Our aftermarket JCR rear bumper assembly came equipped with two round, energy-efficient, LED reverse lights. While we believe they were intended to serve as supplemental reverse lights, they didn’t significantly improve illumination during the act of reversing. They add a nice touch to the design of the bumper, but they don’t add much functionality.
After giving it some thought, I decided that they might make nice camp lights. They’re low-draw LEDs that could be wired to a switched 12V power source and activated anytime, even when the vehicle is off. This would effectively illuminate the area around the rear of the Jeep which might come in extremely handy around the campsite.
To improve upon this concept, install a remotely activated switch that would allow us to turn the lights on and off with a key fob. How helpful would that be if you have to climb out of your tent in the middle of the night to tend to business? We’ve all been there.
Googling for a “12V remote switch” yielded a lot of options, all of which were of questionable quality. I settled for the Logisys RM02 12V 15AMP Relay Kit found on Amazon for around $16 USD.
The one remaining challenge was figuring out how to wire everything while retaining the reverse light functionality. For this, I would need a diode. This prevents the electricity from flowing backwards through the adjacent, alternate circuit.
A useful resource that I found while researching this project was this helpful thread on TacomaWorld. I didn’t duplicate this process exactly, because the folks in this thread didn’t use a remote switch, but it really helped me wrap my head around the technical details.
We’ve used the lights on a few camping trips now, and we’ve found that they are very useful for illuminating the camping area. The key fob remotes have great range, and the ability to turn them on and off from our pocket or from our tent is a great convenience.
The only drawback is the position of the lights themselves. The tailgate of our Jeep Cherokee is a central part of our camping experience, as it contains our fridge, and is the space that we utilize for food preparation. Subsequently, when one approaches the Jeep from behind, the light is more blinding than helpful.
In the future, I may change things around a little; perhaps use downward-facing, tailgate-installed LEDs instead. However, for now, this is a sound proof-of-concept, and effectively enhances the functionality of the supplemental LED reverse lights.
If you’re any sort of off-road enthusiast, you’re likely going to be adding a slew of electrical accessories to your vehicle, ranging from radio equipment to driving lights. What most vehicles lack is a dedicated fuse block with which you can safely provide power to these 12V accessories.
Installing such a fuse block keeps your aftermarket electrical system tidy, provides dedicated power, and takes a lot of the hair-pulling out of the wiring process. No more jamming wires into the factory fuse block, or cluttering up your battery posts.
To accomplish this, we purchased a Blue Sea ST Blade Fuse Block. Blue Sea Systems specializes in electrical components for marine applications, but their products are also extremely ideal for overland vehicles and RVs.
To supplement the auxiliary fuse block, we replaced our factory battery terminals with military-style. These battery terminals have a secondary lug that better accommodates multiple connections to the battery posts.
Unfortunately, the engine compartment of the Jeep Cherokee is a tightly-packed suitcase that makes it difficult to add pretty much anything. The best available space we found to install the fuse block in our 2001 Cherokee was on the inside lip of the driver’s side fender. From there, you can install a flat metal plate that extends toward the brake fluid reservoir. This is a great spot, because it’s extremely accessible, out of harm’s way, and right next to our route through the firewall. The only potential problem is that the fuse block comes very close to the hood when it is down, so take whatever precautions you need to ensure that this is not the case.
Once you’ve mounted the fuse block, cut your red and black 4-gauge wires to length. Install ring terminals, and Techflex if you so choose. Techflex is not required, but adds a good amount of protection to your wires, and gives off a nice professional appearance. After you’re finished preparing your wires, you’re ready to route them back to the battery.
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The factory battery terminals are permanently attached to the positive and negative wiring. You’re going to want to cut those suckers off. Replace them with a couple of 3/8″ ring terminals, and you’re ready to install the military-style battery terminals and hook everything back up, including the positive and negative leads to the new fuse block. The auxiliary fuse block should now be hot, and ready for your accessories.
