Is my Jeep too heavy?

billiebob

Well-known member

ChasingOurTrunks

Well-known member
Great thread, and a question I'm actively managing on an ongoing basis. To be honest, I'm nearly giving up on the JK platform because of the payload limitations.

We don't exactly go heavy. We weighed our Jeep last night as we are shopping for new suspension. For the record, it's a 2013 Unlimited Rubicon. We aren't strangers to Overlanding -- we have 200,000 kms on this jeep, 70,000 on our previous, and have been from Mexico to Prudhoe Bay so we do have some experience. It has the following bits and pieces permanently mounted:

  1. Smittybilt XRC Front and Rear bumpers
  2. Custom-built Spare Tire/Jerry Can holder
  3. Gobi Stealth Roof rack.
  4. Water pump system (Less than 10lbs, but it's permanently mounted)
  5. Warn 8500 lbs Winch.

WIth 3/4 tank of gas, we came to 4960lbs. Both my wife and I were not in the vehicle when this measurement was made.

Now let's look at what still has to go on; stuff we take off for the 'off season':

10 gallons of gas
10 gallons of water
2 dogs
1 adult (I travel on my bike, just my wife and Dogs in the JK)
Rooftop Tent
Awning


The above list of things brings us up to 5685 lbs. That leaves us with 15 lbs of GVWR for:

Kitchen Kit (in a small Pelican case, probably about 25 lbs and includes stove, pots, utensils, condiments, seasoning, plates, and cups).
Food (Varies depending on the trip)
Clothes (Minimalist approach -- one very small stuff sack each)
1/4 tank gas (to have a full tank)
Controls & Accessories for Winch (Snatch block, tree saver, etc.)
Other Recovery Gear (Shovel, MaxTrax)
Camera Equipment (Not a ton, but probably 10 lbs worth as this includes our laptop).

All told, with the above, my loaded JK is probably around 6,000 lbs. Too much, in my books.

Given the GVWR is legally fixed by the DOT, I don't think it's possible to load up an Unlimited JK with typical 'safari' style parts the way you would a Defender or a Land Cruiser without being over that weight rating. The only solution for most of the areas of heavy weight is to spend more money on lighter components, or sacrifice some components (and the utility they provide). I feel anyone choosing the Jeep for an Overlanding application really needs to think long and hard about how limited the JK is in terms of payload, and how those limitations translate into utility of the vehicle. It can be the greatest off roader in the world (and I think it is), but if I'm limited to weekend trips because of the GVWR, it's functionally useless for me as compared to other rigs.

  • Aluminum bumpers and tire carrier, or go back to the plastic stock options. This could save ~100 lbs, but would cost a lot for the aluminum. Or, could be severely limiting if you stick with stock -- no robust winch mount, no animal strike protection, etc.
  • Forgo the rack/RTT for a ground tent OR find an aluminum rack and a smaller RTT.
  • Halve the amount of gas and water. This may not be an option depending on the trip.
  • Synthetic Rope OR no winch. Spendy and/or you run the risk of being unable to do a self recovery.

I'd be interested to hear other's build lists and weights to see where we can shave a few lbs.
 

MattJ

Adventurer
Given the GVWR is legally fixed by the DOT, I don't think it's possible to load up an Unlimited JK with typical 'safari' style parts the way you would a Defender or a Land Cruiser without being over that weight rating. The only solution for most of the areas of heavy weight is to spend more money on lighter components, or sacrifice some components (and the utility they provide). I feel anyone choosing the Jeep for an Overlanding application really needs to think long and hard about how limited the JK is in terms of payload, and how those limitations translate into utility of the vehicle. It can be the greatest off roader in the world (and I think it is), but if I'm limited to weekend trips because of the GVWR, it's functionally useless for me as compared to other rigs.
Incredibly well said. My JKU is the living (and massively expensive) example of this lesson. How did I end up here? 1) I love offroading. 2) I love overlanding. 3) AEV has a really impressive website. ;)

My AEV steel bumpers, Metalcloak skid plates and DOM steel side rails have withstood massive strikes and impact on severe trail terrain. My Tepui tent, side mounted water tanks, Dometic fridge and Genesis dual battery system have made long trips into the wilderness a source of addictive joy. And my GVW is an absolute disaster.
 

