#MTSEMA18: New Products of SEMA 2018

    New Parts & Tools You Will Want

    Verne SimonsPhotographer, WriterManufacturersPhotographer

    Every year auto enthusiasts gather in Las Vegas for the be-all, end-all of aftermarket automotive shows. The Specialty Equipment Market Association knows how to put on an aftermarket equipment show to eclipse all other shows in size and stature. Without fail we are on hand at SEMA every year, and 2018 was no exception. We dug in our heels and set our boots a-walking to find all the coolest custom 4x4s, new parts, tools, and up-and-coming manufacturers on display. This year’s show was as good as always, with tons of glitz and glam and more new products than you could shake a stick at.

    It will come as no surprise when we say the brand new Jeep Wrangler JL was definitely the off-road belle of the ball. Just about every company that produces parts in the four-wheel-drive marketplace was at SEMA to show off something you could bolt onto a JL. We saw new parts to address shortcomings in the new Jeep’s suspension, drivetrain, interior, exterior, and more. Lots of manufacturers jumped on the JL’s front axle as a place where improvement could be made. From nearly complete replacement axle housings to simple front axle disconnect (FAD) solutions, lots of companies showed new products for the JL’s front axle. Keep reading to check out these parts and more.

    To FAD or Not to FAD

    RCV is no stranger to the off-road axle world. The company revolutionized axleshaft strength a few years ago with a unique steering axleshaft design that forgoes the U-joint in favor of a constant velocity (CV) joint. Expanding its line to fill the space created by the new JL Wrangler is a no brainer. RCV offers the CVs, which provide six points of fully engaged contact throughout any angle up to 45 degrees, giving 100 percent axle strength even when the steering wheels are turned to lock. The New JL Dana 44 shafts also use a CV that is 18 percent larger than other Dana 44 models, providing more strength than a stock Dana 60 U-joint axle. The outer axles are gun-drilled to simplify greasing the CV. Inners are available in 4340 as either a two-piece inner passenger-side shaft with an upgraded RCV 300M coupler and bronze bushing, or a one-piece passenger-side shaft eliminating the FAD. The factory FAD motor works with either, causing no dash lights or computer reprogramming. RCV also has an unlimited tire size lifetime warranty against breakage on these products. If that’s not confidence, we don’t know what is. Info: RCV, 815.877.7473, rcvperformance.com

    Ample Warning

    Warn arrived at SEMA 2018 with a slew of new goodies. Probably the hottest new item was the Warn 8274-70 limited-edition 70th anniversary winch. This winch has all the awesomeness of all Warn 8274s with a few more benefits, like synthetic rope and a newer, more powerful motor. The Warn 9.5XP motor ups rated pull capacity to 10,000 pounds. (Sorry about the drool we got all over your winch, Warn.) Also on hand was Warn’s new line of rigging components, made of forged 6061-T6 billet aluminum to allow for fast, easy, and secure rigging. The Epic Sidewinder replaces a hook and shackle, while the Epic Hyperlink is a dual-pin shackle for your bumper. Warn also had new soft goods in the form of Epic Trail Gear Bags to hold all your tools and tchotchkes while on the trail and Stealth Winch Covers, which are made from premium components, such as marine-grade vinyl that’s fade proof and built to cover your Warn winch. Info: Warn Industries, 800.543.9276, warn.com

    Keeping Your Cool

    Freezer-fridges are more popular off-road than ever thanks to the growing interest in car camping—er, overlanding. While we promise to continue to make fun of overlanders everywhere, even we must admit that having a freezer-fridge is a welcome addition to any trail ride. Dometic has a history in the RV industry and thus has a ton of experience keeping things cool in mobile houses. Along with a slew of freezer-fridges Dometic was showing off the CFF 35L and 45L fridges and a new and revolutionary PLB40 battery. The battery uses lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo4) technology, which is lightweight and efficient and plugs in. The battery is charged up while it and the fridge are in your rig on the way to camping. At camp, the fridge and battery can be removed and the battery will run the fridge or run/recharge other 12-volt or USB electronic devices for a weekend of adventure. The battery is said to supply a steady 12 volts for days (depending on draw) from full charge to flat. Info: Dometic, 800.366.3842, dometic.com/en-us/us

