

Wheeling and Wrenching in Harlan Ky

This past weekend I met up with the folks from the XJ List in Harlan, Ky for our semiannual meeting. After an uneventful drive to the park, we all began unloading our rigs and airing down our tires.

That is when we hit out first mechanical snag of the weekend. One of Jenny’s valve stem caps would not come off. We tried penetrating oil, vise grips and even a torch but it refused to budge. Evan was in need of some spark plugs so we quickly pulled the wheel and tire and tossed it in the bed of his rental pickup and headed for town.

We found a tire shop just a few miles up the road. They had her new valve stem installed in just a few minutes for only $6 and no questions asked. We headed on into town and got Evan some spark plugs.

We headed into the woods in the afternoon. For the first time in several trips for me we had dust instead of mud. It was very nice to make a slow crawl up trail 15 rather than a full throttle wheel spinning run. We made a nice clean run on Rail Bed getting everyone through with a few well stacked rocks. The only casualty was a broken brake line on Kevin’s Toyota. I also noticed a small leak at my front pinion seal.

The next morning I found my diff fluid mostly gone. The pinion bearing was worn enough to allow the shaft to keep the seal from sealing. I borrowed some fluid and kept on wheeling.

We took our group up to Lion’s Den to let Kevin and Dean run their Toyotas through the tight rocks. It took a lot of winching and rock stacking to get Kevin through. He suffered some body damage as well but he looked happy to be a lion tamer. Dean made the trip look almost easy as he put his exo cage to good use. He made it through without even using a winch.

We then headed up to Mason Jar. I have been wanting to run this trail again for a long time but conditions have never worked out quite right. I almost backed out again as I watched the buggies on 40s having trouble. But the group assured me that they would help me through.

My little 33” Buckshots get great grip but don’t give me a lot of clearance to get over the huge rocks in Mason Jar. I made it up onto the gate keeper rock pretty easily and had more confidence. By the time I made it to the rock that always scares me I was ready. I had broken an axle shaft on it last time. This time however, the Buckshots got a firm grip and I pulled up with very little wheel spin.

On the next ledge, Scott took a bad hop and broke the input yoke on his Dana 44. Neal had a spare so we swapped it out right there. We had a lot of unwanted advice from a group of ATV riders who passed by. With Scott back under power we finished the remainder of the trail easily.

On our last day, we went in search of more trails and tried to stay out of the sun as it was getting warm on the mountain. Neal suffered an electrical problem with his starter so that he had to always park where he could do a roll start each time. We had lunch at the entrance to Your Turn but decided not to run it due to the very difficult exit. We headed instead to Crawford’s cry. Neal made it up and so did Dean. Josh started up when he suddenly lost all oil pressure.

The rest of the group accompanied him to the zip line parking area where he could fetch it with his trailer. Jenny loaned him her XJ to go back and get his trailer. She found a seat in another Jeep and stayed with us.
I took a small group to Pin Ball and rail bed while the others helped Josh Load his possibly crippled rig. It remained to be diagnosed whether it was an actual failure or a sensor failure.

The newest member of our group had a bit of trouble on rail bed and first damaged a front leaf spring on his Wrangler. The a few feet later he broke an axle shaft. We helped him winch himself out. Once he was on level ground we swarmed over his Jeep like a pit crew and had a spare shaft installed in about 20 minutes.

Back at camp, I help talk him thorough a ball joint swap as well since he had some spares and a ball joint press. We finished just in time for supper.



Mike guiding Jeff & Jason as they replace the ball joints





The guys preparing the steaks, potato boats and corn for the group



IMG_3583Jenny’s XJ in Rail Bed


Kevin’s Toyota in Lion’s Den


Mike’s, Josh’s and Scott’s XJ’s waiting in line to go through Mason Jar


Jenny and Mitch helping prepare the food


Evan, Mike and Jenny


Evan & Kevin looking over the truck and determining what step to take next in Lion’s Den


Mike, Josh, Dean and Kurt looking on as Kevin drops into the Lion’s Den


Kevin, Evan & Amanda at Mason Jar


Dean taming the Lion’s Den, again

Jeep Keeps Cutting Out and I’ve Changed Everything

Nothing is more unnerving than driving a vehicle down the road, you hit a bump and bam it cuts out on you for an instant. You are in town and at a traffic light, as soon as it turns green you let off the brake and bam it dies on you.

Most people would tell you to change the crankshaft position sensor–been there and done that. Doesn’t help.

Change the Cam shaft position sensor–also did that and no it didn’t make it better

Change out the Throttle Position Sensor–Did that and no change

Did a complete tune up with new spark plugs, wires, distributor cap–Even checked, checked and rechecked with no improvements.


By this time major *SIGH*


What else do I check???

Checked over all the wires for any cuts or frays–all are fine.

Cleaned up the ECM-Like three times and still no change

Cleaned the throttle body-Enough to make it so clean you could eat off of it (well, not really).


