4x4s are designed to take a beating; for this reason, most are still made from steel. Steel skid plates protect vulnerable parts like your engine and fuel tanks from rocks and other hazards.
The problem with steel is, if left unprotected, it rusts. When the bare metal is exposed to the elements, that gritty-red rot we call rust can take hold in any ding, scratch or gouge in the metal.
For most 4×4 owners, rust is unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it. In fact, preventing rust isn’t all that hard it’s just time-consuming and a little dirty.
On Rust Patrol
I spent the better part of my last Saturday doing some much needed preventative maintenance. The sun was shining; it was a beautiful spring day in Western Wisconsin, and Niecie and I were on rust patrol.
Well, I was on rust patrol and she was supervising from her fuzzy blue lawn chair. Never the less, I was happy to have the company.
Winter hadn’t been kind to the Jeep, it left its mark on the Jeep in the form thick of patches of rust
All the skid plates that protected my Jeep from catastrophic trail damage over the past year, hadn’t managed to protect me from a much more insidious hazard, Mother Nature.
Armed with a wire brush and a bucket full of a soapy water, I methodically cleared away the surface rust that was taking hold on my frame, suspension and skid plates. Next came a quick wipe down to remove any dirt or dust clinging to the frame.
To make things easier, we had the Jeep up on ramps, and we’d pulled the bumper off for easier access.
Covering it up
With the easy part out of the way, next came the hard part, covering up the rust. For this, I used a combination of Rustoleum Rust Reformer and Rustoleum Black Engine Enamel.
The rust reformer helps to convert the rust to a paintable surface. In that sense, it’s kind of like a primer for rust. The advantage here over a regular primer is you don’t have to perfectly sand the rusty bits, saving a bunch of time.
The engine enamel, on the other hand, acts as a protective coating. It’s designed to withstand massive temperature changes and take a beating.
But, before I started painting a few protective measures had to be taken to prevent overspray.
A cheap tarp cut into two pieces and taped down protected my painted fenders from getting damaged by overspray.
So, for almost two hours, I writhed around the underbelly of the Jeep, spraying the frame rails, skid plates, suspension components and axles.
Once the rust reformer dried for about an hour, on went the engine enamel, and back under the Jeep I went. While I don’t think you necessarily have to add another layer of paint the engine enamel is an extra layer of protection.
In hindsight, I probably should have been wearing eye protection and a dust mask. I was blowing black boogers for a few hours after we finished.advertisement
I learned a few valuable lessons during this project.
- Preparation: I should have spent more time taping off areas I didn’t want to spray. A little preparation beforehand might seem more painful than it’s worth, but it makes everything go smoother and look better in the end.
- Prewash: I wish I had gone over the undercarriage with a pressure washer the day before to make cleaning the frame a little easier.
- More paint: A can of primer and a can of paint isn’t enough to do the undercarriage of a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited right. If you’ve got a rig with fewer skid plates you might get away with it, but I recommend at least 2 cans of primer and paint.
- Clearance: When you spend that much time under your rig you can quickly spot where you are scraping on obstacles. My fuel tank skid (one of the lowest points on a Jeep) had a pretty serious dent in it.
If you enjoyed this post we know you’ll enjoy these.
- How I rebuilt my suspension on the cheap
- Have Jeep — Will Travel
- Everything we did to our Jeep in 2016
Please comment and share
So tell us in the comments section:
- How do you prevent your rig from rusting?
- What paint/primer combo do you like?
- Do you have any tips for undercoating your car or truck?
If you liked this story please consider sharing this post with your friends on Facebook Twitter or your local 4×4 club. It really helps us to write more posts like this.