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richsipe 12-17-2012 03:55 PM

My 2000 TJ REBuild Thread - From Awesome to Totalled to Awesomer
A TJ and A Date with an Alder - How Not to Park Your Jeep

The Prelude

This story begins happily enough. I bought a fairly built yellow 2000 TJ Sport with 130K miles in May of this year. I upgraded from a 1988 Suzuki Samurai so driving around the Jeep was awesome and I was instantly hooked (This is an important plot point to remember later!). I was in the process of getting some of the issues ironed out and performing so other upgrades but over all the jeep was pretty sweet.

Jeep Pre Accident

This is where the story takes a sad turn. I am a bow hunter and decided to take my Jeep up to my cabin up in the woods of Washington State for a hunting weekend - Usually I take my Ram CTD 2500 as its a bit easier to put an elk in there than in my back seat so this was my inaugural hunting trip in the Jeep. My wife also drove up separately that weekend as she had to be at Church Sunday AM and I was going to keep hunting. Around 5:30 am we got the kids all ready to go and went up the huge hill on our property to the gate (our cabin is literally on the side of a mountain). My wife was in front and I parked the jeep running - with the E-Brake on (this is important - as we shall see) so I could run up front and open the gate for her (chivalry is not dead). As I was heading to the gate our neighbor drove up to go in the gate that secures both our lands. He is a super nice guy and also very chatty so we spent about 10 minutes chatting at the gate.

richsipe 12-17-2012 03:56 PM

The Accident
The Accident

Now to set the stage: My jeep had been idling with the e-brake on on the hill for about 10 minutes, my wife was in her car, my neighbor was driving truck in the gate and I waved by and said good by to my wife as she was heading to church out the gate. Thats when I looked back to see that my Jeep had gotten tired of waiting for so long and decided to head back down the hill on its own - without me in the driver's seat! I sprinted as fast as I could down after it - not sure really what I was hoping to do. Well if you have ever had a run away vehicle on a big hill you know that they pick up speed CRAZY fast. I was only able to catch the bar on the front of my bumper and kind of give it a yank. Sadly I am not superman - yet - so I had no chance of stoping a 4,000LB jeep from speeding down a hill. What I was able to luckily do, though, was bump it enough to cause the steering to turn and the jeep to take a hard turn and head down into the ditch…where it rammed very loudly and strongly into an alder tree. I actually consider this a very lucky turn as had it continued down the hill it would have not been able to make the turn and gone over a 50-100 foot cliff (remember seriously on the side of a mountain).

Jeep Accident
The tree:

Jeep Accident Damage

Jeep Accident Damage Close Up

Jeep Accident Damage Side

Accident Damage Bumper

Good news - if there is any - is that it is a Jeep after all so I threw it (still running after all) into 4WD and just wheeled it out of the ditch / cliff / hill and back unto the road. Then I cried … seriously. It was pretty badly damaged but it drove so I took some pictures and drove it home where the real fun began.

richsipe 12-17-2012 03:57 PM

The Aftermath
The Aftermath

After I got home I field an Insurance claim (had to do again I wouldn't have done this - read on because if you are in this situation hopefully this may help you). I contacted USAA (heretofore the best Insurance company on the planet -member because my dad was a 20yr career military man). The next day I took the Jeep over to a local body shop specializing in insurance body work where the guy told me not to waste my time it was totaled. This was super shocking to me. There was some damage to the tailgate, bumper, and some side quarter panel damage but the tub looked good and no frame damage. I then took it to the insurance recommend shop just to see what it would be. They first estimated the damage at around 6K! OUCH. This was painful but as the Jeep booked out at 9K I figured it still would be repaired - thats why you have insurance right?

A Word on Jeep Values for Insurance Purposes and how to Protect Yourself

This event was a huge education for me. I imagine this is similar for trade in value. I found out that all of my upgrades (LOTS) are worth absolutely nothing. The only thing worth any more on my jeep was the hard top I had recently bought that thankful that it WASN'T on there. The value is also not the replacement value it is just the general value they place on it - you have no say. They booked my 2000 TJ with 130,000 miles, hard top, and TONS of upgrades at around $9,000. A quick craigslist search showed a stock TJ around my same miles running about 10-13K and a built one running nearly 15K. OUCH - this just got really expensive.

