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Discussion Starter #1
First time Jeep owner, making my 2017 JKU Sport my own. The goal for this build is 90% function, 10% form, and it’ll probably take a while to get her close to what I want.
 

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Inside trim

I popped the AC vent covers, the inside door trim, the passenger grab handle, and the sound bar speaker covers and gave them a coat of blue spray paint. The vent covers were the trickiest to pull off, you have to line up a tab on the inside of the mount and use a thin flathead screw driver to release the tab and pull the whole assembly. Once you get one off, it’s obvious how it works and super easy to get the other three. The door trim clips in, the bolts are entirely for show but can be removed with the Jeep tool kit that comes with the vehicle.

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Front grill

Popping the front grill is easy, if a little nerve wracking the first time. Plastic tabs along the top of the grill come out with a thin flathead screw driver for a pry bar, then the rest of the grill just pops out. I used Rustoleum’s answer to plastidip, in a bed liner coating. Most of that can is on the grill now, it came out pretty nice.

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Discussion Starter #4
Light covers

I got steel euro style light covers for the fronts and side markers, and steel covers for the tail lights. The tail light covers only offer limited protection, they don’t wrap around but they are off set from the plastic covers with small plastic spacers and I love the classic Jeep star. The front covers were super easy to install, they just popped in. The side markers were the trickiest, I had to pull the fender liner to get the side markers out. While I had the grill off, I dropped in a Thin Blue Line grill guard, and I wired the side markers to the blinkers with the two wire solution discussed here:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Steps/rails

I got the Tyger Auto side rails because of the Star theme I’m going with, and because they’re pretty solid steel. They bolt into the tub at three places, then to the side with six included bolts. The first one took me over an hour and fifteen minutes with figuring out where to put the jack stands to hold up the rail, going back and forth to the toolbox to get different size tools, figuring out which of the attached hardware was needed since the rails come with hardware for a couple of different JKU set ups. Once I had the right tools, and knew what went where, the second rail took about fifteen minutes to install. As a novice, I’m sure many of my projects will work out like this as I learn as I go.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
In the rails post, you can also see the Jeep grill foot pegs and the adventure mirrors I got off Amazon. The mirrors are definitely solid, once I tightened down the screws on the back they didn’t move even at highway speeds, but they are not drop in by any means. The crossbar support goes under the hinge, and the bolt on the back of the mirror passes through the support bar and the “L” bar. I spent a day driving around Columbia, SC, looking for used motorcycle mirrors to drop in to the hinge pin, and found out motorcycle shops here are not the best for DIYers.
 

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Stock wheels painted

I used two and a half more cans of the Rustoleum easy peel on my rims to see if flat black would look as good as I hoped. The paint is recommended for only six months of application, so once I chip the stuff a few times I’ll peel it and hit my buddy’s paint shop to turn the whole stock rim black. I love the five spoke wheels, and once my SR-A tires are bad I’ll be moving to a 33” tire that can still ride the stock rims, but I wanted to either black out the wheels or color match them to the billet silver. I like the look of the black accents on the silver, but I may eventually either black out the lugs or color match them to the Jeep. I pulled all five wheels off the Jeep to paint them, the bed liner coating is self correcting and levels itself out as it dries, so I wanted to let it level itself while the wheels were horizontal instead of vertical. I didn’t tape anything, either, just peeled off the overspray from the tires after a short celebratory trip to Sonic for a reward.

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Grab handles

I got the “Wild Boar” knock off grab handles from Amazon for pretty cheap, the back handles were super easy to install. Without directions, the fronts were only tricky to figure out which spacer mounts where. The website said the grab handles would prevent the visor from lowering, but the spacers and the angle of the included bolts actually push the handles toward the doors and out of the way of the visors. The handles are solid steel, bolt hard into the rails of the Jeep, and move the whole Jeep when you shake them. I also took my time when pulling out the bottom bolt because of the horror stories of folks dropping that bolt into the plastic, but even if I had dropped the bolt, the handle comes with mounting hardware so it woudn’t have been a tragedy.

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Discussion Starter #11
He’s two, and a devil. ^_^

You get an extra like for the kiddo seat in the back.
Took a couple trips with the front doors off for my wife to be okay with the back doors off, and only as long as he sits center and has the five point. He’s big enough for a regular booster with back in her car, but he can work the seat belt latch. I’d rather pull the sedan over when he lets himself out to get a toy he dropped than stress that with no doors on an open road. So five point harness it is for the boy. Once he’s out of a booster altogether, I hope to pull the back bench out and drop captain’s chairs and a center console back there, too.
 

