Category Archives: Automotive

Mopar Mats For Jeep JK Wrangler: Happy Feet

Mopar Carpeted Front Floor Mat Set for Jeep (JK) Wrangler 2 Door in Dark Slate Grey



Pros: Durable, attractive and easy-to-clean.  Priced right.  Better than original equipment.  Holding-up well after several Maine winters.

Cons: Wouldn’t be needed if the originals had been a quality pair.

Mopar floor mat before the clean-up crew arrived.
Mopar floor mat before the clean-up crew arrived.

It’s difficult to believe that five years have passed since I negotiated the purchase of my nifty Jeep Wrangler.  New sets of brakes, tires, ball joints and front shocks solidified the solid ride to like-new status.  A thorough going-over evicted a variety of critters from the air cleaner and exchanged the original spark plugs for a half-dozen state-of-the-art Bosch Platinum Plus 4.


With the mechanicals tip-top, I concentrated on the cosmetics.  A bath, some wax and a bit of detailing were all accomplished that first weekend.  Nothing like a new vehicle to motivate the owner – from past experience, we all know that it’s good to get as much of the fun done before the thrill is gone.

5-year-old Mopar floor mat after a quick once-over with the vacuum.
The same 5-year-old Mopar floor mat after a quick once-over with the vacuum.

Mats Matter

Only one issue remained – the cheapo original equipment front floor mats were a thumb in the eye of my quest for pre-owned perfection.  The original driver’s heel had worn a significant hole in the mat just south of the gas pedal.  Chintzy and filthy with a threadbare, short nap – even a long rest would not reclaim the limited appeal they had once possessed.

Glad All Over

Driver side mat shows some wear, but the cool Jeep logo monogram is all those climbing aboard will notice.
Driver side mat shows some wear, but the cool Jeep logo monogram is all those climbing aboard will notice. Note the hole that aligns with the post anchor.

At the Jeep‘s first dealer check-up, the parts peeps placed an order for the new mats.  Within a week they were in-hand and underfoot – and were superior to the originals.  A quality fit-and-finish make them an attractive accessory to the interior’s overall function and appeal.

Much more plush are these replacements, with a nubby rubber liner beneath that grips the base carpeting.  Embedded in the flooring on either side are hooked posts that align with holes in each mat to secure and prevent forward slippage – and the possibility of pedal interference.

Keep It Clean

The only thing happier than a clean Jeep is a muddy one.
The only thing happier than a clean Jeep is a muddy one.

Easily removed, these Mopar mats can be vacuumed with a beater bar on your patio or garage floor – or simply smacked against a rock to dis-embed the sand and small stones that gather.  In the spring, a short rinse with the garden hose will remove what the vacuum won’t.  I paid $60 (US) five-years ago and they still look great – amazing, in consideration of both the winter and mud seasons we experience annually.

Serious mud-puppies may find these inadequate for off-roading purposes – the custom, laser-fitted varieties that offer full-containment are superior for extreme conditions – and are priced accordingly.



Years after purchase, I still enjoy finding the time to keep things ship-shape.  Among Wranglerites, a dirty Jeep equals one that’s recently had fun.  That said, everyone enjoys a bath and clean duds before steppin’-out for the evening – and the Wrangler JK is no exception.

2007 Jeep (JK) Wrangler Sahara: The JK is A-OK

2007 Jeep JK Wrangler Sahara with Six-Speed Manual Transmission.


Pros: Body integrity.  Gas mileage.  Superior braking, forward lighting, traction and ground clearance.  ESP stability.  Wider track with an improved frame over previous generation (TJ).  If you buy informed and respect its limitations, could be the best vehicle on the planet.

Cons: Full-instrumentation went away with the TJ.  Option-rich Sahara equals added weight.  Rear vision compromised by wide C-pillar.  High-beam icon placement and intensity is annoying.  Uninformed purchasers who buy ’cause it’s cute.


I was on my way to the dump and there it sat – our local Jeep dealer had its latest pre-owned Wrangler on the lot.  The current generation JK in Rescue Green beckoned shiny as new – and a 6-speed manual, to boot!  1 test drive and 2 hours later, the 3-year-old Wrangler would be mine.

Five years to-the-day have passed since that happy marriage of man and machine.  Six winters-worth of snow – both greasy and fluffy – haven’t deterred the Wrangler – nor has the steep and winding gravel drive to my hilltop abode.


Chrysler 3.8 V-6 produces more horses and better fuel economy than the previous generation 4.0 liter.
Chrysler 3.8 V-6 produces more horses and better fuel economy than the previous generation 4.0 liter.

The Wrangler’s 3.8 liter (231 cid) V-6 engine began service in 1991 powering Chrysler‘s minivans and cab-forward vehicles.  The conventional push-rod powerplant propels the 3,900 lb. Sahara to highway speeds in an acceptable fashion.  The 3.8 is mated to the Mercedes-sourced NSG370 6-speed manual transmission, which features gear ratios that enhance the engine’s available power.

A cylinder head upgrade for the JK application boosted the horsepower rating to 205.  Its adequate power band – coupled with the relatively short-throws of the NSG370 – provides an effortless and enjoyable run through the gears.  Following 20-plus years of dependable service, the 3.8 was retired in favor of the lighter and more sophisticated Pentastar V-6 – introduced to the Wrangler in 2012.

