Crossmembers and Skid Plates

redracer

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In short, I have a 4 door rubicon with the 3.6 and 6 speed and I'm staying with 35's (Yes! I won't change my mind for a LONG time). I have done difficult trails all ready but want to expand to the Rubicon. I wheel cautiously and am very technical with my lines, but like everyone I occasionally get that horrific metal grinding sound. I'm looking for peace of mind for those moments.

So, I have been on the hunt for a simple and light skid plate for the engine, transmission, exhaust crossover, and optionally going back as far as the transfer case. It also needs to preserve my existing ground clearance. There are a lot of options, no doubt about it, and a lot of threads too.

But, Here is my rub.... I believe that the Jeep engineers put those crossmembers in place for a reason, so I don't want any skid that deletes the front crossmember. Also, in my opinion, a lot of the popular skids don't protect the exhaust crossover pipes well enough, leaving the pipes even more exposed than stock as the front crossmember offers it at least a little protection. I have also read a few reviews that talk about the JL frame twisting due to it's design, usually after some abuse and removal of the forward crossmember.

One interesting skid is the Quadratec modular aluminum system. But, I am worried that 1) there have been reports that it does not hold it's shape well, 2) the engine braces look to be a lot less reinforced than others, 3) it looks like it sacrifices a lot of ground clearance due to the design of their crossmember replacements.

The other system that I've found is the Rock Hard Aluminum Belly Pan. This one looks to cover everything and has a couple of solid steel crossmembers that look beefy. But, it's price is hard to justify in the budget and I worry about the total coverage of the belly trapping heat. I also wish that they had some better mounting hardware than just straight straps that bolt up to the bottom of the tub, and that it replaced the factory fuel tank skid instead of just stacking underneath it.

.... Anyways, i'm going too long. Am I overthinking this? I want engine protection but without compromise. I want ground clearance, but I also want frame strength. Are these things a pick one or the other situation? Am I missing something?





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Chocolate Thunder

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What you’re describing is not going to be a budget friendly part. Artec checks every box you noted but it is not cheap.
 

Kurt0

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What you’re describing is not going to be a budget friendly part. Artec checks every box you noted but it is not cheap.
i just looked at that...man that’s gucci.
 

Redbaron73

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I am currently running the EVO Protek skid system. I purchased this before my jeep arrived. A year and half later I am regretting that decision. I have ordered the Rockhard system, and the primary reason is the flex that I am seeing after removing the front brace.

I have done minimal wheeling, and only once with hard top. That one trip with the hard top was to Hidden Falls (for the texans here) and I noticed a lot of stress noise on the hardtop. Being used to fiberglass noise (i drive an RV), I recognized the stress right away and stopped hitting the angles that would cause it. I will not be wheeling again until the rockhard is installed.

For those that don't care, look for my future listing of a used EVO system.
 
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redracer

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What you’re describing is not going to be a budget friendly part. Artec checks every box you noted but it is not cheap.
Yes, Artec does seem to cover a lot of my concerns about clearance and weight. But, like all the other full belly skid systems, it looks like it removes the front crossmember and leaves the exhaust mostly unprotected.

I'm starting to think of going with the Rusty's skid system for the engine/transmission and transfer case. It does remove the front crossmember as well. But, with it being just steel, I could just modify the factory crossmember and weld them together to get what I want. This could be a fun custom project.
 

Chocolate Thunder

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Yes, Artec does seem to cover a lot of my concerns about clearance and weight. But, like all the other full belly skid systems, it looks like it removes the front crossmember and leaves the exhaust mostly unprotected.

I'm starting to think of going with the Rusty's skid system for the engine/transmission and transfer case. It does remove the front crossmember as well. But, with it being just steel, I could just modify the factory crossmember and weld them together to get what I want. This could be a fun custom project.
Artec replaces the front crossmember with a much stronger steel piece in the in place of the OEM stamped one. Gains clearance over OEM, particularly in the fuel tank area. Does still leave a lot of the exhaust exposed, but gives a lot of protection to the crossover where it’s most vulnerable. Leaves the loop, muffler, and exhaust pipe exposed. The pipe is mostly protected because it’s located up high.
 

