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The Anvil, Part 2 - AEV Makeover: Ultimate Expedition Package

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 4, 2016
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With our Anvil Jeep Wrangler project already delved into, “capable” was something we already had in the bag. Our shiny new Rubicon Wrangler had already been outfitted with a Rock Krawler 2.5 X-Factor Stage 1 mid-arm suspension kit and 35-inch Toyo Open Country MTs on AEV Pintler wheels. With a good amount of travel, both axles locked, and some aggressive 35-inch tires, “go anywhere” was really starting to mean something.

But that was only Part 1. Next, Jeeps R Us in Laguna Beach, California, was about to give our Anvil JK project an AEV makeover. American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has some of the finest Jeep and truck modifications available in the automotive aftermarket. The company has built itself to be a one-stop shop for most of the accessories you’d want to bolt onto your Jeep, from lift kits and wheels to flash modules and backup cameras. And one of the best parts is that AEV makes all its parts to work in conjunction with each other, being smooth and form fitting so that nothing really sticks out or looks too gaudy.

With a truckload of boxes from AEV showing up at the door, we would jump into a couple days’ worth of installs. Mike Cattan’s Jeeps R Us crew felt a little more relaxed during this round of modifications, as this brand-new JK’s seal had already been broken with a Rock Krawler lift and tires. It was time to turn this Wrangler into a true expedition vehicle with a slew of AEV parts. Front and rear AEV bumpers were mandatory, along with a swing-out spare-tire carrier. Off the spare-tire carrier, we were able to attach a Fuel Caddy, a CHMSL brake light and backup camera (that integrates into the factory system), and a Hi-Lift mount, while still fitting up to a 37-inch tire. A winch mount was also ordered, as it mounts completely independently of the front bumper, leaving the bumper to do the one job it was designed to do: protect the Jeep and its occupants.

Next month, we’re going to increase the drool factor by adding a few last items, like lights and a winch, to turn our Anvil the ultimate expedition vehicle. After that, you won’t hear much about this JK project for a little while because we’ll be too busy in the great outdoors putting these parts to the test!

With an abundance of parts from AEV, the guys at Jeeps R Us had their work cut out for them. AEV parts are of the highest quality, but no one ever said that they’re fast or easy to install. As a side note, all these parts were packed rather excellently in their boxes, ensuring that our parts made it to us with no scratches or dings.

AEV’s Premium front bumper is made to fit 37-inch tires with no rubbing, and is designed to fit over a frame-mounted winch plate. It accepts the factory fog lights so there is no messing with wiring harnesses, and it has crush cans on the front of the bumper to prevent low-speed air bag deployment. The plastic crush can covers can be replaced for $30 when work your original ones over enough. Notice that we have the fog lights in prior to mounting. Don’t do this. We ended up pulling the lights back out because it was easier to get the bumper bolts started with the lights out.

The winch plate does fit with the Rubicon model’s disconnecting sway bar, but a solenoid does have to be moved (AEV provides a bracket for this). A 9,500-pound-rated winch can fit onto the winch plate (not including a Warn 8274).

Install time on the AEV bumpers will not be short. If you’re having these parts installed at a shop, recognize that there is a fair amount of work to assemble the AEV accessories and prepare to pay accordingly. Jeeps R Us has experience installing many different bumpers and tells us that these are some of the most labor intensive. However, the fitment is perfect and the lines of the bumpers integrate so well into the Jeep’s body they’re well worth it.

AEV’s swing-out tire carrier comes with the rear bumper package but mounts independently of the bumper. It is the base for multiple AEV accessories that can be added at any time. The carrier will accept up to a 40-inch tire!

After removing the factory rear bumper, AEV actually recommends first mounting the tire carrier’s pivot and fitting the swing-out gate properly prior to actually mounting the rear bumper (the swinging gate has to be pulled back off). Roger Alvarez added the bushings into the pivot and got it correctly lined up on the frame.

Coworkers can make this job much quicker, but if you’re trying this at home, we recommend having a friend or child lackey help install this one. Richie Estrada held the bumper in place so Larry Garcia could squeeze his hands up between the 2.4-gallon water tanks and the frame, and tighten the bolts. A transfer tube allows water to be transferred between the driver side and passenger side tanks with a manual pump. The access cap is on the driver side tank.

AEV’s CHMSL (center high-mount stop light) third brake light and rear backup camera package is an impressive little unit that bolts to the spare tire mount and is designed to integrate into the vehicle’s existing electrical system. The multi-directional LED light replaces the factory third brake light we removed from the tailgate along with the stock spare tire mount. Its factory connector plugs right in place of the stock brake light. .

The backup camera integrates into the stereos of Wranglers with factory touchscreen stereos. A flash module (included) activates the dormant connection inside the stereo that allows the backup camera to work with the stereo touchscreen when in reverse. The dormant connection is there because the same (or similar) system is used in other Chrysler vehicles that do include back-up cameras as factory equipment

AEV’s Fuel Caddy is a 10.2-gallon fuel storage tank that is contoured to fit between the swing-out tire carrier and the spare tire. It comes with a fully vented cap and a shaker siphon to get fuel deployment going.

The Fuel Caddy tightens firmly to the spare tire carrier’s swing-out gate so there is no movement whatsoever. It needs to be firmly mounted with the weight of more than 10 gallons of fuel sloshing around inside it while you’re on the trail

AEV’s swing-out tire carrier is synchronized to open with the factory tailgate. A bracket installs onto the tailgate with a tie rod that allows the tire carrier and tailgate to open together and never come in contact with each other.

By simply opening the tailgate with the factory handle, the swing-out tire carrier will travel with it, so no other latches or locks are needed. The rear glass of the hardtop can still flip up for access, but the tailgate needs to be swung all the way open to clear the glass.

The CHMSL and backup camera peak perfectly in between the spokes of the AEV Pintler wheel mounted on the spare tire carrier. With the camera plugged in, Jeeps R Us plugged the Rear Vision System module into the OBDII port and turned on the backup camera. Once the module is done with the flash, it can be removed and kept at home.

The whole bumper/tire carrier/fuel tank/stop light/backup camera package is extremely clean and very obviously all designed to work in conjunction with each other.

AEV also has a Hi-Lift/Pull-Pal mount that bolts to swing-out tire carrier. With a Hi-Lift and Pull-Pal in place, a maximum of a 37-inch tire can still be used as a spare.

AEV’s Rear Corner Guards are made from 1/8-inch stamped steel and finished in AEV’s two-stage coating that uses first an E-coat and then a black powdercoat over it. Two-door and four-door corner guards are available. The stamped steel corner guards fit directly over the JK body, but you’ll need to remove the rear license plate holder to install the driver side one. While it is a bit scary to start drilling holes into a brand-new Jeep body, hole placement isn’t too hard if you just hold the guard in place and mark the spots with a pen.

Since AEV is a one-stop shop for JK modification, they have a ProCal flash module that allows you to correct the gear ratio and correct the transmission shifts, ESP stability control, and engine performance after installing a lift and tires. The ProCal module can also recalibrate the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system), change engine idle speed for winching, and clear DTC codes. It uses DIP switches that you set for your specific vehicle, referencing a quick guide that will tell you what position to have each DIP switch for your specific build.


Jeeps R Us
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Commerce Township, MI 48390
Toyo Tires
Rock Krawler

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