Tomken Gas Tank Skid Plate Maintenance

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If you have not removed your Tomken Gas Tank skid plate lately, I suggest you do so.  If you go wheeling where there is mud, dirt, rock or other debris, you can be pretty sure you will find plenty of stuff trapped that needs to be removed. The factory skid plate has bands that support the gas tank. I imagine that if they remain wet long enough, they would corrode and fail. Dirt traps moisture and will accelerate the rusting. Some kinds of dirt and mud are quite corrosive so this can present an additional risk.   This whole activity, including the addition of new drain holes took about 1 hour from start to finish and should prolong the life of the skid plate, not to mention the improvement in looks and drainage function.

Disclosure (What led me to do this in the first place?)

On the 2002 Jeep Jamboree trail guide pre-run, I got caught off-guard for a moment and found myself sliding backwards off a wet clay hill. I didn't have time to get it into reverse and crawl, and the brake just didn't help. Ka-THUNK! D'Oh! My stock rear bumper did its job and sacrificed itself in the name of my frame and body (you've heard the term crumple zone?  It starts with the bumper...)   There was no damage other than the stand-off that holds the bumper onto the frame, and the bumper face was dented and slightly twisted. Oh, my on-board air quick release was jammed up against the spare tire so I couldn't use it at the end of the day.

My good friend Carl was kind enough to let me have his factory bumper in exchange for a tire he needed (we sort of traded a $20 back and forth). When I took the damaged bumper off, it involved removing the rear brackets of my Tomken Gas Tank Skid Plate.  So I thought this would be a good time to rinse out the inside and maybe do some touch up.

Maintenance Operation

Like many projects, it turned into more than I planned.  When I was rinsing the inside of the skid plate hanging down, the mud and little pebbles just kept coming. I was half expecting to see all of Virginia come out so I finally resigned myself to removing the skid plate to do it right. The fact that it wouldn't go back on unless I did pretty much cinched it...  I removed the skid plate by loosening the two bolts that doubled as bumper bolts.  The rear of the skid tips away from the tank.  I supported the skid with my floor jack and climbed under the Jeep (rear wheels on ramps).  I removed the two bolts that hold the front of the skid to the bracket bolted to the floor of the Jeep.  I did not remove the bracket from the Jeep.  (I would have if it appeared to need refinishing - it did not, and it's not necessary to remove them - just lever them away from the bolts).

Rubble removed from inside Skid Plate

some of the debris removedsome of the debris removed

I wasn't too surprised to find that the inside of the skid plate resembled a sand box. Even though I compulsively wash the Jeep after every outing, often before I even get home, this part is hard to rinse inside and hard to know if you got it all. In addition, the skid, as supplied from Tomken, only has two holes, making good cleaning pretty hard.  The picture below shows the skid plate removed after being in service for about one year (debris removed).

Skid Plate ready for cleaning and refinishing

Inside of Gas Tank Skid Plate

Once I got all the sand and pebbles rinsed out, I found that the powder coat had separated from pretty much the entire inside of the skid plate. I'm not too surprised because the plate sees a lot of action.

Cleaning Inside of Gas Tank Skid Plate

I used large and small steel brushes to grind off all the loose paint and rust. This went pretty fast since there really wasn't that much rust and it wasn't that deep.

Rust Removal

Once most of the rust was off, I used some naval jelly to neutralize the remaining rust. I applied it liberally then after letting it sit for a little while, rinsed it off with water and dried the skid plate.

Then I applied some bare metal conditioner, used to etch the finish and prepare it for primer. It also removes any oils that might be present. This removes any remaining moisture and prepares the metal for painting.  It is only sold in auto body paint supply shops and is quite poisonous.   But it works well for its intended purpose.  In the picture below you can see the evidence of a years worth of "wheeling" in the slightly less than flat bottom of the skid.

Inside Refinished

Repainted inside of factory Skid Plate

I had previously found that some spray-on truck bed liner that I got at Wal*Mart was pretty resistant to rough use and didn't flake off if the surface is properly prepared.   It also seems to be holding up pretty well in the spots where I used it to touch up the skid plate last month.  So once the skid plate was dry and free of all loose particles, I sprayed the inside with the truck bed liner paint. I applied two or three coats.

New Drain Holes Added

Added holes and Repainted inside of factory Skid Plate

Safety First!

Next I grabbed a 1/2-inch drill bit and made four new holes spaced around the edges of the skid plate.  I let the bit do the work and I finished without any trouble about 15 minutes after I started.  My helper (see inset above) wore hearing protection and safety glasses.  I left enough solid metal around each hole so that I don't lose strength. I painted the new holes to prevent rust, retrieved the metal filings with a powerful magnet, and flipped the skid plate over.

I have been maintaining the outside of the skid plate so there wasn't much to do. I cleaned it off and roughed up a couple spots that needed attention (the leading edge that faces the differential is hard to reach when the skid plate is installed but was in pretty good shape). Once the surfaces were prepped as for the inside, I sprayed the outside.

Factory Skid Plate Maintenance

Rinsing factory skid plate

While the paint was drying I turned my attention to the factory skid plate, still on the Jeep. I rinsed the whole thing and flushed out plenty more dirt and a few pebbles.  The photo above shows the water running almost clean.  It took several minutes of flushing to get the debris out.

 

Factory Skid Plate after 1 Year (Tomken Skid plate removed for maintenance)

Condition of Factory Skid PlateCondition of Factory Skid Plate

I roughed up some minor scratches that were on the trailing edge, prepped and painted them as I did the other plate.  I must comment at this point that, as you can see, the factory skid plate is virtually undamaged.   This is a 1999 Wrangler.  Newer Jeeps come with stronger factory skid plates.   Note that there are no dents on the underside, a few scratches on the rear edge, and two depressions on the right corner where the bolt heads of the Tomken Skid Plate nudged the factory skid plate.  I think these pictures speak volumes about how effective the Tomken Skid Plate has been on my vehicle.

Refinished and Installed

Refinished Gas Tank Skid Plate InstalledRefinished Gas Tank Skid Plate Installed
Refinished Gas Tank Skid Plate InstalledRefinished Gas Tank Skid Plate Installed

After the paint dried, I reinstalled the skid plate. I made sure to use some anti-seize compound on the bolt threads so that they'll be easy to remove in the future. I followed the instructions supplied with the skid plate from the factory (get the skid plate hanging loosely from all the bolts, align the skid plate, and tighten everything down.  Note how flat the bottom of the skid plate is, even after being bashed on the ground nearly ever other weekend for a whole year!

Tomken Gas Tank Skid Plate Refinished Gas Tank Skid Plate Installed
Before After

And the bumper looks pretty good too...

Refinished Gas Tank Skid Plate Installed

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