2012 Jeep Wrangler Long Term Road Test - Maintenance

2012 Jeep Wrangler Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Installing a TeraFlex HD Hinged Tire Carrier

December 12, 2014

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Yes, it still exists. What used to be the official Edmunds 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport long-term test vehicle has been my personal vehicle since I seized the opportunity to buy it after the test ended. Functionally it's the same JK Jeep Wrangler that's sold today as the 2015 Jeep Wrangler. We don't expect to see a full redesign for a couple of more years, so most of what we learned (and I continue to learn) still applies.

Just before it left the fleet it developed a couple of cracked spot welds on the tailgate that creaked and popped on rough roads. The culprit was the oversized spare tire, made up of a 285/70R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tire and AEV/Mopar aluminum wheel. The largest factory wheel and tire weighs about 20 pounds less than this combination, and the JK's factory tailgate-mounted spare tire carrier has an upper limit that we had crossed.

And that's why Teraflex devised their Heavy Duty Hinged Carrier. It's designed to carry the load of massive oversized spare tires up to 37" in diameter with the optional Spare Tire Mounting Kit. The nice part about the TeraFlex approach is you don't have to buy a new rear bumper, which is a big cost savings. A new bumper costs upwards of $1,000 before you add any swing-away tire carrier option. It can run into big bucks.

So I bought one, brought it home and installed it the very next weekend.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: 32,000-Mile Service

May 27, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

We are another 8,000 miles into our test of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler. That means it is time for routine maintenance. A visit to our local dealer, Buerge Jeep, was easier than swapping out the oil ourselves this time, so we went there.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Rear Tailgate Crack

April 25, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Last week I was startled by a loud and annoying pop and squeak coming from the cargo area of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler on my way to work. The sounds were largely confined to rough sections of L.A. freeway and the occasional drainage dip near my neighborhood.

I'm pretty sure I've heard a much quieter version of this sound once or twice before, but it didn't scream "problem" like it did this time.

It didn't take long to find the culprit once I decided to have a look. The hinge area of the tailgate has starburst cracks radiating out from a pair of exposed spot welds on the interior side.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Running Strong at 30,000 miles

March 28, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

It happened on the way to Moab for its second visit to the Easter Jeep Safari. Our Jeep's odometer rolled over to 30,000 miles not one mile after I crossed the Utah state line.

It's running strong, but so far the combination of 75 mph freeway speed limits, rising elevation and a fierce headwind are not adding up to a new "best tank" in the Jeep's mpg logbook.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Installing a Teraflex Front Stabilizer Bar Disconnect

March 27, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport

Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is the base Sport model, which means it doesn't have the motorized front stabilizer bar disconnect system found on the more expensive Rubicon.

Up until now I'd have to crawl underneath with a pair of 18mm wrenches and some tie wraps, spending about 5 minutes disconnecting the bar myself before I headed off into nasty territory.

But several companies sell an alternative system that replaces the bolts and tie-wraps with an easily removed pin. Teraflex makes a particularly good one, and they sell it for about $130.

Here's how the installation went. It took about 20 minutes, including photo breaks. Double everything you're about to see because the entire process is repeated on the other side of the car.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: I Dislike Tire Shine Products

March 26, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

It was 9:00 am when I rolled into the parking lot to meet my friends to start our recent Arizona off-road camping trip. Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler was clean. Too clean.

The person that drove it before me took it to the car wash. It was spotless, and for that I am grateful. But the thing that had my buddies pointing and snickering was the liquid black tire shine goo the car wash had lathered onto my BFG rubber.

"That's not going to last," was the kindest thing they said.

They were right, of course. My wet licorice BFGs did look more than a little ridiculous in the face of 300 miles of dirt and rocks. It's a lot like putting on makeup before heading into a coal mine.

Or so I'm told.

A Jeep can and should be a little bit dirty. Dusty, at the very least. Extra points for mud, but not too much.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Windshield Replacement

March 25, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

The front windshield on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler cracked long ago. Today we got around to replacing it. We recently had the windshield of our long-term SLS repaired at a local Safelite AutoGlass store. It was a good experience. And we left wondering how their mobile service compared. This was our opportunity to find out.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Needs Proper Gearing

February 21, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Given our Wrangler's huge tires there's no need to ever use sixth gear. At 70 mph in sixth the Pentastar V6 is turning over only about 1,850 revolutions per minute. And that's just not enough to pull even the slightest hill. Even a medium crosswind will trigger the need for a downshift. Fifth gear is only turning about 2,350 rpm at the same speed and that's a usable engine speed.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Unexpected Pentastar Cylinder Head Replacement Under Warranty

January 7, 2013

2012 Jeep Wrangler

Wow, things can sure happen fast. One moment everything's fine. It's the Sunday before Christmas and our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is running great. Late in the afternoon the check engine light comes on, but there are no symptoms other than the light itself. We're not too stressed by this because we're almost back in our driveway at home.

Turns out the closest dealer, Glendale Jeep, is closed on Christmas Eve day in addition to Christmas, so this is going to have to wait until Wednesday the 26th when they open again at 7:00 a.m. No problem. With family in town and plenty of stuff going on it's easy to leave the Jeep parked until then.

That was how it began for John Adolph. Nothing seemed too alarming, but with a 1,600-mile New Year's day road trip looming on Thursday — including a side trip for some off-road action in Death Valley — he was eager to have this handled. Besides, it was time for an oil change anyway.

