Crawler Conceptz

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.

Frustrations.

I crawled under the Jeep this weekend to install the skid plate below my front bumper. But after starting all but one of the bolts, the seam between the skid and bumper at the final bolt location were too far apart to join with the bolt! (My initial test fit revealed a gap here, but I suppose adding powder has increased the gap.) I tried loosening and removing some of the other bolts to create more play, but nothing enabled me to secure the skid in place. (A longer bolt isn’t an option, due to the faceted surface of the bumper and skid plate.)

Finally, I gave up and removed it completely. As I stewed over the situation the next morning, I fired off an email to Shad at CrawlerConceptz. To his credit, I received a reply about lunchtime, suggesting I trim the outboard corners of my Jeep’s crash bar to clearance the skid or simply leave out the final bolt. But, as I looked more closely at that option, I realized two things: First, Jeep has changed the design of the JK’s crash bar at least twice since the JK’s initial launch (web searches show at least three designs in existence) and, second, there’s nothing hanging down below the crash bar that should hinder my skid from bolting into place.

I want to spend some more time looking at the situation, but at this point, I think the entire crash bar may hang a 16th or so too low to allow the skid from bolting up. So, if that proves to be the case, would you:

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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!


It’ll be a while before I get around to powdercoating it, but look for a write-up when I do. 

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)