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As you can see, this is a very easy process, and it only costs around $100. If you’re outfitting an off-road or overland vehicle, and plan on adding any number of 12V accessories, this should be one of your foremost modifications. Do it right the first time!
Recently, I spent a few solid hours tearing apart my dashboard, and a fender or two, for the purpose of finding “the best” way to route auxiliary wiring from the engine compartment to the cab. It wasn’t that I didn’t already know of a few satisfactory spots to pass wires through the firewall, I just wanted to thoroughly research all of my options for an upcoming wiring project.
The goal was to find, or to create, a dedicated pass-through for auxiliary electrical wiring that was easily accessible from both sides of the firewall, and also well-protected.
There is a large, oval, rubber plug that is already being used by a wiring harness on the left side of the brake booster. The common solution is to add a slit to this plug, and to jam your wires through the slit. It works, but it’s awkward to reach on both sides and it’s difficult to feed wires through.
The route that I’ve opted for is located on the right side of the brake booster. On my 2001 Jeep Cherokee, it’s marked by a circular metal plug that has been sealed and painted over. On the outside, it’s not obvious how to remove this plug. However, on the interior, you can very easily gain access by removing the knee panels beneath the steering column.
Once you’ve removed the knee panels (both the plastic one, and its metal backing), you can easily poke out the plug with a pry-bar, revealing a 1.5″ hole; absolutely perfect for our needs.
Finding the route was only the first part of the problem. Now I needed to determine how to plug it up with something that I could safely pass wires through, but still maintain some semblance of a seal. Also, I gave myself an extra-credit goal to try to fashion a sort of conduit that would direct the wiring down along the inside of the firewall, to make sure it was still easy to access once the knee panels were reinstalled.
There are multiple ways to skin this cat, so you can be creative here. If you’re an electrician, or just a wiring geek, you’re probably already well-equipped with plugs, grommets, boots, and other appropriate items. However, I found almost everything I needed in the plumbing section at Lowes.
The idea was to cut the bicycle tube to form a 1.5″ rubber diaphragm, assemble the discharge tube with the threaded fitting screwed down tightly over the diaphragm, and then cut a slit in the rubber diaphragm for wires to pass through. Once the makeshift conduit was assembled, insert it into our hole through the firewall.
As it turned out, the disposal discharge tube was an exact fit. Some silicone could be used to seal the assembly around the hole for added assurance. The end result met all goals, including creating an interior channel that directed the wires downward. Now I’m ready to run some wiring through the firewall without any of the headaches!
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The BFGoodrich All-Terrain is one of the most popular general purpose light-truck tires on the market. Having had positive experience with the more aggressive Mud-Terrain for recreational off-roading, the more practical All-Terrain seems like the logical choice for our overland rig.
Once the Old Man Emu suspension is installed, it’ll accommodate the fitment of 245/75R16 tires, which measures roughly 31 inches. If you’re looking to fit oversize tires on a trail XJ without interfering with the factory sheet metal, that’s about as large as you’ll want to go. You can, of course, go much larger with commensurate fender well modifications.
Furthermore, such a modest size increase should minimize impact on perceived power and fuel economy.
My only concern about the BFGoodrich Tires is that the 245/75R16 is only available in a 10-ply, load range E. That’s great for heavy payloads and durability, but that’s a far more rigid tire than the cushy passenger tires they’ll be replacing. As an overland Jeep, long-distance road trips are to be expected, so harshness is a very important consideration.
We recently picked up an Old Man Emu suspension for the Cherokee, consisting of 930 coil springs, and JC1B leaf springs, to be installed in the near future.
If you’re looking for a suspension that is, first-and-foremost, a “lift kit”, move along. Old Man Emu suspensions usually offer only a very modest increase in ride height; roughly two inches. However, what you are getting is a suspension that is engineered to improve off-road performance, payload, and preserve ride quality.
Old Man Emu suspensions are imported from Australia, and are a top choice for overland-style off-road enthusiasts.