Written by: Mark Turnbull

One of the most important safety upgrades for any Jeeper who pushes it to the limit should be adding roll bar protection!

Our search began at local fab shops for quotes and ideas. The bad news there  was the unusually high cost of custom built roll cages. I needed something that would work well, that I could afford and I could install in my own garage. I looked at what the aftermarket had to offer and as you probably know there are plenty of options. What I saw during my search were cage systems that just didnít look like they could do what they claimed.  After closer inspection it was apparent that there was only one bolt-on ďsport cage systemĒ that  looked like it was truly capable of holding up in a roll over situation.   Most sport cages attach to the dash, which is great for looks, and will give you a bit more entry/exit room, however, it does very little from a strength standpoint.   We placed our order and here's how it went;

  We opened the packaging, set aside the bumper stickers for later and familiarized ourselves with the installation instructions.  The installation instructions are very complete, easy to follow and include lots of pictures!  There are tool requirements that you must consider before you install your cage system.  Donít panic it's just basic stuff you should already have, if not Road Trip To Sears!   You will need, assorted Torx bits, wrenches, sockets, drill and couple of drill bits. During the install you will need to drill a few 3/8 in holes. I'd suggest you donít cheese out and use a crap drill bit, spend the money on a quality bit and cutting oil.  Youíll be drilling through 1-3/4" x .120 HREW steel tubing.   If your Jeep is lifted, a small step ladder will come in handy when  drilling on the tops of the cage. 

Note: You will get metal shavings all over the inside of your Jeep, either tarp or cover the interior, remove the seats or have the shop vacuum ready for cleanup after.

After pulling the necessary stock parts off the Jeep, for the YJ this included the sound bar.   Fold the windshield down. This will give you the room you need to finesse the parts into place.

Time out!  Have a seat in your Jeep and imagine your on the trail with the windshield folded down, cool breeze in your face, getting slapped in the forehead by tree branches and bugs in your teeth, cool huh!   Oh, who's brilliant idea was it to make it impossible to fold down the window on the TJ without removing the windshield wipers?  

Uh, oh:  There was one minor work stoppage that we encountered at this point. To remove the stock sidebars on a TJ a #50 tamper proof Torx bit is used and supplied with the TJ kit.  First up was the YJ, ours is 1995 1/2 and some of the bolts and other odd things on the Jeep are TJ. Our YJ has this little annoying tamper proof Torx bolt. The YJ kit does not include the special Torx tool because pre 1995 1/2 YJ's don't have this bolt.   Lucky for us we had a TJ kit to borrow it from.

The Enemy!  

A tamper proof Torx bolt has a nipple in the center, this will not allow a regular Torx bit to fit in the hole. A tamper proof Torx bit is hollow in the center to slide over the nipple. Look for this before placing your YJ order. If you need one for your install your local auto parts store should have one, they are roughly 5 bucks.   Later when we went to remove this bolt on the TJ it put up a huge fight and we ended up breaking one Torx tool and twisting another.   We broke out the handy porta-torch, gave it some heat and out they came!  

The entire cage is made on a jig so the measurements should be spot on, however there is a little warp-age that is unavoidable when welding parts together. There are tubes or ďstubsĒ that are welded at a 90 onto the side bars that the cross bar mates with (the cross bar runs across the front of Jeep at the top of the window). The stub on the left side was not square by a hair, just enough that it kept the cross bar from sliding on that side with ease. Not a big deal, just a quirk.

When you mount the new side bars to the main hoop of the factory roll bar, the #50 Torx bolt in the rear stub needs to be removed.   

 

If you opt for the center bars then you will have to consider a couple of things before you start drilling holes.  Will you crack your skull on them in extreme situations? Do you want to mount things like lights, speakers or a CB on these bars later and how much space will they need?

 

You know the old saying, measure twice, and cut onceÖ This is where being anal comes in handy, measure the hell out of it and mark everything as you go.   Pick a measurement that's right for you, don't give in to peer pressure! (sorry.. high school flash back)  I got the impression it doesn't really matter where you put these things, what-ever placement is more functional for your current or future needs.

