2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon - Crumple Zones

    Better Protection for Your Jeep Wrangler JK

    Tyler AdamsPhotographer, Writer

    We knew from the very start that the factory skidplates on our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon were no match for some of the carnage that we were going to dish out at our JK. After only a few months of ownership, we installed Synergy Manufacturing’s complete heavy-duty skidplate system, which protects from the front of the engine’s oil pan all the way to the rear of the transfer case. The skids have slid across the gritty granite slabs of the Rubicon trail all the way to the red rocks of Moab, Utah. So far, this setup hasn’t let us down. We thought that we had all of the bases covered, until we ran the Dusy Ershim Trail in the fall of 2013.

    In a nutshell, the Dusy Ershim Trail is a test of driving skills and equipment. Located in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, the Dusy Ershim Trail is a scenic and high-altitude adventure (ranging from 8,000 to 9,500 feet). The 33-mile trail is lined with boulders from start to finish. After a total of three days of driving over endless boulder gardens and dogging hundreds of pine trees at an average of 2 mph, we were fortunate to make it out without suffering body damage or incurring any mechanical failures. The JK Unlimited’s wheelbase and overall length was its Achilles’ heel on this trail, always within inches of scraping rocks and trees around each and every corner. It was rewarding, but very exhausting!

    After returning home from our trip and assessing the damage, we were blown away at the amount of bending the factory fuel tank skidplate and the frame mounted lower control-arm mounts had taken. The thin-walled factory steel fuel tank skidplate was no match for the constant pummeling of granite rocks, which crumpled it from the weight of the JK. This is especially evident between each fuel tank skidplate crossmember. Finally, to our surprise, our local wheel alignment technician gave us the bad news that the front lower control arms were no longer located in the factory locations, so he couldn’t properly align our JK.

    Fortunately, the crew at Synergy Manufacturing offers a HD fuel tank skidplate replacement, which complements the company’s full JK skidplate system. This is something that we should have addressed in the beginning. And, perfect timing for us, Synergy’s front/rear frame side lower control arm gussets were ready for production. So we installed one of the first sets. Follow along, as we finish fortifying the underbelly of our project JK.

    Between the crossmembers of the factory fuel tank skidplate, you can see the sculpting that occurred on the Dusy Ershim Trail. When the entire weight of the Unlimited JK mashed the stock skidplate over and over, it didn’t have a chance.

    Before removing the fuel tank, run the fuel level low for ease of installation. Now the factory fuel tank easily fits in the Synergy Mfg. HD fuel tank skidplate. The Synergy fuel tank skid is manufactured from 3⁄16-inch Grade 50 A-572 steel plate, which reduces weight, but retains strength.

    This is definitely a two-man job, and a lift certainly helps with the install. But, it can also be installed in your driveway, with jackstands and a hydraulic jack. The Synergy HD fuel tank skidplate bolts right up to the existing factory location, with no modifications.

    The weld-on 3⁄16-inch steel three-piece gusset kit for the rear lower control arm is designed to strengthen the factory frame side control-arm mounts.

    Be sure to test-fit the pieces and mark the location where the gussets will be welded to the factory mount. Grind the factory lower control mount and frame, where the gusset will eventually be fully welded to the mount and frame.

    The upper control-arm gusset reinforces and ties in both the lower and upper control arm mounts and should butt up to the rear of the body mount.

    For the lower control-arm mounts, you’ll need to take some reference measurement. One should be from the front of transmission mount crossmember to the rear edge of control arm hole. Another one from the front lower control-arm mount at axle to front lower control-arm mounts on frame. Lastly, measure the inner edge of control-arm bracket on the passenger side to the inner edge of control-arm bracket on the driver side.

    Once you have removed the factory bracket, you can prep the area for welding.

    Use a clamp to hold the bracket into position and line up with the measurements taken earlier. Tack securely in several places. Reinstall the control arm and take some reference measurements to ensure accurate placement. Remove the control arm and fully weld it into position.