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Front Axle Skid Plate for the Ram
Protecting the differential cover from trail damage

I took these photos of Joe Donnelly's skidplate
at the Nov. 1997 TDR Rally in Mesquite NV.

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Subject: [RAM] front skidplate
Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 16:45:44 -0500 (EST)
To: ramtruck

The front cover over the diff gears is about 1/8" thick so is not as wimpy as some of the covers have been over the years. However, it won't be much good against a persistent (that is, big) rock hidden by a bush. This is what happened to me about 5 years ago. fortunately, thorough general paranoia, I had made a skid plate of 3/16 thick steel that bolted to the bottom 3 bolts of the cover. We.., going only a couple mph, it was mashed against the cover, but did not hurt the cover. This did, however, prompt me to design a heavier one. Here it is, kind of step by step, for a Dana 60 front axle:

Get some 1/4" thick steel plate and some strap about 1" wide, 1/4" thick. Also some angle about 3/16" thick and 1x1 or 1.25 x 1.25". it will help a lot if you have a spare Dana 60 pumpkin that is empty and relatively grease-free to use, instead of the one on the truck. I got one from the junkyard that was damaged, and cut off the axle tubes.

Cut the strap into 5 pieces each about 1.5-2" long. drill 3/8" holes near the end of each piece of strap, and bolt them down to the five bottom bolt holes in the Dana pumpkin (housing), so they stick outwards and the inside facing portion will fit with the cover installed (that is, they clear the bulge in the cover). At this point, you have a Dana 60 cover installed and the bottom 5 bolts have 1/4" thick metal tabs radiating outwards.

Now cut some cardboard and fit it so it will cover the bottom half of the Dana cover, give a bit of clearance to the cover, fit the contour fairly well, and just touch the steel tabs. Mark where the bolts are, so you can cut holes in the cardboard for access to the bolts. Use allen or torx head bolts so the holes don't need to be too big. I used grade 8+ Allens--they take a 5/16" key. I retapped the holes in the housing on the truck--sometimes one or two more threads is needed so you can use 1" long bolts.

Use the cardboard as a template to cut the 1/4" steel plate to the shape you need, and to drill holes about where you need them. Heat (acetylene torch) and bend the steel plate to fit. Grinding may be needed for a nice fit. Weld it to the tabs, and then cut off the excess from the tabs. Remove the assembly from the pumpkin. You may need to grind (carbide burr, in a die grinder) the holes so the bolts come through. Now you can weld the other side of the tabs to the plate, and weld in gussets between the tabs and the inside of the plate for more strength.

Make sure the tabs are absolutely flat--not tilted or different heights. They will be used to clamp the diff cover from now on, and you want a decent seal, as well as solid fitup. If the skid plate gets a "running start" at the diff when a rock hits it, there is more chance of damage. This may take patient filing and fitting. Debur also, so you won't chew yourself up handling it.

Now cut the angle so it fits the outside of the skidplate assembly along the top part. This is another trial and error process, depending on how complex a curve you have made with the skidplate. Weld the angle to the plate, to make a triangular cross-sectional gusset across the plate. Make a vertical gusset similarly going from the angle iron along the top, to the bottom of the plate. Weld completely.

When done, the skid plate weighs several pounds, and should be versy strong and a very nice fit to the diff cover, with enough clearance for cooling and to allow a bit of bending without crushing the cover.

It takes a while to make it, and a certain amount of experience in fabrication. I would hate to pay a general welding shop to make one, but it could save your diff some day. As I noted above, a less extensive version saved mine, and I was being pretty careful (I thought). The rock was a monster and hidden in a bush on the trail. I pushed the rock maybe a 1/4" at most judging by dirt movement. The truck stopped dead, and it was a 440 powered crew cab, and in creeper 4x4 low range, as I recall, just chugging along at a couple mph.

Best wishes for happy 4 wheeling.       Joe

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This page was edited on: May 3, 2004