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Loose Door Seal

November 15, 2012

 wrangler_weatherstrip1.jpg I didn't think the Jeep could be any noisier, but I was wrong. The weather stripping on the top of our Wrangler's passenger door has come loose. I discovered this only after driving the Jeep on the freeway and hearing a rather loud wind leak.

Further inspection revealed the loose seal. Somehow it got pulled off the door frame and then sandwiched askew when I closed the door at some point. I was able to easily pull the seal back onto the frame to its original position, but a more permament solution is likely needed.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Oil Change Alert Redux

October 11, 2012


Forget what I said earlier about the dealer tweaking our longterm 2012 Jeep Wrangler's oil change alert interval. As one commenter pointed out, the Jeep's alert is one of those deals that is based on an algorithm that -- after monitoring numerous engine sensors over time -- makes an educated guess at how beat-up the oil is and sets the alert accordingly. This type of non-adjustable, algorithm-based alert is becoming common, though not yet universal.

Earlier I'd assumed our Jeep's alert was a conventional, old-school odometer-based-only alert as I went straight to the owner's manual's maintenance chart (shown above) and saw no caveats or asterisks. A different section of the manual (after the jump) describes the alert.


So in our case, it seems there's no dealer monkey business related to the alert after all, and the 8000-mile oil change interval in the lead chart might could benefit from an asterisk pointing to the pages shown immediately above.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Early Oil Change Alert

October 10, 2012


Our longterm 2012 Jeep Wrangler sent up an oil change alert this morning. There was a chime and the display above (disembodied fingers and all), followed by the display after the jump.

But waitasec, the service interval prescribed by the owner's manual is 8,000 miles, and the Jeep currently only has some 20,500 miles on the clock. By my math, this alert is... 3,500 miles premature. Hmm.

Turns out the Jeep's last oil change was performed by a dealer when the odometer read 14,408 miles. Had they simply re-set the last alert, it would have chimed in again when the odo read 22,408 miles. Seems they reprogrammed the alert to come on at an interval of 6000 miles instead.


Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Back From the Dealer

September 11, 2012


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is back from the dealer after having its horrible underhood screeching noise dealt with. I could tolerate it no longer. Bad as it had been in the video clip, it had become notably louder in the days that followed.

Because of other work commitments I wasn't able to take the Jeep to nearby Tuttle-Click Jeep in Tustin, California until after lunch on Friday afternoon. The service writer hesitated when he heard that I had no appointment, but I was willing to leave the Wrangler with them if my only option was to come back on Monday.

We briefly debated the source of the noise -- power steering, A/C, alternator, idler pulley or tensioner -- but there would be no way to tell for certain (and order any necessary parts) until a technician had a look. With no appointment I was told I was looking at a Saturday diagnosis, at best.

They called me Saturday with the diagnosis: a bad bearing in the left idler pulley. But the Jeep parts ordering system doesn't behave like Amazon and can't accept orders over the weekend, apparently, so the order wasn't going to go out until Monday. This, in turn, meant the part couldn't arrive until Tuesday, aka this morning.

The fix was quick once the part was in hand, and I got the call before lunch hour was over. Mike and I arrived to find a very quiet Jeep indeed, along with the expected warranty repair bill for zero, zilch, nada.

As for the time out service, I suppose the moral of the story is don't get sick mid-day on a Friday without an appointment. They were nice about it and they did a good job and all, but the lag time between all the steps was hard to stomach, especially with the central parts wearhouse no more than an hour's drive away

I can't see myself coming back to a Jeep dealer for work like this once the warranty period is over; I have to think an independent mechanic could have turned this around far quicker.

What say you? Do I expect too much?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19.833 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: DIY Speedometer Recalibration with AEV ProCal

September 3, 2012


Some months back we took our 2012 Jeep Wrangler to the dealer to have its ECU reprogrammed to correct a speedometer error brought on by the fitment of larger 285/75R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 tires.

No parts were necessary, but we were charged $85 for one hour of technician labor, the minimum charge. It worked perfectly for a few months, but the error returned just after I installed our Superwinch. Apparently the recalibration was forgotten when I disconnected the battery.

This time I'm going to do it myself with the AEV ProCal device I used to rescale the TPMS trigger point last week. 

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,754 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: That Pesky Front License Plate

August 23, 2012


California is one of 33 states that requires front license plates. This statistic predates the invention of red light and speed cameras, which seem to work quite well anyway in states that don't hand out front plates. Arizona, for example, seems to very proficient at issuing camera-based tickets without issuing residents a front plate.

But I digress. California persists with the requirement. Folks who park on nearby streets in Santa Monica and the West Side -- places where meter maids patrol ad naseum -- must live with the fact that going without is an easy way to get an inconvenient, expensive and pretty much meaningless ticket.

Thing is, our 2012 Jeep Wrangler hasn't had a permanently mounted front plate since we installed our Expedition One front bumper and our Superwich. Since then the it has been riding inside the windshield, held upright and visible by the protruding passenger side tweeter. When driving it only rattled...a lot.

I finally decided to do something about it, but the spot I was eyeing had no place for me to drill holes. Enter the Velcro. 

Yep, the front face of our Superwinch got drafted. It's flat, it's vertical and there's a decent amount of surface area for the Velcro tape strips. Better yet, the span is almost exactly the same as the width of the plate.

