Meet our Adventuremobile, a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara.
We picked up the Jeep back in March 2016, with a little over 50,000 miles. For what we were getting, it was a steal… or so we thought, we’re still finding problems a year later.
Those problems haven’t prevented us from taking this vehicle to some pretty incredible places. We’ll never forget driving on slickrock for the first time in Moab, or the time my brother Morgan and I almost put the Jeep at the bottom of a ravine in the Iron Range.
When we bought it, I don’t think Niecie or I really understood how owning a 4×4 again would do for us.
Neither of us were new to 4×4 ownership. Growing up, we’d always had four-wheel drive trucks and SUVs. The Jeep, however, was different. It was purpose built to put the most remote parts of the world within our grasp.
In a way, it’s liberating. The Jeep lets us take the road less traveled without fear of breaking down or getting stranded along the way.
Note: This page is regularly updated with new information as we continue to build our adventuremobile for even greater journeys.
Why a Wrangler?
The four-door Wrangler offered us the perfect balance between off-road capability, space and creature comforts.
Its stout body on frame construction, coil-sprung live axles and beefy tires made it a strong contender over the competition. Oh, and the doors and roof come off. What other modern vehicle can claim that? There is nothing like dropping the roof in the summer and the security of a solid roof in the winter.
Even a base model Wrangler is ready to hit the trail the moment it leaves the factory. We knew we’d be building the Jeep on a tight budget and, in our opinion, it offered us the best bang for the buck.
At almost ten years old, the third generation Wrangler has proven itself to be one of the most reliable and well-supported platforms on the market.
In the coming months, we’ll be outfitting the Jeep for longer and more rigorous off-road excursions and overland routes. When we’re done with it, the Jeep will be more than just our transportation, it’ll be our home away from home.
At heart of our mighty adventuremobile is Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, which puts out a respectable 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
The engine is mated to a 5-speed automatic gearbox and a part-time four-wheel drive transfer case capable of multiplying the engine’s torque 2.71:1, more than enough to carry us over even the most challenging obstacles.
For now, our Jeep is equipped with a set of 285/60R18 (31.5-inch) Nitto Terra Grapplers wrapped around the stock 18-inch rims.
These 10-ply triple-side-wall tires have proven to be more than capable of soaking up all the abuse the trail has thrown at them. Their attractive tread design, heavy siping and quiet ride has also made them one of our favorites.
On our Jeep, you won’t find any big spot lamps or light bars (yet). Driving off-road at night is something we always try to avoid. That isn’t to say we haven’t made some big improvements to the Jeep’s lighting.
We felt the Jeep’s stock headlamps were downright dangerous at night. Within a month of purchasing the Jeep, we swapped them out for a pair of inexpensive LED housings. The inexpensive upgrade made a huge difference whether I was cruising home after a late meeting or we were stuck on an unfamiliar trail.
If you’re considering a pair LED headlamps for your Jeep, either the new factory ones or a set of third-party ones, I can’t recommend it enough.
The Jeep rides on what is sometimes referred to as a “0-inch lift.”
Wrangler JKs come from the factory with a wide variety of coil springs depending on how they are equipped. This allowed us to achieve a modest lift by swapping out the stock suspension for a set of stiffer factory coils.
We swapped out our tired springs (16 front /58 rear) for a set that came off of a Rubicon (18 front /59 rear). This raised the front end nearly two inches and the rear by about an inch.
A pair of 3/4-inch Daystar polyurethane spacers were added to the rear coils to help keep the Jeep level when fully loaded with our gear.
We paired the stiffer springs with a set of inexpensive but proven Monroe Reflex Monotube shocks (now painted red for added horsepower). These provided adequate damping, improved handling and excellent off-road performance for less than $200.
On the topic of suspension, one of the biggest reasons for choosing the Jeep over other similarly equipped vehicles, like the Toyota FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Nissan Xterra or any other mid-size off-roader came down to suspension.
Solid live axles offer better articulation off road, are generally simpler to repair and maintain and aren’t as easily damaged as independent suspension. Solid axles do, however, have drawbacks and ride comfort is just one of many. There is a reason the industry has steadily phased them out over the last decade.
The Wrangler is the last remaining SUVs on the market still sporting live axles both front and rear.
Our Jeep is equipped with a stout Dana 30 in the front and a beefy Dana 44 rear. A factory limited-slip differential ensures we only rarely lose traction.
The Jeep’s fuel-efficient 3.21 gearing means we have the best chance of getting the advertised 20 MPG highway, but as we move up in tire size, we may need to consider regearing. When we do, we’ll be looking at installing a couple of lockers for added traction in the really slippery stuff.
For added protection from animal strikes and to improve the already impressive approach angle of the Jeep, we fitted a heavy-duty E-Autogrilles winch bumper and skid plate combo.
The bumper also featured closed tow-points for recovery, a safer alternative to the stock bumper’s tow hooks. This meant there was less likelihood of a tow-strap slipping off during a recovery scenario.
In the rear, we’re still running the same plastic bumper that the Jeep came with from the factory. Because we’re not running oversized tires, we haven’t needed a tire carrier. If that changes we’ll be upgrading to something a little burlier.
More to come
We’ve got a laundry list of upgrades planned for the Jeep over the next year and a half. As we make improvements to the Jeep, we’ll keep this page updated.
- Storage solutions
Comment and Share
So, tell us in the comments
- What do you think of our adventuremobile?
- Are you building an overlanding rig? If so, what is your build philosophy
- Did we miss something?
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