    FADless, Part 1

    Dynatrac is known for the best of the best in axle components. At just about every off-road aftermarket show we attend, we look to Dynatrac to have the coolest axle parts to drool over. Not surprisingly, Dynatrac brought a slew of new parts to SEMA 2018, including several for the Jeep Wrangler JL. One such part was a new ProRock 44 for the 2018-newer Jeep Wrangler JL. This front axlehousing replacement adds significant beef over the factory axle, eliminates the FAD, and features American-made, heat-treated chromoly inner axleshafts, best-in-class ground clearance, American-made axle end forgings, and the best service and warranty in the business. Also for the JL is Dynatrac’s new EnduroSport Suspension Lift, which fits up to a 37-inch tire depending on the model of JL and its modification. Proprietary 2-inch-lift springs meet or exceed OEM standards and are designed to work in conjunction with the custom Dynatrac-tuned Fox 2.0 Performance Series IFP smooth-body shocks to ensure the best ride possible. Also, the suspension comes in a durable military duffle bag that we definitely want. Info: Dynatrac, 714.421.4314, dynatrac.com

    From SEMA With Lift

    BDS Suspension was at SEMA 2018 showing off plenty of new suspension products. The company showed us the new 2014-2018 Chevy/GMC 1500 2-, 4-, 6-, and 8-inch suspensions with coilover conversions, new knuckles, skidplates, and more. BDS also has 2 1/2-, 4-, and 6-inch lifts with new knuckles and upper A-arms for the 2019 Ford Ranger. Spread around the show were other lifts, like a 4-inch IFS lift for the 2017-2019 Chevy ZR2; a 2-, 4-, 6-inch standard or coilover for the 2019 GM 1500; a 2 1/2-, 4-, and 6-inch standard or coilover lift for the gas or diesel 2019 Ford F-150; and a 2-, 4-, and 6-inch standard or coilover lift for the 2019 Ram 1500. That’s to complement the company’s nearly comprehensive list of suspension lifts for older trucks the Big Three, Toyota, and more. When it came to Jeeps, BDS’s sister company, Fox, brought its JKS JL suspension with replacement control arms, bolt-in coilover conversion with Fox 2.5 12-inch front coilovers and Fox 3.0 race series shocks in the back, and air bumps. With 37-inch tires, this thing is ready to hit the rocks or the whoops. Anyways, lots of lifts. Info: BDS Suspension, 517.279.2135, bds-suspension.com

    Sticky Mickey & the Meat Hook

    Mickey Thompson hit it out of the park in our opinion with its gnarly and dedicated hardcore bias-ply Mickey Thompson Baja Pro X tire. The tire has massive tread voids and blocks and should look right at home on a rock bouncer, mud truck, or trail-only rockcrawler. The tire at SEMA was a nicely sized 43x14.50-17LT in a sticky compound and had “For Offroad Use Only, Not for Highway Use” cast into the sidewall. Everyone on staff wants a set of these tires, and with any luck everyone will get a chance to buy some in the future. Also spied was the Mickey Thompson Baja Boss, an aggressive mud terrain that has a unique asymmetrical tread pattern, a three-ply sidewall, and large side biters. The Dick Cepek Trail Country EXP features a street-friendly and off-road–friendly tread with a long mileage warranty. Info: Mickey Thompson, 330.928.9092, mickeythompsontires.com

    Yellow & Black Are Back

    If you’ve been in the off-road game for more than 10 years, chances are you recognize the name Black Diamond Suspension. If you don’t, then we bet you recognize the name Superlift. About 15 years ago Superlift carried Black Diamond suspension products for hardcore off-road use. That included a coil conversion for YJ and CJ and also leaf-spring lifts just about everyone wanted. Since then Superlift has gone through some changes, but with new ownership, Truck Hero, the Superlift and Black Diamond Suspension is back. To show off these reborn components, Superlift brought a JL called Black Diamond to SEMA complete with a 4-inch-lift long-arm suspension, King coilovers, and bypass shocks with about 14 inches of travel. This thing looks like it’s ready for a fun weekend—or weeklong trip to the Hammers. Can we drive? Info: Superlift, 800.551.4955, superlift.com

