Aug 12, 2012

Minor mods to the TJ

I've had my jeep for a few months now and I completely love it. I love driving it. I love the maintenance. And I love reading about all about it. I really enjoy reading about the modifications a lot of guys make to their TJ's over at It's a tremendous information source and the members are both helpful and encouraging. Nearly all of my jeep questions have been answered after a few minutes of searching the forum. Although, having the Illustrated Parts Catalog is also a must.

I've put a few bucks into the jeep so far. First off was a new set of Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ's. Pricey but exactly what I wanted. This jeep is my daily driver but I also want to be able to wheel through the woods with it when I get the inkling (which is most days on the way home from work). The Mickey Thompsons set me back $1000 for four of the 33 X 12.5 X R15 but I love the way they hook-up, look and sound. By the way, I highly recommend I got the tires cheaper than anywhere else I could find, they shipped the same day and directly to my local shop who also gave me a discount for using

This jeep came with a pretty capable set-up with a 4" Skyjacker suspension lift and a 4 liter, inline 6 cylinder engine. Still, if I got stuck there were no recovery points, so I picked up a receiver hitch mounted shackle and a couple of hooks for the front bumper. I need to spend a little time in the machine shop at work this week. I want to take a few inches off of the square stock of the rear shackle, and drill some new holes so it doesn't stick out so far in the rear. I made sure that the bolts for the front hooks attached through the bumper and to the frame. I don't want my bumper getting yanked off; that's dangerous and would be incredibly embarrassing. Still, the bolts which came with the hooks are Grade 5 and I'll be picking up some stronger Grade 8 bolts this week. The Grade 8 bolts I have in mind are phosphated black so they won't stick out like these zinc plated ones. The hooks set me back $24 and the hitch mounted shackle was $30. I had to buy a T-55 Torx bit to remove the stock bolts in the bumper which set me back $6.

Getting in and out of the jeep takes a bit of a step up. I picked up a couple of roll bar-mounted handles. Nice to grab when stepping up-in and down-out of the jeep. comfy to hang on to while on the road as well. Only $15 for the set.

The previous owner installed quick disconnect ("discos") swaybar links. I can remove the clevis pins and pop my swaybar links out for independent suspension travel at the front wheels. So much fun! They were pretty corroded so I de-greased them, cleaned them up and gave them a few coats of red Rustoleum just for longevity.

Lastly, and this one's a bit overkill, but what the hell; I mounted a Class A, B & C fire extinguisher behind my seat on a vertical section of roll bar. Now, I hope to hell I never have to use this, but I really like having it. Looks comforting to me. $25.

Perseid Meteor Shower

So, last night around midnight, the Perseus Constellation rose in the northeast sky. After which a shower of meteors apparently ensued, but my view was blocked by cloud cover (Read up on the Perseid Meteor shower here). I did have fun setting up for the show and I haven't ever tried to capture the stars before. I'd like to give it another shot sometime; most likely tonight.

Above: NOT a meteor, just a "big ol' jet airliner".

I set up with my 24mm prime lens. A relatively quick and wide angle lens works best. My 24mm is an f/2.8 which is not the fastest, but not all that slow either (better than a f/3.5). You want to use a wide angle lens because it will let you capture the largest amount of sky. I focused to infinity (...and beyond!). I read that a simple calculation can be used to establish shutter speed for shooting... shooting stars: 600 ÷ focal length = exposure time. Since I was using a 24mm lens the math was simple: 600 ÷ 24 = 25 seconds. Since you can never tell when meteors will go streaking by you pretty much play it by luck at this point. Just keep on exposing. So, I set my camera's intervalometer to expose every minute. So every 60 seconds the shutter in my camera would open for 25 seconds.

It was midnight when I set up with the tripod on the back porch and I was exhausted so I went to bed. I tried to sleep but I just didn't feel right about leaving my camera outside all night. Especially since some little bastards had broken into my jeep a few weeks ago. Though the weather radar showed only light cloud cover and no rain in the forecast I just tossed and turned worrying about my DSLR. So after about an hour and a half I went out to look at the sky: cloudy. So I pulled my camera inside and sauntered back to bed.

Above: This is the best I could come up with.

This morning I processed the 105 photos I captured. Some of them are so-so, and I included them in this blog post, but the balance of them are just shots of wispy clouds obscuring what was probably a pretty amazing sight. In the image above you'll see a light streak which is NOT a meteor; it's an airplane. Doh! I created a very short time lapse video displaying the 105 images at a rate of 10 frames per second. Kind of neat, but not at all what I had hoped for. Better luck next time! Speaking of next time: Meteor Shower Calender.