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  • How to Install Onboard Air and an Auxiliary Battery in Your Jeep Wrangler JL

How to Install Onboard Air and an Auxiliary Battery in Your Jeep Wrangler JL

American Adventure Lab has a smart and seamless solution for adding OBA and auxiliary power to your Jeep.

Nov 12, 2020
Jeep's Wrangler JLs are electrically complicated vehicles. From the two factory batteries under the hood to all of the sensors that run the CAN bus system, these rigs are incredibly sensitive to unapproved loads and curious voltage drops. Because of this, Jeep offers four auxiliary switches to easily access the vehicle's electrical power without upsetting all of the modules and data flowing across the vehicle. But what do you do if you need more ways to power up accessories and require more onboard capacity to extend time between engine starts?
A dual battery kit seems like the best option, but most people don't realize that the Wrangler JL already has two batteries under the hood. The main battery is a traditional Group 48 size AGM battery with 65 Ah of capacity used for cranking, and there is a smaller 12 Ah supplemental AGM battery used to power everything else (when Electronic Start Stop ESS is active at a stoplight, for example). The system also uses an Intelligent Battery Sensor (IBS) and variable-voltage alternator.
There is a popular dual battery conversion system on the market, but there is disagreement amongst some enthusiasts about the strategy of its operation, and if the instructions for which battery to connect the IBS sensor is optimal for the setup. It also requires a new battery tray and two smaller Group 25 59-Ah batteries (we will stick with Odyssesy's number throughout this story to be as apples-to-apples as possible) to replace the stock units, which might be a red flag for some owners with Wranglers still under warranty. Another issue is with an error code from the Electronic Start Stop system that triggers because the system expects to see a voltage differential during cranking between the two batteries when they disconnect. Obviously if you are using one battery in this scenario, you can't have a voltage differential and the JL flags it. It will automatically clear after six ESS events (per start), or it can be turned off manually via the switch on the dash (each start).
So, with those things in mind, we went looking for a solution that would give us additional battery capacity to run our accessories in the backcountry, but without going to a true dual system or modifying the factory battery setup or operation. What we found was an innovative setup being offered by American Adventure Lab out of Washington, Utah, that answered all of our concerns. It mounts an Odyssey PC1100 AGM Powersports battery in the rear underfloor storage area on a bracket that can also support ARB's exceptional CKMTA12 twin-motor high-performance air compressor.
The PC1100 auxiliary battery itself has 45 Ah of capacity (enough to run our Dometic CFX3 45 fridge for about two days in ideal conditions) and, when combined with the 65 Ah of the factory cranking battery, gives us 114 Ah of total power. The popular dual battery system that uses two Odyssey Group 25 batteries has a total of 118 Ah, making this a comparable alternate solution. Something else to consider is that an easily removed tab in the Wrangler JL's battery tray allows for fitment of a Group 94 battery, which offers 80 Ah with the Odyssey platform. When upgrading to an Odyssey Group 94 and using the PC1100 with AAL's kit, the total rating jumps to 125 Ah.
Controlling the charging function is REDARC's BCDC1225D dual-input 25A charge controller. This is a 12V DC-DC battery charger that is designed to charge an auxiliary battery to 100 percent capacity while on the move and also allows for solar input, which it will prioritize if both inputs are active. It's a smart controller that can be set up for compatibility with a variable-voltage alternator, making it a perfect fit for the Wrangler JL. A multi-stage charging algorithm provides specific charging profiles for all common battery types, including AGM, gel, standard lead acid, calcium, and even LiFePO4 batteries. The Australian-made REDARC has been designed to be tough and rugged. It can withstand extreme heat, up to 176 F, is fully sealed against dust and water, and can handle battery banks with up to 200 Ah.
Circling back to the ARB CKMTA12 air compressor, it is perfectly at home on the AAL mounting bracket. This is one of our all-time favorite compressors, and at 6.16 cfm, it has the highest compressor output rating that we've seen. The CKMTA12 has enough output to run most air tools without a tank, inflates tires quickly, is sealed from moisture and dust (IP55 rating), and has a 100 percent duty cycle. It's constructed of lightweight, high-strength materials and utilizes Teflon-impregnated carbon-fiber piston seals, hard anodized cylinder bores for reduced friction, and a brushless fan for cooling. To keep things safe, the CKMTA12 incorporates an over-pressure safety valve, thermal protection, and fuses for each motor.
