Do I need Skid Plates on my Jeep JK/JKU Wrangler?
If you are going to take your JK off-road, the short answer is YES! Every Jeep Wrangler JK needs additional skid plates if it is taken off-road. While the Jeep Wrangler JK is factory-equipped with a couple of skid plates, there are several important components that are not protected at all.
Below is a list of skid plates you should consider if you intend to use your JK off-road. ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
- Control Arm Skid Plates
- Differential Covers
- Evap Canister Skid Plate
- Exhaust System Skid Plates
- Front Skid Plate
- Gas Tank Skid Plate
- Oil Pan Skid Plate
- Sway Bar Disconnect Skid Plate
- Transfer Case Skid Plate
- Transmission Skid Plate
Control Arm Skid Plates ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
To repair this damaged control arm mount required cutting off the old mounting tabs and welding new ones in place. VERY expensive!
The mounts for the front lower control arms on your jeep are very low, are often hit while off-roading, and are made of surprisingly thin material. This makes it very easy for them to end up in need of repair. Control arm skid plates protect the mounts from damage while giving rocks and other trail debris a smoother spot to slide under rather than tearing up the mounts. There are two types: bolt-on skids and weld-on skids. Bolt-on skids are easy to install with basic hand tools and potentially could be transferred from one vehicle to another. Weld-on skids are an inexpensive option, but require both the equipment and the ability to weld in order to install them.
Differential Covers ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
The bottom edge of this factory differential cover has been peeled back and is leaking fluid.
Your differentials are among the lowest points on your Jeep which puts them in frequent contact with rocks and other trail obstacles. As much as you want to avoid hitting them while off-road, that isn’t always possible. The stock differential covers are made of fairly thin sheetmetal and can become dented. If the dent is deep enough for the cover to contact the ring gear, the gear will grind though the cover. More commonly, the bottom edge of the cover where it bolts to the axle housing will get peeled back when it is dragged over a rock. This usually breaks the seal that is supposed to keep the gear lube in the axle where it belongs. In either case the gear oil will leak out and mud, sand, and water can enter. Once this happens, the gears and bearings can be quickly destroyed. Aftermarket differential covers are made of much thicker material and are significantly stronger to prevent this type of damage. They may even have additional features such as extra oil capacity, cooling fins, drain plugs, or even sight tubes for checking the fluid level.
Evap Canister Skid Plate ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
This evap canister has been covered with an easily installed, bolt-on skid plate.
A spot that is left completely unprotected on 2007-2011 JK's is the evap canister. Later models have a light-duty skid plate made of thin steel from the factory. While a damaged evap canister won’t leave you stranded on the trail, it will set off the check engine light. It’s very easy to put a skid plate over it to keep it safe. The skid plate will save you the headache of the dreaded check engine light and the cost of a repair. Another option is to relocate the evap canister to a safer spot under the body. There are quite a few kits on the market that allow you to do this. Either way, the installation can be done yourself if you have some mechanical ability or any decent off-road shop can handle it for you.
Exhaust System Skid Plates ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..This is what the exhaust loop looks like from the factory with no protection at all.
The exhaust system of all JK’s is left completely unprotected from the factory. The cross-over pipe that is routed in front of the transmission crossmember, can be protected by the installation of an engine/transmission skid plate. However, the 2012-2018 JK also has a loop in the exhaust tubing that is located next to the front driveshaft and that loop is low hanging leaving it very exposed. If hit, it can be dented or even cracked which could cause a multitude of issues. An exhaust loop skid plate protects the tubing and prevents any damage. The muffler is also left unprotected at the rear of the Jeep and is easily hit any time you drop the rear of your Jeep off of an obstacle. There are aftermarket muffler skid plates available to protect this area of your JK. Alternatively, you could modify the exhaust system by removing the factory muffler and installing a smaller one in a different, more protected location.
