So, now that I'm getting around to modifying my Jeep, I figured it was time to start a build thread. I'm hardly a fabricator, so my build is fairly tame.
My goal? A vehicle more capable than stock with no loss in on-road performance. My off-road opportunities are fairly limited, but I have property that requires 4wd and decent ground clearance to access. And a long-term goal is definitely a cross-country trip and time in Moab.
I was driving an '05 Unlimited with a BB, Rubi take-off rockers and wheels and 265/75 MT/Rs with Kevlar. It served me well, but I wanted something with a bit more room and a little better road manners. On my honeymoon last August, my wife suggested we look for a JKU when we got back. It didn't take long after that before I was looking.
After seeing used JKU pricing, the decision to go new was easy. I had my heart set on Sahara Tan, and luckily I was buying in late August, so my local dealer was able to find one at another dealership within 50 miles. I was lucky, because it was the only one they could find within 500 miles since production had already stopped. So I found myself buying a 2012 JKU Sport S with the 6 speed and dual tops. And the icing on the cake was the sales manager giving me the trade value for my '05 based on an '06 by mistake. So between the trade-in and the deal I got on my '12, I was very pleased.
A pic of the new '12 next to the '05...
My first mod was some Rubi rocker protection I found on craigslist a few weeks after I brought the Jeep home. I don't have any pics, but let's face it, everyone knows what they look like. The protection is pretty good for the price and more importantly, it covered the pinch seam!
I also picked up the Mopar heated seat kit, but haven't gotten around to installing them. But that's pretty much how things stayed until a few months ago when I started ordering parts.
So after a lot of research, I settled on the following:
AEV 3.5" SC
AEV Savegres in Matte Black
AEV Spare Tire Carrier & CHMSL
Mopar Fuel Door
I decided that since my Jeep would be spending 95% of its time on road, and my wrenching has to be done in others' garages, I wanted to retain the rubber bushings and not have to occasionally rebuild control arm joints. While it won't necessarily offer the best articulation, it gave me the best balance of ride and off road capability.
The Sahara Tan color never looked right with the silver wheels, so I went back and forth between the Savegres and the white steel wheels that Mopar used on the JT concept truck. Ultimately I couldn't justify the price associated with custom steel wheels and went with the Savegres in black, which I think looks great with the tan. I also transferred my TPMS over.
The AEV tire carrier was a no brainer for me. I wanted the carrier and door to operate together, and like the AEV bumpers a lot. It was nice to be able do the rear bumper in phases, and I'll save my tailgate.
The y-pipe was an easy choice over the exhaust spacers. I like the solution a lot.
The Mopar fuel door barely warrants mention, but it cleans things up nicely.
The lift install was a lot of fun. I roped into getting some help from my Dad, and with some borrowed garage space, I got the lift installed over a weekend.
The back done. I really wanted to drive around the block like this:
The lift done, awaiting high-steer and the control arm brackets. It definitely sat a little higher than expected when I took it off the jack stands.
Done, but awaiting wheels and tires:
Wheels and Tires Are On:
I still need to install the tire carrier and y-pipe...
So, the first chance to put the Jeep through its paces wasn't an off road adventure, but instead an 1,100 mile road trip with my wife from Southern Maine to Gettysburg, PA and back over the Memorial Day weekend. It was great to see the battlefields, monuments and beauty of the area.
Since I had only installed the lift the week before, and I didn't have time during the week to give all the bolts a once-over and re-torquing, I dropped it by my dealer who had one of the mechanics go over it top to bottom. Turns out I didn't screw anything up on the install, and everything was tightened and ready to go.
The Jeep performed flawlessly on the trip. I know everyone says the AEV kit rides better than stock, but for me it was more the combination of ride and handling. The Jeep was very stable in all situations, including an emergency lane change when someone didn't look before moving over, on and off ramps, and those harrowing tight turns with bumps on the interstate you often find when passing right through cities (I'm looking at you, I-84 through CT!). And the elimination of brake dive that results from the geometry changes after the control arm bracket install makes braking feel much more solid and confidence-inspiring.
Not a lot of pics of the Jeep on the trip, though this was my favorite. Here's where we stayed on the park:
I'm still running the stock 3.21 gears, which meant I was running around 2,200 - 2,300 rpm in 5th at my cruising speed of 72-73 on my trip. I only used 6th on some big downhills over 75 mph.
I can confidently say that after this trip I went from on the fence between regearing to 4.11 and 4.56 to knowing for sure that 4.56 is the right choice for me. I was hitting about the same RPMs in 5th at the same speeds as I would be in 6th with the 4.11 gears. With the added rolling resistance of the 35s and added wind resistance, I had to downshift to maintain speed on any significant hill on the highway. Once I shifted down to 4th and was back over 2,500 RPMs, the Jeep could get back up to and maintain speed. It also did better on those hills in 5th when I stayed above 76 or so, where my rpms stayed in that 2,500 range. But it definitely struggled to find sufficient hp at lower RPMs.
So with 4.56 gears, I should be right around 2,550 at 70 with my KM2s which measure 33.5" on the Jeep.
Your KM2's measure only 33.5? I thought you went with 35's. Great looking jeep BTW.
Thanks, I'm really happy with how things are turning out.
And yeah, they're 35" KM2s. They measured 33.75" when I picked the Jeep up from the tire shop, but despite asking them to fill them to 28 psi, they were between 32 and 35 psi. AEV says they tuned the lift with KM2s at 28 psi, so once I adjusted the pressure and re-measured for the ProCal, I lost another 0.25".
BFG says 35's should measure 34.8", but I don't think that's even on a rim... Certainly not loaded on a vehicle. But I knew where they'd end up going in, so it definitely didn't bother me.
Acceleration took a noticable hit, but it's really only the immediate move off the line in 1st. I just keep my RPMs up higher in each gear, stay in one gear lower than I did before the tires at any given speed and pretty much don't use 6th at all. I thought I was going to need to do something about it immediately, but I'm probably going to wait until I'm able to save up for lockers as well. It doesn't feel a whole lot different that when I put 32's on my '05 Unlimited 6 speed with 3.73's, so it's definitely something I can live with short-term.
The Savegres' backspacing means the tire still (just) hits the nubs on the tailgate without extenders, and the tire rubs on the bumper. It feels pretty solid, and while I didn't expect any damage in 3 weeks, it's nice to see that the tailgate has survived. It takes a little effort and some care to close due to the rubbing on the bumper, but I'm installing the AEV tire carrier with my stock rear bumper tomorrow, so that will be nice to not have to worry about anymore. With any luck, I'll have time to finally get the aFe y-pipe in as well.
Not real wheeling, but I got up to my cabin this weekend. Over a mile in an unmaintained road (aka maintained by us!), and while a stock 4x4 can make it up, you have to be careful picking your line in one. Needless to say, the ride in was drama free in the JK.