Armor and Protection

The question of whether to add or upgrade the armor on our Jeeps is an interesting one. In my case, I own a Hard Rock, which means I already have the best of the factory skids. From the factory it came with a nice front/bumper skid, designed and built by AEV, a transfer case skid, evap. skid and factory gas tank skid. I'm set right? Well...that depends on how I will use my Rubi. Running fire roads or class 1-3 trails, I'd be fine. However, I was building to tackle class 5-7 trails at least.

At some point, I knew I wanted better protection on Rubi. If you have read my build ethos, you know I'm all about trying to build and keep the weight in check. As you go through my armor upgrades, I'll do this in a chronological order, as I piecemealed these upgrades. First up, replacing my transfer case skid.

 

rock hard 4x4 T-Case skid

 

This was my first skid plate upgrade. I thought the T-Case might be vulnerable to landing on while wheeling, since it's close to the middle of the vehicle. I chose to go with Rock Hard 4x4 after reading plenty of stellar reviews on-line. I knew I wanted to run aluminum skids to keep the weight in check, and Rock Hard offered those. Here's a look...

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Below is a comparison with my factory T-Case skid. You can see how much more coverage the Rock Hard skid provides...

The rear cross brace(tube) is steel, the rest is 1/4" thick aluminum...

The rear cross brace(tube) is steel, the rest is 1/4" thick aluminum...

The Rock Hard aluminum skids are fabricated out of 1/4" aluminum plate, and finished with a thick textured black powder coat. I was curious what the weight gain would look like from this mod, so I weighed both pieces. The factory skid weighs 14.3 lbs, while the Rock Hard weighs 17.4 lbs. That means I only added 3 lbs for nearly twice the added protection...not bad! Time to get this installed on Rubi!

This is my stock T-Case skid. Note the coverage.

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And this is the Rock Hard T-Case skid installed. Compare the coverage.

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The R.H. skid bolts directly to the factory cross member, using the 4 factory bolts, and then adds two additional bolts. 

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specs

- 1/4" Thick Aluminum

- 100% Bolt on Install

- Interlocking or Stand Alone

- Black Powder Coat Finish

- 100% Made in USA

- Lifetime Warranty


Next up was the installation of the new evap. canister skid. This piece is also fabbed out of 1/4" aluminum plate. Here's a look...

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The workmanship on these is beautiful!

The workmanship on these is beautiful!

specs

- 1/4" Thick Aluminum

- 100% Bolt On Install

- Interlocking or Stand Alone

- Black Powder Coat Finish

- 100 % Made in USA

- Lifetime Warranty

- Weight: 4 lbs.

 

Here is a shot of the stock evap. skid...

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This next pic shows my stock evap. skid removed. You can see where I cut through the end to get it off and past the hoses. It's thin enough to be cut with a good pair of snips...

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Here's the new Rock Hard evap. skid installed.

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I like the Rock Hard evap. skid design, leaving the sides and ends open so as not to trap heat. It is also shaped like a skid to allow you to glide off obstacles. The Rock Hard skids look like they are substantial enough to carry the weight of the Jeep on. We shall see as we try these out on the trails...


I ran the T-Case and Evap skids for a year or so and that what I had on Rubi during my second trip to Moab. On this second trip, we wheeled Top of the World, Kane Creek, and 7 Mile Rim trails. My strategy is to run more and more difficult trails each time we go out. This allows me to slowly hone my driving skills as well as test out my mods. 

Top of the World trail...

Top of the World trail...

Kane Creek trail...

Kane Creek trail...

"Waterfall", Kane Creek...

"Waterfall", Kane Creek...

Some parts of these trails had rock features 24-36" tall. I was finally running trails that had me making contact. These trails informed my decision to add more Rock Hard skids. Here's where I was dragging on the tougher trails...

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This is my factory gas tank skid. You can easily see where I've been dragging on it. The factory skids are pretty thin as evidenced by the evap. skid that I cut with my tin snips. Time for a gas tank skid.

 

Rock hard 4x4 gas tank skid

 

The Rock Hard gas tank skid bolts over the existing factory skid. Like the other pieces of this skid system, it's a 1/4" thick. Here's a look at that...

