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To(w) Hell & Back

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Patterson looks ready for the big tow to Eastern Washington.

Claiming that Sunday was “Tow Hell” day might be a slight exaggeration, but I wouldn’t call it a winning day either. Let’s recap the last couple days as I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to photograph some of it.

I finally got the jeep running well on Friday after determining there was an air leak in a short piece of hose (let air in, but did not let gas out). I then timed it by ear and feel, rather than diagnostics, and that seemed to do the trick. On Saturday, I built a tow setup that utilized existing holes in the front bumper. I wanted some thing strong, but didn’t want to drill into the bumper.

Once the tow setup was ready, I turned to the exhaust. I’d already had Ann go to a muffler shop to replicate the 1.5″, 7′ section of tailpipe I needed (thankfully I had an original end section leftover from one of the DJs to use as a template). I combined the tail pipe with a Walker muffler I bought off Amazon and some Oreilly’s clamps and assembled the exhaust with relative ease.

I thought we were ready to head for Pasco on Sunday morning.


The early DJ-3As has an exhaust that pretty much was straight. The only bends needed were 1) the bend on the front piece from the manifold down to the cross member, 2) the exhaust piece has to bend over the rear axle, and 3) the exhaust bends to the outside past the gas tank (not pictured). (1955 DJ-3A manual). Good luck finding a shop that had this series of bends in their shop manuals or computer!


For comparison, this is the more likely setup that you’ll find at a muffler shop (if they have anything this old). It’s a more typical setup for 2As, 3As, 3Bs, etc. This doesn’t work for the DJ, because the muffler is positioned where the rear gas tank is installed.

We spent the first part of Sunday morning cleaning up the garage. It was a bit of a mess! Once that was done, we hooked up Patterson and began slowly towing him. We didn’t make it through the first intersection of my parent’s quiet neighborhood before I realized that the jeep wasn’t tracking around the corner. When I turned slowly right, it began to turn slowly left, forcing me to hit the brakes.

What the hell? I’ve towed a number of vehicles and never, ever run into this type of trouble.

We carefully tried a couple more corners and each was the same. The jeep began to turn the opposite way. I’d have to hop out and correct Patterson’s direction. After a trip around the block, we arrived at my parent’s house once more.


Testing the tracking at a very slow pace.

I pulled out my googler, but couldn’t find anyone having a similar problem. I concluded the drag link/ross box was somehow interfering with the jeep from tracking properly. I did read were “Dr. Verne” (aka Verne Simmons) would remove his drag link to tow it, but my custom radiator made that strategy near impossible without disassembly of multiple items. I was just about ready to remove the drag link when I decided, on a lark, to unscrew the control screw(could be the wrong name for this) on the Ross box. My assumption was that this would loosen the Ross mechanism, freeing the drag link to spin the steering wheel more easily.


Me trying to work through the steering problem.

Sure enough, that strategy worked!

With that problem solved, at noon we started for Pasco. We drove for about ten minutes. We were on a two lane highway (Highway 18 for you NW folks) when a truck pulling a boat and trailer suddenly honked at us. Not knowing why, we pulled over immediately. He pulled in front of us. He got out and told me that one of our hubcaps had flown off and his truck had driven over it, making a nasty sound. Fortunately, everything checked out on his rig. Our jeep was fine, but we are now short a W hubcap.


Nothing like “sharing” a hubcap with someone to make a new friend.

Satisfied there was nothing wrong, we drove another ten minutes, hopping on Interstate 90 heading east. We got to the far end of North Bend when I thought it would be good to check out Patterson one more time. I wanted to make sure the hubs weren’t hot. It turns out all the hubs were fine, but Patterson’s right front drum was hot. The front right brake wasn’t releasing properly. HMMMM

I got out some tools and loosened adjusted the brakes, loosening them  in the hopes that would relieve the pressure.


Loosening the front passenger brake shoes.

Just as I finished, a car pulled up behind us and a man name James Sprague inquired into the jeep, telling me that when he was younger he had a CJ-2A project that he never quite finished. Now, he said, it was time to get another jeep.

I told him that before he bought a jeep, he’d better sign mine. He got a big grin, took the pen, and signed it. This signing-the-jeep thing is gonna be a big hit!



We got back on the highway and drove until the next exit a few miles later. There, I pulled over to hand test the drum again. Damn, still hot!

