Since my last post, I’ve put new tires and fender flares on Polar Bear. I started off with the notion of getting simple black steel rims. I ended up with teflon rims. They were nearly twice as expensive, but it’s something I really just wanted to splurge on. I’ve never purchased rims before, I wanted to get the most out of it.
The new tires are 32″ BFG A/Ts. From the performance of the van, I thought the 33″ tires must have been too large as it was moving rather sluggish. Turns out, that’s just the engine. I probably could go up to 35″ wheels with similar performance. They might be a bit better for offroading as well.
I installed the fender flares yesterday. I couldn’t locate flares designed for my van, so I ordered some Flexy Flares. The day after I ordered them, I spotted a set on a van in the junkyard. Had I known how yesterday was going to go, I would have snagged the junkyard fenders.
Before installing the flares yesterday, I decided to run down to Maaco. First, the touch up paint they gave me dried to a solid block almost immediately. Second, I had rust eating through under a door. Since the rust wasn’t a line item on the work order, they wouldn’t cover it. I think I can take care of it myself. Still, they don’t do a good job of standing behind their work.
So, on the WAY to Maaco, I heard a noise under my truck. Turns out it was the front drive shaft. I somehow left it in 4×4 (front rims unlocked) and the worn out front drive shaft was squeaking. While leaning out of the van, I rolled forward through the McDonalds drive through listening carefully to the squeak. While rolling forward, I scraped one of those big yellow poles. So, when I got HOME from Maaco, I spent an hour rubbing out the big yellow scrape. Now I’ve got a bit of a dent on my fender well. Luckily, the yellow paint came off nicely.
Once that adventure was behind me, I installed the Flexy Flares. This was challenging. Sizing and cutting the flares is a bit of a challenge. Getting them installed yourself is very hard. Nino helped me get them started, but the rest was up to me. I decided to try to skip the part of the instructions where you’re supposed to remove the wheels. After two trips to the hardware store for replacement drillbits, I went ahead and removed the rear two wheels to finish up. It was so much easier to drill straight without a tire in the way. I should have done that to begin with.
All in all, I can’t really recommend the Flexy Flares unless, like me, you simply can’t find fitted flares. They work. In fact, they work exceptionally well for what they do. They bend and twist exactly enough to get the job done. They’re also durable enough to work. It must have been challenging to engineer this trade off. Still, molded and fitted flares produce a better looking end result.
It was exactly what I was looking for. The rail was fairly tame. There were a few spots along the way with some more technical items to play on. The snow varied from none to about 18 inches. We got stuck once. Being the well prepared and responsible guy I am, I hadn’t thought to put a shovel in the van. Luckily, when I cleared out the van the other day, I left the $2 RV sink I picked up at the junkyard. As Nino said, I thew out, “everything but the kitchen sink.” We used that sink and a windshield scraper to dig out way out of the sbow. This is also when I finally manged to get the van into the low range gears.The trail was just challenging enough to feel out what the van can do.
All in all, I’m happy with the way the van performs offroad. It will take me a while to get to know the range of operation better. I do think slightly larger tires are appropriate somewhere down the road. Hopefully, a roof rack is in my near future. If I get one, I’ll have to pick up a shovel to attach to it. Meanwhile, I think I’ll keep my backcountry snow shovel in the van from now on.