Thinking about upgrading your Jeep to take it off-road? Wondering which aftermarket Jeep parts you should start with? You aren’t alone. It’s fun to think about all the extras you can add to your Jeep, but it can be a deadly serious decision as well when you are halfway through the Rubicon Trail and turning back is no longer an option. I’ve put together the top 5, must-have Jeep Wrangler modifications. Some people may have differing opinions, but after owning 8 Jeeps, and being stranded overnight in the middle of nowhere more than once, I think my opinion pulls some weight.
Winch – Necessary in Emergencies
Don’t believe anyone who tells you a winch is not the single most important thing a Jeeper can have. The winch trumps every other item on this list, and for many reasons. There are so many benefits and uses that not having a winch is just foolish.
You may be wondering how it will benefit you and your vehicle. For those who don’t know, a winch is a towing device used in recovery situations.
Jeepers need a good winch when going on a trip with their friends. If one of you gets stuck in a tight place and cannot get your vehicle out, a winch is often your only solution to free a stuck vehicle. If a Jeep rolls, a winch is the only way to save the Jeep. A winch gets you home. A winch gets your friends home. A winch gets that stranger on the side of the road home. If you can only buy ONE item, make it a winch. You will thank me later.
Appropriate Tires for the Terrain
Please note I didn’t say M/T tires, or Toyo tires. I really mean appropriate tires for your regular off-highway environment. If you do a serious amount of mudding or live at high altitudes, perhaps mud and snow tires are your best bet. If your Jeep is a weekend warrior and you use it as a daily driver Monday through Friday, A/T tires are probably more appropriate. They arguably perform better off-road than the M/T’s anyhow. Know what your typical outing is going to look like, and upgrade accordingly.
Standard rock crawlers do well with M/T or A/T tires, but if you really like to get dirty and try to get stuck in the mud, then you might want to consider a swamper tire. Size matters here too. If you go much bigger than your stock tires, you will probably want to re-gear the differential. This process is not as hard or expensive as it seems, so don’t worry about it until you cross that bridge.
Lift Kits for Clearance
This is often the most common “first” item Jeep enthusiasts get, and rightly so. Adding a lift to your Jeep increases clearance, break over angle, approach angle, and departure angle. The benefits are obvious: drive over bigger things without getting stuck. In some cases it also helps driving through water crossings without getting wet.
A proper lift is essential when taking your Jeep off-road. I still rate winch #1, but lift is a very close second. Winch gets you home. Lift gets you there in the first place. When choosing a lift, be mindful of the type of wheeling you plan to do. If you are desert-running at 50 miles per hour, a solid coil over system is best. If you are slow poking it through deep water or large boulders, a basic spring lift will be sufficient, if not desired. Also, consider what size and type of tires you are going with and adjust your lift size accordingly.
Rock Sliders to Keep Your Jeep’s Body Safe
This one made it onto my list even though some people may never use their Jeep for rock crawling. It was a tough call, but in the end I added it to the list for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, rock sliders protect your Jeep. They are the best piece of armor you can have, and as a bonus they double as a step.
They also can be used as a winch recovery point should you flip or roll your Jeep. It’s very convenient to have a side recovery point, and rockers are ideal. Also, they protect against more than rocks. Trees, other Jeeps, even that car in the parking lot that swings their door open too hard… Extra protection for your Jeep, and a worthy addition to the list.
Lockers to Tackle Tougher Trails
Some newer model JK Wranglers come with differential lockers, but that is the exception and not the rule. Most Jeeps do not have factory lockers, so I highly recommend getting them installed if you plan on doing anything moderately challenging.
For those who don’t know, lockers cause both wheels to spin identical to the other, thus improving traction in low traction settings. There has been many a time my wheels have started to spin and I just hit the locker button and poof. Not stuck anymore. For an added bonus, if you get an air locker system, you can have onboard air as well to inflate your tires and run pneumatic tools should you wish.
Different terrain could necessitate variations to this list and it’s up to you to be prepared for the kind of wheeling you enjoy doing. This list has been compiled for discussion purposes. What do you think? What are your top 5 mods. Are they the same as this list?
- Mods List:
- Teraflex 3 in. Base Suspension Lift Kit w/ 9550 VSS Shocks
- RedRock 4×4 Side Armor
- Injen Evolution Cold Air Intake
- Mammoth Boulder Black Wheel – 17×9
- Dick Cepek Fun Country Tire
- Iron Cross Fender Flares