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Trail Welding and Emergency 4x4 Repairs

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One of the popular HD videos at the magazine website and the magazine's YouTube offerings is a field repair welding job at Moab, Utah during the 2012 Jeep Safari. We were at the "Rose Garden" trail on a typically fun Warn Industries media run.  I happened to be riding passenger side in a Jeep TJ Wrangler whose owner was the trail boss and a fellow Warn friend.  My role was filming, and the lead vehicle was a good place to ride.

About 2/3rds of the way up this rock ledged step trail, I was outside the vehicle filming when the steering tie-rod on the TJ Wrangler snapped. The next angle for the camcorder was to film several guys repairing the tie-rod.  Front and center was Larry Nickell of Crawl Magazine fame.  Other friends from Mopar contributed a pair of Dollar Store quality open end wrenches to the cause.

Larry and the Crawl crew whipped the Ready Welder from their rig, removed the battery from the vehicle and went about welding the two open end wrenches to the tie-rod tube.  The repair was essentially a "splint" rather than just butt welding the broken tube ends together. A butt surface weld without beveling would surely fail, a dangerous prospect for a steering linkage safety part like a tie-rod.  Here is the video:

Caution: Welding steering linkage is not advised under any condition other than to get a vehicle safely off the trail to a point where a proper parts replacement can be made. Welding can deform or remove hardening from parts, leaving softer, lower tensile metal in its wake. This repair shown was clearly an emergency.  The vehicle was otherwise blocking the trail and would have needed a new tie-rod.  Moab was a long, 20-mile trip away.  The rough terrain hike to the main road was at least four miles in blustery weather.


See how this trail fix saved that day. Did it hold? I rode back to town as a passenger after this 4x4 had negotiated the rest of the Rose Garden with the repaired tie-rod. It did work! At town, a replacement tie-rod was installed the next day.


Share your trail welding experiences! I have another one from the Rubicon Trail and a Wheelers for the Wounded outing—our group's Ready Welder became the tool used to fixed a stranger's Jeep that had lost its steering—the mounting bracket had broken, shearing the steering gear from the frame...



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The Ready Welder is automotive 12V battery powered.  There is also a 24V military/NATO unit.
Ideally, remove the supply battery from the vehicle.  At the least, disconnect the battery's cables...If you leave the cables attached, the huge battery amperage draw and current surges can feed back and damage critical electronic components.  There are horror stories of trailside welding where the load surge knocks out the PCM on a late model MPI/EFI Jeep 4x4 system—leaving the vehicle stranded after the weld repair!
Ready Welder has a variety of safeguards built into the unit to help prevent battery and electrical system damage.  You should still disconnect the battery from the vehicle's electrical system...Here is some information at one of the magazine's articles: www.4wdmechanix.com/Jeep-Trail-Welder-Series-Portable-'Ready-Welder'.html.  You can link from there for more information.
You'll hear accounts of welding directly from an automotive battery, often with jumper cables or a stick electrode and ground with battery clamps.  I'm not an advocate of doing so.  The huge amperage draw and striking a stick welding arc (typical approach with direct battery welding) is nothing less than a direct short across the battery posts!  This can generate heat, damage the battery and cause the emission of highly explosive hydrogen gas.  Should a spark come near, the battery can explode.



By contrast, the Ready Welder's circuitry helps reduce the risk of these dangers.  If you want to battery weld, consider investing in a Ready Welder.


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