Part 5: Protection-Round One
When we first started working on Project 'Con Artist, the idea was to do a moderate buildup that would work well for the dual purpose role of the weekday commuter/weekend trail explorer that many of our readers use our rigs for. As we have gone further and further into the buildup, we found that our JK Unlimited with the Rubicon Express Long Arm kit and 35-inch tires is so much more capable than we had originally anticipated that we found ourselves fearlessly tackling more and more difficult trails and getting into more extreme situations. Knowing that we not only always plan on driving to the trail, and then to work on Monday, it had been increasingly obvious that we needed a little extra protection to keep the vitals in tact and functional.
One area of concern was our bashed-in factory fuel-tank skidplate that looked like it had given up doing its job, and the curious lack of skidplating for the manual transmission and oil pan. With a few calls to some great aftermarket companies, we were able to procure solutions to these issues.
American Expedition Vehicles JK Rear Corner Guards
AEV offers corner guards to protect the body of your new JK. They are made from 1/8-inch stamped steel and are available in paintable primer or in the multistage coating that we chose for our JK. The AEV corner guards are simple to install; the hardest part is being willing to drill holes in your new $30,000 Jeep.
7. With everything buttoned up, you can see how well the AEV Corner Guards fit the contours of the JK. Even the Mopar fuel-filler door is compatible with the guards and fits seamlessly.
Kilby JK Gas Tank Skid
The Kilby Enterprises Gas Tank Skid is a must have for hard-core trail work. As with all of Kilby's skidplates, the JK Gas Tank Skid is made with 3/16-inch steel and has been tested to hold the entire weight of the Jeep; something the stock fuel-tank skidplate can never boast. We now bash and slide along our fuel tank with reckless abandon.
Skid Row Engine/Transmission Skidplate
If you have a manual-transmission JK like we do, you have probably noticed the lack of an engine/transmission skidplate protecting your drivetrain. We imagine that the Jeep engineers figured you would have to try pretty hard to achieve hard trail contact with the smaller manual-transmission housing, but we have seen stranger things happen in the backcountry. Keeping our minds at ease are the folks over at Skid Row, who sent us their new JK Engine/Transmission Skidplate. These beefy plates are made with 3/16-inch steel that is laser-cut, CNC-folded, and reinforced with a second 3/16-inch steel layer below the exhaust system. The best part is that these units will take a serious beating and are completely bolt-on.
American Expedition Vehicle's Pintler Wheels And BFG Mud-Terrain KM2
The AEV Pintler wheel is made specifically for several Jeep models and has Jeep's odd 5-on-5 bolt pattern. While 17x8.5 inches with a JK-specific 10mm offset is the only size available for the current-generation Wrangler, the wheel is offered in both bead-locked and the non-bead-lock style you see here and requires no wheel spacers to run upsized rubber safely and without rubbing. We chose the Argent finish for our wheels, but silver is also offered. These wheels come with a lifetime structural warranty and a one-year finish warranty. Matched to the AEV Pintler wheels are the excellent BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 in a 35x12.5R17 size. These tough tires are the new standard in the mud-terrain category and are not only as capable as ever, but are one of the most civilized muds we have ever put on a daily driver. With low noise and excellent manners on the street, they are a surprising revelation considering how aggressive the tread appears.
Mopar Taillamp Guards
These simple screw-on taillamp guards are available through Mopar or your Jeep dealer and add a bit of the rugged look and some protection against brush and other lightweight trail protrusions. Plus, you can't beat the excellent fit and finish.