Mild-mannered Wrangler TJ [left] became The Incredible Hulk upon redesign.
Mild-mannered Wrangler TJ [left] became The Incredible Hulk upon redesign.

The current generation (JK) Wrangler is the previous generation (TJ) on steroids.  Taller, longer and wider, the increased ground clearance is assisted by the 18-inch wheel option available only on the Sahara series in 2007.

Hardtop models feature the "Freedom Top" - allowing front passengers that open-air experience with roof sections removed.
Hardtop models feature the “Freedom Top” – allowing front passengers an open-air experience with roof sections removed.


Front passenger comfort has been improved dramatically.  The hollowed-out tree stumps fitted to the TJ have been replaced by comfortable (albeit firm), durable (using Yes Essentials fabrics) and attractive height-adjustable buckets.  Lumbar and lateral support have also been greatly improved.  Due to the discontinuation of the TJ‘s clever fold-forward front passenger seat, access to the rear bench is problematic.  Kids and pets will appreciate the challenge, while adults and claustrophobics may insist on riding shotgun.

With the rear seat removed, there’s enough room to run errands – though a trip to the big-box hardware store could be interesting should you forget your tape measure.  The biggest item I’ve transported was a 51-inch television (in its original box), which just fit with the rear gate closed.  The good news is that, unlike a pickup, none of your friends will ask to borrow it on moving day.

Sahara vs. Rubicon

18-inch tire and wheel option for 2007 also carried axle and suspension upgrades.
18-inch tire and wheel option for 2007 also carried axle and suspension upgrades.

The manly JK Rubicon is a Youtube favorite – they slowly scale boulders and waterfalls with their lift kits and push-button detachable front sway bars, while the Sahara‘s gig is one of all that plus creature comforts.  Dedicated Wranglerites will mock the power windows, tilt-wheel and cruise control as unbecoming a true Jeep.  In fact, the optional wheel package on my Sahara includes the Rubicon‘s Dana 44 axles and gas-charged shock absorbers – the best of both worlds.

Such optional largess does equal added weight.  Air conditioning components, larger wheels and tires – along with an accumulation of gizmos like power window motors can’t help but make the Sahara a bit slower in the quarter-mile.  Despite this fact, the current computer MPG readout is 24.5 – exceptional when considering its nearly two-ton girth.  My initial disbelief resulted in a comprehensive mileage assessment, with the resulting computer-generated figures being deemed accurate.  My TJ, with its 4.0 liter AMC straight-six, never does better than 18 MPG – in spite of its being 700 lbs. lighter.

Interior Layout

AMC heritage is evident with the Gremlinesque bump-out above the center console. Low Climate Control panel placement can be precarious for those unfamiliar.
AMC heritage is evident with the Gremlinesque bump-out above the center console. While in motion, Low Climate Control panel placement can be precarious for those unfamiliar.

The tall dash with center panel bump-out is frightfully reminiscent of my 1970s-era AMC Gremlin.  The car-like instrument cluster features speedo and tach, flanked by temperature and fuel gauges.  The left dial houses the Mini Trip Computer – which shows mileage, compass, outside air temperature and miles remaining with available fuel.  The matching fluorescent green odometer includes two trip meters, for those simultaneous comings-and-goings.

Silly illuminated "Upshift" icon expired with the TJ generation - along with Amp and Oil gauges. The resulting cluster is uninspiring.
Silly illuminated “Upshift” icon expired with the TJ generation – along with Amp and Oil gauges. The resulting cluster is functional, yet unbefitting the Wrangler.

Gone is the TJ‘s fantastically inaccurate and annoying “Upshift” illuminated idiot arrow which, if heeded, would surely result in premature engine/transmission failure.  Sadly (and inexplicably) also gone is my TJ‘s superior full instrumentation, which appears to be unavailable on any JK model.

Open the rear gate to find under-floor stowage for valuables or accessories like my Whistler 12-volt air compressor.
Open the rear gate to find under-floor stowage for valuables or accessories like my Whistler 12-volt air compressor.

The eye-level, center-mounted AM-FM 6-speaker radio (with cargo-area-mounted sub-woofer) is capable of playing one CD at a time.  I assume it works but have never used this option.  The radio itself sounds great, is satellite-ready – and originally came with a one-year subscription.  Mounted lower are the climate settings, whose tiny icons and southern location divert too much attention to operate without thorough familiarization beforehand.

Unlike the TJ‘s conventional dash-mounted headlight switch, the JK has a column-mounted stalk that operates all illumination – including instrument, interior and fog lights.  The wiper stalk also operates the rear window wiper – a vast improvement over the TJ‘s poorly located dash-mounted toggle.

Driving Impressions

The added weight, wider track and longer wheelbase give the JK a more substantial feel behind the wheel.  Initially, the quieter engine, coupled with improved soundproofing made gas-clutch mixing precarious – especially with a Harley or two idling behind at intersections.  Dual sway bars inspire confidence in corners – a surprise considering the high center-of-gravity.

Any buyer dropping 30-Gs for a vehicle should expect a monogrammed canvas case for the manual.
Any buyer dropping 30-Gs for a vehicle should expect a monogrammed canvas case for the manual.

On smooth roads, the JK is stable, comfortable and relatively silent (with the optional hardtop).  On rougher roads, the solid-axle configuration can be precarious on washboard surfaces – due to the suspension’s excessive unsprung weight – whose physics require a longer component recovery.  My current ice-age location grows a bumper-crop of frost heaves every winter – a situation the JK handles in stride, if not always an excess of comfort.  Here, the TJ‘s lighter weight is somewhat of an advantage.

