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  4. Keep Your JK: Part 2, Wheels, Tires, Lights, and Accessories

Keep Your JK: Part 2, Wheels, Tires, Lights, and Accessories

Keep Your JK

Sean P. HolmanPhotographer, Writer

In Part 1, we focused on upgrading our ’12 Wrangler JK with new American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) bumpers, giving our Jeep a fresh look with expanded utility. In this installment, we will focus on wheels, tires, lights, and accessories that add function and style to our rig. Once again, we turned to our friends at American Overland Expedition in Laguna Niguel, California, to aid us with the install.

For wheels, we decided to go with AEV’s sexy new 17x8.5 Borah DualSport. This extremely versatile JK-specific wheel features a backspacing of 4.59 inches to keep the tires in the stock wheelwells, is hub-centric, comes in several different finishes, and is made strong to resist cracking or bending, as evidenced by AEV’s lifetime structural warranty. These wheels feature recessed valve stems and are compatible with factory TPMS sensors. Designed with adaptability in mind, the same Borah wheel can be run with a DOT-compliant beadlock ring, a bolt-on and replaceable protection ring, or simply naked for those who want a cleaner look.

On this build we went with the Galactic Black (a very dark metallic gray) version with a machined face, but a truer-black Onyx Black is also available. We also chose the protection ring option. These aluminum rings are sacrificial and easily replaced, allowing your wheels to stay damage-free while absorbing all the impacts and rash from the trail.

We wrapped our Borah wheels with one of our favorite all-around tires, the tried-and-true BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 in the 37x12.5R17 size. With exceptional road manners, great traction, impressive wear characteristics, quiet ride, and good performance in snow and rain, these tires have the ability to get through some tough terrain unscathed. The three-ply sidewall KO2 is a rugged, durable, and a safe bet for anyone spending time on the trail with his or her daily driver.

As noted in Part 1, we also added AEV’s 10-gallon fuel caddy, as well as the in-bumper water tanks. These auxiliary tanks allow us to carry 10 gallons of fuel and 4.8 gallons of potable water. With the fuel tank mounted close to the body and the water tanks mounted low, they have less of an effect on the handling of the Jeep when they are filled. The tire carrier is also designed to hold a shovel, and you can add an accessory Hi-Lift jack mount as well.

Turning our attention to lights, we decided to buck the lightbar trend and drop the existing lightbar from the front of our Jeep, instead leaning on J.W. Speaker for a set of four 4418 3.5-inch LED cube lights. These compact lights are housed in a lightweight but robust die-cast aluminum housing; they put out a tremendous amount of light for their size, cutting through the darkness with 2,450 raw lumens each. We chose the flood pattern, but trapezoidal and spot patterns are also available, and the lights are sealed to an IP69K rating, meaning they should have no problem putting up with the harsh environment some might find their Jeep in. Using J.W. Speaker’s A-pillar mounting brackets and the AEV front bumper light brackets, mounting the 4418s was a breeze.

In the rear, we utilized AEV’s tire carrier mast to mount a single J.W. Speaker 4415 LED work light. The trapezoid beam pattern gives us better visibility whether we are backing up or setting up camp after sunset.

Speaking of lighting, it always bugged us that our Jeep was fully outfitted with the entire J.W. Speaker line of LED lighting, including headlights, driving lights, and taillights, yet the ugly stock incandescent amber turn signals remained. We recently discovered that J.W. Speaker now offers LED replacement 239 J2 turn signals, so we took this opportunity to swap out our stockers for some stealthy smoked models. Now our Jeep lighting is complete, with everything now illuminating with matching LEDs.

Lastly, we had a pair of Optima YellowTop D34/78 batteries that were starting to show signs of tiring out after a six-year run. Having such a great experience with this setup, we decided to again go with dual Optima YellowTops for all our electrical needs. Each battery puts out 750CCA and 870CA. A Painless Performance dual-battery management system ensures our batteries are always topped off and we always have enough reserve to start the Jeep.

Overall, we are extremely pleased with how the Jeep updates came out. In Part 3, we’ll share the final upgrade that we think will give us the ultimate multiuse JK. So far, we look forward to commuting to work just as much as hitting an unknown trail, and we are ready for any last-minute trips that come our way.