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This skid will cover the entire gas tank. As with the other pieces, it's made from 1/4" aluminum plate. While I was doing this, I decided to upgrade to the complete Rock Hard skid system. This includes their Double Wall Transmission Crossmember, and their Oil Pan/Transmission skid plate.

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Rock Hard did a great job packaging these. All pieces arrived in perfect shape. I've ordered parts from other manufacturers before and had it arrive with something sticking outside the box, all beat up. Rock Hard got it right!

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Here's a closer look at the individual pieces...

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You can see the build quality from these detail photos. The cross member is fabricated out of 3/16" steel. It looks stout enough to support the entire Jeep! 

Here's a shot of the two pieces side by side...  

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Lastly, here's the front oil pan skid. This piece features a laser cut oil access door.

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It's deceiving picking up the larger pieces...your mind tells you they should be a lot heavier when you handle them:>) One thing I was really curious about was what these parts weighed compared to stock. I weighed each piece as I was doing the install, here's how it shakes out.

On my Jeep I removed the following:

- Stock transmission Cross Brace - 18 lbs.

- Stock Oil Pan Brace - 10 lbs.

Total: 28 lbs.

 

New Hard Rock pieces:

- Double wall Trans. Cross Brace - 27 lbs.

- Oil Pan Transmission Skid - 33 lbs.

- Transfer Case Skid - 27 lbs.

- Gas Tank Skid - 29 lbs.

Total: 116 lbs.

 

Total additional weight of the Aluminum Skid System over my partial factory skids: 88 lbs. That was a pleasant surprise...88 lbs. and I'm fully armored!

Here is a few shots of the system installed on Rubi...

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It's not completely necessary to replace the cross member. All the skids in this system will bolt up using the stock unit. My thinking here was why not beef it up? It seems to me to be the back bone of the system, and I wanted strength there. If I land hard on a big rock, I want to know I'm good, just slide on off the obstacle.

I really like the details Rock Hard has designed into this system. Things like the Rock Dome bolt head protectors, designed to allow sliding over obstacles without damaging the bolt heads, laser cut openings, laser cut drain holes to prevent water build up and quality hardware through out.

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I'm really excited to finally have a full skid system on Rubi, and knowing I'm protected and can slide off of the big obstacles now. Time to get back on the trails and test the new skids out. Stay tuned!

 


The next armor I added was to protect my Falcon shocks. Wait what??? On the rear Falcon shocks, there is an area that is vulnerable to dragging in the rocks. 

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You can see in the above pic that the inside edge of the rear Falcon shock is exposed to possibly getting hung up on a rock. While the body of the shock is hard-anodized, I don't want to be beating on them. TeraFlex makes two types of skids for the rear Falcons, bolt on and weld on. I opted for the bolt skids. Let's take a look at those.

 

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As you can see, these are beautifully made pieces. They are constructed from 1/4" cold rolled steel and finished in a textured black powder coat.

 

Specs

- Constructed from 1/4" cold rolled steel

- Textured Black Powder Coat

- Eco-Guard mounting hardware passes 1,000-hour salt spray corrosion test

- Designed specifically for rear JK/JKU Series 3 Piggyback shocks

- 100% bolt on instillation with basic hand tools

- TeraFlex Lifetime Warranty

 

And here they are installed...

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You give up a little ground clearance to run these, but I feel that is well with it. They are shaped in a way that allows you to take the hit and glide over/off the obstacle. On my last Moab trip the skids saved me from beating up my shocks. 

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There are a couple of stretches on Kane Creek that feature some pretty good sized boulder sections. There's only one way through, and you will be dragging here and there as you work your way through. Here's shot of the Falcon skids after that trail...

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As you can see, I was on them pretty good. They did not bend, break or deform. I cleaned them up when I got home and gave them a new coat of black paint. You can't argue with the way they performed, they delivered as promised!

Up front, the lower shock mounts are protected by the built in skids on the new Tera44R axle. Those are 1/4" boxed steel that allows protection and a smooth glide surface. I always get under the Jeep after we come back from a wheeling trip. I had scraped paint off the bottom of the front axle skids, letting me know I had made contact on the rocks.

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