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whayes 04-28-2013 03:42 PM

My Mid-Life Crisis Modification Thread
:wavey: Hello all! Since I picked up my first Jeep six months ago, Iíve been wandering the halls here at Wrangler Forum. What a great community! You guys and gals have answered my questions, given me great ideas and tips, and caused me to ďneedĒ things I didnít know existed.

Now, you wonít find any grand ďbuildĒ here; Iím not planning a 4Ē lift, 40Ē tires, or axle or drive shaft changes. And the handy gene definitely skipped me, so anything you see here that I was able to do myself, you should feel confident attempting on your own, too. Since most of the build threads here are about JKUs, perhaps this will help fellow JK owners know what things will look like on their rig.

So, it all began six months ago when my wonderful wife of 26 years gave me this 2013 Deep Cherry Red JK Sport for my 50th birthday! :dance:

Hereís a picture from the dealerís lot:

And hereís a picture of where things stand today:

The journey from then to now is a story of three large (over $500), three medium ($100 - $500), and a number of small (under $100) modifications. Iíll detail each in the next few posts.

whayes 04-28-2013 03:43 PM

The Stock Stuff
My JK Sport came with a few upgrades:
  • Automatic transmission
  • 3.73 gears
  • Anti-spin rear axle
  • Trailer Tow Package
  • Power windows and locks
  • Mopar Fuel Door
  • Mopar Tail Lamp Guards
  • Mopar Tube Side Steps
  • Mopar Slush Mats

Iím really happy with the Deep Cherry Red color; in fact, I like it more all the time. I think it looks particularly good with the black accents; every time I remove a bit more of the silver and chrome, it seems to deepen and enhance the red.

I came home with a JK rather than a JKU for one primary reason: the JK fits in my garage and the JKU would not. The prior owner of our home had a Jeep, and he built a storage room in one side of the garage that left exactly enough room for a Jeep. For years, weíve parked bicycles and other assorted garage junk in this space as no other car would fit. But that was then; now, itís the perfect spot to park my Jeep! :thumb:

whayes 04-28-2013 03:45 PM

Big Mod #1 Ė RSE Step Sliders
Iím 6í1Ē, but my wife is vertically challenged at 5í1Ē on her tiptoes. The Mopar tubular side steps looked nice, but were essentially useless for access since they required you to step up to the height of the door entry all at once. This was too great a jump for the wife, and since she gave me such a fabulous gift, the first big mod was the purchase of Rock Slide Engineering Step Sliders.

I chose the Step Slider over AMPís Power Step for two reasons. First, the fit and finish of the Step Slider was just more pleasing and ďJeepyĒ to me. The Power Steps leave a fairly big visible gap between the body of the Jeep and the step, while the RSE Step Slider is more integrated and finished looking. Second (and this was a biggie for me) the Step Slider includes a dash-mounted kill switch. Since I donít need the step, I can turn them off when the wife isnít riding along.

These steps are very well built and very strong, and the wife loves them. The step drops down 12Ē from entry level, and access is much easier for her. The step is narrower than the AMP Power Step, but that hasnít been an issue. I did purchase the optional LED light kit to illuminate the step at night.

Hereís how they look closed:

And deployed (this shot also shows my black Mopar door sill protectors):

Nice detail near the front fender:

whayes 04-28-2013 03:47 PM

Big Mod #2 Ė Wheels and Tires
I hated, hated, hated the stock aluminum rims. So, the second mod was new wheels. (Did I mention I didnít like the stock ones??) After weeks of searching, I settled on Ballistic Jester 17 x 9ís with -12mm backspacing (I think Ludski runs these on the Black Widow). The stock red inserts clashed with the Deep Cherry Red on the Jeep, so I spray painted them to color match prior to install. I debated running without the silver cones around the rim, but Iíve decided to go with them for now. Since Iíve eliminated virtually all the chrome and silver color from the rest of the Jeep, the cones serve to draw attention to the rims. The installer also used black chrome Gorilla lug nuts.

And, what luck! The stock tires wouldnít fit my new wheels, so like many on the forum, I wrapped my rims in Goodyear Duratrac 285/70/17s. Everyone refers to these as ď33sĒ, but mine only measure 32.25Ē installed. At any rate, I think they look great and Iím very pleased with how they ride and handle. Iím running them at 30 psi cold.

Iím using the stock tire carrier for now with no issues. I did have to add new Daystar bumpstops to the tailgate due to the backspacing on the rim.
I think this mod has made the biggest difference in the appearance of my Jeep. The backspacing on the rims widen the stance just a bit and give the Jeep a bolder appearance.

