How we prep a JL for rental duty

Jp Magazine - - Nena Knows Jeeps - By Nena Barlow jped­i­tor@jp­magazine.com Pho­tog­ra­phy: Nena Barlow

I won’t say I’m old, but I will say that I have been in the Jeep guide and rental busi­ness long enough to ride out the tran­si­tions be­tween CJ, YJ, TJ, JK, and now JL. So far, other than waiting for the af­ter­mar­ket to have time to de­velop the things we need for our typ­i­cal trail use, the in­tro­duc­tion of the JLs into our fleet has been rel­a­tively pain­less. As men­tioned in my last ar­ti­cle, almost ev­ery sin­gle thing that we had wished was bet­ter on the JK is bet­ter on the JLs.

What is re­quired to make a fac­tory Wran­gler worthy of Barlow Jeep Rental sta­tus is less and less with each new gen­er­a­tion. Barlow-wor­thi­ness is the abil­ity to tra­verse the ma­jor­ity of the area trails with­out bill­able dam­age when driven by a novice to mod­er­ately ex­pe­ri­enced driver who will sim­ply pay at­ten­tion and drive slowly, with the in­ten­tion to be safe and re­spon­si­ble. Our Jeeps are ex­pected to tra­verse much of Arizona, Moab, and the Ru­bi­con Trail, with min­i­mal ex­er­tion.

So far, all of our test fit­ment is with the Ru­bi­con model with the higher fen­der flares. With this, we found that a 2-inch sus­pen­sion lift gives us just enough height to keep the body at what we con­sider a suit­able height off of the ground, as well as the flex­i­bil­ity to run any­thing from 33- to 37-inch tires with full ar­tic­u­la­tion. A mere 2-inch lift means we get to keep our fac­tory driveshafts, all fac­tory con­trol arms ex­cept for the front lower two, and a low cen­ter of grav­ity. This is the sim­plest sus­pen­sion change we have ever needed to work the 35- and 37-inch tires.

The next thing we look at is un­der­car­riage pro­tec­tion. The crit­i­cal things we feel are ex­posed to rock dam­age are the trans­mis­sion cooler lines and the sway bar unit. It goes with­out say­ing that a crushed trans­mis­sion line pretty much ends your wheel­ing day on the spot. We will be adding en­gine skid­plates, which will have the pleas­ant side ef­fect of also keep­ing the flimsy fac­tory T-bar cross­mem­ber from crush­ing up into the ex­haust cross­over, an is­sue that also plagued our JKs.

Though we think the new fac­tory metal bumpers on the JLs are stur­dier than those of their Hard Rock JK pre­de­ces­sors, for the

JLs that came with plas­tic bumpers, there is zero line of de­fense be­tween a rock and the ex­pen­sive sway bar unit. There­fore, those Jeeps will be re­ceiv­ing, at the very least, a sway bar skid­plate up front, if not a full bumper up­grade.

Weld-on or bolt-on lower con­trol arm skids have been stan­dard on all gen­er­a­tions of Barlow Jeeps since they’ve had con­trol arms. These are very in­ex­pen­sive ways to en­sure that con­trol arms stay at­tached to the axle­hous­ing. Moving to the back, this new gen­er­a­tion of Dana 44 rear has a thin 1⁄2 -inch lip hang­ing down in harm’s way. We’ll add a heavy-duty diff cover to those to pre­vent peel­ing back the cover or crack­ing the hous­ing.

Fi­nally, we throw on some heav­ier-duty tires in the tread of our choice. Note that the fac­tory wheels must be up­graded to af­ter­mar­ket off­set wheels in or­der to run 35- or 37-inch tires for full ar­tic­u­la­tion and steer­ing with­out rub­bing the front shocks. And though the fac­tory spare tire car­rier on the Ru­bi­con fits a 35-inch tire, we are adding the tail­gate re­in­force­ment to all of our units—37-inch tires will re­quire a tire car­rier bracket or other mod­i­fi­ca­tion. We also re­pro­gram so that speedome­ter and shift points are cor­rect for tire size.

And that’s it. Re­ally. Look­ing back on what it took to fit 35s on TJs, we keep think­ing we must be miss­ing some­thing. Mod­i­fy­ing the Wran­gler has never been eas­ier.

1. Juliet is ready for duty, wear­ing her 2-inch Mopar lift and 35-inch Yoko­hama Ge­olan­der XMTs on 17x9 Mickey Thomp­son wheels with 4.5-inch backspac­ing. 2. We heard that 35-inch tires fit on the Ru­bi­con’s high fend­ers with no lift. We found this to be...

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