Last time in “Private JK” we introduced you to our ’13 Commando Green JK Sport. We told you about our Sarg-esque front winch bumper built with parts from bits from the steel supply place, a winch plate from Rugged Ridge, and a winch from Quadratec. We are still in love with the simple military look. We also showed you how we added underbelly protection and rock sliders from Synergy Manufacturing with help from our friends at Absolute Offroad here in Phoenix, Arizona. This time we’ll drag the skidplates across some rocks and report back to you on how they did.
But before we do that, back to last time. We also introduced you to the tinted window kit from Bestop that helps keep heat out of the Jeep as well as the wondering stares of passersby. Since then, the little JK has accrued a little over 3,000 miles, including plenty of off-road time, a scratch or two, and maybe even a ding on the muffler and tail pipe from a little backing by Braille. Surprisingly, the payments are up to date and the repo man has not been by the house with his roll-back for our JK. So our love affair with our little green Jeep continues. This time we are gonna show you a few more modifications that will greatly improve the off-road look and utility of the little Wrangler. This will include larger tires and wheels and some trick fender flares that help us clear the new larger rubber without a lift. Oh, and then we do a little wheeling.
We loaded up the tires and wheels and ran down to our local Discount Tire on the corner of Lake Pleasant Parkway and Happy Valley in Peoria, Arizona. Discount was more than happy to mount up our fresh-out-of-the-mold tires to our custom wheels. Notice a problem?
Generally, when we do a buildup of a Jeep we are quick to include a set of off-road tires. And no, we are not talking about those skinny microscopic car tires that our JK came with from the dealer lot. We are talking about something bigger and better—something blatantly missing from our last article on the green JK. Here is the solution—Dick Cepek’s LT315/70R17 Trail Country tires on 17x9 Drakon wheels from Rugged Ridge. We added a coating of the Krylon Ultra-Flat Woodland Light Green (PN 4296) and were ready to have the tires mounted up.
Installation of the MCE flares up front is a pretty simple affair, and if you want to you can trim off and retain the inner fender well liner to keep mud and muck off the engine of the JK—but more on that later. First, for ease of access to the flare mounting hardware, we removed one front wheel and tire at a time.
Yeah, these 35-inch tires are pretty close to the factory flares. And yeah, you might say we need a suspension lift, but we beg to differ. See, we like low-slung Jeeps, and we have a plan up our sleeve. There is no doubt that without a plan B these tires are gonna want to share critical space with the factory fender flares. We had about 3-4 inches of uptravel in the front and more like 2-3 in the back. Even driving down a bumpy road got the flares and tires growling.
Then you have to remove four or five bolts (the number varies between model years) with a 10mm socket from under the flare and then give a stiff yank to pull the flare off its anchors. It seems that Jeep designed the flares to tear away pretty easily when they encounter an immovable object. Underneath you may find a couple of these retainer clips that hold the stock flare in place. We used a pair of needle-nosed pliers to remove the remaining clips by squeezing them just inside the sheetmetal.
If installing the MCE front “flatty” fenders is easy, then a Lego-proficient five-year-old could handle installing the rear flares (not really, get your toddler inside and install them yourself). Simply use a body tool to remove the press-in inner fender liner retaining gizmos, Christmas trees—or whatever you call them. Then remove the rear inner fender liner and yank off the factory fender flare.
Our plan to gain more clearance for our tires is a simple one that involves a pretty cool product—Modern Classic Enterprises’ flexible flat fender flares for the JK. These flares are available in three different finishes. We went with the stock-like textured finish, added some adhesion promoter, and fogged them green to match the theme of the Jeep.
The MCE front flares are held in place with several stainless nuts, bolts, and washers. Check out the included aluminum bracket and the foot plate that helps level the two flares when installed. Both of these items help prevent any fluttering when you drive the Jeep down the highway at speed.
We then held the flares in place long enough to mark the mounting holes found in the MCE flares. We used a permanent marker to mark them while holding the new flare level and in place. Then stamp them with a spring-loaded punch before pre-drilling.
To compensate for the new, larger tires, and just so we could play around with different tunes in our ’13 JK, we called up Diablo Sport for one of its new Trinity tuners. The Trinity features several tunes and allows for adjustment of parameters like tire size and gearing. The Trinity also allows you to view real-time gauges with information coming directly from your engine and transmission sensors.
Pre-drill the holes following the included instructions. We also added a little black silicone to each sheetmetal screw to help prevent any rust.
Our Dick Cepek Trail Country tires look pretty mild, but they grabbed the rocks and dirt in our secret Arizona test area like a mud-terrain. We were pleasantly surprised with how they performed while on the trail. The Drakon wheels from Rugged Ridge are reminiscent of the factory’s own five-hole wheels and look great in our Krylon Ultra-Flat Woodland Light Green.
The only place we could get the pretty large tires to rub once the MCE flares were installed was on the body tub seam (arrow) just in front of the rear tire, as seen here. A light massaging of the tub with a hammer would rectify this issue quickly and easily. Another nice feature of the MCE flares is that if you do happen to run one into a rock or tree, the flexible flare will get out of the way. Some metal tube fenders can actually destroy underlying body parts on your Jeep rather than yielding.
Installing the Factory Splash Guard/Liner With the MCE Flares
As mentioned above, the MCE flares allow you to either drop or retain the front inner fender liners. While some in the Southwest may scoff at keeping these liners, we are all for it. Why? Well, we plan on driving this thing in the rain, snow, and mud when possible, and we don’t want new high-tech engine or electronics getting doused left and right in water, road grime, and mud. Retaining the inner fender liners up front is pretty easy and requires just a little judicious cutting and trimming of plastic. Once trimmed, the inner liner bolts back in place with a few of the factory bolts that came out when the stock fenders were removed.