Trail Ready Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ Front Bumper Install

Jan. 27, 2015 By Josh Burns

As vehicle projects go sometimes, ours has been sitting longer than we’d like. When we last left the WJ, we had upgraded our miniscule stock wheels and tires with some nice, 17-inch Mickey Thompson Sidebiter IIs fitted with some aggressive 33-inch MTZs. Pair the upgraded shoes with previously installed 4-inch BDS Suspension liftBushwacker fender flares and Maaco paintjob and the WJ was finally starting to show some promise.

One of the biggest reasons we decided to tackle the WJ Grand Cherokee, aside from the fact it is the last live-axle Grand Cherokee before Jeep went to independent suspension, is because of the sheer volume of vehicles out there in the world. The WJ model was produced from ’99-’04 and there are literally thousands of these vehicles available, but most importantly, they can be had at a reasonable cost, making this Jeep an interesting proposition as a potential off-roader. The Wrangler may still be the choice for hard-core wheelers due to its off-the-shelf capability, but the WJ offers a few things that older Wranglers (like the TJ and YJ) do not: plenty of closed-cabin storage and a full backseat for passengers.

The initial WJ Grand Cherokee buyers likely purchased the vehicle as a family SUV, so not only can you find one now for a reasonable price but there’s a good chance the 4x4 models didn’t see a ton of trail action. Chances are there’s still plenty of life left in the Jeep. Since the WJ was billed more as a family wagon, the selection of aftermarket parts is harder to come by compared to a Wrangler. One of the toughest parts to source for our project was off-road bumpers, as the plastic stock bumpers not only provide little trail protection, but the low-hanging pieces also pose potential clearance issues as well.

Fortunately we stumbled across Trail Ready’s WJ bumpers. Available in raw steel or a powder-coated finish, Trail Ready’s bumpers are designed for maximum approach angle for significantly improved off-road clearance. Aside from that, the bumpers look much nicer and give the WJ a more aggressive appearance. The front bumper design incorporates an integrated skid plate, heavy-duty shackle mounts and a winch mount that will support up to a 9,500-pound-rated winc, which will immediately lend trail credibility to our family-wagon-styled Jeep. We were excited about Trail Ready’s offerings and ordered up both a front and rear bumper. 

A few weeks later we took delivery on some impressive-looking new bumpers from Trail Ready, finished with a clean black powder coating. We went to work installing the front bumper from on our WJ, paying close attention to the included directions. As Trail Ready notes, this is one of its most complicated installations, as some models require the trimming of the grille and relocation of the windshield washer bottle.

With a full set of all the necessary hardware included with our bumper, we went to work. Here’s a breakdown of the installation for the Trail Ready Grand Cherokee front bumper installation.

We started off by removing the grille, which is attached with 8 Phillips screws.

Although we always planned to replace the stock bumpers, we wanted to match the plastic side cladding and front bumpers in style and color so we used a satin Krylon Fusion black spray paint earlier in the build. Although the cladding still looks good, the bumper started to show some signs of weathering from the elements. 

The bumper is held in place with a few clips that just requires some careful pulling, but be sure to remove these tucked-away screws on each side of the front bumper.

With the front bumper removed the cross-member is then exposed so we can begin to install the Trail Ready bumper mounts.

There are two mounts per side for the new Trail Ready bumper – an upper and lower. The lower mount should be installed first, as it uses pre-exisiting holes on the cross-member on the WJ and will eventually aid in aligning the top mount. Before installing the lower mounts a little massaging of the sheet metal edges is in order so the lower mounts sit flush.

Here’s the left lower mount installed using the supplied hardware included with the Trail Ready kit. We only installed it finger tight at first.

The upper mounts require some drilling into the cross-member for installation, so  the headlamps and support bracket needed to be removed. Note: This is where you’ll need an extra set of hands, as one person will need to hold the headlamps bracket and the other unplug the lamps.

Unplugging the headlamps is a little tricky, as safety clamps hold the connection securely in place. This is where the pieces connect, behind the headlamps.

We lined up the top support bracket for the Trail Ready bumper so we could mark where we’d need to drill. The upper bracket is angled to follow the curve of the cross member.

Once we were comfortable with the position of the upper support bracket, one person held the bracket in place while the other used a punch to mark the drill location.

Using a 3/8-inch drill bit, we drilled holes in the cross member to support the upper bumper mount. There’s not much room for error with the holes, since they are so close to the edge of the sheet metal, so triple check the hole locations before drilling.

After reinstalling the headlamps and support bracket, we began securing the upper bumper mount to the cross member. It’s a tight fit in some spots, so a socket wrench elbow will come in handy here.

Depending upon the model selected, the Trail Ready bumper will weigh 80 to 100 pounds, so an extra set of hands (or more) are necessary to set the Trail Ready bumper in place and secure the hardware. The top plate of the bumper will slide between the plastic trim and the headlamp assembly. Once in place, the 7/16” carriage bolt, flat washer and lock washer are secured finger tight so the bumper can be properly positioned.

The Trail Ready WJ bumper offers a perfect location for mounting a winch, which we’ll be adding shortly.

The Trail Ready bumper includes two shackle mounts for off-road recovery. 

One of the great features of the Trail Ready bumper is the underbody protection is provides with the integrated front skip plate. Auxiliary light slots are incorporated into the bumper as well. We’re really impressed with the fit, finish, and design of the Trail Ready bumper.

Trail Ready

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