Advanced Frame Work's Bullet-Proof Skid Plate Gets Even Better
Article and Photos by: Ron Hollatz - 11/2001
Great Under-Body Protection With More Clearance
|Comparision between Advanced Frame Works and stock skid plate|
I have been very happy with the skid plate from Advanced Frame Works that I have been using on Project Money Pit for the past couple of years. It has protected my transmission and transfer case on the extreme trails that I prefer. When John Borg, a fellow member of the Off Camber Crawlers, asked me to recommend a skid plate for his '95 Wrangler, I suggested AFW without hesitation.
One of the questions, which always comes up when discussing skid plates, is why not use a flat plate to give maximum clearance. I'm not a big fan of this style of skid plate for several reasons. The first is the plate needs to be removed each time the transfer case or transmission needs to be serviced. I also don't feel the flat skid plates are as heavy-duty as other designs. Unless you add some other type of support, a flat sheet of metal will not hold up to the abuse put on them by today's extreme trails. The plate won't be flat for long as rocks push up on the plate. The AFW skid plate is constructed in two pieces. The first is the tubular cross member built from 2" round tubing. This structure holds the transmission and transfer case in position. The tubular design allows easy access for any maintenance that needs to be done to the transmission and transfer case. The second piece of the skid plate is a removable plate which mounts to the bottom of the cross member. This plate provides the same protection one would get from a flat skid plate. The two pieces combined make for bullet-proof protection for your transmission and transfer case.
When John contacted Jared from AFW about building him a skid plate, they also discussed the need for some extra clearance under John's YJ. There isn't a lot of extra room available over the stock skid plate, but Jared promised to do the best he could. John was installing a 1" body lift and 1" motor mount lift from Mountain Off-Road Enterprises. The extra room under the transmission tunnel should be enough to move the transmission and transfer case up. When the skid plate arrived, there were several improvements over the version I have been using. There is a noticeable decrease in the amount of drop from the frame rails. This new version is tucked up tighter to the frame rails. The tubing in the path of the front driveshaft was also changed. I've never had to worry about driveshaft clearance since I can clock my Atlas transfer case as needed. I've heard of others having problems with their front driveshaft hitting the front of their skid plate under extreme flex. Rigs that have this problem are usually running Revolver Shackles or other suspension modifications that greatly increase the amount of downward travel of the front suspension. The new design from AFW has the tubing moved back in the area around the front driveshaft. There should be more than enough room for even the most extreme suspension.
Once a good coat of paint was put on the skid plate, it was time for the install. The AFW unit is a direct replacement for the stock skid plate so no modifications need to be made to the vehicle. The transmission mount bolts and torque arm bolts can be removed from the stock skid plate. This is a good time to inspect the transmission mount and bushings for wear. It is pretty common for the torque arm to be too corroded to be reused. It is better to think ahead and have a replacement on hand than try to find one on a weekend. Next, the transmission needs to be supported so the stock skid plate can be removed. We used a floor jack with a block of wood to raise the transmission slightly. A floor jack was now slid under the transmission, and the floor jack was removed from under the transmission and moved under the skid plate. The 3 bolts on each side of the frame were removed next. These bolts are notoriously difficult to remove, so I recommend soaking them with penetrating spray for several days before hand. Once the bolts are removed, the floor jack can be lowered and the stock skid plate moved out of the way.
|Mountain Off-Roab 1" body lift||Mountain Off-Road 1" motor mount lift||AFW's new design provides more clearance for front driveshaft|
The AFW skid plate goes in as easy as the stock plate came out. The tubular cross member and skid plate should be separated to allow access to the transmission mount bolts and torque arm. Using the floor jack, move the cross member into position and install a couple of the bolts loosely. You will want to be able to move the cross member around to get the transmission mount bolts in position. Once the mount and torque arm are secure, go ahead and tighten up the cross member. On John's YJ, the combination of the motor mount lift and new skid plate caused the pre-drilled hole for the torque arm to be out of position. A new hole was drilled and everything was ready to go. The last step is to bolt the skid plate into position. AFW provides 4 button-head bolts to do this. The rounded heads of these bolts catch less on rocks then regular bolts. Once the plate is bolted in you are ready to go.
So how did the lower profile skid plate work? We measured the stock skid plate before removing it, and then the AFW skid plate once it was completely installed. The AFW plate gave John an extra 3/4" clearance over the stock skid plate. That doesn't sound like much, but remember you only gain 1/2" for every 1" of tire height. Another advantage is the transmission and transfer case were moved up another inch above the skid plate. This added clearance will come in handy on rocky trails. The rear driveshaft angle did get changed by moving up the transmission and transfer case. John installed a set of shims on the rear axle to correct it. Overall, John has been very pleased with the added clearance and protection of the skid plate from Advanced Frame Works.