Silver Lake Sand Dunes

This is one of those places that if you enjoy offroading it is well worth spending a weekend at.  Silver Lake Sand Dunes are part of the Michigan State Park System.  It is located about mid state on the Lake Michigan shoreline just west of Mears Michigan.

The park is very well maintained by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with a very family oriented environment.  There is a large parking lot at the park so that if you trailer in for the day you do not need to worry about parking for your tow rig.  There are also several motels and camp grounds in the immediate area to accommodate overnight stays.

We have stayed at the Sierra Sands Family Lodge on several occasions.  They offer a convenient location relatively close to the park with a parking lot specifically designed to park a truck and trailer.  The Sierra Sands is a family owned operation.  Rooms are clean with comfortable beds.  There is a continental breakfast available every morning in the front lobby.  The pool and hot tub are a great addition to your stay along with two fire pits with picnic tables and grills at the back of the facility for social gatherings at the end of the day.  A great place to sit and reflect the days experiences.

The recreational vehicle part of the park offers a series of hills to climb with the first being Test Hill.  There is generally a large group of vehicles both at the bottom and at the top socializing and taking in all the excitement.  Test hill is the most challenging of the hills to climb.  It takes the right combination of speed and power to make it to the top.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t make it to the top on the first try.

The sand conditions vary considerably depending on the temperature and weather conditions.  The rain will cause the sand to pack and therefore allows your vehicle to gain more traction.  When the sun is shining and the wind blowing, the sand dries out and the sand becomes loose and traction is diminished.

Tire pressures are extremely critical when operating in the sand.  We have found that 10 to 12 pounds of air pressure is ideal.  These numbers will vary considerably depending on the weight of the vehicle and the type of tire you run on your vehicle.  The decreased air pressure allows the tire to sag and therefore produces a larger foot print.  This distributes the weight of the vehicle over a larger area giving the vehicle more traction.

Tires are not designed to operate at highway speeds with the lowered air pressure.  David Allen Racing is located just outside the park.  They offer a wide variety of performance and convenience items along with a free air station to air your tires back up to normal operating pressures.

Make sure to add this to your list of places to visit.  You won’t be disappointed.  We look forward to seeing you there!



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Wheel Offset and Back Spacing

ImageWhen selling tires and wheels,  to the end-user, quite often there is a lot of confusion as to what is the best wheel configuration for my vehicle.  Positive offset moves the tire closer to the vehicle while negative offset moves the tire away from the vehicle.  To much positive offset can cause interference between the tire and chassis and can risk the chance of tire damage and a potential blowout.  To much negative offset causes the tire to move away from the vehicle and can cause the tire to interfere with body components.

Here is some general information about wheel offset and back spacing.  Wheel offset is based on the centerline of the wheel itself.  The centerline is the exact center point between the inboard and outboard flanges.  Offset is obtained when the wheel mounting surface, to the rotor or drum, is moved in either direction.  With the mounting flange located in the center of the wheel, positive offset is obtained when the mounting flange is moved closer to the outboard flange. Moving the mounting flange closer to the outer flange causes the tire to move inward towards the body.  To much positive offset can cause the tire to interfere with the suspension or inner body components and will be detrimental to the tire and suspension components.

The same is true for negative offset.  Once again with the the mounting surface, of the wheel, located on the exact center line of the wheel,  moving the mounting surface closer to the inboard flange will cause the tire to move away from the body.  The primary concern here is that with the tire moving away from the chassis there is a potential that the outer part of the tire can interfere with the outer fenders.  This configuration can also cause the tire to fail.

Back spacing is the distance from the mounting surface of the wheel to the inboard flange of the wheel.  Increasing the backspacing moves the tire assembly away from the vehicle.  Decreasing the backspacing moves the tire closer to the vehicle.

It is important to remember that whenever you are installing new wheels on a vehicle that the wheel be properly configured for that specific vehicle.  Once the tires and wheels are mounted and installed on the vehicle, check to make sure that there is no interference with the tires turned from stop to stop and also full travel up and down to eliminate any potential from premature failure of the tire from interference.

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JKS Adjustable Rear Trackbar Review

ImageWe just completed the installation of a JKS Adjustable Rear Track Bar, Part Number OGS159, on a 2007 Jeep JKU Wrangler.  Very easy installation without any issues.  The track bar is made from 1.25″ DOM steel tube with .25″ wall thickness.  The bar is powder coated black.  The upper threaded bushing mount assembly is zinc coated to prevent rust and corrosion.  This track bar is designed to work with suspension lifts from 0″ to 6″ of lift.  All of the replacement parts are available if needed in the future.

