Brian's Bumper Write-UP
Images and Review shared with permission of owner.
HK Offroad Overland Front Bumper Review.
I’ve been wanting to write and share this experience for a while; like most of us, work and family has gotten in the way. Well, not today! If you want to just hear about the bumper skip this first part. I don’t have any affiliation with HK Offroad, but from my experience I do highly value their craftsmanship and service. This isn't meant to be an install instruction but rather a review.
In 2004, I bought my father a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee (4.7) when I was finally able to do something nice for him after a lifetime of his support. He previously had his first Jeep ever a 5.9 XJ and the engine blew pretty quick, but not before he was hooked on Jeeps, even at his age. He had it for many years and in 2012 when I was having a second kid and was in need of some family wheels (we only had my TJ) he loaned it to me for a few weeks and went and bought himself a new Jeep. Dads…
I spent the next years perfecting it, fixing and maintaining all the little things and making it a reliable overland vehicle, as I already had a rockcrawler with my TJ.
Then in 2015 I was rear ended by a tractor trailer on the freeway in stop and go traffic; my boy was in the car. Fortunately he is made of rubber, unfortunately my back isn’t and I sustained some damage. I am convinced having the OEM rear tow hitch saved our lives however the WJ was considered totaled by insurance. I didn’t want to give up on the WJ and bought it back from my insurance company for the salvage value of $200. I did not forget any zeros.
I used the insurance payout to get:
-it running with OEM or better parts; that took $700 and a lot of work.
-A custom rear bumper and sliders that I found on a wrecked WJ on craigslist $400 (thank you to the owner!)
-Painless wiring harness for headlights and PIAA bulbs (too expensive for the results but it is better than stock)
-33” almost new tires (5) Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC $600
-17” JK Moab rims $100
-POR-15 the entire uni-body undercarriage
-Superwinch Tigershark 9500-SR $398 (I’ve used them before and liked them, plus I got a deep discount)
-Superwinch solenoid extension $45
-I also was able to buy a Lincoln 210 MP welder (with aluminum spool gun) and all the accessories (jacket, tools, cart, etc). With the welder I was able to trim all the wheel wells to fit 33”s on a 2” BDS lift (4” uptravel) and do the gas tank skid raise (a lot of work but well worth it, I have a write up on it here)
If you’re thinking I got some good deals, I believe I did. The whole process of getting the truck running again and doing the mods took me almost a year (due to work and family) so I was able to really take my time and look for deals.
That left one more thing to get…
OK, onto the bumper:
Like most of us I’ve been looking at WJ bumpers for years, all way too expensive and there always seems to be something wrong with them; whether it’s personal taste on the looks, the approach angle, the width, the weight, did I mention the weight of most of these things! I don’t care if the engine can handle it, when any extra weight is in front of the front axle it makes any truck see-saw, extra bounces and wear and tear I don’t need. No doubt this will be happening with any aftermarket steel bumper but I wanted to mitigate it the best I could.
Then one late night after a few too many whiskey’s I found HK Offroad, and my search was over. The Overland Recessed Winch Bumper was everything I wanted.
The price; nothing you’re going to get around here, it’s expensive guys. But it’s worth it. I also went with the Gatekeeper III which is a beefy radiator skid plate.
The weight; 77lbs if I believe (doesn’t include Gatekeeper, another 20lbs or so?). That’s really great consider how beefy this is and how much coverage it gives you.
Another thing I found out about WJ aftermarket bumpers is that they are pretty much all made when ordered; meaning no one just has tons of inventory of these things laying around waiting for you to order them. So this means you’ll need to be patient. HK Offroad was no exception here and they clearly advertise this on their website. The 60 day build time does not include ground transit time either. One bonus of the made to order is customization; I had done the fender trim and we communicated exact measurements for where my fenders now ended. They cut the bumper exactly to fit this for a very nice custom fit.
I need to show off some off my prep work; after raising all four of my fender wells I was very comfortable about cutting into my Jeep. I still took my time and did a careful job. As HK says in their instruction, if you cut too much of the unibody away, get a new Jeep. I was also careful to protect the radiator from nicks or sparks that could damage it.
My advice, if you have raised your wheel wells and are putting this bumper on, ditch your plastic wheel well liners, I tried forever to salvage them but was so happy when I gave up and threw them out. I coated the inside of my wheel wells (and entire under carriage) with POR-15 to help with road grime eating away at the body.
When the bumper arrived it was packaged fairly well but had taken a beating in transit. All that really happened was the corners were scuffed; I had gotten the semi-gloss powder coat and was able to match the paint perfectly with Krylon cover-maxx satin black.
It was just me, my buddies were traveling and I was anxious after all the waiting so I mounted it myself. I will never claim this was fun to do but I made it happen.
I worked well into the night test fitting, drilling, and making sure everything was right. The whole winch part and wiring was time consuming for me but I wanted it to be just right; for the Superwinch Tigershark 9500 SR I ended up buying the 18" extensions so I could mount the solenoid where I wanted, and now months later I'll say I'm happy I did. It's in the same spot HK recommends. I have the connector hidden behind the grill (which I dremeled out a small portion of the grill to fit the wide male end for the controller). I put a few winch wiring pics in here so that it may help somebody out in the future; Superwinch was great with customer service but had diagrams, nothing beats a picture for me. I will say HK Offroad's instruction are very clear but I still had some questions, more out of wanting to COMPLETELY make sure I was cutting the right edges or getting just the right fit. They were always there with me every step of the way, texting pictures back and forth and talking on the phone. Really remarkable customer service, thanks Shant!
All in place and everything mounted up; well worth the effort.
Finally, here we are putting it to the test. It performed great; I did a bunch of pulls that day (some necessary, some just for training with my brother) and both the Overland bumper and the Superwinch were flawless. I have a 2" BDS lift, 33" tires, and JKS disconnects and my wheels never touched the bumper once. I still need to bolt up my Gatekeeper radiator skid and will post some pics when that's on there too.