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Hat rack

Already posted on the free/cheap/easy thread, but here’s a hat rack I made with paracord and d rings for when the doors are off. If I had it to do again, I would run the bight *around* the sound bar instead of through, but the bolts work regardless.

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Discussion Starter #13
“Parts” installed as of 30 October

Rilex awhile aluminum stars on the fog lights
Super cheap, thin tape preinstalled, doesn’t line up all the way around, but it puts stars on the front of the Jeep to match the taillights, gas cap, and side rails.

Bolaxin “Thin Blue Line” grill insert
Has a notch that lines up pretty well, but it does bow just a bit when the grill gets finessed back on. Barely noticeable, but if you can’t stand it you could trim the sides a bit.

Tyger rock rails
Only rails I could find with stars that didn’t have steps that could catch on obstacles. Bolts pretty solid into the tub and through the sides and comes with a bunch of hardware for both JKU bodies (‘07-‘12, ‘13-‘18). Very heavy, I was installing by myself so I used a couple jack stands to hold them in place.

Wild Boar grab handles from DIYTuning
Knock offs of a popular brand, but at a fraction of the price. Super solid steel, easy installation.

TGL hitch step with Reese lock pin
I like this one because it’s a step and a recovery method and because it looks like it would spear the radiator of anyone dumb enough to tailgate.

Alavente side window in channel deflectors
I had in channel deflectors on my Ranger way back when that actually stuck out, any more most of the in channels don’t. I do like the way the fronts don’t use tape but sit in the channel all the way from top rear corner to front lower corner.

Tyger hitch with wiring harness
Class III hitch rated for 3,500 lbs, bolts directly to the frame with included hardware. A lot of reviews complained that the nuts weren’t welded to the hitch and it was a pain to get a tool between the stock bumper and the frame, but I knew I paid less and didn’t expect the nuts to be welded. I popped the bumper off and it was way easier. The wiring harness plugs right into the tail light and has all the connectors for plug and play. The harness even comes with plastic push pins to hang on the factory holes in the frame.

Star tail light covers from IPARTSCAR
Comes with plastic spacers to put between the stock taillight cover and the steel. Heavy duty, easy to install, doesn’t have any side protection but I love the classic Jeep star.

Routen Star gas cap cover
Threw this on while I had the taillight off to wire the hitch. No lock, and it wiggles a little, but that’s probably a poor installation on my part.

Vplus black stainless steel headlight, blinker, and side marker covers
Very heavy duty metal, a nice gloss finish. These felt like a perfect fit, I had to wiggle the blinkers a little to get them back in the grill. Trickiest part was pulling the side markers out, had to YouTube the little plastic rivet Jeep uses.

Rugged Ridge pink A pillar grab handle
I got this for the wife’s side, she said I’m too cute driving that Jeep around and need to pink up her seat so people know. I can’t find a pink passenger side only seat cover, so this was a compromise. ^_^

Xprite Jeep grill foot pegs all around (2 sets)
Chipped the paint a little on the hinge tightening the bottom nut, before these go back on next spring I’ll be putting nylon washers between the nut and the hinge.

Esright Adventure Mirrors into hinge pins
Solid mirrors. PITA to install and adjust, the “L” bar drops through the hinge and the support brace slides up from underneath the hinge. The mirror bolt itself and a tiny little nut hold the L bar and support bar together behind the mirror, but four set screws on the back of the mirror lock the mirror in place once you’ve adjusted it and it didn’t move even at highway speeds. It took a couple of tries to get the passenger side adjusted, and I had to ask for help, but it beats the crap out of a blind spot mirror on the A pillar or the A/C vent.

