Jeep Wranglers are known for their off-road capabilities,-the simplistic design, tough underbody and solid axles allow owners to venture off the paved path into tougher terrain. Although Wranglers are very capable from the factory, they can be improved, opening the door to a world of aftermarket parts. New owners can be overwhelmed as they try to navigate the tremendous variety of options available, this article will help guide you through the process, with four modification phases.
Here Are Your First Steps
Until now, maybe you’ve ventured out to open fields or a relatively flat sandy beach. If so, one of the first areas to tackle is underbody protection. The differential covers are the lowest contact point for a Wrangler, as a result these small pumpkin shaped faces take the brunt of an exposed tree trunk or rock that you might not see or avoid while on the trail.
Replacing these covers with a heavier gauge alternative from manufacturers like ARB will help the Jeep absorb and get past the obstacle with minimal damage. In addition, replacing thin factory skid plates with a thicker alternative will also further protect the Jeep’s underbody, allowing you to cross unpaved terrain safely.
While on the trail, clearance and articulation are the next important phase to tackle. In some cases a simple leveling kit like the TeraFlex system, will offer an additional 1-2” of ground clearance. Often that small increase in height is enough to provide the Jeep with enough underbody clearance or articulation to get past simple obstacles or absorb varying terrain dips in sandy/muddy areas.
Bigger Tires = Easier Obstacles
Increasing your ground clearance with a new suspension can be enough to clear most of your Jeep’s underbody from potential damage, but the factory tire sizes will maintain the axles at the same factory height. The only way to increase the ground clearance for the axles is entering into the third phase of modification, larger tires.
By increasing the size of the tires, you’re also elevating the overall height of the Jeep itself and providing a great increase in ground clearance. The first nominal increase to a 33” tire will often require minimal changes to the vehicle.
Upgrading to a 35” tire will require at least a 2.5” lift, which should include new control arms to correct drivetrain geometry. Finally, a 37” and beyond tire increase, will require a 4”+ lift and complete replacement of the control arms and drive shafts. Each subsequent increase in tire size, results in a substantial overhaul of most suspension and steering components.
Adding The Supporting Mods
Once the preliminary phases are completed, the last phase of modification involves accessorizing your Jeep with modifications that are specific to the terrain you might encounter. For example, if you plan on doing an extensive amount of water crossing, installing an aftermarket snorkel will help elevate the air intake to prevent the engine from taking on water and causing significant damage. Kits like the Rugged Ridge snorkel system provide a great modular approach to fit your specific needs.
Aftermarket steel bumpers provide a higher level of protection, while also allowing better tire clearance. Ranging from full-width replacements to short stubby options like the ARB stubby, allows you to choose the right amount of coverage and additional weight for your particular needs, taking note of possible exposed areas along the way.
Aftermarket winches can also prove to be an extremely valuable accessory while on the trail. Allowing you to extract your Jeep if you’re stuck in mud, water, or sand. There are a variety of options available, winches like the Engo 9,000lb winch provide a nice entry level choice that fits most needs.
As stated in the beginning, the world of Jeep modification can be overwhelming, the varying phases discussed in this article can provide a good starting point and resource for modifications that would help in most off-road situations. It’s important to remember that individual requirements should drive most decisions. One owner’s terrain obstacles might differ from another’s, so you should always maintain your specific needs in mind when modifying your jeep.
Have you made any of these mods to your rig yet? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!