Rusty’s Bumpers & Rigid LEDs Meet Our Rubicon LJ
Beefy bumpers and LED lighting can protect your Jeep
One can't really call the stock Wrangler TJ/LJ bumpers great looking. They're essentially a stick of steel channel capped with some bulbous plastic ends that age and fade in the sunlight. Our ’06 Rubicon LJ still held the factory bumpers, so the rig was in need of some proper front and rear armor.
We turned to Rusty’s Off-Road for some dirt-worthy bumpers. They offer several bumper types and sizes for Wranglers and specifically a set to fit the TJ LJ Wrangler. We opted for Rusty’s front and rear Trail Bumpers. They're built from 3/16-inch-thick CNC-formed steel plate right here in the U.S.A.
The front bumper is available in 44- and 54-inch widths, depending on how much tire exposure you want. They're also available with the option of a prerunner- or stinger-style tube hoop. A set of D-ring mounts is included for recovery points. The rear bumper is similar to the front and includes a 2-inch hitch receiver, plus two D-ring mounts. Both bumpers come with a high-gloss black powdercoat finish.
There are a lot of Jeep bumpers on the market, and many are just poor attempts at making a truly functional bumper that also looks good. The Rusty's bumpers offer both function and aesthetics. When looking for bumpers, we prefer they be tucked up tight to the body to maximize ground clearance with tapered corners that still offer protection. These bumpers do just that, and the thick steel plate is beefy enough to withstand a good pounding.
After installing a set of flush-mount LED taillights, we no longer had the factory backup lights on the Wrangler. We decided the Rusty's rear bumper would offer a great location for a set of Rigid Industries SR-Q flush-mount backup lights. These come in a kit that includes two LED lights and a 25-foot wiring harness. The small LED lights throw a very generous 60-degree lighting pattern through diffused lenses. Here’s what it took and how they worked out.
The bumpers arrived very well packed. Each was wrapped in plastic, then held captive in a box with expanded foam. Despite any rough handling from the delivery person, the bumpers arrived in great shape. Up front, we opted for the addition of the prerunner hoop to the baseline bumper. There's also room behind the hoop to fit a winch, and Rusty's offers a compatible winch plate.
The quality of the CNC bending, welding, and finish was impressive. We like the fact there's now a shackle recovery point at four locations on the Jeep. The powdercoat was excellent, as well. Pictured is one of those tapered ends we referred to.
Looking at the backside of the bumpers you can get a better idea of their construction. The front bumper is largely hollow but provides good strength with the 3/16-inch plate without being overly heavy. The rear uses additional plating and mounting points to provide towing capacity through the 2-inch receiver.
Here's a look at the back of the hitch receiver. It's fully boxed in the bumper. We've seen bumpers on the market that warn against using their receiver hitch for towing. Rusty's Trail bumper is rated to tow 3,000 poundds. A hitch receiver is also an option on the front bumpers.
The front bumper install was quick and easy using the six factory bolts from the original bumper. We went with the 44-inch wide bumper leaving the tires fully exposed, but Rusty's also offers a wider 54-inch version.
The stock rear bumper is held in place with six bolts. The Rusty's bumper allows you to use 10 bolts. As such, we drilled four additional holes in the rear crossmember to use all the mounting areas on the new bumper.
The Rigid Industries SR-Q light kit is quite complete, including the full harness, relay, and dash switch. The switch allows for three lighting modes: off, manual on, or synced with the factory reverse light wiring. We especially like the options for different operation modes.
We used the cutting pattern provided with the Rigid Industries kit, and cut our holes using a jig saw after masking the area generously with some duct tape. A 17 TPI bi-metal blade was used to slowly cut the 3/16-inch-thick steel plate.
The Rigid Industries LEDs dropped neatly into the bumper with a matching gasket. The cast aluminum housings protrude rearward only 1/4 inch.
We mounted the rear bumper using the two factory bolts from below and added one washer under the bumper to drop it a bit. This allowed the 33-inch tire to just touch the top of the bumper when the carrier was closed up against the tailgate. We slotted the rest of the rear bolt holes in the frame crossmember and installed the eight bolts provided by Rusty's. If you're running a larger tire, you'll need to do something else to get the tire to clear the bumper.
The Rigid Industries SR-Q lights fit cleanly in the bumper, and the resulting beam pattern is excellent. The two SR-Qs threw an extremely bright pattern behind the Jeep and broad illumination a good distance back.