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I posted this on the ColoradoFans forums recently, and felt it might be worth reposting here. It covers a lot of topics, so I'll just post in General...

For spring break, we drove the White Rim Road in Canyonlands NP, Utah. It was a family trip, so we took it slow and enjoyed 4 nights, 5 days on the trail. Not really a trip report - but an overview of how things with the truck went.

The 2.8L diesel (2.8D) is a billy goat - it climbs steep, loose trails and scrambles over exposed rock so calmly (low revs, unlike a gasser). The self-locking differential worked fine - I didn’t feel a wheel spin, nor lose traction, virtually at all during the 5-day trip. This was my first true four wheeling trip, and the 2.8D platform was confidence inspiring. There were a few sections of really steep trail, either dirt or rock, sometimes with switchbacks (ascending westbound Murphy Hogback was a good one). 4-LO took care of them all.

I drove at least 90% of the 82 mile route in 2-wheel drive, generally set at 3rd gear. 2WD was for fuel management as well as keeping the steering light. I heard other 4x’s running down long stretches of smooth dirt road in 4WD (based on the drivetrain whine), which seemed like a waste of fuel for no reason. And when we weren’t in 2-Hi, we went right to 4-LO :)

For the 82 miles from Shafer Trail (descending) to where Mineral Road ascends back to the plateau, the truck averaged 12.0 mpg. Before entering the park, I had topped off the diesel at the I-70 exit, and upon returning to pavement near Dead Horse Point, still had nearly 2/3 tank remaining. We carried a Wavian 2.6 gallon steel NATO jerry can, but didn’t even think of using the spare diesel. Good insurance policy though. The Wavian can was new, sealed tight, and didn’t leak nor emit any smell at all.

I ran the stock 255/65R17 tires at 25 psi, which was fine for 4-LO’ing, but was too firm for rippled hard surfaces like the long stretches of ‘wave rock’ found in Utah. That limitation was about the comfort of my wife and two kids (who could get motion sick) when crossing long stretches of horizontal rock which had ripple patterns, creating sideways oscillations of the truck body. I belatedly learned that I could have pressured down to 20 psi, to smooth the journey. More on tires later.

I’m running Fox 2.5” shocks with remote reservoirs in all four corners. The fronts allow up to 2” lift, and the rears allow up to 1” lift. I’m using ICON upper control arms which come with a torsion bar drop spacer. The shock installation and tuning was a saga. In brief: off-the-shelf Fox shocks are awful - harsh feeling, nearly rigid - you must have them custom tuned before use (which I had done after experiencing their awful ride, and it helps greatly). This will be the subject of another post.

The front is level-lifted about 1.5”, and the rear has 1” blocks to elevate the spare tire to improve departure angle. The under-frame clearance with stock tires was generally fine for the white rim road. There were only a few instances where I heard a frame rail, or perhaps front skid plate or LCA, briefly scrape protruding rocks. That said, this route is described as beginner 4x4. We didn’t have to get out and stack rocks to create a path, and frankly I seldom scouted/spotted for under-vehicle obstacles. Just used a keen driver’s eye and navigated slowly over or around protruding rocks.

When the level lift was installed, I also pulled off the front air dam. This was last autumn. Since then, in general city/highway driving on the Colorado front range (~5280’ elevation), I’ve seen perhaps a 1-2 mpg decrease on average. So instead of getting 28-34mpg highway, i’m seeing perhaps 26-32mpg highway. I’m a mechanical engineer, and recognize how much the fuel consumption varies with conditions (load, wind, traffic, terrain, atmospheric conditions), so I hesitate to claim any more precise numbers than those anecdotal ranges.

Currently I only have a SuperSkidz front plate (aluminum) installed. It hardly touched the whole trip. I have Superskidz’ three steel skid plates waiting to install (ran out of time before our trip). Considering their new gas tank skid as well, although I hesitate to keep piling on more weight. I also have Datin steel shock skids in hand, but didn’t have time to install before the trip.

The ARB dual-cylinder compressor is mounted under the coolant reservoir, using a 589Fab steel bracket. I’m very happy to have onboard air. The bracket is a super tight fit, particularly when reinstalling the coolant reservoir and stock air box. The ARB tire deflator gizmo works OK, but its gauge is uncalibrated - it reads far off when used as instructed. The ARB inflator kit with 20’ high temp hose works well - long enough to reach the opposite rear tire from the engine compartment. I like that their inflator connector (Schraeder) has a keeper, so you don’t need any hand pressure to keep it on the valve. I have the ARB on/off switch mounted on the lower plastic trim plate which covers the side of the gear shift area - it’s exactly where the driver’s knee bone might touch the plastic when you turn to look over your shoulder to the rear seats. Originally, my knee would inadvertently knock the switch on. Before the trip, I flipped the switch upside down, so that my knee will only knock it to the off position :)

Although I haven’t studied for the ham license yet (another ran out of time issue), we carried a Yaesu FT60R handheld radio. We briefly listened in on the regional Sinbad repeater channels for traffic (all was quiet), and used the radio nightly to hear regional weather reports (which was reassuring and also good entertainment for the kids). I’ll be looking for a seat rail flex-mount for the handheld (searched the forums but didn’t see anyone reporting success with that type of mount). I like the radio and look forward to getting licensed.

What else… the 2.8D effortlessly hauled a good camping load - a Tepui RTT, 18 gallons of water, spare diesel, and a family of 4’s food in two coolers, and other gear with no complaints. Although I fantasize about much larger tires for offroading, the fact is the stock platform is so well tuned for all-round use and general softroading, that I’d hesitate to drastically alter the balance and handling. Settling for 31” tires is a decent compromise, since the majority of our time is on pavement. Perhaps I’ll read some reports on how much wheel well trimming is necessary for 32” tires (the ColoradoFans forums have solid guidance on this subject). I’m kinda flirting with those prerunner style (ZR2 style) front bumpers, to open up the wheel wells for bigger tires - but my hunch is this might really lower fuel efficiency, and I’d rather hold onto as much fuel efficiency as possible.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your Colorados and get them off pavement!
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