Build decisions

Rock on! Installing Poison Spyder Customs’ frame-mounted Ricochet Rockers

Equipping Smokey with legitimate protection for her vulnerable rocker panels has been on my list of must-do modifications from Day One. After a great deal of research and consideration, I chose the Poison Spyder Customs Ricochet Rockers, not to be confused with the DIY product of the same name. The original Ricochets mount to the factory Rubicon rails, which themselves bolt to the pinch seam. My frame-mounted sliders offer much stronger protection, and afford my wife and kids a practical step for ingress and egress.

Installation was fairly straightforward. Here’s how it went.

Materials/tools needed:

  • Poison Spyder frame-mounted Ricochet Rockers (Part No. 17-08-040)
  • 1/2″ ratchet handle
  • 3/8″ ratchet handle
  • 18 mm socket
  • 9/16″ socket
  • 9/16″ box wrench
  • 3/16″ drill bit
  • 3/8″ drill bit
  • 29/64″ drill bit
  • Drill motor
  • 1/2-20 threading tap & tap handle
  • Anti-seize compound
  • Blue Lock-Tite
  • Shop towels (optional)
  • Center punch
  • Hammer
  • Permanent marker
  • Rustoleum Professional primer (2 cans)
  • Rustoleum Professional High-Performance Enamel, semigloss (2 cans)

Right-side pre-installation

Step 1: Remove transmission & fuel tank skid bolts

After removing any existing steps or rocker protection, use a ratchet and 18 mm socket, remove the bolts on the underside of the frame holding the transmission skid plate (automatic transmission only) and the fuel tank. NOTE: Loosening the two forward fuel-tank bolts will allow the tank and skid plate to drop just enough to allow the Ricochet Rockers to slide into place between the frame and fuel skid. Yeah, ask me how long it took me to stop fighting with a pry bar like the instructions said and figure out there was a better way! (smh) Just don’t loosen the forward bolts too much. The skid plate does hold your fuel tank in place on the JKs!

Step 2: Mark & drill outrigger holes

Left-side pre-installation

Step 1: Remove transmission skid bolt

RKR - DrvrMockUPAs with the passenger-side pre-installation, remove the transmission skid plate bolt in the underside of the frame and loosen the forward bolt to allow the skid to hang enough for clearance. (NOTE: Make certain you’ve reinstalled the passenger-side bolt before removing the driver’s-side bolt to avoid letting the skid plate fall.)

Use the transmission skid plate bolt and jack stands to hold the rock slider in place while you mark and drill the remaining left-side holes.

Step 2: Mark holes and drill outrigger holes

Step 3: Drill & thread rear mounting point

Center-punch and drill a 3/16″ pilot hole in the center of your marked area on the underside of the frame. Step up at least one size before enlarging the hole to a final size of 29/64″. Use caution to keep this hole as straight and perpendicular to the frame as possible, as you will thread this hole to receive a mounting bolt.

Next, use a 1/2-20 threading tap and tap handle to create threads in the 29/64″ hole you just drilled. Keep the tap as straight and steady as possible. While the frame is thicker in this area, my finished hole is only four (maybe five on one side) threads deep. Frankly, I’m not completely comfortable with such a small “nut” for my slider’s primary mounting bolt. I’ll be watching for signs of movement, and may weld this corner in the future if need be.

Paint the exposed steel in the body mount brackets to prevent rust. I also attempted to deposit some paint around the upper edge of my mounting hole to prevent rust inside my frame.

Final installation

Step 1: Clean & degrease

With the pre-installation complete, use a scouring sponge, some denatured alcohol and a clean rag to remove any lingering manufacturing dust and/or oil from the rock sliders. The cleaner the surface, the better the primer will adhere to the surface, so don’t get stingy with the scrubbing, especially in tight areas!

Step 2: Prime

RKR - Primer1

 

Next, comes the second-most difficult part of the entire process. I call it difficult not because there’s anything overly complex about it, but because it requires discipline and patience to achieve a quality outcome.

RKR - Paint_PrimerSet down three jack stands, raised to their highest setting, then cover them with a sufficiently large drop cloth. To protect other items in my garage from overspray, I hung drop cloths along one end of the garage as well.

