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2013 Jeep Wrangler - Private JK: Part 3

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 8, 2014
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Photographers: Erin Simons

Last time in Part 2 of Private JK, we showed you how our war plan to run 35-inch tires without a suspension lift came together on our military-themed Commando Green two-door 2013 JK. Part of the attack strategy to get our JK involved was adding a set of Modern Classic Enterprises flat-style fender flares to free up more space for tactical movement of our new Dick Cepek Trail Countrys. These tires are both considerably taller and wider than the puny doughnuts that our JK came from the dealer, so we also added in a set of OD green-fogged 17-inch wheels from Rugged Ridge, as well as a tuner from Diablo Sport to help the JK’s computer interpret the correct wheel speed of the new larger-than-stock tires. Once the Jeep was back together, we took it wheeling on a few trails in the deserts of Arizona. All in all, the Jeep performed admirably and conquered all that we have put before it with ease and grace, but still, the Jeep seemed to be missing a few odds and ends. One thing is for sure: We like the price and functionality of the JK’s soft top, but losing potential storage space on the roof is not ideal especially since some of our family Jeep-based outings involve a canoe and remote lakes and ponds. More space would certainly be nice, and since Gobi Racks was good enough to make a roof rack for our two-door JK, we thought we would give one a try. Also, we had found out the hard way that the plastic factory rear bumper our JK came with was not up to our military-grade needs. In addition, after adding the front bumper and fender flares, the black formed-plastic rear bumper was looking out of place. Add in a few more creature comfort odds and ends from our allies at Quadratec and now Private JK is ready for a few more adventures.

Gobi Rack’s name is taken from Africa’s Gobi desert, but it’s all American made, baby, and we love that. We started with these rear brackets that bolt to the frame and clamp to the JK’s body. The bracket on the bottom bolts to two of the factory frame mounting points. The upper tubular part then bolts to the lower bracket and clamps to the bottom of the body seam. Near the top of the upper bracket is a plastic bumper that rests against a pinch seam on the side of the tub. We are a little worried about frame and body movements fighting each other through this bracket, but we are not the first or only people to be using this rack on a Jeep that sees dirt.

These brackets work with the factory rear bumper and some aftermarket bumpers, as long as there is enough of a gap for the brackets to fit between the top of the bumper and body and if the bumper doesn’t occupy the same holes on the frame that the lower brackets use. Stick-on pads protect the paint from the plastic bumper and anywhere else the rack may contact your paint. The whole rack comes in a huge box, but despite the size, installation is pretty easy. The hardest part is getting these rear brackets in the right place correctly.

The next step in installing the rack is to remove eight of twelve Torx bolts (four per side) that attach the windshield to the body. Then slide on the light-bar portion of the rack. This is made easy with another set of hands. Then reinstall and finger-tighten the eight factory Torx bolts.

The top corners of the windshield are protected by these formed plastic adhesive-backed stick-on windshield body-protection pieces. We should have installed them before adding the light bar, but by leaving the bolts loose, we were able to hold the light bar forward and squeak them in place. Large rubber snubbers ride against the windshield via the body-protection pieces, adding strength to the whole system.

By adding a little grease to the four plastic shoulder washers, we help hold them in place while locating and bolting on the rear roof-rack support bar. Again, an extra set of hands will help with this part.

Next apply the triangular-shaped adhesive-backed rear wear plates above the rear brackets. Again with help from a friend, put the rear support bar in place. Once the rack is fully installed, Gobi instructs you to tighten two rubber snubbers per side against these wear plates. The snubbers help keep the rack centered on the Jeep and prevent any side-to-side swaying.

For the next step of the roof rack installation, you are going to want something that is about 45 to 50 inches tall. We grabbed a 4-foot stepladder and rotated the rear roof-rack support bar back so that it rested on the top of the ladder. Then, one or two people have to hold the main part of the roof rack up vertically on top of the ladder while the eight bolts are added to hold the rack to the rear support bar. Next, tighten the bolts, and you can rotate the whole shebang down and into place against the front light bar.

Once the rack is in place, you can add the carriage bolts and tighten all of the hardware to the specifications in the instructions. Congratulations! The basic part of the rack installation is done. The rack is rated for 300 pounds of load while on the road and trail and 600 pounds static (like when it’s parked and your roof top tent is up there swaying in the wind).

When we ordered our Gobi Rack, we added in a few options like Gobi’s driver-side rear ladder (that helps getting up on and loading the rack easier), axe and shovel mounts, the JK sun-roof insert, a Jerry-can mounting kit, and a JK wind deflector to cut down on wind noise as much as possible. So far, our only complaint with the Gobi Rack is the wind noise; there is no solution for that, especially for a JK with a soft top, but the extra space and utility added by the rack makes it well worth the added wind noise.

Once we were done with the install of the Gobi Rack, we could not bring ourselves to bolt the plastic factory rear bumper back on to the JK. We still had the other half of the 5-inch square tube that we used to build our JK’s front bumper, and after perusing images of J8 rear bumpers, we decided we had to build a military-style rear bumper with a pintle hitch we had gotten from a pal.

The remaining piece of channel we had that made the backbone of our rear bumper was a little short to span the space that required coverage, so we hit the tubing bender and added some tubular nerf bars to the rear bumper. Here, they are tack-welded in place along with a support piece.

The pintle hitch that we got from our good friend, Kenny, will give us a rear tow point and replaces the low-hanging factory rear hook that kept hitting the ground whenever we went wheeling. Our rear bumper has three 14mm bolts per side holding it in place. Also, at the center of the bumper near the pintle hitch we added two 1⁄2-inch bolts that pass through steel sleeves and then bolt to the factory JK rear crossmember. The pintle hitch is multi-purpose. For one, it helps add to the look of the Jeep. As mentioned, it adds a rear tow point and helps support our spare tire that is, after all, hanging on the factory rear-tire carrier.

Two other products from Quadratec that we have been testing extensively with our 2013 JK are these durable Quadratec Ultimate Front and Rear Floor Liners (PN 14254.0303, $129.99) and Mopar black-plastic doorsill entry guards (PN 82210104, $34.99). So far, these parts have helped protect our JK, despite our heavy-handed abuse in sand, a little mud, and during every day use.

So far we are really happy with our 2013 JK with the 3.6L Pentastar motor, despite the tall stock gearing and 35-inch tires. We also are totally digging how well the Jeep works in the dirt and how the military look draws in onlookers, as well as ties in our Jeep’s military past. We have a few more tricks up our sleeves to take this military-themed Jeep over the top, so stay tuned.


West Chester, PA 19380

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