It has been a while since we last updated you on the ORXtreme JL Project Vehicle. Back in February for Part 2 of Project ORXtreme JL: Our Jeep Wrangler Transformed With The Works, we presented the Fabtech Suspension, Mickey Thompson Tires, and Dirty Life Wheel upgrades. We are here now with Part 3, which details the JL body armor protection upgrades for the nearly new 2021 Rubicon.
Building this Jeep with the full intent to run moderate to difficult off-road trails, we have determined a fair amount of armor protection is necessary. Front to back, inside to outside, under and around, the world of aftermarket upgrades and accessories can be perplexing. Thankfully, with Jeeps being the world’s most popular vehicle to modify, there are endless options to choose from.
We hope this article can be a quick resource to help find some of the products that are appropriate for your build. Most everything featured below, is specifically focused on the Jeep JLU. However, every company mentioned has products designed for and compatible with many different vehicles. For more details on the products presented here, browse through our image gallery to see step-by-step installations and key features.
Jeep JL Body Armor Protection With Body Armor 4×4
We turned to Body Armor 4×4 for their extensive catalog of vehicle-specific bolt-on armor products for the most popular models. For a 2021 JLU, they manufacture everything a Jeep owner would need, including tube doors, bumpers, racks systems, side steps, fender flares, and a variety of other useful accessories.
For our project, we identified one of the several styles of front and rear bumpers that fit our build specifications. The stubby bumpers seem to be a popular option with many Jeepers. We went with a full-width front bumper (PN: JL-19534) that matches up with the JL Rubicon fenders perfectly.
With accommodating features built-in, like 3/16-inch steel plate construction, accepting factory fog lights, welded D-ring mounts, 12,000-pound winch capacity, and two-stage powder coat texture finish, this has it all.
For the rear bumper (PN: JL-2965), it was really the same program. Additionally, this bumper design allows the use of both factory and aftermarket fender flares, features a license plate mount with a DOT approved light, fits an optional tire carrier, retains the use of the OEM hitch, accommodates rear parking sensors, and has LED pod-light mounts.
To carry our full-size 37-inch spare tire, we reserved the tailgate-mounted package but bolstered it with Body Armor 4×4’s RTC Reinforced Tire Carrier (PN: JL-5290). They also offer a traditional swing gate bumper-mounted tire carrier that accommodates up to a 40-inch tire. The RTC version simplifies our lives by mounting onto the Jeep’s tailgate and requires no additional steps for rear hatch access. This is a no-drill installation, constructed of strong cast aluminum, and adds structural rigidity to help carry the load.
Jeep JL Body Armor Protection With Rock Slide Engineering
Our Rubicon came equipped with factory rock sliders, but now that it was lifted 3-inches and sitting on 37-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T Tires, we needed to help the vertically challenged with a leg up. Enter Rock Slide Engineering and their innovative armored-up retractable step sliders. This marvelous product combines the convenience of a drop-down step when a vehicle door opens, and retracts when it closes, with the protection of an armored rock slider.
The step deploys 12-inches down from the body of the slider when the door opens. After closing the door, the step will automatically retract and sit flush with the body of the step slider.
These deluxe package rock sliders protect the vehicle’s cab body panels and are capable of handling impacts and contact with rocks on the trail. Designed for moderate off-road conditions, they can be up-fitted with additional skid plates to bolster the protective qualities for more aggressive off-roading. We also chose to implement the Step Slider Light Kit that will illuminate when you activate the drop-down step during door operations.
Made in America with high-quality materials is what we prefer to use on the ORXtreme JL. The Rock Slide Engineering Step Sliders fit the bill. Made from 10-gauge steel construction finished with a textured black powder coat on the outside, and 3/16-inch stainless steel and aluminum internals. Both driver side and passenger side are included, along with everything else needed.
This was a level 2 wrench installation out of our 5 wrench difficulty scale only because of the wiring and plumbing required for the electrical components.
