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Jeep at 75: The Top 10 Aftermarket Parts That Helped Make Jeep an American Icon

From no-frills military hero to American automotive legend, Jeep has come a long way in its 75 years. There have been some incredible Jeep models, which you can see here. And there have been some amazing aftermarket parts and accessories that have helped cement Jeep’s status as an American institution.

With help from the aftermarket aficionados at Summit Racing, we’ve compiled our 10 most important Jeep parts and accessories of all time.

10. Hydraulic-Assist Steering

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Big lifts + large tires = fun.

Unfortunately, oversize tires, lockers, and other common Jeep upgrades can also equal stubborn steering. That’s why companies like Performance Steering Components (PSC) and AGR have developed hydraulic-assist steering systems. They use hydraulic pressure to assist your Jeep’s stock steering system in getting those massive tires turned. Originally found mainly on rock crawlers, the systems are now gaining traction among less-hardcore off-roaders and can even make navigating your lifted Jeep into a parking spot much easier.

That, in our minds, makes hydraulic-assist steering a game-changer.

9. Aftermarket Soft Tops

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Let’s face it — part of the fun of owning a Jeep is the open-air driving.

But not too much open air.

Driving a Jeep was an all-topless experience in the early days before the need for an actual top became apparent. Soon, the trusty and well-known Jeep soft top became available, and the rest is history. Aftermarket manufacturers like Bestop, Smittybilt, and Pavement Ends have latched onto the popularity of the soft top and now offer more options than ever. Today’s soft tops come in a variety of designs — Bikini Top, anyone — and can be had in an array of colors. They still offer that open-air driving experience but provide watertight protection for all climates.

In short, soft tops helped make America’s most versatile vehicle even more versatile!

8. Bumpers

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The terrain is rugged. Your Jeep is rugged. How about those bumpers?

A tough, durable set of front and rear bumpers have long been must-haves for the off-roading Jeep fanatic. They’ll protect against rocks, trees, and other unforseen obstacles in the wilderness. Plus, many of today’s aftermarket bumpers provide a mounting spot for winches and often include receiver hitches. Companies like Westin, Rampage, and Smittybilt have even found a way to make bumpers stylish, so they’ve become a popular upgrade for everyday street-bound Jeeps.

7. Rock Sliders

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Not all Jeeps see trail duty, but the ones that do should have rock sliders.

Rock sliders, as you know, protect your Jeep against rocks, trees, and other trail obstacles. Sometimes referred to as rocker guards, rock sliders can double as side steps and also provide an anchor point for winching. Poison Spyder, Body Armor 4×4, Smittybilt, and a host of others, make tough steel rocker sliders that can be bolted on or welded into place.

Rock sliders are essentially armor for your off-road warrior.

6. Better Ring and Pinions

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Bigger tires can mean lost power and poorer fuel economy. That’s why many Jeep enthusiasts eventually decide to change gear ratios by swapping in different ring and pinion sets. By going with lower gears, you can offset the effects of larger tires. In the process, you can strike a better balance between power and fuel economy, improve acceleration, and relive stress on the rest of the powertrain. Today’s aftermarket ring and pinions, including those from Motive, Richmond Gear, Dana Spicer Drivetrain, and others, also offer quieter performance and more durable construction for higher loads.

5. Heavy-Duty Axle Shafts

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Stock axles are probably fine on the highway.

When you take the show off road, it’s a different story. Aggressive driving, extreme terrain, and larger tires can put incredible stress on your axles. Broken axles are common on the trail, especially when you’re spinning the tires and hook up suddenly. That’s why heavy-duty axle shafts from manufacturers like Dana Spicer, Yukon Gear, and G2 Axle & Gear are popular choices. Better materials like chromoly make these axles stouter, and upgraded splines and stub shafts help eliminate weak points that are typically prone to snapping.

You’re only as strong as your weakest link.

Thankfully, aftermarket axle manufacturers have taken notice.

4. Lockers (if not already on vehicle)

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As the name suggests, lockers “lock” both wheels on the axle together so they to spin in unison. This ensures power is transferred to both wheels, so if one wheel is spinning in mud or soft terrain, the other wheel provides the necessary traction.

Some newer model Jeep JK Wranglers come with differential lockers, but most Jeeps do not have factory lockers. If you plan on tackling even a moderately challenging trail, you’d be well advised to consider a locker from the likes of Dana Spicer, Yukon Gear, or Motive Gear. For added versatility, you can opt for an air locker, which allows you to switch from an open differential to a locking differential with the push of a button.

3. Winches

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If you’re an off-roader, you absolutely need to have a good winch. If you’ve ever used one to save your bacon, there’s no doubt you’d probably rank this even higher on our list. And there’s no shame in that.

Companies like Warn, Mile Marker, and Superwinch have come to the rescue of countless Jeep enthusiasts over the years. The key is choosing the right winch and knowing how to use your winch — both topics we’ve covered here.

2. Off-Road Tires

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Off-roading 101 dictates that you need a good set of off-road tires.

Tire manufacturers like Super Swamper and Mickey Thompson have made big advancements in tire design and construction to accommodate the needs of Jeep and four-wheel enthusiasts. Big knobby treads and beefy, puncture-resistant sidewalls have allowed us to conquer more trails without fear. And the bigger the better in many cases. Summit Racing offers off-road tires as large as 46 inches tall!

If the piston is the universal symbol of hot rodding, then the oversized off-road tire is the equivalent for off-roading.

1. Lift Kits

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A lift kit is often the first upgrade made by Jeep owners — and for good reason.

A suspension lift kit provides increased ground clearance to overcome more obstacles and is essential for accommodating those oversized off-road tires. Rock Krawler SuspensionRubicon Express, Skyjacker, Pro Comp, and others have been part of an explosion of aftermarket lift kits made for nearly all years and models of the civilian Jeep. From mild 2-inch lifts to big 8-inch kits and beyond, you can find a good, reliable (and many cases, affordable) lift kit for your Jeep’s needs.

From the very beginning, the Jeep has lent itself to off-road duty. The aftermarket lift kit has literally taken its off-road capability to all-new levels, helping to make the Jeep an American icon for over 75 years!

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