Jeep Creep: Off-Road Tire Upgrades, Winter Prep and More

Oct. 24, 2016 By Jim Brightly, KF7SCT

In your Jeep Creep questions, please list your first and last names, your hometown, and your state/province/country, so that we can publish that information here. If you don’t provide this information, we may not be able to publish your question and answer. Don’t forget to be as complete as possible with the description of your Jeep and its problems, too. Send your Jeep questions to [email protected], Attn: Jeep Creep.

More Jeep Creep Q&As
September 2016 - Air Horns and Communications Add-Ons

August 2016 - O2 Sensor Codes, Axle Conversion and More

July 2016 - Manual Hubs, JK Wrangler Lift and More

Three Jeep recalls from NHTSA this month
(www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/monthlyreports.cfm)

16V-590
: Chrysler is recalling certain model year 2014-2016 Jeep Cherokee vehicles manufactured July 29, 2013, to February 5, 2016. The seat fasteners on the first or second row seats may not have been tightened to the proper torque specification. Loose fasteners may allow the seats to move, increasing the risk of injury to the seat occupants in the event of a crash. Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the seats or seat sets, free of charge. The recall was expected to begin during September 2016. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall S63.

16V-668: Chrysler is recalling certain model year 2011-2014 Chrysler 200, 2010 Chrysler Sebring, 2010-2012 Dodge Caliber and 2010-2014 Jeep Patriot, Compass, and Dodge Avenger vehicles. The Occupant Restraint Control (OCR) module may short circuit, preventing the frontal air bags, seat belt pretensioners, and side air bags from deploying in the event of a crash. If the frontal air bags, seat belt pretensioners, and side air bags are disabled, there is an increased risk of injury to the vehicle occupants in the event of a vehicle crash that necessitates deployment of these safety systems. The remedy for this recall is still under development. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is S61.

16V-686: Chrysler is recalling certain model year 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured August 8, 2016, through August 16, 2016. In the affected vehicles, the rear tow hook bracket or tow eye bracket may be loose. If the tow bracket is loose, the bracket may detach from the vehicle while it is being driven, possibly becoming a road hazard. If the bracket detaches during a vehicle recovery, there may be a loss of control of the towed vehicle. Either scenario increases the risk of a crash. Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will confirm both tow hook bracket bolts are properly tightened, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin on November 6, 2016. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is S73.

Gas Tank Repair
Your temporary gas tank fix worked! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t convinced that soap would seal a torn gas tank, like you said in one of your Jeep Creep columns, but I carried a bar of Fels Naptha anyway (it really kept the Jeep smelling nice, too). On the last weekend I was playing in the mountains with my TJ and sliced the tank and plastic skid plate. The Fels Naptha got me home but what do I do now? How do I repair the tank more permanently?

Jeffery Warner
Colorado Springs, CO

Jeffery, I have several suggestions for you. You can repair it or you can replace it.

Repair: (You might want to remove the tank from the Jeep for the repair.) Drain the gasoline from the tank and allow the tank to completely dry. Mix the two-part epoxy together and apply all around the perimeter of the opening. Place a fiberglass patch over the hole and press into the epoxy. After repairing, read my article here. Look at Rugged Ridge’s website for the skid plate.

Replace: Omix-ADA has a plastic replacement tank, which coupled with the Rugged Ridge skid plate would give you back a full-size OEM tank. This is a good combination. Or take a peek at Genright’s website and its larger-than-OEM aircraft-grade aluminum fuel tanks with included 3/16-inch steel skid plates. I have a Genright 31-gallon tank on my 2005 Rubicon Unlimited and I’d be lost without it. It was a great addition to my LJ build!

Prep for Winter
I just moved to Colorado from Carlsbad, New Mexico, and I bought a Jeep (2013 Rubicon Unlimited), so I need some advice on making sure the Jeep and I make it through the coming winter safely. Is there anything I should do special for the Jeep?

Kevin Maclin
Golden, CO

That’s actually two questions, Kevin. First of all, since you bought the Jeep used, see “Jeep Prep” on the October 2015 Jeep Creep column. My answer will give you some suggestions you should think about to make sure you’re starting with a level playing field with the 2013 Jeep. Next, make sure your battery is no more than two years old. Winter is hard on batteries—especially if you can’t park the Jeep indoors at night—so you’ll need a good one to keep your starter cranking all winter long. Check your tire tread as well. Make sure you have plenty of depth left, and you might seriously consider a new set. If you have the money, a complete set of studded tires and new rims make sense. These tires’ treads have imbedded metal studs to gain traction on snow and ice. A cheaper way to go is a set of snow chains, and I’d suggest buy two pair so that all four tires are chained down for excellent traction. Don’t forget an extra fan belt, just in case. One last thing: Read your owner’s manual. It should cover just about everything you want to know and religiously follow its maintenance schedule. If you didn’t get one with your Jeep, Google will give you a pdf online for reference.

Bad Brake Light
My ‘93 Wrangler Sahara has a brake light problem. Sometimes when I push on the brake pedal the driver’s side brake light doesn’t go on until I turn my blinker on. I have a new brake light switch in it.
Brian Babbin
Hemit, CA

Your turn signal switch could be bad. Cycle the hazard switch about a dozen times and see if there’s any change. If no change, replace the turn signal switch.