American Adventure Lab also offers an optional remote bracket that is designed to make this setup more user friendly. In addition to housing the compressor switch, breathers, and air chuck out of the way, the AAL remote kit adds a 12V plug for your fridge and a six-way ATC fuse block with a negative bus. This allows you to hook up six additional electrical circuits in the back of the Jeep that work off the auxiliary battery. Having 45 Ah of additional capacity to run your fridge and other electronics means one to two days of additional power without having to start the vehicle. Supplementing this system with solar can extend that by days, depending on the panel setup you choose.
The beauty of this setup is that it gives you comparable dual battery capacity without modifying anything under the hood, keeping your Jeep looking stock. In fact, only two wires touch the JL's factory electrical system. One is the power wire from the REDARC to the cranking battery, and one is a trigger wire to a keyed ignition wire (we used the ignition wire in the auxiliary switch bundle) that tells the REDARC you have a variable alternator. Of course, there is also a chassis ground. Everything else about this setup is completely self-contained, safely maintaining the integrity of your factory electrical system without introducing any mysterious draws or voltage drops.
Are you still you intrigued like we were intrigued? If so, read on to see how we completed the install on our manual AEV JL370 3.6L, and head over to American Adventure Lab (americanadventurelab.com) for more information on how to get your hands on a setup like this for your Jeep Wrangler JL, and soon JK.
Photo 2/36   |   Short of wires and connectors for the REDARC, American Adventure Lab is a one-stop shop for everything needed to install this kit. AAL offers the compressor and battery bracket, along with the remote mount, in a variety of finishes. The company also sells the ARB CKMTA12, REDARC battery controller, and Odyssey PC1100 battery.
Photo 3/36   |   The cargo area of the Wrangler JL doesn't look like it would be able to fit all of the kit components, until you realize there is storage space under the cargo floor.
Photo 4/36   |   Removing the carpeted lid revealed the new home for our auxiliary battery and air compressor.
Photo 5/36   |   We started the install by bolting the ARB compressor to the left side of the AAL mounting bracket.
Photo 6/36   |   As you can see here, the Odyssey battery has plenty of room on the right side of the bracket.
Photo 7/36   |   It still amazes us that there is room for ARB's biggest compressor and a 45-Ah battery on a tray that mounts under the JL's cargo floor.
Photo 8/36   |   With the battery in place, we installed AAL's cover plate, which secures the Odyssey to the tray.
Photo 9/36   |   Next, we dropped the assembled bracket into place and secured it with existing hardware.
Photo 10/36   |   The REDARC BCDC1225D is a compact and rugged battery controller that is robust enough to live in the back of an off-road vehicle. It can charge the battery from the vehicle electrical system or from a solar setup.
Photo 11/36   |   The REDARC has an LED status light that lets you know what the controller is doing. Because the controller will be buried under the cargo floor, we recommend installing a remote LED that mimics the onboard status indicators.
Photo 12/36   |   We mounted the REDARC on its side, at a slight angle, to keep the controller from sticking up above the cargo floor. There are several ways to secure it, but we found that permanent 3M adhesive tape works perfectly without having to install any screws at an angle.
Photo 13/36   |   With the REDARC in place, it was easier to see how the wiring would start to lay out.
Photo 14/36   |   Here is a good look at all of the components in place prior to wiring.
Photo 15/36   |   After we secured the major components, we installed the 90-degree output fitting on top of the ARB compressor.
Photo 16/36   |   Before we could go any further, we had to turn our attention back to the bench where the AAL remote bracket components were awaiting assembly.
Photo 17/36   |   AAL sells this optional six-circuit fuse block that mounts to the remote bracket and allows us to easily add additional electrical accessories.
Photo 18/36   |   Here you can see the fuse block, 12-volt fridge socket, compressor switch, and the ARB air filters mounted to the remote bracket.
Photo 19/36   |   We also installed the wiring, the ARB air hose coupler, and zip-tied everything together in a tidy package before installing into the Jeep.