Front Skid Plate ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..Our Skid Row Offroad front skid plate for the Jeep JK Wrangler fits between the factory bumper and the lower crash bar on the frame.[/caption]
The front "skid plate" that comes stock on a Jeep Wrangler JK is just a plastic cover that attaches to the underside of the bumper and helps with aerodynamics. It's supposed to help with fuel economy and prevents the hood from fluttering at highway speeds. It may protect against small rocks and debris that would be kicked up from the road, but that’s about all. Once off-road, it is easily torn off by virtually any trail obstacle. A front skid plate made of metal won’t get torn off when off-road. It fills a gap below the bumper and can prevent mud and muck from getting into the radiator. It can also help prevent the hood from moving due to the air pressure build-up in the engine compartment.
Our Skid Row Offroad gas tank skid plates for the JK cover the entire gas tank and are easily installed with simple hand tools and without needing to remove the tank.
Gas Tank Skid Plate ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
The factory gas tank skid plate is a very thin sheet metal cover over the actual plastic tank. It holds the gas tank in place and provides some protection against puncturing the tank, but does little to prevent it from getting crushed here and there. An aftermarket gas tank skid fits over the stock one and is made from much thicker material to provide significantly more protection from damage. This spot on the belly of your Jeep will see a lot of impacts since it's right in the middle, so it is worth that extra protection. Skid Row makes separate models for the 4 door JKU and the 2 door JK .
This Skid Row Offroad engine/transmission skid plate protects the oil pan, the transmission, and the exhaust crossover pipe.
Oil Pan Skid Plate ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
The engine's oil pan is another easily damaged component and needs to be protected. If dragged over a rock, the thin sheetmetal oil pan can be torn or punctured, which can result in a rapid loss of engine oil. Besides being a difficult and messy trail repair, the potential engine damage far outweighs the cost of a good quality skid plate. In addition, an oil spill on the trail or in a waterway isn’t good for our environment. As off-roaders, we do not want to cause any damage to the trails or local ecosystems. Skid plates that cover both the oil pan and the transmission are your best option as they create a smoother underside in addition to the protection they provide. Note that the 2007-2011 JK’s have a different motor than the 2012-2018 JK’s and need a different skid plate.
The disconnect motor sits just above the skid plate on the right side of the vehicle. It's just out of sight in this picture.
Sway Bar Disconnect Skid Plate ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
Rubicon model JK's come equipped with Jeep's Electronic Sway Bar Disconnect system. The sway bar disconnect motor sits behind the front plastic valance that comes stock. Since that piece won't really provide any protection when off-roading, a skid plate is a good idea. This motor is a very expensive part to replace once broken. The other problem is that you can't reconnect the front sway bar without it and that means a slow and potentially dangerous drive home. Protecting this area with a metal skid plate will give you peace of mind about this vulnerable part.
The transfer case is completely covered by this Skid Row Offroad skid plate and there is now a nice, smooth surface instead of ribs.
Transfer Case Skid Plate ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
Another critical part of your drivetrain that needs protection is the transfer case. Thankfully, the JK does come with a fairly substantial skid plate from the factory, but it's kinda small and it definitely isn't smooth. Even so, you can use the stock skid plate initially and then upgrade later, if desired. An aftermarket transfer case skid plate will not only give you more protection, but it will also create a smoother surface for rocks or trail debris to slide against.
Transmission Skid Plate ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
One of the most important spots to protect under your Jeep is its transmission, especially if it is an automatic transmission. The oil pan of an automatic transmission is thin, easily-damaged, sheetmetal. Once torn the subsequent loss of fluid will create a huge oily mess on the trail and will definitely leave you stranded. It doesn’t matter if the Jeep is on the trail or road, an immobile Jeep is never a good thing. The skid plate for the transmission is usually combined with the oil pan or engine skid plate and is different for the early model years and late-model years.
In Conclusion ... -.- .. -.. .-. --- .-- --- ..-. ..-. .-. --- .- -..
Aftermarket skid plates are a great way to smooth out the underside of your Jeep and gain piece of mind when off-road. You can buy skid plates individually from different companies to create your own skid plate system or you can buy skid plate packages that cover most areas. Either way, your Jeep gets the protection it needs when you go play off-road.