Vigorously shake the can of primer, then begin applying a very light coat. The particular brand I chose, Rustoleum, notes that a second coat may be applied within the first hour, or after 24 hours. So, I applied three light coats about 45 minutes apart, then let each slider rest 24 hours before flipping them to coat the opposite side.

In both priming and painting, pay special attention to the crevices along the underside and inside of the outriggers, as these areas are likely to retain rust-causing moisture.

Step 3: Paint

With the sliders primed and dry, paint may be applied. Using the same technique I used for primer, I applied five light coats of paint on each slider.

Step 4: Let it cure!

While the Rustoleum Professional series primer and paint I chose dries to the touch in an hour, that does not mean it is ready to mount on the Jeep.

All paint, especially spray paints, require time for the paint to cure to its full hardness. This process can take a full two weeks, making it easily the hardest part of the entire process — it requires patience!

In my case, I let the sliders rest about a week in my garage. With them installed, I’m also avoiding using them for another week to allow the curing process to complete in place.

Step 5: Reinstall

With the primer and paint having cured about a week in my garage, I was comfortable with completing my final installation. I’m also avoiding using the steps for another week to allow further curing while they’re in place.

To complete the installation, simply follow the steps used for pre-installation, using the factory bolts for the fuel tank and automatic transmission skid plate mounting points. (If you have a manual transmission, use the supplied bolts in the factory drilled and threaded locations.) Poison Spyder includes bolts, flat washers and nylon lock nuts for the outrigger mounting points. Apply anti-seize to all bolts, and re-tighten after 1,000 miles. NOTE: Because I’m not completely sold on the effectiveness of the left rear mounting hole’s limited number of threads, I chose to use blue Loc-Tite in place of anti-seize for this bolt to give it a little more holding power for daily use.

First impressions

I like the Ricochets’ easy bolt-on installation and frame-mounted strength. I was disappointed — perhaps unduly — that they didn’t fit fully flush against the frame or brackets in places as I had expected them to. I don’t anticipate that this will reduce their effectiveness. They’re quite solid on the frame. It’s just something that annoys the perfectionist in me. Beyond that, the Ricochet Rockers are a nice compromise between a family-friendly step and a hard-core rock slider.

Total time to complete

About two hours combined for test-fitting and final installation

Total project cost

$464.95 ($441.79 for the sliders via ExtremeTerrain coupon code, plus $23.16 for paint, primer and supplies)

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I completed final install of the driver’s side before a nagging headache drove me back inside. I hope to finish this up today and post an install write-up early next week.

A little update

Work has kept me too busy to post in a while, but I haven’t completely ignored Smokey.

I’ve removed my worn, faded vinyl from the hood, and a new ‘Smokey’ nameplate will be on its way soon. (still tweaking the redesign a bit)

Tube stepsAnd, I took advantage of a beautiful day today to finally remove the tube steps that were on the Jeep when I bought her. I’d been using these things on the rocks a little more than I’d realized!

Next up is a test fit of my rock sliders, followed by painting and a final mount.

As promised, here’s a quick look at the output, both high and low beams, of my new Rigid D2 Dually High-Lows:

 

I’ll share an update as soon as I have a chance to hit the trail with the since re-aimed lights.

Installing Rigid D2 Dually High/Low on Poison Spyder mounts

My goal in building Smokey is always to prioritize functional modifications over more appearance-minded installations. However, a Christmas gift and a closeout sale led me to pick up a pair of Rigid D2 Dually H/L dual-beam LED light pods.

Why a dual-beam light pod? I tend to wheel at or near the end of the line. Typically, that would mean leaving any auxiliary lighting turned off so as to not blind the driver in front of me. But, with these Rigids putting out just 607 lumens in the low setting — less than half of my factory headlights — I’m betting the low beam will afford me the extra light I need to see brush and drop-offs along the side of the trail without being a hindrance to other drivers.

It’s also worth noting my installation utilizes the Rigid Industries wiring harness and three-way switch included with the lights. I’ll eventually add a central switch/accessory control system, and incorporate these lights into it, but for now, all the electrical components are installed as recommended by the manufacturer.

