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The Decepticon JKU: A Transformed 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

The 4-door Wrangler Unlimited produced from years 07’-18’, commonly known as the JKU, opened up a new world for many Jeep owners and enthusiasts. The introduction of the 4-door meant that you no longer had to sacrifice comfort and convenience for off-road adventure. Coincidentally, in the same year that Jeep released its 4-door Wrangler, the movie Transformers was released. Given the amount of changes this 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon has undergone, it’s only fitting that it’s named after one. Enter the Decepticon JKU.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon rear passenger side

LA Based owner Matthew Coates has been an avid outdoor adventurer for most of his life, taking up 4-wheel drive trails as soon as he was old enough to get behind the wheel. He was forced to ditch his trusty 2-door TJ Rubicon when his 2 kids came along in favor of something with a bit more space for the family. It was only a matter of time until Matt was able to find a Jeep that met the aforementioned criteria, and his 4x4 adventures could resume. But he has a tough time leaving his vehicles in stock form, and felt that with the right modifications, he could transform his Jeep into the antagonist beast the Decepticons are recognized as. Read on to learn more about the transformation that took place at 3D-Offroad

Matthew Coates with his 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

38” Nitto Tire Trail Grapplers

Matt knew he wanted to run a bigger wheel and tire combination, but didn’t necessarily want to have to swap out his factory Rubicon axles to do so. He landed on a set of 38” Nitto Tire Trail Grapplers mated to a set of 20” KMC Rockstar XD Series Wheels. With enough finesse in the throttle on the trails, Matt’s been able to maximize his tire size without over stressing the stock Dana44 axles. He added Teraflex’s Delta Brake System to increase braking performance that would otherwise have been lacking after adding the oversized Nitto tires. The aggressive tread blocks found in the Trail Grappler M/T have proven themselves in places like Johnson Valley and the Rubicon Trail, and the on-road quiet performance has been ideal for Matt’s daily commute to his office and back.  The 38” Nitto Tire Trail Grappler is the perfect shoe for the Decepticon JKU.

Nitto Trail Grappler tread detail

Transform and Rise Up

A common rally cry of the Decepticon is to “Transform and Rise Up!” Queue the Teraflex Suspension. In order to fit a set of larger tires, the Decepticon JKU needed to be lifted. The Teraflex Alpine IR Longarm kit was paired with a set of 4” springs to give the jeep the clearance it needed for its 38” Trail Grapplers. In order to achieve an excellent ride quality, Falcon Series 3.3 Fast Adjust Piggyback Shocks were installed and paired with a JK SpeedBump Bump Stop Kit at all four corners. This means Matt’s Jeep has the shock travel to crawl boulders in Big Bear and the ability to smash the Mojave Desert at high speeds without compromising comfort or driving characteristics— it's the best of both worlds for any Jeep enthusiast living in Southern California. In addition to the lift kit, a set of aluminum fenders from Nemesis Industries opens up the wheel wells a bit, allowing the Decepticon to take advantage of every inch of wheel travel provided by the Falcon shocks.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with Falcon shocks

Teraflex Heavy Duty Steering

The wheel and tire combo underneath the Decepticon JKU is significantly heavier than the stock setup, which puts additional strains and stresses on the factory components. While Matt decided to stick with his stock Dana44 axles, he did spring for upgraded, heavy duty steering. A HD Chromoly Tie rod, Forged Drag Link, and Forged Adjustable Track Bars both front and rear help to maintain control and a tighter-than-factory steering wheel at the helm of the Decepticon JKU. These heavy duty steering components feature much stronger joints and withstand the abusive loads from heavy tires and harsh off-road environments to dramatically improve handling. Speaking of handling, a Falcon Nexus EF 2.2 Fast Adjust Steering Stabilizer rounds off the steering and gives Matt the adjustability he needs for the various driving conditions he encounters. 

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with Teraflex steering components

Savvy Off Road Aluminum Bumpers

There is a fine line between functional armor and simply overdoing it. While it’s important to protect the exterior of the Jeep for hard-core off-roading, adding too much weight can have adverse effects on wearable items such as suspension and steering joints. That’s why Matt opted for aluminum front and rear bumpers from Savvy Off Road. These help to minimize weight while maximizing approach and departure angles, making the Decepticon more nimble on the road and more capable on the trail. Matt added a Warn Zeon 10-S winch to his Savvy front bumper with a Factor55 ProLink to aid in the event of a recovery. 

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon rear bumper detail

Rock Slide Engineering Step Sliders

The rocker panels on the Wrangler are at high risk for damage when rock crawling, especially on the 4-door with its extended wheel-base. Rock Slide Engineering addresses that problem head on in both function and style with their trail-rated power step sliders. During daily driving and normal commuting, the RSE Step Sliders make getting in and out of the Jeep an ease thanks to the step dropping a full 12” down from the body when the door is opened. When you get to the trailhead, the step is deactivated with the flip of a switch, and the slider is ready for abuse. Matt paired his with a set of Rock Slide’s 3/16” steel skid plates, providing even further protection to the rocker panel for hard core wheeling.

Rock Slide Engineering Step Sliders on a 2015 Jeep JKU

Baja Designs Lighting the Way

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. We hit the trail with grandiose plans of getting to camp with plenty of time to set-up our tents and enjoy the sunset. But if you are an avid Jeep enthusiast like Matt, you know that these adventures hardly go to plan. A set of Amber LP6’s on the front bumper help light up the primary driving zone up front, while Squadron Pro’s mounted on the A-Pillar take care of the cornering and peripheral zone to allow Matt to drive comfortably at speed in dusty conditions. Underneath the Decepticon JKU lies a set of four Baja Designs LED Rock Lights, illuminating the wheel wells and undercarriage to expose obstacles and uneven terrain while off-road at night. And finally, a set of BD’s S2 Reverse Lights flush mounted in the rear Savvy Bumper keep the back side of the Jeep safe while reversing on the trail.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon on Nitto Trail Grappler Tires

The Decepticon JKU is an excellent example of one of the many ways one can transform a 4-door wrangler into the ultimate adventure machine. Doubling as a daily driver and purpose built 4x4, the Decepticon allows Matt to get off the beaten path, and enjoy time with both friends and family away from the hustle and bustle of his home town of Los Angeles, CA. Check out Built2Wander on Instagram to see more of the Decepticon JKU!

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon rear driver side on Nitto Trail Grappler Tires

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