First in the Wrangler series is a curved windshield to eliminate afternoon glare toward oncoming vehicles.
First in the Wrangler series is a curved windshield to eliminate afternoon glare aimed toward oncoming vehicles.

The vehicle’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) came in handy when an oncoming gasoline truck forced me onto the shoulder during a snowstorm.  Once back on the pavement, the computer intervened and corrected the resulting fishtail via a flurry of steering and anti-lock brake activity.  For drivers who don’t believe in ESP, pressing the dash-mounted button above the center console will override this feature.

Sounds cool - but so is the uni-bodied Jeep Liberty.
Sounds cool – but so is the uni-bodied Jeep Liberty.

The favorable ratios of the 6-speed NSG370 transmission give the 3.8 an added edge in outright performance.  With its short throws, pushing it through the gears results in better than adequate off-the-line acceleration without the four-cylinderesque power plateaus that plague some heavier vehicles.  The assistance of six Bosch Platinum Plus 4 spark plugs installed upon purchase made the V-6 perform more like a V-8.

The most important improvement over the Wrangler TJ‘s closed box-beam frame is a more open design that can be kept free of accumulating dirt and debris.  This, in combination with a yearly application of lightweight oil, will dramatically decrease the corrosion that has prematurely disabled many a TJ.

Benefits and Bugaboos

Intense and poorly placed, the High-Beam icon on the JK qualifies as a major Bugaboo when navigating dark rural roads.
Intense and poorly placed, the High-Beam icon on the JK qualifies as a major Bugaboo when navigating dark rural roads.

When an issue arises, the illuminating “Check Engine” light is accompanied by a klaxon horn audio prompt that’s impossible to ignore.  There’s no need for dealer intervention, for a series of on-off-on ignition key manipulations will reveal the trouble code by way of the odometer – mine indicated a faulty left-side post-converter oxygen sensor.  The procedure to accomplish this and a list of codes can be easily found online.

The early JKs are prone to premature ball-joint wear at around 60,000 miles.  Through the course of dealer negotiations, my JK received four new ones – as well as an equal number of new tires, a complete brake job and state inspection sticker.  After two years, I replaced the rear brake calipers due to excessive corrosion.  The local dealer listed “improved” replacements for under a hundred bucks – so far, so good.

A tight squeeze with the hood down does not deter house-hunting pests. Some bronze window screen acts as a "no vacancy" sign.
A tight squeeze with the hood down does not deter house-hunting pests. A small section of bronze window screen acts as a “no vacancy” sign.

The funniest find so far was contained within the sizable air filter housing.  My post-purchase inspection revealed a mouse nest, an expired blue jay and about a pound of wolf hair matted against the washboard-style disposable filter element.  A square of bronze window screen formed over the intake and secured with wire prevented further invasion.  Once remedied, the mileage improved from 16.5 to 22.7 MPG within the first ten miles of driving.  The introduction of the aforementioned spark plugs has improved mileage even more.

Jeep Wisely


Countless are the stories of ornery folks who purchased without performing the proper research.  The Jeep Wrangler is a specialty vehicle, not a lowly Honda Civic that anyone can jump in and drive.  Entry and egress require a moderate degree of agility and flexibility.  The best fuel consumption numbers I’ve achieved are 26.9 MPG – about those of the 5-cylinder Volvo V-70.  Be aware that examples equipped with an automatic transmission will not approach any of the mileage numbers mentioned here in regard to the 6-speed manual.

The Bottom Line – don’t buy one because you think it’s cute.  Conversely, if you know what you’re buying and respect its limitations, the Jeep Wrangler JK is a handsome, all-weather, confidence-inspiring absolute hoot to drive.  In my five years of ownership, it’s been a remarkably reliable and trustworthy go-anywhere wonder.

Jeep Wrangler JK Shift Boot Blues: The Rugged Ridge Remedy

Rugged Ridge JK Billet Black Aluminum Console Shift Bezel #11422.12 For Manual Transmission – Model Years 2007-10




Pros: Heavy duty machined aluminum bezel is solid, functional and attractive.  Hardware and installation sheet are included.

Cons: Made necessary by Jeep‘s initial lack of quality control.  Pricy for what it is – but by far the best of the lot.

In about a month’s time, it will be five years since I purchased my six-speed manual Jeep Wrangler JK.  Aside from being the most enjoyable and unstoppable vehicle I’ve ever owned, it has also proven to have been the most reliable.  Sure – here in the snow-belt I’ve had to replace the rear brake calipers due to corrosion – but no significant expenditures have occurred beyond the realm of routine maintenance.

Shifting the Blame

In the course of one recent drive, the rubber shift-boot’s leading edge popped-out from below the plastic bezel that anchors it to the console.  Chrysler‘s cheapo plastic rivets that secured the upper and lower bezel were beginning to fail.  Not a major issue, for sure – but continued use in such a compromised condition could rip the boot mounting holes clear to the edge – adding the cost of boot replacement to that of the bezel.

Exhibit A: My Re-Bezeled Jeep JK Sahara. [Image: J. Nine]
Exhibit A: My Re-Bezeled Jeep JK Sahara. [Image: J. Nine]
Of course, I could have simply disassembled the components and replaced the defective plastic fasteners.  There was nothing wrong with the original equipment plastic bezel – other than it never met the standard of the interior’s otherwise quality accessories.

