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Jeep Wrangler Skid Plates Explained

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Skid plates are a necessity if you're looking to tackle hazardous trails. A puncture in your gas tank or oil pan will not only leave you stranded, but will leave you with a hefty repair bill. Keep your Wrangler and your wallet safe with a set of skid plates.

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Skid plates are designed to protect your investment: your Wrangler. Off-roading should be a time for adventure and exploration, so outfitting your Jeep with these parts will ensure a safe and successful journey. This tech guide will explain the benefits of skid plates, the level of protection they offer, and the type of terrain they should be used in.

Extreme Terrain

Why Do I Need Skid Plates?

Skid plates are a necessity for anyone who takes a Jeep off-road. Skid plates are heavy duty steel armor that typically bolt directly to the vehicle to protect important components from harm. From a budgetary and weight perspective, you might elect to start with a specific level of protection and build up as you need. Wranglers are made specifically for off-roading, but while off-roading you may encounter rocks, mud, downed trees, or other hazards that may damage your vehicle. In order to prevent injury to your fragile steering box, gas tank, oil pan, transmission, and transfer case you need skid plates.  A variety of different skid plates are available to protect your Jeep, so you can tackle whatever obstacles lie ahead with the peace of mind that you'll be able to drive home scratch free.

Did Skid Plates Come Factory on Wranglers?

If you have a JK Wrangler, your Jeep probably came with some skid plate protection from the factory. Highlighted below are some key skid plate/reinforced armor protection that comes standard on some Wranglers. They include:

  • Front Air Dam: This is a plastic shield attached to the bottom of the front bumper. Although it offers no protection from rocks, it helps with protection from sand, snow, and ice by deflecting lighter debris past major steering components
  • Differential Covers: These steel cast pumpkin shape covers protect the differential gears. They’re among the lowest contact points of Jeep
  • Oil Pan: The factory oil pan is stamped aluminum and very exposed. It can still hold up to sand, snow and some ice impacts, but can’t sustain a direct hit from a rock
  • Transfer Skid Plate: This important skid plate protects the Jeep’s transfer case. It ties into the cross member for added strength and protection
  • Gas Tank Skid Plate: The gas tank is encased by a skid plate. Although it’s equally as thin as the other skid plates, the structure and design can deflect and sustain significant impacts from rocks and tree stumps
  • EVAP Canister Skid Plate: The EVAP canister is encased in a thin aluminum cage. Unlike the gas tank skid plate, the EVAP is exposed with very little additional structural support. A significant impact from a rock can cause serious damage
Wrangler Rubicon Taking Up on a Rock Hill

Starting the Ascent: Front Air Dam Plates

These front skid plates are the first point of deflection and can help elevate your Jeep over obstacles. If you have Rubicon, these plates also offer protection to the electronic sway bay disconnection assembly.

Steering Box Skid Plates - Lane Changes Anyone?

The steering box skid plate protects your Wrangler’s steering box. The steering box allows the Jeep to turn and switch lanes easily by transmitting the steering shaft's movement. It's located in the front of the Wrangler, exposing it to the hazards of the trail. With a skid plate you can approach boulders and any other obstacles you may face while also keeping your Wrangler’s steering box alive so you remain mobile and safe.

Control Arms - One of the Lowest Points

Similar to the differential covers, the lower control arms are the lowest contact point for a Wrangler. Simple angled plates can be welded over the bracket to offer a good amount of protection from rocks and tree stumps.

Rugged Ridge Steering Box Skid Plate for Wrangler TJs

Gas Tank Skid Plates - Don't Let Your Wrangler Bleed

The gas tank skid plate is needed to protect your fuel, the life blood of your Jeep. While off-road, you may find yourself scaling rocks and other obstacles and bouncing off of a rock or tree. The gas tank skid plate exists to protect your fuel so you do not puncture, dent, or damage your tank. The gas tank skid is there to prevent fuel loss, giving you the ability to go anywhere without fear of being stranded. Gas tank plates are among the longest and heaviest plates.

Synergy Gas Tank Skid Plate for JK Wranglers

Oil Pan Skid Plate - Protecting the Core

The oil pan skid plate protects your Wrangler’s oil pan which, similar in importance to fuel, keeps your engine alive and allows it to work hard without seizing. The oil pan skid plate is critical because the oil pan is directly under your engine, and as a result it is exposed to hazards that may fly vertically towards the undercarriage of your vehicle. With the oil pan skid plate, you are able to protect your oil pan from trail damage such as punctures or dents. These plates vary in attachment methods, but generally they attach to the Jeep’s frame and cross member for an incredibly amount of structural support.

Synergy Oil Pan Skid Plate for JK Wranglers

Transmission/Transfer Case Skid Plates - The Biggest Plate

The transmission and the transfer case skid plate is probably the most important piece of armor on your vehicle. The transmission and transfer case are essential for keeping your Wrangler moving, and without your transmission or transfer case your Wrangler is completely incapacitated. Transmissions and transfer cases are fragile due to their many moving parts which are used for keeping your Wrangler in gear and in four-wheel drive. The transmission and transfer case skid plate protects the most delicate pieces of your vehicle, so your Wrangler can continue on the trail without hindrance to your adventure. Generally, these plates will tie into the cross member along with the oil pan and transmission aftermarket skid plate. The unification of these sections generate a solid structurally sound surface that can deflect and sustain direct impact from rocks.

M.O.R.E. Transmission Skid Plate for Wrangler JKs

Differential Covers - Keeping Your Gears Turning

Both the front and rear differential covers are among the lowest contact points on a Wrangler. These points are generally replaced by heavy iron aftermarket covers that can withstand a direct impact from a rock. The covers are also rounded to help the Jeep deflect and slide off the obstacle with no/minimal damage to the differential itself. 

Recommended Skid Plates for Your Wrangler

The factory skid plates are good for sandy/beach terrain where it’s unlikely your Jeep will come in contact with a hard obstacle that could bend or puncture the aluminum plates. If you plan on doing any rock crawling or mud bogging, you should consider the addition of an oil pan/transmission skid plate. The unexpected rocky and muddy terrain can introduce hard obstacles that can cause severe damage to your Jeep’s underside. Overly exposed areas like the oil pan are especially vulnerable to unexpected obstacles that can easily be hidden in mud/soil. It’s important to note a full replacement skid plate system can be expensive and very heavy, introducing a significant increase in weight which can have a sagging/negative affect on your suspension, lift height, and handling. If you only plan on doing occasional off-road trips, it’s advisable to purchase plates independently as your need for additional protection increases. 

  • Front Air Dam
  • Steering Box Skid Plate
  • Lower Control Arm Skid Plates
  • Gas Tank Skid Plate
  • Oil Pan Skid Plate
  • Transmission Skid Plate
  • Transfer Case Skid Plate
  • Differential Covers
Fitment includes: JL, JK, TJ, YJ, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Laredo, Sport, Islander, S, Sahara, Renegade, SE, X, Rubicon, Unlimited, Sport-S