I loosened one more time, then we went up the pass, pulling over at Snoqualmie Summit. There, I checked the drum again, but it was still too warm. I decided to pull the tire and see if I could pop the drum off (I didn’t really think I would be able to do that, but it was worth a shot. No dice.

Ann was hungry, so she found some lunch at the summit, while I kicked back on the grass with Zollie (our dog). That’s when a second guy sat down near me and began asking questions about the jeep. Ollie, having no loyalty whatsover, snuggled right up to the stranger.


Couldn’t as for a better day to remove a tire on Snoqualmie Pass!


Kicking back and enjoying the view. Gotta smell the roses sometimes.

As we chatted, I came to the conclusion that we should head back to Renton and drop off the jeep, then head to Pasco. Then, I’d return Monday night/Tues AM to redo the brakes. I broke the news to Ann and she was game.


We got Patterson back “home” and headed back to Pasco (we have an event on Monday we need to  attend). So, that’s it for now. I’m sure there will be more updates to come this week.

My wife’s been busy, too. Here’s our cake-pan-turned-air-cleaner-turned artwork:




13 Comments on “To(w) Hell & Back

  1. Rick Farquhar

    Hope you find something simple on the brakes – my FC-150 just started the same thing. New wheel brake cylinder , master cylinder and new brake lines . Good luck !

  2. bill

    I bought my own tire machine. I just don’t think they pay attention. {lost hubcaps before after leaving tire shop.] you can find them at auctions used for 300 to 500 bucks. already paid for itself and no driving to town and waiting.

  3. Scott

    Regarding the tracking problem you had with the tow bar….one trick I used to use was to put two bungee cords on the steering wheel….one in each direction of wheel travel, it would help return the wheel to center if the box had a tight spot. Not sure if it would have fixed your issue, but another trick is always good!

  4. Barry West

    Could be that the slave cylinder over extended and locked because the brake shoes were worn out. But who knows for sure till you crack that nut open! Good luck!

  5. Dave from Mn

    Jacking that wheel up and spinning it should tell if it’s dragging or not. Have had a couple of chevys over the years that had a collapsed flex line from frame to axle mostly because of a standoff bracket that got rusty and swelled ,squeezing the hose so high pressure from stepping on pedal would go through ,but low pressure of brake shoes releasing did not go back through. Love living in the rust belt.

  6. David Eilers Post author

    Dave: I did that at the top of the pass. That’s when I realized nothing but removing the drum and dealing with the internals would fix the problem.

    Barry: I believe it’s related to the slave cylinder.

    Scott: The problem was the initial turning. It seems now to turn back to straight just fine.

    Rick: The brake lines seem fine and the brakes worked well. It’s just that the cylinder is stuck open (is my prognosis).

    Bob: The front brake is getting hot because the cylinder posts aren’t retracting inside the wheel’s slave cylinder. I’ll know why once I’ve disassembled on Tuesday.

  7. Allan Knepper

    Looking great. Very interesting that you are running into many of the little ?? glitches that seem to plague most projects. I know the majority of us are into Willys and other gearhead stuff because we like to do things “our way”. I wonder whether Patterson was trying to send you a message when it pitched it’s hub cap on the first towing attempt ? While the tow bar is a great do it yourself idea, would it not be kinder and gentler to maybe use a U-Haul tow dolly or maybe even a U-Haul trailer to accomplish your task. Our Willys originally were built to survive slow speed usage or a maximum of 45-50mph on the highway. I cringe whenever I contemplate pulling my CJ3B very far or very fast behind my nice, new modern vehicle even though I have a great tow bar. Just a thought…….would not want anything to happen BEFORE you get a chance to heroically break stuff in Alaska !!

  8. Bob

    I was thinking of a tow dolly too. I’m with Barry, somehow the wheel cylinder got over extended. How that happened when you were not even driving it is beyond me.

  9. Dan Groerich - St. Louis, MO

    I Have a ’63 dj3a and do not flat tow. these are so small, a 6 x 10 utility trailer would handle it nicely. my ’63 is my High School car purchased in 1973. runs great and i get a lot of thumbs up when it is driven

    Dan from St Louis

  10. Barry West

    Cool Dan. Dave I like the color you chose to paint your toe nails. It goes good with Patterson. And just over the head of that rare posing Cascade Panda Bear seems to be what looks like the rear of a plumber squatting down taking a look at that brake system. Could be wrong though.

  11. David Eilers Post author

    Barry: I have no idea why my wife was taking a pic of my plumbers butt. I guess she likes it?

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