Installing a Rusty’s Off-road Oil pan/Transmission Skid Plate



            The automatic transmission skid plate on my 2004 Rubicon had been banged around on the rocks and did not quite fit anymore.  I had to pry on the plate to get it to bolt in place.  After installing a 1.75” coil spacer lift, the front driveshaft would rub on the skid plate while driving off road.  I wanted to replace the skid plate but had not seen any products I liked.  While reading one of the 4Wheel magazines, I saw a new skid plate from Rusty’s Off-road.

            I ordered the skid plate on-line and it arrived 5 days later.  Usually my UPS deliveryman leaves things on my front patio.  The box from Rusty’s was too heavy for him to lift over the fence and put on the patio.  He had to leave by the front door behind the bushes.  A good sign so far, a heavy solid part.  I opened the box and the skid plate comes in two parts: a mounting bracket and the skid plate itself. 




The mounting bracket is a beefy, solid steel bar bent a welded to go up around the driveshaft and across between the frame rails.  The skid plate is a heavy, smooth powder coated plate with an oval cut out for the oil pan drain plug and pre-drilled holes for all the bolts.  The skid plate bolts to the two factory holes in the transfer case skid plate and to the new mounting bracket in two places.  The mounting bracket mounts between the frame rails using the factory lower front control arm rear bolts




            The installation is very easy.  No drilling or fabrication is required.  The first step is to secure your jeep and block the wheels.  The jeep does not need to be raised and the tires do not need to be removed.  The whole installation can be accomplished from underneath the jeep on a crawler.  First step is to remove the factory automatic transmission skid plate.  Remove 4 bolts and the skid plate drops off.  From the pictures, you can see the difference between the two plates. 




The Rusty’s plate is longer and made of heavier material.  You can also see one of the problems with the factory skid plate; it acts as a “shovel” and accumulates dirt and debris.  In the close up you can see where the drive shaft rubbed on the skid plate




Next, the mounting bracket needs to be bolted to the rear bolts on the front lower control arms.  The bracket can be lifted over the drive shaft just behind the front differential and slid back towards its mounting location.  Starting with one side, loosen the control arm bolt and remove the nut, now push the bolt outboard until the hole in the bracket can be lined up and then push the bolt back inboard.  A 3-pound sledge can move the bolts in and out.  There is no need to remove the bolt completely.  Now loosely tighten the nut to hold the bracket in place.  Go to the other side and repeat for the other control arm bolt.  I found on the second bolt I had to move the bolt almost completely outboard before the hole in the bracket would line up.  Loosely tighten the second nut.



Now place the skid plate on a floor jack and slide it under the jeep from the front.  Slowly raise the plate into place and line up the boltholes with the front bracket.  The skid plate is notched to align with the bracket.  The rear of the skid plate lines up with the factory transfer case skid plate and has two boltholes.  Loosely install the rear bolts into the factory skid plate and the front bolts through the new mounting brackets.



 One modification I made to the front bolts was to shorten the front driver’s side bolt where it mounts through the bracket.  The driver’s side bolt pokes through the skid plate and through the bracket and comes out directly under the oil pan.  While the bracket is heavy duty and will probably never bend, if it did it would poke through the oil pan.  I cut approximately ¼ inch of the bolt so it will not protrude

After all the bolts are installed and everything looks lined up, tighten the front and rear mounting bolts to 30 ft/lbs.  Now tighten the lower control arm mounting bolts to 130 ft/lbs.  That is it you are done.

            The install went surprisingly easy; everything lined up and bolted together.  I spent maybe one hour on the whole install.  I am impressed so far.  I will let you know how it holds up after 2005 Chile Challenge.