Halley - '17 WK2 Trailhawk Overland Build

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#1
Current Build Status











Build Thread Index:

Overland/Adventure Trip Reports
2017 - QB-5: Adventuring In Ontario's Backcountry
2017 - Trans-Canada Overland Expedition

Mechanical: Armor & Recovery
Chief Products Hidden Winch System
Warn Zeon Platinum 10-S / Factor55 FlatLink
Factor55 Hitchlink

Electrical
Cobra 75WX CB Radio / Firestik Antenna
Kenwood D-710G Dual Bander / Diamond NR72BNMO Antenna
Dometic CFX-35 Refrigerator

Auxiliary Switch Panel Build
Auxiliary Lighting Control Box Build
Black Oak LED 30" LED Bar & Night Test Photos
Rigid SRM Flush Reverse Lights & Night Test Photos

Misc.
X-Pel Protective Wrap
Rhino Rack RSP-27 Roof Cross-Bar Install
Rear Storage Deck Build

Photo Shoots
03/2018 Winter Off-Roading

Vehicle Build Partners
Chief Products - Black Oak LED - Warn Industries - Factor55 - Eletrunks




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Hey all!

So this is my formal introduction here after years of following, reading, admiring, researching, and dreaming. My username is as such due to my endurance adventure blog that I write with stories of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, cross country bicycle trip, and recent attempt at Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail over two weeks last month. Disappointed that one ended early, but you can go read about it and see photos if you'd like: www.2180miles.com

I'm a decade long TJ owner, selling my Volvo 840 buying my Wrangler Sport in high school, and building her since then. She's up on 35" MTR/Ks, 3" lift with Currie suspension components, 8k winch, Undercover Fab aluminum skids from front to back, Rigid LEDs everywhere, strobe lights for on-road recovery stuff (good samaritan lights as I call them) and the rest of the typical works with electronics and radios. The members of the Massachusetts Jeep club I founded in 2011 affectionately call her Big Red. As our club has grown, my close group of Jeep friends began discussing an overland trip through northern New England. As I took on the planning of our adventure with my buddy Rob, I began realizing that the TJ wasn't going to be the best platform for me personally to do these kinds of trips in.

I began shopping for a JKUR, floating the idea of trading my daily driver in and keeping the TJ and the JKUR, each to serve different purposes. As my research continued and I spoke with JKUR owner friends, I realized that I'd much rather have something along the lines of an SUV that would be less of a one trick pony. I travel for work and therefore frequently have rental cars, so I began test driving the Grand Cherokees during my weeks away from home, which ultimately turned my search in that direction. Reading about the current (2016) and new models for 2017, I focused on the Overland and Trailhawk trims as ones I'd be interested in buying. Price was a factor, but I knew early on that I didn't want to heavily mod this truck, so buying a Limited trim and upgrading things wasn't really in the cards for me. The Overland is much more of a luxury oriented vehicle than the name might suggest, and the Trailhawk is the nitty gritty, but still very well equipped, model.

After many months of waiting, debating, test driving, yada yada, I finally went ahead and purchased a 2017 Trailhawk last week. Fully loaded (minus Blu-Ray entertainment), it was a unique package with the active safety package, luxury package - read: panoramic sunroof that I dreamed about, multiple skid plates underneath, 18" wheels wrapped in Kevlar lined Goodyear A/Ts, and the Quadra-Trac/air suspension package. Sticker was $49,500, and after a week of putting dealerships against each other, and after a bit of negotiating I got it from a dealer in New Hampshire (90 minutes from my house in Boston), for $42,799. I am quite happy with the price, and opted to add the 7-year bumper to bumper Mopar warranty for $1,300 for a piece of mind. There's a high likelihood I keep it that long, and I can get money back from FCA if I sell the vehicle first.

