One of the hottest vehicles to modify these days is the Jeep Wrangler. Each generation of this legendary off-roader has its own set of positive attributes. While Jeep enthusiasts will debate the finer points of YJs vs TJs vs JKs, in general you should know some modifications for Jeeps are just plain cooler than others. That’s important, because the sheer range of Jeep aftermarket products is staggering. Before you fall for “Angry Eyes” or a chromed-out bull bar, consider the following.
Even if you’re not looking to do some serious overlanding, but just want to use your Jeep for camping, having a tent that goes on the roof can be super helpful. Quite a few different companies make tents you can slap on your Jeep. Many just attach to the roof rack with simple hardware, and have a fold-out platform, plus a ladder to climb up. The best tents pretty much just fold out with the platform, so you don’t need to set up much.
One of the main advantages of these tents is that they get you up and away from animals. Once you’ve had a run-in with little or big critters in the backcountry, you’ll understand why that’s so important.
If you plan on taking your Jeep on some serious trails where it might rub against rocks, trees, or other solid obstacles, give some serious consideration to side armor. It comes in many forms, with rock rails being perhaps the most useful. Thoroughly check out any option you’re considering, because some “side armor” provides light protection against damage, if even that much.
While side armor looks cool, if you don’t need it, putting it on your Jeep might not be the best move. Real armor weighs a lot, which puts strain on your suspension, kills fuel economy, and makes you Jeep handle more like a tank.
These can be controversial in some circles, but a snorkel does have its uses. Plus, they just plain look cool, giving your Jeep a more safari appearance.
Of course, the main function of a snorkel is to put the air intake opening at a higher level for water crossings. If you like to venture where deep water can be common, this modification is a solid move. Even if you don’t, a snorkel does something cold air intakes don’t: it draws in genuinely cooler air. Cold air intakes, even those what close off the element in a box under the hood, are subject to heat soak to an extent. Dealing with an overheating Jeep in the middle of nowhere is no fun. Snorkels guarantee a Jeep will be sucking in outside air, which even on a hot day is cooler than what’s under the hood.
Jeeps just look better once they’re lifted. Even if you just go for a little 2-inch lift, your Jeep’s stance improves. Of course, you should upgrade your tire size as well, otherwise the result could be comedic.
Not only does a lift make your Jeep look more rugged, it serves a purpose. Once you install larger tires, your ground clearance increases, which is a huge benefit when off-roading. Just remember to watch out for rubbing between your tires and fenders/suspension components, since that can hurt articulation.
Some lift kits have beefed-up suspension components that are better suited for hardcore trail runs. Dealing with a blown shock is no fun, while having a disconnecting sway bar is.
Basically, auxiliary lighting is any lights on the outside of your Jeep you can’t legally turn on while you’re traveling on the road. Thanks to LED technology, this type of modification has exploded. You can mount lights all over the place, including on the A-pillars, rear bumper, and roof rack.
Know that not all lights are created equal. You need to consider how much electrical draw your setup needs, because you don’t want it to strain your battery. Also find out about color temperature, how many lumens each light produces, and the beam pattern. All those factors affect performance in different ways.
Let’s face it, the factory bumpers on Jeeps aren’t the best, especially what you get with JKs. If you think you might encounter any obstacles to speak of, or you just want to make your Jeep look better, you have a huge array of aftermarket options. This may be one of the most common modifications out there, so be prepared to lose a few hours just perusing products.
Some points to consider is the construction of the bumper, which will be dictated by what kind of trail runs you might do. Also, look to see if a front bumper has light tabs, making it easier to mount auxiliary lighting, plus a winch mount. If you’re interested in bigger tires, or already have them, a stubby bumper doesn’t extend as far, and so it’s less likely to result in rubbing of any kind.