Back to getting screwed …

Still believing that the Jeep would be repaired as I was at less than 70% repair value for the jeep I wasn't too concerned. That is until I leaded that they had totaled the jeep. I argued with three different levels of people at USAA and got it sent to a speciality group who then totaled it again - UGH. I really was mad and confused. I then found out that USAA had done a different appraisal and knocked up the repair cost to about 9K which would obviously total it. I was livid with them and the shop who did the original estimate - being off $2,500 on an estimate. That is when I called the shop and got someone there who actually helped quite a bit - Jeep still totaled … but he helped me understand the process. The issue with my Jeep was that it booked out at 9K BUT - and here is the huge kick in the nuts - it had a salvage value of 4K BECAUSE of all of the upgrades!!! So anything of a repair over around 4-5K would total it because the insurance company would come out ahead that way - IE spending the least amount of money. Keep in mind I bought a car back from salvage once before and it cost me $47.95 - 1992 Ford Escort that I put a junk yard bumper and hood on and drove for years afterwards.

That is right I was doubly screwed by having such an upgraded jeep - I didn't get the money for the upgrades and they counted against me for totaling value. With all of the parts etc a salvage yard had offered 4K cash for my "totaled" Jeep TJ. Not that I wouldn't ever have a tricked out Jeep but its still brutal to know the outcome. I did find out that I could have upgraded my insurance to cover the "accessories" so for all you out there with a heavily modified vehicle contact your insurance ASAP and see if you can get your coverage upgraded - It may cost you a bit a month but sure it will be worth it.

The other really really helpful thing my chat with the auto body guy did was lead me down the path I ended up going down to repair my Jeep. Turns out he is a Jeep guy and turned me onto the Xtreme 4WD show and Crusher Corners. My options here were either to get 9K cash and try and find another Jeep (which I already found out was not going to be as nice as mine) or take 5K in cash (value minus salvage) and do what I would with the Jeep and have a Salvage Branded Title for evermore.

Jeep Returns from the Ashes …

My decision was probably more emotionally driven than rational but I decided to take the 5K and my Jeep now with a salvaged title. I have enough mechanical skills and friends with skills that I figured I could give it a go, plus the jeep still drove fine - just with the spare tire through the back of the jeep and no usable back seat.

Since this post is already a book and there is ton to talk about - like how not to park a Jeep - and insurance lessons learned this is continued in a happier post about building the Jeep back and better than ever.

richsipe 12-17-2012 03:58 PM

Back from the Dead
Bring a Jeep Back From the a Total Loss - The Continuation of a Date With an Alder

Just a quick recap: My Jeep drove unmanned into an Alder at my property when the parking brake failed : It was totaled by the insurance company. I bought it back totaled for way to much money. Now I had a "totaled" jeep with a salvaged title I needed to repair.

Jeep Accident Gallery

Being a bit of a closet redneck - Technology Executive by trade … I decided to go old school to start the repairs.

The first thing I needed to do was get the tire and rack out of the back of my Jeep and get the tailgate pulled out. That and see if my MTX sub was destroyed :) (it took a brunt of the impacts the tailgate collapsed in). To me this called for a come-along and some redneck ingenuity. I think this picture tells the tail.

I hooked up the front of the Jeep to my Dodge Ram 2500 to prevent it from moving (the Ram was blocked off too) and then hooked a strap to the tailgate and the come-along to a tree and started yanking. This took a surprising amount of force and I quickly changed to a chain from a strap (I know I know always a better idea but more unwieldy). It actually went pretty well and I was able to pull out much of the damage and get the tailgate and rack off of the jeep. It has pushed in the tire so far into the truck that the tree also struck the bumper and dented it … that means rear end was shoved in the width of a 33x12.50 tire.

