I’ve mentioned that my father and I installed a Matrix brush guard from 4xGuard on my XK this summer — and it appears in a number of my Commander pictures — but I didn’t want to write about it in-depth until now.
Why not? Well, the Matrix was engineered for the WK (like 4xG’s Side Guard), and the experience of trying to install it on the XK revealed to me and my dad that some superficial design changes would help it fit the Commander much better (while leaving its compatibility on the Grand Cherokee untouched). I hacked and ground metal to make our experiment work, and then those changes had to go through engineering and then into production … and then had to be test-fit once more on my big red beauty (hey, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do). I wanted to wait until that was done before I wrote anything up here.
Since I’m writing, you know that the test-fit is done. And since I’m smiling (you can see that, can’t you?), you know that the test-fit went well. Here’s my Jeep as of this afternoon:
Nice, eh? (Oh, and for my friends and family in colder parts of the world right now, you may be interested to know I took this while wearing flip-flops and was quite comfortable.)
The Matrix is the black brush guard and hoop kit up front, and it’s a marvel of solid engineering. First off, its name is intended to convey its inherent flexibility: the Matrix is really a system of parts that can be added atop one another (like a manly erector set). You start with a basic kit that allows the mounting of shackles (the silver “horseshoe” looking items hanging beneath my front fascia). In and of itself, this is a tremendously useful accessory: a D-shackle is a highly flexible, stable, and strong winching or towing point, and the Matrix gives you two. But the Matrix system is only just getting started, you see: to this basic kit you can add an optional receiver kit (which allows the mounting of a portable winch cradle, among other things), a fascia-protecting guard and light-tab kit, and a grill-protecting hoop guard. WK owners can also add tubular brush guard “wings.” It’s a completely customizable system.
I’ve installed the “works” on my Commander: everything but the WK-only wings. The parts came in several well-packed boxes, and spread out roughly in relation to how they go together they look like this:
The only thing missing here is the heavy-duty optional receiver kit, which I didn’t want to take off my rig (lazy bum, I know). The whole thing is a brilliantly designed puzzle made of very strong parts. Bolted together, the Matrix is solid.
The 4xGuard instructions are currently being amended to take into account XK owners, and among those things that will be mentioned there is that it is highly advisable to remove your front fascia (carefully!) in order to install the basic kit. Instructions can be found here and there on the internet. (I used the instructions at JeepCommander.com.) If you’re planning to install the optional receiver mount, removing the front fascia is mandatory for reasons that will be discussed shortly.
With the front fascia removed, you can easily pull off the factory tow hooks (if installed) or add the factory tow hook frame backing-plate bolts (if not installed) and then mount up the basic kit and the receiver mount (if purchased). Below is what the front end looks like with the Matrix Basic and the optional 2″ receiver mount installed. You can see from this picture that the Matrix is a frame-to-frame design, spreading the load across 8 high-grade bolts into the rails and the cross-member, each of which is in turn firmed up with heavy-duty backing plates. There’s also a back “flange” behind the cross-member that you can’t really see in this picture. This load-transference is vital for a kit that can potentially accept the significant winching loads of a vehicle that ways over 6000 pounds:
As mentioned above, if you want to install the optional Matrix receiver mount on the XK you’ll need to pull the fascia. Two reasons for this:
1. The time spent uninstalling and reinstalling the fascia will be far less than the time it would take you to try to tighten all these mounting bolts effectively. I’m not going to say it’s completely impossible to do it without taking off the fascia — though I know I sure as heck couldn’t do it — but I’ll assure you that you would be very angry by the time you had it done, that you’d have very little skin left on your hands, and it would be very late in the day.
2. You’re going to need to cut the fascia. Not much, mind you — and certainly not nearly as much as other options would force you to do — but cutting must be done.
So yank that fascia (no, seriously, do it very carefully!) and get out something to cut thick plastic. I rather prefer a high-speed rotary device like a RotoZip or a Dremel. If you go that route, wear glasses and be prepared for lots of tiny flash-burns on your hands as the melted plastic specks fly (don’t worry, they won’t leave a mark). And remember the cardinal rule of these kinds of permanent modifications: measure thrice, mark twice, and cut once!
In the image below you can see where I’ve placed blue “painter’s” tape on the underbelly of the front fascia in order to mark it for cutting. The “box” is 7.5″ wide, 2.5″ tall. That center “support” you see also needs to be cut out (just nip it off at the base), but it makes for a great way to center your marking. So before you chop it, use it to find a centerline, and then measure 3.25″ to right and left. Up 2.5″ and square it off, done!
Odds are good that your cut is not the most beautiful bit of plastic surgery (get it?) in the world. Never fear: that’s why we have things like door trim, which is available at your local auto parts store. Cut a few pieces off and slip them over your not-quite-straight cuts and no one will ever know. I chose a chrome trim just to be spiffy. Here’s a shot of the trim half-done. Note how I angled the ends for that extra little bit of elegance (not that anyone will ever notice):
After the fascia is hacked up and then cleaned up, you’ll want to reinstall it over the Matrix. The fascia will “bend” up a bit where the basic mounting points stick out (these line-up with the factory cut-outs for the tow hooks), but it’ll be okay:
Once you’ve reached this point, the hard work is done. Everything from here on out is fun. (Well, truth be told, I rather enjoyed this entire process, but there might be something wrong with me.) Just follow the directions (WK or XK at this point makes no difference) and take your time. No special tools are needed, nor are any special skills. As a matter of fact, I did the rest of my install outside on the street:
All in all, this is the best kind of accessorizing, if you ask me: easy, useful, impressive, and a lot of bang for very little buck and very little added weight (only about 40 pounds)!