So that's probably enough for post #1. I purchased it and dropped it off immediately for the front end to be protective wrapped, so I haven't had a chance to take it for a real high-res photo shoot yet (save for lining the ladies up for a family photo as you'll see below). Here are some photos to start, since that's what we all love in these threads anyway. This will not be the most advanced or capable build in the history of this forum, but aside the rare iPhone photo, I promise to at least have high quality pictures.

Look forward to writing more posts with mods and adventures.

Ryan



At the Dealership
by Ryan McKee


Three's Company
by Ryan McKee
 
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JIMBO

Expedition Leader
#3
:sombrero: Well thought out and disciplined purchase--

A well rounded out vehicle lineup-

Congrads-

:costumed-smiley-007:wings: JIMBO
 
#4
Congrats! I've been hemming and hawing about keeping my JKUR in favor of a WK2TH - if the tire options were a bit more aggressive (size and OEM offering) I think I would be more easily swayed...
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#6
Welcome! Big Red is pretty sweet. Look forward to following along with the new Grand, I see you already got her dirty!
Thanks! Big Red has a very special place in my heart. I'll definitely get some more photos up; it's an exceptionally capable rig and there's very little it can't manage to get up and over. Full aluminum tummy tuck, I think it measures 22-23" to the transfer case skid underneath. And yes.... I literally left the dealership and drove straight to a trail a few miles away. Nothing crazy, but up to the top of a fire road and through a few small rivers. Had a great time, but reminded myself to take it somewhat easy considering I had only owned it for 15 minutes.


:sombrero: Well thought out and disciplined purchase--

A well rounded out vehicle lineup-

Congrads-

:costumed-smiley-007:wings: JIMBO
Thanks Jimbo! Put a fair bit of thought into the GC purchase, and I'm comfortable with what I got and the price I paid. I'm a big fan of the lineup as well, each one has a purpose. I was going to trade the A4 but didn't want to A) muddy the deal with the dealership, and B) wasn't quite ready to get rid of the zoom zoom. I'll revisit this in a few months, but doubt any of the two existing vehicles will go anywhere.

Congrats! I've been hemming and hawing about keeping my JKUR in favor of a WK2TH - if the tire options were a bit more aggressive (size and OEM offering) I think I would be more easily swayed...
From what I've read, there are a fair bit of tire options in a more aggressive size and tread. There's a great build at www.wk2project.com that has some info on what he's squeezed in under his GC. The comfort (the JKURs definitely have some comfort, not knocking that) but the Cherk comfort, the fuel economy, etc all were what drove me to it. Definitely recommend taking one for a test drive if you have a weekend with a few hours to spare.


Looking forward to seeing more updates, this should be a cool build. Any immediate plans?
Thanks! I'm looking forward to more updates too, haha. Immediate plan... I got it home the state inspection done then instantly removed the front license plate/bracket, I hate those. Beyond that is basically radio/comms and some auxiliary lighting. I haven't had a car payment in a while so I'm going to chill out for the first couple months and get used to that again. The GC went in for hood protective wrap this week while I'm on the road with work, and I've ordered the CB/antenna/brackets to install this weekend. Not a ton of documentation about previous people doing it, so I'll jot some notes down to help future people hopefully.
 
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2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#7
First up on the mods list (I guess removing the license plate bracket happened first) was to get the front end protective wrapped against road rocks and paint chips. I had been meaning to do this on the A4 when I purchased, but never got around to it. I had only had the GC home for 12 hours before I drove it a few miles and dropped it off at a local shop that has Lambos, Ferraris, and Porsches as his regular detail / wrap clients. In discussing my options with Pete, the owner of Unique Car Care, even before I took delivery of the Trailhawk, he laid out three options for protective packages that I could go with.

