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Discussion Starter #1
This is going to be a long, slow process, but we're excited.
My bride and I recently bought a used 2012 JKU, the first Jeep for either of us. She has wanted one since she was a kid, so I don't know who talked whom into getting it. My wife loves the Terminator flicks, and is enamored by the look of Sarah Connor in her Jeep at the end of the first movie. I suggested we name our Jeep Sarah. I guess that's the beginning of our "build".

Sarah had only 14,100 miles when we picked her up and she gave us our first surprise as soon as we got her home - we thought she was black, but she's actually Black Forest Green.

We're not yet sure what we want to do - dunes, trails, rocks, mud, but Sarah's not going to be a mall-crawler. The first "mod" was an antenna bracket in order to mount a lighted whip/flag to be legal in the sand dunes called Glamis. The whip rises to eight feet from grade and has green LED's up the length of it. Glamis was our first ride off-road. What a blast. The following weekend we went up the Santa Ana mountains to Santiago Peak. We were by ourselves, unfamiliar with the trails, and don't know squat about wheeling, so we took it pretty easy.

We're signing up for an up-coming Jeep Jamboree at Big Bear, so next we added a CB and antenna to the mount we installed for the whip.

The previous owner had removed the side rails, so next we installed a pair of Smittybilt rock rails to go with a Smittybilt XRC M.O.D. front bumper with full extensions and bull-bar.

I returned to the sand rail shop where I bought the whip to get a quick-disconnect for it only to find they were clearing out some Vision-X 5" HID's at 70% off, so we added two of those to the bull-bar, but haven't wired them in yet.

Today we ripped off the cheap top (with ripped zippers) and installed a Black Twill Supertop-NX by Bestop. It's absolutely beautiful.

I'm building my own version of an S-POD and hope to have that installed in the next couple of days. I've already put four switches in the left A-piller and wiring for four more in the right A-pillar (I know that sounds dumb, but more on that later).

I'll take pictures in the next few days and figure out how to post them.

I've been reading this forum every day for the past two months and have learned a lot, but not nearly enough. I thank you all.

Here are our plans, in no particular order:

Rear bumper / tire carrier / Jerry can rack / hitch
Fog lights (need to fab something for the Smitty bumper)
Winch
20" light bar
Rear floods
2.5" lift
35" tires a new wheels, but with a 3.21 gear that means...
4.10 or 4.56 gear, but as long as I'm in there that means...
Rear locker (probably Eaton e-locker)
Front locker (probably an Aussie)
Inverter
Raised rear deck

And who knows?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Lighted whip and CB

Well, I'm not much of a picture taker, but here goes:

I first added a Rugged Ridge antenna mount at the tire carrier.
I added this in order to put on the required whip and flag for running at the sand dunes (Glamis). It was later that I added the CB antenna. I had seen numerous threads (not sure if they were this forum or others) that add some pretty gnarly ground straps for the antenna, but I tried just a small 16ga and the system tuned to 1.4 SWR on both ends of the CB.

The whip is a SafeGlo green LED in a quick disconnect wired to the rear taillight. The antenna is a 3' Firestik II. The ground wire I simply attached to one of the inside hinge screws. Well, it's not a hinge, but whatever it's called. Anyway, the ground proved to be good as show by the system tuning. I used 18' of Firestik Coax with their FireRing connector.

The CB is a Uniden Pro520XL mounted with a Rugged Ridge bracket to the footman loop. The bracket is pretty sturdy and I had plenty of room between the radio and the windshield for the connections. I used an old Monster Cable RCA plug and jack for easy connect/disconnect of the power. I didn't bother with a mic holder because I prefer the way it hangs from the door surround.

Before I go too far I'll try to post some pics. Haven't done this before...
 

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Discussion Starter #4
CB and whip cont.

More of the CB and whip install. Later I'll get some pics of the new top, front bumper, rails, etc. Sarah the Jeep is dirty as heck and needs a bath first. I left the trim off in the back to show where I attached the antenna ground wire.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Smittybilt front bumper and side rails

The previous owner had installed a Smittybilt XRC M.O.D. System front bumper with full length end plates and Bull Bar. There were no side rails. Strange because there were only 14,100 miles on the vehicle and absolutely no signs of it ever being off road. Not a scuff or scratch below the vehicle or anywhere else.