There, that should keep us on good terms with the parking zealots that ride around in their Cushmann 3-wheelers. When I need the winch it'll pop off easily to give me a good view of the rope windings on the drum. Until then I suppose it'll keep the bugs off the works.

Sure, it's a caveman stopgap solution, but it should suffice until I find or fabricate a bracket that's a bit more secure than Velcro.

On the other hand I have a lot of respect for Velcro. Maybe someday I'll tell you the story of the balled-up GTI racecar and it's two underseat stereo amplifiers, one held down by grade 8 bolts, the other by Velcro strips. I'll let you decide which one came loose when the car barrel rolled 6 times.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,415 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Modification Compendium

July 30, 2012


We've put up a lot of posts so far on the mods we've done to our Jeep. I figured it'd be useful to have them all in once place. Following is a list of all the posts we've written about the mofications, sorted by topic.

17-inch Mopar wheels and 33-inch BFG tires

New tires obtained

How much do they weigh?

More on the wheels and tires

Tire pressure monitors

Wheel locks

Track testing with the new wheels/tires

Off-road comparison testing with the stock and aftermarket wheels/tires

RTI ramp build and testing

Building the ramp

RTI testing, stock configuration

RTI testing with aftermarket wheels/tires

RTI test with front stabilizer bar disconnected

RTI tests with Mopar suspension installed

Mopar pre-runner suspension kit

Background information

More background information

Front suspension installation

Rear suspension installation

Shake-down drive

IPF headlight reflectors and Philips H4 bulbs

Headlight background

Headlight installation

Headlight observations

Expedition One front bumber and Supwerwinch winch

Bumper background

Bumper installation

Bumper observations

Winch background

Also, Dan Edmunds wrote a cool post with his thoughts comparing our Wrangler build versus a stock Wrangler Rubicon.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 18,411 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: We Have Superwinch!

June 22, 2012


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler received its new Superwinch Talon 9.5 SR winch mere hours after the Expedition One front bumper was installed. Basically, Scott and I drove it out the door for the "bumper done" shot, then rolled it straight back in for the Superwinch installation.

Installation was easy thanks to a commodious and well-designed winch platform by Expedition One. The Superwinch Talon fits with room to spare, and I think it looks great up there. I especially like how it's partially hidden and protected, with a generous portion of spool visible up top for a clear view of what the rope is doing.

Full blow-by blow phots next week, but for now I want to mark it as done so others can post photos of the Wrangler if they take it out somewhere.

Until then, here's a trivia question. Please promise me you won't play if you read my Facebook posts on the topic:

What feature-length film features off road humor, including a prominent winch joke scene?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,739 miles

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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.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,392 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Out With the Old

June 14, 2012


I think we can say that most Wrangler owners would not mod their Jeep like we have. Obviously there are those who go over the top and create monsters, but I think what we are doing looks pretty tough.

You can see the path we are taking with our Jeep. Would you upgrade, just buy a Rubicon, or keep it stock? If you could make upgrades, what would your mod-list be?

I can tell you that I'm itching to take this out for another weekend in the hills. The last time I took our Jeep out, it was bone stock. I'm curious about the difference in feel/capability. Look, even my dog wants to roll!

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Expedition One Front Bumper

June 12, 2012


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler has a new front bumper, and it's a beaut. It's made by Expedition One, an off-road bumper manufacturer doing business out of Ogden, Utah.

This is their Trail Series front bumper, and I decided to go with the hoopless look. A little more of the grille shows, a little less airflow gets blocked (theoretically, anyway,) and I generally like the way it looks. Of course they'll gladly make you one the other way, too, if that's your thing.

The installation preocess was very simple, and thanks to good engineering on Expedition One's part it fits pretty much perfectly with no horsing around to get the ten mounting bolts lined up. It went on centered and level with no adjustment necessary on my part.

And it's a good-looking piece behind the scenes, too. There are finger pockets built in where you can't see them that act as hand holds during installation. There are wrench cutouts that allow access to the back side of certain nuts. The main attachment nuts are paired up in dogbone brackets make it easy to tighten the bolts without the need of a backing wrench on the blind side. They really did their homework, and the result is a pretty staightforward DIY installation.

The only difficulty I ran into had little to do with the bumper itself and everything to do with changes made to the JK Wrangler for 2012. For some inexplicable reason Jeep relocated a vacuum pump to a spot right behind the stock bumper that is prized by aftermarket bumper and winch makers. It wasn't there pre-2012, and over the last few years quite a few parts makers have moved into that open space and made use of it.

I spent the bulk of my time cutting off a bracket and installing a relocation kit that Expedition One supplied along with their bumper. It's a non-issue on earlier JK Jeeps, but I can't help thinking this is something that should have never happened on the 2012 JK in the first place.

You'll be able to see all that was involved in the bumper installation and vacuum pump relocation in a few days because Scott Jacobs was peering over my shoulder with his trusty camera the whole time. Stay tuned.

And you know what comes after that, right? Yep, I now have a platform onto which I can bolt our waiting Superwinch.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,392 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Our Expedition One Front Bumper is Here

May 28, 2012


Our shipping and receiving room was overwhelmed by a bulky package that arrived for our 2012 Jeep Wrangler, so Mike and I headed upstairs to claim it. The sheer size of the thing and the Expedition One logo on the box tells me it contains our Jeep's new front bumper.

