Protect Your Jeep’s Underbelly
Guarding Your Belly
Some of us are very proud of our bellies. We do all sorts of things to keep them flat and sleek. There are some vital organs in our bellies after all—oil pan, transmission fluid-pan, transfer case, gas tank, etc. What did you think we were talking about?
Most vehicles, even off-road–ready Jeeps, don’t come from the factory with adequate skidplates. That leaves it up to us when it comes to protecting the vital mechanical organs of our vehicles. Skidplates can add a bit of weight, but we find it to be an acceptable trade-off to be able to enjoy our weekend of wheeling with less of worry of serious damage.
With the large number of aftermarket parts available today, there is something to fit nearly every vehicle and budget. For our ’11 Jeep JK Wrangler, we chose to go with skidplates from Mountain Off-Road Enterprises (M.O.R.E.). They offer good protection, easy installation, and an easy-to-digest price tag.
The traditional engine oil pan and transmission skidplates are combined into single unit that also protects the exhaust crossover, while the transfercase plate is a separate piece. Both are fabricated from 3/16-inch steel plate and come powdercoated black. At a combined weight of 65 pounds (50 pounds for the engine/transmission skidplate and 15 pounds for the transfer case skidplate), they aren’t the lightest accessories we can put on our vehicles, but they are arguably one of the most important.
These are heavy-duty skidplates; they are nicely powdercoated; and all of the hardware we needed was included. The lower-left bolt hole on the transfer case skidplate is an optional one. It can be used to help eliminate any vibration you feel when driving your Jeep after installation.
The factory oil-pan guard leaves a lot to be desired. We removed it and installed the Mountain Off-Road Enterprises skidplate. This was probably the hardest part of the install as the oil-pan guard is glued on. A screwdriver had to be inserted through the corner holes, allowing us to slowly work it loose from the oil pan.
There are two holes that need to be drilled in the transmission crossmember. Center-punching and then drilling a pilot hole, before stepping up to the ½-inch drill bit, got the job done. Putting the frontend of the Jeep up on ramps and having a short step drill bit would have made this part of the install easier.
You’ll want to make sure you don’t lose this spacer when you put on the transfer case skidplate. Mountain Off-Road Enterprises’ skidplate uses the same passenger-side hole as the factory skidplate. The spacer allows the bolt to be tightened down without warping either plate. The factory bolt is reused here.
During our installation, we learned that the skidplates should be bolted loosely in place first and then all the hardware tightened down once the skidplates have been properly fit into place. With the skidplates installed, we feel a lot better taking our JK off-road. While we haven’t really beat on them yet, we’ve dragged them over a couple of rocks and over a tree trunk with no problems at all.