||When Tragedy Becomes Reality.
Are You Ready?
For many of us, rolling our Jeeps is a distant afterthought. We prepare by
accepting it as a possible consequence, but often feel that we’re not really
putting ourselves into ‘those’ situations. Accordingly, we’re not truly
ready for disaster when it strikes.
I learned first hand the importance of preparedness in August of 2001. On a
lazy Saturday, I had planned to meet a couple of friends to do a day trip.
I’d packed my Jeep, a 1998 TJ with all the goodies, lightly but had included
my usual batch of tools and spares. We met at trailhead around 8 am and with
little concern, began our adventure. As I worked out the cobwebs, I found
myself on an easy trail. Needless to say, my confidence was high and my
vehicle was ready for anything.
As we approached the mythical hill climb that separated the men from the
boys, I was certain I would have no trouble. On my first attempt, I nearly
cleared the crux, but failed and backed down. After reevaluation and walking
the hill, I tried again, this time a little to the right. I started up the
climb, 1st gear and 4 low, nice and steady. I gave it a little gas and we
began to climb. As we reached the crux I concentrated on my line but before
I had a moment to react, the drivers tire lifted from the ground and the
jeep was on its side… sliding downhill. Within a moment, the hill dropped
away and the jeep rolled onto the cage and then down onto the other side.
And then it was over.
And so began my lesson in preparedness…
1. Getting out
I had equipped my Jeep with a 3” lap belt for the driver, so within a
second, I was able to free myself from the seat and stand up. My passenger,
however, was in the stock shoulder belt and had to be lifted by two people
in order to be freed from the belt. Had both seats been equipped properly
with racing style belts with a quick release latch, this problem would have
been completely avoided.
I climbed out and surveyed the damage. Without question, my adrenaline was
pumping and clear thought was not really possible. But I tried to calm
myself and started putting together a plan.
After digging out my recovery kit, I realized I was the only jeep with a
winch. Would it work after such a violent roll? I had swapped my stock
battery for a sealed, non-spillable Optima and had a WARN 8274-50 on the
front bumper. As I unspooled the cable, I managed a sigh of relief; the
battery didn’t leak and winch had survived. After setting up an anchor, I
slowly winched my pride and joy back to her feet.
3. A Survey of the Damage
I had a destroyed windshield, dented the hood, both fenders, the grille,
both rear corners and the cowl. I had scraped and dented the cage, however,
my passenger and myself were fine.
The cage was professionally installed, 6-point, and welded-in. It was given
to me as a birthday present from my family and it had definitely saved my
life and that of my passenger.
4. Getting the Jeep Running.
At this point, I was truly at a loss. Though I had the tools, parts, and
knowledge, I was very shaken up and just couldn’t work through the puzzle of
what to do. Though seemingly simple on the surface, the process of pulling
the plugs and clearing the block of oil was a monumental task at the time.
The process entails pulling all the spark plugs, cleaning them and turning
the engine over with the plugs removed to blow the oil from the cylinders.
The first stumbling block was removing the plugs. The engine was hot and the
wires hadn’t been removed in a long time. I didn’t have a wire tool handy,
so in removing them, several were damaged. I did carry spare plugs, wires,
and a cap and rotor, but mostly because I always meant to do a tune up… now
was my chance.
Once the wires were removed, the process of pulling the plugs began. On my
Jeep, the #1 plug is obscured by the A/C compressor, so the belt had to be
loosened, the compressor unbolted and moved aside to access the plug. In the
roll, many of my tools had been shaken around the bag and my deep well
socket for the plugs had disappeared. Luckily, one of the other Jeeps did
have the socket, and we successfully removed the plugs, though 2 shattered
in the process.
After pulling the plugs, I turned over the engine. Unbelievably, oil shot
from the last 2 cylinders nearly 30’ and coated my Jeep inside and out. A
tarp or blanket covering the interior would certainly have kept the 210* oil
out of my interior.
After clearing the cylinders of the oil, we reinstalled the new plugs, new
wires and remounted A/C compressor. Amazingly, I had fresh plugs and wires
in my trail box and we were able to get the Jeep running, though getting it
started took several tries. Once restarted, it smoked through the tailpipe
for the rest of the journey.
We removed the destroyed windshield and began to limp home. As I had driven
the Jeep to the trail, a tow home was mandatory. As the tow truck took me
home, I began to realize the importance of proper preparedness and felt
lucky to be catching a ride home, instead of to a hospital.
Rollover Trail Box Requirements:
6 Point Cage – Professionally welded in
Proper seat restraints allowing easy release in case of a rollover
Winch and recovery gear
Complete Tool Kit
Plugs (pre-gapped is helpful)
Full Medical kit