Materials/tools needed:

Rigid D2 Dually H/L specifications

  • IMG_1731MSRP: $390/pair
  • Raw lumens: 3096 (high) / 607 (low)
  • Lux @ 10m: 203 / 40
  • Number of LEDs: 6
  • Amp draw: 2.5 / 0.6
  • Wattage: 34.5
  • Beam pattern: Specter driving (~45 degrees)
  • Beam distance: 285m / 56m
  • Color temperature: ~5800
  • IPF rating: 69K
  • Connectors: Deutsch
  • Construction: Extruded aluminum housing, polycarbonate lens
  • LED lifespan: >50,000 hours
  • Dimensions: 3.2″ W x 3.2″ D x 3″ H
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime

Step 1: Install Poison Spyder mounts

IMG_1734

Using a ratchet and a T-40 Torx bit, remove the two recessed button-head bolts at the front lower edge of the Jeep’s A pillar. Give the exposed paint a thorough cleaning, followed by a couple of coats of wax. Then, placing the rubber gasket included with the light mounts, align the mounts to the factory bolt holes and secure them with the factory hardware. There is a slight amount of play here, so make sure the mounting bracket is straight and level. You can hold it in place as you begin to tighten the bolts to prevent unwanted movement.

A word about light mounts. There are probably as many, if not more, mounts available as there are companies selling LED pods to mount on them. The key factors in my decision to go with the Poison Spyder Customs mounts were (a) that they included a rubber gasket to protect my paint, (b) their design helps hide the lights’ mounting stud, at least from the side and (c) they came powder coated from the factory. (I really lucked out here, as Poison Spyder’s Spydershell powder coat is a no-kidding exact match for the custom-blended satin powder on my front and rear bumpers.)

Step 2: Mount LED pods to brackets

Open one of the individually bagged sets of mounting hardware. You should have one stainless steel mounting bracket, one carriage bolt, two nylon lock nuts, two bolts, one flat washer and one lock washer. Drop the carriage bolt into the rectangular slot along the bottom of the bracket. Next, looking at the underside of the light, insert the lock nuts with the top/acorned end of the nut facing toward the center of the light pod. Next, insert the bracket so the nuts are to the inside of the mounting slots. NOTE: Rigid’s brackets may be used facing either direction. I oriented my brackets so the longer end of the bracket is facing the rear. This results in the light sitting lower on the mount, revealing less of the stainless steel bracket. The light has less room to rotate upward this way (though it still can rotate up at least 65 or 70 degrees), but it provides an aesthetic I prefer.

Step 3: Secure light pods to mounting brackets

IMG_1735While one person can complete this step, having a second set of hands will make it far easier. While holding the light pod in place (it’s top-heavy, and won’t stay on its own), slide the flat washer and lock washer onto the carriage bolt, then thread the nylon lock nut into place. Secure hand-tight so the light will remain in place, but leave loose enough to allow for aiming and adjustment later. Now, repeat this process on the other side. And, see my thoughts on aiming your LED pods below.

Step 4: Route wiring under cowl

Rigid provides about 10 to 12 inches of well-insulated wiring out the back of its D2 Dually pods. The most convenient way to run your wiring is under the cowl. To access this area, use your ratchet and a T30 Torx bit to remove the two button-head bolts on each side of the Jeep. There’s just enough room without removing the windshield wipers to run the wiring between the body panel gap and under the cowl. Doing so will allow the Deutsch connectors to protrude far enough past the forward edge of the cowl panel to provide access for making the necessary wiring connections.

A word of warning here: The cowl bolts are secured underneath the cowl panel by a sheet metal clip nut. In Smokey’s case, one of these nuts was loose enough that removing the bolt allowed the nut to drop free of its sheet-metal home, rattling menacingly into the great void below my Jeep’s windshield. After 30 minutes of digging around with a magnetic probe and a flashlight, I’d found it and re-secured it to its home. Learn from my mistake. Remove these bolts with the hood up, and with one hand on the nut underneath the bolt.

Step 5: Route wiring harness

IMG_1770

Start by laying out your wiring harness, then tuck the battery connections away behind the battery. Do NOT connect the harness to the battery at this time. Run the harness along the factory wiring loom that runs along the back of the engine bay. Leave the fuse holder exposed above the engine for convenient access.

Routing your in-cab wiring will most-greatly affect the two leads that run to your light pods, so leave those loose and unconnected at this time. Next, use a coat hanger or similar object to puncture the rubber seal over the firewall pass-through to the right and below of the brake fluid reservoir.

