Build decisions

Two projects done. About to wrap up a third before moving on to a fourth. Getting four of six projects done isn’t a bad day’s work. (And, the day’s not over.) Many thanks to my friend, Cliff J., for his help!

Product comparison: Jeep JK vented hoods

A decade into its product life cycle, there are near-limitless ways to customize a Jeep Wrangler JK. Among the most popular is the vented hood. This is more than an individual style statement; it helps keep temperatures down on the trail, when lower speeds negate some of the radiator’s cooling effects. Some owners, myself included, have opted to add louvered panels to their hoods. There are many companies producing those panels, and we’ll reserve consideration of them for a later post. There also are plenty of non-vented hoods on the market, but that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

Today, we’ll take in a healthy dose of the aftermarket hoods themselves. As popularized by American Expedition Vehicles’ benchmark design, these hoods add tons of style and much-needed functionality to the Jeep’s engine compartment. As with so many aftermarket automotive products, you generally get what you pay for, and a manufacturer’s reticence to disclose some information can hide a potential area for concern. Let the buyer (always) beware. Here’s a quick comparison of many available options. Click the manufacturer’s name to link to the company’s relevant product page.

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AEVAmerican Expedition Vehicles

MSRP: $875

Weight: 57 lbs. (shipping weight)

Material: 23-guage stamped steel

Finish: E-coated primer

No. of vents: 3

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap, sides behind hood latches

Place of manufacture: USA

Worth noting: AEV’s design incorporates a built-in access point for the company’s snorkel, which means a no-drill installation of that product. Mesh vents come standard in a black powdercoated finish; silver versions are available. Produces similar hood for Moab-edition JKs; some suppliers also claim AEV produces Mopar’s 10th Anniversary-edition hoods under a subsidiary contract for Fiat Chrysler.

 

 

Carbon AEV CloneCarbon Creations DriTech Heat-Reduction hood

MSRP: $1,299

Weight: 25 lbs. (shipping weight)

Material: Carbon fiber

Finish: 2×2 twill weave CF

No. of vents: 3

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap, sides behind hood latches

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: How do you out-bling an AEV hood? An AEV-lookalike hood in carbon fiber, that’s how.

 

Cliffride VentedCliffride Lucerne vented hood

MSRP: $999

Weight: 48 lbs.

Material: Fiberglass

Finish: Unpainted

No. of vents: 2

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap

Place of manufacture: N/A (Company headquartered in California)

Worth noting: Also available without vents for $950 MSRP. Company has 20 years of manufacturing experience and boasts as its owner Tony Quezada, founder of Volant Cold-Air Intakes.

 

 

Extreme Dimensions AEV CopyDuraflex Heat-Reduction hood

MSRP: $449

Weight: 57 lbs. (shipping weight)

Material: Fiberglass-reinforced plastic

Finish: “Signature black”

No. of vents: 3

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap, sides behind hood latches

Place of manufacture: USA

Worth noting: Your inexpensive copy of AEV’s hood is here. Company notes “hood pins are required.”

 

ED ABRDuraflex ABR hood

MSRP: $699

Weight: N/A

Material: Fiberglass-reinforced plastic

Finish: “Signature black”

No. of vents: 2

Vented location(s): Above main engine belt

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: See also, DV8 Jeep JK hood. (And, check out that off-center washer nozzle!) Company notes “hood pins are required.”

 

DV8 Off-RoadDV8 Jeep JK Hood

MSRP: $1,088.03

Weight: N/A

Material: Fiberglass

Finish: Unpainted

No. of vents: 2

Vented location(s): Above main engine belt

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: Fiberglass hood may require sanding and final finishing prior to paint application.

 

DV8 10ADV8 10th Anniversary Hood

MSRP: $560

Weight: 35 lbs.

Material: N/A

Finish: “Comes ready to paint”

No. of vents: 2

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: One of a number of manufacturers offering copies of Mopar’s popular 10th Anniversary Edition hoods.

 

DV8 HeatDV8 Off-Road Heat Hood

MSRP: $560

Weight: 60 lbs.

Material: “Made with metal”

Finish: “Comes as pictured”

No. of vents: 8

Vented location(s): In power dome above longitudinal engine axis, in front of windshield cowl

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: Currently shows “sold out” on website.

 

Mopar 10AMopar 10th Anniversary/Hard Rock Edition hood

MSRP: $873

Weight: 40 lbs.

