Granite Rubi Build

So, we are lucky to be starting on another build. This one will be my wife’s Jeep. She wants it built to be capable off road, but in reality, I’m not sure how much actual wheeling this one will see. This may be a load it up for a weekend adventure kind of Jeep, nothing too serious off road. It needs to be comfortable and easy to drive. For her, she loves the look of a built Jeep, and feels safe sitting up high with a good amount of vehicle surrounding her. The design ethos behind this build will be a capable and good looking Jeep Wrangler that will be her daily driver, and built for moderate trail use.

We are starting with a great platform to build on, a 2016 Rubicon Hard Rock. We picked this one up used with ~18K miles on it. This gives us all of Jeep’s best hardware…Dana 44 axles, 4:1 transfer case, 10A/X bumpers, and Jeep’s best rock rails and that gorgeous Power Dome hood. Here’s what we are keeping on Granite Rubi. Stock fenders and Hard Rock front and rear bumpers and rock rails. We really like the look of the 10A/X bumper with the stock fenders. Jeep has already given us a nice aggressive look to start the build on, not to mention, the under pinnings are right. We’d like this build to have a cohesive design look, like something Jeep would show us for EJS. It will be built, but nothing too aggressive looking.

As we were discussing this build, a few things came to mind that helped inform some of the key decisions with regards to lift, and lift height. My wife really likes to sit up high. That commanding vantage point makes her feel safe. We have a Mini Cooper Roadster in the family which is a blast to drive. However, every time she drives it, she tells me she doesn’t feel safe in it. It’s too small and too low. Ok, I hear ya!

So, when we were debating whether to go 2.5” or 3.5” lift, we talked at length about ride height as well as Jeepers nearly always want to go bigger down the road. So, for this build, it will be 3.5 inches of Metal Cloak Game Changer lift with RockSport shocks. This was an easy decision, I am running that same lift and know first hand how great it is. It will improve all aspects of ride quality, flex like a long arm set-up, and runs absolutely quietly. I also love Metal Cloak’s zinc coating. It has held up extremely well to Chicago’s salty winters. I also know that 3.5”of lift with 35” tires and stock fenders looks great proportionally.


As you can see in the above pic, this is a very complete kit. Eight control arms allow for pinion and caster adjustment. The rear track bar mount addresses roll center.

Having the opportunity to recently build my Jeep, I feel like I’ve already done a good amount of research on what’s available in the marketplace, and what really works well. One aspect of this that I really like is seeing what’s new. As we were looking at wheels for this build, I did see some new players that I hadn’t seen before. Two that really stood out to me were wheels from Icon and Dirty Life.

Selecting wheels for your Jeep is a very subjective thing. We have available to us everything from mild to wild when it comes to wheels for our Jeeps. After looking through the marketplace, we settled on a set of Dirty Life Race 9303 DT-1 Wheels. I’ll detail these with more pics when they arrive. Until then, here’s a couple of pics from the manufacturer. These are 17x9 with an offset of -12mm and a 4.53” back space. When chose black, and will most likely be adding some color to the rock ring as the build progresses.

The first upgrades we added are from Maximus-3. Max-3 makes some great products for the 10A/X bumpers. They are out Auburn Hills, Mi, and manufacture right here in the USA.

This is their Striker Bumper guard…

Beautiful welds, and the finish looks great!

Beautiful welds, and the finish looks great!

Here’s where we start…

Here’s where we start…

And here is the new Striker Bar. I added the frame tie in kit, to increase strength. I like this bar because it adds a little aggression to the front end without being over the top. It looks like something Jeep might offer. I can see some kind of light bar fitting nicely under it.

This next mod is a small one, but I love it for the 10A/X bumper. I did not want to mount the license plate over the good looking “Rubicon” winch access cover. Max-3 makes a Stealth license plate bracket that mounts the plate on the bottom edge of the bumper using the factory skid plate bolts…easy!


