Okay, so 4Wheelparts had a big sale, and I bought a Smittybilt SRC front bumper, and their Rockcrawler rear bumper with tire carrier and shackles or d-rings.
I have wanted a Smittybilt SRC front bumper since I first saw them. I love it. It installed easily (with grade 8 hardware my friend already had), and the finish and welds are great. It is a quality piece, and I believe it will hold up to a beating.
The Smittybilt Rockcrawler rear bumper with tire carrier has a nice finish, and is growing on me as well. The directions for it were lacking a bit (it actually came with two photocopied and pieced together sets of vague directions), and the hardware that came with the bumper was mostly wrong (diameter and length), and poorly machined (improperly machined threads).
We started this morning at nine with a trip to Tractor Supply, Advance Auto, Sears, and Lowe's for parts and grade 8 hardware to put the rear bumper on. We began removing the old bumper and tire carrier at about 12:30. We finished installing the bumper at about seven this evening...
It is not an easy, one person, home tool shed type job for certain! Thankfully, I had someone to help me and we both had access to some specialized tools to complete the job. We had to use a thread repair kit to clean the threads inside the mounting brackets on the bumper as they were poorly cut, and were full of powder coating. We also used the same kit to clean up threads on a few kit supplied grade 5 bolts that we could not find grade 8 substitutes for at the stores.
The most aggravating part of the job was attempting to clear the body seam above the rear frame to get the extra support brackets in the proper position. I do not have a body lift on my Jeep, so this job was a booger. We took the four rear body mounts off, and were unable to "bend" the body seam with vise grips as the directions stated. We ultimately used my friend's air chisel to cut notches in the seam and fold it back, or cut it out of the way.
We then had to drill four extra holes in the rear member to mount the inside four mounting bolts. We made a template out of paper, and accomplished this task. The four extra holes were for mounting bolts that went through thick metal backing plates to provide extra support for the d-rings. The gas tank also had to be dropped down for access to these bolts.
In total, there were 16 bolts involved to mount that bumper; it should be fairly strong. There are eight grade 8 bolts with metal backing plates holding the bumper to the main frame. There are four grade 5 bolts holding the bumper to the extra support brackets, and two grade 5 bolts holding the support brackets to the frame sides. We used two of the original factory bolts to hold the bottom brackets on the bumper to the frame. If we had not cleaned up the threads with the thread repair kit, we would have never got the bumper mounted.
The finished product is what appears to be one heavy duty, thick metal bumper (much stronger than factory), with strong mounts. We then moved on to the tire carrier. We mounted the tire carrier and discovered that there is a major design flaw with this bumper system (unless you only open your tailgate to 90 degrees). The grease fitting for the tire carrier spindle is sitting right in the path of the lower tailgate hinge, and it is only a matter of time before I forget and open the gate too far and knock off the grease fitting. The lower hinge actually makes contact with the fitting. Anyone know of a fix for this issue??
We then removed the spring from the latch assembly, and inserted a make shift spacer to increase the tension on the spring as we have heard numerous reports of the tire carrier unlocking itself while traveling down the trail or highway. A few light strokes with a file on the delrin stop piece near the latch aided in fixing another problem we had with the latch not properly securing the tire carrier.
We had to use an angle grinder to remove some metal from the top of the bracket that mounts the tire carrier to the spindle as well due to the fact that it also made contact with the lower tailgate hinge. This was an easy fix with the right tools.
We finally got the tire carrier mounted, and the 33" spare nestled atop. It looks good, does not rattle, and rides good so far.
Tomorrow, I have to stop by Autozone and buy a new c-clip to place over the spindle as we broke the one in the kit trying to get it to properly seat in the groove on the spindle...
I am also going to try to lay out a new third taillight, and will probably seek a new grease fitting solution as well...
Overall, I think the bumper is tough as nails, and is very securely mounted. The finish looks good, and the tire carrier seems to work okay. It will be interesting to see how it holds up. I like the look of the unit, and I like the way it rides. I am thoroughly impressed with the thickness of the steel, the welds, and the mounting system.
My concern is that this product is not properly engineered from the manufacturer as the mounting hardware is low quality, the threads have to be cleaned up, holes in backing plates have to be drilled out to proper size, parts have to be ground to fit or clear, and the grease fitting is just waiting to be beheaded by the tailgate hinge.
Again, this is not a beginner's job, and you need to get a friend to help out with this install; you also need access to specialized tools to make this job easier!! Do your homework on the specific problems with this install before jumping into it! I think the bumper system is quality, but it is a frustrating install that will test your vocabulary!
I never would have gotten the bumper on by myself for certain.