V6E7 - Snowbound at the Summit

Written By Chris Shontz / @venture4WD

 

I have never owned such an extraordinarily reliable vehicle. It is a 2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited which I purchased used in late 2015 with 30,000 miles on the odometer.

Since then, I’ve driven from Pennsylvania, to Arizona, to southern California, to Portland, to Pennsylvania, to New Hampshire, to South Carolina, to Pennsylvania, to Tennessee, to Moab, to Arizona, to Colorado, to the Pacific Northwest, to British Columbia, to Whitehorse, to Alaska, to Wyoming, to Arizona, to Portland, to Arizona…

You get the idea.

Maintenance during my travels has consisted of regular oil changes and occasionally new tires. I had to stop once or twice for wear and tear items such as brakes or joints, but in 120,000 miles of adventure, the Jeep has never failed.

 

Selecting a Shop

That being said, a vehicle will fail if you neglect it for too long, regardless of how reliable it is.

As I drove, I could feel it gradually deteriorating around me - a rattle here, a shudder there, strange squeaking, a misfire, loose steering, and the dreaded death-wobble. I needed to prioritize maintenance if I didn’t want to end up behind a tow truck.

Had I been on the east coast, I would’ve taken the Jeep to OK4WD. They’re my people. I know them, and I trust them entirely. However, I was on the west coast, so I needed to track down a specialist who was just as passionate about the vehicle, and, like OK4WD, a shop that takes genuine pride in the work that they do.

A friend of mine recommended Summit Jeep Company in Prescott, Arizona. Following minimal research that yielded positive information, I gave them a call and made an appointment.

The shop, which has been open for a decade at various locations around Prescott, is owned and operated by Jesse Wasil. It currently consists of two indoor bays, and several talented technicians, all of whom really seemed to enjoy their work and the Jeeps themselves!

 

Fixing the Issues

There were two core issues that the Jeep was facing. The first was death-wobble. This is marked by occasional violent shuddering, and is often the product of worn steering components. The second was a troublesome misfire, likely caused by the tired, original spark plugs that had never been replaced.

Additionally, the Jeep had several other minor issues, such as a broken clock spring in the steering wheel, a malfunctioning sway-bar disconnect, an inoperative parking brake, and a damaged passenger fender flare.

Jesse’s team attacked the issues head-on, starting with the front-end, which was showing considerable wear at all of the rod ends. They remedied this by installing all new steering linkage. Following an alignment, the death-wobble was gone, and the front-end felt like new.

They put just as much care into their underhood service as they cleaned the throttle body and replaced the spark plugs which were indeed in bad shape. Doing so resolved the misfire.

The next day, they repaired the fender flare, removed the steering wheel to repair the clock spring, and they replaced the shoes for my parking brake, which were worn completely.

While the malfunctioning sway-bar disconnect is a new problem, and not yet on my to-do list, they were gracious enough to take a look at it. The sway-bar disconnect motor was indeed full of water. I had them hold off on that repair, as I have yet to determine whether I want to replace it with a factory or an aftermarket component.

In summary, Summit Jeep Company got the job done. I came out of there with more things fixed than I had even planned - not just the core issues, but the little things that had been put on the back-burner for years. They did so expertly and with smiles on their faces.

 

The Coming Storm

As much as I wanted to hit the trails in my rejuvenated Jeep, mother nature had other plans.

They were forecasting almost 36 hours of steady snowfall in Prescott, and I still had business in town, so I wasn’t in a position to travel to a warmer climate. I was just going to have to ride it out, but where?

This is where living in one’s Jeep becomes a different kind of experience. The aim stops being about seeking out adventure in remote destinations, because in this kind of weather situation, the adventure is coming to you.

 

Hunkering Down

First, I needed to hit the grocery store for bread and milk. I am from the northeast, after all. I also purchased two bundles of firewood and a fire log for good measure. I usually collect wood on-site, when permitted, but I knew this wouldn’t be practical during the storm.

Next, I needed to seek out a place to camp that was safe, and just off of pavement. Utilizing freecampsites.net, I found a lovely free campground in Prescott National Forest named Powell Springs, and it fit this criteria perfectly. The campground featured a vault toilet, fire pits, and picnic tables. The road in was smooth dirt and it was a straight, downhill shot back to the pavement in the event of deep snow.

Additionally, there were a couple of other brave campers on site, providing some assurance that I wouldn’t be alone.

The first night was pretty normal. It was a little overcast when I turned in for the night, but it had not yet started snowing.

By the morning, it was an entirely different landscape. Approximately six inches of snow had accumulated during the night and it was still falling. I knew I’d be in the Jeep almost all day, so I made myself comfortable. I removed the floor panels in the camper so that I could stand up and move around in the Jeep. I turned on music, I cooked meals on my stove, and I did work on my laptop computer. I was warm, and comfortable, and a little bit confined, but still enjoying myself!

The snow kept falling. Occasionally, I would go out and clear it off the roof of the camper to prevent collapse. In the evening, I put that firewood to use, because who doesn’t enjoy spending a little time by a campfire in heavy snowfall?

All one hears is the silence of the falling snow, and the crackling embers.

The next day, it was much of the same, with the snow abruptly giving way to sunlight by mid-afternoon. The storm was finally over, but by now, accumulation was close to two feet. It was far more snow than I expected, and although the nearby road had been plowed, the campground was still buried!

I was reluctant to attempt to exit the campground because, even though I had strategically placed myself there, the snow was at least axle deep! There was a possibility that I would get stuck in an undesirable position on the way out, at which point, all I’d be able to do is wait.

I didn’t want to risk it, so I spent one more night.

The next morning, I discovered that a Jeep Cherokee on 37 inch tires had driven by my campsite during the night.

If they could get in, I could get out, and I now had a nice pair of ruts to follow back to the blacktop!