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Building a Jeep on a Budget

$3k, 3 Day JK: Weekend Wrangler Building

Pete TrasborgPhotographerSusan MajichWriter

From the factory, there are few vehicles as capable as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Factory lockers, 3.73:1 or 4.10:1 gear ratios in the differentials, a 4:1 ratio transfer case, and an electronically disconnected swaybar. That doesn’t mean that it can’t do with some improvement however. Depending on how you use your vehicle, the suspension, bumpers, armor, wheels, and tires are just a few of the things that you might consider changing. If you’ve been reading Jp for more than a few months, then you’re probably familiar with our $3K, 3 Day projects. The premise is that you don’t need a huge budget, or a shop, to outfit your Jeep. You can do just about all of this with basic hand tools in your driveway, over a weekend. Maybe even with a few friends, bribed with some adult beverages, to help things along.

When we got a hold of our ’11 JK, it was completely stock. The only mods were a set of 1 1⁄2-inch wheel spacers from Poison Spyder Customs to help fit the 285/70R17 BFG KO all-terrain tires and a scrap-metal front winch bumper. The tires rubbed the fenders pretty badly on anything larger than a speed bump, and the bumper—well, the bumper was built on a bored Saturday out of scrap metal. What can we say? When you have no money to go out wheeling but you do have a welder and a pile of steel lying around, what are you supposed to do to keep yourself entertained? Ugly or not, it still had to be more fun to work on then that list of honey-dos.

Since our JK already had decent tires for its intended use, we decided that the bumpers and suspension would be where we concentrated our efforts. This JK gets used as a daily commuter as well as a weekend toy. We wanted to keep our focus on quality over quantity. Sure, we could have spread the budget out a bit more, but then those long freeway commutes wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable. Since we already had the Rubicon’s factory rock rails on the sides, the decision was made to stick with them for the time being. A front winch bumper, and a rear bumper with tow points, was where the focus needed to be.

Budget Breakdown
When you cut corners you will never be happy with your decisions and end up spending money over and over again. We know because we’ve all done it. The parts we chose here are definitely not the cheapest around. Like previously stated, we wanted to go for quality over quantity. Rock Krawlers suspension kits definitely meet the quality part of that. We probably could have saved a few dollars by using less expensive shocks, but we didn’t want to compromise the ride. That said, if you can be patient, you can run across some screaming sales on occasion. After having put some miles on since the install, we can definitely say it was worth the wait to watch for a sale. The suspension performs amazingly, and the bumpers look great. We did go over our budget by $59.98, but we feel that the increase in performance over less expensive parts is worth that small amount.

Rock Krawler Suspension 1 1⁄2-inch Max Travel Stage-2 kit $1,999.99
GenRight Off Road Stubby Aluminum Front Bumper $659.99
GenRight Off Road Fusion JK Stubby Aluminum Rear Bumper $399.00
Total $3,059.98