And here it is installed…

This next upgrade is a simple bolt in. I really like having a flashlight handy in the event of whatever. For flashlights, you can’t beat the American made quality of a Mag-Lite. Here is the Max-3 flashlight mount for the JK. It bolts right in, no drilling required. Easy reach, rattle free goodness. By the way, the new Mag-Lite LED flashlights are a big step forward. They put out so much more light, and you can even program different functions into the switch.

Wheels arrived! Snapped a few pics before storing them as we wait for the lift to show up.

Nicely packaged…


Beautiful finish, really nice details in person. Exited to get these mounted and on the Jeep!

The 9303 Dual-Tek series uses an innovative design that allows one wheel to be used with a standard DOT bead seat for street use, or choose the functional beadlock seat for off-road use. For street, you can run an ABS rash ring, or for the beadlock set-up, a forged ring.


I was able to get a few more things done on Granite Rubi over the weekend. This next mod I consider essential for any Jeep JK(U). It’s also an easy plug and play that you can do in your driveway.

j.W.Speaker model 8700 evo j2 headlights


The pic on the right shows the stock Jeep headlight on our 2016 Wrangler Hard Rock. This headlamp is what you get from the factory, unless you ordered the factory LED’s. These headlights put out an anemic, yellow colored light. It’s hard for me to fathom why Jeep is still offering these on a 2016 vehicle. To be blunt, these just don’t cut it! We all probably own flashlights that put out more power than these do.

The Model 8700 EVO 2’s are the second generation and feature the Dual-Burn high low optics. When using high beam, both the low and high beam optics are lit. These also feature Comfortlite technology that give greater light output via a revised beam pattern.

Here’s a look at the new 8700 EVO 2’s installed. I ordered the black bezel. The details are quite nice, and have the look of fine instruments.


To install the new headlamps, simply remove your grill to get access to the 4 small screws that hold the headlamp in place. You will simply swap these in, using the same factory connectors. There is no need for additional resistors, as these are built into the new lights.

While I had the grill off, I also added J.W.Speaker J2 LED Turn Signals…

These are the Smoked Lens’s…

These are the Smoked Lens’s…


The new turn signals will bolt right into your stock grill…

Lastly, I installed a set of new Model 6145 J2 Fogs with black housings to match the headlights.


These are a true fog light that feature a really nice flat cutoff. To mount them on the 10A/Hard Rock bumper, I used the Max-3 mounting brackets. Here’s some pics of the finished install…


I love the integrated look of the J.W.Speaker lights. The difference in illumination on the road is incredible. I will be using the AEV ProCal to have the fog light work as Daytime Running Lights (DRL’s). The subtle red details will tie in nicely with the color scheme on this build.

Ok, with the new LED lighting installed on the front, it’s time to turn our attention to the rear tail lights. I wanted to also upgrade to LED’s on the rear as well. I installed a set of 279 J Series. Here’s a look…


Again, these are a simple install. You will need to mount the gold colored resistor to the supplied mounting bracket. The bracket will allow the resistor to be mounted to a body panel inside the tail light housing so it is not bouncing around.

Here’s a few pics on the install. Remove the stock light by removing the inner two screws. The light assembly will slide inward, allowing you to remove it.


Unplug the connector and you are ready to install the new light…


Here you can see the resistor mounting bracket installed on the Jeep. Snap the connector together and install the new 279.


What a difference! I love the new look and the bright clear light output. Like all J.W.Speaker products, the made in USA quality is impressive. The increased light output provides a huge safety benefit.

Quadratec 2” Hitch

Next up on this build is the addition of a hitch. I don’t normally tow with this Jeep, I however like the option. More importantly for me, I will be adding Smittybilt Beaver Step to the hitch. More on that later.

Stock towing capacity for the Wrangler is 3500lbs. This hitch has a 350lb tongue weight rating. It also includes a 4 pin wiring kit to run trailer lights. This is a nice complete kit, with trailer wiring harness and cap included.


Here’s a look at the install. The welds look good, as does the e-coated/powder coat finish.

I’m running the 10A/Hard Rock bumper, so this hitch is specific to that bumper. To install it, you will remove the 4 bolts that hold the bumper to the frame…


There is a plate between the bumper and frame we will remove. The hitch will take up this space when installed.


With the hitch installed, time to add the trailer wiring harness.


