I kind of accidentally bought this bumper so bear with me while I tell the story. Regular readers will know that I recently bought a 1998 Jeep Cherokee after chasing a guy down in traffic to buy it. It’s got a little bit of a lift and some 31″ tires. This one came from the factory with a donut spare, which is something I’d never even heard of before in a Cherokee. Because of that, it didn’t have the necessary hardware to properly hold a full-size spare–which only matters a little because the maximum tire size for the factory hardware is…31″.
This is my third XJ. For both of my previous Jeeps, I wanted new bumpers but didn’t really find it necessary to spend the money. I really like the way tire carrier rear bumpers look, this one needed one, so there’s all the excuse I needed. I bought this XJ for less than I sold my WRX for, so that’s where my budget came from.
Looking around, most of the bumpers that did what I wanted were in the $1200 range. That was basically my whole budget for upgrades so I kept looking. Smittybilt came out with one that got mixed reviews mostly from people who’d never seen one. “Trail Ready” and “Smittybilt” aren’t usually used in the same sentence. There were lots of questions about the thickness of the steel, the quality of the welds, and whether they tied into the frame or just used the stock bumper mounts. There weren’t any good writeups out there because the manufacturer has had problems with lead times. I think it was 6 months to a year before the first paying customers actually got their bumpers in hand.
If I’m completely honest with myself, the bumper would be just for show. I went wheeling exactly one time with the previous two Cherokees…and rode with someone else. The Smittybilt bumper was $750 pretty much everywhere, so I could save $450 if I bought theirs.
I live about 3 miles from a retail store for 4 Wheel Parts. They’re a retailer for Smittybilt, so one Saturday I took liwizard and we went investigating. They didn’t have any of the Cherokee bumpers on display, but they did have others in the XRC line for me to look at. They had something else, too.
There was a single sales flyer about the size of a postcard sitting on top of one of the Wrangler bumpers: “Buy a Cherokee front and rear XRC bumper by June 30th, get XRC Rock Sliders for free.” The sliders are about $500.
So for the cost of a “standard” tire carrier bumper, I could get the front and rear bumpers plus rock sliders. Yeah, so that was kind of a no-brainer.
Unfortunately–and this was not explained to me properly when I made my purchase–everything except the front bumper was backordered. For four months. Apparently “They’re in the warehouse in California and will take 3 weeks to get here” doesn’t actually mean that the ones in the warehouse haven’t already been bought by someone else. I learned that when I picked up the front bumper and the counter guy casually mentioned my other stuff was on backorder.
Things you should probably know up front
The box is much larger than you’d think. When I went to pick it up the first time we discovered it won’t actually fit in the back of a Cherokee. So unless you’re getting it freighted to your house, you’re going to need a bigger boat. The actual dimensions of the box are 71 1/2″ x 23″ x 13″ and it’s listed weight is 185 lbs.
The instructions are, well, lacking. I didn’t have any luck finding them posted anywhere, so I scanned them and uploaded them here in hopes that some other poor soul can find them:
XJ XRC Front Bumper SB76810 Install Instructions
I apologize for the quality of the photos in the instructions…but that’s what ships with the bumper. No color photos, and the black and white ones are pretty grainy.
There more bolts and washers included than you’ll need, but there aren’t more nuts than you’ll need. I suspect this is the standard hardware they send out with several models.
There are two different sized washers. For the standard head bolts, use the smaller ones.
The 2″ spacer they mention is actually a 2″ washer
On 1996 and older models, cutting is required on the front fenders. I’ve seen some folks complain that the instructions tell you to cut too much, so there’s that.
Also, since you’re going to be in there anyway, you might want to pick up a steering box brace. I’ve heard good things about the M.O.R.E. brace. It didn’t occur to me until I was already in there that this would have been a perfect time to do it. Oh well.
Tools I used:
–XRC: Hex Cap bolts 5/8″ nuts 17mm (11/16″)
–XRC: Hex screw nuts 3/4″ (19mm)
–Jeep: Bumper Bracket Bolts 15mm
–Jeep: Other: 10mm and 1/4″
3/8-Inch Drive Ratchet
Black & Decker RCT100 TriRatchet 3/8-inch Drive Ratchet
DeWalt DC825B 1/4-Inch 18-Volt Cordless Impact Driver
12″ impact ready bit holder extension
ratcheting box wrenches
Plastic Fastener Remover
DeWalt Pivoting Bit Holder
Plastic Fastener Remover
3/8 Drive Wobble Extensions
1/2″ Drive Click Stop Torque Wrench
Blue Loctite 6-ml
DeWalt 18V 1/2″ Cordless XRP Drill
7/16-Inch Drill Bit
T-25 Torx bit
T-50 Torx Bit Socket
XJ Field Service Manual
Really would have been helpful, and I’ve bought since then:
DEWALT DW2547Ir 1/4-Inch Hex Shank To 1/2-Inch Socket Adaptor
Tons and tons of pictures after the break….
Continue reading Smittybilt XJ XRC Front Bumper: Initial Thoughts and Installation