Photo 20/36   |   There is some minor panel trimming that will be required around the taillight access port to fit the hose and wiring bundle.
Photo 21/36   |   After popping the interior panel apart, we placed the assembled remote bracket in the proper location and started the process of routing the air lines and wiring.
Photo 22/36   |   Here is a closer look at our finished installation of the American Adventure Labs remote bracket. Note the vertical 12-volt plug that allows a fridge plug to live in a protected vertical orientation, rather than sticking out into the cargo area. It also frees up the factory plug for other uses.
Photo 23/36   |   With the panel reassembled, we returned to routing the lines down to the compressor. There will be some minor trimming, depending on whether you run the bundle on the inside or outside of the first cargo tie-down bolt.
Photo 24/36   |   Here is what the compressor wiring and routing should look like when completed.
Photo 25/36   |   Moving to the other side of the cargo compartment, we removed the interior trim panel and started to wire up the REDARC bundle according to the supplied diagram. For this part of the install, we had to purchase bulk wire. We found high-quality, marine-grade wiring at a local boating supply store that was perfect for our install and routed our new wires along existing paths.
Photo 26/36   |   We also purchased an LED light that we wired to the REDARC in order to monitor the battery controller status remotely, installing it at the base of the Sport Bar. Also seen here is a switch to control our auxiliary battery voltage gauge.
Photo 27/36   |   REDARC recommends 40A fuses for the system. The company offers a fuse kit for the BCDC that includes high-quality fuses, holders, and cable crimps. These fuses offer a greater contact area to prevent dirt from getting between contact points and creating excessive heat, which can happen with push fuses.
Photo 28/36   |   Underneath the rear trim panel, we found an unused body bolt, which we commandeered as a ground.
Photo 29/36   |   Not satisfied just to know what the controller was doing, we decided to add a 2 1/16-in (52mm) AEM X-Series volt gauge to the rear panel before reinstalling. The X-Series has a shallow 1/5-inch mounting depth and is less than an inch thick, allowing us to find the perfect location in the cargo area that made it visible without getting in the way.
Photo 30/36   |   The X-Series gauge is packed full of features from 24 green outer LEDs for quick reference, a peak/recall feature that records the max voltage of the system, positive locking connectors, and an auto-dimming sensor that ensures the gauge is never too bright.
Photo 31/36   |   With all of the wiring in place, it was time to button up the cargo area and put our handiwork into service.
Photo 32/36   |   You can see from this photo just how clean our install turned out and the positioning of the AEM X-Series volt gauge, the volt gauge on/off switch, and the remote LED status indicator. Having the volt gauge on a switch allows us to view it when necessary and keep it from drawing power or filling the interior with distracting light when it's not.
Photo 33/36   |   Taking advantage of the additional circuits from the AAL fuse box, we decided to add a Baja Designs dome light for better visibility at night. Mounted on the wiper housing, we hid the wires in the existing wiring channel. The bright dome light shines down on the tailgate area when the rear glass is open and illuminates a large area. We also went with red (white is available) in order to preserve night vision and not attract bugs.
Photo 34/36   |   The Baja Designs dome light puts out 400 lumens through a 180-degree optic, which is more than enough for nighttime visibility. It's an impressive little upgrade.
Photo 35/36   |   Because our new auxiliary battery and compressor take up the storage space where our AEV jack base used to live, we ordered up the AEV Gladiator mounting kit, which moves it out of the way to the passenger footwell against the firewall.
Photo 36/36   |   With everything installed, the unsuspecting cargo area packs a lot of new features while looking like it did when it came from the factory.

SOURCES

American Adventure Lab
americanadventurelab.com
American Expedition Vehicles
aev-conversions.com
AEM Electronics
aemelectronics.com
ARB
arbusa.com
Baja Designs
bajadesigns.com
Odyssey Battey
odysseybattery.com
REDARC
Redarcelectronics.com

Sources

AEM
Hawthorne, CA
800-992-3000
http://www.aempower.com
American Expedition Vehicles
Wixom, MI
248-926-0256
http://www.aev-conversions.com
ARB
866-293-9078
http://www.arbusa.com
Baja Rack
San Diego, CA
17606210171
http://www.bajarack.com
Odyssey Battery
Reading, PA
888-422-0317
http://www.odysseybattery.com

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