Our ’12 Wrangler Sahara is starting to take shape. Last month we spent some time at the shop transforming it from a staid stocker to a dual-purpose machine capable of taking us deep in to the backcountry. While the suspension, wheels and tires, and axles are in place, we still needed to protect the Jeep from those errant mishaps off the highway, so in this story we’ll focus on armor, as well as a few other upgrades we’ve found helpful.
In our previous installment we added Expedition One’s full-width Trail Series front bumper and a Warn 9.5cti winch. Being that this vehicle is based in California, it is required to have a front license plate. With limited mounting options, we found Rock Hard 4x4’s roller fairlead license plate bracket to be the perfect solution for staying legal. The aluminum backing plate uses steel clips that attach to the rollers on the fairlead. A cabled lanyard allows the plate to hang in place when you need winch access, as well as discourages theft.
Feeling the need to supplement the merely adequate stock lighting, we went with a pair of TJM XRay Vision 6.6-inch 160 Series HID lights. The 160 Series is a compact HID that features 50-watt Xenon bulbs, a die-cast alloy body, and internal ballast for easy mounting. They come with clear polycarbonate lenses, but other colors, as well as opaque are available. The standard bulb is rated at 4200K, but 3000K and 6000K are available to fit your needs.
Moving to the back, we matched the rear bumper to the front with Expedition One’s Trail Series rear bumper with their Smooth Motion Tire Carrier system (STC). Expedition One’s STC system allows the carrier to swing with the tailgate in one smooth motion, no latches or pins to undo. It has proven to be a useful and rattle-free design. Another benefit to the system is the drilled tire carrier arm, which allows you to mount a number of accessories, such as a Hi-Lift mount, to the arm. We used Expedition One’s optional CB antenna mounting bracket and installed it to our tire carrier with a Firestik CB antenna kit from Cool Tech.
To compliment the bumpers, we added AEV’s JK Rear Corner Guards. The 1⁄8-inch-thick stamped steel guards are designed to fit the contour of the Wrangler tub perfectly and protect the body from trail damage. Produced like an OE part, the guards are e-coated before being powdercoated black for corrosion resistance and durability. As a bonus, they are compatible with Mopar’s fuel filler door and taillight guards.
Satisfied that the Jeep was protected in the front and rear, we turned to the rocker panels of our Sahara. Wanting to keep an OE-look, we decided on Mopar’s enhanced rock rails. Based on the production Rubicon rail, the Mopar version adds a heavy-gauge tubular rub rail for improved protection and is a direct replacement for the stock Rubicon rails or the factory side steps such as the ones that came on our Sahara. They are finished in a textured satin black powdercoat, which was a near-identical match for our bumpers and corner guards.
Another area of protection concern was underneath our manual-equipped JK. While the JK has fairly good skidplating for the rear of the vehicle, the engine and transmission are left exposed from the factory. We solved this omission by installing EVO MFG’s three-piece ProTek skidplate system. The ProTek system is easy to install in the driveway and includes protection for the oil pan, transmission, and exhaust crossover/crossmember. They are designed to work in conjunction with the factory skids, giving us all the protection we’ll need in nasty terrain.
Our last order of exterior business was to swap out our stock steering stabilizer. We found that it was inadequate for 37-inch tires and chose Bilstein’s direct-replacement HD monotube model to match our Bilstein 5160 shocks. This stabilizer utilizes a 36mm digressive-valved piston and took all of three minutes to install, curing our unwanted steering feedback. On the highway, our wheel is rock solid with no shimmy to report.
We also can’t say enough good things about Quadratec. The company was fantastic to work with for this story and offered us great customer service with quick shipping. Quadratec’s selection of products is phenomenal and we highly recommend them to anyone looking to outfit a Jeep.
All of the products in this story were installed in our garage with basic hand tools and can be done by anyone with competent mechanical ability. Read on to see the highlights of our upgrades.