It really is important to plan out your build. I know I’ve said it before, but it really is true. In all my excitement to pick out my new bumper (before the Jeep was even home yet!) I completely over looked an important/expensive motorized goodie that would be left exposed to rocks and road debris. The Rubicon’s electronic sway bar disconnect. On my TJ, disconnecting my sway bars meant getting out my mallet and pliers to beat on my “quick” disconnects from Teraflex so I had no idea there would be a motor under there that needed protecting. Since my bumper was already installed (this is where a plan helps!) I was severely limited by what would fit on my JK to protect the eDisco and play nice with my ARB front bumper. After a good bit of research, I narrowed the choices down to a Rugged Ridge Front Skid Plate or the OR-FAB Front Sway Bar Disconnect Skid Plate. Both were reasonably priced and would work with my bumper. Looking at the two, I ordered the larger of the two and a few days later my Rugged Ridge skid was at my house ready for install.
I read through the instructions ahead of time and it looked completely reasonable (only 4 OEM bolts holding on brackets and 4 bolts holding on the skid). So, I set off to work and was making smashing progress until I got to bloody step 6 (of 6). “Frame side supports may need to be cut flush” How did my eyes glaze over that little tid bit? Cut my frame?!?! The holy grail of warranty no-no’s? The panic set in. Surely a simple bolt on product wouldn’t want me to cut my frame. I don’t even have 1000 miles on the odo, how could I cut my frame?! I know, I’ll just try to muscle it on there, that’ll work right? Unsurprisingly, the steel skid plate did not, in fact, budge. Le Sigh. Well, here’s a pic of what the skid plate would have looked like had my JK been a little older or had I been willing to cut my frame.
I took a few breaths and glared at the evil part on my garage floor that was supposed to go on so easily. With (probably a bit too much) vigor, I boxed up the Rugged Ridge part and pulled out the internets and clicked to buy the OR-FAB piece. Congrat’s OR-FAB, you’ve just been promoted from runner up! Once the new part arrived, I looked at it and was taken aback by the sheer simplicity. A heavy duty piece with 2 bends in it and a couple of screw holes. Surely this won’t fit correctly? Well, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Quite possibly one of the easiest installs in the history of Jeep stuff (with the exception of adding valve stem caps perhaps?) Thread two bolts through OEM holes, tighten, & the end.
So far, I’ve been happy with the OR-FAB piece. It’s done what it was designed for without any mess or fuss. Now if I can just figure out a part that will connect the bottom of my bumper to the top of my skid plate to cover up that gaping hole that likes to act like a sail on the highway. The radiator gets enough air from the grills up top. I’ve been wondering if a small piece of curved aluminum in that spot might actually get me 0.5 mpg’s back in simple c/d reduction? Sounds like I need to get my hands on some soft sheet metal to play with and fab something up.