Installation date: 12/30/06
Editor’s note: After a short hiatus, Jeeperman is back in business! CJ/YJ/TJ bumpers are in production, and full production should be by EJS 2010.
Introduction | Installation
I’m going to do this write-up a bit backwards from the way I normally do them and start with the review of the bumper, then go over the install. I’m doing this for two reasons: 1) I’m just so impressed with this bumper system I want to hurry up and get to the good stuff, so to speak, and 2) I figure the review part is what you’d be more interested in anyway because the install is fairly straight-forward and the instructions are available for download on Jeeperman’s website anyway.
One of the things that’s always impressed me about Jeeperman’s swingaway design is their slam-shut latch system, and that’s probably what first sold me on their bumper. Jeeperman isn’t the only company to offer a slam-shut style tire carrier, nor are they the only company to use a TJ tailgate style latch, but I have yet to see another bumper that matches theirs in terms of overall style and design. With a retail price currently at $799 this had better be one heck of a swingaway system, and Jeeperman doesn’t fail to deliver.
The bumper itself is built from 2x4x3/16″ steel, with the ends cut up at a 50* angle and capped off. The mounting brackets are 1/4″ steel and feature three rows of mounting holes that allow you to mount the bumper 1″ higher if you’re running a body lift. I didn’t know about this design aspect until I actually started installing the bumper, so that was a nice added bonus.
1/4″ steel gusseted frame tie-in brackets are now standard with the Jeeperman Swingaway, and connect to the outer two bumper mounting bolts then bolt to the frame with an additional three bolts per side. They line up with two existing holes in the TJ frame and it’s up to you to drill the third hole, but I opted to skip that and just go with the two existing holes. Our previous Custom4x4Fabrication rear bumper only used one bolt into the frame, so I figured the Jeeperman bumper could suffice with only two out of three.
The bumper also features 3/4″ thick d-ring tabs and a flush-mount 2″ receiver with safety chain loops hidden on the backside of the bumper. The ends of the d-ring tabs are radiused, not simply angle-cut, and they pass completely through the bumper to the crossmember mounting brackets and are fully welded at all three surfaces. These things aren’t going anywhere.
As I mentioned earlier, the tire carrier features a slam-shut self-latching mechanism, similar to the one used in a TJ’s tailgate. The latch has a safety-position that keeps the tire carrier from swinging open in the event you somehow don’t get it shut all the way. And shutting the tire carrier involves simply swinging it shut, just like you would a door (if you’re still running them) or the tailgate. A lever on bottom of the swingarm allows for easy one-hand, one-finger opening.
The tire carrier rides on taper bearings on a big 1.25″ DIA steel shaft that runs all the way through the bottom of the bumper where it’s fully welded. The hinge is topped off by a slick-looking 2.75″ DIA billet aluminum cap and counter-sunk stainless allen-head bolt. The billet cap sets the preload on the bearings and keeps the hinge held together nice and snug.
Two adjustable isolators on the bumper plus the reuse of a factory rubber tailgate bumpstop help to make sure the tire carrier is tight and rattle- and bounce-free.
The tire mount itself is drilled for four different wheel bolt patterns — 5×4.5″, 5×5.5″, 6×5.5″, and 8×6.5″. The face of the tire mount has a small hole in the center for Jeeperman’s optional flush-mount LED mini third brake light for those of you with nit-picky local authorities. We’ll be mounting an OffRoadOnly license plate bracket and LitePLATE (which features a built-in third brake light) on ours, so keep an eye out for that write-up soon.
The tire carrier also sports a trick auto-lock mechanism which stops and locks the tire carrier open at just past 90*. I think this was one of my wife’s favorite parts of the whole thing. The tire carrier can be opened wider if needed by simply pulling up the release handle and swinging the carrier further open. The billet coolness carries over from the hinge cap to the triple-grooved release handle on the lock pin.
Another feature of the tire carrier is the obligatory Hi-Lift jack mount. The jack gets mounted horizontally along the base of the tire carrier. This helps keep the center of gravity lower (hey, every little bit helps) and also makes room for some of the optional add-ons Jeeperman offers, like jerry can carriers, a CO2 tank mount, and a heavy-duty cargo rack.
We’ve never had a need to carry a jerry can (yet), but we may pick up one of the CO2 tank carriers in the future to hold our 10# PowerTank. There’s also a tab on the tire carrier so you can use a long hoop-style lock to secure your Hi-Lift. A second tab located on the passenger-side of the tire carrier lets you mount a CB antenna or auxiliary back-up light. Since we have our CB antenna mounted on the front fender I used this tab to mount a 4″ “tractor” light that will be hooked up to the reverse lights.
If you hadn’t already guessed, I really like this swingaway system. The bumper and tire carrier both feel rock-solid, and the slam-shut latch makes the tire carrier a bit more convenient and easy to use. The high-gloss black powdercoating looks great, and the billet bits give it a bit of a “custom” look. Plus, the height-adjustable mounting brackets and 4-pattern tire mount let you customize the bumper a bit to best fit your rig’s setup.
And Jeeperman’s attention to detail even carries over to their packaging. The bumper components are shipped in heavy double-walled cardboard boxes with dual reinforcement straps on the outside, and on the inside the parts are held in place with expanding foam packing inserts — no wadded up newspapers here!
So now that I’ve blabbed on and on about all the things I think are cool about this swingaway, let’s get on to the install!
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