Rocks. It's a love-hate relationship. We love 'wheeling over them but hate the way they gash and grind the under belly of our 4x4s. They puncture our oil pans, rip off our steering boxes, shatter our stock plastic fuel tanks, and reap general havoc on our drivetrain components. And in the end, we love them so much that we go home, fix what they broke, and haul back out to give them another shot at doing more damage. It's masochism at its best, and certainly one of the most fun and dysfunctional relationships we've ever experienced.
Skid Row Automotive
After charging a few trails in our Project P.M.O. Jeep TJ, we began seeing the scars of our rock relationship and decided to do something about it. The transfer case and transmission were already safe from rock damage, thanks to the Rubicon Express heavy-duty, high-clearance crossmember, which also serves as the backbone for the RE Extreme Duty Long-Arm suspension system (see the June '02 issue of 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility). The engine oil pan, however, was still vulnerable. That is until we contacted Skid Row Automotive. Skid Row offers its 3/16-inch-thick steel engine skidplate for many Jeep applications, including the TJ. The engine skid is available for four- and six-cylinder engines and allows plenty of clearance for the driveshaft during full articulation of the front axle. Possibly its coolest feature is that the engine skidplate from Skid Row mounts solidly to the vehicle's frame without any modifications to stock components or even any drilling.
Another spot we seemed to continually slam into rocks during approaches was the factory steering box. The coil suspension on the TJ left it much more vulnerable than a leaf spring setup might. To eliminate damage to the steering box, including the possibility of having it ripped off the frame, Skid Row produces this steering box skidplate. Also constructed from 3/16-inch steel, the steering box skid is easily installed and requires just one hole to be drilled.
Four X Doctor
Further into our quest for a non-battered undercarriage, we realized that the factory tin shield protecting the stock plastic gas tank on our TJ was taking a pretty good beating. Hoping to alleviate any further damage, such as a shattered fuel tank that could strand us in the middle of nowhere, we picked up a gas tank skidplate from Four X Doctor (FXD). Laser cut from a single piece of 3/16-inch steel, all FXD gas tank skidplates are bent from front to back and then welded along the seams. Available for Jeep CJs, YJs, and TJs, in addition to Ford Broncos using a North West 20-gallon tank, the gas tank skidplates offer ground clearance gains over the factory set up. All of the skidplates are shipped bare metal and should be primered and painted before installation.