bumper

First impressions: Crawler Conceptz Ultra Front Skid

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The good news is my Crawler Conceptz lower skid is finally mounted. It fought to the last with fitment. A friend helped me remove the bumper (a frustrating necessity) and attach the skid on Saturday. The nine bolts and Nylok nuts that attach the skid to the bumper have just enough clearance to mount. The bolts don’t even extend into the nylon ring, let alone protrude from the nuts.

skidpowderLater, after a test drive, I discovered the bolts already were coming loose, and now some were just hand tight! So, again with a friend’s help because of the 100-pound (combined) weight involved, the bumper was removed. One by one, we loosened or removed the bolts, applying Lock-Tite and re-secured each one.

The look is great and, in defiance of logic, just the addition of the 26-pound skid makes the Jeep feel much more planted and stock-like on surface streets. (I suspect this is the additional weight balancing out the heft of the rear bumper-tire carrier.) The downside is that it also introduced a bit of noticeable understeer on the highway. It’s nothing I won’t get used to and be able to compensate for, but it wasn’t a change I expected.

Overall, I’m glad I added the Ultra Series img_1034skid. It makes the front end look more complete with the Ultra Series stubby bumper look. But, if I had it to do over again, I’d likely go with the company’s one-piece unit that includes a true recessed winch mount.

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skidpowder

My Crawler Conceptz front lower skid plate (inverted, above) returned from being powder-coated yesterday, meaning I’m one step closer to getting my license plate out of my front window and covering up that crash bar eyesore. Now, I’ve got to pick up a 1/2-inch ratcheting wrench to avoid some busted knuckles (not to mention a lot of frustration) and make the time to install it!

Installing Crawler Conceptz Ultra Series front bumper

The Crawler Conceptz Ultra Series was the first front bumper marketed by the company when it launched in April 2014. I won this bumper in an online contest, but this site didn’t yet exist for me to document its installation.

Here, then — two years after its original installation — is a brief description detailing the very simple installation process.

Materials/tools needed:

  • Ratchet handle
  • 3/4″ socket
  • Medium flat-head screw driver or panel puller
  • P2 Phillips-head screw driver
  • Power drill and 3/8″ bit (optional)

Step 1: Remove OEM air dam

Air DamRemoval of the factory lower air dam can be a frustrating process. Owners of newer JKs, whose air dams are secured with the same easy-to-remove fasteners that keep the grille on JKs of all years, will never experience the agony of trying to remove those plastic Phillips-head screws, only to have them strip and force you to drill them out.

These people should rejoice.

For the rest of us, two options present themselves: First, it is possible to carefully back out those screws, of which there are four on a vertical plane across the underside of the air dam. Those who don’t care about damaging the factory piece may opt to skip straight to the drill bit. In any case,  pulling those four screws and four more fasteners at the bumper will free the factory air dam from your Jeep.

Step 2: Disconnect fog lights and release wiring harness

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Reaching underneath the Jeep’s crash bar, firmly squeeze the orange plastic tabs on both sides of the fog lamp assembly and pull the connector free of the bulb.

Once this is done for both fog lamps, use a flat-head screw driver or panel puller to remove the four plastic “Christmas tree” connectors from the underside of the bumper. The fog lamp wiring harness should now freely hang.

Step 3: Remove front bumper and frame cover

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The bumper is secured on each side by four 3/4-inch bolts, two on each side of the frame horns (eight total). Using a ratchet or power driver, remove these eight bolts. You can now pull the bumper away from the Jeep. (It weighs a remarkable 26 pounds, including the front tow hooks.) The four bumper mounting plates will fall away when the bumper is removed. They will not be re-used in this installation. Returning to the top side of the bumper, carefully unscrew the plastic retainers securing the frame cover or drill them out and lift it away.

Step 4: Install fog lights into new bumper

24856671013_11a282c02f_kLay the factory bumper face-down and unscrew the four sheet metal screws securing the light brackets to the bumper. NOTE: These lights are directional, so it would be wise to first mark the side and orientation on the back of each light with a pencil or permanent marker.

