I was one of the early adopters of the “bedlined grille” look. My OEM paint was chipping from winter road debris, and I just thought it made sense to have a durable, easy to repaint grille coating on the front of the Jeep. However, when it came to repaint it this Summer I got the great idea to use a new, polyurethane liner and totally messed it up.
So it was time to find a new grille.
I hope this install writeup will help anyone that comes across a couple of the trickier parts of this install. Check out my unboxing video for the Spartan Grille!
1. Lay out all the parts and ensure they are in place. I also washed my hands, to prevent any dirt from scratching the matte surface.
2. As always, Rugged Ridge’s full color instructions were very detailed and complete. But review them anyway and be sure you have the needed parts. RR does not mention you will need a small device to trim plastic. I used a Dremel.
3. Remove the factory grille by popping out the plastic rivets along the top. Save the rivets!
4. Remove the indicator light fixtures by twisting the plugs 45 degrees and pulling them out.
5. Tug on the lower, front part of the grille to free the clips that run along the bottom front of it. Pull it straight off and toward the front.
6. Remove the indicator light housings from the OEM grille by squeezing the two small tabs on each fixture. Then pull them out.
7. Install the OEM indicator light housings into the Spartan Grille by aligning the tabs and pressing them into place. Note that I believe these are specific to each side, so only one will fit on each side. But I could be wrong.
8. Unplug the ambient temperature sensor.
9. Using a flat head screwdriver, remove the sensor from the steel bar. It comes out pretty easily. This was y first confusing section of the install. I am not sure if my 2013 Jeep JK has a different sensor style than newer Jeeps, but RR’s instructions did not help me here.
So, I did the fashionable thing and, using zip ties, placed the sensor on TOP of the same bar and location as the original installation. Once zipped down, reconnect the harness to the sensor.
10. The second unclear part of the instructions has to do with trimming the plastic frame around the headlights. While there is a line showing the cut, it appears to be approximate only. So, cut conservatively and do a few test fits to ensure proper fitment. Also, leave plenty of “meat” to accommodate the clip retention hole.
11. Plug in the indicator housings to the harness by reversing the process in step 4 above.
12. Install the grille by aligning the clips that run along the bottom of the front of the grille first. I found that with my winch in the way, this took a lot more finagling than it should have, so be patient. Ensure you removed enough plastic in step 10 to prevent forcing.
I also found that once the front clips are seated, it took some finesse to get the clips in next to the indicator light locations. I had to support the plastic housing with one hand, while applying pressure with the other. Without this, the plastic hole for the clip would just move rearward and prevent clip seating.
13. Reinstall plastic rivets. I did note some fitment issues at this stage as I was ready to reinstall the plastic rivets I removed. With some pressure I was able to line up many of them, but not all fit. I contacted Rugged Ridge about this and it is a known issue that is being resolved.
I will try realigning the grille after it has spent some time in the sun and with engine heat, hoping it will loosen with time. The grille is seated just fine and is not moving, so this seems like a minor issue.
In the above image, I had to pull up the grille “flap” to overlap with the OEM radiator cover. This was surprisingly frustrating but I eventually got it to go over it and got some plastic rivets in place.
See the end of this post for feedback from Rugged Ridge’s engineering department on this issue.
14. Admire your new Jeep fascia from a distance by testing the lights making sure everything is working properly.
I reached out to Rugged Ridge for their input on the fitment concern I raised with them. This is their response:
“To achieve ultimate impact properties, a material-blend with a higher than normal shrinkage range was needed. This was a trial and error process with the goal of impact resistance at the forefront. The resulting material is preferred in comparison to more dimensionally stable but brittle thermoplastics. This resulted in a grille that won’t shatter when you hit a rock, branch or gravel that is thrown up at your grille. We are in the process of dialing in the final blend to accommodate the higher than normal shrinkage.” Engineering Manager, Alain Eboli.
Thanks to Rugged Ridge for their feedback!
**FULL DISCLOSURE: This unit was provided to me at no cost by Rugged Ridge for the purposes of this install and a future review. It has in no way influenced the outcome or my opinions of this product.**