Expedition One is an Ogden, Utah-based company that makes nice-looking and well constructed bumpers and selected suspension components for Jeeps, Toyotas and Big-3 pickups. I like the look of the Trail Series JK bumper, which you can see for yourself by clicking on the third carousel image here

The one in the box is the same as the one pictured on the blue Rubicon, except it doesn't have the hoop above the lights. And I know for a fact that our new Superwinch Talon will fit because the winch in the picture is the same one I have waiting on a shelf.

Things are going to get busy in the next couple weeks. DIY installations of U-Connect, this Expedition One bumper and the Superwinch have all landed on my plate at nearly the same time.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,962 miles  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Superwinch Close-Up

May 15, 2012


Here's the winch that will soon grace the front of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. It's a Superwinch with 9,500-lb capacity, and it goes by the code name Talon 9.5iSR. If you hadn't guessed already the "SR" stands for synthetic rope. A traditional steel cable version is also available.

Some one asked me how much weight one of these adds to the front bumper. Good question.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,583 miles  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: We're Going to Install a Superwinch

April 26, 2012


Look what the UPS-man dropped off for our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: It's the Hawse fairlead from a Superwinch Talon 9.5i SR, a 9,500-lb winch that comes highly recommended by a lot of off-road friends and professionals that I trust. I met Zach Bohn and some of the other Superwinch crew at Moab, saw their stuff in action during an impromptu rescue of a dozen ATVs stuck at the bottom of Wipeout Hill and came away convinced. 

The rest of the winch is still in the box down at our super-secret test lab, awaiting a bumper on which to mount it. Not all brands of bumper fit all brands of winch, so I need to make inquiries. On that front I'm getting close.

We're going with synthetic rope (that's what the "SR" stands for) instead of a steel cable. Many of my off-roading friends swear by it, and I know one person who has been using the same rope -- and he uses his winch a lot -- for over a dozen years.

More pictures to come later as we get further into the installation process.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Service at 15,000 Miles

April 25, 2012


After Dan racked up some tough miles on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler, we decided it was deserving of a premature oil change and tire rotation. We swung by our local spot, Buerge Jeep.

Although it is our closest Jeep dealer, we don't use Buerge often. Less than desirable service on prior Jeeps kept us away. But its been awhile so we gave them another shot. We requested the tires be rotated left to right, figuring they ought to turn the other direction after miles of highway time.

"We usually rotate the tires on our Wranglers from front to back," explained our advisor. We asked again, "Please rotate ours left to right." Our guy said, "Ok, no problem." Satisfied, we left. And shortly thereafter the car was ready for pick up. It was quick, and a pleasant surprise from Buerge. We changed our minds about them.

Then we checked the tires. They were rotated front to back. We know, because we marked them before dropping it off. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was disappointing. Sorry guys, I don't think we'll be back.

Total Cost: $52.49

Total Days out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 14,410 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Shopping for a Windshield

April 23, 2012


This crack in the windshield of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is not getting any smaller. We spent a little time shopping replacement windshields at local outlets. You might be surprised by what we found:

Remember that our car has the OEM glass, which means there is a Wrangler silhouette in the lower right corner and the Jeep name/grille logo above the rearview mirror.

Local Independent Supplier 1:
$180 aftermarket, no logos
$280 OE, Jeep name logo only
$350 OE, both logos

Indy 2:
$259 aftermarket, no logos
$409 plus tax OE, Jeep name logo only

Indy 3:
$440 OE both logos

Local Jeep Dealership:
$459 OE both logos

The identical matches are in bold. There is the expected price discrepancy between the dealer and everyone else. But one other thing jumps out right away. These are (relatively) inexpensive windshields. Historically, we have not seen replacements for other long-term cars for any less than $1,000. Then again, there isn't much to this windshield.

Now we get to the important questions. Are the in-glass logos worth the extra cash? Would you pay the premium, or choose the cheaper aftermarket options?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Engine Grime

April 10, 2012


It was inevitable that the engine compartment of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler would end up in a world of filth. After all, these cars were built for it. Dan's trip to Moab dusted the Wrangler with a respectable layer of grime. It is in need of some TLC.

When it comes to engine cleanliness there are many schools of thought. I've met some "close the hood and nobody will see it" types. There are the white gloved, toothbrush detailers. Still others wait until the engine bay is begging for it before diving in. What is your approach to engine cleanliness?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 14,301 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Cracked Windshield

April 09, 2012


Sometime over the weekend this happened to our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. The windshield started to crack. On Saturday alone the crack grew from just a couple of inches in length to this beauty you see above. We'll price out some new glass and let you know how it goes.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 14,274 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing New Headlights

March 27, 2012


Installing new headlights in a new 2012 Jeep Wrangler (or just installing new bulbs in the existing ones) isn't terribly difficult or time consuming, even though the best approach involves taking the front grille clean off.

I'm replacing the reflectors for two reasons: to modify the light pattern to gain a sharper cutoff and to gain the ability to use any number of widely available DOT-approved H4 bulbs.

The results are amazing. After doing this it seems like I've got twice the coverage and much whiter light, but the new pattern's sharp cutoff doesn't blind oncoming traffic. I'm still trying to quantify the improvement, but there's no question in my mind this was a good move.

Time spent: less than 30 minutes.