After a bit of paint - turns out they don't paint under the hinges from the factory - and a tailgate made out of 3/4" ply and spray paint (yep). I had a fairly OK looking Jeep again all for $0

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:00 PM

Starting the Rebuild
Now onto the increased awesomeness!! Starting the Rebuild

I did a ton of research after talking to the repair guy about crusher corners to pick the right ones for me. I looked at all the main suppliers including GenRight and Smittybilt but eventually decided on the Poison Spyder Customs Crusher Corners. Initially I was leaning toward the cheaper Smitybilt corners but really felt like the quality of the Poison Spyder corners was well worth the extra money. More on this in a bit.

My other challenge was to replace the tailgate. A quick craigslist search lead me to a 2000 TJ black tailgate for $150. I knew I needed the hinges and it looked like he may have them at first so I waited to pull the trigger until he could check - turned out to be a great call. I checked around for replacement hinges and at least what I could find were like $150!! I am sure some work on my part I could have gotten them for cheaper at a junk yard but at least around here most Jeeps are bought from salvage my speciality Jeep wreckers and they know very well the value of their parts and charge accordingly. I went back out to double check out the damage on the jeep and soon realized that getting the hinge mourning location back to flat and plumb so I could mount the hinges and then the tailgate and getting everything to align perfectly was going to be nearly impossible - at least with my skills. So I needed another plan. As part of my search for the perfect crusher corners for my Jeep I had been all over the Poison Spyder site and stumbled up on this picture of one of their TJs.

Look I am going for From Poison Spyder Show TJ:

Perfect! It is a full aluminum replacement tailgate kit for a TJ called the Poison Spyder TrailGate. It is a bit more expensive of an option but so awesome and way cool. One issue with the TailGate at least for my setup is that I would need a way to carry the spare tire carrier and hanging it on the aluminum tailgate is not an option! This isn't really an issue as I had wanted for a while to get the tire off of the tailgate so more of an opportunity than a problem :)

Now I had a plan! Time to spend some of that insurance money actually making the Jeep better just not fixing it.

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:02 PM

First Step
First Step : Getting the Corners and TrailGate Ordered

Jeep TJ Rear Crusher Corners | Jeep TJ Rear Corner Armor | Jeep TJ Rear Corner Protection | Poison Spyder Customs

This is one of the reasons I bought the Poison Spyder Crusher Corners - they have the ability to modify them on demand - and this allows me to NOT have the hinge cutouts which is nice so I won't have the plates like in the poison spyder jeep and because my hinge mounting points are buggered from the accident I need to have them covered! Ordering

TrailGate | Drop-Down Replacement TailGate | Jeep LJ TJ YJ Exterior Upgrades | Poison Spyder Customs

Ordering from Poison Spyder was a good experience and they were very helpful. I did have to pay the modification fee to get the hinge cutouts which I understand but it did make the corners pretty expensive - but worth it. The lead time was 4-6 weeks with the modification so I had some time to get the tire mounted and ready!

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:03 PM

Second Step : Installing a Smittybilt SRC Classic Rear Bumper
Second Step : Getting the spare tire mounted on the bumper

For the rear tire mount I decided to go with the Smitybilt SRC Classic Rear Bumper and tire Carrier. Mostly for the price but also because I liked the looks of it. I am not a round tube guy and like that the smittybilt is a square tube construction - don't judge. Smittybilt 76651D SRC Classic Rear Bumper with D-Ring and Textured Black Tire Carrier: Automotive

Instillation of the SmittyBilt SRC Classic Bumper and Tire Carrier

$330 dollars and 4 days later I had my tire carrier. Installation was fairly simple with a few bits of fun. I had to grind off my hitch as it had been welded on - very thorough of them and a PITA to get off. In the process the two bolts in the box frame corners that the heads of the bolts had come off of their tack welds so they spin in place. Luckily I got the nuts off to get the bumper off but that meant I couldn't get the new nuts on to mount the bumper there. (actually I still need to get that figured out … todo lists). Second you need to drop the gas tank to get the middle clip on (actually I still need to do that too …). Third the holes on the provided template plate don't match the stock holes and what you need. It is not that far off but just far enough to be annoying.

