Installing Bumpers, Winch, Dual Batteries, and Roof RackPosted in How To on August 1, 2012
In last month's segment we detailed our goals to make a Jeep Wrangler JK more trail-capable without destroying its everyday drivability. We installed a Rancho three-inch lift kit, a Rancho oil pan skid plate, some cool Rancho differential covers, and a pair of totally-just-for-fun Rancho tube doors to get things started, but we knew that once we left the blacktop, changing conditions would require even more serious equipment.
The mostly plastic factory rear bumper was not something you could use as a jacking point. The spare tire mount on the rear door didn't welcome much bigger tires than stock. A Rancho rear bumper addressed these problems and added a mount for a Hi-Lift Jack equipped with a Rescue 42 Jack Mate.
Rancho Bumper & Hi-Lift Jack
Removing the OEM tire mount from the door and dropping the factory bumper was easy. After a test fitting of the Rancho cross member, several holes were marked and were drilled or enlarged. The installation instructions detailed where and what size. Crush sleeves added the integrity needed for the 100-pound tire weight rating. Bushings in the swing-out tire carrier were pressed in with a shop vice. A large keeper pin secures the tire rack in the closed position. We did need to enlarge the opening of the locking flange a little to make it easier to open and close.
The Rancho bumper is bolted directly to the frame using factory and Rancho bolts and should be strong enough to use a Hi-Lift on. A nice feature is the design that allows a Hi-Lift Jack to be securely mounted on the rear of the tire rack. We added a Jack Mate that greatly increases the many functions of this indispensable back road tool for lifting, winching, prying, clamping, and more.
The rear bumper is a great place to carry the spare tire and the Hi-Lift Jack, but what about the ice chests, sleeping bags, tent, firewood, and fishing gear? You have your own list. Clearly, if we were going to do any serious camping, (and "serious" means comfortable), we needed a rack. A rack for carrying some snowboards to the slopes doesn't need to be too strong, but if you load it up with a couple hundred pounds of gear and whip it back and forth on a few whoops, you might be camping on the side of the trail.
Kargo Master Congo Cage and Safari Basket
The Kargo Master Congo Cage along with its companion Safari Basket is really a piece of engineering. It will carry anything you'd dare to load it with over just about any Jeep trail you'd dare to drive. It mounts to the rear frame and the front body windshield pillars, so it can be used with a hardtop or soft-top. In addition, by releasing the front mounts, you can pivot it back and remove the hardtop without taking the rack off. Is that cool or what? When the weather demands the open air feeling, a Covercraft Qwik Cover is ideal for keeping your Jeep's interior clean when the soft top is off, and it provides much-needed security if you must leave your Jeep unattended.
Installing the Congo Cage and the Safari Basket are like assembling a giant Erector set. There is only one rule: read the instructions! After that, it's pretty simple. Precision tubes fit together with supplied bolts and silicon sealant (tip: use masking tape around the joints to prevent the silicon from migrating where you don't really need it). Once you have placed Part A into Part B, etc., two people can lift it over the cab to its mounting points. Four people make it easier. The Safari Basket bolts to the cage, and you're ready to load. We've used the Congo Cage and the Safari Basket on several Jeeps, and we can tell you, this is one stout rack.
Warn Winch & Viking Synthetic Winch Line
Having a good winch on your 4x4 is like a first-aid kit. You hope you never need it, but when you do, it pays for itself very quickly. For the weight of our 2011 Jeep Wrangler JK the WARN VR8000 electric winch was the perfect choice. With a full 8,000-pound pulling capacity, a series-wound motor, quick line speed, and an exclusive brake design for superior winching control, it had all the features we look for. With a smooth three-stage planetary gear train and durable construction, WARN's dependability ensures this winch will come through time and time again.
