Wrangler Ware: Because Everyone Gets Stuck Off-Road Sooner or Later
There are a few basic necessities that every 4x4 needs to have. Some of the most basic of which are sturdy front and rear recovery points. Sure, no one plans on getting stuck, but it’s an inevitable part of the off-road hobby. For our ’97 Jeep Wrangler build, we opted to give our TJ some needed protection and tow points with EVO Manufacturing’s all new front and rear TJ bumpers.
While widely known for its line of JK suspensions, bumpers and armor parts, the brand has recently expended its line of wares to cover the ’97 to ’06 Wrangler. As is the case with many of EVO’s products, the bumpers are designed with the dedicated ‘wheeling enthusiast in mind. We spent an afternoon bolting on the EVO armor, along with a new VR8-S winch from Warn.
While the video above offers insight into the install process and how it all works, we’re highlighting some of the standout features of the components below.
EVO designed its new TJ front bumper as a direct bolt-on replacement. Secured by the six OE mounting bolts, the bumper is built with two ¾-inch D-ring mounts to provide secure places to pull from. The 3/16-inch steel bumper weighs in at a modest 30 pounds and is designed to accept most winches with a 10x4.5-inch mounting pattern.
Picking the right winch for a project is always a tough decision. For most, it’s a tool that you’ll hopefully rarely have to use. However, when you do need it, you want to make sure it’s up to the job. We ended up going with Warn’s new VR8-S winch. The 8,000-pound pulling capacity is plenty for our lightweight TJ, and it touts the fastest line speed of the company’s VR series. Given it’s in the more entry-level range of Warn’s winches, it offers a fair balance of price and quality.
When it comes to TJ front bumpers, the less metal we have sticking out the better. The EVO bumper stays tight to the Jeep’s framerails, leaving the path open in front of our 33x12.50R17 Nitto Mud Grapplers. The less material sticking out in front of the Jeep equates to a better approach angle and opens up our line choices off-road.
Since sometimes it’s easier to go backwards rather than forwards, we equipped the TJ with EVO’s rear bumper as well. EVO builds the bumper using 3/16-inch steel plate and burns in two ¾-inch D-ring mounts. The bumper is designed to take advantage of the eight existing holes on the back of the TJ’s chassis, along with the two underneath.
The EVO rear hugs the back of the Jeep tightly, so there’s not a lot of steel to get hung up on. We opted to have both our bumpers sent bare so we could give them a nice Krylon rattle-can flat black finish. This makes them easy to touch up for when we inevitably make contact in the dirt.
A great set of mud-terrain tires will only get you so far when you’re still running open differentials! A good bit of rainfall made for some bottomless sections at our local ‘wheeling hole, which we quickly found as we buried our TJ.
Obviously, this was a great time to check out the speed of our new VR8-S winch! Compared to the Premium series Warn, it’s not fast, but we wouldn’t call it a slow winch by any means. It never bogged or hesitated to pull our TJ free. We opted for the S model, as the 3/8-inch synthetic rope offers a little weight saving over the cable version.
Overall, we’re extremely happy with our latest TJ upgrades. With our JKS 3-inch suspension underneath and knobby Mud Grapplers on the ground, we can continue our path towards making our Wrangler a more capable trail machine.