It was the first weekend in October, 2006, and I was spending the day with RobertY at the big Off-Road Expo held at the Pamona Fair Grounds. One of the first buildings we walked through had a booth with some aluminum gas tanks and hood louvers on display. We were at the booth of Gen-Right Off Road, a southern California based company. While the good looking gas tanks on display initially caught my eye, my wallet said I should be looking at the aluminum hood louvers that were on display.
I was impressed with the hood louvers. The workmanship was very good and left no sharp edges on the pieces. The louvers were stamped from .080″ thick aluminum alloy. Measuring 15-1/2″ long by 4″ wide, they came with a bag of pop rivets which could be used for mounting (I opted to later purchase some screws for that task). I paid the nice lady my $39.99 and put the hood louvers in my bag.
Before I started the installation, I spent some time trying to figure out if I wanted the aluminum look on my hood (matches the gas tank skid in the rear) or if it would be better to go with black. I opted to go with black. OK….rattle can or powder coating? I was out of flat black paint so powder coating it was. With all the big decisions out of the way, it was time to get on with the installation.
Before the holes for the hood louvers were cut, I had to figure out just what I was going to use for the cutting. Of course, various off-road oriented friends came up with a variety of possibilities…..the venerable saws-all was the first suggestion offered up for consideration. Along with the sawsall were some other sure fire certainties with the plasma cutter being the best example of overkill.
I gave some good thought to using my trusty old jig saw since it managed to cut the holes for my LED tail lights. I knew I would have to do a little under hood work if I went that route since the blade would contact the hood lift and it would have to be temporarily removed to avoid damaging it. I finally decided on an air powered nibbler. It’s similar to the hand powered nibbling tool I used on my aluminum radio chassis (that goes back a few years) except this one can about 1″ per second and without getting hand cramps! A big thanks to Troy for letting me “nibble” my hood louver holes.
I used some blue painters tape to lay out a work surface on the hood. I also made a cardboard template that was about 5/8″ smaller (per side) than the hood louver itself. This gave me my inside dimensions that would serve as the “cut on the line”. Note that in the above pic, I didn’t think about the under hood brace that runs along rear section of the hood. I added a little more tape and moved the louver about 5″ further towards the front of the vehicle. I didn’t snap a photo as this point but you’ll see the “extra” lines in another photo or two.
Take plenty of measurements to ensure you get both sides laid out equally. Each side is pretty much of mirror image of the other side. This is certainly one of those project were “measure twice, cut once“, is not quite enough. Take lots of measurements, above and below the hood, and make sure you have the templates exactly where they should be.
A pic of one louver hole after the nibbler finished it’s job. I used a blender disc and smoothed off the edges a bit, getting rid of the wavy lines at the same time. Luckily, the louver covers a multitude of mistakes as long as you don’t get outside of that 5/8″ buffer zone you allowed yourself. A small drum sander was used in the corners to remove the rough edges that occurred as the nibbler was pushed along the line. All in all, it turned out pretty good and was much faster than using the jig saw.
TJ Hood Vents
As I mentioned earlier, I opted to skip the pop rivets that were supplied with the hood louvers and go directly to the fastener department at the local ACE hardware store. I picked up some over priced button head stainless steel #8 screws with Nyloc nuts so I didn’t have to worry about them coming loose any time soon. #8 was just a little bit larger than the holes in the louvers so I enlarged them and then used it as a template for drilling the mounting holes in the TJ hood. As a hole was drill, I put a screw in (no nut) to help keep the louver in position as the remaining holes were drilled.
I had more paint chipping occur along the cut edge of the hole than I had expected. I’m not sure if this was due to the nibbler itself or simply a poor paint priming at the factory paint booth. As I didn’t want bare metal under the louvers, I opted to use some black RTV to seal things. I applied a bead around the edge of the cut out area just as if I were getting ready to seal the cover surface for a differential fluid change. I ran my finder along the RTV to ensure it was coating the cut edge of the hood.
With the hood louver in place, I tightened the #8 mounting hardware, bringing the hood louver flush against the hood surface and making a nice seal. From the under side, you could see it squeeze out a bit here and there….it looked good to go. After getting both sides installed, I grabbed my ruler and took a couple more measurements. I was happy to see that I was less than 1/8″ off on any measurement. That was good enough for me.
The only down side of this modification was the impact it had to my under-hood decal project. I had been collecting them for quite a few years, only putting up decals from products that I had installed (or clubs I had belonged to). A couple of them took it pretty hard. I’ll probably get in there with the heat gun and see if I can remove the remnants of those that were sliced and diced. I was starting to run out of room anyway…..this will give me a good opportunity to make way for some new ones.
I expect the hood louvers to last quite a while. Unlike some that folks have adapted from other vehicles, these have plastic to get baked in the intense Arizona UV sun. If I keep the TJ long enough to wear out the aluminum, I guess I will have gotten my money’s worth for the hood louvers and the Jeep.
That is about it. Thanks goes to BobP for lending me a third (and sometimes fourth) hand as I was holding templates in position and trying to measure and trace all at the same time. Besides that, it’s always good to wrench with a friend…..makes for some interesting conversations every now and then at the very least.
Good trails and remember to TREADLightly!