Introducing "Sarge", the newest addition to our stable. Sarge is a 2013 Jeep JK Rubicon.
However, before we get to that, our saga actually starts not too long ago in the spring of 2012 with a 2000 TJ that was acquired as a runabout for our RV. The TJ was our first jeep and was a great tow vehicle that opened up vast amounts of territory that was otherwise off limits to the RV. The TJ was mostly stock with factory suspension, 31" tires, 4.0L, and automatic. I added a Warrior bumper for towing and Bestop soft top for the summer months. The following months included playing on the beaches, running fire roads, exploring the hills and going anywhere that was too narrow for my H2 to fit.
Now I really liked the H2. It was comfortable, mean, and it would climb tress (well, actually just push them over) assuming that you had an 18 foot wide path to get to the tree. Thus, the off road adventures were some what limited due to the shear size and its primary purpose was resorted too taunting Prius owners.
Back to the jeep. Over the Christmas break, I decided to make the leap to a 4" lift, 33" tires, and new gears as Christmas gifts for the TJ. However, I was having difficulties convincing myself that I wanted dump a load of money into a vehicle that was 13 years old and had 140,000 miles behind it.
I was also considering the option of trading the H2 in for a JK. We test drove a silver 2011 Rubicon that had 12,000 miles on it, a mild lift, adjustable control arms and Hutchinson Rock monster wheels. It had a great stance and a reasonable asking price with room to negotiate. However, driving it was a real disappointment. My TJ has more torque, the HUMMER was more comfortable and had more interior room. It was at that point that I decide that I would proceed with the original plans for the TJ lift.
It was the next day that the TJ single-handily changed my mind and cemented my JK destiny by spawning a god-awful knock in the engine. Since the knock seemed to be primarily at cold, the prognosis was likely to be a wrist pin. That day we happened stopped by the local dealer "just to see what they had on the lot". 2-and-half hours later we drove home in a *used* 2013 JK Rubicon and left both the TJ and HUMMER behind with only temporary and sort lived twinges of remorse which had passed by the time we turned out of the dealer's lot.
Yes, you read right, the 2013 was used. The Rubi had been purchased a month previous, but returned in exchange for a 4-door Unlimited under pressure from the buyers wife and making for a great deal for me! The Pentastar engine in the 2013 was hands down smoother and peppier than the 3.8L in the 2011 and ride was smooth with the 5-speed auto. Overall, it is a great addition to the family.
Now for a lift, bumpers, lights, and lights, and more lights.
We took "Sarge" out for a Sunday drive and to test out the locking differentials in the snow and mud. Concurrently, the mental list of modifications has began starting with a lift, tire, bumpers, winch, and more and more and more. Endless evenings have been spent on the internet reading the forums and researching options for the lift and accessories. My wife is convinced that I have lost my mind as countless hours have been dedicated to looking at pictures of wheels, bumpers, and lifts all of which she calls "jeep porn".
So why a 2-door JK Rubi?
I have read many threads bashing the Rubi on the premise that it actually cheaper to buy a Sport and add the suspension, gears, lockers, etc. However, I am absolutely convinced that I made the right decision for my needs with a whole lot less work.
The 2- verses 4- door decision was the hardest part. The basic considerations were interior cargo room of the 4-door or the smaller and lighter 2-door for maneuverability on tight trails and for towing behind the motorhome. With the decision between the two in a stalemate, the tie breaker came down to looks. Don't get me wrong, the 4-door Unlimited is a cool machine. However, I like popping the doors off in the summer and personally I think the naked b-pillar on a doorless Unlimited just looks funny. Finding a 2-Door Rubi in Commando Green was love at first sight and destiny.
One funny anomaly with my JK is that the decals on the driver-side in fact includes an "Unlimited" decal. It is almost as if the front quarter was replaced with a unlimited one. However, in researching the Carfax, there is no listings for accidents and upon inspecting the bolts for the fender attachment there is absolutely no evidence of being molested by a wrench or of the fender being swapped. Thus I can only conclude that this is a factory "misprint" and much like when coins are stamped wrong, I'm sure the value skyrockets to near priceless....right?
