How to Protect The Underside of Your Jeep
Jeep is more than an automobile choice. Shoppers make a lifestyle choice in buying a Jeep that offers an amazing experience both on-road and off-road.
Jeep drivers are known to exhibit enormous pride wherever they go. They are always willing to take on new challenges to prove to the masses that they are at the wheel of a spectacular ride.
The Jeep comes in a wide variety of styles and choices, from the Jeep Grand Cherokee to the unassuming Jeep Wrangler. This is exactly what Jeep is famous for. There is a model for everyone whether shoppers are looking for something to drive their families around or are just getting their license.
With a Jeep in your garage, there is always enough fun to go around, regardless of the model you choose. You’ll have to try hard not to be the next big thing with the amazing road trips and incredible off-roading.
However, it’s vital to put in added protections if you want to ensure your Jeep’s longevity. Most Jeeps feature only factory components and basic gear for protection on the parts underneath.
This can prove to be insufficient sometimes and may result in complete carnage. Also, there are always some parts forgotten that need a bit of extra help.
This article will cover areas in your Jeep’s underside that can be labeled potentially weak.
Driveline and Engine
Typically, the driveline is the lowest point in a Jeep and tends to take the most abuse. You need to protect the driveline and engine if you want your Jeep to make it back after an off-roading escapade. Protecting this vulnerable part will give you the opportunity to spend on new parts or modifications, and not replacements.
Most stock differential covers are built out of thin stamped steel. The front axle tends to act as a bumper to gullies, rocks, and other trail hazards being one of the lowest points on a Jeep.
Your Jeep could experience potential gear damage if the differential cover is shoved back into the ring gear because of a strong impact. It could also result in an oil leak that leaves your entire gear assembly at risk.
There are several manufacturers that make stronger differential covers and guards. You should turn the ignition (pun intended) for the guard since it is easily replaceable. Differential guards also act as skids to aid a differential in overcoming an obstacle.
Engine and Bellhousing
An oil pan is the lowest point on a Jeep’s engine and rupturing this would put fast brakes on your day out. An engine cannot survive for more than a few minutes when oil starved. It’s essential to protect the oil pan and there are many manufacturers who make skid plates just for that.
The plates help beef up the underside of the engine area in your Jeep and act as insurance in the event anything goes wrong.
Bellhousing is a vulnerable part in vehicles with manual transmission. This is almost never protected by the transmission skid plate and is left exposed to the various dangers. Mostly aluminum is used to construct bell housing, which can easily break upon contact with an obstacle.
There are certain manufacturers that make after-market bell housings with thick steel. While these may work for your CJ’s, it may not be available for TJ and YJ Jeeps. These aftermarket housings may even come with bolt patterns that would make swapping engines so much easier.
SkidRow skid plates is a salient choice for engine/transmission skid protecting all components, right from the oil pan to the transmission skid.
You can save your bellhousing by fabricating a skid plate as well. In this, the skids are attached to an existing transmission skid, which is then fixed to the bottom of the engine. The skid is attached in a manner that can be easily removed when needed.
Usually, skid plates are used to protect Jeep transmissions. However, the factory skid plate can be insufficient for anything over a mild trail for your Jeep. You need something beefier if your Jeep tends to see a lot of large rocks.
Many Jeep owners replace their stock skid plate with an aftermarket skid that is heavier and features thicker steel and mounting areas. You could also opt for a “belly-up” skid plate that allows the transfer case and transmission to be raised to increase the under clearance and raise the break-over angle.
Enhancement or fabrication of the original skid plate is required by some transmission conversions.
Transfer case, like the transmission, comes covered by the transaction skid plate from the factory. If not, you may find it impossible to get a pre-made skid. Fabrication is the only option left in these cases. Many Jeep owners protect the threaded drain plug and keep all the oil in by welding a thick piece of steel to their Jeep’s transfer case oil pan.
One of the most vulnerable parts of the driveline is the Jeep’s driveshaft. Driveshafts turn and are typically not able to support the Jeep’s weight. They can quickly look like a very bad day on the lathe when they jam up while turning or when against an obstacle.
Six States and Tom Woods make some heavy duty drive shafts which can be custom ordered in varying lengths and thicknesses.
High pinion differentials and ground clearance are the only real options for protecting your Jeeps drive shafts. The safest bet is to keep them out of danger whenever possible.
Steering, Suspension, and Exhaust
Some components, like the steering, suspension, and exhaust are on the under of your Jeep and can be overlooked when it comes to vulnerability. These key components need to be protected.
Leaf Springs are very capable of handling themselves when it comes to trail obstacles, like rocks. Many experts argue that leaf springs in Jeeps are well-protected because the spring acts as a skid in itself.
Steering Components – Tie Rods and Ball Joints
Jeep vehicle tie rods are located low and right out in the front of the axle, waiting for something on the trail to bend it out of shape. You can pick any of these three options to help reduce damage risk to your steering gear.
- Raise them
You can flip your Jeep’s tie rods to the steering knuckles’ tops. This is a terrific option to reduce the risk of steering carnage.
- Get Heavier Tie Rods
You could install heavier tie rods along with flipping them to avoid the Jeep’s wheels from influencing the trail alignment. Heavier tie rods usually come with thicker walls and larger diameter tubing with heavier ends.
- High steering knuckles
You can gain several inches of clearance by relocating the replacement knuckles and the entire steering assembly to the top of the ball joint. These kits are usually in need of substantial spring/lift.
These units are next in line to a Jeep’s front bumper and are located higher than most of the suspension.
Steering box can be easily damaged by a well-placed nose dive. Lack of shackles and leaf springs leaves the TJ more susceptible to damage since there is nothing to take the brunt of an obstacle. There are several manufacturers that produce steering box skid plates for YJ, CJ, and TJ.
The trusty U-bolt is a popular name among all Jeep owners. They can take a pounding and will not break, no matter, the twisting or the bending on some rock on the trail. It’s still a salient idea to install a set of U-bolt skid plates to protect them.
There are many variations made by several companies, but most of them require cutting the U-bolt where it meets the nut and to install the guard there.
The Rock Equipment offers one of the better options where a normal U-bolt plate is used with heavy tabs welded to them. A solid bottom skid is installed which is bolted on the side, providing a smooth surface for objects to slide over.
Rock Equipment is also known to make a U-bolt flip kit that changes the threaded section and places them on the axle. This method is known to increase ground clearance by a half inch.
This is yet another Jeep component that is threatened by the dangers of a trail. Shocks are known to hold up well to light abuse. There won’t be a problem with a dent or two on the Jeep’s shocks. True damage occurs when rock and other trail debris get stuck in the suspension or are wedged between the axle/frame and the shock.
This is one of the weakest spots on the Jeep’s underside. Pipes, converters, and mufflers are usually made of very thin metal and are known to bend, dent, and crease easily. The only way you can save the exhaust is by ground clearance. Make sure you keep it as high as possible.
Flowmaster mufflers are one of the better options available and tend to take a pounding much better than others. Fenderwell headers and mufflers go well with V8’s, CJ’s, and V6’s. Although, it doesn’t mix well with Jeeps taken on heavy-duty trails.
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