The harness will attach to the frame via push clips that fit right into factory drilled holes in the frame. The harness will get routed up to and into the drivers side tail light cavity. It comes in right alongside the gas tank filler tube. There you will simply connect into the factory wiring via the snap connectors.


This was an easy bolt in driveway addition. I love that the factory wiring harness is installed and ready to go.

Smittybilt Beaver step

As I mentioned earlier, I will be adding the Smittybilt Beaver Step.


I have been running a Beaver Step on my other Jeep, and can attest to the strength and usefulness of it. It’s made of Hammer Forged Carbon Steel, and finished with a nice durable powder coat. It’s a great step to gain access to the roof, it’s also an excellent tie off point for a tow strap. On the trail, I’ve had nearly the entire weight of my Jeep on it, dragging it across the rocky ledges and boulders. This thing is tough! Between the factory tow hooks, and the Beaver Step/hitch, the rear of the Jeep is pretty well protected as you come down off of large obstacles.


update 12/18/18

Getting ready for the lift and 35”tires going on, I got the new tire carrier installed. I wanted to have the tire carrier on Granite Rubi so the shop could mount the new spare tire while we were finishing up the lift/tires.

teraflex Alpha hd hinged tire carrier/alpha hd adjustable spare tire mounting kit

I run this tire carrier on my personal Jeep, where it’s been carrying my 37” spare the past two years. It gets beat pretty good on the trails of Moab once a year. This carrier has been rock solid, noise free, and still looks like new. The design of this carrier takes the load off the tail gate and distributes it onto the corner of the tub. This corner area was designed and engineered to carry the load.

I also really like the “factory” look and the one handed ease of operation it provides. I also like that TeraFlex gives multiple options to mount additional accessories with this carrier. On my Jeep, I am running their CB antenna mount off the carrier. You can also set it up to carry your Hy-Lift Jack and additional RotoPax containers. Here’s a look a some details:

  • A356.2 T6 Cast Aluminum Construction

  • Factory Form FittingGeometry and Finish

  • Max Tire Diameter: 37”

  • 14,000-cycle Severe Duty Slam Testing

  • 1,000-hour Extreme Salt Spray Testing

  • OEM Quality UV Resistant Powder Coat Finish

  • Heavy Duty Forged Steel Brackets/HD 5/8”Hardened Steel Hinged Pins

  • No need to buy aftermarket bumper to carry your oversized spare tire

  • FEA Validation, ASTM and SAE Testing Procedures Met

Let’s take a look at the install, and how this will go together. Here’s the main aluminum carrier…


The next two pics are the adjustable HD mounting components…


Now let’s move to the Jeep and get the stock carrier removed. The plastic hinge covers snap right off, giving you access to the hinge bolts.


Next we can remove the hinges. Before you do this, find a block of wood the width of the space between bumper and tailgate. This will keep the tailgate in alignment during the install of the new carrier.


Next, remove the bolts holding the hinges on.


Teraflex provides a new grommet to fit in place of the right tire snubber…nice touch!


With the hinges off the Jeep, you will find unpainted metal. Jeep paints the body with these tailgate hinges installed. We need to paint this area before we proceed to keep it from rusting.


With the area behind the hinges painted, we can begin installing the new Alpha Carrier.


Next comes the Adjustable Tire Carrier.


I also ordered Teraflex’s Third Brake Light Extension Kit. This allows me to retain the factory LED third brake light.


You will need to press the three lug bolts into the carrier plate. I did that using an oversized nut and the optional brake light relocation bolts they supply to draw the bolts onto the plate.

We’re just about done with this install. You can see I have the lug bolts in the middle position. That is for 35” tires. Another really nice detail Teraflex provides are rubber plugs to keep the unused accessory holes covered.

As you can see, the fit and finish superb. Teraflex took the time to engineer this carrier to meet OEM standards. This is what makes this Chrysler’s #1 preferred spare tire carrier. Here’s a pic with the 35” Nitto mounted on it…



update 12/20/18

Alright, dropped Granite Rubi off at Max It Out Offroad for the lift install and tires and wheels. This is by far the biggest mod we do for our Jeeps, one that will totally transform the looks and capability.