Jeep JL Protection With Fabtech Inner Fenders
We prescribed the ORXtreme JL to run 37-inch tires. However, the installed Fabtech Motorsports 3-inch Long Arm Crawler System specifies only up to 35-inch tires. We did the math and research and were comfortable with stuffing the larger than recommended tire on our JL, but wanted to add some extra insurance. Fabtech Motorsports Inner Fender Liners seemed like just the ticket.
Our desire was to retain the factory OEM fenders for the sleeper stealthy look. The Rear Inner Fenders from Fabtech are designed for use with both the stock fenders and Fabtech’s Rear Tube Fenders. The Front Inner Fenders we selected are for use with the factory fenders but can be retrofitted with a different hardware kit to be used with Fabtech’s Front Tube Fenders. Having the option to build out for what we want now, and the ability to grow into something else down the road seemed like a good plan to us.
After unboxing these front and rear inner fender kits, you start to realize how incredibly complex the product is. Highly engineered to be very simple to install, it was a little bit like a puzzle. Fortunately, the detailed instructions laid out the process and it was really straightforward after reading through. Like anything else, read it over in its entirety. The Front Inner Fender instructions feature two different versions for both the stock fender and tube-fender installations.
Our technician had both front and rear kits installed in under two hours. This was a level 1 wrench installation out of our 5 wrench difficulty scale.
Undercarriage Protection With 4122 Hitch Slider
With Project ORXtreme JL being a somewhat moderate build at this point, we took the liberty of adding a few simple safeguards. The 41.22 Offroad Hitch Slider is one of those items that just made sense and adds an additional protective skid for the rear of the Jeep. Machined out of a solid billet 6061-T6 block, the hitch slider is cut down to a low profile and useful skid. It fits snugly inside a standard 2-inch hitch receiver.
Max rated for 15,000-pounds, this thing is high-quality and made to take a beating. 41.22 Offroad lists the ultimate strength breaking point at 37,170-pounds!
Additional features include the built-in 1-inch hole that acts as an integrated recovery point for D-rings and soft shackles. It is USA-made and available in several ceramic-coated finishes or raw-machined aluminum.
Theft Protection With Bolt Lock Products
Securing our 41.22 Offroad Hitch Slider is the very awesome Bolt Lock 1/2-inch Receiver Locking Pin. We also picked up their massive Locking Recovery Hooks. All Bolt Lock products use one-key technology and memorizes the programming key. It is one of the coolest theft deterrents on the market. You can use your vehicle’s ignition key to program an entire suite of Bolt Lock products to secure your onboard equipment and accessories.
There is no real trick to the programming process. You simply stick whatever desired key into the lock, engage the mechanism by turning the tumbler to lock, unlock it, slide the key out, and that is it. We used the same key to program the Bolt Lock Recovery Hooks and Hitch Receiver Locking Pin that secures the Hitch Slider.
JL Body Armor Protection With MEK Magnet Ballistic Resin Panels
As one of Off Road Xtreme’s in-house project vehicles, we wanted to brand the ORXtreme JL with our logo. The first thought was to vinyl wrap it, which would have partially met our needs. At the same time, we did not really want a branded Jeep as our full-time daily driver. And how much protection does vinyl really offer for an off-roading trail rig?
We came across a company called MEK Magnet through the 2021 SEMA Launch Pad program. The SEMA Launch Pad is the automotive specialty equipment’s ultimate competition for budding entrepreneurs who are ready to introduce their products to a worldwide audience. With a $92,000 valued grand prize, consider watching the 2021 candidates pitch their concepts, and maybe apply your talents to enter for 2022 before the June 13 deadline.
Back to the MEK Magnet Armor and why we chose this product over a vinyl wrap. The main reason is that it is temporary and can be easily removed and reapplied at will. This part-time option was the hook for us. We also like that it is made of a heavy-duty material engineered to provide superior side-body protection. No more undesirable desert pinstriping!