Wheel and tire closeup

A bit wider stance

whayes 04-28-2013 03:48 PM

Big Mod #3 Ė Leveling Kit and Shocks
So, hereís one of those things I didnít know I ďneededĒ until you showed me. I mean, just look at the rake in the picture on the dealerís lot from my first post; it HAD to go!

After researching here on the forum, I selected the Teraflex Performance Leveling kit (the one with the springs). I chose the performance kit over the spacer kit for two reasons: (1) I thought it would better handle the weight of after-market bumpers if I ever installed them, and (2) I wanted to improve the ride since 95% of my driving is on pavement.

To further assist with the ride, I added Rancho RS9000XL shocks. Iím really happy with these, and since they are adjustable, I can increase the firmness when needed for towing or driving off-road (or those new bumpers Iím wanting). Right now, I have all of them set to 4 for highway and around town driving. And my ride is, indeed, better than stock.

For what itís worth, I did try the Bilstein Heavy Duty Shocks and thought they were too firm for my JK. Much happier with the Ranchos.

I had the tires, lift, and shocks installed at the same time. Altogether, I gained 2.5Ē inches in the rear, just over 3Ē in the front, and about 2Ē of step-in height. And, Ding Dong, the rake is gone!

Hereís a shot of the rear shocks (and my alma mater hitch cover, and that gawd-awful silver muffler!)

whayes 04-28-2013 03:50 PM

Mid-Priced Mods
Iíve added three medium size mods, which are more subtle, but important nonetheless.

Hotheads Headliners
As noted elsewhere on the forum, these are useful for reducing cabin heat, reducing road noise, and improving sound quality inside the Jeep. Since I live in Texas, something like this is pretty much required. I chose these over Boom Mats because Hotheads have a more finished look.

I purchased the full set with non-Velcro overhead panels and Velcro side window panels in black. They arrived meticulously protected, the install was easy, and they look like they came from the factory. Iím no audiophile, but I do think they help the sound from the radio. I havenít been through a Texas summer with them yet, so canít speak to the heat factor.

I installed these fairly early on, and I have seen some loose spots on the panels recently. The 3M tape isnít separating from the top, but from the headliner panel itself. I need to contact Mark at Ambrose and see how to handle; I hear their customer service is great.

Overall, very pleased with these. Jeeps should come this way from the factory.

Window Tint
I had my front windows tinted just last week, and it really evens out the exterior appearance. The installer used ďceramicĒ film, which is supposed to further reduce the transfer of heat into the cabin, and be easier to see through at night. I hope I didnít get fleeced; it was $50 more for this option (which moved this mod into the mid-priced category), but again, this is Texas, so I figured it was worth a shot.

AEV Procal
I purchased AEVís Procal module to set my new tire size (even though it wasnít all that different from stock), reset the low tire pressure warning, and activate my fog lights as daytime running lamps. Incredibly easy to use; works as advertised and discussed elsewhere on the forum. One tip: my kit included a revised instruction sheet for setting the tire pressure monitoring system on a 2013 JK. The instructions on the revised sheet didnít work for me (or I didnít do it right), and it set my low tire pressure warning to 36 psi. I reset it using the ďunrevisedĒ instructions, and everything worked fine.

whayes 04-28-2013 03:54 PM

Little Things Mean a Lot, Part 1: Exterior
Like many of you, most of my mods have been lower cost items. Individually, they donít seem like much, but the cumulative effect can make a big impact.
Here, you can see four mods:
  • Rugged Ridge Grille Insert: I couldnít stand seeing the radiator through the Jeepís signature slats, and the Rugged Ridge pre-made single-piece insert seemed easier to me than DIY (did I mention I wasnít handy?).
  • Rugged Ridge Light Guards: these are just for appearance as I thought they matched the ones on the rear. I donít see many people using these, but I like Ďem.
  • Headlights: While I had everything taken apart, I also changed the headlight bulbs to Phillips H13 9008 X-treme Powerís per advice I found here on the forum.
  • Black Jeep Badge: As mentioned earlier, Iíve tried to remove everything chrome and exchange it for black. Found this online for about $12, shipped.

In my quest to remove virtually all of the chrome and shiny stuff from my Wrangler, I painted the exposed bolts on both the Step-Sliders and the Mopar Fuel Door cover. Initially, I used generic flat black automotive touch up paint from the local OíReillyís. However, after the first car wash, some of the paint began flaking off. So, I checked with kramer2k, and said he used Rustoleum. So, Iíve been touching up with that, and it seems to be holding better.

Once I rid the jeep of chrome, the door locks really stood out. I searched for a solution and found SmoothLock Covers, but they donít make them for Jeep (hereís an opportunity for you entreprenuers!). So, out came a can of Plasti Dip for the lock. Itís not perfect, but looks better.