ChasingOurTrunks

Well-known member
Incredibly well said. My JKU is the living (and massively expensive) example of this lesson. How did I end up here? 1) I love offroading. 2) I love overlanding. 3) AEV has a really impressive website. ;)

My AEV steel bumpers, Metalcloak skid plates and DOM steel side rails have withstood massive strikes and impact on severe trail terrain. My Tepui tent, side mounted water tanks, Dometic fridge and Genesis dual battery system have made long trips into the wilderness a source of addictive joy. And my GVW is an absolute disaster.
Thanks for the kind words and I’m in the exact same boat. And honestly I’m 99% not worried about the insurance issue in the backcountry — I am prepared to take a total loss on the Jeep if I wreck it on an adventure and to me, the story will be worth it. But I’m very worried of the more populated bits on the way to/from adventures; as another poster said if we are too overweight (on our jeeps I mean, I’m sure all of us are shredded Adonis-like people with no extra weight ourselves ;) ) and we ********** up another motorist or pedestrian — anywhere liability matters — we’d rapidly run into roadblocks by the insurers.

Your Jeep is cool as hell though - heavy or not, there’s an undeniable x-factor on a nicely kitted Overland JK!
 

ChasingOurTrunks

Well-known member
To continue this thread/idea a bit, my wife and I tore through all our gear and weighed everything. A couple of notes:

1) There are some items that 'live' in the jeep -- tools, spare parts, etc. mostly stay in there permanently, and are not broken out individually but included in the "unloaded jeep weight"

2) The JK, as previously mentioned, is a 2013 Rubicon, Smittybilt XRC front and rear bumpers, custom rear tire carrier/jerry can holder, Gobi stealth roof rack, HAM Radio, and water pump. The rest is stock. All of these items are permanently bolted on and are also accounted for in the 'unloaded jeep weight' figure.

3) Our trips are rarely weekends only -- we generally have to live off our vehicles for a month at a time, going into towns and cities as rarely as possible and only when we need food or gas, so that greatly informs some of our needs like a shower and such. We mostly eat dried foods and fresh fruit, and neither of us drink anymore so we have no need for a cooler or a fridge.

The short version:

Metric
Unloaded Jeep Weight: 2268 Kilograms
Equipment Weight: 286 Kilograms
People/Dogs: 210 Kilograms
Total Weight: 2764 Kilograms
GVWR: 2590 Kilograms
Total: 174.3 Kilograms over GVWR

Freedom Units
Unloaded Jeep Weight: 4989 lbs
Equipment Weight: 629.2 lbs
People/Dogs: 462 lbs
Total Weight: 6080.8
GVWR: 5700 lbs
Total: 383.46 lbs over GVWR

Here's a breakdown of what we weighed with our "everything we want to bring" list; some things are estimates but this will give others a fair idea of how much some of this stuff weighs; the below items, in total, are the 286kgs/629.2 lbs

512809

Now, the real fun part was trying to decide what was "nice to have' versus "need to have". Here is where we got on our "Need to have" list; in this configuration we've stripped out a lot of the creature comforts. This puts us at 243 kgs/534.6 lbs of equipment, and importantly, even after shedding the 'nice to have' stuff, we are still 131.4kgs/289.08lbs over GVWR!

512810


There are quite a few things we can go without -- maybe, like the hi-lift jack. But, it's one of those things where if you need it, you need it. Other areas we saved some weight are in things like the Shower Kit and Table -- for instance, our current shower kit is a propane RV water heaters stored in a pelican case. It' brilliant but we can save some weight using an onboard heat exchanger. The table is a very light aluminum one, but a tailgate table will work just as well for a few less pounds. We can also sub out our metal winch rope for a synthetic one. There are a few other example of areas we 'shaved' weight without removing items.

And now here's the final chart. This one more accurately reflects a 'real' trip for us, where my wife is in the JK with the dogs, and I'm on my triumph. We communicate all day via radio and sort of convoy around the place. We do this for two reasons. First, and primarily, I really love riding. Second, having an additional vehicle allows us to go to more remote places safely, as if there is a failure of one rig, we have another to go for help on. Here's the list of weights for that scenario; this means we've split the gear up between the bike (Hobbes) and the Jeep (Ruby), resulting in Hobbes hauling 32kg/70lbs and Ruby hauling 211kg/464.20lbs. In this scenario, Ruby loses an additional 90kgs since I'll be on the bike, but even then she is still 9.1 kgs over GVWR -- much closer, but still a problem technically. And, we eventually want to have kids which will add a good chunk of weight.