    The Direction Things Are Head’d

    Honestly we have no idea if this cylinder head for an early Willys/Kaiser 134ci Go Devil L-head is a new product from Omix-ADA or not, but if it isn’t and we somehow missed it, we think it’s cool enough to share at this point. We’re not sure if flatfenders are experiencing a resurgence in popularity or if they have just always been really cool (all right, we do know they have always been cool), but they are definitely hot now. Quality parts for these old Jeeps, especially engine parts, have been getting harder and harder to find. That’s because the newest version of the engine is at its latest from the late 1950s and into the mid 1960s. When you can find them, cylinder heads for the Go Devil are commonly cracked and worn beyond use. Omix-ADA has invested in retooling this part and claims that the part is an exact reproduction of the original. This includes the markings for the proper firing order in the casting and the Willys logo. Sounds good to us—we’ll take two. Info: Omix-ADA, 770.614.6101, omix-ada.com

    Rare Beef to Steer

    We used a Rare Parts tie rod and drag link intended for a Jeep JK on our 2018 Ultimate Adventure vehicle, the Derange Rover, and were nothing but impressed with these intelligently designed and massive steering parts. The materials are beefy, and the tie-rod ends use cool replaceable modular cartridges that can be swapped for different size tapers or flipped for different steering designs (such as switching to over-the-knuckle steering) A stop at the Rare Parts booth at SEMA 2018 showed us that the innovation hasn’t stopped. One item that Rare Parts is working on is JL-spec cartridges for Rare Parts’ FabSeries steering. While not new for the company, these heavy-duty tie-rod assemblies for GM trucks were on display as seen in the photo. They dwarf the factory pinky-sized tie-rod ends that GM seems to love on its 4x4 trucks from 1/2- to 1-ton. These factory parts (bottom in photo) bend easily when loaded with big tires off-road (check YouTube). The Rare Parts products are massive in comparison and are almost twice as strong in compression. These parts are accompanied by Rare Parts’ Extreme-Duty Pitman Arms, Idler Arms, and Idler Arm Brackets. Rare Parts also teased us with its MiniFab series, which would fit perfectly in older Jeeps and other 4x4s where the FabSeries parts just physically won’t fit. Info: Rare Parts, 800.621.2005, rareparts.com

    Is Chewbaca a Sasquatch?

    In 2017 we used Yeti steering parts (a tie rod and a drag link) from Steer Smarts that were intended for a JK on our official 2017 Ultimate Adventure build, the UACJ-6D. We were impressed with the parts. These big beefy steering parts stood (and are still standing) up to heavy use on some of the hardest trails in the country. This year at SEMA, Steer Smarts showed off its Jeep Wrangler JK/JL aluminum Yeti XD Tie Rod and the Steer Smarts Yeti Rear Track Bar for JK. The tie rod features a no-flop reverse-pin ball joint technology, 30mm ball joints with steel bearings, a billet aluminum adjuster sleeve, heat-treated medium carbon steel ball studs, e-coated and epoxy powdercoated parts, custom clamps, and a special coated taper sleeve and washer to prevent galvanic corrosion. The rear track bar is made in the USA of forged steel, is also E-coated and epoxy powdercoated, is adjustable for up to 6 inches of lift, has upgradable urethane inserts, and is engineered to fit without interference from other chassis components. Info: Steer Smarts, 734.748.5603, steersmarts.com

    Ready for Trails

    TrailReady wheels have been a mainstay in the hardcore beadlock arena for a long time. We’ve bashed and beaten on the company’s wheels for years without issue, and TrailReady’s bumper division makes bumpers we’ve tried to smash a time or two also. When we asked what was new for SEMA 2018, the company didn’t divulge much. In bumperland the company had new Base and Pre-Runner Front Bumpers for JL. And when it comes to wheels, a timeless classic need not change much. What is new for TrailReady beadlocks at SEMA 2018 was a new graphite powdercoat option. Info: TrailReady, 425.353.6776, trailready.com