Over all, though, the bumper works well, is pretty inexpensive, and looks nice. A little bonus for me is that the vertical tube that the tire mounts on has a threaded top so when I get my rack bent out (the one crushed in the accident) I can mount it to there. I also plan on welding a tube on the carrier so I can mount my license plate there - for now it is zip tied on (redneck functional).

Tire Carrier Installed

Now I was cruising around with my classy plywood tailgate and new bumper and tire carrier - getting there!

From here it was a waiting game until my gear from Poison Spyder showed up in the mail!

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:03 PM

PSC Corners and TrailGate
Corners and Trailgate are in!

One of the other challenges I had with buying the Poison Spyder Crusher Corners and Trailgate is that they don't come painted or powder coated. I completely get why - so you can customize them to your liking - but for me that means extra work.

Jeep TJ Rear Crusher Corners | Jeep TJ Rear Corner Armor | Jeep TJ Rear Corner Protection | Poison Spyder Customs
TrailGate | Drop-Down Replacement TailGate | Jeep LJ TJ YJ Exterior Upgrades | Poison Spyder Customs

Both of them arrived intact! One observation is : Man the corners are heavy. It figures that solid 3/6" rolled steel is heavy but still wow. If you are hard core about weight you can go with the aluminum version but for me steel was more in my budget.

Being cheap by nature (again the fact I splurged for the extra price of the Poison Spyder stuff says a lot about the quality etc because and I really can't stress enough - I am super cheap - OHH and my wife and accountant is even cheaper :) ) I was tempted to rattle can the corners and tailgate. Two things changed my mind - I am a terrible painter and I really like powder coated metal. I called a local Portland, OR powder coater and he agreed to powder coat all of my parts for $125 - to me that was sold. I took them directly from the package to the powder coater to get them all pretty.

Thats right … I ignored the Warning Note 2 - actually since I got two packages:

Annnnnd that was a mistake. Not a season ending mistake but still kind of boneheaded. As I would find out later, the factory forgot to drill the stock Fender Flare holes in my modified corners (when you go the extra $ for the modified corners you get to specify and I specified specifically the stock holes needed to be there). I don't really blame Poison Spyder because well they warned me but still it seems like that is something that wouldn't pass QA especially with the invoice (I erased my info / invoice#) clearly stating …

Poison Spyder has legendary customer service and I am 100% sure they would have made it right (one of the reasons I chose to buy from them) but I wanted to get my Jeep fixed ASAP and really didn't want to try and ship 78lbs of steel back south and wait all for a few holes to be drilled and the entire thing shipped back. I don't love UPS that much (or hate my local driver that much) to ship steel around the country :) and I was excited to get going! So, I just took care of it during the install - more later.

Back from Powder Coating!! and they look Amazing!
(notice no fender flare holes - again my deal just pointing it out)

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:04 PM

Onto the Install
Now to get going on the install!

Corners - Check |
TrailGate - Check |
Damaged Jeep | Check |
Unsuspecting Friend to help | Check

A disclaimer before I go into the install : My Jeep was damaged - totaled technically - in its date with an alder. I knew full well and so should you that this was not a normal install of these parts. I was not expecting much in the way of fitment etc because my jeep had backed its self into a tree recently! There was no frame damage and only some visible damage to the Jeep (the tree didn't fall on it after all) so nothing unsafe etc but still "tweaked."

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:05 PM

Installing my Poison Spyder Crusher Corners
First up the Poison Spyder Crusher Corners

Installation of the corners started in the cold, at night - good times. I pulled off the stock Flares (which I will be reusing) and got things ready. The first thing we did, though, was to fix some of the body damage. We had noticed earlier that some of the impact went up through the body and had a crinkle under the drivers door.

Ready for Installation - Flares Removed - Can see Ripple behind door and under

Using a port power and my shop we got it pressed out so it was almost unnoticeable. Next we pushed and pounded out some of the damage from the tailgate impact.