AntennaX “The Shorty” fifteen inch trail antenna
I listen to satellite radio while my introductory period lasts, but I flipped over to FM for a while after I got this and it seems to work just fine. It’s gloss black instead of the matte black most of the rest of my accents are, but I like the look.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Quadratec QRC Bumper and Stealth Winch

Put these on in about three hours, and my helper wasn’t big enough to help me hoist the bumper up on to the frame. The QRC full width bumper is ~140 lbs, and the winch on top of that made it a little bit of a deadlift to get the sucker up there, but the whole thing was pretty painless. Winch first, then fog lights, then install bumper to frame. I managed to get the plastic trees out of the air dam without busting them, but that’s moot since it doesn’t go back on. There was a minute of panic when I thought the winch might be in the way of the vacuum pump (or vice verse), but it just took a little wiggle and the bolts fed through fine. Getting the front grill off is a pain, but doable, which I found out when I realized I didn’t hook the negative cable to the winch before I mounted it to the bumper. Luckily the bolt can be reached under the winch even when it’s mounted. Now that I have a winch, it’s time to get a little braver. I’ve got a couple of shackles coming tomorrow or the next day, then it’ll be time to respool the winch under load. Next step: AEV 2.5” lift. Hopefully this weekend, and that’ll be a project for an adult buddy.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
2.5” AEV DualSport XT Suspension System

This is the most ambitious thing I’ve ever attempted on a vehicle, and it took me about three times as long as it should have. Fortunately, most Army bases have a pretty well equipped auto craft shop so I was able to use a lift and have access to a full tool room for a very reasonable fee. Between the instructions that came with the lift and the Haynes manual I paid for, I was never really stuck on *what* to do next, I just had to ask for help a couple of times on *how* to do it.

Dropping the rear axle was pretty simple, just loosening the control arm bolts, disconnecting the sway bar, and disconnecting the old shocks. I used a transmission jack since the Jeep was way up in the air, but the jack held the pumpkin fine. The rear track bar tower that comes in the kit mounts to the axle with U-bolts, and bolts to the original hole with included hardware. The brake line drop brackets make perfect sense and are very intuitive as far as which side goes where. The sway bar disconnects reconnect with no issues, and the Bilstein shocks and AEV springs drop right in. I put the rubber spring absorbers back in with the new springs, and bolted the new bump stops to the axle with no problems. To get the axle far enough from the Jeep to put the springs in I removed the hose from the axle and removed the parking brake lines from the wires holding them in place under the center of the tub. I did have to jack the axle back up until the Jeep was almost off the lift and then push on the driver side of the axle to get the new track bar to line back up on the frame end, but my buddy pushed the bolt through while I pushed on the axle. The front was...a little more complicated.

Two of the front control arm bolts are protected by heat shields, and the pumpkin is off center, so I used two transmission jacks on a couple of the steps. I marked the drive shaft with a center punch before disconnecting it, and tied it up with the band that came on the new shocks. The front sway bar disconnects came off easy, and the front trackbar came off the axle side smoothly enough. Old shocks off, old springs out, no major issues so far. This was where I used a second jack under the lower control arm on the passenger side to jack the axle up on the right and down on the left to get the driver’s spring out. Time to put the new springs in...and...this spring doesn’t fit! Turns out my buddy grabbed a front spring and put it on the back, which explains why it was a PITA to jack the back up. No biggie, added maybe thirty minutes to drop the back axle and swap out the springs. Thank goodness the tires were still off. Alright, springs swapped, back axle reconnected all the way around, back to the front. I spent ten minutes with a 16mm box wrench before a guy working next to me told me the tool room had a ratcheting flex wrench which made removing the upper shock nut a million times easier. New sway bar brackets went on easy enough, a little tap with a mallet lined the holes up over the welds on the axle and the new hardware slid right through. I drilled holes into the axle stop pads with a cordless drill and a lot of lube, but my 3/8ths bit survived and the new bump stop pads bolted right in place. I was able to get the passenger side spring on over the pad because of the offset jack, but I had to put the driver side stop inside the spring and mount the two together. No issues fitting a ratchet into the spring or a deep well to the nut under the stop pad. Got the driver’s shock on at the top with minimal issues, just had to swap wrenches because AEV uses a 17mm nut instead of the 16mm on the stock shock. The passenger side shock, on the other hand...

The battery box is directly over the upper shock mount, and the fender liner is a little in the way. The only way I could get a wrench in with my big fat fingers was from the front of the Jeep, banging my knuckles up on the frame and battery box, and getting the nut to start on the shock was an absolute nightmare. I ran out of shop time, and had to leave my Jeep on the lift overnight, but I was sitting in the waiting room ten minutes before the shop opened the next morning with clean hands and a dirty heart, ready to get this thing done.

