As my friend James and I began our journey to Pennsylvania to retrieve the broken Jeep we had left there the day before; we agreed that, as a group, we’ve gotten a bit lax with our trail repair kits. We usually have pretty good luck when we venture out to Rausch Creek Off Road Park, but the last trip was not one of those luck filled ones. Looking back on it, I’m surprised that this was the first time we’ve had to leave a Jeep behind, to spend the night at the park. The day had started off great – up before 6am, a beautiful sunrise, and excited anticipation for what the day would bring.
I put my lunch box in the back of the TJ, and headed over to Mike’s house. Mike, and my brother Matt, were going to spend the day in Mike’s 1997 Cherokee. We quickly said our sleepy hellos, and were on our way to pick up our friend Frank, who would be riding with me for the day. As we got into Frank’s neighborhood, Mike’s XJ started to overheat, we ran the heater, let it cool down, and tried to determine what the issue was. Once the temp dropped, Mike fired it back up, and all was normal. We couldn’t really determine what was happening, but Mike wanted to press on. We left Frank’s and within a few miles, the XJ was running hot again, and smoking from the front right wheel. Mike made the decision to leave the Cherokee at home, and ride with someone else for the day. We continued our journey, met up with Dan and James, and Jeepavanned it out to PA. We got to the park, signed in, aired down, and hit the trails. Our group consisted of my 1997 TJ Wrangler, Dan’s 1999 XJ Cherokee, Marc’s 1994 YJ Wrangler, and James’s 1979 CJ7.
After a few green and blue trails, I saw James shut the CJ down, and prop the hood. We all shut down, and went to see what was up with the Relicon. There was power steering fluid sprayed on the inside of the hood like an abstract splatter painting. The old Jeep had split a line. We all hunted through our tool boxes and trail kits to find something that could repair the split hose. After re-purposing a hose clamp from another line, and filling the reservoir with motor oil, the 304 was kicked back to life, and in a single roar of the engine, the artist was back at work splattering its canvas. James decided to remove the belt driven pump, and test his strength by manually steering the CJ. Another few friends in a trio of Cherokees joined us, and we were back on the trails. We hit a few familiar spots, then stopped for lunch in a clearing where a large group of Dodge Ram Powerwagons were also gathering. James and Dan talked shop with the wagon wheelers, since both of their Cummins powered Rams were sitting in the parking lot. We watched them get nice and stuck in a mud pit, then packed up our luchables, and hit a trail that I hadn’t been on before. As the group approached a murky water crossing, Dan, and James both took a route to the right through a small hill of mud. Both went through with ease, and I followed behind. The TJ went straight into the mud, instead of over it. The front diff was buried, and the rear had sunk in a bit. I was stuck. This was also the only part of the day that I remembered to turn the camera on. Enjoy.
We hooked up to Marc’s YJ – and easily pulled the TJ out. As soon as I shut the engine off, a mystical green waterfall began to fall from the front end. I knew when we left that I had a slight coolant leak, that I suspected was coming from the radiator, but I ignored it, and vowed to diagnose and repair it after the trip. Again, we were all tasked with finding a way to patch the TJ, and get it moving again. I did have water and coolant in the Jeep, but without patching the cracked tank, I wasn’t sure it’d stay in. The only thing we cold find in all of the Jeeps to stop the leak was super glue. It held long enough for me to get the Wrangler back to the parking lot, where it once again relieved itself. After a few failed calls to local parts stores looking for a radiator, it was time to determine how I was going to get myself, and the Jeep home. James trailers his CJ behind his Ram; and graciously offered to come back the next day for the TJ, in return for a tank of diesel.
In the end, no one was injured, the Jeeps got home, and I learned some very valuable lessons. If your Jeep has a leaking radiator; fix it, or leave it at home. Add spare hoses, clamps, and super glue to my trail kit. And its always good to have a helpful friend with a big truck and a trailer.