Inside the Jeep’s driver’s side door, remove the kick panel between the door and the dash. Most JKs I’ve been around have allowed me to remove this panel by hand, but use a flat-head screwdriver or similar tool to gain access, if necessary. This panel is held in place by three or four tension clips. It should pull free with relative ease.

Now, channel your inner contortionist, and crawl under your dash in the driver’s foot well. Pull the switch terminals through, and run them to the open area exposed by the missing kick panel.

Step 6: Remove side sun visor & trim panels

Remove your left sun visor with an appropriate-sized Torx bit. (I was in a rush, and left mine in place. It’s doable, but you’ll have much more leeway to work if you remove it.) Next, use a small Phillips-head screw driver to remove the plastic screw in the lower of the two holes in this trim panel. (A tip for easy removal. Use gentle but firm inward pressure on this screw as you turn the screw driver. Doing so keeps enough pressure on the screw to keep the plastic threads (seriously, Jeep?) engaged long enough for successful removal. Now, you can remove the top trim piece between the windshield and the A-pillar. There’s a plastic Christmas-tree fastener securing the rear of this panel to the underside of the sport cage, but it will pull free with a little care. Next, remove the plastic A-pillar panel by firmly pulling it toward you. There are three tension clips and one plastic clip (at the bottom) holding this piece in place.

Once you’re sure you have enough wire to reach your switch, secure the remainder in place with a zip tie and replace the kick panel.

Step 7: Install grommet & switch

I routed the wiring through the top hole of the trim piece removed in Step 6 and then installed a fully wired switch into the grommet, then pushed the whole unit through the hole. However, I recommend you insert the grommet first, and route the terminal ends of the wiring harness through from the back side. Connect the terminals to the switch as instructed.

Before cleaning up and reinstalling all your panels, connect the harness to one of the lights and the battery to perform a quick function check. Then, disconnect from the battery and reinstall your interior panels to complete that part of the installation.

Step 8: Connect harness to lights & battery

With the interior wrapped up, cover the exposed wiring in the engine bay with a suitable split wire loom and zip tie it along the factory wiring loom along the back of the engine bay. Route the wiring outside the weather stripping and connect each of the lights to the wiring harness. For an added measure of weatherproofing, I wrapped each Deutsch connection with electrical tape. (NOTE: Do NOT run your wiring harness over the factory weather stripping as shown in the passenger-side photo above. This will cause interference when closing your hood. Instead, run the wiring for the right-side light around the edge of the weather stripping to ensure no chafing or wiring damage occurs.)

Step 9: Aim & adjust lights

Remember you haven’t yet tightened your lights into their final position. Aiming off-road lights, which aren’t legal for on-road use (PLEASE, don’t be that guy!), is a personal preference. For my purposes, I’ve aimed mine 15 degrees to the side and just above my high beams. Another good habit is to go test your aim in the type of terrain you’ll be wheeling in the most, to make certain the lights’ beams are to your liking. Once you’re satisfied with your aim, tighten down all bolts.

First impressions

Is ‘wow’ enough of a review? I’m not sure which impresses me more, the amazing amount of light coming from these little pods, or the fact that Rigid Industries’ new ‘Pro’ version of this light puts out 4,700-plus raw lumens, a full 1,600 more lumens than these! In the photos above, you can see the un-aimed low (left) and high (right) light output of the left-side light in relation to my stock low beams at 25 feet from my garage door. By the way, that American flag is lit each night, not that you can even see the light on it with either Rigid beam shining that direction! The D2 Duallys have an impressive heft to them, along with a solid build quality. Even the wiring’s thickness and tactile feel exude quality. Yes, I’m impressed. As an added bonus, the Rigid logo, which I’d expected to be white, is in fact a light silver, complementing my black-and-silver color scheme.

Installing these LED pods, which greatly outshine my headlights, only made me more determined to get LED headlights and fog lights to complement them. And, seeing the rat’s nest of wiring growing in my engine bay (it’s only a CB, rock lights and these Rigid pods) has me longing for a more professional power-distribution system, too. All things in time, I suppose.

Total time to complete

About two hours (If you’re not trying to film your installation! Watch the installation here.)

Total project cost

$237 (Lights: $199, plus $13 shipping via Rigid’s website; Poison Spyder mounts: $24.99 via Amazon, with free shipping)