512811


However, not all is lost -- some quick math shows that if we went with Aluminum bumpers instead of the Smittybilt ones, we'd save 74kg/162.8lbs! These numbers are based off advertised weights for both styles of bumper, and even if that is a bit inflated due to shipping material, a savings of 50kgs/110lbs seems very reasonable from this one change alone. This change would put us about 64kgs under GVWR.

Similar changes that could be made would be things like swapping the steel skid plates with Aluminum ones, netting another few pounds. However other changes -- like swapping the hardtop for a soft top (Saving about 75 lbs, from what I read) comes with a significant noise/comfort/security sacrifice. Other mods -- like swapping the hood for a fibreglass one, have their own set of problems since our dogs use the hood of the jeep to get into the tent.

Hopefully this experience we just had helps inform others when selecting an Overland rig, and highlights how easy it is to do "typical" mods and still completely blow past the GVWR without even really trying. We've got more work to do on sorting out our weight issue. Our goal is to land at 2500kgs/5500lbs, so we've got a long way to go!
 

ChasingOurTrunks

Well-known member
Ha! Hopefully healthy kids but I reckon as soon as they are born that’s about 75-100lbs — hopefully not the baby’s size, but the other things that need to come with them like car seats, toys, etc.

In due time diaper bags get replaced with iPads or whatever the “it” thing is now — Different shape, same ounces!
 

ChasingOurTrunks

Well-known member
Why not get a trailer if you are carring allot of weight?
That’s a very good suggestion and would work for most folks. Trailers can be a great option for a lot of different travel styles, but they can also be limiting. Tight switchbacks get harder as does international shipping of the rig. It also introduces another good chunk of failure points that can reduce reliability overall. 50% greater chance of punctures, extra wear and tear on drivetrain, more ball joints and suspension components that can go pear shaped; ideally they are common between the rig and the trailer but that’s not always the case. Even with a trailer the process of lightening a load or at least looking critically at weights can be beneficial, though.

A trailer and a JK is good for most situations, though, and is the only option really if you are going with 4 adults in one rig. With smaller parties a trailer nearly eliminates the weight issue unless a person likes to bring A TON of stuff. Still for us the cons outweigh the benefits.
 

MOguy

Explorer
That’s a very good suggestion and would work for most folks. Trailers can be a great option for a lot of different travel styles, but they can also be limiting. Tight switchbacks get harder as does international shipping of the rig. It also introduces another good chunk of failure points that can reduce reliability overall. 50% greater chance of punctures, extra wear and tear on drivetrain, more ball joints and suspension components that can go pear shaped; ideally they are common between the rig and the trailer but that’s not always the case. Even with a trailer the process of lightening a load or at least looking critically at weights can be beneficial, though.

A trailer and a JK is good for most situations, though, and is the only option really if you are going with 4 adults in one rig. With smaller parties a trailer nearly eliminates the weight issue unless a person likes to bring A TON of stuff. Still for us the cons outweigh the benefits.
To an extent I will agree but many of the reliability / mechanical issues you speak of will be greatly increased when you over load your vehicle, maybe more so than towing within the weight limits the vehicle is designed to tow. I would be more concerned about tire failure with an over loaded vehicle than the extra tires on a the trailer.
 

AbleGuy

A Son of the Purple Sage
I'm not an expert, but just my opinion. In worst case scenario.

1. The increased risk to anything related to starting, stopping, and moving. Bad gas mileage and brakes are probably the most minor. Added weight puts more stress on the engine, drivetrain, suspension, brakes, and almost any other moving part of the vehicle that probably weren't designed for it. Engine components will wear quicker, stopping distances increase, handling suffers. Springs will weaken faster, Bushings will wear down sooner, axles might twist, transmission may overheat or clutches burn out, shocks mounts might break, etc. Anything that moves were designed for a certain load + some overhead for a safety factor. Increase that load too much and you run the risk of breaking.

2. You can upgrade certain parts to be stronger, which ironically will just make your rig heavier. But all you're doing is pushing the weak link down the line somewhere. The added stress still goes somewhere. Bigger engine can deliver more power, but now your axles need to be upgraded to handle it. Stronger axles can fix that, but now the driveshaft is the weak point. Fix the driveshaft and now it's the transmission, and so on. Eventually after upgrading everything, it might be the frame .........

This was a really well written response. And I thank the OP for putting his important inquiry up here.

