Rugged Ridge

Basic decisions

When I purchased Smokey, she was four years old, and had 17,710 miles on the clock. Aside from some very minor hail damage to the hood and windshield, she was in immaculate condition.

Ah, but there was a small fly in that ointment. The plastic AM/FM antenna base had a wrench-shaped crack/hole in it just behind the antenna. Either the previous owner damaged it tightening his antenna, or someone had tried to relieve him of the antenna itself.

Either way, this minor imperfection has been a little annoyance since I’ve owned the Jeep. I’ve considered a replacement, especially since I hope to one day replace all the black plastic pieces with something less fade-prone.

Photos courtesy Quadratec

Recently, I participated in a little market-research project (not Jeep-related) that paid just a few dollars. It wasn’t much, just enough to pick up a new antenna base.

This Rugged Ridge unit is all metal and shouldn’t fade like the OEM factory bits can. So, by the end of Labor Day weekend, that cracked-up base should be history. Watch for the installation guide to come soon.

Winch comparison, Part II: Mainstream winches

Building upon our recent examination of several high-end winch offerings, today we examine several mainstream winches. Each has the quality and features Jeep enthusiasts expect, but come don’t carry their big brothers’ hefty price tags.

Ground rules

As with the first group of winches we looked at, our mainstream models all feature synthetic line for its strength and added safety factor. Two of today’s models register pull ratings of 8,000 pounds, sufficient for a two-door Jeep JK, while the remainder are of the 10,000- and 10,500-pound variety. Our so-called mainstream winches carry manufacturer’s suggested retail prices between $501 and $999.

One final note: As the price point comes down, manufacturers must look for ways to boost efficiency while saving production cost. Such corner cutting is often revealed by withholding specifications or data points that are disclosed among higher-end products. For this reason, specifications that are not commonly available on the manufacturer’s website or via a search of common enthusiast retail sites and web forums are marked with a “***”. The reader can make his or her own determination how vital a missing piece of information is.

Here are the contenders:

ENGO-77-10000S-2 Engo EPF 10000s

A popular choice among budget-minded Jeep enthusiasts, the Engo EPF uses hydro printing to give the solenoid box a carbon-fiber look, stainless steel fasteners and an aluminum Hawse fairlead on models equipped with synthetic rope. Engo winches include a limited lifetime warranty on mechanical components and a one-year electronics warranty.
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Cost: $696
Rated line pull: 10,000 lbs.
Weight: 63 lbs.
Rope: 85′ of 3/8″ synthetic
IP rating: ***
Controls: Solenoid
Geartrain: 3-stage planetary
Ratio: 265:1
Clutch: ***
Brake: Auto
Drum diameter/length: 2.5″ / 8.8″
Battery leads: ***
Finish: Carbon-fiber-look laminate
Warranty: Limited lifetime
Dimensions: 21.9L x 6.3D x 7.7H
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winch_sec8_scoutMileMarker SEC8 Scout

Florida-based MileMarker brings its no-frills 8,000-pound winch to our lineup ready for action. The SEC8 includes a series-wound motor, 4.8-horsepower motor, submersible 500-amp solenoid and a 152:1 gear ratio. The Scout is among the more attractive designs in this group, with its blacked out appearance accented only by the company’s trademark orange accents. The 100 feet of Dyneema synthetic rope is protected at the end closest to the removable permanently affixed hook by a chafe guard.
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Cost: $651.06
Rated line pull: 8,000 lbs.
Weight: 57.5 lbs.
Rope: 100′ of 5/16″ Dyneema synthetic
IP rating: ***
Controls: Solenoid
Geartrain: 3-stage planetary
Ratio: 152:1
Clutch: ***
Brake: ***
Drum diameter/length: 2.5″ / 9.0″
Battery leads: ***
Finish: Unspecified black
Warranty: ***
Dimensions: 21.5L x 6.25D x 8.0H
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rugged-ridge-spartacus-winchRugged Ridge Spartacus 10.5

Rugged Ridge has expanded its winch offerings with the introduction of the Spartacus series of heavy-duty winches. The 10,500-pound-rated model features a 6.6-horsepower series-wound motor and three-stage planetary gear box with a 218:1 gear ratio. The automatic load-holding drum is mounted inside the drum. (Though not uncommon in the industry, out-of-drum brakes are preferable with synthetic rope to avoid excessive heat build-up in such close proximity to the rope.)
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Cost: $599.99
Rated line pull: 10,500 lbs.
Weight: 65.5 lbs.
Rope: 90′ of 7/16″ synthetic
IP rating: ***
Controls: Solenoid
Geartrain: 3-stage planetary
Ratio: 218:1
Clutch: ***
Brake: Automatic (in-drum)
Drum diameter/length: 2.5″ / 9.0″
Battery leads: ***
Finish: Argent powder coat
Warranty: Five-year limited
Dimensions: 21.1L x 6.3D x 8.6H
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X20Smittybilt X20 Gen2

Smittybilt capitalized on the success of its waterproof X20 model by launching a successor that features a 6.6-horsepower motor that is completely sealed against the elements. That waterproofing extends to the 500-amp solenoid pack, which can be mounted in either of two locations using the included brackets. The X20 Gen 2 also boasts a new controller that can be operated via a traditional 12-foot cable or unplugged for easy wireless functionality.