Transfer the lights to the inside of the Ultra Series front bumper. Here is where my installation hit its only snag. One of the eight mounting holes in the Crawler Conceptz bumper was slightly too large to re-use the factory mounting screws. Instead, I ran to the hardware store (Of course, nothing I had on hand was the right size!) and picked up the appropriate nuts, bolts and washers.

Step 5: Mount new bumper

Ultra Series AftSlide the Ultra Series bumper onto the front of the Jeep, making sure the eight captured bolts fit into the existing holes in the Jeep’s frame horns. Use caution so you don’t pinch the fog lamp wiring harness. Secure the bumper using the factory nuts and captive washers. Be sure to start all eight bolts before tightening them down to ensure a proper, flush fit.

Step 6: Reconnect fog lights and secure harness

Snap the plastic connecters securely back onto the fog lamp assemblies. Take note of the three holes at the top of the bumper on the back side. Secure three of the four Christmas trees on the fog lamp wiring harness to these locations. Installation is now complete!`

First impressions

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The addition of the Ultra Series bumper completely changed the look of my stock Jeep. I painted a piece of sheet steel and affixed behind the Crawler Conceptz logo cutout using some automotive emblem adhesive, leaving the bottom open to evacuate any water. Replacing the 26-pound factory Tupperware with 69 pounds of American steel compressed my stock springs about 3/8 of an inch, but the extra weight’s presence isn’t noticeable from the driver’s seat.

Total time to complete

About two hours (including obtaining replacement fog lamp hardware)

Total project cost

$74 for powder coat and fog lamp hardware (The bumper retails for $549 in raw, unfinished steel)

Let’s back up!

Facing JeepI filled my Championship Sunday commercial breaks today with installing my SuperBright LEDs back-up lights in my Crawler Conceptz Ultra II rear bumper. And, because my chief concern was quickly placing and/or wiring the lights, I’ll apologize for not taking the photos necessary for a proper installation write-up. For now, suffice it to say I’ve tied in the back-up lights to the same switch as my rock lights for convenience sake. Eventually, I’ll tie each separately into an sPOD or similar in-cab switch bank.

Now, allow me to demonstrate the stark difference these 2.5-inch, four-LED lights make behind my Jeep.

Materials/tools needed:

  • M4-WHB4 2.5-inch white LED lights (2)
  • PL-2S right-angle 2-pin plugs (2)
  • Truck-Lite 10700-3 open-back 2.15-inch rubber grommets (2)
  • Black automotive-grade silicone
  • 18-gauge wire (black-insulated)
  • 18-gauge wire (red-insulated)
  • Heat-shrink electrical butt connectors
  • Heat-shrink sleeves
  • 3/8-inch plastic electrical conduit
  • Cable ties
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire strippers/cutters
  • Heat gun or cigarette lighter
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Factory Jeep back-up lights.

 

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LED back-ups only.

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Factory back-ups and LEDs.

 

First impressions

To the naked eye, the LEDs didn’t create quite as blue a cast as these photos illustrate, but they nonetheless deliver a welcome boost to the factory illumination.

For more information on these or other lighting ideas, check out www.superbrightleds.com.

Total time to complete

Start to finish, inserting the Truck-Lite rubber grommets, LED lights, running wiring, then sealing it up and placing it inside appropriate loom took about five commercial breaks. I’ll estimate that as about 15 minutes, give or take.

Total project cost

$23.82, plus incidentals

Crawler Conceptz Ultra Series II JK rear bumper & tire carrier installation, part one

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As anyone who’s had the chance to see their work up close knows, Crawler Conceptz is quickly making a name for itself in the Jeep aftermarket industry, thanks to its quality products and design creativity.

The Ultra Series II rear bumper and tire carrier for Jeep JK are no exception. Installation of the bumper is relatively straightforward, which is fortunate, as the only instructions included are for the tire carrier portion of the installation. (As a young company, such growing pains are inevitable, if frustrating.) As a substitute, I made use of the instructions for a competitor’s similar product and a video showing installation of that product.

Even then, the installation was not entirely without its minor hiccups. They’ll be noted below, where applicable. NOTE: This installation write-up assumes the installer has performed an initial test-fit prior to paint or powder coat.

