God forgives... Rocks don't!


No matter what we do to our vehicles, the upgrades don't last if they are not protected. Here are a few things I did to keep the vital spots safe from the rocks that like to 'reach out and touch' you. Here are some of the upgrades I went through. Some of these components have been upgraded (replaced) yet again as time passed.

Skid plates

Click for a larger view...Click for larger view...The full width t-case skid and the gas tank skid plates came from Tim Porter of Hard Core 4x4 fame. 

The full width t-case skid plate covers from frame rail to frame rail. It is such a 'custom' fit that it takes a floor jack to 'pop' it into place. when you drop the jack, it stays in place waiting for you to put the retaining bolts into place. I have no reservations about dropping onto a rock and spinning the rig to point in the right direction when this is in place. As a matter of fact, I won't go wheeling without a skid plate of some kind. Here is the installation article I did for IZook.

Click for larger view...Click for larger view...Click for larger view...*UPDATE*
Before I talk about the Gas Tank skid plate, I want to say that I have moved on to the Mighty Kong transfer case bucket to hold the transfer case in place. It will not allow enough room to mount the full width Porter skid plate, but does protect well in its own right. I added an e-brake from Spidertrax to the back of the transfer case, and because I needed protection for the rotor - I built a skid/cage addition to the back of the Kong.

Now back to the Gas tank skid plate. The gas tank skid plate is a direct (bolt-on) replacement for the stock unit. But it won't bend or dent as easily as the stock unit. This makes it much easier to drop off of a ledge with confidence that the tank isn't going to cave in on some rock.

Pumpkin Caps

I put these on during a 'Do It Yourself' buildup article I did for
These are the first generation of Higher Heights Off Road Pumpkin Caps. Very strong, but look at the angle of attack... During the second generation (improved design) the approach was taken from 90 degrees to 45 degrees for maximum downward deflection. I caved in my first front differential, so these provided much more protection. See the photos below.

Front Axle Gusset

Click for a larger view...On the left is a piece from Sky Manufacturing up in Washington State for part two of the same article. This does two things. First, it protects the axle from getting beaten to a pulp by the sharp rocks. And two, it strengthens the axle to provide protection against bending when coming down from an unexpected wheelie! (been there, done that) {grin} 

On the right you can see the newer brace and pumpkin hat design that was added when the first axle bent. This brace is beefier, using .25" wall rectangular tube. click on the top photo and you can see the thickness of the steel. It conforms to the axle tube very closely and leaves an opening for the u-bolt to pass through. It is also radiused where the tube meets the center housing. The welds aren't always exact on a sammy axle, so this jumps the problem without giving up very much in strength. The Pumpkin hat is also set at a 45 degree angle instead of straight on. 

Yes folks... That is 1/4" wall steel!

New design - click through

New design - click through

The rear axle has been given the same treatment, but with a pair of braces (one for each side of the diff). I have also incorporated the mounting brackets for the traction bar. This allows the whole axle to support the brackets and minimizes the stress that is transferred to the axle when the traction bar is doing its job.

Later, I dumped the stock rear axle housing in favor of a new Spidertrax Sidewinder axle housing. This incorporated a track/kick rear diff (5.12's) and some heavy duty armor. The tube walls are .25" thick and the pumpkin doesn't need a cap - it will shatter the rocks on its own. Check out the install (including the ARB) at iZook.

Rock Sliders
(rear bumper)

Click for a larger view...Click for a larger view...Coming off a rock ledge is bad enough, why risk it by taking the chance that your rear bumper could get hung up? These are made from 1/4" wall 1x2 tubing, welded with a gusset underneath. They haven't bent yet... but that's why I made them strong in the first place.

Rock Slider/Nerf Bars

Click for a larger view...Click for a larger view...More 1/4" wall construction... I know it's heavy, but replacing bent and gashed components really suck. I caved in a set of Smittybuilt 3" Tube Nerfs... They look nice, but they weren't made to be used as a pivot point on the rocks {grin}. These are made with 4x4x1/4" angle steel and 2x4x1/4" wall rectangular steel tube. While most folks that make their own using the angle steel find it enough to take care of the job, I needed to make sure other family members still had some kind of 'step' to use. I finished it off with a strip of 'grip' tape on the stepping surface.


The current sport cage is a combination of a Trail Tough back half and a Rock 4x Fabrication front half.

Any cage is there for one purpose, it is to try and keep you alive the next time you roll. Some last more than one roll, some barely last the first time. The last cage made it through two rolls before deforming enough to cause a problem fitting the doors back on. That is why the front got a new look from Rockrat at Rock4xfab.

More Bumpers

The front and rear bumpers have been replaced with Shrockworks components. The front is one of Jim Shrakes winch bumpers and the rear bumper includes a swing-away tire/highlift carrier. These bumpers make rocks cringe... and they look great too.