    Bash & Rash

    TeraFlex had a passel and a half of new products at SEMA 2018. We will try to hit the high spots in the space we have here. Our favorite new product is this good-looking new Nomad wheel for newer Jeep Wranglers. This cast-aluminum alloy wheel features TeraFlex’s proprietary new Air Deflator Kit, which is said to allow you to quickly air down to any preset pressure above 10 psi. That’s cool, but what we really like are the looks and that black polyethylene thermoplastic bash ring on the rim of the wheel. The wheel’s powdercoating has UV inhibitors and, along with the bash ring, protects the wheel from sun, rock, and other trail damage. The 17x8.5 wheel is available with 4 1/4-inch backspacing—perfect for the JK and JL—and can be ordered in both 5-on-5 as well as 8-on-6 1/2 bolt patterns. Also new from TeraFlex was an applications for Falcon shocks for the JL; 2-inch lift Falcon shocks for 2005 and later Toyota Tacoma and 2010 4Runner; and Falcon shocks for 4-6-inch lifted 2015+ Ford F-150s. The Alpine and Sport suspension lifts are for JK and JL. Delta brake kits are for the JK/JL. TeraFlex also had new control arm bushings. Info: TeraFlex, 801.713.3314, teraflex.com


    If you want control of communications and perfect reception, you would have found something special from Daystar at SEMA 2018. Daystar had its GMRS Radio with mount for the JK and JK Unlimited. The radio itself is water, dirt, mud, and shock resistant and comes with a custom, easy-to-use mount for your JK. The radio mounts between the sun visors to the sports bar and fits both soft- and hardtop Jeeps. The unit is a 25-watt 30-channel VHF radio that can transmit and receive up to 13 miles away. The kit from Daystar not only comes with the radio, the easy mount (which has four Carling switches integrated), the antenna, the antenna mount, and the wiring but also comes with a 5-watt handheld unit for your buddy who doesn’t have a radio in his rig or for spotters to use on the tougher lines. All in all, a pretty cool addition to any Jeep. We bet our crafty readers could make the mount fit a bunch more 4x4s. Also on hand at Daystar’s SEMA booth was the coolest car at SEMA 2018: the Cactus Runner, a Dodge Challenger with a Hemi, 35-inch tires, and four-wheel drive. Info: Daystar, 800.595.7659, daystarweb.com

    Fender Flair

    We are longtime fans of the flexible fenders from Modern Classic Enterprises. They look good, offer gobs more clearance for big tires, are made of lightweight TPO plastic in the USA. Plus they’re are easy to install and won’t damage the body of your JK or TJ when the fenders hit something on the trail (most aftermarket fenders are made of material that is much heavier than the sheetmetal to which they attach). One thing that wasn’t much fun when it came to installing the MCE flares on a JK was having to trim the inner fenderwell. That should make the install of MCE’s JK fenders comically simple and fast. The inner fenders come in an attractive aluminum that can be painted black if you want to hide them or some other color if you want to accentuate them. MCE also teased us with details about new JL fenders that haven’t been released yet. We can’t wait to see what the company comes up with. Info: MCE, 206.859.9020, mcefenders.com

    Stack ’n’ Flex

    Browsing the SEMA new products hall, we came across this display from Energy Suspension that showed off all the new Rock-Flex technology for the 2018 and later JL Wrangler. This includes the company’s adjustable progressive stackable bumpstops, 1 1/2- to 2-inch adjustable coil spring spacer lift, replacement control arm bushings, and Caster Correction Bushing Kit. The suspension coil spacers and bumpstops are stackable so you can fine-tune your suspension for ride characteristics and tire clearance on compression. Definitely some pretty cool ideas here! Perhaps the best part is it’s all made in America. Info: Energy Suspension, 888.913.6374, energysuspension.com