At this point I’m about to just tear the whole engine compartment apart, clean everything up, re connect wires and sensors. Until…


I was sitting at my local community college after my evening class talking to my mom on the phone. I had just turned the key but not started it. A few minutes later as I was getting ready to hang up I just happen to notice the light on my radio display mysteriously came back on. Ok?

So I call my boyfriend and explain to him what just happened. He says I may have just solved the problem 🙂

The following weekend I take it out to my boyfriends house to look over everything. He decides to get in while I’m not paying attention and proceeds to wiggle the key in the ignition. BAM! He kills it. Tries it again and does the same thing.

Never in a million years would I have guessed after doing a hundred million common fixes would it be the ignition switch.

Found the problem…after I’ve nearly made my Jeep new again *SIGH*


I can laugh about it now though 😀

4 Wheel Parts Truck & Jeep Fest Atlanta 2012

This was my first visit to the 4 Wheel Parts Truck & Jeep Fest that was held in Atlanta at the Cobb Galleria the weekend of August 4-5th. My main reason for going was to hopefully find shocks for my 1992 Jeep Cherokee with a 3 inch lift.

Arriving at the Cobb Galleria, it was not anything I even pictured/expected. It seemed to be in a fancier area than I imagined. Before walking through the doors of the fest we all received some posters and a bag. The ladies handing them out were very nice and helpful.

After walking inside I was really amazed at how small the fest was and also how many people were there on a Saturday. The crowd was minimal, most places were easy to walk through. Since I had been looking at Pro Comp shocks and they had been recommended to me I decided to go over to the Pro Comp area. Before I even got there I spotted a box on the floor beside a table that had the shock boots I had been wanting–Hot pink ones! Since there was not a price displayed anywhere I had to stand in line at the counter that was set up. The wait was probably around five minutes before I was able to ask about the price of the boots as well as the price of shocks. The gentleman at the counter was quite friendly and helpful. Once I got the price of the boots ($5.99) he showed me the shocks that they usually include in their 3″ lifts. Since I was at the fest, the price of the shocks were about $24 less than if I were to order them online. After writing up an order form I was sent over to the center of room to the checkout area. Before I left the counter he told me to come back after checking out and pick up some hats.

At the checkout area the line was not too long and there was a nice gentleman there to direct me to the next cashier. I stood in line maybe about five minutes before I was waited on. I was given the choice of either picking the shocks up at a nearby 4 Wheel Parts store or I could have them shipped to me. I decided I would pick them up at the Norcross store that afternoon. However, after the cashier called the store he discovered they were not in stock even though the computer said they were. So, the cashier immediately offered to ship them to me for free. He then explained I could purchase the extended warranty (2 yrs) for $8.00 which I agreed to do. Another cashier stepped up and let me know if the shocks did not arrive to me by Thursday to call him.

After all that I started walking around to the different booths. I was disappointed in that I did not see the Crown Automotive booth as had been advertised online and in the mailer I received. I was also surprised that there was not a lot of activity over at the Rubicon Express booth. I do have to admit that at some of the booths I felt that because I was not a man and that I had my kids with me that I was not taken seriously, except at the Pro Comp booth and check out. Overall, I still enjoyed my visit to the fest and glad I was able to finally able to experience it.

Would I go to the next Truck & Jeep Fest? Yes I would like to! My boys enjoyed getting to see the Jeeps and trucks giving them ideas to share with me about what the next project should be for my Jeep.

The Reliability of the Jeep Cherokee

With every automobile there are going to be variable opinions about reliability. For instance, my grandfather owns a Cadillac Catera and has had it since it was brand new. Try going to the dealership to find parts and they are either no longer available or it is going to take nearly a month to get what you need. Countless times the salesman have attempted to convince him to trade the car in and have literally told him it is just a piece of junk. That is not how grandpa sees it though. Having driven the car I can say when it does run it rides well. I can remember after I bought my Jeep Cherokee that my grandfather asked me a ton of questions and actually questioned why I wanted an “old” vehicle and why I wanted to go offroading. He insinuated I was spending a lot of money, which if you wrote everything down I had done whether it be upgrades or maintenance/repairs, wouldn’t come close to what he has spent fixing his Catera. Plain and simple,  it is just not reliable like my Jeep Cherokee.

My Jeep may be over 20 years old and some will see it as ready to go to the scrap yard (which infuriates me). A few dents here and there doesn’t make it a bad vehicle. What does is under the hood and the drivetrain if you have had to constantly make repairs. I so want to ask people how many times their automobile has left them stranded, been repaired by them and how many miles they actually have on theirs? Now I will give credit to my Toyota friends that their automobiles do just as good as my Cherokee. I am amazed at some of the mileage stories I have heard from long time Toyota owners.

If you are a Jalopnik.com reader you may have recently come across an article about the top ten best used cars to buy with your tax refund. In case you haven’t though, their #4 pick is the Jeep Cherokee: http://jalopnik.com/5902578/the-ten-best-used-cars-to-buy-with-your-tax-refund/gallery/8 .

I used to think that a car with over 100K miles was getting worn out. Not with a Jeep Cherokee and according to my Jeep friends, that is barely breaking it in. My boyfriends Cherokee has 350K miles on it with original parts; mine has around 220K miles on it though I have changed out the engine and transmission.