Tools required: Thin flat-blade screwdriver, T-15 Torx screwdriver

Cost: $118.77, -- Two IPF H4 headlight reflectors, part number 920HJK, $44.99 each from ARB USA through 4 Wheel parts; 1 pair of Philips Xtreme Power H4 bulbs, $28.79 from Amazon

Let's get started.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,310 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: New Headlights

March 25, 2012


Before: Stock 2012 Jeep Wrangler headlights, low beam.

After: IPF H4 reflectors and Philips Xtreme Power 55w bulbs, low beam.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,310 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing a Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit With Fox Racing Shox, Rear

March 18, 2012


Break time is over. It's time to install the rear half of the Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit with Fox Racing Shox on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

The front suspension installation, Part I of our story, appears one blog below this one. The front end installation involved the drilling of 14 holes, the mechanized removal of two bump stops and the intentional destruction of two brackets. There's not near as much metal manipulation back here. This end is a cake walk in comparison.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing     

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Installing a Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit With Fox Racing Shox, Front

March 18, 2012


Parts and tools strewn everywhere. At one point -- check that, at pretty much every point -- this was the scene as I stripped the factory suspension from our 2012 Jeep Wrangler and systematically replaced it with a Mopar Stage 3 Lift Kit with Fox Racing Shox.

This new kit was introduced at last October's SEMA show. It comes in two flavors that you can order from your local dealer.

Part Number P5156141 is for the 2-door JK Wrangler and P5156140 fits the 4-door. Each one costs $2,400, not including installation. Whether you intend to do it yourself or pay someone else depends on how you feel about the following images.

But the following photos are worth looking at even if you don't have a Jeep or are not considering a lift kit. It's the ultimate Jeep Wrangler suspension teardown walkaround.

Mopar figures the job will take six hours for a seasoned dealer mechanic with a complete set of tools. For us the job spread over parts of three days as trusty photographer Scott Jacobs and I made frequent runs for certain tools and automotive ointments like RTV and Loc-Tite that our new shop has not yet accumulated. Also burritos.

Everything is harder the first time you do it, and installing a 3-inch lift kit is no exception. So I read the instructions early and often and spent long periods playing with the new parts while staring blankly at the old ones. Imagine that scene in Top Gun where Cruise is dog fighting with a toy airplane in the classroom then remove the A-list celeb, the model jet and the cleanliness. 

This Stage 3 kit is just now making the transition from dealer-only sales to public catalog sales, so the accompanying instruction sheet I had was still in the revision stage. There's a companion DVD video walkthrough too, that makes it look oh so easy.

For the most part, it is -- if you have the right tools and experience. That said, on the DIY difficulty scale this is no mere oil change or brake pad swap; it's a 7.5 or 8 level job.

The dealer flyer for the kit says "no welding" and that's certainly true, but my first read-through of the instructions revealed a certain amount of drilling and cutting. Yee-haw.

What follows is not meant to be a step-by-step substitute for the instructions, but you will get a glimpse of all the major steps.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: One Headlight

March 13, 2012


No, I'm not referencing the 1998 Grammy Award-winning hit by the Wallflowers, which, by the way, I have just ingeniously implanted into your brain for the day because you can't remember how it ends. It may even lodge itself there for a week.

Instead I'm talking about the new headlights I'm attempting to install in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

ARB, manufacturer and distributor of a whole range of kick-ass off-road accessories, sells a nifty H4 conversion kit for the Wrangler. The kit includes a pair of new IPF reflectors to better aim the light, a pair of pigtails that allows the standard 55/60w H4 bulb they take to connect to the Jeep's factory headlight connectors, and a couple of decent H4 bulbs. 4Wheel Parts sells the ARB/IPF H4 kit for $176.99.

Thing is, I had my eye on some highly recommended and well-reviewed 55/60w X-treme Power H4 bulbs from Philips, but those aren't what comes with the kit. So I bought the bulbs on Amazon for $28.79 (P/N 9003-XP S2, marked down from $66) and ordered the ARB reflector and pigtail from 4Wheel Parts (P/N ARB-920HJK.)

And that's where I outsmarted myself. The all-inclusive conversion kit comes with pairs of everything. My Amazon-sourced bulbs came in a two-pack. But when you buy the ARB/IPF headlights separate from the conversion kit you get headlight, as in one. At just $44.99, I should have recognized this as an "each" price well before I failed to notice the fine print which, now that I look back on it, wasn't all that fine.

This makes perfect sense for those who just lost an IPF headlight to a stone and want to replace just one. I wasn't paying attention. That's what I get for using my dinky iPhone screen to make a purchase.

On the other hand, "One Headlight" didn't earn the Wallflowers just one Grammy. They received two: One for best Best Rock Song, and another for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

So now I'm stuck waiting for the UPS-man to deliver the second headlight. I'll still be ahead when the dust settles because I'll have paid just $118.77 for what amounts to the same conversion kit with H4 bulbs of my own choosing that are, by most accounts, better in terms of the number of lumens they throw out there at the same power draw.

We'll see.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,705 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Mopar Pre-Runner Lift Kit -- We Have One

February 08, 2012


What you see before you will soon be bolted to the underbelly of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport. It's Mopar's new 3-inch "JK Wrangler Pre-Runner Suspension System - Stage III Performance" and we're going to DIY the installation and document the process.

No welding is involved, but there is a wee bit of cutting and drilling. Maybe some swearing. It should be fun.

Mopar sells two versions: part number P5156141 for the 2-door and P5156140 for the 4-door. Each costs $2,400 and includes everything shown on this bench.

