2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Black Bear Build
Preliminary Build Sheet
Now that we have our Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Black Bear purchased, we need to get right to work on beginning our modifications. There’s an almost unlimited number of modifications you can make to a Jeep, so we need to be systematic about it. Certain things need to come before other things or you may find yourself replacing things more than once. More research is needed but here are the categories and the order in which we are currently planning this build.
- Lift Kit. There are lots of different lift kit sizes and getting the right one depends on a lot of factors. How much clearance are you looking for? Will there be a heavy bumper and winch on the front? Are you looking simply for an inexpensive body lift to get more clearance for bigger tires or a fully capable suspension lift which will provide better off-road performance? Our initial thinking is we are looking for good off-road performance so we are looking to go with a full suspension lift. Depending on tire size we are leaning toward 2.5-4 inches. We don’t want it to be up too high for use as a daily driver but yet we want it up enough to clear the larger tires we are planning for and any typical size obstacle we might find in moderate off-road situations.
- Wheels and Tires. You can go a lot of different ways with wheels and tires. We really like the black-on-black look of the Black Bear so we want to stick with all black rims. Since we are looking to go larger on the tires we will need to replace our stock Black Bear rims with 17″ wheels. There always seems to be a lot of discussion on the JK forums about tire size. It seems like bigger is always better and that no one is happy until they end up with a huge set of 40’s on their rigs. We are thinking about starting out with 35’s, possibly 37’s. We want fully capable off-road tires but we are also a bit sensitive to road noise for when we are aren’t rock crawling. Most likely we won’t end up with mudder tires like the Nitto Grapplers that most people seem to gravitate toward instead settling for more of an all-terrain tire.
- Body Armor/Exterior Mods/Recovery. The Bear already has rock sliders. We are looking to replace the front bumper with something a bit more aggressive that includes a sizable winch. We are looking for other body armor, including corner and rocker guards, light guards for the headlights and turn signals (we already have these on the rear lights), and various skid plates (i.e., engine, transmission and differential). We will also consider hood and grill replacements and tube doors for when the factory doors are off and we need some type of side mirrors since the factory mirrors are connected to the doors.
- Lights. No rock crawling rig would be complete without off-road lighting. We want to be able to light it up when we are out on the trail after sunset. We want to run some type of LED light bar across the top of the windshield, either a single 50 inch bar or three 13.5 inch bars. One 20 inch hood mounted light bar, dual A-pillar LED light cubes on both sides of the windshield and a pair of light cubes on front bully bar will wrap up our front lighting package. We are thinking of possibly including a couple of light cubes on the rear for those rare cases when you have to back out of a tight spot and you really need to see what’s back there.
- Exhaust and Engine Performance. Once you have your rig lifted with big tires and outfitted with your body armor and recovery gear, you can’t forget about performance. There are lots of engine and exhaust modifications that will make your rock crawler run and sound better. An after market cold air intake is cheap, easy and a no brainer and when paired with a snorkel kit will really let your engine breath easier. Look for both of these to be added to the Bear. After market performance exhausts are a great way to make your rig sound awesome and add some quick and easy horsepower. Hopefully we will make the Black Bear’s growl a bit more fierce by adding one of these in the near future.
- Interior. One thing you find out quick with a Jeep with the top and doors off is that there isn’t much security for your stuff. Anything that isn’t bolted down tends to walk away (and even some the things that are bolted down). While the center console and glove box are lockable, a 5-year old with a screwdriver and about 10 seconds of spare time can break into either one of them. So you need to find a way to lock up your stuff in the summer. A lockable strong box under the driver seat is the best way to lock up small valuables. There are trunk mounted lockable solutions that turn the trunk space into a lockable storage area for larger items that we will be looking into. Stay tuned for other interior modifications as well.