Redbaron73

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Artec replaces the front crossmember with a much stronger steel piece in the in place of the OEM stamped one. Gains clearance over OEM, particularly in the fuel tank area. Does still leave a lot of the exhaust exposed, but gives a lot of protection to the crossover where it’s most vulnerable. Leaves the loop, muffler, and exhaust pipe exposed. The pipe is mostly protected because it’s located up high.
This sounds similar to the rockhard setup.
 

Chocolate Thunder

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This sounds similar to the rockhard setup.
It is similar. I was dead set that I was going with RockHard but I found a good deal on Artec that made the cost a non factor. I took a look and liked it. With a couple of small issues (resolved) that prevent it from being absolutely perfect, I’m very happy with it and don’t have regrets with choosing it over the RockHard that I lusted after.
 
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redracer

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Artec replaces the front crossmember with a much stronger steel piece in the in place of the OEM stamped one. Gains clearance over OEM, particularly in the fuel tank area. Does still leave a lot of the exhaust exposed, but gives a lot of protection to the crossover where it’s most vulnerable. Leaves the loop, muffler, and exhaust pipe exposed. The pipe is mostly protected because it’s located up high.
From the pictures of the artec plates, I don't see a forward cross member. This is the bar that would normally bolt right behind the lower track bars and crosses over the exhaust pipe where it's slightly flattened.

Screenshot_20210218-092647.png
 

Chocolate Thunder

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From the pictures of the artec plates, I don't see a forward cross member. This is the bar that would normally bolt right behind the lower track bars and crosses over the exhaust pipe where it's slightly flattened.

Screenshot_20210218-092647.png
You're correct about that. The actual structural crossmember is replaced with a heavier one. That piece you’re referencing isn’t really a structural crossmember, it’s a brace of sorts. If you want to retain it or replace it I’m sure you could fabricate one or alter whatever belly pan you choose. It’s pretty much light gauge sheet metal that seems to be there only for sone protection of the exhaust crossover. The belly skids do a much better job. I don’t think it does much of anything as far as stiffening the frame from flexing but I could be wrong about that.
 
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redracer

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IIRC: The manual transmission doesn't get the front crossmember. I'm not sure how important it really is.
I've read that before... But my manual transmission 18 jlur has it.
 

Reddoak

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I have the Quadratec Engine/tranny and transfer case aluminum skids on mine. 2019 JLUR stock, other than 35s. I have the 3.6 and 8 speed, and wheel it a few times a year, so pretty similar to your situation.

The skids hang lower than stock. It's hard to hang something from the bottom of your Jeep and NOT lose clearance. But these will cost a small amount of clearance. I'll take that loss and scrape vs. punching a hole in my oil pan if a loose rock flips up, or pretzeling the exhaust crossover on pretty much anything more than 1" thick branch. I'm at stock height... a simple 1" spacer lift would give you all that clearance back if it was that big a deal.

The steel crossmembers are stouter than the stock ones. The crossmembers weigh as much if not more than the plates themselves. The ends of the crossmembers have gotten bent from being knocked into rocks, but they are strong enough to easily hold the weight of the Jeep dropping onto them. Anything will bend if you hit it hard enough. I haven't.

The aluminum plates... the engine/tranny skid's been on over a year, and has been repeatedly abused. And it shows it. The plate is bowed up where the crossmember isn't under it. it's not a crazy amount, but you can tell it's bent. It's gouged and scratched, but otherwise has held up very well.

The transfer case skid is fairly recent, and has only been up for a few trips. I'd need to climb under there and check it out for recent dings and damages. but I expect about the same as the oil/tranny skid.

You know what hasn't shown any damage since I put it on? The exhaust that I already dinged once before it was on and the engine and transmission oil pans. The plates do their job just fine, and at a good price point, too. Fitment was a no problem when installing them originally, I needed to put a jack under the engine/oil pan to move it around when I installed the t-case skid a few weeks ago.

If you live on rocks and regularly drag your Jeep across them, I'd recommend Metal Cloak's skid system over this. It overs good coverage, fits great, and is a bit more durable than these aluminum skids are. But, you will pay more and it will weigh more. And, you'll need to maintain them to make sure they don't rust since they are steel. For occasional use and abuse, the Quadratec ones have worked out well for me.

Pics attached of the dinged up exhaust crossover that got me looking for skids in the first place. The engine skid when new... and used. And the damaged steel crossmember. Don't have any handy of the t-case skid.

exhaust crossover.jpg


Skid 3.jpg


Skid 2.jpg


Skid 1.jpg


Crossmemember side.jpg
 

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