Jeep Accident Damage Close Up

Finally time to get going on the install! We put the driver's corner in place and got come clamps out to hold it up while we marked out the holes. I thought a first that with 2 people we could just hold it and mark but having clams - even woodworking ones in my case - really gives you the best hold and you can adjust the corners to be in the perfect place. I also marked the rear LED light holes (another option I choose to go with during my custom order) so I could cut those out while I was at it.

My first impression after holding them up and dry fitting is that the build quality is just awesome - that and my powder coat guy did a great job!.

First I did the Driver's side so that means removing the two fender flares and the gas filler door/neck/etc.

Everything lined up and looked good so we marked and then drilled the holes. The top holes are easy because they just go through the tub and they are affixed with a nut/bolt combo. The rear ones took some doing.

1) Unlike me - pay attention to what it says and use some kind of anti-seize compound on the bolts. Being stainless they have a good potential to guall up - I still don't quite know what that means but the end result is fubarred bolts and swearing.
2) The holes they have you drill are just the right size, no bigger. Good for fitment but just be aware the bolts make take some convincing.
3) VERY IMPORTANT: When you line up the corners on the jeep they should come all the way around the back until they are lined up nearly perfectly with the edge of the tailgate opening (more on this later).
4) Be careful with your shinny new finish. Powder coating will scratch as will any paint jobs. These are heavy so swinging them around and getting them in the perfect spot can be tricky

For the rears I chose to NOT drill a 1" access hole into my tub and instead used the provided nutserts. The only issue is that the provided nutserts did not come with a nutsert tool. I had two from my TrailGate install kit but they were both too small. SO I created my own. Check out my other post on how to do that: HERE. The nutsert actually goes in pretty easy with the tool (especially if you have a friend to help) and I am glad I went that way.

The really frustrating issue here was I had to drill the fender flare holes (see above for why). Turns out that was harder than expected just trying to get the holes to line up with both the fender and then the holes on the tub - some of them being nutserts themselves.

While everything was marked and before I put on the corners I used a 4 1/2" hole saw to drill into the rear quarter panel for the LED Lights. Remember to disconnect all the wires out of the way so you don't drill through them. (Details on Installing the LED Lights below)

Drivers side flares on

The passenger corner was similar to get on with no real surprises.

Passenger Side - On but flares off

One other gotcha we faced was the front Crusher Courner hole lined up right with a seam in the tub. This caused the nut to be a bit off when we tightened everything down and was a pain to drill through. You can't tell now though.

Also because my Jeep had been damaged I realized after I installed my Passenger corner that I should have done it first. The driver's side should have lined up all the way to the edge of the tailgate opening instead of having an inch too two gap. Not an issue with the corners but an issue with the tree my jeep had a date with … had I realized this before installing or done the passenger first, I could have gotten it on better but I took care of it later.

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:06 PM

Installing LED Tail Lights on my TJ
Installing the LED Lights on the Rear of my Wrangler TJ

Once I had the corners all on I needed to get my new LED taillights installed. I purchased mine from Amazon because they were about half the price of others. : AutoSmart KL-25105R Red LED Flush-Mount Stop/Turn/Tail Light: Automotive they were about $14 each. The only issue with these particular lights is there was NO instructions about how to install them. Once again though Poison Spyder came to the rescue and they had an awesome diagram on their LED Light product page on exactly how to install them on my TJ - so good I was actually guilty I didn't buy their lights just for how helpful the documentation they provided was!

Here is the secret on this install: DO NOT CUT YOUR JEEP CONNECTOR OFF!! to wire in the new LEDs. Instead, cut the wire right where it comes out of the lights you just removed - and will be throwing away anyways. That way you have a female connector and a pigtail of wire you can splice to and your jeep wiring is left in place. This allows you to use your existing trailer towing loom (as I have) etc and if you mess anything up it is a cheap mistake with something you were done with.

I soldered and shrink wrapped my connections and everything was great.