This Jeep had a Zone Offroad 3″ Lift Kit on it that incorporated the use of a rear track bar relocation bracket.  Once we cut the welds and removed the bolts on the existing relocation bracket, the new JKS Track Bar slid easily into the upper mount.  It is amazing how easy the rear of the vehicle can be moved without a track bar.  There is absolutely no way this vehicle could be operated without the use of a rear track bar.

ImageIt is suggested on the lower mount to use JKS Rear Track Bar Brace, Part Number OGS169, to strengthen the lower track bar mounting point.  This brace is made from 3/16″ steel that has been CNC cut and bent for an exact fit.  We simply ground the paint from the axle, temporarily bolted the bracket in place and welded it accordingly.  This bracket not only dramatically strengthens the mounting point for the track bar but it is also designed for a smooth snag free lower surface to prevent any potential hang ups.

ImageOnce the new brace was painted we had to adjust the track bar for proper centering of the axle.  We lowered the vehicle to the ground and used a small ratchet strap attached from the frame on the passenger side to the axle on the driver side to center the vehicle on the axle.  We measured the distance from the frame to the outside of the largest lug on the tires and tightened the ratchet strap so that this distance was equal on both sides.  The center to center distance from the mounting holes was 40.5″.  This number should only be used as a reference.

ImageWe have found that JKS products are superior in their design and operation.  We highly recommend their products for the daily driver to the serious off road enthusiast.  You will not be disappointed with JKS Parts and Accessories.

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Rugged Ridge JK Wrangler Skid Plates

Rugged Ridge has several solutions to the vulnerable under body components on the Jeep JK Wranglers.  All of these skid plates are constructed of 3/16″ steel powder coated with a glossy black finish for excellent off-road protection.  These skid plates use factory mounting holes for easy installation with a basic set of hand tools.

Starting at the Front of the vehicle we found that the Front Bumper Skid Plate, 18003.30 for the 2007 through 2013 Jeep JK Wranglers, will protect the steering components as well as help prevent air from building up under the hood.  This build up of air can cause hood flutter while driving at highway speeds.

The JK Wranglers came from the factory with an air dam to keep the air flow away from the vehicle.  This air dam was constructed of plastic and can be easily damaged, when off-roading, or quite often is removed when aftermarket bumpers are installed.  I have this option on my personal vehicle and found it to be not only functional but improves the look of the vehicle as well.

   18003.40 - Rugged Ridge EVAPORATOR SKID Plate, Black, 2007-2011 Jeep JK Wrangler        The next area that I highly recommend protecting with a skid plate is the fuel tank evaporator.  The evaporator is located just forward of the rear differential on the drivers side.  The location and construction of the canister make it extremely vulnerable to off road hazards such as rocks, limbs or any other potential obstacle often encountered on the trail.  These are very easy to install and will give you maximum protection when you need it.  The 2007 through 2011 JK Wranglers use part number 18003.40 while the 2011 through 2013 JK wranglers use part number 18003.42.

18003.32 - Rugged Ridge Transfer Case Skid Plate, Black, 2007-2011 Jeep JK WranglerThe Rugged Ridge Transfer Case Skid Plate is easily installed using the factory mounting locations.  This unit is designed to fit the 2007 through 2013 JK Wranglers, part number 18003.32,  and provides adequate protection.

18003.51 - Engine and Transmission Skid Plate by Rugged Ridge, Black Powder Coat, 2012 Wrangler w/D30/D44Rugged Ridge offers an Engine Skid Plate.  Part number 18003.50 is designed to fit the 2007 through the 2011 model years.  Part number 18003.51 is designed to fit the 2012 through 2013 models.  This skid plate attaches to the transmission mount bracket assembly for its rear support and to the engine frame mounts to support the front part of the structure.   This skid plate is made from 3/16″ steel and is fairly easy to install.  There is an access location in the bottom part of the pan to drain the engine oil.  We have found that it is best to position a funnel between the skid plate and the engine to direct the oil flow into a proper container.  Without the use of the funnel oil will flow into the skid plate and will be more difficult to contain.

Our most recent installation of this skid plate was on a Jeep JK Wrangler with Currie Rock Jock 60’s.  We had to trim the driver side forward corner back approximately 3″ in order to gain enough clearance for the larger axle center section.

18003.31 - Rugged Ridge Muffler Skid Plate, Jeep Wrangler 2007-2011 Jeep JK WranglerThe last skid plate offered for the JK Wranglers is the Muffler Skid Plate, part number 18003.31.   It is designed for the 2007 through 2013 Jeep Wranglers.  This skid plate is also easily installed and provides adequate protection for the area behind the rear differential.  This skid plate will not work with a dual exhaust type muffler.