The flyer I have here before me figures it take 6 hours to install assuming you are a Jeep dealer mechanic in full possession of the required skill, tools and equipment. The implication for those not looking for a DIY challenge is you can buy this setup at a Jeep dealer and pay them to install it for a nominal fee that probably amounts to whatever they charge for 6 hours of labor.

We fully expect it to take longer as we photograph the process for what should be the ultimate suspension teardown walkaround.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: I Want Them

February 02, 2012


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is begging for new shocks, and a mild 2-inch lift kit has always been on our "to-do" list. There are many options out there that achieve both goals at once, but these remote reservoir Fox shocks sealed the deal.

Aren't they pretty...awesome?

They come as part of Mopar's new JK Wrangler Pre-Runner Suspension System, along with springs, new control arms to maintain proper alignment and driveshaft angles, new stabilizer links, limit straps and bump stops. And the front bump stops are TeraFlex Speedbump hydraulic units.

As the name implies, this so-called Stage-III kit isn't just for rock crawling; it's also meant to keep the tires planted in the comparitively high-speed wheeling environment found in Southern California's open deserts and fire roads -- something our Jeep sorely needs. If you want to draw parallels to the Ford Raptor, go right ahead. I'm not going to stop you.

Thing is, this is a 3-inch lift kit -- slightly more than I had in mind. But at least it's not 4-inches. That would have been too much.

As a former OE suspension development engineer myself, I like the idea of going with a kit the Jeep's Mopar division had a hand in. It's been tested and blessed by the folks that built our Wrangler in the first place. Few other such kits can say that.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing  

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New TPMS Sensors Installed

January 22, 2012


What's right with this picture? The TPMS fault lamp is no longer glowing on the instrument panel of our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport.

I brought the Jeep and Mike's sack full of five sensors to a Just Tires store I pass every day on the 405 freeway while motoring through Carson, CA on my way home.

These TPMS sensors are of the simpler rubber-stemmed variety and they pop into the rim just like any regular rubber valve stem would. Our BFG tires not need be fully dismounted from the rim to make the swap; a broken outboard bead gives the tech enough room to reach in there.

"How much to install these?" I asked William, the friendly guy behind the counter.

"Three dollars and fifty cents apiece," said he.

I'll do the math for you: that's $17.50 for all five. Pretty cheap.

But the sensors do add a little weight where there was nothing before, so I had them rebalance the tires. That brought the total up to $104.85 -- just slightly over $20 per tire for everything. Necessary? Perhaps not, but I didn't want to have to come back.

And it is a lifetime balance -- the tire's lifetime, anyway. That could come in handy later on with big off-road tires like these.

Many TPMS systems require new sensors to be formally introduced to the vehicle's ECU with a special tool that plugs into the OBD port. But a 2012 Jeep learns the ID numbers of new sensors by merely driving for 10 minutes (or less) at a speed of 20 mph (or more).

Apparently "or less" is the operative phrase. The technician's test drive lasted no more than a mile before the lamp winked out.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,826 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Headlight Help

January 20, 2012


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler's low-beam headlights were never very good to begin with. Folks around the office have compared them to lanterns on more than one occasion.

But its more than just their general dimness. The light seems to pour out of a slot, as if our Jeep was fitted with World War II blackout covers, the kind that used to be mandatory to lessen the chance of being seen by the enemy flying overhead.

Any shot of the front end will show that our Jeep has driving lights in its front bumper, but those don't ever do very much, right? Might as well try them.

Now, if I can only find that switch. It's dark in here, and the location of switch isn't obvious. There's certainly nothing backlighted to find.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New TPMS Sensors

January 20, 2012


By now you know about the new wheels and tires on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport. That means you also know we have yet to install the TPMS sensors since the BFG upgrade. There was a delay due to some significant misinformation regarding the cost and availability of these black rubber thingies.

A (once trusted) source for all things tire warned us of prices in the $100-each range for new sensors. That put the purchase on hold until we could do more research. Our gut told us he was blowing smoke, so we dug around...

MY2010-current Wranglers use a newer 315 Mhz unit, which replaced the 433 Mhz system used in models prior to 2010. We shopped 4WheelParts.com but they didn't offer anything compatible with the new system on our 2012. Same luck on Amazon. Our local Jeep dealership, NAPA and Tire Rack did have parts in stock, however:

Dealer: $82.80 each
NAPA: $49.99 each
Tire Rack: $37 each

Which would you choose? Multiply that cost by 5 tires. It sure beats the $500 stab-in-the-dark quote we received originally. We've spent $192.42 (with shipping) so far. Next step is to get these suckers installed.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 7,725 miles 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Resetting the Oil Change Monitor

January 19, 2012


Dan changed the oil on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler last week. He explained just how simple the process was. High ground clearance. Centrally located oil filter cartridge. DIY oil changes on the Wrangler are pretty straightforward. Another element of the oil change he left out of the last blog was how easy it is to reset the onboard oil monitor...

Step 1: If you're not already familiar with the process, open up that owner's manual.

Step 2: Turn the ignition switch to the on/run position but do not start the engine.

Step 3: Fully depress the accelerator pedal slowly 3 times within 10 seconds.

Step 4: Turn the ignition switch back to the off/lock position.

