Got Armor?

I recently returned from my annual trip to Moab. Each year I like to challenge my driving skills, and my Jeep build with tougher trails than I ran the year before. Mind you, I don’t always think this is a great idea…especially when we are attempting to negotiate some nasty stuff smack dab in the middle of nowhere. However, this has been the plan the past three years, work to keep getting better.

This year we started off with a trail named Steel Bender, so much for starting easy like we had planned. We then ran what is known as the Trivecta, Poison Spider, Golden Spike and Gold Bar Rim trails. These three trails are linked, and also provide access to class 8 trails like Where Eagles Dare and Rusty Nail, class 8-9. Steel Bender is a #6 class trail, while the Trivecta is #7 class.

On Steel Bender…

On Steel Bender…

Before this trip I finished up installing full armor. Last year while running Kane Creek, I bashed my factory gas tank skid pretty good a couple of times, and I knew I wanted to get Rubi fully armored before I returned to the trails.

I’m now running Rock Hard 4x4’s Aluminum skid system, with the addition of their double wall cross member. I knew these trails would be a good test…a test of my driving skills, my Jeep build and for sure my new armor was going to see some action.

Steel Bender being 17.6 mi long had varying degrees of obstacles, but I cleared everything on 37’s and 4” of lift. Running the Trivecta is a different story. The difference between a class 6 and class 7 turns out to be bigger than one would think. For my Build, 37’s and 4” of lift will get it done, but I was on the skids quite a few times. Here’s some pics to illustrate my point…

Sizing up “The Wall” on Steel Bender…

Sizing up “The Wall” on Steel Bender…

Heading over and down “The Fall'“…

Heading over and down “The Fall'“…

This was a section of Golden Spike, through a muddy creek and then these great tippy, slippery holes. Directly in front of me awaits a ~40” off camber ledge…

This was a section of Golden Spike, through a muddy creek and then these great tippy, slippery holes. Directly in front of me awaits a ~40” off camber ledge…

What’s the biggest difference between the 6 and 7 rated trails? Size of the obstacles mostly! Bigger ledges, bigger climbs, bigger boulders and bigger drops. The bigger size will pretty much guarantee you’ll be making contact.

Getting across Golden Crack on Gold Bar Rim in the rain…

Getting across Golden Crack on Gold Bar Rim in the rain…

And here’s some pics of the Rock Hard armor after beating on it for three days.

The rock domes doing their job protecting the bolts, and allowing me to glide off of obstacles…

The rock domes doing their job protecting the bolts, and allowing me to glide off of obstacles…

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On big obstacles, this is the most vulnerable point of contact on a JKU, midway through the gas tank area.

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The armor did it’s job, protecting the critical pieces on the Jeep we need to be intact to get through the trails. There were times when I had nearly the entire weight of the Jeep on these skids and the new cross member, and they were up to the task. The brackets are still straight, and while I’ve scraped the finish off in places, I’m not worried about corrosion because they are made of aluminum.

Now, let’s look at a few other critical areas on Rubi that provide protection. They are easy to spot once you crawl under her and do a visual inspection. Let’s start at the back of Rubi.

First up, these are the TeraFlex Falcon rear skids.

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As you can see, I was on these plenty hard on multiple occasions. They did their job, allowing me slide off of big rocks, keeping the Falcons protected. I cannot see any deformation on them at all. Nice work on the design and fabrication of these TeraFlex!

Next, my rear diff. I’m running a stock D44 rear axle.

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I’m running the TeraFlex diff covers front and rear. They are made of heavy duty, 3/8” thick ductile iron, just like they use on their axles. No peeling the lip of these covers open.

Continuing out back, these are the Mopar tow hooks that came on my Hard Rock. These provide an excellent landing point. Because they are bolted to the frame rails at three points, they are up to the task. I scrape the paint off of them, but I have not been able to bend them…

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And finally at the rear of Rubi is my SmittyBilt Beaver Tail. This mounts to my hitch receiver. I originally purchased this to be able to stand on it and reach the roof rack. I quickly learned it’s also an excellent glide plate for coming off of large steep obstacles. It has kept my rear bumper in tack.

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Now let’s move up front. This next pic is the shock skid on the front Tera44R axle. This was one of the deciding factors on why I chose to run the TeraFlex axle. The lower shock mount is fabbed from 1/4” boxed steel. This is an easy contact point, and it’s capable of taking a beating…

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While we’re talking about the front axle, here’s a shot of my front diff. You can see the contact from the rocks. Crushing the rocks leave a white powder at the point of contact.

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Once again, you can see the diff covers are up to the task of taking a beating and providing protection. I stopped by Dixie4WheelDrive’s new store/shop in Moab to get a quick check of Rubi before we headed home to Chicago. When Arthur put Rubi on the lift and took a look under her he said “you’re fully armored, you’re good!”.

It’s very reassuring to know my Jeep is well protected from trail damage. I always cringe when I hear and feel the big hits, thinking I’ve probably really bent or damaged something underneath( in my head I’m yelling nooo, my Jeep!). I’m pleasantly surprised when I get off the trails and take look and see all is well.

One last area to discuss that falls under trail protection are my wheels. I run a custom set of Method Fat Fives that I had OMF Performance convert to a simulated beadlock. These wheels come with OMF Rock Domes. The Rock Domes are there to keep the rock rash at bay. Running the class 7 trails had me in a lot more tight difficult places on the trail. Some times, you have to put a tire/wheel up against a boulder or wall face. The Rock Domes give me protection against scrubbing a wheel. You can see in the pic below where I’ve been on/against the rocks. The Rock Dome gets ground up pretty good. These are not that expensive, and I’ll order a few to replace the ones I really ground up.

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When I return home, I give the undercarriage a good cleaning and then paint the pieces that need painting to keep rust at bay. However, I did not re-paint the Rock Hard 4x4 skids. I occasionally hear “that Jeep is too pretty to wheel”. That’s when I’ll direct their attention to the underside of her. I worked hard getting those scars…I’ll wear those with pride {;>)


-Steven