I love winter wheeling! Some observations...
Well, I went out yesterday wheeling in the Zuk. Usually I am in one of the Jeeps, as this is the first winter we have had the Zuk. It's not up to snuff, and has some issues, but I figured what the heck, I'd just tow it when it breaks.
Anyway, I went out locally with some friends, and the list is as follows. Everyone else was locked at both ends and has a lower crawl ratio than the Zuk. The XJ has a factory diesel with Klune-V and Q78 Swampers, the '78 CJ is running a VERY healthy 360 with Q78's, the '83 CJ is running a EFI 258 with Q78's, and the '55 Willys was running the F-134 (hey, it still puts out 72 hp) with 32" Swamper radials and 80:1 crawl. Everyone had a winch and everyone has been wheeling for a long time, no newbys.
And here I am, on 32" Swampers with only a rear locker, major rear axle noise, spongy breaks, sloppy shifter (had telling what gear I'm in), vibrations due to a bent T-case arm, and a very weak clutch.
All of us did well, and everyone got towed or winched at one point or another. We wound around the woods, taking a trail the "wrong" way and going up all the sheer cliffs, now with ice and frost on them. The day ended with us scouting my property on the side of a mountain, to see how it would be for trails. I wa shesitant to go at first, as it meant brush-breaking the whole way (driving over cut downed trees and slash piles). I mentioned my reservations about brake lines to the guy who suggested it, and he said it wouldn't happen. Well, it did happen, but only to him. We lef the woods well after dark (around 6:30 PM), and it was a great time.
I ripped off a rear bumper light, cracked a tail light lens, dented the hood more on a tree, and blew a tire off the rim. Damage to others was a brake caliper that would not release, some busted tail lights, the diesel kept quitting (auto tranny), the aforementioned brake line, and some more dents. All in all not too bad.
The tire thing was unique. The 32" Swampers have a 6 ply sidewall, which is heavy, but not too noticeable. I don't know what they were aired down to as my gauge died (iced up), but it looked right and had the right amount of bulge. I usually run them at 4 psi on the stock 5.5" wide rim (inverted centers on the front), and they work awesome. Anyway, we were headed out for the night, and the guy behind me radios that he can see rim on the driver's rear, so I jump out and look down. All I see is normal bulge, so I went to the other side, thinking he meant passengers side. On that side I see the same amount of bulge and ask him what he means. He tells me to look on the inside, and I see the tire has clearly dismounted from the rim. The outside pic is attached here, which is buldged out a little more due to being on top of a rut. The next pic shows the inside.
Anyway, we just fired up the York and blew it back up, it seated perfectly. I have no idea of how long I had been driving on it, but there was no damage to the rim or tire.
Anyway, onto my observations.
The Zuk is a TRACTOR! It was just unstoppable! I was definitely amazed, and was weaving in and out of the trail, very infrequenly having to back up to make a turn. There were a few spots I figured I'd have to get towed, especially with all the ice, but it just went right up. Others were getting towed more often, but I think it was the line I was able to choose and the fact most people relied on their equipment instead of reading the trail. The one time I did get towed I was high centered on an ice jam in the middle of a small pond, after I had fallen through.
I'm not about to say the Zuk is better than the Jeeps, or that a Zuk with one locker and 32's can go where fully locked jeeps on 36's can go, because it's not the case. However, I was amazed at where it did go, and so were the others, who kept egging me on all week because they had never been wheeling with a Zuk, they're pretty rare up here. A lot of jokes were made about it's size, and I agreed with them, this thing is tiny by comparison, they kept calling it a Quad on steroids. I'm used to wheeling the Scrambler, which is the size of their jeeps, simply massive by comparison.
The Pony worked well in the icy conditions and sub-freezing temps, and I'm glad to have it on there. I learned that the Zuk will drive all day on fumes, that there is a separate fuse for the left and right sides of the Zuk, and that the turning radius is awesome. Power steering would have been helpful, but is not completely necessary. NEVER turn on the heater without cleaning it from the last run (Eastern Maine Wheel Fest II), as you get a face full of dirt. Dirt at 50 mph also hurts like crazy (I wheel with no doors in any weather), and that next time I'll bring a hat. It was so cold the water that splashed up from the tires onto my jacket froze instantly, it never soaked in, so I could just brush it off like sand or pebbles.
I did find I had a much easier time than a lot of them, due to the weight of the Zuk, but in deep snow they had the advantage. Most of the snow was only 8-12" deep, with pockets going to the 24" mark. Going slow is the key, and if you can't, winter wheeling will be a lot harder. Even with the GRS-I, I wanted to be lower geared at times. Anyway, here are some pics.
Waldoboro, Maine (yes, we're BACK!)
'81 CJ-8 Scrambled, It's a Jeep, Chevy, IHC kinda thing!
'88.5 Slamurai, 7" Lift, Locked, Swamped, Rolled, and just generally broken in right!