offroad1.gif (11097 bytes)Another Offroad Adventure

On the trail back to camp Paul felt that his steering just wasn't responding as it should.  Then things really started getting bad.  The Jeep just didn't want to go where Paul pointed the wheel.  So he did the best thing he could think of.  He swapped his Jeep for his father's comfy YJ.  Ahhh... now that's better he though as he rode behind his father in the cranky CJ5.  Meanwhile his father, Steve, is behind the wheel of this vintage CJ thinking, rather saying out loud in hysterics, "Oh My God! How can this thing steer so bad??"  He's steering in one direction, the CJ goes straight for a short distance and then darts suddenly into another direction as Steve desperately tries to counter-steer it back onto the trail before hitting any trees.  Finally at a sharp bend in the trail, it just won't go any further. 

So we all get out, illuminate the area around the Jeep, only to discover that the driver side ball joint is hanging out with no ball joint nut to be found.  Either the cotter pin that holds the nut onto the ball joint must have worked itself out or was just missing to begin with.  In fact the cotter pins are missing on the passenger side ball joint as well AND so is the the lower part of the drag link.

The irony is that Paul just had a Dana 30 front axle swapped in to his CJ the week before by a "professional" company that does this kind of thing every day. It appeared that they simply did not put cotter pins in the ball joints.  Later on the phone they justified this lack of cotter pins with " Oh we don't use cotter pins any more because we use Teflon lock nuts".  Well unfortunately there were no Teflon lock nuts on this CJ.

We couldn't find the ball joint nut, probably long gone way back on the trail.  We discovered that the Jeep's lug nuts have the same thread count and size.  Working against damaged threads we got it on tight enough to get it back to camp.  In the morning we'll head down to town for some of those optional cotter pins and a new nut.

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Two full turns of the wheel and it kept going towards the Tree!!  I kept thinking WTF??

Saturday Morning
Ah yes, Breakfast buffet.  Ham, eggs, bacon, home fries, the works!  Large coffee please.

After breakfast, we hit NAPA for some parts.  We discovered you can't buy a ball joint nut without buying a ball joint.  Ok, well since Paul had a narrow track CJ5 Dana 30, we asked for a ball joint for a 78 CJ5 which should fit the tie rod he has.  Funny thing is they didn't ask which side.  Well of course we didn't think to ask for the driver side and of course they gave us the wrong side.  The 10 miles back to town wasn't what we wanted to do without knowing there would be a ball joint waiting for us.  We called NAPA on the cell phone first to find out if they even had it in stock before driving anywhere.  Now... not that we want to bash NAPA, but they didn't know what we were talking about.  All they knew was there wasn't a left/right side or a driver/passenger part number for that year Jeep's ball joints in their system.  Their system only had one ball joint for that year Jeep.  In fact they said the whole range from 76 thru 86 CJ-5's and CJ-7's only had one ball joint part number.  Well that's just wrong, plain and simple. The thing is, if you know anything about tie rods, the left and right sides are opposite thread directions so the toe-in can be adjusted without popping off the ball joint.  I don't believe the guy on the phone even understood the concept of why there's a difference between left side and right as Paul tried to explain it to him for ten minutes.  So we ended up using the teeth of a hacksaw blade to fix the threads on the old ball joint and used the 25 dollar nut and the 20 cent cotter pins to re-attach the tie rod.  We also put new cotter pins in where they were mysteriously missing.  In the rain.

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Up and Over Innovations in Lenni PA did the work on the front axle of Paul's Jeep.  We could have done this work ourselves but time was a factor and the assumption was they would do it right.  Up and Over apparently does good work with Toyotas, which is their specialty.  However I guess they have a thing against Jeeps or just old rusty Jeeps.  I'm not sure.  I'd suggest double checking their work if you use them.  Especially the cotter pins.  It's a good thing Paul (or his father) wasn't going down a trail along a cliff's edge when that cotter pin-less nut popped off the ball joint.  That's just something you don't want to overlook.  It's a stupid mistake to not put a 20 cent cotter pin back onto a ball joint.




One note about the axle swap.  The reason for the swap was to take advantage of disc brakes rather than the drum brakes of the original Dana 27.  The Dana 30 must have a different castor angle of the spring pad than the original axle had because the swapped axle's castor was either zero degrees or leaning a little forward after the swap.  This basically made it impossible to flat tow the Jeep.  The day before the trip Paul attempted to flat tow the Jeep from Up and Over.  He went about about a 1/4 mile and the tires went full lock to one side and stayed there.  He unhitched and drove the Jeep back to Up and Over to figure out what was the problem.  They suggested and tried a full toe-in of the tires.  As though that would work for flat towing 250 miles the next day.  No mention of castor.  Now come on guys you know what was wrong.  No castor.  Shims would have been the fix.  Good thing Paul had access to a rollback tow truck. One other thing.  A rubber gromlet would have been nice when you ran the LED tow lights electric cable through the firewall. Then it wouldn't have shorted out.  I know these guys were in a hurry to get their rock buggy ready for an event but they had the CJ for 5 months knowing when Paul wanted it back and did the job in the 4 days before our trip.  On top of that, they're not cheap.  If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Alright, enough about that.  Back to the trails.

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