First Jeep Modifications
Article and photos by
Brad Yhard, OF4WD Board of Directors 2017-present
Note that this article represent the opinion of the author, not OF4WD. There are many routes to modifications which are valid, this is simply my story.
If you have read my last article (Bought a New 4×4) and took my advice, you have joined OF4WD, have checked out a local club, and have gone on a Newbie Run. Likely you have also bought some recovery gear. So what’s next? Modifying your vehicle of course!
Since I was a new offroader not that long ago, I have talked to lots of people about modifications (mods) and have discovered two things.
1. There are more possible mods than you can count!
2. There are even more opinions on which mods are the most important to do, and in which order, than there are mods!
In the end, you will have to make your own choices based on your budget and desires. The information below is based on my experiences over the past couple of years. It is by no means a comprehensive list or the best order to do your modifications! Let’s start with stock and current pictures of Baloo, my wife’s jeep.
As you can see, there are lots of visible differences. And many that you cannot see! Here are some of the modifications we have done.
Upgraded Differential Covers
A differential cover protects the gears. While the stock covers are good, there are many aftermarket covers that are better. Cracking the differential cover when you hit a rock makes for a very bad day!
Sway Bar Disconnects
Sway Bars keep maintain the stance of your tires and keep them from articulating (moving up and down) too much on the road. However, additional articulation is key for off roading. It allows your tires to maintain contact with the trail when going over obstacles. Disconnects allow for additional articulation.
Lift Kit, Bigger Tires, Tire Carrier
Raising your vehicle higher gives you greater ground clearance which you to go over obstacles without hitting the bottom of the jeep, and allows for greater approach and departure angles. Larger tires raise all components of the jeep higher, and the lift kit allows for larger tires as well as raising the body of the jeep higher. While the stock tire carrier can carry the larger tires for a time, they tend to fatigue and break over time. A good heavy duty tire carrier is a good investment, and is safer.
We initially bought AT (all terrain) tires. These are supposed to be a good compromise between a trail tire and a road tire. We are planning on buying a set of MT (mud terrain) tires for the summer, and will put the AT’s on for the winter.
Bumpers and a Winch
Stock bumpers are basically plastic, and are damaged easily. Upgrading to metal bumpers both allows you to personalize the look of your jeep and allows you to install a winch to assist in recoveries.
Occasionally on the trail your vehicle will hit an obstacle. If this happens on the chassis between the tires, it can cause damage to the doors and door frames. While ours are not true rock rails (they are technically steps), they are sturdy enough to do the job.
There is always lots of banter between rigs on the trail, as well as important information being relayed. Most groups use CB’s for this purpose.
Are we done modifying our jeep? I do not think there is such a thing as “done”. Here are some of our future plans.
We currently have 3.12 gears. With the bigger tires we should have upgraded the gears to a bigger ratio, and plan to do this soon.
As we purchased Sahara’s, we do not have lockers. A locker locks the tires on an axle so that they cannot spin independently. The result is that if one tire loses traction the other will still have power. While not necessary to offroad, they are a significant advantage in some situations.
On Board Air
Lowering your tire pressure is key to successful offroading. At the end of the trail you need to re-inflate them! Instead of using a portable compressor we want to have a compressor permanently installed on the jeep, so there is less setup and a faster inflation time.
There are also lots of other modifications that can be done. We have installed Dirty Dog Cargo netting, Molly Bags, grab handles, a Hi-Lift jack, trail mirrors and a cargo box for storing tools. Lights are also a common modification. Where are you going to start? The possibilities are endless.