Lighter Armor = Smarter
If you’ve read our other stories in this issue’s “Less Weight = More Power” special section, you probably already realize that we’re fans of aluminum armor. It’s surprisingly tough stuff and it’ll never rust if you scuff it against rocks or other trail debris. If properly engineered and constructed it can take a big-time hit without twisting or deforming, and when properly installed, it can protect your Jeep almost as well as its steel counterpart at roughly half the weight.
However, aluminum armor and bumpers for Jeeps haven’t been fully embraced by the off-road community. Part of the reason is cost. Aluminum armor and bumpers normally cost a bit more than the same part made out of steel—but not as much as you’d think. For example, GenRight Off Road sells its TJ Corner Guard set in steel for $349.99 as of press time. The exact same product in aluminum sells for $499.99. And remember, you are getting something for your extra money: huge weight savings and corrosion resistance. Another part of that is perceived weakness. Sure, it’s true that aluminum isn’t as hard as steel, so if ground into and over rocks it will gouge more easily. It’s also a bit “stickier,” in that rock will tend to grab and claw at it. According to the Material Property Data website (matweb.com), standard 1018 hot-rolled mild steel has a Rockwell B harness rating of 91, 4130 chromoly steel comes in at 92, and 6061 T6 aluminum at 60. It’s comparatively soft, but it certainly won’t just fold up and turn itself into a crushed beer can at the first little impact. And if you’re not building a gonzo-insane crawler that will spend every moment grinding the rockers and corner armor into rocks, aluminum armor will serve you well for the life of your vehicle. Heck, even if you are building a gonzo off-roader, you can strategically mix aluminum armor in less vulnerable places like corner guards, bumpers, and front tube fenders. After all, you’re building a Jeep—not an armored car.
To get an idea of how much weight you can shed by using aluminum in place of steel, we called up GenRight Off Road for some approximate weights of the company’s products in both steel and aluminum. GenRight has been fabricating high-quality aluminum fuel tanks for Wranglers for years, and the company’s fabricators are well versed in bending and welding aluminum. It’s little wonder to us that the company is at the forefront of weight-saving aluminum armor for Wranglers and CJs. As you can see, there is significant weight savings to be had without leaving your Jeep vulnerable.
Aluminum vs. Steel
|4-inch flare front fender (TJ, YJ, CJ)||44 lbs (22 lbs each)||18.5 lbs (9.25 lbs each)||25.5 lbs|
|Corner Guards (TJ, YJ, CJ)||62 lbs (31lbs each)||23 lbs (11.5 lbs each)||39 lbs|
|JK front bumper with stinger||68 lbs||28.5 lbs||39.5 lbs|
|JK rear bumper||54 lbs||19 lbs||35 lbs|