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50 Ways To Lighten Your Jeep

Jeep Front Three Quarter
Christian Hazel
| Brand Manager, Four Wheeler
Posted October 1, 2011
Photographers: JP Staff

Jenny Craig Jeep

Whether it’s that spare tire you’re carrying around behind your belt buckle or a bunch of unnecessary trinkets and doo dads on, in, or around your Jeep, extra weight kills performance, increases the likelihood of breakage, and requires more energy and effort to move around. Shedding unnecessary poundage from your Jeep will make your engine feel more powerful, help your drivetrain components live longer, and allow your suspension to react more quickly. We came up with fifty things you can do to lighten your Jeep. Some may not be applicable or realistic for everybody. And some may not seem like they’d make a ton of difference. But as we demonstrated in “Skinny-Time!” on page 84 of this issue, the cumulative result of just a few of these mods can really make a difference.

Stock Bumpers
Stock bumpers are light. If you want a bit more beef, you can use some 1/8-inch or even 14- or 16-gauge steel to box your factory channel bumper to better resist twisting and damage.

Rear Bumperless
Rear-end collisions aside, most Wranglers can get by without a rear bumper on the trail. Or, for older Wranglers and CJs, keep the factory bumperettes. They’re much lighter than a full factory or aftermarket rear bumper.

Ford Light
Thanks to its strong presence in motorsports for decades, there are several really cool aftermarket lightweight components for the Ford 9-inch such as aluminum centersections, bearing retainers, and even spools. Adding disc brakes to these parts and using 31-spline alloy axleshafts can get you a really strong rear end that weighs in at only a couple hundred pounds.

Aluminum Wheels
Steel wheels are cheap, but aluminum wheels are much lighter. Not only will they decrease the overall weight of your Jeep, but your acceleration and braking performance will increase because it takes less energy to start and stop them spinning.

Ditched Dana
For its weight, the Ford 9-inch trounces any comparable Dana 35 or Dana 44 axle in strength. And upgrading the 31-spline shafts to aftermarket 35-spline units puts it in the same ilk as the burly (and heavy) Dana 60.

If you have a patch kit and a source of onboard air, leaving the spare tire at home can save up to or over 100 pounds depending on your tire size. If you have beadlocks or rims that can be dismantled in the field, a tire tube is also a great alternative.

Ditching the factory steel full- or half-doors from your Wrangler or CJ saves a lot of weight. If you must have protection from the wind and elements, a set of aftermarket soft doors will get the job done at a fraction of the weight.

Dinky Danas
Dana 60 and Dana 70 1-ton axles are super strong, but they’re heavy as sin. If your tire size and wheeling style allow it, retaining your stock axles (Dana 30, Dana 35, or Dana 44) can save you several hundred pounds, even if you bolster them with larger, slightly heavier axleshafts.

If you don’t carry rear-seat passengers then why do you need a rear seat? They’re pretty heavy. Even if you’re not wheeling a Wrangler or CJ, full-size, Cherokee, and others can ditch the rear seat and belts for a big bump in weight saving.

Smart Tools
Carry only those tools and spares you need. Why bother shedding ounces here and there if you’re just gonna bring along 50 pounds in spare parts and unnecessary tools. If you don’t have any 5⁄8-inch bolts on your vehicle, why bring a 5⁄8-inch socket or wrench? Pack smarter, not heavier.

Improvised Armor
This is something we suggested in “Skid-Free” (May ’09) where you create laminate armor by welding lighter-gauge material to your existing skid plates. It’s an effective alternative if extreme use is not in your vehicle’s repertoire. In our story, we used two factory 14-gauge Wrangler fuel tank skids to create a lightweight 1⁄8-inch skid that will support the weight of the vehicle.

Bumper Material
Who says your bumpers need to be heavy steel. There are several companies making Jeep bumpers in aluminum and even fiberglass. These offer a surprising deal of strength in a bantam-weight package.

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