An Aside on Crazy Blinker / Turn Signal / Light Issues on a TG

Before I put on the corners I was having some intermittent issues with my left turn signal. It would work some of the time then not others and finally was stuck on all the time - the light was lit up but the light wasn't really working. That and my side marker light was barely lit at all. Turns out this was not an awesome way to start out a new wiring project … It gave me TONS of problems because I couldn't figure out why the lights weren't working on the rear. Finally I decided to address the front problem assuming it could be the cause of the rears … and it was 100%.

My problem which I actually found as potentially the cause on this forum was that the socket was loose/bad. Because this wiring is a running ground - the ground starts at the driver's light and then the loom runs to the passenger and then back to the rear - the loose socket was causing the ground and hot wires to be on and off. Even if you have a blown bulb it still completes the circuit but in this case I had a good bulb but because the connection wasn't being made it caused tons of issues in my front left turn and all the way to the back lights - and my new LED installs. If you have similar issues with your turn signals staying lit solid all the time or working intermittently try checking out the socket first!! IT is a free / cheap fix instead of replacing the switch or column controls. All I did to diagnose mine was to wiggle the bulb in the socket while the blinker was on and I found a place I could complete the circuit by force and everything worked fine but when it was left in there as normal it didn't work. I just used an awl to pry out the pins to make that connection 100%.

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:07 PM

Poison Spyder TrailGate Install
Back to the Poison Spyder TrailGate Install

The TrailGate was my solution to recovering from my accident. Since most of the damage was on the tailgate and the hinge mounting points on the rear panel were damaged I didn't want to try and hang another tailgate. Plus the PSC TrailGate is super awesome CJ Retro and is a complete kit - IE no donor CJ tailgate needed - which matches the Crusher Corners perfectly.

Jeep Accident Damage Close Up

Once again the PoisonSpyder install kits were super impressive. All of the fixtures etc come in this shrink-wrapped separated plastic thingy which is awesomely Type-A. The directions were complete and well thought out.

Installation was pretty straight forward following the instructions but I have a few things I learned which I think would make the next person's job easier.

1) The "Tramp Stamp" for the TrailGate is the kingpin to this entire install! The TrailGate mounts to this and it determines how everything will line up and how everything will come out. This has to be 100% centered in the tailgate opening because it determines how the hinges mount and therefor how the TrailGate closes.
2) NutSerts at least with the simple tool is a two person job. I did all these myself (the ones on the corners I had a friend to help) and they didn't come out straight which caused me hassle later. If you have the $200 tool to do it awesomely I am sure it would be easier. The manual tool is plenty functional enough but you have to be super super careful keeping it straight.
3) IF your hinges don't line up don't panic - you can always drill out the TrailGate to make some adjustments. Since my truck was a bit off and the corners were not both exactly as they should have been I had to make some adjustments here but no real issues.
4) The TrampStamp laser cutout is awesome but make sure your paint is what you want to show out. I spray painted some yellow on mine before just to make sure it was awesome. Had to do again I might have put a red reflective strip behind it to really make it pop.
5) If you have a bumper mounted tire carrier you very likely will cover up the awesome cutout - DOH - most of the time as it is in front. But man when you swing that tire out - BAM.
6) AGAIN - Use Anti-Seize on all your bolts or you will mess some of them up - I didn't and I did …

I had to take one of the cable mounting points on the TrailGate itself and rotate it the other way than it is supposed to be because it was hitting on the tub when I closed the TrailGate. (My Jeep was damaged remember so I had to be creative sometimes). Just switching that the other way worked great.

The latches are pretty sweet and match great to the powder coating. I was also impressed by the quality of the weather stripping PSC provides with the kit.

Really once you get that TrampStamp all in place the rest of the install comes together super easily. The final install is awesome looking and very sturdy. It gives me a bit more space in the back as its thinner and I love how light it is. Holds my hard top closed great and everything just fits.

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:08 PM

So …. Here is the Result


Rear Done

Rear TrailGate Done

Rear TrailGate Done

Corner Detail

For those that say its not done till its dirty ...