While the lift is being installed, tires and wheels get mounted, balance, ready to go… on.

TIRES: Nitto Ridge Grapplers 35x12.50x17. WHEELS: Dirty Life Race 9303’s…

TIRES: Nitto Ridge Grapplers 35x12.50x17. WHEELS: Dirty Life Race 9303’s…

Metal cloak 3.5” Game Changer Lift


Ok, let’s get this new lift under Granite Rubi. I have Max It Out Offroad doing the lift install. This is the only shop in my area that I trust to work on my Jeep(s). This is the 3.5” Game Changer with MC’s RockSport shocks. This is a complete lift, giving us 8 control arms, front and rear track bars. This will allow us to really dial in the geometry of the suspension. This is one of the secrets to getting the suspension set up correctly, resulting in improved steering, handling and a more comfortable Jeep.

And now some pics. Getting the pieces sorted…

These are the upper and lower front control arms. You see how beefy they are…

These are the upper and lower front control arms. You see how beefy they are…


Time to start getting the stock parts taken off…

You can see the new rubber waiting to be mounted…

You can see the new rubber waiting to be mounted…

…and get the new pieces on…

This is just one of the many great engineering ideas found on an MC lift. These front shock relocation brackets move the bottom of the shock outward, away from the frame rails. This is needed because of the great flex designed into these lifts.

I noticed that they have redesigned these, they are now much more stout than the first generation was.

You have to drill for the bottom two additional bolts…

You have to drill for the bottom two additional bolts…

A look at the rear…


I ordered the Rear Coil Spring Alignment Correction/Retainers. These are basically shims to re-align the rear coil springs. As we lift the Jeep, the spring perches on the axle are tilted backwards. These brackets correct that, allowing the spring to be properly aligned top to bottom. They also bolt the bottom of the coil to the axle, securing them.

We are running 4” of bump stop, which is recommended for 35” tires and stock fenders on the 3.5” lift…

We are running 4” of bump stop, which is recommended for 35” tires and stock fenders on the 3.5” lift…

Lastly, the front and rear track bars, solid chromoly and adjustable…

Getting close, new wheels and tires just about ready to be installed…


This is the part of the process when it hits you, my Jeep is lifted!!! New tires and wheels are on, and you get to see your choices(which you spent considerable time thinking about) come together. I was stoked to say the least!

On the ground for a quick torque of all components and then onto the alignment rack to get it all dialed in…


This is where Max It Out really shines. This shop takes the time, and understands how to dial in and properly set-up a new suspension. This process went quicker than I had anticipated. This is no doubt because the mechanic got the new parts very close when he was installing them.

I measured the height of the stock Jeep before I took it in for the lift. At the highest point near the back(factory rack), and I got 72”(6ft.). After the lift and tires, I remeasured at the same spot, I’m now at 76-1/2”. So I netted 4-1/2”.

Handing me the keys. Ok, Granite Rubi is now sitting on her new suspension…what a transformation!

I had a new AEV Procal that I purchased for this build with me, so the shop set-up the tire size and transmission shift points before I drove off. Time for me to jump into Granite Rubi and see how she feels!

My first and very immediate impression was how light and easy the steering is! This is my first experience with the Nitto Ridge Grapplers, and I’m really impressed. It’s very telling to drive a vehicle in for modifications, and then drive it away again. This gives you an immediate “seat of pants” impression. The second impression was how much the Game Changer lift changes the way the Jeep drives. It’s smoother over bumps, has little to no body roll while cornering, and brake dive is nearly gone. It is really transformed.

I get about five minutes from the shop, and I get a call from Casey the shop manager. He tells there is a potential customer there who is interested in a MC lift. No problem, I do a 180 and head back his way, glad to share my experiences with another Jeeper.

It turns out, he is driving a stock Hard Rock just like mine. I offer to give him a test ride which he quickly accepts. We go just a mile or two, before he says to me, “this is incredible, I had no idea a Jeep could drive like this!”……”this is exactly what I want on my Jeep!”.

