Tony G's '18 Firecracker JLUR DD/Crawler Journal

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tonygiotta

tonygiotta

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  • #91
Following along, I'm very jealous of your electrical knowledge/skills. My weakest area by far.
Thanks! No formal electronics training beyond my high school electronics class. It's amazing what you can pick up through years of tinkering, Google searches, and forum reading. :LOL:





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tonygiotta

tonygiotta

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So I mentioned in the previous post that a Jeeping buddy helped me out with fabricating my antenna mount. It was pretty nice of him, considering we'd just met. That's one of the really great things about the Jeep community. Folks are always willing to help out a fellow Jeeper, just because.

In a roundabout sort of way, this whole wiring project actually introduced us to each other. During one of my many trips to ACE, I had to pick up some primary wire, heat shrink butt connectors, and fuses. As I moved from place to place in the store, I noticed this same guy had ended up in the same places. "It seems to me we're both working on the same project," I said. "Wiring up some chase lights on my Jeep for a trip to the Mojave Road," he replied. Told him what I was working on and then we went our separate ways.

Back out in the parking lot, I found him standing next to my Jeep. Got to talking again and next thing I knew, I was being invited to spend a few nights in the desert with a group of people I had never met. Under any other circumstances, I'd be a little concerned... :lipssealed:

Turns out he was the ringleader of an informal group of Jeepers that had met on a run sponsored by a Jeep forum-which-must-not-be-named. They weren't very active in that forum anymore, but now communicated and planned trips together through the WhatsApp platform. Also turns out we were nearly neighbors, both living just off the same street in adjacent neighborhoods.

Vic cooking tacos for the crew:

tempImageSqZEyf.png
 

Roky

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So I mentioned in the previous post that a Jeeping buddy helped me out with fabricating my antenna mount. It was pretty nice of him, considering we'd just met. That's one of the really great things about the Jeep community. Folks are always willing to help out a fellow Jeeper, just because.

In a roundabout sort of way, this whole wiring project actually introduced us to each other. During one of my many trips to ACE, I had to pick up some primary wire, heat shrink butt connectors, and fuses. As I moved from place to place in the store, I noticed this same guy had ended up in the same places. "It seems to me we're both working on the same project," I said. "Wiring up some chase lights on my Jeep for a trip to the Mojave Road," he replied. Told him what I was working on and then we went our separate ways.

Back out in the parking lot, I found him standing next to my Jeep. Got to talking again and next thing I knew, I was being invited to spend a few nights in the desert with a group of people I had never met. Under any other circumstances, I'd be a little concerned... :lipssealed:

Turns out he was the ringleader of an informal group of Jeepers that had met on a run sponsored by a Jeep forum-which-must-not-be-named. They weren't very active in that forum anymore, but now communicated and planned trips together through the WhatsApp platform. Also turns out we were nearly neighbors, both living just off the same street in adjacent neighborhoods.

Vic cooking tacos for the crew:

tempImageSqZEyf.png
Love how Jeepers are family right from the jump....:rock:
 
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tonygiotta

tonygiotta

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  • #94
My build thus far had been progressing at a steady, but casual pace. Making purchases as money allowed, doing installs as time allowed, and rolling with the punches when backorders slowed things down. This invitation to traverse the Mojave Road changed all that. I now had a deadline to get some projects wrapped up. Funny thing is, that seems to be the case with every "big" off-road trip. There's always something that needs to get buttoned up before you leave, and it inevitably seems to take until the night before your departure. I had 6 weeks to work with, should be good...

While I had been itching to go wheeling for awhile now, I had told myself that I wasn't going to tackle anything too challenging until I got some armor installed. I did not want to incur any damage to my rig that would have been prevented had I already installed the armor that was part of my build plan. I was looking first and foremost at rock sliders. Rocker impact is almost inevitable on the trails I tend to find myself on, but rocker damage is easily prevented (or at least greatly reduced) with the right sliders. I also wanted to install a full belly pan skid prior to damaging any of my Jeep's soft underside. Differential covers, FAD skid, and front control arm skids were also on the list.

This added up to a pretty sizable chunk of change. Short on funds, and short on space, I made a push to sell off many of my take-off Rubicon parts. I had sold my stock tires early on (apparently very popular with the Lexus GX470 folks), but wheels, bumpers, sliders, tow hitch, and full suspension all went up for sale. Also sold off the extra bumpers I found myself sitting on after my rear bumper fiasco. At the same time, I ordered a set of Poison Spyder Rocker Knockers and an Artec aluminum belly pan skid plate set. Spending definitely outpaced the selling in this case, but I needed to get these items taken care of before leaving for my trip, right? :angel:
 
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tonygiotta

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I initially ordered my Rocker Knockers from 4WP. Not a place I usually buy from, but their website was showing the Rocker Knockers in stock as well as the recently released step kits for them. I'm not a big fan of steps myself, but I had seen Poison Spyders' steps that they had been showing off on their SEMA rig, and they seemed to fit the bill. In fact, they were one of the reasons I had chosen to go with the Rocker Knockers. A nice, low, minimalist step with a textured grip plate on it. When you're ready to hit the trail, they're designed to be easily removable via a pair of oversized Allen head bolts on each step. I was tired of my wife complaining about getting into the Jeep and worried my kids were eventually going to injure themselves with their inverted acrobatic approach to climbing inside. I ordered up the sliders and a pair of step kits and eagerly awaited their arrival.

