Modifying vehicles has been a popular activity for as long as the automotive industry has been a thing. It’s a great way for someone to take their car, truck, or SUV and personalize it in a way that makes it stand out from the crowd, whether for performance purposes or for visual flair. Some models have been more popular within the enthusiast modding community than others due to their versatility and modularity, such as the Jeep Wrangler. Each new generation of Wrangler comes with new advancements and features that allow the off-road enthusiast community to explore new ways to make the Wrangler their own while also customizing it to fit their specific kind of off-road adventures. But this brings up a really good question: can you retrofit mods designed for a new Wrangler to an older generation Wrangler?
Let’s say you’re looking at a used Jeep Wrangler for sale. You want something affordable, so you’re focusing on the JK generation, but you also want to be able to take advantage of all the latest aftermarket parts. Maybe you’re looking at some recently released mods for the Wrangler JL generation, and now you’re wondering if they can match your Wrangler JK? Well, let’s explore what sort of mods you can retrofit from the JL to the JK and still keep your Wrangler operating optimally in off-road conditions.
Can I Use Wrangler JL Front Bumpers on a Wrangler JK? Yes!
One of the most popular mods for a Jeep Wrangler is upgrading the exterior: the fenders, the wheels, the hood, the soft/hard top, and the bumpers. When it comes to the exterior, bumpers are sometimes modified for form or function purposes. Some people want modded utility bumpers for off-roading, maybe with a winch, bull bars, or reinforced protection. Others just want bumpers that look cool. But the question is, can you take some of the latest aftermarket Wrangler JL front bumpers and attach them to a Wrangler JK? Well, the answer is, yes, you can!
A highlight of the Wrangler JK and Wrangler JL is that their bumpers share the same bolt pattern and dimensions, so you can replace a JK front bumper with a JL front bumper if you want. They both slide in the same way. This means that you can opt for bumpers that you can attach to the JK that also fit the JL, or vice versa. The biggest issue you might run into is bumpers designed for specific trims. Remember, some trims come with additional features, lighting arrays, and attachments not available on other trims, so you will have to be mindful of that when searching for the right kind of front bumper mods for your JK.
Can I Use Wrangler JL Rear Bumpers on a Wrangler JK? No!
Unfortunately, the dimensional changes to the rear tailgate of the Wrangler JL mean that any mod designed for the rear of the JL will not fit the JK. This means that if you find a cool rear bumper for the JL, like the Rimrocker series or the Raid series of bumpers, you’re fresh out of luck when it comes to getting them fitted to the JK. The same thing applies to rear tailgate mods, too. Neat fitments like the Mopar Tailgate Reinforcement Kit for the Wrangler JL will not fit on the Wrangler JK series, regardless of if it’s the standard Wrangler or the Wrangler Unlimited.
Can I Use Wrangler JL Wheels on a Wrangler JK? Yes!
Wheels and tires are among the most popular mods you can do to a vehicle. Loads of people love to swap out the stock wheels for something snazzy, something spiffy, or something downright cool. But what if you found some really awesome Wrangler JL wheels, but you’re looking to buy a JK? You might even be scratching your head about wheel choices before you rush off to get that used Jeep Wrangler for sale because you want to make sure you buy the right set, but you’re worried because the wheels you have in mind are for the JL.
Well, you’re in luck because Wrangler JL wheels do fit onto the Wrangler JK, even including the stock wheels. The only thing is that the Wrangler JL uses 14×1.5mm lug nuts, whereas the JK uses 1/2×20 lug nuts, which means that you will need to use the lug nuts that came with the JK. If the aftermarket wheels require different lug nuts, make sure they have the correct thread pitch for your JK. Will you have issues with the hub spacing on the rims for the lug nuts? Not usually, no. You should be able to install the wheel just fine. If you find some custom rollers meant for the JL, like split-spoke wheels, machined chrome wheels, or gunmetal beadlock wheels, you can outfit them to your JK so long as you keep the original lug nuts handy.
Can I Use Wrangler JL Hoods, Grilles and Fenders on a Wrangler JK? Maybe
The dimensions of the Wrangler JL are different from the Wrangler JK, so some modifications simply will not work, much like the rear bumper and tailgate mods. The same applies to other profile-mods like fenders, grilles and hoods. Why is this? Well, as mentioned, the dimensions are different, and the length of the vehicle has been altered for the fourth-generation JL Wranglers.
More specifically, the Wrangler JK sits on a 95.4-inch wheelbase for the two-door variant and a 116-inch wheelbase for the four-door Unlimited. The two-door clocks in at 164.3 inches in total length, whereas the four-door totals 184.9 inches in length. Compare that to the Wrangler JL, which sits on a 96.8-inch wheelbase for the two-door and a 118.4-inch wheelbase for the four-door Unlimited. You also have a total length of 166.8 inches for the two-door and 188.4 inches for the four-door Unlimited JL.
It might be only a couple inches of difference between the JK and JL models, but those inches make a big difference in what sort of mods you can fit to the vehicles. Unfortunately, that means most cosmetic mods like hoods, grilles, and some fenders are a no-go…unless you plan on doing a bit of manual cutting and hacking of the parts to get the pieces to fit.
Can I Use Wrangler JL Hood Latches on a Wrangler JK? Yes!
One popular mod for the Wrangler JK is replacing the stock hood latches, which weren’t the best design. Interestingly enough, while the hood itself for the JL cannot be retrofitted onto the JK, you can use stock Wrangler JL hood clamps on your Wrangler JK. If you do buy a used Jeep Wrangler JK, there are a few things you will need to keep in mind when it comes to using Wrangler JL hood clamps on it.
First of all, you will need both a 10mm and a 13mm socket to get the old latches off and the new latches on. You’ll also have to deal with the two locating tabs on either side of the inner bolt of the JL’s latches. Now some people opt to use cutters to snip them off, some use files to grind them down, and others just bend them inward. There are various ways you can deal with the locating tabs, including just leaving them alone and pushing them inward as you tighten up the latches on the JK hood.
Experimenting With New Mods
Thanks to the modular aspects of the Wrangler, you can easily experiment with different parts, pieces and upgrades from the different generations of the Wrangler to find out what works and what doesn’t. Even for the parts that don’t typically fit, like lift kits, hoods, fenders, and grilles, there are still creative ways of getting around those hurdles with a little ingenuity and a willingness to get your hands dirty. Of course, if you’re not ready to take that kind of leap, you can still make use of some basic mods from the Wrangler JL that can easily fit onto the Wrangler JK without breaking the budget or breaking your vehicle’s off-road capabilities.