I’ve been looking for some kind of a different camping rig as a replacement to my Chevy K2500HD truck, due mostly to garage entry height limits (my HOA requires we park inside at night) and the fact that my truck won’t fit inside the garage with anything bigger than a cab high shell.

So I just recently started to look at Jeeps listed on the portal with Habitat tops. But now I have some reasonable concerns about their weight (and power issues).

So one Q...how much less do you think a 4 door non-Rubicon would weigh?
I’m thinking I might be better off sticking with my truck since it’s got a cargo weight rating of almost 2,800 lbs!
 

billiebob

Well-known member
It introduces another good chunk of failure points that can reduce reliability overall. 50% greater chance of punctures, extra wear and tear on drivetrain, more ball joints and suspension components that can go pear shaped.
Most of those failure points are hypothetical. If your JKU is overloaded you are doing more damage than towing a trailer will do. 50% more tires, yes but none of them are overloaded. The JKU is RATED to tow 3500#, you won't even notice 2000# but you will not be overloaded either. There is no "extra" wear and tear if you stay within the design limits. And I've never in 40 years damaged a trailer suspension.
 

ChasingOurTrunks

Well-known member
To an extent I will agree but many of the reliability / mechanical issues you speak of will be greatly increased when you over load your vehicle, maybe more so than towing within the weight limits the vehicle is designed to tow. I would be more concerned about tire failure with an over loaded vehicle than the extra tires on a the trailer.
Most of those failure points are hypothetical. If your JKU is overloaded you are doing more damage than towing a trailer will do. 50% more tires, yes but none of them are overloaded. The JKU is RATED to tow 3500#, you won't even notice 2000# but you will not be overloaded either. There is no "extra" wear and tear if you stay within the design limits. And I've never in 40 years damaged a trailer suspension.
I agree with both of you — a properly loaded rig + trailer is the best way to carry a ton of stuff reliably, and an overloaded rig is way worse than a trailer for reliability concerns.

I even mostly agree with the idea that as long as one is staying within designed specs, the trailer won’t add any wear and tear in 99% of cases. In very technical terrain, though, a trailer is going to get bashed and bounced around, and that does translate into more wear and tear on the rig — with occasional use though that shouldn’t matter. And I would suggest this is mostly a concern in areas/terrain where there is a high risk of damage to an untrailered rig. In other words, in my experience a trailer lowers the limits of what a rig can do by some margin, or put another way increases the risk of damage in really rough territory. However, the goal that we are aiming for is a reasonable load within the specs of our vehicle (JK). That means less stuff, sure, but it creates the best possible condition for our needs. Less stuff to move, less stuff to break. And for what it’s worth I have broken trailers before. I’ve had suspension mounts give out and shocks explode on separate occasions; these were utility trailers so we just left them and came back with replacement parts but that’s is not always an option for our current trips. I suspect that with a purpose built trailer though this risk of breakage reduces substantially.

For us, maintenance or reliability of a trailer is almost an after thought though — the biggest barrier is the greater challenge with border crossings, shipping the rig, etc. Plus having a trailer means a significantly modified ‘living situation’. Folks can get used to anything so we’d rather get used to less stuff, then we don’t miss NOT having a trailer, as opposed to getting used to a trailer & more stuff and then feeling hard done by in the odd time we don’t have the ability to bring it.

This payload issue really is a shame, because besides the payload the JK is a fantastic choice in other ways. It rides reasonably well, handles fairly well on highways, has luxury-car level creature comforts when spec’d right (good stereo, good air con, lots of driver-oriented comfort features). The ideal rig for us would be a Jeep JK built on a J8 frame with the leaf spring rear end (3500 lbs payload!) but I don’t have that kind of coin! I see the goal of this thread is how can we take advantage of an otherwise excellent platform with one drawback, and the only solution that works for us is shed weight to get it under spec.

If a person is thinking JK for overlanding though, I think they would be wise to accept this major limitation in some fashion — either by bringing a trailer, pairing down the load, or going with a different rig choice.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
In very technical terrain, though, a trailer is going to get bashed and bounced around, and that does translate into more wear and tear on the rig — with occasional use though that shouldn’t matter. And I would suggest this is mostly a concern in areas/terrain where there is a high risk of damage to an untrailered rig
So you feel safer doing technical terrain with an overweight rig?
And you are doing technical terrain with an RTT on the roof?
At least you can drop a trailer when you want to play.
 
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