Jeep JK Shift Boot with Original Equipment Plastic Bezel. [Image:]
Jeep JK Shift Boot with Original Equipment Plastic Bezel. [Image:]
 An online search of Jeep JK aftermarket parts could literally take days – with the proper financial means you could built a complete vehicle from one catalog alone.  Ironically, in this instance the choices were limited.

My Jeep JK Shift Boot after installation of the Better Bezel.
My Jeep JK Shift Boot after installation of the Better Bezel.


My inventory of Wrangler catalogs contained mostly chromed trim-piece examples of stick-on bling.  Since my situation was structural and not cosmetic, I went with the more substantial Rugged Ridge JK Billet Black Aluminum Console Shift Bezel Manual [Model Years] 07-10 – available for $46.99 (US) at

When it came time to order, I was confronted with (and accepted) the option of buying a returned and repackaged bezel whose condition was rated ‘Very Good’ for ten bucks less.  I had accumulated close to twenty bucks in Amazon points, which brought the grand total spent to around $18.  Amazon Prime handled the shipping.


As I carried the package to the house, I could hear a few pieces of unrestrained hardware rattling-about.  Fortunately, all eight of the black, 8mm allen-head screws and conventional nuts remained within the box throughout the journey from Amazon‘s Kentucky facility to the foothills of Maine.  The only thing missing was one washer, which was the sole part slim enough to fall through the box’s bottom seam.  The bezel itself remained flawless inside its sealed plastic bag.


Thanks to Rugged Ridge and the Bargain Bin, it was not necessary to float a loan to afford a bezel upgrade.
Thanks to Rugged Ridge and the Bargain Bin, it was not necessary to float a loan to afford a bezel upgrade.

In anticipation of the part’s arrival, I had unfastened the lower plastic bezel from the console and used a punch to remove what remained of the broken plastic rivets.  I then sandwiched the boot perimeter between the new upper and original lower bezel.  With the holes aligned from all three components, the next step was to insert one of the 8mm bolts, slide on the washer and hand-tighten the nut.  Once all eight were prepared, an applied allen wrench held the bolt steady while an 8mm open-end snugged the nut from beneath.

Rugged Ridge includes an illustrated, two-sided sheet of assembly instructions consisting of five total steps.  Also listed are both company phone and e-mail contacts – should technical assistance be required.

Wrangler Reboot

The completed structure was easily aligned within the console’s oval cut-out, then pressed firmly downward at the rear to anchor the two plastic tabs.  Within thirty minutes time I had accomplished a level of quality that Chrysler should have originally realized on the assembly line.

With a finish that resembles oiled bronze, my new oval shifter trim plays nicely with the medium gray interior appointments and black floor mats.  Best of all – no more floppy boot!

Guaranteed Not to Need

Details of the 5-year Limited Warranty for what is essentially a machined metal ring can be accessed via PDF from the Amazon link located above.

Rugged Ridge, a division of Omix-ADA, Inc.

Featured Image:  Rugged Ridge

Craftsman Evolv Tool Set: Keeping Those Jeep JK Gremlins Away

Craftsman Evolv 20-Piece, 3/8-Inch Drive Inch/Metric Tool Set


Pros: Reasonable regular price (better with sales and incentives).  Lightweight, basic set satisfies on-board availability.  Craftsman quality and lifetime limited warranty.

Cons: “Lifetime Limited Warranty” not the same as Sears legendary “Hand Tool Forever Full Warranty“.  Any future claim requires proof-of-purchase – save your receipt and file it under “potential warranty loopholes“.

The mechanic’s creed states that if you travel with a set of tools, you will never break down.  Of course, this is pure mythology – no matter how thorough your maintenance program, the unforeseen will always attempt to drop a wrench in the gears of your best-laid plans.

Backwoods Boy Scout

Since the lonely roads in my rural reality do not come equipped with a roving pit-crew, one must be prepared to handle whatever mechanical challenges may arise.  Along with emergency items such as a fire extinguisher and my shiny “space blanket”, the acquisition of a basic tool kit is advisable for the average motorist – and mandatory for the off-roading four-wheeler.

When Craftsmen Evolv

Wandering through my local Sears Hometown store, I noticed the Craftsman Evolv 20-Piece, 3/8-Inch Drive Tool Set for $17.99 (US) in the clearance aisle.  Consisting of nine chrome-plated standard sockets that range from 3/8-7/8-inch, and nine metrics from 10mm to 18mm, the set includes the most called-for sizes in-the-field.

The metal latch and removable tray on the compact Craftsman 17-inch Plastic Hand Box make it a best buy.
The metal latch and removable tray on the compact Craftsman 17-inch Plastic Hand Box make it a best buy.

The ratchet, with its Fiberglas and rubberized soft-grip handle, features the one-touch-button socket release that made the Craftsman line a midcentury mechanical marvel.  Also included is a 6-inch extension constructed of the same alloy steel as the sockets and ratchet.

While my Jeep Wrangler(s) TJ and JK both offer a spacious engine compartment, there will likely be a greater (and more frequent) need for the 1-1/2 and 3-inch extensions that are available at additional cost.

