Adding a roll cage to your off-road vehicle is the ultimate addition for your safety and the safety of others who ride with you. The rules for a roll cage are pretty stringent. The NHRA rule book is the standard for building a proper roll cage. Not every cage is the same in design, just like every car isn’t the same. When building a roll cage, you can’t just slap some tubes together and call it safe. A proper cage requires quite a few specialty tools which can sometimes be substituted with clever power tools, such as a tube notcher. A tube notcher is a great tool to have which speeds up the process of building your cage; however, a hole saw and a grinder can accomplish the same end result. In addition, other tools, like a tube bender, are absolutely necessary in order to build your cage. Then a welder and so on.
Now you can save tons of money by building it yourself, if you have all the tools or skills to build it. But what if you don’t? Well, you could pay a shop who knows how to build one and has the tools to do it. This way may cost you easily three to four times the cost of doing it yourself; or you could go the route I went and buy a bolt in roll cage.
I’m not an expert when it comes to roll cages, but I have built a few in the past with some old friends. They were strong, properly triangulated and safe. However, I do not have access to a bender, nor do I have the room in my garage to accommodate one, so a bolt in roll cage from RockHard4x4 is the route I went.
I have heard differing opinions on bolt in safety equipment; a bolt in roll cage is typically given one of the highest amounts of negative critic. Everything from they’re junk and it’s not a true roll cage to a fully welded cage is the only way to go. I’ll agree, a full NHRA roll cage is much safer than RockHard4x4’s sport cages. However, I have personally seen these cages protect a driver in a roll over, down a hill, while off-roading with a group in a CJ.
The driver was fine and the vehicle finished the trail and drove home. A few dents here and there, but nothing structurally wrong with it. After seeing RockHard4x4’s cage protect him and his vehicle, I was pretty confident in their product.
For my XJ, I ordered their 4 Door Ultimate Sport Cage. For added safety and convenience, for my suspension seats I’ll be installing in the future I also ordered their Front Harness Bar, two Front Overhead Center Bars and two Rear Overhead Center Bars. RockHard4x4 ships every piece unpainted and raw. They recommend test fitting the cage in your vehicle to make sure everything fits as it should. The lower windshield bar assembly fit extremely tight but was also a perfect fit when I put it in.
I installed the rest of the kit leaving everything loose and found every piece fit directly in place. Every piece is marked with where is should go for an easy installation.
One thing I will note is, with my year Cherokee, removal of the factory sun visors is required for that upper windshield bar to fit properly. I personally just wear sunglasses the whole time so it doesn’t bother me but if you really need a sun visor, just google Roll Cage Sun Visors and there’s a plethora of options you could choose from.
After test fitting every piece, I disassembled the cage and got it all prepped for paint. I gave every part a thorough wash down with acetone and shot two coats of White Rust Oleum – Clean Metal Primer.
I let the primer set for 24 hours before putting on my final color. I went with Rust Oleum – High Performace Safety Blue. In my opinion, the color resembles the color that King anodizes their shock bodies. It was unintentional but looks cool.
While the first coat was drying, I went back to the Jeep to start drilling the mounting hole for the base plates. RockHard4x4 does give you instructions, but they are very elementary at best. Luckily, they do give you drilling locations that can be found on every XJ to get the main mounting bolts ready. Since my XJ is a 4 door, they tell you to drill 1/2″ holes through the driver and passenger side drain plugs – located under the Jeep, just in front of each door. These 1/2″ holes will locate the dash bar and main hoop. For the rear hoop they require you to drill a 5/8″ hole through the rear drain plugs. I found doing that was a pain in the ass, so I just pulled the plug completely. The rear drain plug looks to be a 3/4″ plug so it’s not that big of a deal. This picture shows the two additional holes I drilled for the mounting plates. Once I put the dash bar and main hoop back in, I used the cage’s base plates to locate the additional 3/8″ holes.
Now that everything was dry, I started installing the dash bar, main hoop and rear hoop. I cut the carpet in a “Y” shape so I could put the base plate directly to the floor. Once all three hoops were in, I drilled the additional mounting holes and installed all the hardware and exterior base plates. I left all the hardware loose so I could still move things around for adjustment.
With the hoops in, I installed the rest of the cage starting from the front to the back leaving everything loose until the end. Once I was satisfied with the the center tube locations and had every other tube finger tight, it was time to torque everything down; I started with all the base plate bolts. The instructions didn’t have torque specs for the base plates so my new Milwaukee 1/2″ impact seems to be sufficient for satisfying the torque spec.
With the base plates torque down, I used a long 1/4″ Balled Allen socket to tighten the rest of the cage down. Once everything was snug, I used a regular Allen Wrench to really get all the bolts tight starting from the middle bolt and then tightening the other four in an “X” configuration and ending with checking the center bolts again. The last two bars I installed were the rear kickers coming off the rear hoop. I didn’t do anything special here; I simply measured both of them to the same height and drilled the holes through the fender well to mount the bases. The finished product exceeded my expectations. The finishing touch was to slice the carpet to cover the cages base plates.
If you’ve been contemplating on getting one of their cages, I would highly recommend going for it. The craftsmanship is top notch. The fit is better than I could have ask for and I can say I feel safe taking a mild rollover and walking away. Don’t have an XJ? Check out their other vehicle cages at RockHard4x4.com.