I read horror stories about installation problems with Smittybilt products, but decided to get their side bars in order to match the color/texture/look of the front bumper. I ordered their SRC Side Armor JK and installed them without any trouble at all - bolted right up. They attach to the body mounts, not the pinch seam, and feel rock solid. We really like the look, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
New soft top

I don't know what the previous owner did, but the factory build sheet said it rolled out with a 3-piece hardtop and deleted soft top. The connections are still there for the rear window wiper/defroster as well as the column switches. However, when we bought it, it only had the soft top. Turns out whoever installed it did a horrible job. They installed the 2nd bow backwards which didn't allow the front portion to fold back flat and they didn't attach the fabric to second, third or fourth bows. It fit so poorly and was so sloppy both side window zippers broke. It was a Smittybilt top and window set on a Bestop frame. The fabric was very thin.

We installed a new Bestop Replace-A-Top three-layer, black twill fabric, 40mm tinted windows... and as their ads say, the fabric looks like what you'd find on high-end luxury cars. The pictures don't do it justice, but it's beautiful. Much quieter, too. Also, the interior side is black, not white. I'd highly recommend this version of Bestop rather than their sailcloth or standard fabric.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
sPod knock-off

We impulse-purchased a couple of Vision-X lights while shopping for something else - the were marked down 70% ! Scratched my head for a bit on how to install my first lights and researched the sPod system. It seemed a bit steep for only six switches and I already dedicated the mounting location to the CB so I decided to make my own.

I purchased Rugged Ridge A-Pillar 4 switch pods (left and right) and four switches and have begun building the system. It will be:

- 4 Switches on the left A-Pillar
- 4 Switches on the right A-Pillar (I know this sounds dumb, but Sarah is a 6-speed so there's no room for switches in front of the shift lever and the CB is taking up the spot above the rear-view mirror. I'll use the right side switches for things I don't need to switch while driving, such as an inverter, rear floods, rock lights, I dunno... Plus, at 6'1" I've got a long enough reach. Besides, my wife will normally be with me, I hope.)
- Only low current, so 18ga multi-conductor cable through firewall into cab
- Low voltage cutout. sPod's is set at 10.6v off / 12.4v reset while mine will be adjustable from 10.5v off to 12.5v off with 1v increase for reset.
- Mine will be able to handle a combined 180amps while sPod can only handle 50amps.
- 2 fused 35amp relays (fuses limited to 30amps)
- 6 fused 20amp relays
- 3 fuse-only circuits
- 1 fuse for trigger supply to cabin switches
- Relays are suppression-type, but I dug as deep as I could into sPod's claim of "field collapse" possibly causing harm to LED lighting and I'm not convinced. "Field collapse" is on the coil side of the relay and, as far as I know, is only a risk to transistor/processor type trigger devices.
- Under-hood easy access terminals for connecting 8 loads for relay switching and 3 loads for fuse-only switching.

Here are some pics so far and I hope to finish and install the "Marty-Pod" in a few days. First pic is of the LVCO. Subsequent pics show the wiring wiring to the LVCO in orange split-loom, power from battery in red split-loom (I used 6ga which is a bit overkill for only six feet), and two 6-conductor 18ga cables in black split-loom into cabin. The last pic shows were the pod is going to be mounted.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
more sPod knock-off

Here's the left A-Piller switch pod. It installed very easily despite some of the comments I read from other purchasers. The other picture is of the wires going to the right A-Pillar. I'm going to install the Rugged Ridge RH A-Pillar pod, but I'm not going to install switches at this time. When I use up the four on the left I'll start buying the custom graphic switches.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
sPod knock-off relay/fuse box

Today I finished building and installing the relay/fuse box for my version of an sPod. I could have done a neater job with the bracket, but I didn't have the material I wanted for it so I threw this together and will replace it later. It's solid, just not cosmetically appealing.

The box itself is water-tight as well as all the internal wiring (fuses to relays and to/from terminal strips), but obviously the terminal strips are not. I'm not worried about that as high up as they are and protected from below. Also, there is nowhere to trap moisture. The terminal strip on the fender side of the box is for landing the hot wires from up to ten device loads and the terminal strip on the engine side is from the eight switches in the cabin. I could have wired the trigger switches directly into the box and eliminated the terminal strip, but since two relays are 35amp and six are 20amp I wanted to easily be able to swap trigger wires around if I want to change which switches are assigned to which relays.

Now all I have to do when adding up to the next eight devices (such as a light bar, spot lights, rear lights, rock lights, etc.) is ground it to the nearest point on the chassis and run a single wire to the terminal strip and that's it !
The switches and all the other wiring is already done !
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Routed wires for lights inside bull bar

Now that my sPod knock-off is complete I was able to install my first two after-market lights. As I mentioned above, a local store was closing them out and selling them for 70% off. Vision-X 4500 5" round 35watt each HID's with internal balast. I bought the last two but didn't realize until I put them on that one is a spot beam and the other a euro beam. At first I was a bit bummed (last two in the store, nothing to exchange for), but because they're both so close to the center of the grill maybe it will be an advantage to have two types. So I decided to wired them to separate switches.

