I'm fortunate enough to have a chance to build a JKU and my plan is to put together a vehicle that will fit my needs perfectly. I have a few attributes that will outline what I'm focusing on with the final product, all modifications will be done with these ideas in mind. For those that don't know me, I run a Utah-based 4x4 forum (RME4x4.com
) and will also be using the JKU to promote my forum.
- Factory Reliability, for minimal issues when traveling far into the back country.
- Freeway Friendly, comfortable and drivable for those long roadtrips to reach new places.
- Excellent Suspension, capable of carrying us and our gear while running long distances over rough trails.
- Highly Capable for those very difficult trail situations.
- Simple, Clean and Quality mods that serve a purpose.
Most of my trips are usually local day or weekend trips... the San Juan mountains of Colorado, the amazing Red Rock deserts of Utah and sometimes beyond... like week-long adventures exploring the dirt tracks and remote offroad trails of Baja, Mexico. I'll be building this JKU to take me to those places in comfort and with the knowledge that this Jeep will make it thru without issue. It won't be a 'rock crawler' by any means, but living so close to Moab it will probably spend some time on the trails in the area.
I'm starting with a 2012 Jeep JKU Rubicon with an automatic trans, hardtop, 38k miles and a few mods from the first owner, which include a 2.5" TeraFlex Budget Boost lift using stock springs and shocks. Of course being a Rubicon it had front & rear diff locks, a 4 to 1 transfer case, 4.10 ring & pinion gears and an electric disconnect anti-sway bar. It's a pretty good base to build from!
I bought it from a dealer in SLC who bought it at auction and after doing my research, came to find out that since new this was actually a rental Jeep at Canyonlands Jeep Rental in Moab!
Now any sane person would probably walk away, but I was interested... I'm a sucker for a project. I know how I'd drive a rental Jeep and knowing it was used (and abused) in Moab for the first 37k miles of it's life was pretty unnerving. Moab trails can be brutal on vehicles, let alone someone who doesn't own it or care for it like a personal vehicle. A good friend stopped by to check it out and we noted that the undercarrige and skid plates were all scraped up and dented... even the crossmembers are pretty beat up. On top of that, both lower control arms are BENT on the passenger side! :Wow1: This Jeep looks most other Jeeps would look like after 150k miles with weekend offroad use. There is no doubt that it has been used often offroad.
After talking about the condition, history and needs of the Jeep we settled on a fair price and I went into it knowing that it was going to need a good deal of work getting it in top shape again. In my mind, it's going to need all new suspension, steering, ball joints, etc, etc. I wouldn't doubt that even the front axle is no longer perfectly straight, so there may be an upgraded front axle housing in the future.
My basic build plan will include the following, with other supporting mods to come over time;
I'm a big believer in supporting the local businesses and people in the local 4WD community and am going to do my best to keep my purchases local.
Shortly after finalizing the purchase of the Jeep (at Riverton Chevy) we drove over to see our friends at Teraflex. Joe was working and gave us a great tour of their new location in West Jordan... it's impressive! Lots of space for their massive inventory, show room area, shipping and manufacturing departments. If you haven't seen their new location, you ought to check it out! We meet up with Vinny and along with Joe's help we talked about what my needs were from the Jeep and they put together a great suspension option for us based on our needs. We added a few other neat products and a couple of TeraFlex bumpers and carefully loaded it all into the back of the Jeep!
I wanted to get a baseline with the Jeep 'stock' and see how it worked offroad. I headed out to a local canyon with a truck scale nearby and took some pics.
First thing I did was weight the JKU as is... I did have a CO2 tank and a bag full of recovery gear, but it looks like it's sitting at 4,680 pounds.
Next up was an offroad test in Cameo, up Coal Canyon. The JKU actually works very well cruising down a dirt road at speed, the linked coil suspension seems pretty supple in the mild roads... until you bottom it out! It hits hard! I was actually pretty impressed with the ride quality that the stock mid-length control arms of the JKU provide. I dropped into the rocky canyon bottom, dropped it into 4 Low and started playing in the rocks. I have to say, the electric sway-bar disconnect is pretty damn nice... push a button and go! Then I had to play with the lockers and big rocks... again, the wheel travel and performance of a 'stock' JKU is pretty amazing! I wasn't even aired down and it was capable enough to go anywhere I wanted. I had to get a few poser shots and called it good... very happy with the performance of the Rubicon!