In photos in previous posts, you can see that I de-badged the Wrangler completely, except for the Trail Rated badges. I kinda like those; they are more of a brushed chrome, and the black accents darken them up a bit. I also added some black metal license plate frames for a more finished look, and installed black Mopar door sill protectors. Finally, I replaced the stock antenna with an AntennaX stubby; I donít notice any difference in reception, frankly. I live about 70 miles from Dallas, and still pick up those stations with ease.

whayes 04-28-2013 03:56 PM

Little Things Mean a Lot, Part 2: Interior Electronics
I have a fairly basic rado: the stock 130 head unit with Sirius and UConnect. Following the recommendations here on the forum, I replaced all four speakers with Kicker upgrade kits. The sound bar install was a snap. The front speakers were more difficult, and the instructions didnít exactly match my 2013. There was a lot of dash panel bending involved, but I persevered and didnít damage anything. No rattles or anything, so I mustíve gotten it put back together correctly. I also added polyfill while I was in there.

The end result is a better sound, and I donít have to crank the volume up all the way to hear the stereo at highway speeds anymore. If youíre an audiophile, this wouldnít cut it for you, but itís not bad. After all, I didnít buy the Jeep Ďcause I wanted a rolling audio sound stage.

I really like the UConnect. It paired easily with my iPhone 5 and does everything I need it to do.

Speaking of my iPhone, I purchased this fabulous holder from ProClip USA that snaps securely to the dash and holds my phone tightly. No wobbles or bouncing up and down, and it holds the phone in either portrait or landscape mode. It comes with 3M tape to secure it to the dash, but it fits so well, I didnít see the need to apply it. Highly recommended.

For fun, I added these stickers on the dead switches. Saw these in some other pics here on the forum, and they make me smile.

ALERT! Here comes my only original idea (Iím not a very creative guy). I bought a used iPod that I can hide away and leave in my vehicle all the time. However, I canít stand it floating around in the console. I was always unplugging it while fishing other stuff out of there. So, I 3M taped a jersey style beer koozie upside down on the inside wall of the console. The iPod slips in there, doesnít fall through the holes at the bottom, and stays out of my way.

whayes 04-28-2013 03:59 PM

Little Things Mean a Lot, Part 3: Floor and Ceiling
So, up high, Iíve added grab bars from JK-Rigrip. These are sturdy, strong, perfectly placed, and look like they came from the factory. As documented in other posts on the forum, these are one of my favorite mods, and I highly recommend them.

Just this weekend, I received my JKini SpiderwebShade from Jason at Krawl Off-Road. Other than the video on the website, these shades come with zero instructions. :eek: Since Iím not very handy, this install was hard for me as I was left to figure things out on my own. :facepalm:

I finally prevailed, and the end result is very worth it. The shade really does make it more comfortable running with the freedom panels removed, and Iím very pleased with it.

In the back, Iíve removed the worthless rear seat and stowed it in the garage. The Quadratec cargo liner is awesome. I originally tried the WeatherTech version, but it was designed to fit only behind the rear seat (which isnít very far in the JK). The Quadratec version beats it to death, and is a much better value IMHO.

Rodger L 04-28-2013 04:01 PM

Great looking Jeep! Welcome!

ESP 04-28-2013 04:03 PM

Great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

whayes 04-28-2013 04:04 PM

The Wish List & A Few More Beauty Shots
So, as you can see, Iíve spent most of my mod monies. I expect things will slow down a bit :(, but here are some things Iím considering.

Currently, Iím watching for a 430 RBZ take out head unit to replace the 130. Based on the information provided by Panthermark and others, this seems to be a plug and play mod I can handle without endangering myself or anyone else.

Before next summer, Iíd also like the ability to have the top off more. Iíd love to be able to remove the hard top on my own at will, but my garage is a separate metal building with exposed metal beams, so I canít see how to make the hoists work. Instead, Iím considering the purchase a full soft top to run during the spring and summer. That would let me remove the hardtop when I have a buddy handy to help, and give me an easy way to run topless when desired. Of course, Iíll need to build (or more likely buy) one of those storage carts for the hard top.

For bumpers, I really like the trail series from Expedition One, both front and rear.

Iím also ready to do a bit of light off-roading, perhaps in the mountains of northern New Mexico or one of the Texas parks. We have several ďOff Highway VehicleĒ parks here in Texas and some local Jeep clubs that Iíve found through this forum. Iím particularly interested in the off-roading class at Hidden Falls. If anyone has done that and has feedback, that would be great.

So, thanks again for welcoming me into the forum, and for allowing me to share. Iím loving this Jeep more than I imagined!

1Topp 04-28-2013 04:19 PM


jrussblues 04-28-2013 04:29 PM

If you are handy enough to install rse steps then you are handy enough to install the 4" lift and new drive shafts...I would keep it at 37/38 though on the tires...really nice jeep, thanks for sharing and keep us posted.