Looking Ahead

The need for an on-board set of tools for emergency situations has many considerations.  Overall variety, heft and compact storage all figure into the equation.  Weighing-in at a lean 3-1/2 lbs., the Craftsman Evolv 20-Piece Tool Set – along with pliers and a few screwdrivers and open-ends, will easily stow out-of-sight in an under-seat box.

With its 17 x 3-1/2-inch dimensions, the Craftsman Compact Truck Box will fit anywhere - but how long will its plastic latches last?
With its 17 x 3-1/2-inch dimensions, the Craftsman Compact Truck Box will fit anywhere – but how long will its plastic latches last?

While gas mileage numbers in my 6-speed JK Wrangler top-out between 24 and 25 mpg, the lighter your essential add-ons, the less fuel required to tote them around.  Every ounce counts in these days of pricy petrol.

Standing Behind

Once upon a time, if an American-made Craftsman tool failed for any reason, the consumer could exchange it for a new one – no receipt required, no questions asked. While this legendary “Craftsman Hand Tool Forever Full Warranty” does not apply to this Evolv set, the “Hand Tool Limited Lifetime Warranty” does.  Essentially, what this means is that you need to keep your original cash-register receipt to present in the event of a future claim.

Good News

For all the talk of reliability, my Jeep Wrangler JK has performed flawlessly throughout the 81K mile accumulation that currently illuminates its fluorescent-green odometer.

In anticipation of many more carefree miles, my cross-fingered acquisition of the Craftsman Evolv 20-Piece, 3/8-Inch Drive Inch/Metric Tool Set, with clearance consideration and Rewards Points incentives, cost me around $9 –  the approximate retail price of the 18mm socket, when sold separately.

While allowing my overall tool collection to remain intact, this traveling set amounts to an insurance plan cheap enough to comply with the aforementioned mechanic’s creed.  Meanwhile, the most reliable and entertaining vehicle I’ve ever owned rolls-on without a stumble or complaint.  Maybe there is some magic to that toolbox-totin’ theory.

Included Sockets

Standard (inches):  3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 13/16, 7/8.

Metric (millimeters):  10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.

Sears Brands Management Corp.
Hoffman Estates, IL  60179

This is a stick-up!

GlueWorks Securehold Reusable Adhesive Putty


Pros: Fabulous for keeping things securely in place

Cons: None – really!

I’m a little embarrassed admitting how excited I became upon finding this product. I mean, really, who hyperventilates over putty? But this was an (unexpected) happy ending to a  long search.

I have looked (and looked) for my package of GlueWorks SecureHold Reusable Adhesive Putty. I knew it was ‘ around here someplace’, but do you think I could find it? Occasionally, I would ask for it in stores only to be guided to the picture-framing departments’ display of double-backed tape.  Not what I wanted. Today, while waiting in line at the checkout, there it was!

Examples for use:

  • Holds lamps, decorations, or framed pictures in place on a slippery surface
  • Holds wall art in place so it’s not annoyingly crooked
  • Conveniently holds a pen or pencil right where you want it ( like on a dashboard)
  • If you live in a windy environment ( as I do) it will hold outdoor ornaments, light strings, etc. where you want them
  • Use a ‘wad’ to keep venetian blind, or other cords, from banging about
  • Keep the bathroom soap dish where it’s supposed to be
  • Use a wad as a temporary straight or safety-pin cushion

These should give you some ideas of your own.


  • Tear off a piece sufficient for the job at hand.  Roll  between your fingers until soft and pliable.
  • Apply firmly to the bottom (or other place) of the item you want to secure.
  • Press down firmly while twisting back and forth a few times to create a suction/gripping effect.  Adherence is best after a few hours.
  • To remove, hold the item by the base and twist, gently pulling from its position. Any remaining putty can be removed by rolling a ball of putty over residue.

Special Instructions: Test on any questionable surface. The product may leave an oily residue on some surfaces. Product should not be used on freshly painted surfaces, flocked wall paper, or fabric. SecureHold is not intended to replace nails for hanging or attaching, heavy objects.

I paid $2.29 at a local hardware store.

Product is safe, Non-toxic and best of all, MADE IN U.S.A.


For weeks I’ve been wondering what to do with a really pretty frame of stained glass. I knew I wanted it in front of a window, but there was no place to drive a nail or hang a hook. Then, today, ta-da! I remembered the putty, and within minutes I had the frame ‘affixed’ to the window itself. It’s beautiful. Can’t wait for the sun to shine to get the full effect!


Hollywood Florida  33021


K&N Oil Filter For Jeep Wrangler JK: “Our Oil Filters Have Nuts”

K&N Performance Gold ‘Wrench-Off’ Oil Filter For ’07-’11 Jeep Wrangler JK  #HP-1002

Automotive Premium Canister Oil Filters


Pros: Premium filter provides higher flow-rate for extreme conditions.  Extra-strength canister and base-plate.  Top-welded 1″ nut simplifies removal.

Cons: Premium price ’cause excellence don’t come cheap.

When you get in your car and turn the key, do you have a sense of what’s happening under the hood?  Some drivers look at automobiles as totally utilitarian, while others relate technically to the various systems that work in harmony to make the wheels go round.

Cult Status

Certain makes and models achieve a broad spectrum of consumer support.  GM‘s limited-production pickup known as the Chevy Avalanche has dedicated clubs and blogs aplenty – but few vehicles have achieved such legendary status as the Jeep Wrangler.  Driving one is like knowing the secret handshake – oncoming Wrangler owners communicate their comradery through a variety of (mostly) positive gestures.

