Maintenance, Repair, and Upgrades: The Whisky’s 2023 Saga

My goals for 2023 have been more than to just keep up with routine maintenance for The Whisky, but to also get some long planned minor repairs and upgrades done so that I can get out wheeling more frequently and regularly. It has turned into a tough trail. One thing after another has been trying to keep me down. With nearly nine months of the year already gone I remain determined to get through 2023, accomplish these goals, and put The Whisky’s 2023 saga behind me.

It goes without saying, this year has not gone as planned. The Whisky’s 2023 saga started off with some personal challenges that included health issues that kept me from getting out. I missed several trips in the first few months but at the end of March I was ready to get out with one of the groups I wheel with most often. I call them my Jeeple.

We headed out to Cougar Buttes which is a desert area east of Lucerne Valley and on the west edge of Johnson Valley where King Of The Hammers is held every year. It’s a great area. It has everything from simple dirt roads to crazy technical rock crawling. No matter what your experience level you can find something at Cougar Buttes to enjoy.

I didn’t do anything crazy on this trip. It had been several months since I had been out and I was feeling a bit rusty. So I just wanted to enjoy some moderately straight forward desert off-roading. But somewhere something happened. it wasn’t apparent on the dirt, but when I got onto some pavement I realized I had an issue. It was very difficult to turn left or right. The wheels would turn, but they would fight.

There were no lights on the dash. Sway bar disconnect, lockers front and rear, traction control, all dash lights were off. There was nothing apparent underneath. Others in the group looked as well. None of us had an idea. So, with no apparent cause but seemingly drivable, I drove it home to West Los Angeles and planned to take it to the off-road shop.

Once I dropped it off at the off-road shop there was nothing to do but go home and wait for the call. As I waited I couldn’t help but think about it. The behavior of the fighting wheels reminded me of a time when the front lockers were on as I rolled onto a granite slab. The wheels chirped and bounced. It was very similar to what I was experiencing after Cougar Buttes. Could the front lockers be engaged? The dash lights said no. The wheels said probably.

In a couple of days I got a call from the shop. Yup, the front locker was stuck in the engaged position. They tried a number of approaches but couldn’t get them disabled. They’d only seen this once before in over 20 years of working on off-road vehicles. How did I want to proceed?

This was the third front axle for The Whisky. The lifetime warranty had already replaced it twice for a couple of different reasons, one of which was also the locker. While the stock Dana 44 is a very good axle, it just wasn’t holding up to my wheeling. It was time for an upgrade. I decided on the Dynatrac ProRock 44. Of course, if I have a heavy duty upgraded axle up front I should probably upgrade the rear as well. I went with the Dynatrac ProRock 44/60 kit with Eaton ELockers and 5.13 gears.

Dynatrac quoted a 4 to 6 week lead time. I was going to miss my planned Moab trip and a couple of smaller weekend trips. But when I got The Whisky back I shouldn’t have anymore issues. Right?

The Whisky 2023 Saga: Part 2