One of the first orders of business for Jeep was to violate the factory warranty and the best way to accomplish that was to mess with the suspension. In my head I have a mental image off what the final transformation of the JK would look like and in every incarnation thereof it includes a lift. We also ran into another JK in the parking lot of the grocery store that was sporting a 2.5" spacer lift and 285/75-17 tires on Procomp wheels which had the right stance.
The vast hours spent on the forums also cemented that 2.5" lift is the right lift to avoid needing drivelines and other mods. Since I am not unlike most people, I am building the JK on a budget and the extra $500 for a driveline, $300 for adjustable control arms, and so on was a deal breaker for a Prius crushing lift. However, I also knew that I wanted a spring lift and not a spacer lift. Thus, more forum research ensued.
If there is one thing that clouds the selection process it is the vast array of offerings for Jeeps compounded by 10-times the number of opinions on the forums. One lift that seemed to rate high in the opinion category was the Rock Krawler 2.5" Stock-Mod lift and this is what I ordered. However, the forums and even RK themselves say that the 2.5" lift actually nets closer to 3.5" lift in the front WITH bumpers and a winch. Also, based on the vast abyss of forum opinions the 3.5" would put it into the range of drivelines (not really a matter of IF but WHEN). Moreover, I was busy piecing together aspects of the lift that the stock-mod kit doesn't include like shocks, bump stops, brake line brackets, etc. In a impulsive moment I cancelled the RK lift and went with my second choice (which was actually my first choice before being swayed to the RK kit).
AEV 2.5" Dual-Sport Lift
Enter the AEV 2.5" Dual-Sport lift. Since the Jeep will be primarily a daily driver, I wanted good street manners but with a competent sense of off-road capability. I have been very impressed and happy with the AEV lift have no regrets with my decision. The kit is very complete and includes almost everything you need: Bilstien shocks, bump stops, rear track bar, brake line relocation brackets, etc. Installation was straight forward with the the biggest challenge being the installation of the the front shocks that everyone complains about.
Here are the AEV progressive rate springs compared to the stock JK front springs:
I started with the rear and everything went according to the instructions. The front proved a bit more challenging. AEV snuck in a bit of humor into their instructions when it came to opening up the brackets for the front brake lines. This bracket is fairly beefy and was in no mood to cooperate. Fighting it for sometime proved futile and only enhanced the risk of damaging the brake line itself. Using a Dremmel with a cutoff wheel, I carefully scored the back side of the bracket, taking care not to cut through and damage the brake line. This allowed the bracket to be coerced into giving up its death grip on the brake line.
AEV's development of the kit apparently ran out of R&D budget and the finish detail was to zip tie the brake line to the shock... seriously. Instead I used a p-clamp bolted to the original bracket and reinstalled the bracket to the spring perch. This provides better retention of the brake line while still allowing sufficient slack for full axle articulation while using the stock front brake line brackets.
Lastly, the sway bar linkage extension brackets are the same and are NOT a right and left pair. The instructions are a bit of vague here (apparently the tech writer took an extended smoke break during this operation). It took a couple of trials to get the brackets mounted such that BOTH linkages were as close to vertical and parallel as possible. The driver side bracket is mounted inboard of the axle mount tab while the passenger side was mounted outboard of the tab.
It is stated that the 2.5" lift doesn't need a driveline or exhaust mods. This is probably technically true. At full droop, the driveline boot rubs ever-so-slightly on the exhaust crossover heat shield. The actual probability of occurrence in the wild is highly unlikely, though the thing that would more likely do it in would be jacking the front while hot and letting the axle reach full droop. This might burn the boot on the exhaust. I will just have to be careful. I did buy the Terra Flex exhaust spacer but have opted not to install those at this time.
