I have broken many parts over the years, but nothing like what I broke during the 2023 Winter 4×4 Jamboree in Sand Hollow just outside Hurricane, UT. This time was a lot different than most times I have broken something. I wasn’t sure I could drive the Jeep back to our rented condo. Every other time I have broken something, I have been able to make it to the trailer or home without too much fuss, but this was different.
So what happened? What’s crazy is I didn’t do anything out of this world to notice I was having an issue. But what really happened was a lot of abuse and not noticing that the frame had started to crack. Looking back, there were some signs, but when wheeling all day, sometimes you ignore small signs and keep going.
We were running the famous Maze trail in Sand Hollow as a group. Shortly after making sure El-Chingo-LJ and his LJ were okay after he rolled it, the group started out of the Maze. The Gazelle had hopped in with me as we were going to be driving a little faster as we began to head back home. Soon after we headed out, going over some small boulders, I noticed something was wrong. I turned to the Gazelle and told him, “Something isn’t right with the steering.” Now if it’s a sunny day and 80 degrees outside, we take it easy and get home. But it was getting late, and watching the sun go down while it started to snow.
I didn’t know how bad it was due to it getting dark and being unable to see anything very well. It worked out to my advantage, and I decided to keep trucking and get the Jeep home. We all knew where we were but needed to be 100% sure. After gunning it up a big sand hill praying nothing would give out, we finally knew exactly where we were. Everyone knew I was having issues, so they went off playing in the snow and sand as Matt and I took it slow as I tried not to show that I was stressed out. There is nothing like hearing roaring V8s playing in the sand and snow and wishing you could do the same thing.
Once we returned to the main parking lot, we could take out some flashlights and truly see what was happening, and holy s%&!, that could have been very bad. Thankfully the condo was not that far away, and I had enough steering to limp it back. Dan and Mike followed as we cruised ten mph back to the condo. When we returned, I left the Jeep behind my truck and trailer to pull it onto the trailer the following day.
Quick shout out to a friend. I had posted on my social media that I broke the LJ, and he immediately texted to see if he needed to send anything to me. Thank you, Jeff. If you need Genright Off-road parts, you call him. Also, check him out at JPERKS87.
So now what? How am I going to fix this mess? Of course, stuff breaks, but seeing the frame rip as it did is less common than seeing a weld break. My first call on my way home was to my friend Ditch Digger. He has helped me in the past when working on the Jeep. Once I got home, I took the Jeep over to his shop and dropped it off. The next step was to call Jeff at Genright and order their frame side track bar mount.
So how do you fix a torn frame? Thankfully, Trevor has some thick square tubing around his shop that he cut up and started replicating the frame and reinforcing the inside piece that was still there while reboxing the frame. Trevor took his time and did a great job ensuring everything was welded up nicely so I couldn’t break it again. Once I got the mount from Genright, I knew I needed to change the track bar joint. So I called Summit Julene at Summit Machine in Draper, UT, and ordered two new joints.
Ditch Digger got the new track bar mount welded in, along with some gussets and bracing to help make sure it won’t happen again. While inspecting the axle, we noticed that the axle side bracket had also developed a crack. We knew we needed a new axle side bracket. After doing some measuring and ensuring to keep the track bar as parallel to the drag link as possible, we welded in the new bracket. Because the overall length had changed, we needed a new tube to connect the two joints. Thankfully I had a stick of DOM tubing, which was a perfect size. We did some more measuring to cut the tube to a perfect length. Once the joint’s bungs were welded in and cooled, we connected the new track bar.
Now that we have installed the new track bar, we need to do final clearance checks. Ditch Digger has some trailers outside his shop, so we dropped the ramps so I could drive up on each side and check clearances. All good to go. We knew we didn’t align the Jeep perfectly, so I called Chris with Iron Goat Garage and took the LJ in for an alignment. You should feel lucky if you have an off-road shop with an alignment rack. Most off-road shops have a better understanding of how our Jeeps work than most alignment shops will have. I was able to take the Jeep to the first annual Jeep Jamboree at CrossBar Ranch outside Davis, OK. So far so good, time to go abuse it some more.