MakerMobile 101! Jeep Mods Part 1: Grille Guard & Blackout

One of be most fun vehicles in the world to Make stuff for is a Jeep Wrangler. I recently acquired the MakerMobile and immediately started customize it.

One of the most popular DIY mods (modifications) is to install a grille guard. These can be pricey, especially if you go the OEM route. Many of us more thrifty DIYers Make our own from either metal mesh or durable rain gutter screen. If you go that route, you can get the same job done for about 1/4th the price.

It's difficult to see below, but the radiator is completely exposed to damage from rocks and road debris. A grille guard is an attractive and effective solution.

First you have to remove the grille by removing the 6 snaps that hold it in place. A flat-bladed screwdrive used carefully works very well. These act just like drywall anchors.

Next, remove the connectors for the lights. Both sides work exactly the same way, except they're upside down from each other. Slide the red locking clip forward and press the release lever, then pull the connector out of the housing.

Carefully tilt back and pull from the base of the grill to pop it out of the snaps that hold it place. Looks kinda sad...

Clean the inside of the grille surface very cafefully with a degreaser and a final pass with rubbing alcohol.

Strategically place your zip tie bases around the grille holes so that the mesh is supported in all directions.

The mesh comes in a 20' roll, so I cut seven pieces to the proper length to fit inside the grille and give me plenty of room for attachment points.

The mesh comes 6" wide which overlaps the holes, so I cut 1" off the long side.

Seven pieces later... Make sure you use heavy duty scissors. This stuff is tough!

I stuck the adhesive-backed zip tie bases in an optimal layout and then super-glued them in place for added security.

Since I was also planning on blacking out the grille with Plasti-Dip, I figured I should do the headlight bezels at the same time, otherwise it would look stupid.

I removed the mounting screws with a T-15 Torx bit. If you own a Jeep, you should own a nice set of Torx bits...

While I was waiting for the super-glue to dry, I slid small zip-ties through each base.

It was pretty tough to wrangle (pun intended) the two rather stiff layers of mesh and get the two ends of the zip ties to poke through close enough to zip, but it can be done. For the entire first pass, all zip ties were left rather loose.

View from the front. Exactly the look I was going for! Once all the panels were in place, I tightened the zip ties as tight as I could and cut the tails off.

One almost unpleasant surprise was the considerable amount of haze the super glue left on the plastic after it had cured. Luckily, it comes right off with rubbing alcohol. Whew!

I pulled all the zip ties tight and the grille guard was done! Now for the blackout phase of the project...

According to the hours of Plasti-Dip videos I've watched, the best results start with a clean surface and a light first coat of about 50% coverage. This way the base had good adherence to the paint and there's plenty of Plasti-Dip for the second coat to attach to.

Headlight trim ring bezels get their first coat also...

Everything got 5 coats of Plasti-Dip, waiting about 15-20 minutes in between.

It's a little difficult to see, but the grille guard and the blacked out grille work really well together to toughen up the look of front of the Jeep...

The grill guard cost a total of less than $20 and I used 3 cans of Plasti-Dip at $6 each, so about $40 for the entire project and a few hours worth of work and waiting between coats.

Overall, I'm super happy with the results, especially for the investment. I guess we'll see how the Plasti-Dip holds up to the abuse, but they've been doing this on the Jeep forums for years. I also dipped the wheels, which also looks really good. I didn't blog about that since I didn't Make anything...

One thing I would do differently is removing the masking tape from the hood weatherstripping. I let the paint dry before removing the tape which peeled a little bit of the Plasti-Dip from the grille. It's barely visible, but I know it's there...

Here's the accompanying video:

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