I get Granite Rubi home that evening to share the transformation with my wife. She loves the way it looks, perfect she tells me! We go out to dinner that evening, but she wants me to drive, ok, no problem. I’m really loving the way this thing feels. I’m even seriously wondering if I’ll need to re-gear at all, as the shift points and power don’t feel bad a t all. I’m also really knocked out with the driving characteristics of the Nitto Ridge Grapplers.

The next morning she drives her newly lifted Jeep for the first time. She gets a couple of minutes from the house and I get a text from her…”my Jeep is so much better now, I can’t believe how well it drives!”. These two examples illustrate how I feel about the Game Changer lift, except I would add, wait until you get it off road!

M.C. Game Changer Specs

  • DuroFlex Bushings(Kevlar)

  • 4130 Solid Chromoly Track Bars

  • True Dual Rate Coils

  • Thermoset Rubber Bump Stops

  • Zinc Finish

  • 1-1/2” .187 DOM Steel Tubing

  • 7GA Hot Rolled Steel Track Bar Bracket


- The new look-

And now some pics of Granite Rubi and her new look…

The 9303’s look spectacular on this build!

The 9303’s look spectacular on this build!


Here’s a shot showing the -12mm offset 17x9 wheels. Tires are 35x12.50.


I’m not running the bead lock set-up, here’s a look at the sides…

The Ridge Grapplers look great…they drive even better!

The Ridge Grapplers look great…they drive even better!

Small visual upgrades added to Granite Rubi. As mentioned earlier, we’ll be using red as the accent color on this build. I added a ‘Hard Rock’ graphic and a distressed red star to the front fender area.


Here they are installed…


I sourced the ‘Hard Rock’ graphic from and the ‘Star’ is from Krakenly. Krakenly can be found on

rugged ridge hood catch kit

The main part of the stock hood latches on the JK(U) are made of rubber, and have been known to allow the hood to lift at high speed. This is known as hood flutter, and it’s not fun when it happens to you!


I just replaced my latches with Rugged Ridges Hood Catch Kit. These are made of aluminum, and feature a beautiful powder coat finish and stainless steel hardware.

This is a simple bolt on swap. this took me about 15min per side.

I love the beefy solid look of these. Good bye hood flutter!

mopar bbk


Alright, it’s time to get the brakes on par with the addition of the 35” tires. In it’s stock form, Wrangler brakes are just ok in my book. When we add more rotational mass with bigger tires/wheel, bumpers, armor, etc, you quickly overtax the stock brakes. Keeping you and your family safe should be a priority for us…don’t neglect this crucial component on your Jeep.

To get the brakes up to speed, I chose to install the Mopar BBK. I run this kit on my Jeep Rubi, and love it! Here’s why I like it. This kit uses components sourced from the Ram 1500 pickup. If you install this on a new, warranted Wrangler, you don’t jeopardize your warranty coverage. I also like this mod as this is something the factory engineers have put together, telling me that the front to rear bias has been accounted for. This kit is found in the Jeep Performance Parts catalog. Incidentally, these are the same brakes found on European spec JK Wranglers. Why, as domestic market we don’t get these, or have them at least available as an order option at time of build, is a mystery to me! Jeep Performance catalog it is then.

* This kit is front brakes only. The part number is P5160051AC *


  • Upgraded Booster

  • Upgraded Master Cylinder (21% Larger)

  • 13” Rotors

  • Upgraded 2-Piston Caliper

  • New Brakes Lines

  • New Reservoir

  • Semi-Metallic Pads

Here’s look at the install. Below is a pic of the stock front brakes for reference.


This next shot is a slide show of the parts laid out.

In these next few shots, I’ll show you some side by side comparisons. First up, rotors…


Next, here’s the calipers side by side…


Time to get the new brakes on the Jeep. This is really unbolting and swapping in the new parts. Here’s a pic of the new booster bolted up to the mounting plate. Pay attention to the torque specs.

Getting ready to pull the sock booster…

Getting ready to pull the sock booster…

You will re-use the stock booster backing plate.

We bench bled the master cylinder once we had it together…


Getting all the new parts installed and torqued to spec.