Material: Stamped steel

Finish: Primer

No. of vents: 2

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap

Place of manufacture: USA

Worth noting: After debuting on the 10th Anniversary-edition Rubicons, this hood has made its way to current Rubicon Hard Rock JKs. Only available with dual washer nozzle openings. Early JKs with a single nozzle, like Smokey, will require the AEV Dual Nozzle Kit or a similar home-brew approach.

 

RK Sport ExtractorRK Sport Extractor hood

MSRP: $799.64 to $1,995.95

Weight: N/A

Material: Fiberglass

Finish: Hand-finished grey gelcoat

No. of vents: 8

Vented location(s): Above engine

Place of manufacture: USA

Worth noting: Design focuses on hot-air egress, rather than introducing cooler air to the engine bay. Available in several configurations, including carbon fiber.

 

RK Sport Ram AirRK Sport Ram Air hood

MSRP: $762.25 to $1,895.95

Weight: N/A

Material: Fiberglass

Finish: Hand-finished grey gelcoat

No. of vents: 3

Vented location(s): Leading edge (ram intake forces air into engine bay above airbox area)

Place of manufacture: USA

Worth noting: Available in several configurations, including some with carbon-fiber blister.

 

 

Rugged RidgeRugged Ridge Performance Vented Hood

MSRP: $1,220.99

Weight: 75 lbs. (shipping weight)

Material: Stamped steel

Finish: Primer

No. of vents: 8

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap, in front of cowls

Place of manufacture: Taiwan

Worth noting: Optional vent appearances available for hood-top square vents; 5-year limited warranty

 

Safaripal AggressiveSafaripal Aggressive hood

MSRP: $2,000 (“Save $1,000”)

Weight: N/A

Material: N/A

Finish: N/A

No. of vents: 7

Vented location(s): Engine-radiator gap, in front of windshield cowls

Drilling required: No

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: Dr. Frankenstein, your hood is ready. “Instruction (sic) not included, professional installation is highly recommended.”

 

Safaripal RevengeSafaripal Revenge

MSRP: $720 (“Save $260”)

Weight: N/A

Material: N/A

Finish: E-coated primer

No. of vents: 8

Vented location(s): In power dome above longitudinal engine axis, in front of windshield cowl

Drilling required: No

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: Safaripal’s hoods all claim you’re saving X amount, but compared to what? DV8’s comparable hood is $560. “Instruction (sic) not included, professional installation is highly recommended.”

 

Safaripal SRT-8Safaripal SRT8 Performance hood

MSRP: $650 (“Save $70”)

Weight: N/A

Material: Stamped steel

Finish: E-coated primer

No. of vents: 8

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap, in front of cowls

Drilling required: No

Place of manufacture: N/A

Worth noting: What, you thought overseas brands only copied U.S. products? Company claims versions for single- and dual-washer nozzle JKs, but no selection opportunity is provided on website.

 

Smitty SRC StingraySmittybilt SRC Stingray vented hood

MSRP: $549.99

Weight: N/A

Material: 0.8 mm steel

Finish: 0.2 mm E-coat primer

No. of vents: 2

Vented location(s): Above engine-radiator gap

Drilling required: No

Place of manufacture: China

Worth noting: The latest 10A hood clone. Includes washer nozzles and under-hood foam insulation. (By the way, did you check out the URL?)

 

TOTLTOTL Innovations Heat-Expulsion hood

MSRP: $950, plus $180 shipping

Weight: 26 lbs.

Material: Fiberglass

Finish: N/A

No. of vents: 8

Vented location(s): In power dome above longitudinal engine axis, in front of windshield cowl

Drilling required: No

Place of manufacture: USA

Worth noting: By now, you’ve seen this design a few times in this list. As far as we can tell, though, this domestic company is the originator of the design. Compatible with Avenger supercharger units.

 

NOTE: STJ is not affiliated with, nor do we receive any compensation from any of these companies. Some of the options listed are lesser-known brands. Do your due diligence before shopping at any online retailer; this listing is not to be construed as an endorsement of any product or manufacturer listed above.

 

More JK Wrangler aftermarket products:

YouTube user TrailRecon has a great video comparing different methods of airing up your tires after a trail run. Check it out, and please share your thoughts below!

I’m currently using a Harbor Freight single portable compressor, but my plans include a dual-ARB compressor and air tank. That said, that CO2 tank sure looks impressive!