Having been swayed by the forum gossip, I ordered a the AEV Geometry Relocation brackets. I did not install these initially, as I wanted to see how it drove first. The shorter wheelbase of the 2-door has a reputation for being a bit more flighty or squirrelly with the reduction in caster that the lift yields. I found that the driving characteristics did in fact change and steering input is definitely more sensitive, but not unmanageable. In fact, being used to driving performance cars, I like the improved responsiveness and the stock jeep seemed to need to be coaxed away from tracking straight. The suspension is definitely stiffer and you feel the road while bigger bumps are nicely absorbed without any spine jarring. Overall, I couldn't be happier and will not be installing the Geo-brackets--though i will keep them just in case I change my mind down the road.
With the the Jeep sitting taller, it was time for wheels and tires. Quite frankly, the wheels were a bigger decision than the lift. I wanted black wheels with some accent. There is no shortage of black alloy wheels, though when you start looking at the specifications, the choice narrows down quite a bit. As far as size goes, I went with 17" diameter. KMC and XD have some cool wheels in 18", but tire options for 17's are better and cheaper. Backspace is the next major consideration. With bigger tires planned, the backspacing for the wheels needed to be 4.5"-4.7" to avoid rubbing issues. I stayed with the 4.5" to keep the option open for running to 35" tires. Of course, price is a consideration since I needed 5 sets of wheels and tires to account for the spare. The three options that came to the forefront (from left to right). A) Pro Comp Alloy Series 7036; B) MKW Alloy M-87, and C) Black Rhino Imperial.
The Pro Comp wheel had a back spacing of 4.75" which was on the high end. Moreover, the Pro Comp wheel is not hub centric. While the forum chatter is split as to whether or not a lug-centric wheel is fine, I felt it important to favor the hub-centric wheels. However, I did send an email to Pro Comp asking them a few technical questions about running the wheel on the JK but never got a response back so they were dropped from the short list. The favorite wheel was the MKW (middle picture). However, it is back ordered from the factory until late February and I have a bad case of the "gotta-have-it-now" syndrome. The close second was the Black Rhino. Les Schwab tires ordered them up for me at only $161.00 each including shipping.
While waiting for the wheels for 3 agonizingly long days while the "gotta-have-it-now" syndrome flared up to high intensity, I debated tires sizes. Since this rig will be used for a mix of commuting, towing behind the RV and off road mischief, i wanted a good size tire but didn't feel the need for 35's. This also saved needing to trim the pinch seam for clearance for the 35's. I also have a mild case of Forum Hypochondria and reading how the stock Dana 44 axles were bending with 35" tires helped seal the deal. The tires that won through a careful selection process much like roulette were 295/70-17 Toyo Open Country MT which come out to 33.5"x11.6". The runner up was a 285/75-17 which are a tad bigger at 34", but also cost more. For a half-inch, the price didn't justify it. Besides, much of our time is spent on the beach so the extra width of tire will help in the sand as well as playing in the perpetual mud of the Northwest. Having run the Toyo MT previously on the HUMMER, I am a true fan. The road handling characteristics are good and the off road traction is fantastic.
I have also added a Smittybilt bumper and winch, but that detail will have to wait unit the next chapter.
So here it is, stock and with the lift, wheels and tires.
Hey man..What did you use for paint? Is that kevlar or a type of liner? Also did you do it yourself or pay someone to spray it? Thanks
It's a factory color, Commando Green.
So sarge, what are "we" doing with the stock rims and tires?
2008 JK Rubicon
-255/80/17 BFG KM2s, 16/59 JKU springs, 2013 Rubi rims, RC stubby hybrid front bumper, XRC8 winch with synthetic line, RR evap skid, and more to come
1998 TJ Sahara Sold
-3.25" RC spring lift, Eagle alloys 125s, 33x12.5x15 Cooper STTs, XRC8 winch with stock bumper mount
1994 YJ SE Sold
-4" RC spring lift, 33x12.5x15 Firestone M/Ts, Eagle alloys 125, and a 4 cylinder to boot
1960 Willys Wagon
-Going to be restored and painted Omaha Orange
"I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth."
