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1996 Bronco XLT, 5.8, Auto Everything.
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343 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've had a Wrangler Power dual battery tray sitting in my garage for almost a year now. I finally worked up the guts to install the tray. (The relay and controls will have to wait.)

By no means am I mechanically knowledgeable. I did attend a vocational high school, but that was a long time ago, and that's not where my particular talents lie. So, if I can do it, chances are you can as well.

I'll mark significant installations with more "flipping idiot" posts, hopefully they'll inspire someone in the future. Comments and advice for the future generations are welcome.

My truck is a '96 xlt. The battery tray is in good shape, if not a bit surface-rusty, but I've always wanted a dual battery setup. If I'm being really honest with myself there's no good reason why I need one, but that's kind of the point of a project truck.

I bought the kit from BroncoAir.com. It wasn't cheap... The list price is just shy of $400, plus taxes and shipping and whatnot. Broncoair was great to deal with. They don't make it, their a reseller for Wrangler's parts. Expensive though it is, the tray is very high quality... nice heavy gauge steel, well powder coated.

I use the truck frequently, so I can't have it undrivable for long periods of time. Thus, I tend to do work in fits and starts, and have had to learn to break projects down into bite size bits where I can get in after work, do some wrenching, and end up with a drivable rig by the time the sun goes down.

To get it installed, I had to do the following, often over repeated, tentative efforts:
1: move the charcoal canister from under the battery tray to over by the AC's vacuum canister. I drilled a hole in the wheel well cover, put a big washer underneath for stability. The hoses were replaced with silicone vacuum tubing. I added pipe clamps because I'm paranoid. A keen observer will note I used Grade 8 hardware. This is ONLY because I have a bulk assortment pack of such bolts/nuts/washers, I'm sure it's silly to use it for this application.
(edited to add: the wrangler instructions say this canister can be rotated 90 degrees to sit horizontally in it's original mounting location... I couldn't figure out how, so I rolled my own solution.)

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2: per the instructions in the installation guide, I installed a new battery-ground-to-chassis bolt on the radiator support. I'm pretty sure I put it in the wrong place, and after I got the whole thing installed I realized it was needless... the way the batteries are wired you can just ground the alternator and block to the negative battery clamp (because by now you likely don't have the original molded battery cables) and then ground the 2nd battery to the original ground bolt... but what's done is done. I installed it just underneath this clamp for the jack handle:
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I also sanded off the paint at the mounting point, then touched it up afterwards. I didn't notice the spider webs til just now, they are tucked in pretty good.

The original ground bolt is still in place, and I left the headlights grounded there so I wouldn't have to deal with moving those bundles of wires. The mess around the ground bolt is fallout from some of my first work on this truck. That bolt and the mounting point were getting kind of rusty. After I cleaned it up I put some dielectric grease on it to protect it... but that silicone lube gets EVERYWHERE.
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3: the large bundle of cables that run across the wheel well cover (mostly to the starter solenoid) need to be un-socketed and moved towards the rear of the vehicle. There is enough slack to move them "just far enough". Some zip ties help keep everything from getting caught or melted. The most at-risk cable, by the time it's all said and done, seems to be the ground wire coming from the underside of the engine block. It had enough slack to get "too close" to the serpentine belt system and the underside of the engine. Zip ties to the rescue. Once I'm sure I like where the cables and hoses are I'll install a few cable tie-downs to the wheel well cover and cement everything in place... but right now none of that is moving much.
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also visible in this photo is the foam-covered metal pipe that connects, I assume, the AC system to the condenser. This didn't need to be "bent" to make this tray fit, but it did need to be "nudged" a bit, and it's basically resting against the side of the battery tray.

4: when removing the old battery tray, their are 5 bolts: two in the bottom, two in the side (fender), and one at the top of the support "arm" high on the inner fender. The two on the bottom are screwed into u-nuts. These u-nuts disintegrated when I removed them, and had to be replaced. I learned that #8 screws and M8 screws are NOT the same thing.

After all this, the installation actually went fairly well. The mounting points on the tray are somewhat adjustable, so it took a few trials and tweaks, but:
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You'll notice I installed the brackets meant to hold Optima batteries in the tray. This particular battery is several years old and has served me well, but I understand Optima isn't doing well these days, and I'd planned to install Group 65 batteries instead. The thing is, the instructions that came with the kit are (to me) very hard to decipher, so I did a lot of google searching, and found a bunch of photos where people had installed those brackets... so I did as well. I expect I'll need to drill out the rivets when I get my hands on the final batteries.

In the end, speaking only for the mechanical parts shown here, the build quality of this kit is VERY high and very well thought out. I'd find myself wondering why, for instance, there is a zip tie around the battery tie-down meant for the center of the plate, and then I'd watch it start to fall through the mounting hole, only to be stopped by the zip tie.

I'm still debating if I should install the solenoid, or just wire the two batteries in parallel. I'll most likely install it. I find it funny that the manual goes into such careful detail about the isolation relay and the control switch's electrical connections, but yada-yada's through the mechanical installation... because that's the part that worries me the most. The electrical part makes perfect sense to me. :)

Tool and parts wise, I ended up grabbing and using:
  • a couple of sockets, all on the smaller side... 1/4", 10mm, etc...)
  • an assortment of wrenches and pliers (as above, nothing huge)
  • drill w/ 1/4" bit
  • a bulk pack of assorted grade 8 hardware (amazon)
  • a bulk pack of assorted vacuum hoses (amazon) (still have most of this left, but I used up almost all the 10mm hose)
  • a bulk pack of assorted vacuum hose fittings (specifcally to connect the large diameter hose from the vacuum canister to the smaller diameter hose needed by the vent solenoid)
  • a bulk pack of hose clamps (amazon)
  • M8 u-nuts
  • sandpaper, wire brush (to clean up rust and get to bare metal for grounding points)
  • rustoleum primer and spray paint (be careful... if you spray carelessly in this part of the truck you can paint the inside of your turn signal lenses)
  • silicon dielectric lube. (I've been coating any electric connection I touch in this stuff. it's sticky and nasty, but it prevents corrosion well.)
  • White lithium grease. (I have a feeling I'll be removing this tray frequently, as it blocks access to quite a bit of stuff in that corner of the rig, so I want to make sure the bolts come out nicely. greasing bolts is bad, I know...)
  • zip ties, including some with 1/4" "christmas tree" style hold downs on them
 

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Yo Big,
Thanks for the excellent narrative!
 

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Addicted to Junk
85 Bronco, 309ci I6 w/4bbl, np435, 4" lift, 37" Irok NDs, 4.56 w/ Detroit Locker and tru trac
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15,650 Posts
Nice job!

I too use grade 8 bolts for everything. I buy em in bulk at TSC.
 

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Registered
1996 Bronco XLT, 5.8, Auto Everything.
Joined
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343 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I installed the relay and the relay-to-battery cables today. Still haven't installed the control switch, but that's next.

While doing it, I noticed something. If I use a Group 65 battery, it looks like it will impinge on the headlight. The tray is mounted about as far rearward as i can manage... it's pressing against the wheel well cover... so I may end up having to stick with Optima batteries... unless I can find a more svelt way of connecting wires to the headlight.

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