Rugged Ridge does not offer a fuel tank skid plate at this time.  The fuel tank currently has a skid plate that it sits in.  My feeling is that the factory fuel tank skid plate is very limited in its protection abilities.  There are several other companies offering a skid plate for this critical area.  The ones that I have seen so far attach to the factory mounting locations and provide superior protection for any trail hazards you will encounter.

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Jeep JK Wrangler Currie Antirock Installation

We just completed the installation of a Currie Antirock System on a 2007 Jeep 4 Door JK Wrangler.  We selected the kits with aluminum arms primarily for cosmetic reasons.  The kit is available with steel arms also at a reduced price.  The aluminum arms are lighter than the steel arms but in our opinion the reduced weight of the aluminum arms is negligible The front kit is part number CE-9900JKFAA.  The rear kit is part number CE-9900JKR4A. Both kits were well packaged.  The rear kit comes with a new set of brake lines.  Currie instructs you to relocate the steel brake line to the inside of the frame because of potential interference issues of the sway bar arms while flexing.  We found that the brake lines were extremely awkward to tighten.  After several attempts  we were able to get the lines to stop leaking.  The instructions were very clear and easy to read .

We removed the rear bumper cover to gain access for installation of the kit.  This also made it easier to install the rear brackets and bushings.  We did use a light coating of oil on the bushings when assembling these.  The bushings were tapped into place with a dead blow hammer.  We then slid the sway bar into place.  We used a block of wood and a 3 pound sledge to position it in place.  The bar is 50″ in length.  The diameter for the 4 Door JK Wrangler is 1″ while the 2 Door model uses a sway bar that is .900″ in diameter.

We attempted to adjust the rear arms according to the supplied directions.  The directions indicate that the arms should be level when they are at the mid point of the suspension travel.  Using this dimension we found that we only had minimal threads into the control arm joints.  The supplied picture on the directions illustrates a minimum allowable angle with the axle at full droop.  We measured this angle and found it to be approximately 140 degrees   This is the dimension that we used for setting up our control arms.   This setup allowed for plenty of engagement of threads into the end links.

Total installation time for the rear assembly was approximately one hour.

The front kit was a breeze to install.  Again we used the same setup procedure for the control arm links.  Total installation time on the front kit was approximately 30 minutes.

Test driving the vehicle we found that the body roll had increased somewhat but never felt like we were going to loose control of the vehicle at any time.  Keeping in mind that a Jeep is not designed to be used as a high speed tight cornering type of vehicle especially once the larger tires and lift kits are installed.

We run the Bilstein 5100 Series Shock Absorbers on this vehicle.  These are a great addition to any vehicle.  The valving is adjusted for optimum performance both on and off road.  The ride on the vehicle is very smooth on road.

We have not had any good opportunities to test the vehicle off road yet.  We will report back as soon as our off road testing is complete.

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Jeep JK Wrangler Soft Top Install

We just installed a Rugged Ridge Sailcloth Replacement Soft Top on our 2007 Wrangler Unlimited in lieu of the Standard Replacement top.  The JK’s do take more time than the TJ’s do.  Overall the installation was a easy and just took time.  There is also a $20.00 mail in rebate through Rugged Ridge that makes these tops even more enticing.  Backed with a 5 year warranty and the nice tight fit we have no problems recommending a Rugged Ridge Replacement top for your Jeep from Baseline 4×4 Outfitters!


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15001.70 Rugged Ridge Manual Locking Hub for the 1998 to 2000 Ford Ranger

In 1998 Ford redesigned the 4 wheel drive Rangers with a pulse vacuum operated hub.  This new design was to allow for smoother shifting both in and out of 4 wheel drive.  The outer hub assembly was a sealed unit so that when a pulse of vacuum was applied to it, the hub would engage in the 4 wheel drive position.  This hub was spring loaded so that once vacuum was removed, the hub would disengage and operate as a 2 wheel drive vehicle.

This was a nice option to start but once the vehicles began to age,  the vacuum systems started to developing problems of their own.  Leaks in the hub and the vacuum lines that supplied the unit would not allow enough vacuum applied to the hub to keep it properly engaged.  Ford abandoned this idea with the model year beginning in 2001 on the Ford Rangers.

AVM developed a Manual Locking Hub that allowed for positive engagement, of the 4 wheel drive system, eliminating the use of the pulse vacuum style hub.  Rugged Ridge acquired the exclusive rights to this hub and is the only supplier to the aftermarket industry.  These hubs are easily installed with a basic set of hand tools and will provide you with many years of excellent performance. 

You can purchase a set of these hubs at the link below

Rugged Ridge Manual Locking Hubs, Ford Ranger 98-00, Mazda B3000/B4000 01-08 Pair

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