The way I see it, the primary purpose of the bumper is to look mean enough to scare things like, deer, moose, stumps and rocks out of the way in order to compensate for marginal driving skills. If you actually hit any of the aforementioned, you clearly don't have an adequately mean enough bumper. I, myself, have a knack for running into to things so the stock JK bumper just wasn't going to be sufficient. The bumper also serves as a bracket to bolt more stuff onto--like a winch, lights, and more lights.
Since my last lotto ticket was a bust. My build on a budget continues. With financial restraints set, I was looking for a bumper that had a bull-bar, fog light mounts, and recessed winch mount. It is a personal preference, but I never liked the winch sitting up in front of the radiator. My TJ had cooling issues on long, slow assents, so I may be a bit biased by experience too. The deciding factor came down to a bumper capable of using the D-ring mounts for attachment of a tow bar. I used a Warrior bumper and tow bar for dragging the TJ around behind the RV.
Since a single bumper did not meet all of the criteria, The short list of bumpers (in order of favorites) came down to the Rampage Front Recovery, Bestop/HighRock High Access, and Smittybilt XRC Mod with mid-width ends and bull bar.
Inquiries were sent to both Rampage and Bestop in regards to the feasibility of using the bumper as an attachment point. Both companies replied that while the bumper could be used as recovery points, that they did not recommend using it in my intended fashion. However, I am "almost" sure either bumper would have been fine. Conversely, Smittybilt actually advertises that the bumper d-ring mounts can be used for towing. Thus I gave up the bumper mounted fog lights in favor of the recessed winch plate and tow capability.
I also bolted on a Smittybilt 8000# X2O waterproof winch. I am not planning on using the jeep as a landing craft, but everyday in the northwest commuting to work is an amphibious adventure and having a winch to hoist out without being waterlogged is a bit of piece of mind.
I also had some help inspecting the wiring of the winch:
The bumper quality is okay. Not great, but okay. When installing, be sure to install all of the attachment bolts loose and not tighten any of them until they are all started (especially the upper outer most attachment bolts). Limited access to some of the fasteners made tightening them an arduous task of one click of the ratchet at a time. It is nice that the bumper had clearance around the vacuum pump and did not need a relocation kit.
There are also some lightening holes cut out in the skid plate with a drilled reinforcement gusset behind it. I found inexpensive 10w LED lights on Amazon.com that I figured I would try to squeeze into the tight space. Ultimately, this required removing the bumper to squeeze them in, but I got them shoehorned in there and wired into the stock driving lamp harness. Overall, they don't do a lot because a they are recessed back inside the bumper which blocks the otherwise marginally dim light. They do fill the dark abyss immediately in front of the the jeep just enough to provide a well contrasted glimpse of what you are about to hit. Not enough time to react, but enough for the brain to recall fragmented images as to what just made that awful crunching thump up underneath the Jeep.
Not a lot happening with the JK "Sarge" build this week, but the I did install the TeraFlex Heavy Duty Hinged Tire Carrier in order to show off the fancy spare tire hanging off the back of the jeep. I looked at many options from bumper mounted and swing carriers to some of the more inexpensive reinforcement brackets. While the bumper I liked has a tire carrier option, the general consensus form the forum babble is less than positive. There is also the desire to have a carrier that opens with the tailgate for convenience. While there are some other options for the bumper mounted, single-arm carriers it just seemed like the cantilevered carrier arm would be prone to high stresses, flex, and rattling. Likewise, since I am not running huge ties, the TeraFlex HD carrier seems like the the best compromise for my needs albeit a bit on the overpriced side in my opinion.
The install was quite straight forward and the instructions were adequate. One thing that has also been pointed out in the Forums is that Jeep did not paint under the factory hinges. They definitely don't make vehicles like they used to and while this probably helps streamline the production line, I doubt we will see many 50 year-old JKs on the road if this is indicative of the overall build.
After removing the factory hinges, I masked the bare areas, lightly scuffed the area with 120 grit sand paper and sprayed with Rust-Oleum primer. This is not a surefire seal for the metal, but will help prevent galvanic coupling between the aluminum carrier and steel body to reduce the corrosion potential.
I used door shims from Lowes to support the tailgate prior to removing the factory hinge and throughout the install of the TeraFlex hinge and did not need to make any post-install adjustments.