The VR8000's low profile made it a great match for the WARN Rock Crawler Bumper. Constructed from heavy 3/16-inch and 1/4-inch steel, it features tapered ends for an increased approach angle, welded eyelets to mount D-shackles for increased recovery options, and round light ports that fit the factory JK fog lights. Its black powder-coated wrinkle finish provides good looks and outstanding durability, ready for the toughest off-road adventures.
To dramatically reduce the weight and add a significant level of safety, we installed 100 feet of Viking Dyneema synthetic winch line which is up to 15 times stronger than quality steel. To protect the Synthetic line from roller damage, we used a sharp looking Series-100 Viking Offroad Aluminum Hawse Fairlead and the Viking Safety Thimble, instead of the more common hook. A Safety Thimble isolator prevents metal-to-metal contact that can scratch and damage the fairleads. A pair of Viking 3/4-inch Van Beest Green Pin bow shackles were functional additions to the WARN bumper.
Rancho Rock Crawler Bumper & PIAA Lights
The Rock Crawler Bumper was an easy bolt on, once we removed the plastic factory components. The VR8000 mounted securely to a WARN winch mounting plate that bolted directly to the frame for superior strength. Auxiliary mounting holes were used for a pair of PIAA 510 Series Xtreme White SMR Fog Lights with the upgraded 110-watt XTRA Xtreme White Plus bulb. Their 60-degree spread will light up the sides of those dark Baja back roads. The PIAA lights come with a complete wiring harness, switch, and relay.
Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Tray
With a winch and auxiliary driving lights, or just for extra amps for those cell phones, GPS, computers, air pumps, and everything else that can be run on 12-volts or an inverter when you're camping, it was prudent to install a dual battery system. Looking under the hood, there didn't seem to be much extra space for a second battery, but Rugged Ridge offered a dual battery tray specifically for the JK. It was a perfect fit for two Group 34 Odyssey Extreme Batteries. The factory plastic battery and air filter tray was removed and cut down to make room for the Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Tray. Rugged Ridge's powder coated black design used factory mounting holes for ease of installation.
Before we tackled the battery install, we did a "no brainer". We took the cumbersome hood prop rod out and replaced it with a HoodLift that uses twin gas shocks to automatically raise the hood out of the way. It took all of 20 minutes to install. What a great idea.
The Odyssey Extreme AGM batteries have been our choice for several years. Odyssey makes many sizes but only one type. Deep Cycle, Marine, Starting, Military; they're all the same Extreme technology. Extreme durability on rough terrain, more cycles, and faster recharge times have made them the choice of professionals.
Extreme Outback IBS Intelligent Battery System Isolator
To isolate the big Odysseys, Extreme Outback supplied us with its IBS Intelligent Battery System Isolator. The IBS uses a RISC micro-computer to manage dual-battery applications. During normal driving, the IBS links both batteries using a 500-amp-capable/12-volt relay. When the engine is off, the system isolates the batteries. This allows the auxiliary battery to power accessories for in-car entertainment, a winch, AC power inverters, etc., without draining the main (starting) battery. A manual override button links the batteries for high-draw situations such as winching when the engine stalls. The batteries are automatically separated after 30 minutes to prevent accidental discharge. If you've left your lights on and your starting battery is dead, the IBS also allows the main battery to be jump-started from the auxiliary one. Developed by a Swiss engineer who experienced dead batteries while traversing Australia's Great Victorian Desert in his Series 60 Land Cruiser, the IBS won a Global Media Award as one of the best new products at the 2009 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
All connections were made with Quick Cable high quality flexible welding cable that makes it easy to route into and around tight places. We used Quick Cable Fusion MagnaLug preloaded solder connectors. You just add heat to get a strong, vibration and corrosion-resistant joint that's 70-percent stronger than a crimp connection.
All that was left was to hook onto a good anchor point and stretch the Viking line onto the WARN spool, staged for its first pull. This JK is ready for all of the backroads we love to follow, and in our imagination, there's a big flat rock on the slabs next to the Rubicon River that's just waiting for a warm Summer weekend. We're already loading the rack.