Materials/tools needed:

  • 3/8-inch socket handle
  • 5/8-inch socket
  • 3/8-inch socket extension
  • 1/2-inch socket handle
  • 3/4-inch socket
  • Grinder or Dremel w/cut-off wheel
  • Wax pencil or permanent marker
  • Center punch
  • Drill
  • 1/2-inch drill bit
  • 1-inch drill bit or hole saw
  • Basic cleaning supplies
  • Masking tape
  • Primer
  • Touch-up paint

Step 1: Remove OEM bumper

Using a 5/8-inch ratcheting socket, remove the Jeep’s Tupperware, er, factory rear bumper. It’s held in place using two bolts into the frame rails in each rear wheel well, and by four bolts in two brackets in the rear frame cross member. You’ll need to climb down under the rear of the vehicle to access these. (Make certain the muffler and exhaust system isn’t hot to avoid a nasty burn.)

The rear bumper weighs about 15 pounds, and is easily removed by one person.

Step 2: Remove tow hitch wiring tab

HitchThe Ultra II is notched for use with the factory trailer hitch, but one of the bumper’s mounting tabs is positioned to hit the bracket that holds the wiring harness in place. (at right, circled in red) The bracket is welded to the hitch, and must be ground off. While this was my first real frustration with this bumper, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least note it was also at least partly one of my own making. I’d chosen the factory-hitch version of the Ultra II precisely because I’d believed it would maintain this very mounting tab — and I didn’t want my wiring dangling down below the Jeep. I should have asked for clarification, in which case I’d likely have gone with the integrated-trailer-hitch version of this bumper.

I removed the four 3/4-inch bolts holding the hitch in place (Surprisingly, three of these bolts were little more than hand tight!), and ground off the L-shaped weld holding the tab in place. After a little clean-up grinding for appearance’s sake, I covered all remaining bare steel with two coats of touch-up paint to prevent rust.

Step 3: Drill frame to accommodate bumper

Slip the bumper in place, and install the factory bolts hand tight. Mark the location for the third bolt hole in each wheel well. If you plan to utilize all four cross-member mounting locations, mark the center two holes as well. (In the absence of printed Crawler Conceptz instructions, I relied on an instruction from “that other company” saying to ignore the two centermost holes.)

Remove the bumper, then measure three-quarters of an inch to the outside of the existing half-inch hole along the outside of the rear cross member. Mark the location and drill a one-inch hole centered on this mark. Use primer and paint to cover all areas with exposed steel to prevent rust from forming.

NOTE: It may be necessary to enlarge the factory holes later. Use your best judgment whether or not to enlarge them at this time or to make adjustments after the tire carrier is in place.

Step 4: Insert clip nuts

Insert the clip nuts in the outside of each frame rail and in the bottom of the frame cross member.

Insert the clip nuts in the outside of each frame rail and in the bottom of the frame cross member.

Slide the included clip nuts into the large factory holes in each frame rail and into the large holes drilled into the underside of the cross member so they straddle the inner and outer sides of the Jeep’s steel frame. The extruded portion of the clip nut should face INTO the frame rail and cross member.

It may be helpful to use the claw side of a small hammer or another hard, flat surface to drive the clip nut into position. The clip nuts may create surface scratches in the frame’s finish. Use touch-up paint to cover these exposed areas to prevent rust.

NOTE: Make sure there is room forward and rearward movement, as adjustment may be necessary when the tire carrier is mounted.

Step 5: Final installation

With the help of a friend, slide the bumper back into position, taking care at the trailer hitch, as the bumper will need to be rotated up to clear the hitch receiver. Use the factory 5/8-inch bolts and four 9/16-inch bolts and washers to secure the bumper in place. If you’re proceeding on to the tire carrier installation, I recommend leaving all these bolts somewhat loose for now to allow for adjustment.

As my schedule was forcing me to stretch installation over several days, I covered the exposed steel of the carrier spindle in electrical tape to prevent exposure to the elements.

UP NEXT: Part two — installing the tire carrier