Transfer Case Skid Plate Swap

Early damage

4/20/03

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I finally reached the point where my factory skid plate was so bashed that it was no longer protecting my muffler, was tilting the transfer case slightly to one side, and had all kinds of dings in it. Time to swap it out.  The picture above shows the skid plate with the first dent I got, but since then it had received several more.

I have an AA SYE and a body lift kit on my shelf. But I still need to get the CV shaft, MM lift, adjustable upper control arms and track bar, shock relocation brackets, transfer case shift bracket relocator and (gasp) belly-up skid plate. So I have a few more parts to collect before I can go all the way...

In the meantime, a good friend was putting on a long arm kit and had a pretty virgin factory skid plate. He was good enough to give it to me. I took it home, gave the two little dents a good whack with a BFH. I had to work out a 6 inch dent in the leading edge where it forms a lip. It had almost folded over on itself and was very hard to bend back out. But I got it. Then I cleaned it up, painted it with truck bed liner paint and left it to dry for a day.

I figured this would be an easy swap and I was basically right.

Engine Oil Pan Skid Plate from passenger side

I removed my Skid Row engine skid plate (still straight as when I got it.) This meant taking out the two bolts that hold it to the transfer case skid, the bolt on the right lower control arm, and the one bolt from the bracket that goes to the motor mount. Dead Easy.

Then I put two 6 ton jacks under the bell housing and transmission so it would be supported, and so it would not move. The Jeep was sitting on level ground.

Next I slid my 2-ton floor jack under the middle of the transfer case skid plate after removing the four nuts holding the tranny/transfer case mount to the skid plate.

The three bolts on each side came loose with a long handled ratchet (19mm socket). I was careful not to crank them off all the way in case the engine and tranny were not properly supported. Little by little I eased them out equally until the skid plate was hanging free of the frame, supported by the floor jack.

Then I lowered the floor jack and slid the plate out. As expected, it was badly whacked on the trailing edge, just in front of where the muffler sits, right over the catalytic convertor. It did it's job, but now it was time to set it aside.  The muffler was very vulnerable and the cat was pretty much pressed between the floor and the skid plate.

The frame was nice and straight and all the components covered by the skid plate were in great shape. I wire brushed the frame where the plate had been attached, to remove some light surface rust, cleaned it off with some naval jelly, then primed and painted the frame to help prevent rust.  While it dried, we cleaned up the engine skid plate and painted it, then set it aside to dry while we worked.

I put the replacement transfer case skid on the floor jack and positioned it under the Jeep. My five-year old son slowly jacked up the plate on the floor jack while I guided it to line up the four bolts from the tranny/transfer case mount and frame. He had strict instructions to:

  • stop immediately when I said so
  • "stand away from the Jeep" (not on stands, so nothing to fall except the plate and maybe the engine/tranny/transfer case)
  •  if things went bad, dial 911, for the meat wagon

With the plate lined up (surprised it was so easy), I put the four nuts back on the tranny/transfer case mount, the three bolts on each side into the frame with never-seize, and then bolted it up. Then I put the engine skid back on.

I was pleased to find that all the holes lined up, everything fit, and the job was done a lot faster than I expected.

I'm half tempted to straighten out the one I took off and make a couple modifications:

  • add a removable piece that covers the gap in the middle where the transfer case bolts on - to smooth the bottom of the skid and maybe give it some added strength.
  • weld in some bar stock around the edge filling in the lip, to give that some added strength.

Of course, for that, I can have a flat skid fabbed up and be done with it, so of course, it is unlikely that I will bother modifying the stock plate.

Anyway, for anyone afraid to remove the transfer case skid plate, as long as you have the right tools, it's a piece of cake. A willing five-year old is a plus!

  • 9/16 sockets and open end (Skid Row Engine Skid Plate bolts)
  • 22mm and 7/8 sockets (lower control arm bolts)
  • 19mm socket (transfer case skid bolts)
  • 13mm socket (transfer case bolts)
  • jack stands (2 - to support engine and transfer case)
  • floor jack (to support skid plate when removing and replacing)
   

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