For $799 I chose the Xcel self-healing/UV safe/10 year warranty protective wrap for the full front bumper, grille, 1/3 hood, 1/3 front fenders, and mirrors. He even used a special "stealth black" to cover the hood decal to match the hood wrap line. In addition to this I had him do the b-pillars to protect the glossy black material from scratches, then the a-pillars and the roof line before the sun roof. My intention with the latter two was to protect the paint from scratches that I might encounter when on trails as the roofline lifts the low hanging branches up. I know a lot of you have access to wide open trails and beautiful mountain ranges, but in New England we have a ton of heavily wooded trails with overgrown vegetation that often lends pin striping to the paint jobs of our rigs.

Total cost with the pillars/roof add-ons and a detail job after the install - $1,049.00... Might seem steep, but with the road and trail miles I intend on putting on this, I think protecting it right off the bat was the only decision. Beneficial for me, he kept the car in his shop all week while I've been gone.

Here are some photos he sent me during the install...



Xpel Ultimate Bumper Install by 2180miles


Xpel Ultimate Bumper Finish by 2180miles


Xpel Ultimate Hood Finish by 2180miles


Xpel Ultimate Hood Install by 2180miles


Xpel Stealth Film Install by 2180miles


Xpel Stealth Film Finish by 2180miles
 

JIMBO

Expedition Leader
#8
:sombrero: I don't blame you for that protection--

My environment here in Nv/Ca, doesn't really warrant MOST of your install, but

I'd like to protect the leading edge/front of my new RAM, but I'll be changing the front bumper/facia before too long and it would be a waste of money-

My off-road trailer has that same "WRAP" and is still unfazed after almost 9 years, so it's a good investment for protection-

Good luck

CIAO

:costumed-smiley-007:wings: JIMBO
 
#9
Thanks! Big Red has a very special place in my heart. I'll definitely get some more photos up; it's an exceptionally capable rig and there's very little it can't manage to get up and over. Full aluminum tummy tuck, I think it measures 22-23" to the transfer case skid underneath. And yes.... I literally left the dealership and drove straight to a trail a few miles away. Nothing crazy, but up to the top of a fire road and through a few small rivers. Had a great time, but reminded myself to take it somewhat easy considering I had only owned it for 15 minutes.
Cool story! Dad bought our Wrangler back in 2000 brand new and immediately took the long way home all the way on gravel. I have it now, and while it's still basically stock it too has been on dirt since day one. Oh, and I have brand new carpet for it, that also came out on day one :)

I read some of your blog over the past couple days, inspiring stuff man, very cool.

Oh yes, and always have protection ;)
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#10
Cobra 75WX / Firestik NGP - CB Install

So the next thing up on the mods list was a CB. Our club has a requirement for CB radios during group events and trail runs, and while I'm not entirely sure yet that the Grand will replace the TJ on those easier runs, it's still important for me to have it. I've been planning to take the amateur exam and eventually installing a 2m/440 system in the truck, but haven't gotten around to that yet. For now, a few miles of coms is all I need on a regular basis. For better or worse, there's not a ton of information on CB installs in the WK2 models. A handful of photos here and there of antenna mounts, and a bit of HAM installs, but I figured I'd go ahead and of a more detailed write-up for anyone else that may need it in the future.

In order to maintain a clean look for the cabin, and to occupy as little floorspace as possible, I chose the Cobra 75WX unit. The system is pretty much contained in the mic itself, with scan and weather functions, and has a separate box that converts the PL-259 coax to the mic cable, also adding an external speaker 1/8" jack (the 75WX is known for a weak speaker, since it's contained in the microphone itself... for now, it'll be fine, but I'll eventually put a speaker under one of the seats for a little more oomph). I also chose a 2' antenna with the approximate knowledge that when mounted on a spring by the bracket, I would get the top of the antenna about 8" over the roofline. While this isn't fantastic for any antenna, it will give me adequate reception and will still maintain a clean OEM+ look (it'll also be able to fit in the lower bay of my garage if ever the need arose, and I can easily swap in a taller antenna for trips with the club.