Sometimes, the best upgrades are the ones you don’t see

After replacing my factory rear brake pads and rotors in October, I finally got around to completing the set with Teraflexs  Front Performance Big Rotor kit. The big-rotor kit increases the diameter of the Jeep’s rotor to more than 13 inches, with increases the leverage used by the factory-sized pads to slow the vehicle. (NOTE: Due to the larger size of the rotor, you must be running 17-inch or larger wheels with this kit.) The rotors are available in a traditional smooth or slotted configuration. As with the rears, I again chose Hawk Performance LTS semi-metallic pads.

Materials/tools needed:

  • Teraflex Front Performance Big Rotor Kit  (Part No. 4303480)
  • Hawk Performance LTS (Part No. HB569Y.650)
  • Lug wrench
  • Lug nut adapter, if necessary
  • Vehicle jack
  • Jack stands (2)
  • Wheel chocks (3)
  • Caliper slide grease
  • Ratchet handle
  • Torque wrench
  • 1/2-inch socket
  • 15 mm end wrench (as you’ll see below, I required a 19/32″ end wrench)
  • 21 mm wrench or socket
  • Brake cleaner
  • Breaker bar (optional)
  • Shop towels (recommended)

 

Step 1: Remove caliper & bracket bolts

img_0230Remove the caliper slide bolts using the 1/2-inch  socket while holding a 15 mm on the slide-pin nut. Now, here is where I ran into my only real issue. My Craftsman 15 mm wrench did not fit the slide-pin nut, even though Jeep’s specs say it is a 15 mm. An old 19/32″ (15.08 mm, if you’re mathematically challenged) wrench worked just right! Remove the slide pins by pulling them straight back and set aside for reuse in the Teraflex brackets. Save the retaining clips for transfer to the Teraflex caliper bracket. Lift the caliper out of the way and discard the old brake pads. Suspend or support the caliper to avoid damaging the flexible brake lines. Next, use a 21 mm socket to loosen and remove the caliper bracket. Save all the hardware for reassembly.

Step 2: Remove & replace rotor

Pull the rotor away from the vehicle, and set aside. In my case, the generous ring of rust around the wheel hub kept the rotors from budging, and I had to, er, persuade them with a rubber mallet. Mount the new Teraflex rotor over the studs, rotating it (the rotor is drilled for both 5-on-5 and 5-on-5.5 bolt patterns) to determine the correct holes. Avoid touching the rotor’s flat surface to prevent transfer of grease from your hands to the rotor’s surface. Reinstall one of the lug nuts onto a lower stud to hold the rotor in an upright position to ease caliper re-installation.

 Step 3: Install pads, caliper bracket & slide pins

Step 4: Reinstall wheels & tires

With the new pads and rotors in place and properly torqued to spec, reinstall both wheels and tires, doing a final tighten to 105 to 110 lb.-ft. Turn the ignition to accessory, then gently pump the brakes several times to establish proper pressure.

Step 5: Break-in

After making sure I’d not transferred any grease to my rotors and cleaning up any excess grease I found, I followed Hawk Performance’s suggested break-in procedure for the new pads. It called for six to 10 stops from 30 to 35 mph at moderate pressure, followed by a few stops from 40 to 45 mph at moderate pressure.

That’s it, you’re done; now, go have some pizza and ice cream with your Jeeping friends!

bso-bubbas

First impressions

I wish now I’d done some 60-0 panic-braking tests before doing my rear rotors so I’d have some quantifiable data to share. Suffice it to say the difference having both front and rear rotors larger than stock is instantly noticeable! I didn’t lack confidence in my brake performance before, but the performance of my brakes now puts the stock system to absolute shame. I’d venture to say once you upgrade your rotors, you’ll be wondering why Jeeps don’t come this way from the factory. (Incidentally, I’m told European models do include larger-diameter rotors, though I’ve not researched this to confirm it.)

Total time to complete

About 2 hours, working very slowly. This is easily a 45-minute job with proper tools and in the right environment.

Total project cost

$359 ($282 rotor kit, $77 pads)

Driveshaft dilemma — Why choose a new joint over a beefier shaft?

I recently shared discovering my front driveshaft was leaking grease from its constant-velocity joint boot. I’d read enough about JK Wrangler driveshafts to know this and the vibration I’d been feeling each time Smokey approached 60 miles per hour likely spelled an early death for my driveshaft.