What may appear an obsession has often more to do with pride of ownership.  The Jeep Wrangler maintains one of the highest resale values of any production vehicle.  Protecting that investment requires a commitment to quality replacement parts.

Routine Maintenance

There are several good reasons to use a premium filter at every oil change.  K&N manufactures their filters with a “high flow” feature originally designed to withstand high-pressure racing situations where unrestricted oil flow is vital.  Their filtering media successfully eliminates 99% of contaminants from the engine’s oil supply.  An installed Anti-Drainback Valve provides consistent lubrication by preventing oil within the filter from draining back into the oil pan.  Both Bypass and PSI Relief Valve protections are also featured on the HP-1002.

K&N Performance Gold filters are compatible with all contemporary synthetic and extended-life varieties of motor oil.

Off-Road Reasoning

The heavy-duty steel canister and base plate offer increased anti-puncture protection while off-roading. The Chrysler 3.8 liter V-6, fitted to the latest (JK) generation of Wrangler, has the oil filter placement at the lower front corner of the engine block.  Although a relatively safe location, the jagged rubble can really fly during a spirited, off-road romp.  Despite the standard skid-plates and extensive ground clearance offered by the optional 18-inch wheel package, that extra measure of protection gives added support when you’re miles from the edge of nowhere.

“Our Oil Filters Have Nuts” (quote from K&N’s website)

Welded to the top of the canister is a 1” nut to provide for easy removal – especially for filters fitted to areas of restricted access.  Though the Wrangler JK has the room to accommodate a conventional oil filter wrench, the K&N Wrench-Off design is the preferred method for the majority of Jeep upkeep peeps in my orbit.


K&N Performance Gold filters can be found at their website, as well as a select number of independent auto part and speed shops.  The national chain Advance Auto Parts will occasionally bundle their premium oil filters (including K&N) with 5 quarts of a featured brand of synthetic oil as a heavily discounted promotion.

Warranty Info

According to their website, the use of K&N filters is compliant with manufacturer warranties.  Consult the above link for additional details.

Through several years and as many vehicles, my use of K&N oil filters for recommended maintenance has resulted in no internal engine component failures of any type. In my experience, their highest recommendation is due.

K&N Engineering

Riverside, CA

Rancho Steering Stabilizer For Jeep JK: Death-Wobble DIY

Rancho RS5000 Series Performance Steering Stabilizer For ’07-’11 Jeep Wrangler JK  #RS5407


Pros: American made.  Heftier than original equipment.  Simple to install.  Cured instability with improved steering feel and handling.

Cons: The enclosed complimentary Rancho bumper sticker is yours for the asking.

In the world of legendary specialty vehicles, the words “Jeep Wrangler” and “Death-Wobble” will be forever linked.  Any time you mount two steerable wheels to either end of a heavy, solid axle, there’s the potential for shimmy and shudder.  Factors such as improper wheel balance and alignment can combine to cause a world of wobble, capable of scaring the be-Jeepers out of anyone behind the wheel.

Understanding this engineering bump-in-the-road, the peeps at Jeep have compensated by installing a steering damper to supplement the front suspension components. Basically a specialized shock absorber, the damper completes the connection between the solid axle and the sway bar to absorb all lateral motion – thus suppressing wheel-related wobble.

Case In Point

With my Jeep Wrangler JK, the initial need was subtle.  At speeds approaching 55 mph on smooth roads, a slight vibration would transfer through to the steering wheel. Larger wheels installed equals additional weight, but my optional 18s were properly balanced, so the problem lay elsewhere.

Of course, if one is a Jeep enthusiast who’s aware of what they’re driving, the solution is simple.  Upon inspection, the original equipment damper had blown a seal. Considering its wispy, broomstick-diameter structure and our rural road conditions, it’s amazing it lasted past the 80K mile mark.

Rancho vs. Wobble

Visually, the Rancho RS5000 Series Performance Steering Stabilizer is much more substantial than the factory part it replaced.  The specs bear this out – the new unit features a 5/8-in diameter piston rod and 1-3/8 diameter piston – plus “Ten-Stage Velocity Sensitive Valving”.  Not sure about that last part, but the proof is in the dampening.  How’s it all add up?

Phil vs. Rancho

Though a simple DIY fix, I folded it in with some routine maintenance.  Phil the mechanic had no trouble with removal and installation.  Having a lift surely helped, but with the JK’s voluminous ground clearance, any Jeeper with an 18mm wrench could handle this task easily.

The box contained a red protective boot for the rod and seal, the necessary fasteners and an illustrated torque-spec. sheet – not to mention the smokin’-red 3×6-inch Rancho bumper sticker.

On The Road Again

The overall improvements in stability and feedback had me wishing I had changed-out the offending part long before.  The wobble was history.  Bump steer was effectively dampened, resulting in a smoother and firmer road feel.  To most, the latest generation Wrangler is fun to drive.  Due to Rancho‘s input, it has also become a pleasure.

In reality, the Dreaded Wobble of lore is a factor only for those who neglect proper maintenance.  Periodic inspection of suspension and steering components will assure a safe and stable ride.

And don’t forget those hard-working shock absorbers.  Replacement at recommended intervals (regardless of appearance) will prevent your all-terrain tires from becoming basketballs at the local railroad crossing.

