Ready to Launch

New trails are the best kind. You never know what obstacles you will encounter. It’s a test of your off-road skills and vehicular capacity. Every success is uniquely triumphant. Every failure is a true learning experience. It’s better than real life.

After 20-plus years in the automotive publishing game, I can tell you there is no greater thrill than assembling the first issue of a new magazine. Jeepin’ Central Florida may have topped them all. There was a lot at stake. Our vision for this magazine was ambitious. We want to be more than an editorial or advertising vehicle. We want to be a resource in the truest sense of the word.

My brother, Eric, and I are dedicated Jeepers, and it’s a passion we share as a family – with our wives, our kids and our dearest friends. It’s easy to make friends on the trail, where everyone is equal. We have seen the mantra of “No Jeep left behind” played out countless times. We have seen how Jeepers from all walks of life band together to come to the aid of charities, law enforcement agencies and each other. Every event we have attended has been tied to a worthy cause.

We have launched many publications and trade shows over the years. They have always been based on detailed business plans with ongoing revenue projections. JCF was very different. Our primary goal is to support the Jeeper community and your causes. We want these pages to be filled with feel-good stories as well as useful, practical advice for building your Jeep and taking it off-road. Thanks to the contributions of experts in the fields of automotive sales, repair and customization, off-road navigation and safety, law enforcement and more, we were able to pull together an inaugural issue to be proud of.

To keep JCF going, we need your help. We need your stories. We need to know about the events you’re organizing and the charities you support. We need your technical expertise, your trail leadership and your advice. We need your war stories. And if you know any advertisers, we need them as well.

So please enjoy this first issue of Jeepin’ Central Florida, and as you peruse these pages, think about what you like and dislike and what you would like to see in the next edition. Then let me know. This is your magazine, after all, and Jeepers are like family. Thank you for reading.

Your Next Modification: 6 Things to Know

Q: I am ready to take my Wrangler off-road. I have a number of upgrades in mind. What’s the best way to start that process?

A: Whenever you want to make a change or modification, there are several things you need to think about to ensure you buy the correct equipment and you’re happy with the final product. Let’s review and discuss six of those things:

1. Know Before You Buy.

Are you a “mall crawler” who drives on light trails a few times a year, or will you drive moderate to hard trails several times a year? Do you have a “beat-it-’til-it-breaks” mentality? Manufacturers put different levels of engineering into their products. Some lift kits are designed for daily drivability and comfort. Others are built for rock crawling in Moab. Buy the one that suits your Jeep and your lifestyle.

2. Be Budget-Conscious.

If money were no object, we would all be running monster rigs. Don’t be afraid to shop around. Insist on quality parts. Cheap lockers and gears might be fine on the road, but you rely on them to get you home, so get the best you can afford.

3. Know the Cause and Effect.

A lift kit, bigger tires, heavy bumpers, winches and LEDs are probably all on your list. But remember, everything comes at a price: Extra weight reduces load and towing capacity, bigger tires can stress drivetrain components, and aftermarket components increase the electrical load on the system. Adding several hundred pounds of weight could require suspension modifications. Extra electrical loads may require heavier gauge wire, remote buss bars for safer and more convenient connections, and extra grounding straps to keep the wires from melting.

4. Prepare to Maintain.

Jeepin’ is not a gas-and-go hobby. You can’t go trail-riding all day in the sand and mud and not expect to spend a good amount of time cleaning the undercarriage, washing out the brakes, regressing U-joints and suspension parts, and checking for loose or damaged parts, leaks and slinging grease. A slightly different design from another manufacturer might cost more, but it may require less costly maintenance.

5. Research the Brand.

Brand names are only as good as the people who design and build the equipment. Even the best-known manufacturers occasionally have to change the way something is made, assembled or installed. There is no way to design a part that will work in every situation and for every driving style. You need to know you are getting a quality product for your hard-earned money. Be sure the manufacturer has a technical support system you can rely on in case you encounter a defect or overstress the equipment.

6. Find a Reputable Shop.

Even do-it-yourselfers need somewhere to go to order parts and get certain items installed or repaired. There are times when it is cheaper to pay someone with the knowledge, experience and tools to do the job correctly and ensure your safety and that of your family.

In Search of Obstacles

I have a small group of Jeepers looking for places to go Jeepin’ legally in Central Florida. I live approximately 35 minutes south of Orlando.

A: The first spot I would recommend is a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) called Green Swamp in Webster, Fla., about an hour southwest of Orlando. You’ll be running fire roads, which make WMAs ideal for beginners. When you are running WMA trails, you need to stay on the ones that are numbered or named. For larger groups, you will need to obtain a permit. Visit to get trail maps.

If there has been a heavy rain recently, there will be lots of mud holes and deep water. Be prepared for the trails to get more technical. If you want a totally different experience, you can do them at night.