And here’s a look at the finished install.

So, what are they like to drive? This is a huge upgrade in braking performance. The Performance BBK provide enough grip to momentarily lock the new 35’s on drive pavement. The pedal has a nice initial bite and progression to it. The overall braking system retains its balance, they just feel like a much better factory braking system.

I will eventually do a rear brake upgrade, but for now, I’m happy with my wife’s summation. “Wow, the new brakes feel great!” Knowing the brakes are up to task makes me feel good she can stop when she has to!

Auxiliary Lighting

Getting ready to add aux. lighting, it’s time to add a power supply. To keep the lighting circuits off the Jeeps CAN bus, I will be adding an sPod power distribution device. The sPod will provide a separate circuit for each light systems and provides a safety circuit to cut power to save the battery. Here’s a look at that…


The sPod is made in the USA using American made components. The install is very straight forward.

Here’s the circuit board installed in the engine bay. It bolts right in, no drilling or modification required.

Here’s the circuit board installed in the engine bay. It bolts right in, no drilling or modification required.

This bracket allows the switch pod to mount between the visors.

This bracket allows the switch pod to mount between the visors.

This is the 6 switch lighted switch panel.

This is the 6 switch lighted switch panel.

baja designs xl-r sport

The first set of Auxiliary lights going on Granite Rubi will be a set of Baja Designs XL-R Sport Driving/Combo. A couple of thoughts here. As part of the overall design theme for this build, I wanted to use round lights for the Aux. LEDs. This is purely a cosmetic design decision. My thinking here was to honor the round lights Jeep has made so iconic.


  • Lumens: 3,150 Utilizing 4 LEDs

  • Wattage/Amps: 26W/2A

  • Front Lens: Hard Coated Polycarbonate

  • Housing: Powder Coated Cast Aluminum

  • Bezel: Billet Machined Aluminum

  • Hardware: Stainless Steel

  • Exceeds MIL-STD810G(Mil-Spec Testing)

  • Built-In Overvoltage Protection

  • IP69K (Waterproof, Submersible to 9ft.)

  • IK10 Compliant(Mechanical Impact Testing)

  • Driving/Combo- Beam Wide Driving(44º) Spot (6º)

Let’s a look at the lights…

Nicely packaged.

Nicely packaged.


This is my first experience with Baja Designs lighting products. I have to say they’re making a great first impression.

The first thing you notice when you unbox these is the weight of them. Each light weighs 2.45 lbs. The housing is made of cast aluminum. The front bezel is billet machined aluminum. The XL-R’s measure 5.24” in diameter, and are 3.65” deep. Looking at the design of them, I can tell the four(4) bolt mount/aim system will be rock solid. I will be running these with the Max-3 Striker Guard. I will also be using the Max-3 Auxiliary Light Bracket to mount the XL-R’s to the 10A bumper. This will facilitate a nice clean mount with no drilling required. I had the Aux. Light Bracket sitting around from previous mods I had done on my own Jeep. It was nice to be able to use it for this project.


Here’s the hardware, stainless for both mounting bracket and hardware…

We’re ready to fit these on Granite Rubi…

We’re ready to fit these on Granite Rubi…


To get the XL-R’s to fit the way I wanted, I had to make some small modifications to the Max-3 bracket. For the clearance I needed between the light housing and the Trail/Striker Guard, I would mount these to the underside of the bracket. To do this, I needed to use my grinder and clearance the bracket, taking off just a little to allow the light mounting bracket to fit and give me a little swing either way to aim them properly. After a little grinding and test fitting, I spray painted the bracket and it was time to put it all together.

I first mounted the lights to the bracket.


Here is a quick pic of them mounted to the 10A bumper. I really like how clean this install looks, and required no drilling.

Ahh yes, still winter here in Chicago!

Ahh yes, still winter here in Chicago!

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 7.14.16 PM.png

The Driving/Combo provides maximum trail coverage in a single light. The Driving/Combo pattern is equipped with both Wide Driving(44º)and Spot (6º) optics to provide a smooth blend of light for both near field applications and distance (Lighting Zone 3).