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Cost: $550
Rated line pull: 10,000 lbs.
Weight: 99 lbs. (official)/67 lbs. (user-observed)
Rope: 98.5′ of 3/8″ synthetic
IP rating: 68
Controls: Solenoid
Geartrain: 3-stage planetary
Ratio: 218:1
Clutch: Sliding ring gear
Brake: Automatic (out-of-drum)
Drum diameter/length: 2.5″ / 9.0″
Battery leads: 4 gauge, 72″
Finish: Textured powder coat
Warranty: Limited lifetime
Dimensions: 22.3L x 5.4D x 9.4H
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VR8000Warn VR 8000s

Warn’s entry-level winch touts its 8,000-pound pull capacity, making it a respectable choice for Jeeps and light trucks. VR Series winches feature quick line speeds and are available with Warn’s trademark Spydura synthetic rope. As with all Warns, VR winches include the Oregon company’s limited lifetime warranty.
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Cost: $729.99
Rated line pull: 8,000 lbs.
Weight: 62 lbs.
Rope: 100′ of 3/8″ Spydura synthetic
IP rating: ***
Controls: Solenoid
Geartrain: 3-stage planetary
Ratio: 216:1
Clutch: Sliding ring gear
Brake: Automatic direct drive cone
Drum diameter/length: 2.625″ / 9.0″
Battery leads: 2 gauge, 72″
Finish: Powder coat
Warranty: Limited lifetime
Dimensions: 20.8L x 6.3D x 6.97H

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Up next:

Entry-level winches from Superwinch, Barricade and Quadratec.

Rugged Ridge announces new aluminum differential covers

Rugged Ridge recently announced its new line of Boulder Aluminum Differential Covers for Dana 44 and 30 axles. According to the company, each cover is designed to help protect internal components from damage caused by contact with rocks and other terrain off-road as well as aid in dissipating heat from differentials.

Learn more here: http://www.off-road.com/blog/2016/01/19/rugged-ridge-offers-new-jeep-boulder-aluminum-differential-covers-for-d44-and-d30/

Daily poll: Hot under the collar, er, hood

I’ve been very fortunate to this point, in that I’ve not experienced the overheating seemingly common to Jeep JKs. I’d like to be proactive, though, so I’m planning to include some form of under-hood heat reduction as part of Smokey’s build. Additionally, Smokey had some minor hail damage on her hood when I bought her, so these options either will mask or eliminate any trace of that damage. Take a look at the options and my thoughts on each of them, then feel free to share your opinion in the poll and/or leave a reply below.

Daystar Products hood cowl: I recently discovered Daystar’s new hood cowl during a search for other Jeep products. Made of a hard plastic, the cowl comprises a vent on the hood’s leading edge, which is covered by a cowl that includes two built-in vents along the two sides. The cowl is paintable and, according to Daystar, reduces under-hood temperatures by about 12 percent. (That figure jumps to an impressive 27 percent when used in coordination with Daystar’s dual hood vents, which I happen to find too bulky.) MSRP: $329

Mopar Rubicon 10th anniversary hood: Mopar’s special-edition hood includes a classic Jeep Wrangler hood bulge and a pair of functional integrated heat vents. (The plastic vent openings are rather small from the factory, but easily can be opened for better airflow.) Until I discovered the much more affordable Daystar hood cowl, the Mopar hood had been my choice for heat exhaust. MSRP: $625 plus paint

Rugged Ridge performance vented hood: While only on the market a couple of years, the Rugged Ridge stamped-steel hood has gained quite a following, and it’s easy to see why. The hoods lines complement the Jeep’s body lines, and the two forward and six rear vents (three on each side) offer significant airflow improvement over the stock steel hood. MSRP: $699 plus paint

American Expedition Vehicles hood: The original, and still a standard, AEV’s heat-extraction hood offers stylish performance and, thanks to its quality heft, helps reduce JK hood flutter, too. While there’s no reason for concern with running open screens on a Jeep’s hood (the engine compartment is exposed to moisture and the elements from underneath, anyway), use caution during water crossings if you’re not running a snorkel, as one of AEV’s screens lies directly over the stock airbox intake. MSRP: $836 plus paint

Note: I’m not including bolt-on vent panels in this list, as I have something special planned for the center of Smokey’s hood. Stay tuned …