Vacuum Hoses
I’m looking for a diagram of the ‘96 Jeep Cherokee vacuum hoses. My Jeep has been stalling out when stopping. This only happens in cold weather. It starts right back up, but stalls when stopping.
Cathy Wilson
Glendale, AZ

Stop by any large auto parts chain store and you’ll find a large selection of repair manuals. Look for one with the diagrams you need. If that doesn’t help, check out the 4-Wheel Parts’ website for the Jeep shop manuals. Amazon is another place to look (as well as eBay).

To Overdrive or Not
Would it extend my ‘04 Rubicon’s engine’s and transmission’s lives to switch off the overdrive while driving in the city? I have already switched to Mobile One. This is my first TJ and I want to keep it in good health for a long time.
Rick Henderson
Joplin, MO

The only time the overdrive (OD) could cause you some trouble—and it won’t be with the engine but with the transmission—is if you’re towing and it keeps shifting back and forth between 3rd and 4th. This “hunting” will cause overheating in the transmission and shorten its life. Actually, shutting off the OD without the hunting could shorten the life of the engine by causing it to rev higher needlessly. If you’re worried about lugging the engine (I’m assuming that’s what you meant by hurting the engine), an automatic won’t allow that to happen.


Taller Tires
I have a 1999 Wrangler Sport with stock rims and tires (15-inch rims and 235/75-R15 tires). I am looking into getting new rims and tires but would like to know if I can put on 31x10.5-inch tires without any modifications? Also, how much backspacing will I need and what width of rim for this size tire? If this size will not work, then what would you recommend?

Scott Carson
Lancaster, PA

Thirty-one-inch tires will fit. They may contact metal during extreme turns over extreme terrain, but other than that they’ll fit. You could also use the original rims if you want to save some money. Unless you need a tire with wide-open treads for the mud in Pennsylvania, which may wear rapidly, I highly recommend Goodyear MT/R tires (see www.goodyeartires.com, Goodyear provides a tire chart with recommended rim widths). If you’d rather have a more open tread pattern, I recommend Yokohama’s Geolandar M/T tires. Both tires are tougher than hell, fairly quiet, provide excellent traction, and are long lasting. If you still want new wheels, check out 4-Wheel Parts’ or Quadratec’s websites for sales deals.

Lost Cat
I recently had my catalytic converter taken off my ‘98 Jeep Wrangler 4.0L with automatic transmission. My buddies told me that I would increase fuel mileage. Best I can tell it bypasses the rear O2 sensor. Now I have less power and worse fuel mileage than before. What’s up with that? It runs fine; no skipping or noises, just less power and less mileage. What to do? Should I replace the cat?
Martin Biggs
Cheyenne, WY

The lack of a catalytic converter is your problem, Martin. The O2 sensor is sending what is now mistaken data to your engine’s computer, causing the computer to flow more fuel to the engine. This causes an over-rich mixture, causing the reduced power and increased fuel usage. Replace the OEM cat with a high-flow, low-restriction aftermarket unit and you’ll get your power back plus a slight increase, and better mileage.

Electronic Sway Bar Disconnect
I just bought my first Rubicon, getting ready for another Rockies winter, so that I’d have better gearing for the mountain roads around here (4.11:1). It’s a 2016 and I got a really good deal because the dealer wanted room for the 2017 Jeeps. Everything is working really well, and I can hardly wait for enough break-in miles so I can hit the trails around Telluride, Ouray, and Silverton before the snow closes the high passes. I’ve owned other Jeeps, so I think I’m okay with most of the bells and whistles on this rig, but I’m not sure I understand the electronic sway bar disconnect. I know what a sway bar is, but why do I need to disconnect it? The salesman told me all about the Jeep, and I read the owner’s manual, but I wasn’t really listening to the sales guy and I don’t really understand what the manual is telling me. Can you put into words that I can understand?

Jack Crabtree
Montrose, CO

I can understand your confusion, Jack. I had the same system on my first Rubicon Unlimited—assuming Jeep hasn’t changed the programming since the 2007 model year (my CJ and LJ don’t have sway bars). Basically, you don’t have to concern yourself with the sway bars in two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-high. But you should get into the habit of disconnecting it whenever you shift to low range. Since the system will automatically re-engage the sway bar around 20 mph, that’s all you need to do. Disconnect when in low range. The reason you disconnect is two-fold: It gives you more articulation for the front axle (has more and longer up-and-down movement) and it won’t be bent should you encounter an extreme obstacle. Happy trails!

In your Jeep Creep questions, please list your first and last names, your hometown, and your state/province/country, so that we can publish that information here. If you don’t provide this information, we may not be able to publish your question and answer. Don’t forget to be as complete as possible with the description of your Jeep and its problems, too. For some reason the questions have fallen off, and I know we haven’t answered all your Jeep technical questions. There are no dumb questions; only unasked questions. Send them in and try to stump us.—Jim Brightly

As usual, each month, I’m shouting out a huge THANK YOU to Paul Schupp at Rock Lizard 4x4 in Kingman, Arizona, for his invaluable assistance in answering many of the Jeep Creep questions.


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