    Grab the Kitchen

    Space is usually at a premium when you’re overlanding, but the new Trail Kitchen by MORyde International Inc. is a compact, modular bolt-in kitchen system that offers over 5 1/2 square feet of counter space and a drawer with 300 ci of storage. It fits in the back of the Jeep Wrangler, perfect for tailgating or off-road adventures. The Trail Kitchen includes a sliding tray and a collapsible table, and the product is said to be easy to install and quick to remove. It accommodates the most popular freezer-fridges from Dometic, ARB, and others. Molle Grid and Fold-Out Counter add-ons are also available for the Trail Kitchen. This product will get you more prepared for that next camping or overlanding trip—it’s everything and the kitchen sink. Info: MORyde International Inc., 574.293.1581, morryde.com

    FADless, Part 2

    With Dana on board as the Official Crate Axle sponsor of Ultimate Adventure for the past two years, we’ve gotten to know the Ultimate Dana 60 very well. Not surprisingly for SEMA 2018, Dana adjusted the control arm mounts and coil brackets to add an Ultimate Dana 60 front and rear part number for the JL. Also on hand was the company’s Ultimate Dana 44 AdvanTEK front axle for the Jeep Wrangler JL. This axle features an upgraded housing and axletubes. Last but not least (and what we really want to talk about) is news from Dana about its line of Spicer Extreme Universal Joints for severe off-road applications. The joints have a redesigned journal cross made of 4340 chromoly steel with an enlarged trunion diameter for added strength. The parts are intended as a pairing for extreme off-road enthusiasts who are pushing what their Dana 30, 44, and 60 axles can do and are perfect for use with chromoly axles. They include full-circle snap rings and needleless bearing caps that are sealed with an internal O-ring. They come with a high-grade antiseize lubricant. The caps have provisions for grease fittings. Info: Dana, danaaftermarket.com

    Well, Duh!

    Sometimes a new product makes so much sense that it’s hard to believe it didn’t exist before. That’s the feeling we got when we saw the Flex-Wave electric fan (patent pending). The wavy or serrated fan blade creates greater airflow, is more efficient, and is quieter than traditional S-blade and straight-blade designs because of the unique way the blade cuts through the air. Using advanced computational fluid dynamics software, the Flex-A-Lite engineers developed a blade consisting of an aerodynamic profile flowing through a sine-wave path. The design was then prototyped and tested in a wind tunnel to verify increased airflow and improved efficiency. Pretty cool when they use rocket doctor stuff to cool your engine! Info: Flex-A-Lite, 800.851.1510, flex-a-lite.com

    Coil Obsession

    We admit it: We occasionally geek out on things. At SEMA 2018 we got to chatting with Skyjacker president Lonnie McCurry Jr. about his company’s new JL suspension systems (available in dual spring rates of 1 to 1 1/2 inches, 2 to 2 1/2 inches, and 3 1/2 to 4 inches, as well as a 2 1/2-inch coil spacer lift). The focus of these new suspension systems are Skyjacker’s dual-rate long-travel coils. They offer a two-spring-rate soft ride on the highway and firmer coils to soften the blow of big bumps. The soft ride rate also allows for more droop travel than other coils, letting your Jeep keep its tires on the ground better while on the trail. These kits are also compliant with regulations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS), meaning these suspensions won’t effect the Jeep’s electronic stability controls. McCurry has been so happy with the testing of these dual-rate long-travel coils that he added them to the suspension systems for Jeep JK and plans to develop and test them for TJ Wranglers and XJ Cherokees. Info: Skyjacker Suspensions, 318.388.0816, skyjacker.com

    TIG & MIG With Miller

    Heck, we have asked, so we aren’t surprised to hear that Miller Electric’s other customers have also asked for a multiprocess welder with AC TIG capabilities. The company listened. The Multimatic 220 AC/DC is the versatile, all-in-one solution that Miller knows its customers need, a more efficient welder to take on more projects. This welder features QuickTech technology that automatically determines the correct polarity and switches to the right process when the user hits the trigger or taps the foot control. The technology also allows a MIG gun and TIG torch to be connected at the same time. In addition, the Multimatic 220 AC/DC features two shielding gas connections so both MIG and TIG gases can be attached simultaneously. Also, this welder is a bantamweight at 56 pounds—perfect for that remote job where portability is key. The unit can be used at both 120- or 240-volt outlets. Nice! Info: Miller Electric, 920.734.9821, millerwelds.com