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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,679 days a wanderin'

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Switching Gears and 4x4 Systems

Sep 15, 2014
by John

Rhino lined rockers and roof top

Rhino lined rockers and roof top

Getting a vehicle ready for a multi-year trip is serious. We know that we can't completely prevent future mechanical failures but it's essential to have the engine gone through to catch those things that are imminent or likely to fail. After a few months trying to get our van thoroughly checked out we came up empty. None of the local shops were interested enough to go through our 7.3 diesel engine in great detail. There are some reputable shops here, they just prefer to not deal with a van. This left us with only one option, call the guys that specialize in exactly what we have. Fortunately for us, they're located only a couple states away.

Ujoint Offroad was the first place we initially thought of when we got the van, but so many of our local shops have great techs, we figured keep it local, close to home, and we'll be ahead in time. That has obviously failed so we will probably be attending Expo East in a gutted van. Oh well, live and learn. There's no point in focusing on the what-ifs and we-should-have-dones.

Now, the danger in contacting Ujoint is that we (mostly me, well like 90% me and 10% Mandi, or 70% me and 30% Mandi... maybe 51% me and 49% Mandi) have wanted the Ujoint 4x4 system ever since I accidentally discovered it several years ago. It's not that we're experts in 4x4 systems (contrary if truth be told), but something about who they are just makes it all seem right. Those guys are on the forums answering questions and helping people all across the country. Watching videos of the vans they have converted has played a big part too. In short, we just feel like what they do works and if there's ever an issue they would answer the phone, email, or text to help.

Several months ago we had contacted them about swapping systems but we felt it would be dumb to change out something we already have, kind of is - a new pattern is emerging! We turmoil-ed over what to do and initially decided to just upgrade the existing Quigley 4x4 system in our van. Once we realized we were going to ask Ujoint to go through the van's diesel engine, we rekindled the idea of swapping 4x4 systems. In less than a split second we knew what we were going to do - it took a full day for us to actually say it. Why torture ourselves when delaying our trip by a couple months can give us the exact 4x4 system we have always wanted.

I immediately started emailing Chris to see if they would take our van on and what their schedule was like. True to form he said no problem and we scheduled a tentative delivery date around mid August. They will get the van mechanically sound and will be swapping in their Ujoint 4x4 system all before Expo East! We settled into a big sigh of relief and then panic struck. We had a ton of things to get done before we started the drive to NC.

Ujoint starting to do their thing

Ujoint starting to do their thing

The month between making the decision and driving the van to Fletcher, NC, was frantic and mostly consisted of getting the things completed that would otherwise be in Ujoint's way. We also knocked out some things, like replacing the penthouse hardware and such, in preparation for some of the additional work they will be doing on the van for us.

The drive to NC was quite miserable as we discovered we couldn't run the a/c and it was hot, hot, hot. We persevered and stopped for a nice dinner, it was Mandi's birthday after all! Most of the following day was spent with Chris going over what we wanted done and outsourcing a few other things to them that will save us some time and interior space later. After a great lunch (thanks again Chris) we left for the Nantahala gorge to get some much needed R&R, knowing that the JaMvan is in very capable hands.

Our 7.3 getting some needed love

Our 7.3 getting some needed love

We'll be picking the van up the first day of Expo East, Thursday, so we'll only have it a few hours before we're supposed to camp in it. We know that it's not camp ready so we'll be bringing our tent and such. That will also make it easier to use the van on the 4x4 course since nothing will be properly bolted down. We're excited knowing we are on the path to starting our adventure.

All images provided by Ujoint Offroad.


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