A friendly chime greets you once the procedure is completed. The monitor resets to the factory default interval. If for some reason the maintenance light remains lit, you did something wrong. Try again. But honestly, you will find it difficult to mess this up. Very simple. Very Jeep.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 7,713 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: Speedometer Recalibration

January 10, 2012


The speedometer in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler is accurate once more. Even with the big tires, 35 mph is now 35 mph, 70 mph is now, well, 71 mph according to my GPS speedo app ( a free one called Car Dashboard this time) but that's close enough.

My local dealer, Glenn E. Thomas Jeep, did the trick in about an hour -- 50 minutes of which was spent waiting for a service technician to become available. All he needed from me was the circumference of the new tires, expressed in revolutions per mile. A quick check of the BFGoodrich website showed that number to be 630 revs/mile for our LT285/70R17 Mud Terrain KM2s.

For reference, our Wrangler's smaller stock tires rotated 705 times per mile. Yep, that's 12 percent more.

We made the tire swap 1,268 miles ago, so the 12 percent error during that time amounts to 152 miles and won't grow any larger.

I wasn't allowed to go back into the service area to watch or photograph the procedure, but I'm told it was performed through the OBD-II port. Jeep of course offers a variety of tire size and differential options on the Wrangler, so there's a changeable tire circumference parameter built into the ECU programming.

According to what I was told the spectrum is stepped, not continuous (it isn't possible to notch the number up or down in 1 rev/mile increments) and there are upper and lower limits. Our tires apparently sit right at the cutoff because my service writer told me the technician used the last available choice.

For these reasons the service ticket reads "recalibrate speedo as best as possible." This may also be why 71 mph on the GPS reads 70 mph on the speedometer. Close enough, but not spot on.

The service writer also told me there isn't a similar ECU parameter for the gear ratio in the diffs. When we swap out our 3.21 units for something more sensible we'll need to pretend we put on smaller tires instead and figure out what the equivalent recalibration factor would be in revs/mile. Luckily, that will push us back in the direction we just came from.

Total cost: $52.50, all of it labor. Plus tax, of course.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,376 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: DIY Oil Change

January 08, 2012


It doesn't get any easier than this. Changing the oil in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler requires no floor jack, no jackstands -- just my trusty drain pan, a funnel, and a wrench each for the drain plug and oil filter.

This is a sub ten minute job if you're not taking pictures. Next time I bet I can do it in five.

Step One: You know the drill; crawl under, position pan, lefty loosey, drain plug out, glug glug. If you can avoid dropping the drain plug into the pan you won't even need any gloves.

And this drain plug has a rubber seal built in to it, so there's no washer to lose -- or replace.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,187 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: iPhone Speedometer FTW

January 05, 2012


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler now wears big aftermarket tires and wheels, but the diff ratios have not yet been changed. 

Track testing showed that this didn't do terrible things to performance. But while we were at it our VBOX was able to confirm what I'd predicted by comparing tire sizes: the actual speed our Jeep travels at any given time is now 12 percent faster than what the speedometer is telling us.

That's a recipe for a speeding ticket, that is.

At first I considered a conversion chart taped to the dash. And then I found Speedometer+, an iPhone/Android app that uses the phone's GPS capability to produce a speed readout. There's a choice of knots, mph or kph.

I found it in the iTunes store a few days before the new year for free, but that was an introductory offer. They get a whole 99 cents for it now.

Worth it.

It lags a second behind reality, but thats no big deal on account of I usually don't care until I'm at cruising speed. Point is, I know exactly how fast I'm going now.

An indicated 60 mph on the Jeep's speedo is 67 mph as far as the Highway Patrol is concerned. That's a ratio of 1.12-to-1, the same 12 percent error we came up with using the VBox.

Everyone in the office with plans to drive our modded Jeep should get this app. Any smartphone user who has changed their tire and wheel sizes enough to change the height of their car or otherwise suspects a speedometer error should get this app. As an added bonus, the Jeep's dashtop bin contains a small ridge that helps the phone stand up at a useful angle.

OK, Mr. Newcomb, I think this just about takes care of this week's Automotive App of the Week.

You're welcome.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,074 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New Tires and TPMS Sensors

December 29, 2011


The TPMS warning light is on in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler. We were so eager to mount our new wheels and tires when they arrived that, frankly, we didn't give much thought to TPMS sensors. We decided to revisit the subject.

We figured we could just drive down to the tire shop, have a set installed, extinguish the pesky light and be on our way. Piece of cake. But a conversation with our local tire shop made it clear things were not so cut and dry. "TPMS sensors are about $100 apiece," our tire guru explained. He added, "And that is our cost. Heck, we installed two new sensors on a Lotus the other week that were about $400 each."

That was the moment when the light bulb went off overhead. We asked, "Any reason we can't just remove the sensors from the old tires and put them on these new ones?" His response was short, "I'd recommend it." It might be a hassle to get 10 tires (including 2 spares) down to the tire shop, but that is exactly what we're going to do. And save ourselves $500 in the process.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 6,560 miles

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Wheel Locks

December 26, 2011


Wheel locks seemed like such a good idea at the time. After all, our 2012 Jeep Wrangler had new wheels and tires to protect.

Buying mag-locks in packs of five was not as easy as I expected, so I stopped at a local Jeep dealer where they still 'get' the whole external spare tire thing.

Now that they're on, I'm having second thoughts. Visually, they stick out too far by almost three-quarters of an inch. Better ugly than stolen, I guess.

