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Late to the Party: theksmith's 2016 JK Unlimited Rubicon (Gadget)

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Gadget's being a bit of a PITA this week with some cooling system issues...


on Saturday i made it part way up the 93 when suddenly the radiator separated and dumped half the coolant. unfortunately it was 4:30 AM and took 3 hours to get a tow truck to take me back home.




a replacement Mopar radiator is on backorder everywhere, but i was able to pick one up at the local Autozone for $300. here's something that you don't see everyday - a new Ferrari at Autozone!




here's where the driver side tank on the thing just came apart:






i managed to replace it and get the system bled in under 3 hours. a quick test drive coupled with the fact that the interwebs told me a driver side rupture was the common failure point made me think the 139k mile radiator was the only problem.


Sunday morning i tried again - she did fine on the long climbs up the 93 this time, of course i was watching the temps like a hawk. we murdered a million bugs before Wikieup even!




then i thought she got a tad warm climbing between Tehachapi and Bakersfield, but not too bad and so i chalked it up to being paranoid. however monday Morning i left my hotel in Clovis to head for the Dusy trailhead and suddenly she was running hot again.


i pulled over and found the coolant overflow tank was full. i parked for an hour while she cooled off, but i notice the coolant didn't suck back into the radiator like it should have. so i pulled the tank and poured all the coolant back into the partially empty radiator and added some water to the overflow tank. i also swapped to a spare radiator cap that i had with me.


Gadget did fine on the long climb up to the Dusy after all that, so i thought perhaps the radiator cap was just faulty. she stayed cool all 3 days on the trail, but i did notice she kept puking into the overflow tank, then pulling it back in when i shut her off. 


unfortunately on the way home she started getting really warm and i ended up limping her across the desert in the 113* weather by only going 60 to 70 and running the a/c on for a minute off for 10 minutes for most of the way. the temps would get progressively worse and worse till i would have to stop and let it cool down for 30 minutes and add some water to the overflow tank.



today i replaced both hoses, the water pump, and the radiator cap and put in all fresh coolant (another $300, all Mopar stuff). i was expecting to perhaps find evidence of a leak at the pump, or a worn out impeller, but everything looked ok.




here's the old pump:




my last rig's engine suffered a combustion leak, and so i still had a block-tester kit and ran that test. thankfully there was nothing detected, though i can give you a false negative under certain conditions.


i also looked down in the engine valley to see if my relatively new oil-cooler was perhaps already leaking, but don't see any evidence of that.


so now i've replaced the majority of the cooling system and i'm in the middle of doing a couple warm up / cool down cycles to be sure i've fully bled the system... but i'm not sure what the main problem was or maybe still is.


Edited by theksmith
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thanks to @jgaz for the suggestion to use a pressure test kit...


i borrowed a loaner tool from Autozone and found that *both* the old radiator caps i had used were not sealing correctly. the brand new one i got this week from the dealer tests OK and the entire cooling system is also holding pressure correctly.


lessons learned: 


1) always replace the cap when you replace the radiator. i'd heard this advice before, but just forgot to get one when i bought the radiator and then i was in a hurry to finish the job so i didn't run back to the parts store.


2) if you're going to carry a spare part, be sure it's good!




Edited by theksmith
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Glad you got the issue figured out Kris.   Looks like the Dusy was a Dusy indeed...  ;)


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so other than the unrelated cooling issues, i think Gadget did great on the Dusy-Ershim!


i did tag a couple trees, one with the top edge of the hard-top in 2 spots, and one with the passenger rear fender flare.






i probably could have avoided the hard top ones if i'd taken time to backup and adjust my line a bit that time. honestly i wasn't being super-careful - there were probably a hundred places that i was expecting to hear the squeak of a tree against paint and then pleasantly surprised as i just made it by with a half inch to spare!


so you can certainly make it through without any body damage if you're careful, but things might go a lot slower if you're really worried about keeping your rig perfect.


the rear wheels were used to slide/pivot around obstacles a lot, so they got pretty beat up.




the front wheels didn't suffer nearly as much scraping.




the tire sidewalls were used constantly to climb trees and rocks, but they survived just fine.


my recently re-engineered sliders did awesome, no problems at all and only minor rock rash on the edges.




the underside of Gadget really took a beating though, probably mostly on Thompson Hill.






usually you'll have a few good new gouges after a difficult trail, but the Dusy seemed to scrape up every single bit of the bottom, including the axle tubes.




i'm glad i recently shortened up the rear lower shock mounts. they still got nailed a bunch even with the increased clearance.




Edited by theksmith
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i started to get a slight shimmy on certain bumps. while checking everything over, i noticed the Teraflex front lower control arms' rubber bushings (frame-side) are separating. i ordered replacements (Teraflex 4915161) already, and i'll also double check my toe hasn't gotten borked when i change those out.




i was able to tighten the Teraflex adjustable preload lower ball joints a bit, which was surprising since i just did that before the Dusy-Ershim trip... though that trip was really rough on the whole rig! otherwise everything looked good, so hopefully those adjustments and the new bushings fix the shimmy.


Edited by theksmith
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out doing a little solo exploring this morning...













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took care of those deteriorating lower control arm bushings this morning.


i've found that if you only remove and then replace one control arm at a time, you don't even need to jack up the rig. in fact, assuming you have a level place to work, everything actually stays put much better this way and getting the bolts back in is easy-peasy!


it's a pretty quick 3 step process if you have a press. you could do it with a good ball-joint press as well, but a floor press makes for less hassle.



1) fold in some of the metal on the non-flanged side of the bushing with a hammer and metal chisel to give something to press against.





2) press out the old bushing. i use a giant impact socket as a die to push with:





3) press the new bushing in. it is directional - one side of hole will be a slightly larger diameter, you'll see how the bushing gets wider on the flange side to match up with that. i used some pieces from an old Harbor Freight ball joint press as a die to push on the bushing flange. don't just press in the middle or you'll push the center part right out of the rest of the bushing.





old vs new:




Edited by theksmith
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