New Year 'Wheeling: Our First Run of '98
by Jonathan Yim
>>I guess you've heard about me snapping my Teraflex lower >>control arm. I sure was glad it was fixed so >>quickly (and under warranty too! <g>). >>Now that's how warranty repairs ought to be handled. > >Actually, I didn't hear about this! Tell me more!
Well, if the "picture is worth a 1000 words" theory is true, here it is:
I've been honored with the "almost first Doh of '98".
Anyway, the story: Wil was itching to go play in the snow up at McNutt, so he started calling around. We ended up with Wil and his dog Leon, Lars (sans YJ), me, and the Loughran brothers with their kids. I never really met either of the Loughrans although I saw John that time we were at Rolley Lake.
Cast of Characters:
So we all met up at the Husky gas station in Maple Ridge (Sat Jan 3). Larry parked the Subaru and rode with me (he was whining about worn splines in his YJ's front driveshaft). Kevin's rig was the first built Explorer I've ever seen. John's Cherokee looked pretty nice, too.
It was a pretty uneventful trip, aside from my breakage. There was about 5-6" of snow on the ground and the scenery was really nice. John's XJ had Baja tires and they really didn't do very well in the snow. My Mud Kings at 12psi never got me stuck, but his tires at 10psi had him sliding everywhere. He has a rear locker too. <g> I think the fact that the Bajas were built for heavy duty use compromised their ability to flex in the snow. Even when aired down, the Bajas' sidewalls barely flexed.
Anyway, after we hit the snow we would (in all seriousness) drive about 200-300 m then stop and chat for about 10-15min. We had to stop because the XJ had to take a run at anything more than a 5deg incline. Not the fault of the driver, just a basic shortcoming with the tires. The Explorer was overheating a bit after our first stop and it's rad was boiling over, prompting Larry to make pee jokes and pretend he wasn't feeling well 'cuz his pee was green. The Loughrans also brought sleds and stuff for their kids, so Larry enjoyed himself until he bounced his hip off a rock as he went over a bump. At one point Wil's front ARB air line broke, but he patched it up with a bit of duct tape.
The trail had already been broken (there were deep ruts in the snow) but there was fresh snow sprinkled over everything. I guess it was after our 5th or 6th stop when we were driving along and heard a loud "crack" followed by a grating sound. Must've hit a rock underneath. No problem. Drove along for another 20m or so and heard a clunk and more grating. Larry looks at me and says "Um, I think you better stop and take a look". <sigh> I hop out, expecting to see my 2nd broken axle shaft and look underneath my truck. Nope, the wheels seem to be still centered under the vehicle. I wonder if that control arm is supposed to be flopping on the ground like that. "Larry, that's bad, right?" Larry just gave me a funny look. The strange thing was that I didn't notice any adverse handling in the intervening 20m that I drove after it apparently broke.
It was the rear driver's side lower control arm. It broke near the axle side bushing, right along the welds. Okay, so now what? Well, I got on my cell phone and called the shop (where my lift was installed) and told him I was on McNutt and broke a control arm and did he have another one and could he wait around until I got there? (all in one breath, I might add) It was 2-something and he closes at 3pm, but said he'd be around until 4-ish. Ok, we could make that. So we decided to try and take the dangling control arm off. No problem, I brought most of my tools. 13/16" socket? No problem, I even had my tarp for Larry to lie on. <g> 13/16" deep socket and a breaker bar? Um, Wil? Loughran brothers? Doesn't anyone else bring tools with them? Geez! Larry gave up after he mangled my (now non-)adjustable wrench. We just unscrewed the dangling half of the (threaded) control arm. "Avoid driving backwards" sez Larry. Ok, we found a big turnaround point a little ways up the trail and started down. Handling still doesn't seem very different even though my TJ-in-pain senses were at their most acute. I hung my head out the window as we drove down so I could see if my axle was about to fall off (as if watching it would help). "Larry, what's holding the axle on this side other than that really dinky upper control arm that Rob hasn't built me a super duper replacement for?" "A wish and a prayer?" Larry guessed. "Well, won't the coil and shock help a bit?" Larry looked at me like I grew another head. Oh. Okay, maybe not.
On the way down we ran across some people in pickups. Of course, since we were in a bit of a hurry, they had to pull in front of us and inch their way down the trail. All unmodified vehicles. Wil said the Mazda p/u in front of him was sliding everywhere on the trail and at one point nearly swapped ends. Further down, we saw some snowmobilers...the funny thing was that they were riding up the trail which was covered with rocks but no snow whatsoever (the snow began 100 m behind us). Larry mumbled something about people with too much money and not enough brains.
We got to the pavement with no incident but it was 3:30ish so I left for the 4x4 shop immediately. John Loughran said he knew Craig, the owner, pretty well and that he'd meet us there. That was nice of him... it couldn't hurt right? Driving on the street at 12psi, sans one lower control arm is... *different*. Like "holy-shit-I-have-four-wheel-steering" different... except that some unknown maniac was controlling the other steering wheel. I finally understood Larry's thought that maybe I should disconnect the rear driveshaft and use front wheel drive. (He mentioned that up on the hill but then said it probably would be okay) I dropped him off to get the Subaru and limped my way to the shop. I made it there at 3:59. Pretty good timing huh? Brought in my broken piece of control arm, grinned at Craig, and said "Here ya go". (Don't believe Larry's story that I started crying <g>) Anyway, he went and got a control arm out of another kit and got to work installing it. After he fully removed the broken parts, I modelled the broken pieces for that Doh 98 pic. Larry also has some on-the-trail pics of it. The new Tera control arm that I got is an improvement over the first version arm. It's beefier and the shock boot is alot shorter. Apparently there is an even newer one which uses an o-ring instead of the boot. Right now, I'm not too concerned about the other three control arms, but I will be keeping an eye on them.
Anyway, Craig agreed that the break looked like it was because of a bad weld and said it would be under warranty. I made sure he had my ph # just in case. Nice guy. Wil ooh'd and ahh'd over his well equipped shop. I think he was drooling over the big Snap-On toolbox.
So 2 hours after my break, my TJ's fixed at the cost of a shortened day of wheeling and a few more points of blood pressure. If the break was inevitable, then those were probably the best circumstances for it to happen under.
Long enough story? That'll teach you to say "Tell me more". <g>
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