Rear Bumper Upgrade

Since my front bumper looks so pretty, let’s just dive right into the rear bumper. If you haven’t checked out the article on fabricating the front bumper, Click Here to check it out first. So as I stated in the previous article, my wife bought me front and rear DIY bumpers from Dirtbound Off-Road. The rear bumper she bought was the full coverage Mojave model.

The difference between the two rear Mojave bumpers is hard to see if you’re not careful. The two side panels on mine have a forth plate that extends down and makes the bottom of the bumper level with the top of the bumper. The other bumper curves uphill slightly to match the front bumper.


The other style:

Some of the other panel are slightly different as well but they still call it their Mojave bumper. On their website they have some instruction for assembling the bumper and what angles the panels need to be bent to. This saved me a ton of time trying to bend and test fit. Here’s a link to the instructions for my bumper. Dirtbound Off-Road Mohave Rear Bumper instructions. With the instructions in hand, I first removed the stock bumper and tow hitch. My Jeep came from the factory with the tow package option which included the rare Dana 44 rear axle. However, I don’t plan on towing anything with my Jeep so when I was removing the bumper, I left the tow hitch off as well.

To remove the bumper, I had to remove two bolts from each side. There is a bracket that bolts to the Jeep and has extensions on it that set the bumper where it needs to be.

I removed the adapter brackets and saved their mounting bolts. These bolts will be needed when installing the Dirtbound Off-Road brackets. I crawled under the Jeep and loosen the eight bolts that held the tow hitch to the unibody and lowered the tow hitch down.

With all the brackets out of the way, I found my first problem. The new bumpers mounting brackets are angled and are made to sit inside the unibody rails with one side putting pressure on the side of the unibody rails and the bottom for attaching the bracket to the Jeep. The problem was, my Jeep did not allow access to the inside of the unibody for the brackets. The slight opening for the original tow hitch mounting bolts to be slid into was all there was. I ended up cutting out the section in red to gain access and mount the brackets.

I can’t say all the Cherokees are like this but if yours looks like mine, you’ll be cutting it out. After cutting the holes for the brackets, I bent each bracket 90° opposite of each other. I tightened the brackets mounting hardware to the bracket and tacked the nuts on to keep them in place when I installed them. Once they cooled I removed the mounting bolts and slid the brackets into the unibody rails. I installed the mounting bolts through the unibody and slightly tensioned them down. With the inner bracket secured, the four hole, flat plate outer bracket was slid onto the inner bracket. I installed the old adapter bracket bolts into the bracket. Once secured, I tack welded the outer bracket to the inner bracket. I removed both sides from the Jeep and welded them completely together. I added a few coats of paint and reinstalled them on the Jeep.

With the brackets completed, I moved on to the actual bumper. I bent the main panel and side panels to their specific angles according to the instructions and tack welded them together.

I bent the remain plates to their specified angels except the taillight filler plate. Now this plate I deviated from the instruction to fill the entire gap on my taillight. The bumper is universal to all Cherokees and that was the problem. The newer body style Cherokees had narrower taillights. The plate fills the gap very well on the newer style but looks goofy on the older style with the wider taillights. The cure was to not bend the little tab to 60° like the instructions called for but to leave it straight and cut a small section off to clear the hatch door. The red arrow shows the location of the tab I left straight.

I used some scrap 3/16″ steel to fill in the piece that’s bent at a 90° angle and the piece I left straight to give it a clean look. At this point, I installed the bumper mounting brackets to the Jeep mounting brackets.

I tacked the bumper end caps on and set the bumper back on the brackets. I center the bumper and tack welded the mounting brackets to the bumper. At the same time, I placed the taillight filler plates on and centered them to my liking and tacked them as well.

With everything tacked, I unbolted the bumper and went back to the welding table to burn it all in.

Now I know some of you will notice the EMPTY, flammable, Acetone bottle under the table. Before you say anything, I was already blasted on social media for welding above it. YES, I should have just thrown it away. On that, here is a RenixAaron SAFETY NOTE: Don’t weld around combustible liquids or gasses. The vapors can catch fire from a small spark or flying spatter and cause the container to explode. Don’t weld around your upholstery like I did. It can catch fire and burn up your Jeep, then spread to your house, then your neighbors house, then the whole block, then the whole city, etc. You’re not gonna have a good time. As John Selden first said “Do as I say, not as I do. ”

Moving on. Before I started welding all the seams I tacked all the gussets brackets inside the bumper. I evenly spaced them for maximum strength then completely welded them down along with the mounting brackets. Doing the gussets and mounting brackets first ensures the plates won’t warp when welding all the seams.

After the gussets and mounting brackets cooled, I welded the entire bumper together working my way from the outside inward. Once I got to the main panel, I gave it a 20 minute cool down period after welding a seam on each side. Again overheating the metal will warp it.

At this point, I gave the welder a break and busted out the grinder and smoothed the bumper.

The next day I had only the receiver hitch and reinforcement bracket left to weld. I cut the receiver blockout plates off and install the receiver and reinforcement bracket. I leveled and center everything up and welded it completely. To finish it all off, I gave it a few coats of Rust-Oleum “Hammered” paint. I also gave the back of the Jeep a quick shot of the paint to blend it with the bumper.

Once the paint had dried, I installed and leveled the bumper off. PRO-TIP: remove the bottom taillight screws. This will save you later frustration down the road when you have to replace the bulbs. I made sure the hatch clear and called it down.

I think it turned out great. The rear bumper was a lot more welding but the end result is awesome. Checkout Dirtbound Off-Road for their other DIY bumpers and other Cherokee parts.