Friday, August 27, 2010

Guest Blog Post: The Jeep that Saved The Day

The Jeep That Saved the Day
and our lives

By Del & Stacie Albright

The trucker behind us on I-80 near Truckee, CA, said he figured we were goners when the Jeep made the FIRST 360 at 55 MPH on the freeway with the jeep trailer coming disconnected yet upright, held only by the safety chain. Then when he saw me steer out of that for the SECOND spin with the trailer headed sideways and still flopping on the chain, he knew we were going to be statistics. Yet we survived it; no one got hurt, and after a few repairs, we drove home the Jeep with the trailer. It's a story worth telling.

Jeep Trailer Flip on Freeway

(Click or larger picture of Jeep trailer on its side after a few spins on the freeway). Photo by Stacie.

"Red" the Jeep stayed upright and we must have had the luck of the Big Four-Wheeler in the sky watching out for my driving. I'm still celebrating life even more today. But this story is also about the right gear; the right buildup on your rig; the right training; and the family we call four-wheelers, or better yet, off-road recreationists.

Stacie and I were returning from Sierra Trek by CA4WDC in freeway traffic on I-80 when we think the trailer ball bolt sheared off and let the trailer fly loose from our Jeep at freeway speed with a semi-truck behind us. Thankfully, the trucker was not tail-gating!

Stacie happened to notice the ball bouncing harmlessly off the freeway into the dirt lane right before I felt the trailer coming around to visit me in my driver's window. All hell broke loose after that.

The stink of rubber burning whiffed by my nose as the sound of metal crunching and banging together filled my ears. We could faintly hear brakes behind and alongside us locking up, but instantly the world started to rotate the wrong way and the only thing I could say was "hang on."

Stacie grabbed the passenger bar and leaned towards the middle as my hands bore down hard on the steering wheel, anticipating the drift and slip of the front tires as the Jeep got tossed by the weight of the speeding trailer. I've been through skid pan and safety clinic type off-road training, so I knew to stay with it; turn into the skid; and use the brakes carefully so as to not slam the trailer into the Jeep too hard thus cancelling my steering efforts.

Turning the Jeep in a drift towards the far right lane and dirt ditches alongside the freeway was my mission. Red was as stable as I could ever imagine, and I could feel the steering respond the way it should. But the weight of the flinging trailer and our freeway speed put us into the first 360 spin on pavement. Then we skidded into the dirt and began our second spin as gravel and dirt flung up from the BFG's, filling the cab with a dust ball that nearly stifled our breathing. Losing visibility I had to rely on feel and instinct to make the last couple turns, fighting the skid and still turning into the drift trying to keep Red upright, rubber side down. It worked!

Thank goodness the Jeep is built right! The MFS custom steering and PSC hydraulic assist is one-ton stuff with CTM U-joints and BFG KM2's clinging to the pavement. The Jeep's suspension is Rubicon Express long arm heavy duty stuff with RE shocks as well. Hanson bumpers provided a lot of rear end strength, in spite of the trailer dragging by the safety chain. And I'm convinced the Raceline Monster Beadlocks kept us from popping a tire off the bead during the pavement burning spin.

The Altop family of wheelers (Gerald Sr. and Jr. and Ron) was coming down the highway, returning from Trek and immediately pulled over to help get the trailer upright. They just happened to have a spare tow bar and proceeded to strip off my hitch bent parts and replaced them with their stuff. They even had a spare ball hitch but it was too small so we broke out the Ready Welder and they put a blob of weld inside the hitch to make it fit and viola we were on our way within about 45 minutes.

The Altop's (who are members of the Sacramento Jeepers of the Calif. Assoc. Of 4Wheel Drive Clubs) even took the time to pull over with us at the next freeway exit to check if everything was working okay with the "trail fix" that they did. I gotta say that the off-road community is really a great network of people that go over and beyond the call of duty to help a friend or acquaintance in need. Thanks again to all that stopped to help and make sure that we were okay.

Here are the lessons that were ingrained in my brain from this event. I don't pass these along lightly.