Rather than zip-tying the wires to the bull bar I drilled holes in the bumper and bull bar to fish the wires through in order to conceal them inside the tube and through to below the bumper. The pics below are before I struggled fishing the wires through and then opening the holes to 1/2". Still, it was a pain fishing the wires. Starting to get dark now so I'll take Sarah The Jeep out to aim the new lights.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I've read lots of posts on DIY sway bar quick disconnects and stole from many to come up with what I'll post below.

I didn't keep track of the names from whom I stole, so I'll just have to thank everyone who has posted about their DIY discos.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
DIY Sway Bar Quick Disconnects for $9

The metric equivalent of grade 8 hardware is 10.9 (it's actually a little stronger). The bolt and the washer are 10.9 but I can't confirm the hardness of the linch pin. I'm not worried about it because I don't think there is nearly as much axial force on the connection as there is radial force. Likewise with the bolt and the hole drilled in it, the shear strength is more important than the tensile strength so I'm not worried about the hole weakening the bolt. Here's the hardware:




The bolt is an M12 x 80 x 1.75 The ones at Home Depot were fully threaded without the shank, so I got these at a local mom&pop hardware store for $2.39 each:




The sway bar link end is 1.500" wide:

And the washer is about 0.102" wide:



The reason I used a metric bolt instead of a clevis pin or standard bolt is because I read many posts were people that used them had problems with slop or worried about potential problems with 7/16" hardware. The smooth shank on the metric bolt is within 0.001" of the diameter as the OEM threads that pass through the link end bushing:





With 1.500" for the link end, 0.315" for the bracket off the axle (not shown) and 0.101" for the washer, I added half the hole diameter for the linch pin and screwed a sacrificial nut onto the bolt so the flat allowed me to drill the linch pin hole with the inside edge at 1.916" from the landing surface below the head of the bolt.

The nice thing about using an 80mm bolt was that the thread-to-shank transition allowed the sacrificial nut to thread right up to where the flat needed to be to drill the hole. The 60-cent nylok nut is just to provide a flat and softer surface to get the hole started rather than chasing a drill bit around the curved bolt surface. The second one is even easier because that nut know becomes a jig:




I cut the bolt down to approximately 2-11/16" because the passenger side bolt (I'll now refer to it as the main pin) has to go in from the opposite direction as OEM in order to be able to close the linch pin, but still has to be short enough to insert from the engine-side of the bracket which is otherwise blocked by some dohickey (I forgot what it was). The driver's side main pin can go in either way (length not important, but I made them the same so they're interchangeable). I then used an angle grinder to put a taper at the end of the main pin to help guide it through the bracket and link end bushing:



Here's a view of it installed. Passenger side looking from below the link:



And here's how I secured the sway bar and link (the upper end of the link is still connected to the sway bar, so this whole thing is really only a partial quick disconnect !):



Please let me know if you think I'm headed for problems with any of this. I must have missed something.... this was too easy.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
AntennaX 13" off road antenna

Next up was the AntennaX 13" off road antenna. I read a lot of conflicting reviews on reception; here's what happened for me:
There is one AM radio station I listen to frequently that had very poor reception. Lot's of noise near power lines. The new antenna was only slightly worse, but all the other stations I listen to still come in fine. Well worth it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Kergo Hammock Seat Cover

Then came the Kergo Hammock seat cover for the back seat to keep off the dog fur. It also discourages the dogs from trying to come up front. It's a nice design with a zipper part way up the middle if you want to have it as a hammock on one side and a regular seat cover on the other so a passenger can sit in back. There are velcro flaps for opening to access seat belt latches and baby-seat anchors. I used one of these to run tethers to the dogs' harnesses to prevent them from jumping out the window or if the doors are off. The carry-bag for the cover also serves as a storage bag that you can clip behind a head rest when you're using the seat cover.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Jammock

Next came a hammock for me, The Jammock !
The only thing that wasn't clear on installing it was that on a JK the rear strap has to go behind the B-pillars. Works great, and I'm 6'1" tall.
You can't spend the night in it, but it'll be great for kicking back.
It will also serve as overhead storage when the top is up, and a shade when the top is down. Jammock gives 10% off to Wrangler Forum members.




