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Old 12-30-2010, 05:19 PM   #1
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2011 Jeep Cherokee Air Force One and Roadmater

I'm ready to order my tow equipment and have decided on SMI's Air Force One braking system and Roadmater towing base and tow bar. Does anyone have any insight on installing either on a 2011 Jeep Cherokee?

Unless someone changes my mind I selected the Air Force One system due to it's popularity and what appears to be a very effective braking system. I selected the Roadmater equipment because the tow plate seems to have a more logical installation location that would seem more substantial. I selected the Roadmaster tow bar solely because of the rod that interconnects the arms at the vehicle. To me, this would seem to take some lateral forces off the vehicle frame rails.

I haven't placed the order yet, so I'm all ears on your opinions and lessons learned. I'd really like to hear that someone was able to install the AF1 controller in the vehicle with no problem. The engine compartment space is tight on the new Cherokee.

Thanks!
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Old 12-30-2010, 09:58 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ImagineIF View Post
I haven't placed the order yet, so I'm all ears on your opinions and lessons learned. I'd really like to hear that someone was able to install the AF1 controller in the vehicle with no problem. The engine compartment space is tight on the new Cherokee.
The engine space is tight on a lot of vehicles but don't limit your self to just the engine compartment. I have seen where the controller was installed in the void just behind the grill work on some vehicles. The guys at SMI will tell you where they typically install the AF1 on your Jeep. Just give them a call.

I tell ya, I like the Blue Ox just because it's not massive. I also like the removable tabs. All my towing gear including the umbilliacal cable fits inside a small black tool bag and that get stowed in a space in my fender well. I leave the tow bar on the back of the rig in it's cover.

Works great - less filling!
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Old 01-05-2011, 07:37 AM   #3
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I'll be installing Blue Ox base plates and an AF1 on my 2011 Overland this week. I'll let you know how it goes.
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Old 01-05-2011, 08:15 AM   #4
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I would seriously consider the Blue Ox system. I have used the Avanta system to tow my Jeeps with no problems.
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Old 01-06-2011, 02:19 PM   #5
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Today I installed the Blue Ox base plates on my 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. You can see the Blue Ox instructions here http://www.aemfg.com/pdfs/BX1128.pdf .

The installation is fairly straight forward and per the instructions. I will say a few things that could simplify the process and /or clarify what the instructions do not.

During tear down, If you call Chrysler and order the printed owners manual there is a wealth of good information you will not find elsewhere. Why they don't ship the 2011 JGC with the printed manuals I'll never know. The front lower Fascia is designed to be removed for increased off-road clearance quickly with no tools. It is held on by 7, 90 degree twist lock fasteners, once these are removed the fascia snaps of and/or loose from the bumper fascia. It is a little scary until you look and figure it out but it will not break. Like all new cars everything is pretty much snap together.

After you remove the lower air dam this allows the bumper fascia to be removed seperately. By taking these off in two pieces rather than one large unit like the Blue Ox instructions call for it's much easier to handle.

After removing the plastic rivets from the inner fenderwells along with the 10mm bolt and push pin like the instructions say to do. You now need to disconnect the fender flares (black plastic) from the bumper ends. The instructions neglect to tell you this step. They are simply snapped on by tabs to the bumper cover ends, once you peek behind the inner fender with a light you will see how to release them. Do not try to disconnect the flare past the mating line of the bumper end and fender. It uses a different clip on the fender itself and you could damge the clip requireing a trip to get a new one or if aggressive enough you could warp or bend the fender.

To release the bumper cover from underneath the grill it is easiest to reach down from the top backside of the grill and release the tabs. Don't forget to unplug the foglights before removing the cover.

The steel bumper behind the cover is different on models with factory tow hooks and those without. The units with an off-road I or II package have the tow hooks and a trail rated badge. The non tow hook units take the long tube spacers while the tow hook models take the shorter ones supplied.

My model has the air suspension. If yours has this then like the instructions show, you will find the pump for it behind the right side of the bumper. Do simply as told and remove the bracket bolts and move it out of the way of installation. Secure it somehow, but whatever you do "DON'T REMOVE OR OPEN ANY OF THE AIR LINES OR CONNECTIONS" . This is a closed system and uses "COMPRESSED NITROGEN" not air, if you cause a leak or open the system you will have to go to a Chrysler dealer to have it properly recharged to the correct pressure with a special fitting on the reserve tank and class 4 nitrogen.

Re-assembly is pretty simple as it all snaps together. You will have to trim the lower fascia/air dam around the tow hook openings as in the instructions. If your unit came without tow hooks there are factory covers over the openings held on with plastic push pins. I found the easiest and best looking thing to do was, enlarge the top of the opening up to the accent line all the way across. You will need to square off the upper outer corner on each side up to this accent line or step as some may call it. You will have to trim the outer side of the opening on the part which extends toward the back of the vehicle by about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch so that the air dam will go back far enough to fit right and snap on correctly.

The tabs for the safety cables sit on the inside of the tow bar pins, within the factory tow hook opening. Installed with the towing tabs removed the Blue Ox unit gives a very clean and factory look. They are not noticeable and don't jump out at you, totally disguised.