Maintenance and Checking Your Gear: Although I had tightened everything with a pipe wrench after coming off the dirt, that didn't prevent an old worn bolt from shearing off. I recommend you always double check gear and anything that can kill you like trailers, brakes, tires, steering parts. And did you know that trailer balls have torque specifications. Check this out:

Training and Driving Skills: I've taken my fair share of driving training, including skid pan driving, as well as off-road Safety Clinics. I can recommend that you consider something like Badlands Off Road Adventures and 4WD training (, and the safety clinics put on by state associations like the California Association of 4Wheel Drive Clubs (

Off-Road Family: Never take it for granted how special off-roaders are to each other. We are a family and I've seen it over and over. This episode was a clear reminder of a lot of things, and makes a person think about things like luck, life, and yea, divine assistance as there were a lot of variables in this incident that could have changed a lot of lives. The tow ball bounced down the freeway, harmlessly landing off to the side rather than becoming a hand-grenade through someone's windshield; the trailer could have busted out into traffic; the jeep could have flipped, rolled and bounced several times; and the trucker could have slammed into us sideways after we quit spinning; etc.

But none of that happened.

Whew... so cheers everyone! Here's to another day of being a part of the off-road family.

MetalCloak Fender and Bumper Painting

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Red Rubi Build, An Updated Report

Fans of MetalCloak products have been part of an ongoing drum-beat heard around the world since we opened our doors early in 2009.

In fact, as early as Summer, 2009, we started hearing the first taps of what would become a unmistakable call... a call amongst latter day Wrangler owners everywhere... a call for the engineers at MetalCloak to apply the same meticulous design and creativity that is found on our Tube Fenders for the CJ, YJ, TJ, and LJ... to the new master of the trails, the JK.

Deadlines were considered, and deadlines were passed... the days turned into months and... okay enough of the drag out...

Release time is near...

Yes, the engineers have been working diligently these past few months on the MetalCloak Rock-Biting Body Armor system for the JK.

Starting with testing of our Red Rubi, which sits on 37" Good Year MTRs and no lift, to find where the rub points and what we can do to improve articulation...

Next we completely digitized the Red Rubi using a Romer CIM arm. While design is always possible without going to this extent, the precision fitment of MetalCloak products requires knowing most intricate details of the JK Body.

The end result is a detailed model that ensures each MetalCloak product will fit with the perfect precision you have come to expect from our products.

Ahhh... but you ask... "Where are the fenders?"

Not just yet. Release time is coming soon, but the design, for now, is under wraps.

But we promise, if you like our current products, you are going to love the JK Rock-Biting Body Armor.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How to Clean Up "Rock Rash" on your Powdercoat

If you have a question that is not answered on FAQ page, maybe we can answer it for you here.

Q: What does MetalCloak recommend for covering up scratched powdercoat?

A: Rustoleum Black Textured Paint... details below.

So, you bought MetalCloak Rock-Biting Body Armor for your Jeep and now you have the best Tube Fender, Rockers, Corner Guards and Bumpers available on your rig.

But it it Body Armor, which means that when you wheel, you are going to innevitably bang it up, On the Rocks!

And even though we use an incredible Premium Black Textured Powdercoat that is easily 5 mil or more in thickness, rocks can still tear through it and expose bear metal.

The question is, what is the best way to repair and clean up this mess?

Recently, while having fun at Area BFE during the 2010 Easter Jeep Safari, I tore up the Crawler Cap on my Frame-Built Bumper.

Fortunately, this is VERY easy to repair using Rustoleum's Black Texured Spray Paint.

First... buy a can of Rustoleum Black Textured Paint. Rustoleum has a great line of textured paints and the Black Textured matches our powder coat incredibly well.

Next clean up the area around the scratched powder coat with a mild sandpaper or a scotch brite pad.

Then, following Rustoleum's instructions, rattle can that baby (of course, you should mask off the area you don't want sprayed black...).

The result is a "barely can tell" finish, ready to get thrown back at the rocks.

Have another question? Just use our Contact Form.