2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing an Expedition One Front Bumper
June 18, 2012
You already know the end of this story because last week we posted a couple of sneak peek photos that show our 2012 Jeep Wrangler wearing its brand new Expedition One Trail Series front bumper.
Complete with a black powder coat finish like you see here, their JK Trail Series front bumper goes for $1,109.95 -- with the hoop. Our hoopless version was $1,059.95 -- just $50 less. We went this route for two reasons: 1) I like the hoopless look and; 2) the more popular hooped version was on a 3-week back order. Slice $80 off either price if you want to do without the black powder coating and apply your own finish.
What follows is a description of the installation process, with photographs by our own Scott Jacobs.
In case you were wondering, this is the Expedition One logo.
A thorough read of the instructions is always the best place to start.
The plastic splash guard beneath the bumper is the first thing to go. It will not make a reappearance. Archie the Overlord is unimpressed.
Eight nuts hold the factory bumper in place: two on the outside of each frame horn and two more on the inside. The outer ones are laughably easy to access and loosen.
Access to the inner ones is made easier by removing the trim panel that sits behind the bumper. It's held on with two of these plastic clips. Like the splash guard we removed earlier, this part will not be reinstalled after the new bumper goes on.
The panel slides out to the side easily after both clips are gone.
An obstacle is revealed once the panel is removed. This vacuum pump occupies prime real estate for winch installations and the bumpers made to carry them.
But this is not a universal JK-series Jeep Wrangler problem -- this component did not appear in this location until the 2012 model year.
The electrical connections to the two driving lights are the only thing standing in the way once the eight bumper mounting nuts are removed.
Imagine a winch sitting in there and the unfortunate location of the 2012 JK's vacuum pump becomes obvious.
At this point owners of 2007-2011 Wranglers who may be following along can skip ahead several steps because they don't have to deal with what comes next.
In short, the vacuum pump has to be moved to an underhood location. What's more, its mounting bracket (orange) must be cut off. The relocation kit supplied to us by Expedition One was made by a third party because this issue is widely shared by other 2012 Jeep Wrangler bumper suppliers.
In order to move the pump the main vacuum line (yellow) must be shortened. The smaller exhaust line (white) will be removed entirely. Why? In this low factory mounting location the pump's exhaust port sits below the water level of many water crossings; the exhaust line merely moves the pump's discharge point to a point above Jeep's designed-for water fording depth.
The new pump location sits above that point, so this exhaust line is no longer necessary unless and until an accessory snorkel is fitted at some future date to enhance the Wrangler's water fording depth. At that point a similar line will need to be reinstalled and run up to match the snorkel's intake level. (No, we're not planning on a snorkel -- this isn't Burma.)
Finally, the power lead (green) will need to have a two-foot section spliced in to allow me to move the power connector up under the hood along with the pump.
Once removed, the vacuum pump assembly will not be modified in any way. But there is work to do before it can be reinstalled.
Its new home will be just behind the windshield washer tank and the ECU. Lucky for us, Jeep put a slip joint in the main vacuum line in the vicinity, and it's easy to unplug.
The section that runs forward will be abandoned but left in place for reasons that will become clear later. The portion that runs back toward the firewall will connect to the vacuum pump's check valve as if nothing ever happened once everything is set in the new location.
But we're not there yet. The pump's bracket still needs to be sliced off. The cutoff wheel I bought for the Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit installation comes in handy once more.
It takes less than five minutes to make the cuts, but there's no need to rush. It is possible to nick the nearby stabilizer bar if you're not careful.
Here I've run the supplied black and white extension wires for the pump's electrical power back up through the main vacuum line I've abandoned. Why remove it when it can offer the new wires protection?
Freshly cut or drilled metal is best covered with rust-inhibiting paint, of course.
I didn't use the butt connectors that came with the relocation kit. Instead I opted for higher-grade heat-shrink butt connectors, which I covered again with additional heat shrink sleeves. After that I slipped the joint back into the original plastic sheathing, which I then stuffed into the end of the vacuum line. Lastly I wrapped the whole thing in rubberized electrical tape.
Two 1/4-inch holes need to be drilled to hold the electrical connector in place. A broad ABS plastic flange that's part of the ABS brake module mounting bracket is the perfect location.
The new bolt-on bracket takes advantage of existing bolts. This is the easy part.
More heat shrink butt connectors and heat shrink tubing protect a second splice that joins the vacuum pump power connector to the extension wires.
Except for a couple of tie wraps to clean things up, our work is done here. The new wires emerge from the abandoned vacuum line (orange) and run down to the point where the connector (green) is attached to the new holes we drilled in the ABS bracket. The main vacuum line (white) is connected to the same check valve assembly (yellow) that it connected to in the original location.
Meanwhile, back at the bumper installation, a small hole that once held the driving light wire harness in place is enlarged to 1/2-inch in diameter -- but only through that first thin layer. The same thing happens on the other side where the vacuum pump bracket once lived.
These new holes increase the total number of bumper mounting holes from eight to ten.
This step is shared with owners of 2007-2011 JK Wranglers. Welcome back, folks.
Finally! It's time to test-fit the new bumper. Expedition One has provided hidden hand-hold cutouts that make this easy for one person to do alone.
The strips of blue painter's tape are there to prevent the fenders from getting scratched by incidental contact that may occur while it is set in place.
At this point gravity is the only thing holding the bumper in place, but the alignment is darn near perfect. The eight main frame mounting bolts line up perfectly, but the two lateral ones I drilled need a slight adjustment.
The installation of the eight main attachment bolts is aided by dogbone brackets. The new lateral mounting bolts are blind, but those nuts are welded to long handles that make them easy to set into place. In all cases the brackets eliminate the need for any backing wrench during the tightening process.
We can't forget to transfer the lights.
Expedition One provides new nuts and bolts that work with the factory light brackets.
A few seconds with a round file is all it took to add the smidge of extra clearance that would make the lateral bolts go in easy. It was barely necessary -- just a millimeter -- but the remedy was painless.
The dogbone nut assemblies slip in behind the bumper's mounting flange. The new bolts and washers spin in from this side.
Except for the laying on the ground part, tightening couldn't be easier.
A slot in the winch platform eases installation of the dogbone for the inside pairs of bolts.
Final torqueing can commence once all ten bolts are started and snug.
All done. Our new Expedition One front bumper is finally Archie-approved.
Next up: Installation of our Superwinch.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,392 miles