From the images I found on google, it seems most people rivet or velcro a mic clip into the center console or on either side of the 8.4" screen, but I wanted something that was a little more easily accessible and didn't require drilling a hole in the dash or the tacky look of an adhesive. I started searching for a cell phone type mount specific to the Grand Cherokee, and discovered the ProClip Console Mount which was designed to mate up to the center console by the cup holders. They provide a small tool to pop up the console and get the lip of the clip underneath for secure mounting. It took all of 2 minutes to get this thing hooked up, including drilling out and screwing in the mic clip that Cobra provided with the CB.



ProClip Mount by 2180miles


ProClip Mount by 2180miles


Photos of other owners who have tailgate mounted antennas on the WK2 have shown them in two locations, 1 being drilled into the brake light assembly, and the other into the lower bumper below the brake light. In both instances the antenna is mounted into plastic, so I went ahead and ordered a NGP (no ground plane) antenna from Firestik. This is a special kind of antenna where the internal wiring is designed to work at locations that do not have metal ground planes, like motorhome fiberglass, on a motorcycle where the metal is minimal, and on boats. In this instance it worked perfectly for my plastic brake light.

I initially was hesitating to drill into the brake light itself but after removing the plastic pop rivets and taking the light off the Jeep, I realized that there was plenty of room to get a metal bracket on the back side of the mount in between the tail light's plastic. I cut up a small piece (1.5" x 1.5" , if that) of 18 gauge steel to provide a firm backing to the antenna bracket. Drilling it out to the same hole pattern as the bracket I was then able to use the self-tapping screws to get through the mount, plastic brake light, and metal on the other side. I painted the metal plate and put it front of my heat gun to speed up the drying. Putting this back onto the Jeep I was able to close the tail gate and check that there were no clearance issues between the two when it closed. Initially there was a little bit of rubbing (against the tail gate side plastic, not metal thankfully!) so I took the bracket to my angle grinder with a flapper disc and smoothed it down a bit to cut down on rubbing.



WK2 Brake Light Assembly by 2180miles


WK2 Brake Light Assembly Removed by 2180miles


Firestik Antenna Bracket w/ Metal Back Plate by 2180miles


Next up in the process was figuring out how to get the coax cable back to the CB itself. I had decided from the beginning that the CB controller box would live under the battery compartment lid (the battery on the WK2 is under the passenger seat... makes 12v wiring a breeze), so the coax needed to end up there. I fed the wire through the vents in the back of the trunk, then used my interior trim tool kit to lightly bend the trim pieces and push the wiring underneath. I moved from the rear pillar to the trim piece at the very back of the trunk, then around to the passenger side. I had to unbolt the cargo tie down to lift the right side of that trim piece up, but then was able to feed the wire down along the spare tire compartment to behind the rear bench seats. Moving to the rear passenger door, I fed the coax under the door trim and then under the passenger seat bracket and into the battery compartment. It took a while to get all of this done, using patience as I was petrified of breaking a trim panel on the brand new truck, but I managed to use all 18' of the wire without any coils or major stuffing of any spare wire... all good things for signal! It's also nice that the only time the cable is exposed is the 2" between the B-pillar and the front passenger seat, and the location where it passes through the tailgate weather strip.

Once that was done, I went to check in on my buddy Rob who had been going to town with the battery compartment cover. Cobra includes a nice grommet and mount for the wire, so we decided that instead of mounting the control box on the top of the compartment cover, we'd mount it underneath. Due to where the battery lives there was a lot of room to the left side, where the control box fit perfectly. Simple crimp-on ends were easily attached to the (+) lead of the battery, and we grounded it out to the seat bracket for a good chassis ground. Drilling out the compartment cover to run the mic control cable under the seat, we then threw the grommet in there and called it good. The nice thing about this CB is that the microphone can detach from the control box so if I ever need to get it out of the way for whatever reason, it's simple to do so.

Here are the photos of the wiring (I labeled the route in red) and the under-seat bracket and wiring.



