For Phase 2 we went with new bumpers, winch, spare tire carrier and trailer hitch. There a lot of choices but we decided to go with the Rugged Ridge XHD bumper series. We like steel and the look of the textured black of the XHD series. We didn’t want too large of a striker on the front end so we went with the Double X Striker. What is great about Rugged Ridge’s bumper sets is you can piece together the bumper kit you want or go with one that they package for you. We started by building our own and then found that they had packaged the same pieces together. So we went with the kit.
For the front we chose the XHD Bumper Kit that included a front winch mount bumper, double X striker bar and high clearance ends (#11540.55). We liked the high clearance ends because we didn’t want any interference with larger tires and the high clearance ends match up nicely with the stock fender flares (which we planned to keep — at least for now). If we later decided to replace the factory flares we can then replace the high clearance ends with the included end caps or stubby ends.
Installation of the front bumper kit was a snap. You simply bolt on the high clearance ends, the double X striker and the winch to the new front bumper. The old bumper comes off very easily by removing a handful of bolts. The only minor difficulty is that you have to move a factory installed vacuum pump before installing the new bumper because its otherwise in the way of the new bumper. You have to cut away one of the mounts and then lower it with the included brackets. I cut the mount away easily using a saber saw with a metal blade. Its pretty much a one person job except when lifting the new bumper which is heavy and difficult to do while trying to bolt it on. If you are considering upgrading your fog lights, this would be a great time to do it since it is very easy to replace these with the bumper off. Rugged Ridge has some great LED fog lights that replace the factory ones. See http://www.ruggedridge.com/led-light-mount-kit-circle-11232-27.html. Since we are doing lighting for Phase 3 of our build, we will have to remove the bumper again to install these during Phase 3.
To match the front bumper we went with the XHD rear bumper in textured black (#11546.20), which include two heavy-duty D ring attachment points. See http://www.ruggedridge.com/xhd-rear-bumper-textured-black-11546-20.html. Since we were installing a new rear bumper, we thought it would be the most practical time to add a receiver hitch so we would be ready to tow anything we needed to. Rugged Ridge has a receiver hitch that bolts on to the rear frame of the Jeep and comes with an easy to install wiring harness (#11580.51). See http://www.ruggedridge.com/receiver-hitch-kit-with-wiring-harness-11580-51.html. Since we didn’t have anything to tow, we thought we would put a D-Shackle Assembly in the receiver hitch – mostly because it looks cool (#11234.01). See http://www.ruggedridge.com/receiver-hitch-d-shackle-assembly-11234-01.html
There was nothing to the installation of the rear bumper and trailer hitch. The old bumper comes off with the removal of a few bolts and the new one bolts right on. It is more efficient to bolt the receiver hitch on first since you have to have the rear bumper off in order to install the receiver hitch. So don’t forget to do that after you have removed the factory rear bumper. Since I did it in reverse order I had to take the rear bumper off once. Whoops. No big deal. It was very easy to put back one. The wiring harness for the receiver hitch is a snap as well. You simply remove the driver side rear taillight and plug the included wiring harness to the existing taillight. The wiring harness splits so you can replug in the taillight and then run the other end under the Jeep to the receiver hitch. The wiring harness even has plastic pegs that matches up with existing holes and holds the wire snug to the frame. Very simple. Very neat.
When it comes to winches you want a winch capable of pulling at least twice the weight of your rig. If you are in the early stages of your build when you get your winch we like we were, you may want to go a little bigger to take into account the additional weight you will be adding in the later part of your build (big wheels and tires are heavy!!!). We went with Rugged Ridge’s 12,500 lb Spartacus Performance Winch with Synthetic Rope (#15100.21). See http://www.ruggedridge.com/spartacus-performance-winch-synthetic-rope-12500-lbs-15100-21.html. We added a winch cover and a license plate holder. Since we are in Virginia we are required to have a front plate and if you have a winch mounted on your XHD bumper there is no good place for your front plate to mount (#15102.02 and 11238.07). The front plate holder is really great. It snaps into your winch opening and can be easily removed when you need access to your winch. See http://www.ruggedridge.com/winch-cover-8500-and-10500-winches-15102-02.html and http://www.ruggedridge.com/front-hawse-fairlead-license-plate-mounting-bracket-by-rugged-ridge-11238-07.html.
Finally, since we are expecting larger tires we needed to upgrade the rear tire carrier so that it can hold a larger, heavier spare. We replaced the factory tire carrier with Rugged Ridge’s HD Tire Carrier Kit (#11546.50). See http://www.ruggedridge.com/hd-tire-carrier-kit-07-15-jeep-wrangler-jk-11546-50.html. The kit replaces the factory rear door hinges with much larger stronger textured black aluminum hinges. It also replaces the spare tire carrier with a larger stronger one and raises the third brake light to allow for a larger tire. Very simple to install and it looks great too.
Our next article will discuss Phase 3 of our build – LED Lighting. Check back and see what we do.