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Jeep Wrangler Grilles, Inserts, and Overlays

Written By: Louis Orellana

Shop Wrangler Grille Inserts & Overlays

The Wrangler's front grille is one of the most beloved and distinguished designs in automotive history. The Jeep community takes pride in the fact that their seven slots cannot be confused with any other vehicle on the road. By upgrading your grille you will be able to improve protection for some of your most vital components, while also providing some personality to your rock crawler.

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The front grille of a Wrangler is an iconic exterior design element that has been part of every model generation, including the YJ, TJ, and JK models. The seven open slats symbolize the seven continents and Jeep’s branding direction as an all-terrain vehicle that can truly go anywhere. However, like any other part on a Wrangler, there’s always a large aftermarket world behind it, with a variety of choices and options to choose from. In this information guide we’ll explore several grilles, inserts, and overlay options available for JK, YJ, and TJ Wranglers. We’ll also discuss the difference between a grille, overlay, and insert along with the benefits of each.

What is the Difference Between a Grille, Overlay, and an Insert?

Although a grille and overlay interact with the same part on the Jeep, they each have distinct uses and benefits.

A Jeep grille generally deals with the entire front face, typically replacing the entire part with a modified alternative. These are great if your factory grille has been damaged or needs replacement. In addition, they can offer a huge impact on the overall look of your Jeep, with an easy to install part.

An overlay tends to modify the grille itself with something as simple as a decal or a more involved modification that requires the cutting and removal of the seven slat openings. Depending on the choice you make, this option can either be purely cosmetic or completely functional, offering the most amount of protection to your radiator and front face of your Jeep.

An insert can be considered an intermediate modification that can be something as simple as clip-on stylistic caps for the slat openings, or perforated sheet of aluminum behind the grill to protect the radiator from road or trail debris. The benefit of an insert is the simplicity of the install and probably the best bang-for-buck option when modifying your grille.

Wrangler Grilles Explained 

The front grille of a Jeep is generally constructed of a flexible ABS plastic with seven slat openings in the front that allow great air circulation to the Wrangler’s radiator. The construction is generally very lightweight and sturdy enough to absorb small road debris while traveling at highway speeds. In addition, the grille has openings for the headlights and sometimes turn signals. There’s a large variety of aftermarket grille options available for your Jeep, ranging in style and function. 

Grilles for the JK models can come in a simple flat black finish, similar to the ones used on factory special-edition models, to more complex and aggressively styled options that have an angular bevel over the headlights to mimic a mean stare. 

Grilles for YJ models retain a more traditional square look iconic to this model generation. Some aftermarket companies offer a more upscale chrome finish alternative to the plastic, which gives the Jeep a more distinct customized look at a very low price.

Grilles for TJ models start to bridge the gap between the traditional YJ grilles and more aggressive modern grilles found on JK models. These grilles for TJs also come in very traditional shapes, but can also come in slightly more aggressive shapes, similar to the ones for JK Wranglers. 


JK Aftermarket Grille

What is an Overlay? 

An overlay is a customization done over or to the actual factory grille. Overlays on JK models can be something as simple as a decal that goes over the grille. It can also involve a more complex modification that requires the cutting of the seven center slat openings in favor for a single large screened opening. Both modifications offer a unique and immediately noticeable custom look. The large single opening, however, sets a more aggressive look for your Jeep that can provide an increase in protection from road/trail debris getting past the factory slotted openings and damaging the radiator. This is often critical on the trail where a tree branch can work past the slat openings and puncture a hole in the radiator or bend the radiator cooling fins. This large opening design can also come with screen printed designs for an additional layer of style. 

Overlays on YJ models have fewer options and tend to be more focused on a simplistic traditional look with options largely focused on just black or chrome. 

Overlays on TJ models offer a slight blend, but skew towards the more traditional look found on YJs and simple designs and color schemes, also limited to just black and chrome.


TJ Grille Overlay

 How Do Jeep Insert's Work?

Unlike a grille and an overlay that modify or change the grille itself, an Insert is designed to just be placed within the slat openings of a grille or as a protective sheet that goes behind the grille to help protect the radiator from any road or trail debris. The small addition can have a large impact on appearance and function. 

Inserts for JK models come in a large assortment of styles. Slat opening inserts can have a flat black finish for a simple low-key look, or a high –gloss chrome finish for an impactful eye-catching modification. In addition, inserts can consist of perforated aluminum sheets placed behind the grille. These sheets are sometimes screen-printed with designs that can be seen through the slot openings to offer a nice stylistic look, but more importantly a functional layer of protection. 

Inserts for YJ models are again more simplistic and come a fewer variety. Often simply in a black or chrome finish. They still retain the angular bend iconic for the YJ grille. 

Inserts for TJ models continue the trend to offer a transitional choice between YJs and JKs, by still offering the traditional color scheme choices of black or chrome, but also coming in several different styles, which can have an open design or a multiple vertical slatted approach that retains the large look of the TJ, but also offers great protection for the radiator against road or trail debris.


YJ Grille Insert

Conclusion

There is no doubt the Jeep’s grille is an iconic part of your Jeep. It’s the face of the Wrangler that sets the stylistic tone of your build, and also takes on most road or trail debris. As we’ve discussed, grille replacements can give you the opportunity to make an impactful change to the overall look of your Jeep. Overlays can take that modification even further, while also providing some functional protection to the radiator, by replacing the slot openings with a single sheet of perforated aluminum. Inserts can have the added benefit of protection, without the extreme modification of removing the slotted openings. Often times, inserts can be the easiest and least expensive modification to your Jeep’s grille while still providing great protection for radiator . Whichever choice you make, the aftermarket options for your grille are extensive, easy to install, and fairly inexpensive, making this a great modification for your Jeep.

Fitment includes: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, YJ, TJ, JK, JL, Laredo, Sport, Islander, S, Sahara, Renegade, SE, X, Rubicon, Unlimited, Sport-S