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Advanced Frame Works Custom Skid Plate

by: Ron Hollatz - 5/2000

too many rocks
The result of too many rocks hitting a stock Wrangler skid plate
custom skid plater
Advanced Frame Works custom skid plate
Skid plate installed
Crossmember installed without lower skid plate

For most off-roading the YJ factory skid plate works pretty well. When you start playing in the big rocks though, the rocks usually win. After running the trails during last years Dakota Territory Challenge in South Dakota I was in need of a replacement.

There are a couple of different approaches to building skid plates for Jeeps. The first is to use a flat piece of steel across the frame rails moving the transmission and transfer case higher into the body. This method gives you added ground clearance and allows you to use heavier steel than the stock plate, but if the plate gets damaged, all the fabrication must be repeated. Some consideration also has to be given to the height of the transmission and transfer case combination. Most stock setups can easily be moved up, but that may not be the case with a custom combination. Another drawback is the skid plate sometimes needs to be removed to get at the drivetrain.

The other approach is to build a strong tubular crossmember with a separate skid plate. These can be built for any drivetrain combination and the skid plate can be removed while the drivetrain is still supported. I was planning a transmission swap from my AX-15 manual to a 700-R4 automatic so the ability to tweak the drivetrain without having to drop the skid plate became very important. The only drawback I could come up with is that I wouldn't gain as much ground clearance. While the plate style skid plate can be fabricated by almost anyone, building a tubular crossmember requires special skills and equipment.

While in South Dakota I was lucky enough to meet the guys from Advanced Frame Works in Lewistown, MT. They specialize in building new CJ frames from box tubing and have recently expanded their product line to include custom skid plates for 1987 and up Wranglers. They use 1 1/2"; and 2" round DOM tubing for the crossmember with a removable 1/4" steel skid plate protecting the drivetrain. After seeing the quality of their products I decided to have them build a skid plate for Project Money Pit.

Built just the way you want it

This whole project would have probably gone much smoother if I had swapped the transmission first, and then had the skid plate built. I didn't have that luxury since I really wanted to have this done in time to attend the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, UT. I decided I wanted to move the drivetrain up into the body 1" and so I had Advanced Frame Works set it up for my current mounting location. Unfortunately I didn't measure that well and had to have some plates welded on to accommodate the Advanced Adapters transmission mount I was using for the swap. Advanced Frame Works was more than willing to make the necessary changes, but I was short on time so I had my local shop take care of it.

The finished product looks great! The crossmember convienently mounts in the factory holes so no modifications had to be made to my frame. The ground clearance gain was minimal, but the skid plate is so well built it should be able to handle anything I can hit it with. I no longer have any concerns about damaging my drivetrain if I should accidently bump into something on the trail.

Contacts: Related Links:
  • Advanced Frame Works
    223 Stratosphere Dr.
    Lewistown, MT 59457 USA
    Phone 406-538-4996