How to Add Quick & Easy Body Armor to a Jeep CJ-7

    Jeep CJ-7 Body Armor Installation

    Sheetmetal bumps and bruises are an off-road fact of life. Sooner or later you're going to drop off a ledge just right, rub up against that rock you didn't see, or hit that stump you were trying to avoid. Minor scratches and dented sheetmetal can be written off as character. Most of us don't mind the hard-earned bruises, but we'd just as soon keep them to a minimum and add as much protection as we can to keep the body of our 4x4s reasonably straight.

    Bumpers are usually the first things that come to mind when people start talking about body armor, but other parts of your vehicle are just as vulnerable to damage. The rear corners of vehicles seem to attract damaging obstacles with regularity, particularly the passenger rear corner. But it's the rocker panels that are really the most susceptible, and the longer the wheelbase, the more likely that damage will happen. Extra protection in these crucial areas can mean the difference between a 4x4 that looks good for a long time and one that shows the scars of use and abuse.

    Shortly after we acquired our new-to-us CJ-7 we were shoving it into places it really had no business being. We knew it wasn't going to be long before the nice straight sheetmetal wasn't so straight anymore. A few months after we purchased the Jeep we spent a weekend adding armor to the body in an effort to keep the rocks at bay. The rear corners and rockers required drilling a few holes in the body, but it was a small price to pay knowing we could attack more obstacles without fear of bending painted surfaces. Installation required some attentions to detail, but it's really not that difficult to add some easy body armor upgrades.

    We purchased the Warrior rear corners from an online retailer. They are available in several different varieties, including aluminum diamond plate, and we opted for the smooth steel corners that are powdercoated black because we're allergic to anything shiny. In addition to finish, the corners can be ordered with or without the taillight holes, gas filler neck hole, and so on. The corners are constructed of 1/8-inch-thick steel. This seems thin at first glance, but remember, these are designed to reinforce the corner and spread the force of any impacts across a larger area. They won't resist a major impact, but they're more than adequate for average trail bumps and scrapes.
    Of course, everything needs to be removed from the rear corners in order to install the corner armor. In our case, that included the taillights, license plate holder, spare tire carrier, soft-top snaps, and any emblems. The CJ-7 emblem came right off with a little heat from a heat gun to loosen the adhesive. Our current soft top is snapless, so it's a nice bonus that the corners cover up the old snap holes.
    On the passenger side, the filler neck needs to be temporarily removed, which involves disconnecting it from the hoses on the tank. If your filler neck hoses are anything like ours, they will likely disintegrate when they are disturbed. Do yourself a favor and order new filler neck hoses so you'll have them on hand during the corner installation.
    We test-fitted the rear corners and used some welding clamps to hold them in place. Even though we didn't have to, we removed the rear fender flares to make fine-tuning the placement of the rear corners easier. You want to make sure that the top edge follows the body line as that's the most visible portion of the corner. Overall we were impressed with how the corners fit, especially considering the 35-year-old sheetmetal and the worn-out dies that stamped them out in 1984.
    As well as they fit, we still had to make some adjustments and small compromises to get the best overall body alignment, We prioritized lining up the top edge and the side edge closest to the tailgate, as these would be the most visible. The taillight holes on both sides lined up perfectly. There were no holes for the spare tire carrier, so we marked those from the inside as well as the corner mounting holes with a silver sharpie.
    The corners included black rivets to attach them to the sheetmetal. That is probably adequate for a street Jeep, but we intend to actually use these corners and wanted something a little stronger. We opted to pick up some No. 10 stainless steel button-head screws and nyloc nuts to secure the corners to the body instead. This is not only stronger, but it also makes the corners easily removable if we ever get around to painting the Jeep something other than turd-brown.
    We purposely drilled the spare tire carrier mounting holes a little big so that the built-in adjustment could be retained. Another unexpected benefit of the rear corners is that they help reinforce the tire carrier attachment points on the body, which are known to crack when you put larger tires on the carrier.
    The procedure for the passenger side was largely the same as the driver, just with extra holes for the tire carrier mounts. You can see how well both the taillight and gas filler neck holes lined up with the body, making it very easy to bolt everything back together.
    Not many people are making new products for old Jeeps these days, but Rusty's Off-Road recently released its own version of rock sliders for the CJ-7. These beefy sliders are constructed of 3/16-inch steel throughout and are designed to bolt to the body. They also incorporate a step constructed of 1.50x0.120-wall DOM tubing and 1/8-inch dimple-dyed plate. Not just a handy step, this addition also helps keep rocks and trees away from the side and the windshield frame.
    We used a floor jack to hold the rock sliders in place and line them up with the body. The sliders will work with factory or aftermarket flares, and they wrap around underneath the pinch weld of the rocker to offer additional protection. Like the corners, these are intended to spread any impacts across a broad section of sheetmetal, therefore resisting body damage.
    We used the sliders as a template to mark and drill the mounting holes. We installed them using the supplied 1/4-inch stainless hardware. Though we would have like to have seen bigger hardware, there were several places where 5/16- or 3/8-inch hardware would not have grabbed a sufficient amount of sheetmetal. We have since "tested" the strength of the sliders several times, including putting the full weight of the Jeep on one of them. They performed perfectly. We appreciate the fit and finish, such as where the slider aligns perfectly with the body line present in the front fenders.
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