This picture shows how to run the rear strap behind the B-pillar on a JK. It's not clear in the instruction on their website because they show a TJ.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Bestop under seat lock box

Last edition before heading out to Calico.
Bestop underseat lock box. Very solid and heavy, impressive "pick-proof" key, easy install. But I don't know why they'd bother with a pick-proof key, 'cause if somebody is determined enough to pick a lock all they need is an 18mm socket and ratchet. Well, it'll keep honest people honest.
Good to have, especially with a soft top.
This one's on the driver's side; they make one for the passenger side, too.

Seat all the way back:

Seat at driving position for me:

 

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Discussion Starter #19
AEV 2.5" lift added

details to follow, but, here's the summary:

Installed AEV 2.5" lift with Bilstein shocks, geometry brackets,
and exhaust spacers.

Installation was almost painless, but very time-consuming given
that I did it outside without a lift.

Results were beyond my expectations. Turns out the front was
pretty much shot; the old springs under the XRC bumper had
sagged 1-1/8" and now it's up to exactly 2.5" above factory
specs (result was a 3-5/8" lift!). The rear (still factory bumper,
soft-top, 1/2 tank fuel, 32" spare) went up 3-1/8"; when I add
a suitable bumper and go to a 35" spare it will probably drop to 2.5"

The ride is fantastic so far (haven't taken her off road yet) with
the front being a lot smoother than the overloaded/worn out
original.

The elimination of "nose-dive" on braking is the most dramatic
difference thanks to the geometry brackets.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
AEV 2.5" lift added

The instructions provided by AEV were pretty good. The install was easy with a few exceptions, even when doing this with a floor jack and jack stands.

The problems I ran into were as follows:

The Bilstein front shocks use a threaded stud for the upper mount (like the OEM) but instead of the threads have flats milled in on which to put a wrench to keep the rod from turning when tightening the nut, they use a 5mm hex socket in the end of the stud. This proved tough to get to on the driver's side and impossible to get to on the passenger side. In addition, the bushings make it so that only a few threads protrude through the shock tower on which to try and get the nut started. Using the floor jack I was able to raise the axle on the side I was working on enough to force more threads to reveal.

On our 2012 the driver's side has barely enough room to get a wrench on the upper nut. Trying to then get a 5mm Allen key on top of that was a no-go. I read where some folks cut down the short end of the key and were able to get it in, but that didn't work for me. There is a small access hole from under the hood (right below the ABS unit) that you can put a key through if you have a long enough key, which of course I did not. I also couldn't find one locally so I jury rigged one.

First pictures (if I remember how to do this) are of the location of the access hole, the Allen key positioned in the hole, and the next picture is of the home-made key. I took a 6mm coupling-nut, 2 6mm x 60mm socket-head screws and a couple of lock washers and assemble them as in the following pictures. I cut the "L" off of one 5mm Allen key and taped it into one end. I used locked washers because the torque to hold the rod from turning would otherwise loosen the coupling-nut.





The passenger side was worse.
There is no access hole for the Allen socket and no clearance to even get a wrench on the upper nut from underneath. I had to take a Dremel tool and cut away some of the plastic that is the under side of the battery and fuse-box tray. Still no access for the Allen, but the final picture shows that I just pulled the boot down from its retaining ring and put a small pipe wrench (Vise-Grips would work) on that area so as not to mar the rod. It was a pain getting the boot back around the retainer but I eventually got it. In hind-sight I could have done this on both sides, but I think it was easier making the extended Allen key than getting that boot back right.




The only other area that caused frustration was removing the front right upper control arm bolt at the frame. An exhaust component made it very tough to remove. I'd have cut it but I figured I was going to have even more trouble getting one back in even if I used (or cut) a slightly shorter bolt. Turns out that when installing the Geometry Correction Brackets this bolt initially has more side-to-side play. I would have cut the old bolt and put in a new one had I known.


The instructions, and the guy at the shop I got it from said to not torque any control arm or track bar hardware until the vehicle is flat on the ground on it's tires. This might be too far for common sense given that putting the axles (not chassis) on four jack-stands of equal height should be the same thing, but I didn't second-guess and put it on the ground. Torquing to 125 ft-lbs under the Jeep is tough access for lots of the hardware, but I lowered the tires onto 4x4's all around and those plus the extra 2.5-3.0" of lift sure came in handy!

I am very, very pleased with this kit.
I'm not sure if the exhaust spacers were necessary (AEV said no, others said yes, shop guy said it's a good idea) so I put 'em in anyway. It was easy and they were $50 of cheap insurance and piece of mind.
 
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