We think that skidplating is mandatory for any vehicle that travels off-highway. Not just thin, stamped tin skidplating, but thick, strong plating that offers ample coverage of critical underbody components. Most every 4x4 comes standard with some degree of underbody protection, but we've found that in most cases there's always room for improvement. Take, for instance, our project Trailhugger Hummer H3 Alpha. From the factory it came with far-above-average underbody protection that included front bumper, engine, and transfer-case skidplating. It's actually pretty stout, but we wanted more. We chose to upgrade to the DeFelice Offroad Innovations (DOI) Up Armor Skidplate System. DOI owner Matt DeFelice says he created this system "for the person who wants to abuse their H3 off-road and then drive it to work the next day. The intent was to provide full coverage of critical components with maximum protection with a simple installation," he notes.
While we were under Trailhugger, we also installed another item we think every off-highway vehicle should have: a winch. We chose to install a Warn XD9000. With a 9,000-pound pull rating on the first layer, it's a good match for our 4,883-pound H3. The XD9000 features quick no-load line speeds, a reliable three-stage planetary geartrain, and a low current draw for long duty cycles. It also has a separate control pack, which is mandatory for the DOI H3 winch mount. Yep, that's right; DeFelice also has a winch mount for the H3 Alpha. This mount was designed to retain the H3's excellent approach angle as well as the factory appearance and dimensions. It installs directly to the framerails of the vehicle to provide a solid anchor point for the winch.
1. Here you can see all the parts prepped for installation on Trailhugger. The Warn XD9000
We chose to replace the XD9000s 100 feet of 5/16-inch-diameter wire rope with 80 feet of 3/8-inch synthetic Viking Trail Line from Viking Offroad. This rope is on the cutting edge of winch-rope technology and is rated at the average breaking strength of 19,600 pounds. It is made from genuine AmSteel Blue, which is made from Dyneema fiber. Why should you care? Well, because it's the strongest manmade fiber. Viking Trail Line also features a Samthane coating to resist abrasion; a Class 2 splice that includes a lock stitch to prevent accidental unraveling of the splice; and a 10-foot nylon line protector that can slide on the line where needed.
Our Trail Line came equipped with the Viking Offroad Safety Thimble instead of a hook and we chose to install the Viking Offroad 350 Series large-radius aluminum hawse fairlead. The folks over at Viking say that the Safety Thimble is the strongest and lightest thimble available. It is designed to be used with a bow shackle or "D" shackle for safe and secure rigging of the winch line to another vehicle or tree saver. It was developed to prevent the thimble (or a hand) from being pulled through the fairlead. The 350 Series fairlead offers a large surface area and a larger wear radius to reduce the pressure on synthetic winch line. It comes with Type II black anodizing and stainless steel bolts and nuts.
We traveled to DeFelice Offroad Innovations in Mooresville, Indiana, to install the components. Here are the highlights.
2. The first thing DeFelice did to prep the truck for the new winch and mount was to remov
3. With the lower grille removed, the factory steel bumper was unbolted from the lower gri
4. The Warn control pack was mounted to the hood latch support. This makes the pack easily
5. The lower grille assembly was then mounted to the new DeFelice winch mount.
6. Next, the upper grille, brushguard, and the lower grille assembly with the new DeFelice winch mount were installed on the truck. The final step was to make the connections to the winch and battery. Note: Due to a factory change in the H3 front skidplate, if the DOI winch mount is being installed on an '08-and-up H3 you cannot use the stock front skidplate. You'll either need to use the DOI Up Armor front skidplate or an '06 model year or older skidplate.
7. In preparation for the installation of the Up Armor skidplating, the factory engine and
8. After the new mounting holes were drilled, nutserts were installed to receive the Allen
9. Here you can see a portion of the rear-most skidplate after installation with a trio of
10. The front Up Armor skidplate was easy to install as it simply bolted to six existing h
Matt DeFelice has owned DOI since 2001 and before that he was a tool and die maker. You could say he has metal in his blood. He specializes in custom fabrication, from simple and complex components to complete buggies. His spacious shop sits in the woods in a rural area near his residence, and as a sign he's a true off-highway junkie, there are custom-built trails only a few yards away. His shop is festooned with a variety of machines of his craft, including an 8-foot press brake, a horizontal mill, a vertical mill, a lathe, a hydraulic tube bender, a plasma cutter, and a variety of welders. Everything he builds, like the products we installed, are built in-house. He also offers other custom products. Visit the DOI website for more info.
How Much Did It Cost?
Here's the approximate street price of the parts we installed at the time of this writing.
|* DOI H3 winch mount: ||$685.00 |
|* DOI front Up Armor skidplate: ||$385.00 |
|* DOI rear Up Armor skidplate: ||$560.00 |
|* Warn XD9000 winch: ||$850.00 |
|* Viking Offroad Trail Line with Safety Thimble: ||$254.92 |
|* Viking Offroad Hawse Fairlead: ||$155.00 |
One look at the underbody of our H3 Alpha is all it takes to appreciate the benefits (and beauty) of full underbody skidplating. We now have brawny protection from the front bumper all the way to the second crossmember past the transfer case. We like the fact that DeFelice designed the plates to be as smooth and strong as possible. Our rear skidplate was an early model and it doesn't have an access port for the oil filter, though DeFelice is adding that feature to new models. The front skidplate is removed to access the oil drain plug similar to the stock skidplate. We're digging the winch mount because everything is tucked tightly under the truck, thus it doesn't adversely affect the approach angle. Another thing we like is that the DOI system locates the Warn control box behind the grille. It's protected from damage and is easy to access to plug in the controller. The winch itself is an incredible unit and it's enhanced by the supple yet strong Viking winch rope. We ordered orange rope so we could easily see the rope on the drum through the fairlead even in low-light situations. We went with 80 feet of rope to make it more likely we'd have less layers on the drum while winching, which will allow the winch to produce maximum pulling power. The Viking fairlead is handsome yet rugged and the larger radius extends the life of the winch line due to reduced stress during angular pulls. As newbies to the Safety Thimble, it took us a while to get used to, but after adjusting our thought process we wonder how we ever got along with a hook.
It's no surprise that all of these items added weight to the rig. The frontend ride height dropped by 3/4 inch, so we cranked the torsion bars to return the truck to stock ride height. Now all is good, the truck tracks straight, and we didn't have to align it.
DeFelice Offroad Innovations