Meanwhile, I'm on the lookout for shorter ones.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: New Wheels and Tires

December 20, 2011


Our 2012 Jeep Wrangler has new shoes. Man, what a difference. In no time at all we've gained about 2 inches of ground clearance owing to the larger radius of these tires. And the dorky mail truck look is long gone.

We of course mounted the BFGoodrich KM2s white letters out, in accordance with IL reader poll results. Frankly, I like it better than I thought I would. We'd have had too much black otherwise.

Of course gearing has suffered. And the speedometer is now off by about 10 mph at freeway speeds -- the wrong way. It read 60 this morning when I was going about 70 mph. New axle ratios are in the cards, but we're going to live with this awhile and measure the ill effects at the track.

On the road, acceleration isn't near as bad as I expected. Maybe that's because the 3.6-liter engine packs 83 horsepower more than the 2011 edition, has 23 lb-ft more torque. It also has a 6-speed manual, which means the gears were never canyons apart to begin with. With these tires it feels pretty natural if I ignore 6th alltogether and drive it like a 5-speed.

Yeah, there's more tread noise, but not as much as I expected and it's not that evident until 40 mph. Our soft top isn't helping, of course. Braking doesn't seem too bad in normal use, either.

We'll quantify all of this when we take it to the track next week. Should be interesting.

But you wanted to know how much these babies weigh...

That's right, each wheel and tire assembly weighs 91.4 pounds, exactly 40 pounds more than the originals. According to Price is Right rules, aspade called it with a guess of 90 pounds.

And so our Wrangler gained 200 pounds in one go; 40 pounds of pure unsprung weight per corner and another 40 for the spare. The ride is a bit more "clompy" over rough stuff at speed, but it's not a dramatic change because the Wrangler's solid axles didn't exactly represent a Lexus starting point. 

Upgraded shocks will help and we're just beginning to play with air pressure. With a higher rated load capacity, we can safely run these tires at a slightly lower pressure than stock if we so desire. 

In corners the extra tire footprint and the increased track width seem to make it feel more planted despite the extra height. The track is about 4 inches wider at the center of the tread and something like 6 inches wider from outside rib to outside rib. (We'll measure these numbers later.)

At just over 50 pounds, the old rubber came off rather easily.

But I was glad to have a Go-Jack roller jack handy to save my back the hassle of lifting a 91.4-pound replacement into place while the Jeep itself was suspended at knee height by our Rotary lift. Here the tire sits on rollers that allows me to clock it into position and line up the studs. These jacks are usually used four at a time to move cars around in tight spaces, but we've figured out a couple of other ways to make them pay for themselves.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,155 miles

Photos by Scott Jacobs 

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: New Meats

October 15, 2011

 BFG MT2.jpg

"The package delivered to you earlier is 5 very large tires. I just wanted to give you the heads up that they are in fact in the mailroom despite their size." -- Sincerely, our very friendly receptionist.  

 That's code for "Get these tires out of my mailroom now!"

...as if we weren't already sprinting upstairs the second we heard that our Jeep's new 33" BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2s were finally here.

Our plans for project 2012 Wrangler are shoring up quite nice. We think we know what we're doing for suspension (but we'll update you on that later) and everything else which means it was pretty safe for us to go ahead and get some tires. We're not going crazy with lift, either and figured 33s would be just fine.

Deciding on the BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 (KEY feature MUD traction, 2nd generation) took about two seconds.

According to Tire Rack, our 285/70R17 Mud-Terrains weigh 59 pounds each (we'll weigh them ourselves later), have a tread depth of 19/32" a section width of 11.5", a tread width of 19.5" and do 630 revolutions per mile. They cost $274 each and shipping's about $70. We got five because A) We'll need a spare and B) Jeeps without a matching spare look stupid.

What we still don't have, however, are wheels. These tires fit on wheels 7.5 - 9" wide so that's our only constraint.

And because it was Friday and we were bored, we wanted to see if Bryn would fit in the stack.


Mike Magrath, Features Editor

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2012 Jeep Wrangler: Mods Coming Soon

September 29, 2011


I'm making a list of mods we want to bolt onto our 2012 Jeep Warngler. We'll do it in stages of course, and document it all with photographs.

We're following the classic garage-tuner formula: intentionally buy the bare-bones, steel-wheel strippo model to lock in low(er) monthly payments, using the saved money to add targeted mods in stages, one paycheck at a time.

The basic idea is a mild, functional upgrade of our new JK; we're not going for SEMA glory here. There's a lot of desert nearby and we plan to make frequent visits over the next year.

Our plan revolves around tires and wheels, and the number we have decided on is 33, as in 33 inches tall. We're going after the extra ground clearance such taller tires will provide.

This decision may well force the installation of a mild 2-inch lift, but we're not interested in cartoon status so it'll be no more than that. And yes, we're prepared to swap in 3.73 gears to bring the overall gearing back in line, 4.10s if we're feeling frisky.

A winch bumper and winch are in the cards, as are rock rails. We'll probably add a door mirror relocation kit. A Bikini top is likely next spring.

Could we have bought a Wrangler spec'd out closer to what we'll end up with when we're done? Sure, but half the fun of owning a Jeep is modding it. It's one of the most compelling DIY vehicles on the road today.

As for the photo, knock yourself out. It's an underhanded softball pitch. 

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 1,234 miles 

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