Done and Muddy!

I love the new look of my TJ and the fact that I brought a totaled Jeep back from the dead and not just back but quite a bit improved makes me very happy. Total cost including parts, powder coating, and lights was about $1500. Remember I was quoted 9K to fix and granted the two final points are not the same - IE pre loss VS bad ass - I am still happy with my decision to buy back the jeep from the insurance company and get it fixed.

TXST8tj 12-17-2012 04:08 PM

Keep it coming. Enjoying the dialogue.

richsipe 12-17-2012 04:08 PM

TODO Still
I still need to install my license plate bracket and lights. I need to figure out how to install some backup reverse lights - I have seen how many people have done this but I haven't come up with my idea just yet - almost. I still can't wait to see how it looks when the top is off the jeep - but in the NW that will be another few months!

One more upgrade that I think really needs to happen I just don't have the budget is the Rocker Knockers. The PSC Crusher Corners are awesome but the way they are cut it really doesn't look perfect until you have those rocker knockers on ... especially since I have a kind of grubby looking piece of tape there now.

Rockers - Rocker Knockers:

papavon 01-07-2013 09:29 PM

Nice job on your rebuild
You did a great job on your rebuild. I appreciated the fact that you shared some of your mistakes so that others could learn from them...very generous. You ended up with a really nice looking rig. Congratulations.l

richsipe 01-11-2013 06:49 PM

LED License Plate Lights Install
Since I mounted my license plate (well with zip ties anyways) up on my spare tire I was technically illegal driving at night with no license plate lights - technically ...

Anyways I ordered from Amazon a set of LED License Plate Lights which although they were named: Banggood 2 x White LED Motorcycle & Car License Plate Bolt Light I hoped that they would work for what I had in mind.

I finally got a few minutes after the holidays to install the LED Light bolts and am pretty happy with how it turned out.

I first had to find a way to run the wires so I drilled through the bottom and into the vertical support of the tire carrier to create a race. I also drilled an outlet hole at the top under where the tire mounts. This way I could run the wire only outside of the jeep for about an inch then under and up through the tire carrier inside then out the top and into the lights.

The tricky part here is I need to be able and unplug these at any time when I need to get the tire off!. For now I didn't have a ton of time so I just used some waterproof quick disconnects - should work well enough.

These bolts mount through the license plate to usually hold the license plate onto the mount but since I haven't made my mount yet they actually just mount the lights to the license plate.

A hint here is to make sure you know how to solder wires because the wires on the LED lights are SMALL and there is no way you are going to be able to use a butt connector etc and have it last. I get it though because they have to pass through the bolt and hole in the license plate and they are pretty low voltage even for LEDs so nearly 0 amp draw.

I am really impressed so far with the lights. They throw off the perfect amount of light aimed right where I need it :)

Here are all my picts - little lame because it was dark when I finished and I blurred out my license plate about like a toddler set loose with whiteout would but anyways ...



Close Up:

SS Adrenaline 01-11-2013 08:30 PM

This is awesome brother. Good for you for keeping her. She loves you for bringing her back to life.

fourty4magjr 01-11-2013 10:32 PM

Awesome work man! it was an entertaining read, and you made the right choice by bringing the jeep back awesome job!!!!:wavey:

TnDz TJ 01-12-2013 08:07 AM

Good read!

I used to have USAA.... I never realized that the upgrades can hurt you in the process as you went through... I thought it would help!!! I know that with a standard USAA policy, you are covered for up to $5000 of aftermarket upgrades ( showing proof of purchases if need be ).

I'm glad it all worked out for you and Jeep looks better than ever!

Hook Moore 01-12-2013 09:08 AM

Great job with the jeep AND the writing !

mudmagnet63 01-12-2013 11:36 AM

Loved the write up. You ended up with an awsome rig good job.


richsipe 01-12-2013 04:01 PM

Thanks all! I am still working through my reverse light plan and once that is done I am 100% legal reconstructed but far from done.:)

Really wanting to do something with the inside of the tub and do something to complete the rockers to tie it together

cBill15 01-29-2013 09:28 PM

Thanks for the story. I too have a story of bringing a jeep back from the dead. I can tell it and post a few pics if u would like to hear it. I just wanted to say thanks, and I appreciate what you did for yourself and the jeep community. You have an awesomer ride now, so keep on keepin on.