The original product was made of flexible rubberized magnet material. They have kits for several different vehicles but are mostly intended for JL, JLU, JT, JK, JKU, and TJ Jeeps. For the aluminum-bodied JL and JT, they came up with a very high-tech ballistic resin that uses a custom gel membrane to stick to the vehicle. MEK has a collection of designs to choose from or you can customize your own look.
The Design Process
After doing some research, I convinced the project stakeholders with a concept rendering, and we pulled the trigger. As a former graphic designer, my design sample was intended to be simple and on-brand. Time constraints prevented further exploration and everyone seemed happy with the end result.
MEK Magnet did an incredible job capturing my vision. After two rounds of changes, we finalized the design and confirmed it was a go with MEK. The panels arrived in a shipping tube about ten days later. After laying everything out, you could see and feel the high-quality product was very durable. The installation was a little tricky at first but also forgiving. We suggest researching the installation & care tips provided on the MEK website. Just as you would with a vinyl application, start with a very clean vehicle free of dirt, debris, and oils.
Our technicians would rate this installation as a level 2 wrench on the scale of difficulty.
Peace Of Mind Protection
Having the right tools for the job is part of the responsibility to do that job right in the first place. When it comes to off-roading, it is necessary to be fully equipped to help yourself and help others if you can. Having the right tools and equipment to self-recover and rescue is having a protective layer through peace of mind.
For the ORXtreme JL, we mounted a Warn VR EVO 10s winch to our Body Amor 4×4 Front Bumper. We upgraded to a premium Factor 55 Hawse Fairlead and their awesome UltraHook. Warn winches are the industry gold standard for both professional and consumer-grade equipment. There was really no need to upgrade, but when the plan was to outfit our project with the best of the best, it was only natural to consider Factor 55.
Factor 55 Highlights
Factor 55 CNC machines the 1-inch thick Hawse Fairlead from USA 6000-series aluminum. The industry standard fairlead thickness is .75-inches thick. This Warn Hawse Fairlead is cast steel and powder coated. Our Factor 55 unit features a Type III hard-anodized coating for low friction contact and extended synthetic rope life.
The standard winch hook by itself looks about as traditional as it gets. When sitting next to the Factor 55 unit, you realize how deluxe and impressive this UltraHook is. Designed for closed-system winching, the 32-ounce UltraHook has an integrated shackle pin mount. It is compatible with steel cables and synthetic winch rope. The max load has a 16,000-pound rating. Precision CNC machined using 7000-series aluminum, it features laser-etched guides.
We chose the VR EVO 10s winch due to its compact size, capability, and advanced technical features. This is a standard-duty winch with a state-of-the-art two-in-one remote that offers wireless and wired controls. It offers a weight capacity and line speed ideal for 1/2-ton pickups, and Jeeps. The VR EVO 10 features IP68-rated waterproof construction, and an ultra-reliable Albright contactor inside a relocatable control pack.
Additionally, Warn has designed their new winches to be upfitted for use with a smartphone when paired with a Bluetooth wireless HUB Receiver & App.
ORXtreme JL Body Armor Protection And Upgrades
After all of the new gear was installed, we finally had the ORXtreme JL looking ready and confident for the trail. Considering the criteria to build a mildly off-road capable daily driver, I think we achieved that goal. The stance and performance hits the mark. We do have yet to re-gear or even add any engine performance and tuning modifications at this point.
With all of that said and acknowledged, it is high time to see what this thing can do off-road. What better place to do some serious off-roading than out in Moab, Utah for the 2022 Easter Jeep Safari. We finally get to test the suspension, tires, wheels, and now the JL body armor protection.
Stay tuned for the next ORXtreme JL segment where we experience EJS for the first time! To give you a glimpse, we are jumping into the deep end, and I got the chance to hook up with Rockstar Garage, Mickey Thompson Tires, Dirt Life Wheels, Warn, and Fabtech for some level 7 and level 8 trail runs.