After about a week, a Poison Spyder T-shirt that I had also ordered showed up, but there had been no updates on an ETA for the sliders. I decided to give 4WP a call. I gave up after about half an hour on hold. A couple days later, same thing, but this time I sent an email to customer service as well. A few days after that, I was getting impatient and decided I was going to stick it out on hold. After one hour and thirty-eight minutes on hold, I finally got through! I was then told they were out of stock and they couldn't provide me with an ETA. I asked for explanations as to why the website showed in stock when they weren't and why after two weeks I hadn't even been notified that they were on backorder with no ETA. No satisfactory answers were provided so I cancelled my order with 4WP, told myself I'd never buy anything from them again, and instead placed my order with Northridge 4x4 as I should have done in the first place. Northridge unfortunately had run out of stock while I was waiting on 4WP, but at least they could give me an ETA on the sliders (sans steps). I was scheduled to receive them a few days before I was supposed to leave for the Mojave. This was important as I was hoping they'd help keep the desert sand from from chipping the paint on my door hinges. Two weeks of trip prep time completely wasted...

Fortunately, my belly skids (which I had ordered direct from Artec) showed up in a somewhat reasonable amount of time. With 3 only weeks left before my departure, I had all the boxes safely in my garage.

IMG_0696.jpeg



I had been studying the install instructions (and videos) for both the skids and the sliders, trying to figure out if they were going to play together nicely. It appeared they would, with the exception of one factory mounting bolt on either side of the front crossmember that looked like it was going to be shared. It was nice to have the skids on hand so I could take some measurements and start working on some alternative mounting options, but it would have been even nicer to have both the skids and sliders on hand so I could verify if/how they actually fit together. I'm not proficient at welding aluminum and I didn't want to mess with the integrity (or nice finish) of the Artec replacement crossmember, so I decided I'd take my chances on being able to modify the sliders when they showed up. With no time to waste before my trip, I got to work on installing the skids as is.

I took a "before" picture of my factory gas tank skid clearance, and then started unbolting the factory parts.

IMG_0730.jpeg



Removal was easy as none of my factory skids had been smashed on the rocks yet. Despite their large size, the Artec aluminum skids were easy to handle due to their light weight. I followed the directions, bolting piece after piece into place. I was shocked as each piece fit just as it was supposed to. No enlarging holes, no bending or forcing of parts, no clearancing brackets, no missing hardware (extra is actually provided). I often tell fellow Jeepers that this is probably the best engineered aftermarket part I've ever installed in my 20+ years of wrenching on Jeeps. Especially when you consider that we're dealing with multiple large plates, spanning the entire bottom of the Jeep, and fitting tightly together like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Such a nice, smooth underbelly with nothing to get hung up on.

IMG_0830.jpeg



And the "after" picture? As advertised, the Artecs actually improved my ground clearance (while providing far superior protection) with a very minimal weight penalty. This is possible because the Artec skids actually replace the factory gas tank skid instead of bolting on over it. Yes, it is a bit of a hassle to remove the factory gas tank skid, but it's well worth it in my opinion. Install is still a one-man job with the aluminum skids. I'd probably recommend two with the steel version due to the added weight.

IMG_0745.jpeg
 
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tonygiotta

tonygiotta

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  • #96
While waiting for my sliders to arrive, I continued to prep for my trip, consolidating my camping gear and working on a good way to pack it securely for some high speed desert driving. I tidied up a wiring project or two and started researching Ham frequencies used in the area. I then talked to my new buddy about comms and found out that while most in the group had their Ham license, a few didn't and they therefore used CB for trail comms.

Well crap... I did a little CB research and was going back and forth between a handheld and a small mobile radio. Ultimately, I ended up settling on the AnyTone Smart 10 meter radio. Technically, it isn't sold as a CB radio. This allows it to have more power than what the CB band is limited to. With a minor modification (removing a solder joint) it can be used on the CB (11 meter) frequencies. It is also super small which was a plus since I was looking for something non-permanent that would be easy to install/remove.

I mounted it on a RAM ball, attached it to the second arm on my Voswitch panel, and bought a short antenna cable extension so I could hook it up to my Ham antenna cable under the glove box. I don't really have a great picture at the moment, but it ended up looking something like this.

tempImageD2NjnN.png



I decided rather than deal with running power wiring, I'd get fancy and hook it up to the high power USB outlets that I had wired up in my Voswitch panel. I bought a USB to 12V outlet converter from Amazon.

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Cut the 12V outlet end off of it.

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Soldered it to the leads on the radio.

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And wrapped it all in heat shrink tubing.

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Turned out looking pretty clean.

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I had also bought a CB whip antenna with a NMO base so I could easily swap it out with my Ham antenna when I got to the trail. I hooked everything up and went for a test run around town. I was able to pick up traffic, and a brief radio check with my Jeep buddy was a success! Genius, right? Well, as it turned out, this didn't work on the trail. I was able to hear traffic from the rest of the group without issue. However when I tried to talk, the group heard mostly electrical noise. I would listen in on the conversations and then momentarily key up the mic to let them know that I had copied the traffic. :facepalm:

My theory is that the radio doesn't like all the voltage conversion being done. Aux 1 supplies 12V to my Voswitch panel, the USB ports take it down to the standard USB 5V, and then the voltage converter brings it back up to 12V. I was able to verify (with my voltmeter) that 12V was making it to the radio, so it was likely a lack of current once everything was said and done.

I just recently cut off the USB adapter and made a new pigtail using a Kenwood factory style connector. That way I can swap both the antenna and power leads under the glove box when I need to use the CB. Haven't had a chance to test it out yet. Fingers crossed that it works and it wasn't just an issue with the radio itself this whole time.
 

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