After armor plating our JK’s underbelly from stem to stern, we felt like we were prepared for whatever Mother Nature could throw at us on the trail. However, a recent trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California brought to light a few vulnerable areas that we clearly overlooked, like the factory differential covers and protecting the rear driveshaft’s factory CV joint or aftermarket U-joint.
Over time, the lower lips on the front and rear factory differential covers can take a beating. Dragging your pumpkins over granite eventually deforms the hardened housing, which, in turn, creates small openings in the RTV seal that allows the gear oil to escape. We noticed a spot on the driveway that led us to find a leaking differential. Fortunately, we caught the leak in time, ensuring we didn’t lose enough gear oil to cook the ring-and-pinion.
Recently, American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) designed a unique differential cover for the front and rear Dana 44 axles that are found on the ’07-present Jeep JK Wranglers. These new covers offer a JK-specific front and rear fluid level check points and an oversized fluid fill opening. To combat the granite rubs and scrapes, the bottom-half edge of the cover is beefed up with recessed hardware.
Next, we bolted up AEV’s JK rear differential skid plate. This product is a no-brainer. If you’ve ever high centered your rear axle on a rock or downed tree, you know that one wrong move might mean your U-joint is “snap-city.” With the diff skid plate, there’s nothing to get hung up on and your U-joint remains protected by a 1⁄4 inch of steel.
Installation was a snap and took only about two hours for the diff covers and less than ten minutes to bolt up the rear differential skid plate. These products are all proudly made in the USA. Here’s how it worked out.