Monroe offers a Limited Lifetime Warranty on the Rancho RS5000 Series.

Made in USA

Tenneco Monroe

1 International Drive

Monroe, MI  48161

C6 Corvette Car Cover from Chevrolet – No Longer Cold and Naked

C6 Corvette Car Cover from Chevrolet


Pros: Soft knit polyester exterior & fleece style inside material, Stays clean, Decent price

Cons: Flat, lifeless C6 Corvette logos

I hated the idea my little baby was going to sit cold and naked so one of my first purchases was the C6 Corvette Car Cover from Chevrolet.  This winter was a real challenge here in Michigan.  The temperatures never exceeded freezing for months at a time and many nights, temperatures were well below zero Fahrenheit. Even though the vehicle was garaged, there was plenty of snow and blowing when the doors were opened as we received record levels here in the state.

This particular cover was purchased in black with the C6 Corvette logos.  One logo is located at the front and one at the rear just above the rear license plate area.  There are two specific choices if you look for the covers manufactured and sold by Chevrolet.  One is designed for outdoor use and the one I ended up purchasing is for vehicles stored indoors.


The cover is constructed of an extremely soft and stretchy knitted polyester fabric designed to breathe and allow for sufficient airflow eliminating the trapping of moisture underneath.  Stitching on the cover appears well done and I see no appearance of fray or loose stitches after the first winter of use.  The material stayed surprisingly clean throughout the first winter.  Should the material get dirty, Chevrolet suggests rubbing out the spot with an all purpose cleaner and rinsing with clean water.  You are also instructed to air-dry the cover and avoid both a washing machine and dryer.


I wanted, and was more than happy with, a snug fit this cover offers.  I also desired a cover with the pocketed mirror pouches.  Pulling the cover on and taking it off around the mirror pouches is not an issue at all.  The cover completely covers the entire painted portion of the vehicle once it is in place and pulled down.  Only about half the wheels show underneath the bottom of the cover.


I wasn’t too impressed with the two Corvette logos on the front and rear portions of the cover.  I really expected a high quality embroidered C6 Corvette logo but instead the manufacturer added a stiff, lifeless patch style insignia.  The picture shows the C6 Corvette logo at the front of the cover.  I also attempted to offer a view of the soft fleece style material I mentioned earlier with which Chevrolet has constructed the inside of the cover.  The soft material eliminated my concern that the cover may scratch the exterior surface of the vehicle.  Some covers on the market are only constructed with a thin stretch type material that gave me some concern of scratching the surface, especially when the cover is subjected to sub-zero temperatures.


Chevrolet did include a nice carrying case with the cover.  The bag is about the size of a small overnight bag once the cover has been folded and inserted inside.  The cover can be folded, with some difficulty due to the elastic and odd shape and placed in the bag which is designed with ample room.  This makes the cover simple to store or take along on a road trip in the limited storage compartment of the C6.

I ended up paying just over $230.00 plus shipping for my cover on-line.  You can find cheaper options on the market but I suspect they are mostly after-market items.  Many will not have the logos or charge extra for them.  Others will not include the soft fleece style material that, in my opinion, does a great job protecting the paint from both scratching from the cover and offers an extra layer of protection from items that may bump up against the vehicle through a long winter’s stay in the garage.

Based on the fair price and the super quality of the Chevrolet designed cover, I’m offering up a “BUY” recommendation.  You can check out the lesser priced options currently on the market but in my opinion, the extra $60.00 to $100.00 you may save may not offer a similar amount of protection.  I’ll get into gear and roll out all five stars for this C6 Corvette Car Cover from Chevrolet that will keep your cold and naked C6 both warm and wrapped up.



Lots of effort – little return

Turtle Wax Oxy Power Out! Upholstery Cleaner


Pros: A detachable bristle cap for scrubbing

Cons: Just plain doesn’t work

I have an SUV – I have a dog – ‘nuf said? Well, not really. I have a little red Dachshund – Wally, who goes with me everywhere. Consequently between eating on the run, walks in the rain and muddy fields, even with a towel tucked around the passenger seat, her side gets dirty. In addition, the weather the past few months has done little to ameliorate the situation.

I looked at several auto upholstery cleaners before choosing Turtle Wax Oxy Power Out! If there’s a word that will grab my attention when it comes to any kind of cleaner, it’s ‘oxy’ ( meaning oxygen containing surfactants) ” for incredible cleaning and stain removal”. In this case, not even close. I honestly believe I could have done a better job with just warm, sudsy water. 

One ( rare) sunny day about two weeks ago I tackled the job. I followed the directions explicitly:

  • Vacuum loose dirt from surface
  • Shake ( can) well and spray evenly onto upholstery
  • Rub foam into upholstery with bristle cap or sponge until foam disappears.
  • Wipe area with a clean cloth or vacuum when dry.

I finished, leaving the doors open for the seats to dry.  I was astounded and really disappointed a few hours later to see practically no change. Now, we’re not talking about removing blood, or mustard, or shoe dye – we’re talking dog drools, dried mud, maybe a soft drink spill. Yet, the can states ” Works great on coffee, makeup, ink, juice, ketchup, mustard, grease, oil and mud/dirt”. In addition it claims it will remove odors from smoking (never), pets, food, mildew and more. Either I got a can that  accidentally made it through quality control, or they have no such system.

I paid $4.99 at a local hardware store for the .22 oz. size.