Also the removeable tabs on the Blue Ox plates are one piece interlocking machined fro a solid piece of steel. They are not fabricated from box tubing or seperate parts which could fail at the weld. I saw a weld failure in a post on here a week or so ago of a roadmaster unit which was fabricated of sqaure steel tube. I'm not putting down any other manufacturers product, only saying that these tabs are one piece solid machined steel. Nothing much about this set-up can fail unless it is from material defect.

The base plate mounts in the same location with the same bolt holes as the factory tow hooks. It uses a doubler plate for re-enforcement along the web of the uni-body frame. This should be a strong and substantial set-up. It also has safety cables looped around the uni-body frame rails just in case. The only other base plates for this model I have looked at are Roadmaster. The roadmaster re-enforces the mount from the front with a bracket that bolts to the radiator support. The radiator support is fairly light wieght in the new JGC and I prefer being bolted to the frame webbing rather than the bolted on radiator support.

You don't have to tear the car down as far to install the roadmaster brackets since you are not accessing the frame web or getting clearance to drill it. One other thing is that the re-enforcement plates of the Ox wind up drilling directly through factory spot welds in the frame web and replacing these spot welds with bolts and the doubler plate. You will see the Roadmaster instructions here http://www.roadmasterinc.com/pdfinst/521439-1.pdf .

I simply prefer the Blue Ox equipment and this was my experience with the base plate install on the 2011 JGC. Hope this answers some questions and helps.

Sorry to be so long winded.
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Old 01-06-2011, 02:27 PM   #6
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I'm holding off on the AF1 install. I can't find a location under the hood which packages cleanly and suits me. I don't want to mount it behind the bumper due to the elements and I'd rather not put the box inside.

About the only place I could easily see to locate it is on the inside of the left frame rail. This doesn't excite me for ease of install or keeping it out of the elements. It is also right beside the engine belt if it were to ever break.

I'm going to think it over a little while longer and decide whether to go ahead with this install or try this Roadmaster Inc. - Tow Bars, Braking Systems & RV Accessories .
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Old 01-06-2011, 11:24 PM   #7
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Parkerrs,

Thanks for the detailed information. When looking at the roadmaster installation instructions it looked like a stronger mount where I thought it was mounted to main frame bolts. It's good to hear the Blue Ox system looks beefier and doesn't have as many welded parts.

I just looked at the Roadmaster braking system and didn't see a vacumn pump. If it doesn't have one, the braking pressure will be much greater. I'm going to give SMI a call and see if they have any recommendations on where to install the box.

Again, thanks!
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:01 AM   #8
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Let us know what SMI says, as I'm still debating this choice. I have the AF1 in hand but like I said, I may return it and go with the roadmaster. I'll be giving Roadmaster a call about their unit.

The Roadmaster brake has a few good reviews in a thread already here, Brakemaster about it.
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:10 AM   #9
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Let us know what SMI says, as I'm still debating this choice. I have the AF1 in hand but like I said, I may return it and go with the roadmaster. I'll be giving Roadmaster a call about their unit..
Over the many years that we have been talking about the AF1 the reviews run into the many dozens by satisfied owners. If there is any question about an AF1 install call SMI they are very willing to help you figure it out.
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:15 AM   #10
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Over the many years that we have been talking about the AF1 the reviews run into the many dozens by satisfied owners. If there is any question about an AF1 install call SMI they are very willing to help you figure it out.

I have "no" doubt about the AF1's performance. It's just that space for packaging under the hood is almost non-existent on the new JGC. To say it's at a premium is an understatement.

I'm scratching my head to figure out an installation location that satisfies my OCD mechanic nature. I've spent too many years working on show cars I guess, LOL.
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:26 AM   #11
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I have "no" doubt about the AF1's performance. It's just that space for packaging under the hood is almost non-existent on the new JGC. To say it's at a premium is an understatement..
After I had thought that I did such a swell job of installing my DUO on top of my underhood fuse box, (looks great BTW) Pete told me that he installs the unit behind the grill. Maybe there's a nook or cranny that you're overlooking.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:02 PM   #12
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I spoke SMI this morning and they don't have any specific guidance for 2011 JGC. They will have one in for installation in April. Based on pictures they've seen of the engine space, they suggest the space between the battery and fuse box may be large enough or the passenger's side firewall. In April they will have specific knowledge. Until then, they just say they've never had a vehicle they couldn't find space for the under hood control.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:42 PM   #13
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That's strange, because the battery is located under the passenger seat on the new JGC. If he's simply talking about the fuse box area, it may be possible but not an easy undertaking. Especially if you maintain serviceable access to the fuse box.
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Old 01-12-2011, 09:07 AM   #14
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Quote:
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That's strange, because the battery is located under the passenger seat on the new JGC. If he's simply talking about the fuse box area, it may be possible but not an easy undertaking. Especially if you maintain serviceable access to the fuse box.
SMI did say their box could simply be ty-wrapped into place to support servicability and prevent having to find a place that would support screws. He did say battery, but may well have meant the fuse box area.
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