Skid Plate Install

It took a month for the Rock Hard 4×4 full skid plate kit to be made, shipped and delivered. I ordered the kit on September 1st, and I made sure to include all three optional plates:

  • Control Arm Skid Plates
  • Front Axle Disconnect Skid Plate
  • Exhaust Muffler Skid Plate

The kit arrived on Friday, October 2nd, exactly a month after placing the order. All 320 pounds, on a pallet, 260 pounds unpacked. Luckily one of my off road club buddies Kevin offered to help install the kit. I just needed to schlep it all to his house, about 100 miles way in Carlisle, PA.

I unpacked the pallet and put all the boxes into the back of the Jeep. The largest box was the belly plate and it was heavy, so much so that I wasn’t able to get it into the Jeep myself. I ordered pizza and gave the delivery guy a hefty tip and he was happy to give me a hand. 🙂 I strapped the boxes down so they wouldn’t shift, and called it a day.

I left home at 9AM on Sunday. After breakfast and some coffee, I hit the road headed to Carlisle, PA. When I got into the Jeep I realized I did’t think to position the driver’s seat before strapping down the boxes. So I drove two hours with the steering wheel rubbing my belly, and the back of the seat nearly vertical. It turned out to be a comfortable ride, even if I looked silly.

When I got to Kevin’s house, we unpacked all the boxes, read the detailed instructions, and watched their install video starring the CEO of the company. The video seemed more like a marketing video, even I (a rookie) noticed he put a bolt and tapered washer in a spot that it couldn’t be tightened down into.

Oh well, it’s still one of the best designs on the market, highly recommended by most of the folks I met at Moab back in August. One of the biggest selling points is the two solid steel crossmembers. You read that right, those bad boys are heavy, and undoubtedly make the frame flex less. At first I wondered how that would affect articulation, but after reading up more about suspensions, I realized it’s exactly what good suspension kits need.

I should mention Kevin has a four arm lift in his garage. You read that right. 🙂 Once the Jeep was lifted, I elbowed my way in to get some before shots. I set the iPhone to wide angle, and set the timer to ten seconds, and took the first shot (center), then two more (each end). Then I tactfully got out of the way while Kevin and another buddy went to work

I learned a lot watching these guys work, and even more by listening to them discuss mechanical stuff like design, tools, torque, and so much more. I had a similar experience watching two of my other buddies install my front bumper and winch. Who would have thought so many wheelers know so much about how things are put together.

There were a few challenges that I thought would have us dead in the water. But they worked through it. The biggest issue is the kit lacked some of the required screws and tapered washers, but there were some minor design flaws that we believe were due to some minor Jeep design changes that are done every year. It’s tough to keep up with all those little improvements.

Another issue was the front left control arm bolt was seized. Since it couldn’t be removed, we couldn’t put that skid plate on. Trust me, when a 1/2″ impact wrench uses 1,200 pounds of torque and the bolt doesn’t budge, it’s time to have a shop handle removing it. It was already late so we decided I’d find a local (to me) shop that can handle that last skid plate. Guessing the might have to blow torch it off or something.

Of course after all the stuff was installed, I elbowed my way in again to take after photos.

On Monday I called a couple local shops, they all told me they can remove the seized bolt since they’ve got all the fancy tools you’d expect in big shops. They also all said they can install the final skid plate. I’m still recovering from watching Kevin and his buddy do all that work (it’s tiring I tell ya!), so I’ll try to go to one of the shops later in the week.

This was a major to-do on my Rubicon preparation list, so glad to finally get it all done. I love the Cumberland Crawlerz, learning so much, and meeting so many cool wheelers!

More to come…including some significant wiring work.