Also, the carrier did NOT come with the 1/4" spacers for re-mounting the stock tire mount bracket. I will place a phone call or two to get replacements. However, I did happen to have some 1/4" x 1" steel stock in my scrap bin and a few minutes with a drill and cutoff wheel I was able to make some adequate surrogates to use in the meantime.
Overall quality of the carrier seems good. The hinge is a bit tight and stiff, but that is also good as it means no rattles. The carrier hinge works great with the stock tire mount and stock third stop lamp for the tires I am running (295/70-17). In short, I would recommend this for anyone with similar criteria in their search for a spare tire mount.
With the long dreary winter of the Northwest in full swing, much time is spent daydreaming about sunny and warmer places. And since I canít readily escape to those sunny and warmer places I have taken on the challenge of keeping the darkness at bay by assaulting it with 480,000 candela of illumination. While it may not be enough get a tan or even notably increase the vitamin-D levels, it does help (albeit marginally) with psychology of sunsets at 4:30pm.
In addition to the small 10W LED goffer spotting lights wired into the factory fog light harness and mounted in the Smittybilt XRC Mod bumpers, I have also added two 100W KC Slimlight Fog Lights mounted to the winch fairlead and two 100W KC Slimlight Driving Lights mounted on the A-Pillar by the windshield. For the windshield mounts, I went with the Poison Spider brackets because they came with rubber gaskets. During the install, I used the factory Torx screws and the plastic washers under the bracket and gasket along with thread sealant to mitigate any shenanigans of water going where it isnít wanted.
Lighting control comes in the way of the Rugged Ridge A-Pillar switch pod. The pod was a bit iof a pain in the rear to install and the directions are somewhat ambiguous. However, once installed it looks great and matches the rest of the interior trim. RR did cheap out by not including the metal snap-clips and in fact the directions have you removing the tailgate wire cover and stealing a clip from there!
I mounted 3 switches in the pod, although I am only utilizing 2 of them currently. It was easier to run a spare wire while I had everything apart and I plan on eventually mounting some rear-facing lights and side/rocker lights for full situational awareness.
Under the hood, I mounted an axillary fuse block to consolidate the mess of wires and keep the free-hanging, rats-nest of inline fuses to a minimum. One 7.5A fuse feeds the three switches (and their respective relays) while the two sets of lights are each fed from their own 20A fuse on separate circuits. The relays for the lights are mounted on the inside of the wheel well and wiring is tucked in as neat as my limited patience would allow.
Overall, I am extremely happy with the results and a whole lot happier than any unsuspecting fool who might happen to flash their high beams at me and gets a deluge of light winking back at them.
Today I got my Smittybilt SRC rear bumper installed after a bit of fighting, cursing, and blood letting. In fact, the rear bumper has been fighting me since the day I ordered it. I ordered the rear bumper along with the front bumper, winch and several other items from 4Wheel Parts for in-store pickup (ie, free freight). However, when the parts showed up per the shipping confirmation, the rear bumper was MIA. Upon several inquiries, the personnel at the store couldn't even tell me where my rear bumper was nor when it could be expected. Moreover, the manager at the local store quoted me over $500 JUST FOR SHIPPING to get another one sent out from the Texas warehouse even though the online AND phone sales said shipping would be $59. I cancelled the order and got a refund just on principle.
Having read elsewhere on the forum about free shipping through Quadratec via messaging Joe, I sent a message with the Smittybilt part number--expecting to at least pay the oversized freight charge. However, Joe came through with NO freight charges (and no tax either), a tracking number the next day, and a week later the bumper greeted me on the porch. THANKS JOE!
Smitybilt's packaging leaves a lot to be desired, but the bumper arrived relatively unscathed. Install of the bumper took 4 tries of drilling out holes, aligning the bumper in place, fighting bolts and removing the bumper to drill out the bolt holes even more. Alas, the bumper is in place and looks great. I will likely fab up some mud flaps to keep the State Patrol off my case but I am extremely happy with the end results.