For those willing to try this product:

Caution – Contents under pressure. Do not puncture, incinerate, or store above 120F. Do not use near heat, sparks, or open flame. In case of eye contact, flush with water for 15 minutes. KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN.

Questions? 1-800-TurtleWax – or –


PowerStop Evolution Performance Brake System: “If It Don’t Brake, Go Fix It!”

PowerStop Evolution Performance Brake System Kit For Jeep Wrangler JK – ’07-’12 #K2798



Pros: Sure stops.  Perfect fit.  Quality components at a bargain price.

Cons: My UPS guy isn’t fond of heavy metal.

I was sailing along when it happened without warning – the arching, yellow-trimmed fast food giant was rapidly approaching.  Decisions to be made… should I stop for some fries and a dollar cuppa joe, or continue on without?

Now or never became now.  Braving a sea of tan Caravans, I parked across from an idling tour bus.  Hmm… “meals included” doesn’t mean what it used to.  The sweet smell of compensation.

Upon opening the driver’s door, I was assaulted by a smell of a different kind – the left rear wheel of my Jeep Wrangler was hot enough to grill a Quarter Pounder. Crouching for a closer look, I could hear the hot, sputtering hiss of bubbling brake fluid.  The caliper had seized and the resulting friction could well have resulted in auto-self immolation – had I resisted the call of the fries.

Genuine Jeep

Defying all logic, the local dealer offered the best price on a new set of calipers.  Installing new pads and rotors is a given in such an instance – but no one appears to offer ceramics for the rears.  Aftermarket performance rotors will run a buck-fifty… each.  It’s a hundred degrees, the “local” dealer is 23 miles thatta-way and the new, comfy, air-conditioned JK Wrangler is in a rare state of disable.  But the old black TJ Wrangler Sport, with its matching hardtop and no A/C, is eager to be a rolling furnace in my midsummer quest for resolution.


If the thriving Jeep aftermarket is awash in parts for every generation of Wrangler that rolls, why is there no ceramic pad option for the JK’s rear axle?  Answer:  Go to the site that sells everything.

Amazon Prime Directive

Thanks to the proper keywords and reliable Amazon search, I located a long-winded solution:

PowerStop K2798 Front/Rear Ceramic Brake Pad and Cross Drilled/Slotted Combo Rotor One-Click Brake Kit.

Contained within are four vented, drilled and slotted “silver zinc” plated rotors and a set of ceramic pads for each axle.  The success of the pad search aside – finding vented rear performance rotors for this vehicle at a reasonable price is like meeting Sasquatch at the Seven-Eleven.

What can Brown do?

Being a Prime member, I received my shipment within 48 hours of ordering.  As an organizational asset, all four cardboard-clad rotors had been tightly bound together with yellow tape resembling that used to encircle crime scenes.  For reasons of liability (I suspect), the UPS guy refused assistance and muscled the awkward, 40 pound parcel to the front door.


Of course, the main concern at this point is one of compatibility.  When Phil the mechanic removes the old components, what happens if the new parts don’t fit?  It’s not as if the local NAPA will apologize and deliver the right ones – I will have to re-wrap them with a new roll of tape and go through the return process.  Inconvenience… wasted time… hourly rate… What have I DONE?

Phil da’ Man!

It took Phil about ninety minutes to install the calipers, pads and rotors.  He was so impressed with the quality, finish and precision of the PowerStop Evolution Performance Brake Kit, he asked for the details of my purchase.  When appropriate, he planned to recommend the product to his SUV and truck-driving customers.

The kit arrived with a set of instructions – 14 detailed steps, each with photo assist.  Since Phil did the heavy lifting while I raided the snack machine, there was no need for me to closely examine said brochure.  However, the concluding recommendation, printed in red and preceded by a giant exclamation point, did draw my attention:

Proper Pad Bedding?

Essentially a break-in exercise, Pad Bedding involves a series of five “moderately aggressive” stops from 40 down to 5 miles per hour without letting the brakes cool or coming to a complete stop.  For step two, five additional stops from 25 mph down to 5, letting the brakes cool between stops.  As stated, proper Pad Bedding of ceramics can prevent warping and/or cracking of the drilled and slotted rotors.

Braking Good

I was impressed with the increased stopping power and decreased stopping distance observed with the PowerStop system installed.  The ceramic pads wear longer, contain no harmful asbestos and produce little dust.  Best of all is the fact that their high impact carbon ceramic formula allows them to operate in virtual silence.

After more than eight months of everyday use in the snow belt, the Silver Zinc coating gleams as if new behind the 18 inch steel Wrangler wheels.  The rotors show no sign of grooving, warping, wear or corrosion.

The most attractive feature of the PowerStop Evolution Performance Brake Kit is the price – I paid around $325.00 (US).  Purchased separately, the local parts peeps wanted as much for the original equipment replacements – and more than double for their performance rotors – bundled with conventional rear pads!

Phil is one of the best mechanics in the business.  His role in this successful exercise earned him $67.50 – 1.5 hours labor @ $45.00 per hour (yes… you’re reading that right) here in our fine rural reality.

The PowerStop (K2798) Kit fits the 2007-2012 Jeep Wrangler (JK).  Keyword your vehicle’s year, make and model with “PowerStop” to assure a proper fit.

PowerStop backs the Evolution Performance Brake Kit System with a 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty.