The previous parts of our ’12 Wrangler buildup have focused on mostly mechanical upgrades to make our Jeep more functional on the trail. With these upgrades we have built a Jeep that is just as comfortable off-road as it is on the highway, achieving the goals we set forth from the beginning. In this installment, we’ll wrap up our initial buildup with products that contribute more to daily functionality.
One of the first things we addressed was interior protection. For some reason the stock Wrangler has no sill guards and comes with carpeted floor mats from the factory. To protect the doorsills and carpet from damaged caused by dirty shoes, we opted for Mopar’s doorsill guards and tire tread rubber floor mats. These mats look cool with their tire tread pattern and do a good job of keeping dirt and muck isolated, making for easier cleanup.
Another thing lacking on stock Wranglers are heavy-duty grab handles. To aid in ingress and egress, we installed the MasterCraft Safety four-piece JK Grab Handle Kit. These handles are made from tough nylon webbing and they feature a five-inch Thermo-Press handle that won’t collapse under weight. An additional strap, for a total of three, on the front handles secures them to the Sport Bar and keeps them from sliding fore and aft, an issue on other handles. The rear handles are designed with grommets that use existing hardware in the sound bar, and are at a great location for rear passengers to hoist themselves up and in.
Once you are in, you might notice that the black-painted composite hardtop isn’t the best insulator. And while the ’12 Wrangler has an upgraded air conditioning system, heat from a hot summer day can be felt through the top. To help us keep the interior temp where we want it, we decided to add Insul-Liner insulation panels. The panels are handmade to order and are over one-inch-thick. Made from closed-cell foam, two layers of foil, a soft insulation, and then covered by marine-grade vinyl, the panels are easily installed. Once in place, Insul-Liner panels can drop the temperature from the roof surface to the interior by a remarkable and noticeable 50 degrees. Insul-Liner tells us they also do a great job of keeping the heat in on those cold winter days too.
With our comfort addressed, we wanted to get in to more functional aspects of our interior, so we added lockable storage in the form of Bestop’s Under Seat Locking Storage Box. Available for the both the JK and TJ, this 16-gauge carbon steel box installs inconspicuously under the driver-seat. The JK version of the box measures 17x7.5x3.75 inches and literally installs in under 10 minutes. With 205 cubic inches of interior volume, the sliding drawer has enough space to secure your wallet, keys, and even a handgun. It provides a great, somewhat-hidden location for those who need to secure valuables when the top is removed.
Another storage issue with the ’11-’12 Wrangler interior is finding a place to mount a CB. After installing our Cobra WX ST 75 CB radio, we were at a loss for where to mount the handheld mic. Unlike the ’07-’10 Wranglers, which have plenty of aftermarket support, and many flat spots for mounting, the progressive ’11-’12 interiors are deficient for CB-mounting. After hours of Googling, we found a bracket made by Panavise that attaches to the stereo head-unit bolts and keeps our CB mic within easy reach, but out of the way. So far this has been the best mounting solution we’ve found for the new interior.
While looking for a little more oomph from the factory sound system, we came across Mopar’s Kicker Stage III sound system upgrade. This system includes four direct-replacement, two-way Kicker speakers, a 368-watt Kicker amp, and a 10-inch removable Kicker subwoofer. Just dropping in the speakers gives the sound system cleaner sound and brighter highs. Going with the full Stage 3 means finally waking up the weak bass that comes from the factory. We aren’t audiophiles by any means, but for those who enjoy their music, this is a nice way of upgrading without hacking up your factory wiring. Best of all the upgrade comes with a three-year warranty when installed by a certified installer.
While we are on the subject of wiring, we found out the hard way that the thin-gauge wiring to the factory 12V power outlet in the cargo area was causing our ARB Fridge Freezer to think that the battery had suffered a voltage drop. So much so that our fridge would shut off in the middle of the night. Because many new vehicles suffer from inadequate accessory outlet wiring, ARB makes a variable-length, thick-gauge harness that can be run directly to your battery, bypassing the factory electronics. It has the proper merit-style connector that locks the fridge’s power cord in without the need for an adapter. After running the wiring in our JK, our fridge no longer has a problem with running for extended periods of time, and we’ve freed up our cargo-mounted factory outlet for any additional accessories we might want to power.
Another great cargo-area modification is the addition of Outback Adventure Products’ Trailgater tailgate table. Made from food-grade stainless steel with an aluminum backsplash, the Trailgater installs on to the tailgate with no drilling. Its rattle-free design means that you won’t ever be reminded of your deployable workspace until you need it. A slide-out Bamboo cutting board makes lunch preparation a breeze. This is one of the nicest, and well-thought-out accessories for the JK.
Lastly, every Jeep owner should have onboard air (OBA) at his or her disposal. One of our favorite products in the OBA category is the Power Tank CO2 system. Newly upgraded with the PRO Series SuperFlow XP400i regulator, Power Tank now offers a regulator that will flow an incredible 48cfm and is compatible with nitrogen, which means you can now use a Power Tank to pressurize your shocks. Power Tanks are available in 5-, 10-, and 15-pound bottles in a variety of colors and packages to match your needs.
We selected the 10-pound Package A system in Trans Black, which includes the HP250 regulator, Power Grip handle, Super Bracket, cover, hose, and a premium aluminum tank. To that we upgraded to the XP400i regulator, digital tire inflator, and a COMP Series mounting bracket, also in black. Mounted to the rear roll bar, the tank is up and out of the way, yet provides us with easy access. We also like that the all-black setup doesn’t stand out behind our hardtop’s tinted windows. So how long does it take with the new regulator to inflate our 37-inch tires from 12-psi trail pressure to the 28-psi street pressure we run? Just about 30 seconds.
While this installment may be the end of this initial series, you know as well as we do that no Jeep is ever truly done, so don’t be surprised if you see this Wrangler being used as a test bed for other products in future issues. But for now, we’ll wrap it up and go hit the trail.
How It Works
With all of the modifications to our JK, it now weighs in at about 5,200-pounds. We have been incredibly pleased with the way it works on the trail, and the ride on the highway is nothing short of impressive. For those who are curious, we recently drove 200-miles going from the Salton Sea area of California back to the coast to gauge fuel mileage. With an average speed of about 72 mph, the Jeep in its present form with 37-inch BFG M-T KM2s, 4.88 gears, and a manual transmission returned an outstanding 17.3 mpg. The new Pentastar is nothing short of impressive and we couldn’t be happier with our setup. It certainly exceeds our original expectations for the build and it will be the perfect rig for pulling double-duty.