Matt074 01-30-2013 09:55 PM

Glad you got it fixed. Looks good

Who makes the rear rack that was on it?

richsipe 01-30-2013 11:35 PM


Originally Posted by Matt074
Glad you got it fixed. Looks good

Who makes the rear rack that was on it?

It is a Garvin Trail Rack

It really saved my rig from more damage. It also has a cool system for supporting your tailgate so you can run the bigger spare on your tailgate. Super useful but a bit of a pain every time you need to get into the tailgate. I used some nylon and rubber washers to keep mine from rattling.

richsipe 02-06-2013 03:19 PM

LED Cats Eye Style Backup Lights
Finally got my backup lights installed!

After a bunch of searching and going back and forth between types of lights to use as backup/reverse lights in my rebuild I settled on these from Amazon : 2x Custom Black Anodized Aluminum 6500K Xenon White 4.5W SMD LED Eagle Eye Lamps Back Up Backup Reverse Parking Light For Car Van SUV Coupe Sedan : : Automotive For $19 shipped it was worth the experiment.

I didn't want to cut large 2" holes in my corner armor or have huge lights also in my bumper. I looked into doing fog light style led lights but I was just too worried about where to mount them and having damage being on the back bumper. After installing my LED License plate bolts I liked the style and they were fairly bright. These are 4.5W each so about 4x bright so I figured they would work.

The installation was very easy. I just drilled a hole (pretty small really) in my bumper and then wired the wires through into the wire I had left ready during my LED light install. The wires were plenty long enough just with the lights so that was nice. Once again, they are LED lights and that means the smallest wire diameter possible which can make hooking them up fun.

The Smittybilt SRC rear bumper I have has openings on the ends so I took advantage of that to mount the lights near the ends of the bumpers to make access a breeze.

I did a few things to try and extend their life: I filled up the hollow inside of the bolt where the wire comes through with silicon. If you look around many people complain about the waterproofness of one LED light style or another so I didn't want to take any chances. I also used some silicone behind the light to help keep it from rattling and stay placed. I am also going to seal around the light lens with some clear silicone because I can tell it is not currently sealed.

The only roadblock I ran into is when I first hooked them up nothing worked. :banghead: After regaining my composure I started troubleshooting and found that the Backup Fuse was out. For anybody in the same situation: the fuse box is behind the glove box and the Backup Fuse is number 7 (also ABS for some reason?) and it should be a 10A. Also a neat fact about the manual is you just have to have it in Reverse then turn the key to the on position and the backup/reverse lights will come on - no need to start the Jeep. This is AWESOME for trying to test the lights, otherwise you would have to have help ... and gas yourself out of the garage!

The final look is great. They do stick out a bit more than I would like as you can see in the picture on Amazon that the two little ridges are both outside of the mounting hole.

The lights (well one) are the little dots toward the outside of the bumper near my daughter's arm!

Close Up: The circuit board the LEDs are on has a bit yellow of a color when viewed from some angles but this is a bonus for me with my yellow tj!

richsipe 02-06-2013 11:48 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Yep! Plenty bright. Happy with it.

Attachment 206783

wwch99tj 03-06-2013 03:19 PM

Great work... :thumb:

1jeeplvr 03-06-2013 05:15 PM

Love the write up and thanks for reminding me to check on my Ins for my thousands upon thousands of dollars in mods I have to get insured.Also glad you decided to fix it and not let it go to the scrapyard.I bought mine from a dealer I worked for for 1500.00 because someone traded it in because it had a rotted frame(body was beautiful) and because of that it was going to get scrapped.I saved her & did a frame swap and now the mods have gotten waaayy out of hand but I love her.

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