The original owner of my Cherokee didn’t take care of her very well so when I brought her home I discovered a cracked head. That’s no biggie since I went to Pull-A-Part junk yard in Atlanta to get another one. Six months later I purchased a Grand Cherokee from my uncle just for the engine he had spent lots of money on overhauling. The only reason why I changed out my transmission was because of my rough off roading skills. I apparently had crimped the lines together. Looking at the prices for new lines I realized I could just buy another used transmission. I ended up getting one for free from an XJ friend though which was even better.
So I have had to replace a radiator a time or two (due to manufacturer defects), a battery that cracked, a water pump and a throttle position sensor. Those are all normal maintenance repairs that happen in the life of an automobile. The times that I have been stranded on the side of the road are because of operator error, mostly running out of gas thinking I could go just a little further down the road to a cheaper gas station. Once was a new radiator that split at the tank which was plastic (sigh).

In the five years that I have owned my Cherokee I have driven it a lot. One year I decided to make a spur of the moment trip to Texas for Thanksgiving with two of my kids in tow. While my mom was in a panic because my Jeep was “old” in her eyes, I was confident I would get there and back, 1,800 miles later. I have driven it to Harlan, Kentucky which is a four hour drive one way at least once a year and sometimes twice. I lived in Cookeville, Tennessee about 100 miles one way from my hometown at least twice a month for a year. I just about drive my Cherokee everyday taking my kids to school and running errands.

Before I owned the Jeep, I had a 2000 Mazda MPV mini van. It was fancy with the leather seats, sun roof and video player, but I wasn’t happy with it. I liked it because it had room for my kids and their stuff I had to tag along when they were babies and toddlers, but it wasn’t me. I made the decision I wanted a vehicle I could easily find parts for, do a lot of the repairs on my own and was known to be reliable. After talking with my best friend I learned the Jeep Cherokee fit all three categories. I remembered my step dad owned a Cherokee and loved it. He drove it until it fell apart and it had close to 300K miles on it when he sold it.

Out of the nine automobiles I have ever owned which includes two Hondas and Mazdas, Chevrolet and Fords, the Jeep Cherokee has been the best and most reliable of them all. It is the one and only vehicle I have ever been happy with. Ask my three kids what their favorite vehicle has been and they will tell you the Jeep.


Jeep Drivers

Most of the time when I am out driving my lifted XJ I see other XJ’s, TJ’s, YJ’s and the like being driven by guys. Every once in awhile I will come across a female driver. Lately whenever I have passed other lifted XJ’s I get the “Jeep Wave” by guys which does make me feel like I am a part of the “group.” I have to admit that this past week I did drive as if I were in a tunnel and no other vehicles expect Jeeps existed. Several times I would pass XJ’s particularly lifted ones. I nearly ran over a car in front of me because all I could see were two lifted XJ’s that were giving me the Jeep wave. I wouldn’t mind getting together with some of these drivers to have some fun.

An issue I have come across is whenever I meet up with a group of people that talk about upcoming trips to go wheeling it usually consists of guys driving and their girlfriends or wives riding shotgun. As a female, if I attempt to join in the local group gatherings it is usually responded with hesitation or a cold shoulder.

I am a part of a group  of XJ’ers that communicates through Yahoo’s XJlist that meets twice a year mainly in Harlan, KY at Blackmountain Off Road Park, Putney Trailhead. Most of the guys are from Kentucky in the Louisville area along with some who are from Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, etc. Typically there are about 20 people that join in the Spring Flings and Fall Crawls held every year.

According to one of the guys that manages Black Mountain Off Road Park, I am one of the only females he knows has driven her own rig on the trails. Most of the time the girlfriends or wives will drive the rigs down to the restrooms and showers. The rest of the time they are riding shotgun.

Almost five years ago with a completely stock XJ I proved myself to the group that I can do just about anything they could do and wasn’t scared to do it. Below is a picture of me on Trail 39 at Windrock OHV park in Oliver Springs, TN in October 2007.



In 2010, I really proved myself when my XJ nearly slid off the ledge of a trail known as Rail Bed in Black Mountain. This trail was mostly consisting of debris from mining in the area so the ground would give away, which is exactly what happened in my case. Approximately eight feet below was a massive pointy boulder. Every time we visit that trail the guys look down in awe and tell me they could have never handled that situation as well as I did. Luckily for me I had an awesome group of guys that immediately knew what to do and get it done quickly.




The next time I was at Black Mountain I proved I was not intimidated by Rail Bed and actually lead the group into the trail which the group has nicknamed “Jenny’s Trail.”  Rail Bed has actually become one of my favorite trails when I visit Black Mountain. Trail 15 and the Lower Rock Garden would be my next favorite places. One day I would love to have a rig built enough to get through Mason Jar.

Every time I do visit Black Mountain there are people in other rigs and ATV’s that do double takes when they see me driving a rig. It brings a smile to my face especially when I can over hear them say there is a girl driving that Jeep!