A buddy started the nut for me while I cranked down on the bushings, so we were kinda holding hands inside the frame of the Jeep. I think we really bonded in those moments, swearing at the nut and the shock and the world. The instructions say to use a hex key to keep the shock from turning while you tighten the nut, but I barely had clearance for the wrench so I just used vice grips on the shock itself and tightened slowly until I had two or three threads visible above the nut itself. Fender flare back on, minus a couple of the plastic mounting clips, and shocks mounted at the bottom with no problems. Sway bar reconnected to the new brackets, now it’s time to reconnect the track bar.

The damn track bar. To hell with that thing. I tried turning the steering wheel, I used two jacks and played with the angles raising one side then the other, I pushed on the axle, I jacked the whole Jeep off the lift often enough that a worker came over to watch me, I begged it, I offered bribes, I appealed to it’s Toledo roots and it’s foreign cousins, nothing. An old man in a Vietnam veteran’s hat finally came over with a little bitty pry bar and had me pry from the back while he pushed the bolt through from the front, and then let me tap it through the rest of the way while he twisted the trackbar as necessary to line up the hole. The flag nut went on no problem, so thank goodness we didn’t mess up the threads hammering the bolt through the hole. One last walk around with the instructions, reconnect the drive shaft, check all the steps, no extra parts left over that weren’t replaced by the kit, put the tires back on, and get her off the lift.

Back on her own tires, I crawled underneath with a torque wrench and tightened the control arms, track bars, drive shaft and shocks back to specs (mostly, 125 foot lbs is a mother on the rears under the Jeep), and took her for a test drive. Thank goodness for Army auto shops, I still spent less than an hour’s labor costs for thirteen hours on a lift, including an overnight fee, and had the benefit of the old men who work at and hang around the place when I ran in to trouble.

I did have an issue with my traction control at highway speed on a curve which kinda spooked me, but I checked all the connections and took her on a light trail at a local motocross park and everything was still connected before and after. Next week I’ll take her back in to a drive on lift and recheck the torque on all the control arms and the track bars, make sure they’re good to go, but I’m loving the new lift and my wife doesn’t like all the extra space inside the wheel wells so she suggested new tires. Falken Wildpeak 285/75R17s here I come!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Mirror movers and light bar

So for $350, the Quadratec heated and power mirror movers aren’t exactly “budget,” but the hinge pin mirrors I bought first didn’t work for the unpredictable weather in SC, since they have to be *assembled* around the hinge pin and aren’t drop in. My second mirror purchase was the A pillar mounted quick releases that were alright, but the passenger mirror wasn’t convex and the arms are interchangeable so one mirror always looked wonky. For Father’s Day my wife looked through the catalogue I left laying around with sharpie stars on the good stuff, and she ordered me the mirror movers. Installation was simple enough. I did have to pull the windshield hinge brackets to run the mirror power cables under the cowl, but I didn’t have to pop the welds on the cowl since the plug-and-play mirror connecter was small enough to slide through the gap just by levering the quarter panel away from the body. Quadratec includes a connecter to plug in to the factory door cable connecter, but you do have to pop the factory piece out and rehang the Quadratec piece in its place. The passenger mirror cable is zip tied to the wiring running across the engine bay, and both connectors drop in to the cab through the firewall grommet that the hard top windshield wiper fluid runs through. A cable runner would make it easier, but since I just had those wires to run it wasn’t impossible. The kit also comes with bump stop pads to replace your stock mirrors with, which activates the cam so the mirrors can swing out when you open your door and swing back to stock location. Most importantly, I get to keep my heated and power mirrors.
So I wanted lockers before a light bar, but a friend traded in her Jeep and I couldn’t pass up a $90 light bar that was already wired and had the fuses and switch. I’m going with the tube look, so I picked up $40 light bar brackets from Tractor Supply and they fit really well. I did install them *under* the top bolt of the mirror movers, but only because the metal of the light bar bracket is thinner than the mirror mover bracket. They’re also compatible with most cowl light mounts, which will be a purchase for another day. The bracket keeps the light bar below the level of the roof, and is compatible with my rain cover. I haven’t been on the highway yet, but I’m hopeful the distance from my windshield and my hard top will prevent the dreaded “buffeting” a lot of light bars can cause.
Hopefully tires are next, we’ll see what Santa brings.
 

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