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Best Modifications for the Jeep Wrangler

No vehicle defines the 4×4 segment like the Jeep Wrangler, tearing up your local trails (or mall parking lot) since its initial release in 1986. Despite the original model being nearly 40 years old, the Wrangler hasn’t strayed too far from that formula. Modern Wranglers retain the same body-on-frame chassis, utilitarian looks, and 4×4 capability that have made all four generations such desirable off-roaders and practical vehicles. 

Much of the appeal of Wranglers comes from their modification potential, which has developed a massive aftermarket scene over the years. Inspired by the original military Jeep (the Willy’s GP, which developed the “Jeep” nickname from the common slurring of “GP”), the Wrangler and its CJ (Civilian Jeep) predecessors use a utilitarian construction that allows for easy access and replacement of components. While this was surely useful on a battlefield, it also makes the Jeep platform one of the easiest to modify for all-terrain capabilities. 

Here are some of the most effective modifications to turn your Wrangler into a true off-road machine. 

Suspension

The suspension is what supports your vehicle and absorbs the rocky terrain of an off-road trail, so upgrading your setup makes a lot of sense as a first modification. 

Newer Wrangler models come with a decent amount of clearance already, able to fit 33-35 inch tires from the factory. However, shock and suspension modifications can give you the clearance needed for some hardcore off-roading and even larger tires. 

An upgraded set of springs can provide you with longer suspension travel, higher durability, and allow you to support heavier off-road equipment. They also improve suspension articulation, which is how far each wheel can travel vertically. Better articulation allows for increased contact with the ground over uneven surfaces.

While Wranglers can do some light off-roading from the factory, OEM suspension components like the control arms and shocks aren’t built for aggressive and consistent off-road use. Replacing these components with more durable options will give you peace of mind out on the trail, even on the roughest terrain. 

Rockers and Bumpers

While these modifications won’t necessarily improve your off-road performance, they will allow your Jeep and its important components to stay protected from the rocks, debris, and harsh impacts of off-roading. Even then, the added look alone is enough for many Jeep owners to pull the trigger on body modifications like these.

Wrangler with aftermarket bumper

Rocker armor is often the cheapest and easiest to install in the group, covering and protecting the side skirts of the vehicle. Options range from cheap sheet metal armor to high-end powder-coated rockers designed to bolt right up. Wrangler owners also have the option of purchasing OEM rockers from the Rubicon trim, which can often be found on sites like Marketplace and Craigslist. 

An upgraded set of bumpers not only gives your Jeep an aggressive look but also gives you a sturdy place to mount a winch and added protection from impacts on the trail. The stock bumpers of the Wrangler are fine for road use but are not rugged enough to avoid damage during regular off-roading. 

Winch

A good winch is a necessity on any off-road-focused build. While you might not expect to get stuck often, it does happen and a winch is essential in recovering your vehicle. Even if it’s not your Jeep that’s stuck, a winch can help you get other vehicles on the trail out of sticky situations. 

When looking at capacity, it’s smart to find a winch that can pull 1.5x your vehicle’s full weight, including other off-road equipment and upgrades. All this extra stuff can get quite heavy, so it’s important to factor that into your winch choice. 

Winch on front of Jeep Wrangler

Wheels/Tires

A new wheel and tire setup is often the first thing new Wrangler owners spring for, largely due to the aggressive stance and capable look they give the vehicle. However, it’s usually best to wait on this until you have your suspension sorted. This is because larger tires will first need suspension upgrades for clearance, meaning you’ll need to purchase a new set of wheels and tires to fit your future upgrades. It may be best to use that initial money on suspension first, so you can buy the proper size of wheels and tires later. 

When it is time to upgrade those kicks though, choosing the right tire is one of the most important decisions for your off-road experience. Full off-road tire options provide the most aggressive tread and best durability on the trail, however, these come with a large tradeoff. Off-road-focused tires are notorious for their loud highway noise and rapid tread wear when driving on-road. 

As a best-of-both-worlds solution, many tire manufacturers offer “all-terrain” options that combine some of the off-road performance and tread design with the on-road practicality of normal commuter tires. While they’ll likely wear faster and be louder than most road tires, they provide great off-road traction without completely sacrificing your sanity on the highway. 

There are so many different tire and wheel options that it’d be unrealistic to cover them all in this article, but you can consult the various online resources or local shops to discuss the best wheel and tire setup for your Wrangler. 

When off-roading, it’s always important to slightly air out your tires for the best grip and safety on the trail. The optimal PSI depends on both your vehicle’s tires and the type of trail you’ll be running with your Wrangler. 

Lockers

If off-roading on more advanced trails, it may be worth it to spring for lockers on your Wrangler. Some newer Wranglers come from the factory with lockers, but the majority of them lack them.

Lockers cancel out the effect of a differential, locking all four wheels together. While the differential is very important for maintaining traction during on-road driving, the transfer of power to wheels that are lifted or lacking traction is counterproductive when off-roading. To combat this, the locker locks the axles and makes every wheel spin at the same speed no matter the traction. This matters when your Jeep is contacting the ground with less than all four tires, and allows power to be sent to those wheels rather than just the ones with no traction. 

Having a locker engaged can help your Jeep climb out of even the toughest situations, and make difficult trails more manageable. You should only have your locker engaged in situations with little to no traction, and should always have it disengaged when traction is regained or driving on-road. 

Jeep Modifications & Repair at Scott’s U-Save

If you’re in the market for some modifications to your Wrangler, trust the off-road experts at Scott’s U-Save. Whether you’re looking for suspension, wheels, tires, or more, our friendly advisors will help you choose the best option for your vehicle and what you intend to use it for.

We have options from industry-leading aftermarket brands and have the expertise and equipment to properly install your new components. Turn your Wrangler into YOUR Wrangler at any of our three locations today: Steger, New Lenox, and Schererville. Give us a call or schedule with our experienced team online!

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