Mounting the Sport cage System to the floor is a breeze!    In the YJ there is a large plate welded to the bottom of the side bar at the floor. There is a small bend in it to match the curve of the floor board. There are 4 holes pre-drilled in this plate to mount it to the floor of the Jeep. The plate mounts on the floor over the existing drain plug hole. Donít forget to remove the drain plug before you set the bar in place. The drain hole is where a bolt from the frame tie in kit or outrigger comes up through to bolt to the cage floor plate.    This hole in the plate is not pre-drilled.  You will also have to drill a new hole for a drain plug or install a sump pump!

The TJ footplates are even easier, they have a pre-welded and threaded stub that inserts into the floor drain hole.  The upper portion of the hole needs to be enlarged just a little bit.  A round file and about 5 minutes will do the job.   Then thread a 9/16" bolt into this stub from underneath and it's secured to the floor.  Again, you will have to drill a new hole for a drain plug.

SAFETY NOTE: The manufacturer recommends the frame tie in kits or outriggers for both the YJ and the TJ, but HIGHLY recommends that the cage be tied into the frame in the YJ!  Take a close look at the floor, it's nothing more than sheet metal. If you land on your topside the chances are good that the bars will punch through the floor! The outriggers will prevent this.  The floor of the TJ is a bit more rigid with a few more layers of metal and ribbing. However to be safe itís best to go ahead and install the outriggers anyways! For us this decision is a no brainer, We want the system to work to it's fullest potential so we will get it installed on both vehicles!   

The entire install took us 3 hours per vehicle and we stopped to take notes, pictures, bathroom breaks and gobble up a few slices of cold pizza!

 

Now itís time to paint the cage: We had decided to have the roll cages painted professionally and with the finest paint, that the money the wives allotted us for the project, would buy! After we completed the install on the YJ we found that it was a snap to remove the entire cage as one unit.  This way will work great in your driveway if you decide to rattle can it!  Plus, you know who is not going to be happy when she finds out that you used the good sheets to cover up the dash and seats to paint the roll bars in your Jeep! 

As for the TJ we decided to try something different and paint the cross bar with the center bars attached as one section and the sidebars as another.  We noticed that if you paint all the pieces separately, when you slide the center bars on to the cross bar you will end up scratching the paint. 

 

Conclusion: It is very well made, solid as a rock, easy to install and very affordable!  If it can keep my head from getting crushed it's got my vote!   

 

 

Notice the bend in the TJ bars. The TJ does not have room between the door and the dash for the bars to meet the floor, it will curve down in front of the dash.

 

Before.

After!

No doubt you noticed we did not re-install the sound bar.   The Jeep is mostly a trailer queen and so the radio doesn't get used that much.  To re-install it on the YJ it's just a matter of laying it on top of the center bars and giving it a bit of motivation to line it back up.   Then you have to drill four 13/64" holes and tap them with a 1/4-20 NC tap and bolt it back in.

Of course you don't have this problem with the TJ.  Just be careful when drilling the holes for the the rear spreader mounts that you don't drill into the sound bar.  We put a small piece of wood between the sound bar and main cage bar to keep from damaging the sound bar.

 

Looks sweet!

We decided not to install the upper window mounts. The inner bolts on the YJ and outer bolts on the TJ seem to hold the window in place just fine.   We also have some concerns about vibration transferring to those nuts in the window frame from the roll cage.   Those nut-serts are not the best to begin with and if they get damaged, your screwed.   We'll try it like this for a while and if need be we can always install them later. 

 

Here is the outrigger or frame tie kit welded to the frame.   It is measured to mount on a vehicle with out body lift (stock height).  The YJ and TJ both have one inch body lifts.   If you bolted them up and then weld... the top of the outrigger would not come in contact with the frame (another weld point).  We added a 1/2 inch of material, in this case a big thick 1/2 inch steel washer that I had in my scrap pile.   A trip to Home Depot and you should be able to find something to fill the gap.    

It does stick out a lot, so it will probably get caught up on stuff on the trail so grinding off the sharp edges at the end might be a good idea, don't grind off too much!

SourceMountain Off Road Enterprises

UPDATE: AS OF JANUARY 2014 M.O.R.E. NO LONGER MANUFACTURES OR SELLS THE SPORT CAGE KITS.  A SPOKESMAN FOR THE COMPANY REPORTS LIABILITY CONCERNS.