Coax Routing Through Trunk by 2180miles


Coax Through Passenger Compartment by 2180miles


Coax Into Battery Compartment by 2180miles


Batter Cover Undermount by 2180miles


Battery Cover Install by 2180miles


Battery Cover Installed- Wire Quick Disconnect by 2180miles


After this it was a matter of getting the antenna assembly onto the rear bracket, and tuning it. While Firestik tunes their CB antennas from the factory, I find it's always best to re-do the tuning on the vehicle itself to find out how the environment and install have affected its signal. The yellow band at the base of the antenna in some photos is there to denote that is is a NGP antenna and will not function normally on a standard CB antenna install. Once tightened down on the bracket and the tailgate operation was tested a few times, we took the Jeep out to the end of a state park where marshlands surround the parking lot for quite a distance in every direction. This area provides an uninterrupted surrounding for the antenna to be tuned in, not affected by power lines, buildings, or other structures that can cut down on the reception and SWR readings.

After toying around with the adjustable antenna screw for a while, Rob and I were quite pleased to have the CB measure in at around 1.2 - 1.5 SWR at channels 1, 20, and 40. In my many experiences installing CBs in my Wrangler (I've used 3, 4, and 5' antennas, so I've done a bit of tuning) and installing them in dozens of friend's rigs, this was the quickest and cleanest install to SWR readings I've ever come across. I was quite pleased. I took some photos of the Jeep while we were out there, and let Rob mess around with the air suspension, dropping it into it's lowest settings (which I hadn't yet done) and raising it up to Off-Road 2 mode, it's highest setting.

After returning back to his house, packing up my stuff and leaving, he sat in the cab of his Tacoma and we did a range-test between our radios as I drove away. I knew going into this that the 2' antenna would be a limiting factor on range, but I was happy to find that I could hear him clearly and he could receive me clearly up to around 2 miles away as the crow flies. I had measured out distances from his house online beforehand to know which landmarks marked which distances. So, a few hours and about $150 and I have a solid CB set-up in the Grand, with a range that will do just fine for what I need it for.

Hopefully this will help someone out in the future if they are doing the same thing to their WK2.

Big thanks to Rob for helping out. Here are the final photos of it installed.




WK2 Antenna Spring Mount by 2180miles


WK2 Antenna Mount Bracket by 2180miles





ProClip with CB Mic by 2180miles


Grand Cherokee CB Cabin Mount by 2180miles


WK2 Plum Island Reservation by 2180miles


WK2 Trailhawk Rear by 2180miles


WK2 Tailgate by 2180miles
 
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#14
Cool thread, I'm currently looking at getting a new vehicle that has a bit more of a "get the heck out of suberbia" vibe to it, and wk2 th is very high in the running. I'll be interested in following your mods and impressions of what it is like on the trail. So, keep posting :) thanks
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#15
Thanks for the write-up. I see a new project for spring. This really works for me as I have a Cobra 75 in the JKU.
You bet, glad it will be helpful!

Looks great brother! Hope we can get a trip together one day.
Definitely my man. Gotta align the schedules and figure out where! A North Maine Woods trip would be awesome, especially if we're actually camping with the guys.

Nice work, seems like a really clean and functional install
Thanks Roody! I'm quite pleased with it.

Cool thread, I'm currently looking at getting a new vehicle that has a bit more of a "get the heck out of suberbia" vibe to it, and wk2 th is very high in the running. I'll be interested in following your mods and impressions of what it is like on the trail. So, keep posting :) thanks
Thanks Derek! I've only put 300 miles on this one but I love it. I'd begun renting them for about a year before I decided to pull the trigger, and each model made me appreciate it more. At one point last fall I took a Limited trim rental out for about 30 miles through the mountains in northeast New Hampshire and it did very well, but that was on the coil suspension where this is the air suspension. We shall see what future adventures reveal about its trail performance and handling.

Definitely recommend taking one for a test drive.