Knuckles65 04-28-2013 04:39 PM

Great thread! Thanks for sharing and you'very given me some ideas for when mine comes in.

Brewbek 04-28-2013 04:42 PM

Nice build and write-up. I like what you've done and can totally relate to your not wanting a wildly "built" jeep. Good luck and keep us up to speed on future changes. :thumb:

whayes 04-28-2013 04:45 PM


Originally Posted by jrussblues (Post 3693158)
If you are handy enough to install rse steps then you are handy enough to install the 4" lift and new drive shafts...I would keep it at 37/38 though on the tires...really nice jeep, thanks for sharing and keep us posted.

Oh my goodness :eek: I didn't mean to give that impression. I had those professionally installed.

tontwins 04-28-2013 05:05 PM

Looks great!

JKDozer 04-28-2013 05:42 PM


odd42 04-28-2013 09:19 PM

Nice to see another mid life crisis jeep. I'm about 2,000 in to mine. Mostly wheels, tires, tube steps so far. Not sure what is next. Probably some armor to do some more serious offroad fun

County98 04-28-2013 10:53 PM

Looks good! I like the wheels alot!

Lowerumble 04-28-2013 11:14 PM

Wow. I really like the build. I think the Jeep turned out great! Some new bumpers and it'll be perfect! I would paint that rear muffler black and it will disappear a little. I have a couple of questions. First, do you have a pic of the phone and mount from straight ahead? Second, I really like the wheels. They look great! But I can't really tell what the deal is with the silver "bolts" on the lip. Are they actually a bolt with a nut? Are they functional (actually screw on/off)? How is the red rim held in? Is it removable? Sorry, just unlcear what I am actually seeing.


RKracing 04-28-2013 11:33 PM

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet! And clean looking too!
The black and Deep Cherry Red work great against each other.

whayes 04-29-2013 12:09 AM


Originally Posted by Lowerumble (Post 3694665)
Wow. I really like the build. I think the Jeep turned out great! Some new bumpers and it'll be perfect! I would paint that rear muffler black and it will disappear a little. I have a couple of questions. First, do you have a pic of the phone and mount from straight ahead? Second, I really like the wheels. They look great! But I can't really tell what the deal is with the silver "bolts" on the lip. Are they actually a bolt with a nut? Are they functional (actually screw on/off)? How is the red rim held in? Is it removable? Sorry, just unlcear what I am actually seeing.

Thanks! I definitely agree on the bumpers, but the bank account needs a break! Just Empty Every Pocket, right? And, I've thought about painting the muffler; just not wild about laying down on the ground and spraying paint from flat on my back. I'm a fairly sloppy painter, and usually apply three coats at once (one on me, one on the ground, and one on whatever I'm painting). I'm afraid I'll paint something I shouldn't, but maybe I'm over-thinking it. :confused:

On to your questions. Here are two more pics of the ProClip iPhone mount

On the wheels, the red inserts are held on with 3M tape. After the tires were on the Jeep, I cleaned the application area with an alcohol wipe and stuck them on. Here's a pic of the front and back:

The bolts around the rim are actually two pieces: a metal screw and a plastic dome. These are not secured with any adhesive, just screwed in after the wheels are on the jeep. The manufacturer provides a plastic-y allen wrench that won't scratch the screw head and will prevent over-tightening.

Both the red inserts and the bolts are completely optional. Ludski runs his with the inserts, but without the bolts. I tried various configurations, and decided the bolts served to define the break between the tire and wheel that's often lost with black rims. You could also remove them (all 40 of them!) fairly quickly if you were off-road and concerned about damage.

I ordered an extra set (8) of each to have on hand for when I lose or break one :)

whayes 04-29-2013 12:11 AM


Originally Posted by RKracing (Post 3694723)
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet! And clean looking too!
The black and Deep Cherry Red work great against each other.

Thanks, RK. Let me know when you get those Step-Sliders installed! :cool:

Bar01 04-29-2013 06:10 AM

Those wheels!!! nice.

SuperTJ 04-29-2013 06:18 AM

Great job! Good looking rig

Daideo 04-29-2013 07:11 AM

Nice write up and thanks for the info on ProClip. I've been looking for something sturdy and the fact the the base can support various phones as you upgrade is great. Ordering tonight

Senior Chief 04-29-2013 07:23 AM

Nice build and excellent write-up.....:thumb::thumb:

CosmoMonster 04-29-2013 07:28 AM

Welcome to the club. Nice, clean and smart mods. I like your set up. As for mid life crisis, I had mine early. I bought a 2011 JKU and a 2011 JK last year 4 months apart. I lost the JKU to the wife and kids. But the JK is mne.

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