While in a WMA, make note of the hunting seasons and zones. You are likely to get a big fine if you go off-trail. They may have trail cameras set up to spot license plates and unmarked vehicles that will pull you over. Don’t post any off-trail pictures or locations on social media. Better yet, just follow the rules and everyone will have a good time.

Nuts and Bolts

John Ryzowicz is an experienced mechanic and trail leader and the owner of Trinity Auto Worx in Odessa, Fla. He recommends three destinations for Jeepers in Central Florida:

• Green Swamp WMA / 28057 US Highway 471 33597
(863) 648-3200 /

• Hardrock Cycle Park / 6849 NW Gainesville Rd 34475
(352) 732-6697 /

• Lazy Springs Recreation Park / 9591 Florida 82 33930
(239) 206-9119 /

More experienced drivers can head two hours northwest of Orlando to Hardrock Cycle Park in Ocala, Fla., a motocross park with an off-road area on the back side. They charge $25 a vehicle per day, plus $5 for any passenger, and you will have to sign a waiver. It’s an old lime mine where nature has its way, forming challenging lines and natural features.

You’ll be running the lime rock trails with large obstacles, steep hills and drop-offs. If you are looking for something hardcore, there are plenty of places here to get off-camber. It will definitely test your capability, and newer drivers can find a way around obstacles to meet the group on the other side.

This last one I haven’t yet been able to visit, but is definitely on my Jeepin’ bucket list. It’s a manmade park in Lehigh Acres, Fla., three hours southwest of Orlando, called Lazy Springs Recreation Park. This is a challenging park with massive mudholes, rock hills, and an obstacle course with concrete features and culverts. Most larger manmade obstacles have bypasses for beginners. There is a whole range of situations, from easy to hard. Be sure to check out the “Know Before You Go” page on their website. You will have to sign a waiver and they only take cash.

Wherever you decide to go off-road, it is very important to have an experienced trail leader who understands their responsibilities. If you are the leader of your group, you should know the capabilities of each driver and vehicle before heading out. I always tell newer drivers we won’t push them to do anything they are not comfortable with. Every Jeep that rolls in under its own power will, hopefully, roll out under its own power, and remember: “No Jeep left behind.”

How to Winch Safely

A lot of us in the Jeepin’ community have added winches to our rigs. They are very useful if we get stuck or need extra help getting up or through a difficult trail, and they look good, too. But in my experience, too many off-roaders use their winches in an unsafe manner, endangering themselves and those who have gathered to watch the action.

The first rule of safe winching is to read and understand the manual that came with your winch. Following the precautions it lists can mean the difference between keeping and losing a body part or even your life. After you have read the manual and before your next winch, keep these five safety tips in mind:

1. Clear the Area.

This is the No. 1 safety violation I see on the trail. Everyone wants a ringside seat or the best view for a video post. You must keep the area around the vehicle(s) clear of anyone not directly involved in the winching operation – this means well back! A snapped or broken line, hook or shackle can become a projectile, traveling well beyond the distance between vehicles or the winching anchor point.

2: Dampen the Line.

Always use a dampener for your cable or synthetic rope. Lay something across the line that has enough weight to help pull it to the ground in case of a break. Remember, when your cable or rope is under load, there is a lot of stored energy just waiting for a chance to be released. This weight can be a store-bought item made for this type of operation, such as a winch line dampener blanket, or something as simple as a wet towel, floormat, or even a tow strap placed back and forth across the length of the line.

3: Know the Limits of Your Equipment.

Just because your local mechanic installed this winch on your Jeep doesn’t mean it can be used to pull a full-size dually pickup truck. The gear was most likely selected for use on your specific vehicle and its weight. Exceeding the limits of your equipment is just asking for an accident to happen. Every winch has a weight rating, as does every hook, shackle and line.

4. Think About It.

Consider every action related to the winch and whether it is safe. Never stand or walk over a loaded winch cable. Never – and I mean never – tug or snatch with an attached winch cable or synthetic rope. You can easily exceed its rated capacity, causing it to snap and damage your winch’s internal gearing. Don’t grab your line without gloves, as wire-cable fraying is common and can slice your hand open. Synthetic rope can also pick up sand spurs or thorns, which can become a hazard while handling with bare hands. Do not ever bring your hands close to the fairlead (where the line feeds into or out of the winch spool) while unspooling or winching.

5. Plan Ahead.

Always plan your winching operation. Take your time and really think through how you will recover your own or your trail buddy’s stuck vehicle. Think about the angles of recovery and ask yourself: Are the anchor points solid or strong enough to support the winching operation? Can the recovery be done safely? If not, what will you need to make it safe? After all, we all want to come home safely after a fun-filled day on the trail.

A Great Tip from Rob at TJK!

Hey Krewe this is a Public Service Announcement. The high water is fun to drive your jeep in, just please be careful where you do this at. Please avoid the water in flooded residential areas. The slightest of wake caused by you, can push water into homes and businesses. Please be safe and respectful of others property.
Thank you.

See Facebook Post Here »