I knew it was time. I had seen and heard enough. That test drive in my good friend Mike’s brand spanking new 2018 JL Rubicon put me over the edge. When I found out what I could get for my 2014 Rubicon as a trade-in I knew I had to make a move soon. I talked to a couple of dealerships and ended up cutting a deal with the same dealer I had bought my first Rubicon from, David Dodge in Glen Mills PA. I walked in with a spec sheet of what I wanted to order and what I expected to get for my 2014 Rubicon. David Dodge came back with a trade-in value on my Rubicon that exceeded my expectations so it was game on.
Apparently, orders for the new JL were so numerous at the time I was ordering that certain parts were back ordered, like the steel bumpers and the LED headlights I wanted in the build. The delays on ordering the Jeep as I wanted it was setting the delivery date back by months so I had to make a decision to either wait or delete those items and get my Jeep ordered and my trade-in’s value locked in. I figured the aftermarket was going to eventually catch up and I’ll have tons of choices in bumpers anyway. I still planned to go with the Mopar headlights eventually when they become available anyway for order. Ok fine, no problem. $2100 in options could buy me some nice parts.
The order went in July of 2018. About 5 weeks later I took delivery of my amazing Firecracker Red 2018 Jeep Rubicon JL Unlimited. Man.. what an exciting day that was. What a Jeep. FCA and their team of Jeep Wrangler engineers knocked one out of the park. Every little detail of the JL was vastly better than my JK. The power of the engine, the sharp, crisp shifting of the 8-speed transmission, the beefed up axles and brakes that could most certainly handle 37-inch tires. I drooled over the improvements to the UConnect “Infotainment” system and its 8.4-Inch Touchscreen and the 552 watts of sound coming out of 9-speakers, the Subwoofer shaking the floor as it pumped out tunes from my 5000 song mp3 collection crammed onto a tiny flash drive in the center console. The Firecracker Red burning my retinas every time I looked out into the driveway. I was blown away by the differences between the JL and my previous loaded JK Rubicon. In one generation of Jeep, the Wrangler had evolved from a semi-basic but highly capable 4×4 into a technically advanced and even more capable Jeep without losing anything that made it a Jeep at heart. I couldn’t have been more happy with my decision and my new Jeep. Then I started reading the forums.
I wasn’t too long after getting behind the wheel that I was reading everything I could about the new JL. The Wrangler Forums and Facebook pages were flooded with posts about the JL and what people were saying. I quickly noticed a trend. There were ecstatic posts by new Jeep JL owners who couldn’t talk enough about how much they loved their new Wrangler. I read hundreds of posts by newbie owners as well as seasoned Jeep owners alike. Most loved, loved, loved the new Wrangler. But then the problems started popping up in my feeds. Loose steering, tight steering, glitchy electronics, leaking heater cores, detached rear defrost wires, bad welds on the track bar mount, and worst of all, the dreaded death wobble. Death Wobble? On brand new stock Wranglers with extremely low mileage?? I became obsessed with the death wobble issue. I read everything I could find. Especially the posts of people dealing with steering problems ranging from a mild shaking all the way up to full-on “scare the shit out of you” death wobble as experienced death wobble victims know it. By this time I had already invested in a stack of five 37-inch Cooper STT Pro’s, a set of Method Race Wheels and a 2 1/2″ Mopar lift staged at my friend’s house ready to be installed by us. Even though my friend Mike already drove a Mopar lifted JL Rubicon setting up on 37″ mud tires, and zero steering issues to date, I was paralyzed from making a modification to the Jeep. What if I start having issues with death wobble? While death wobble is nothing new to solid front axle vehicles, I wanted to know what Chrysler and FCA were doing to address it. And I also wanted to have a plan to address it myself if need be, better yet, prevent it altogether. What’s the root cause and what stock parts can I upgrade that will make my front axle rock solid.
So here’s the story. The following is my project adventure with a year-one model vehicle, code name Gossamer, and my pursuit of happiness towards the Jeep I’ve always wanted to build, daily drive and 4-wheel in the mountains and offroad parks of PA. This Jeep project is and probably always will be a work in progress. I’m going to write about everything I do to it and deal with trying to get it the way I want it. I hope you enjoy. My name is Ralph Hassel and this is my 2018 Jeep JL Rubicon. I’ll be right back… stay tuned.