Jeep XJ

My Jeep
Gas Tank Skid

Adding a Gas Tank Skid

You know, this has got to be one of the most diappointing mods I've made to Stinky yet. I've always known that I need some armor underneath, but there are a number of different skids out there and so I held off for awhile. I recently found a great deal on a local skid and went to check it out. The guy who sold it had pulled it from a junkyard and wanted to use it on his '99 XJ but realized the older models had a metal gas tank so the factory skidplate won't work with the new ones.

Yes, this is a factory gas tank skid. It's not the beefiest one out there, but it's still a decent bit of protection and is certainly better than the plastic mat that Jeep uses. Yup, my tank came from the factory protected by a 1/4" thick rubbery plastic mat. Maybe that explains some of the dents...my 20 gallon tank only holds 15 gallons.

Some of the remains of the plastic matting

Before starting anything, I first sprayed the skid with several coats of industrial black paint. Yes, it's a skidplate and it's going to get scraped up, but it was fire engine red when I got it, and there's no way I was going to drive around with that!

I also had a hitch that (I assumed) needed to come out before anything else, so I broke out the 1/2 ratchet, breaker bar, 6" extension, universal joint, and 18mm socket. More about the assumption later... There were eight bolts holding the hitch in place, and I needed to unscrew the trailer connector to finish it off. Fortunately, there weas enough room to rest the hitch on the rear springs while I ran back into the garage for a 1/4" wrench to remove the trailer connector.

The old hitch
Once the hitch was down, I knew I had to remove that plastic matting since the sides of the skid wouldn't be able to fit over it. There are 5-6 metal clips that hold the matting to the seam of the tank; three in front and another three in back. Just use a screwdriver to pop them off and then the fun starts.

There are two metal straps that hold the actual tank in place. The factory gas tank skid does not require removal of those, which I suppose is one reason I was happy to find that. However, the straps do hold the matting in place, so I thought I could somehow cut long the mat near the straps and pull the pieces out from under the strap....I couldn't have been more wrong. The matting actaully cut pretty easily, but there was no way I was going to get it out from under the strap. This gave me a chance to finally put my 9/16" Craftsman ratcheting box wrench to the test since the j-bolts holding the strap easily had 3" of thread remaining. I loosened one side and removed the matting, then tightened and repeated for the remaining pieces.

Of course, since then I have been told that the matting will fit between the skid and the gas tank, but even had I known that when installing it I would have removed the matting. The potential for getting debris trapped in between the added layers was too great.

Driver's side j-bolt and strap on the gas tank

Once the matting was out of the way, I still had to wrestle the skid back into place. The lips on the upper edges of the skid prevent it from going straight up, and the full frontal profile of the skid kept it from sliding on from the rear and lifting up into place. This left me with a wrestling job; slide the skid up nearly onto the tank, and then drop the left side so I could pull the exhaust out of the way while squeezing the right side up past the exhaust hanger. There are two bolts that hold the hanger in place, so make sure the skid goes between the frame and the hanger.

The spring hanger, looking forward from the rear right side

Installation itself was pretty straightforward and simple. The big problem came when I tried to reinstall the hitch because I didn't read my FSM (Factory Service Manual)...Somehow I had gotten the idea that the skid came first, then the hitch. Of course, the hitch doesn't fit outside the skid, so tomorrow night I get to pull my freshly-installed skid and put the hitch back before re-installing the skid. There are times when it pays to read the directions first.


Edited to add: Okay, so it wasn;t very technically involved to add the hitch; I had to drop the skid, add the hitch and the two rearmost bolts on each side and then put the skid on. However, I'm still concerned about the size of the gap between the back of the skid and the hitch; there's quite a bit of exposed tank there. Yes, I know the tank has always been exposed like that but in the old days at least it looked like it was covered.

Left side of the tank showing the contours  Right side of the tank including the gap between the skid and the hitch
e-mail Jim
created: May 3, 2005

Updated May 7, 2005