My immediate course of action seemed obvious: replace the driveshaft with a suitable double-cardan design. Ultimately, though, I decided to instead replace just the constant-velocity joint with a Teraflex Rzeppa High-Angle Factory Replacement CV Kit (try saying that three times fast), keeping the factory driveshaft for as long as it will last.

Here’s why:

Cost

As I explored options like Tom Woods, Adams Driveshafts or JE Reel, one fact was inescapable — this could get expensive. Replacing my factory shaft stood to cost as little as $400, but potentially as much as $900 for a single shaft and the yokes by which to mount it. My wife and I are diligently working to eliminate a good deal of medical and consumer debt this year, with the Jeep falling into the latter category. I could’ve redirected some of our aggressive Jeep payoff funds to this project, but I wasn’t looking forward to doing so. I could also find another Jeeper’s factory take-off shaft, but what kind of abuse might it have suffered before being cleaned up for posting on Craigslist or eBay? The Teraflex kit, however, comes from a respected, reliable company and reduced my cost to a scant $143. Even if I were to for some reason get only two or three years’ use out of the new joint, it will have served its purpose.

Practicality

Let’s face it. I don’t put in nearly the trail time I’d like to and, when I do, my wheeling style isn’t exactly what you’d call kamikaze. I’m not scared of the thin-walled factory shaft failing me, nor of gashing it open on a rock. At the same time, though, I do wheel when I’m able, and I don’t want my equipment to be the limiting factor in determining where I can or can’t go. The factory joint is designed to provide the best on-road ride, but the primary weakness of the Rzeppa joint, invented in the 1920s by Ford Motor Company engineer Alfred Rzeppa, is its distaste for extreme operating angles. To that end, the Teraflex joint has been specifically designed with a flared outer flange to operate at angles more than 30 percent higher than the factory unit. With that added flexibility, I should have the freedom to stretch out my suspension on the trail, even after lifting, without worrying about cratering my factory shaft. (Presumably, the rear driveshaft will need a similar modification, but only after I install my final coil lift and, even then, only if my actual lift height overextends the factory rear joint.)

Strength

Yes, it’s true these factory JK driveshafts are as thin and cheap as a tin can, and a hearty steel replacement offers significantly greater strength. But, as noted above, it’s unlikely I’ll be dropping my rig’s two tons down onto the shaft, making the more relevant strength to consider that of the joint itself. As designed for the JK, the factory Rzeppa joints offer higher breaking strength than a comparable double-cardan CV joint. It’s that joint, after all, that will absorb the bulk of the rotational force being applied by the transmission and transfer case. Based on my research, the tensile strength of a typical 1310 U-joint is about 1,800 ft.-lbs., while the Rzeppa will withstand some 2,100 ft.-lbs.

NVH

img_0177In automotive parlance, NVH stands for noise, vibration and harshness. Now, I make no claim to be an expert on drivelines or joints, but, I came to an interesting realization as I researched my options, one which finally helped me see why Jeep chose to use a Rzeppa joint (upper animation at right) in its driveshafts in the first place. This factory joint consists of eight steel ball bearings that move along grooved tracks within a rotating assembly. The rotating u-joint-dsmotion of the joint keeps the balls moving at a constant rate in relation to the force being applied through the transmission, making the Rzeppa joint far more smooth than a more traditional single- or double-cardan U-joint (lower animation at right), in which one side of the joint is speeding up as the other is slowing down during each rotation. Why does this matter? Because it means a Rzeppa joint will transfer less NVH up into the body of the Jeep than other joints. Additionally, my research showed how painfully common it is — even among top-of-the-line driveshaft manufacturers — to have shafts that aren’t perfectly balanced. “My shaft only vibrates at highway speeds” was a very common statement from end-users on web forums and other sites across the internet. Now, call me crazy, but vibration is one of the things I’m trying to get rid of. So, why would I pay hundreds of dollars to simply move my vibration from 60 mph to 80 mph?

 

Conclusions

Hopefully, this helps you see why I believe the Teraflex kit best suits my needs at this time. It’s no magic bullet, and I’m not suggesting it’s the right solution for all JK drivers. Both the Teraflex Rzeppa and traditional double-cardan designs offer both benefits and drawbacks, which must be considered before tackling this kind of project. As with any vehicle modification, the best advice I could share with my fellow Jeepers is to take your time and diligently research your options. Internet enthusiast forums are a trove of valuable information, but beware not all the information there is well-informed; some users will push a specific option only to justify their own past purchases. Examine all choices and choose whatever makes the most sense for your situation.