Today’s Project XK feature is all about vehicle protection: skidplates and such. As it currently stands, my Commander has Front Guards and Side Guards from 4xGuard and a “rear guard” built from spare parts.
First things first, let’s look at a stock XK front end:
Not much going on here. The XK’s face is just pretty plain when it comes down to it — and this is, actually, not as plain as they can come. The Commander pictured here is a Limited edition (like mine), which among other things means it has a little chrome fascia cover slung under the front end. See it down there beneath the bumper? That helps, but one can’t help but think that more could be done to spice things up.
One easy way to get a whole lot “goin’ on” up front would be to add the 4xGuard Matrix, about which I’ll write more in a later post, but for now I want to deal with putting a proper skidplate on the front end. After all, that wee chrome thing is made of plastic and isn’t about to stop a rock headed for the radiator.
Happily for me (for many reasons), my father is Russ Livingston, owner of 4xGuard, and he makes a number of excellent skidplates and accessories that he designed for his Jeep Grand Cherokee (WK). As soon as I bought my Jeep Commander, we knew we had to get together and find out how many of (and how well) his products fit on the XK. His FrontGuard HC was among our first targets.
Now, if you follow that link, you’ll notice that the skidplate pictured there is not identical to the one I have mounted on my vehicle below (picture post-lift):
It turns out that one can mount the Front Guard HC to a Commander — and, in fact, some of his customers have happily done just that (installation notes and pics here) — but you have to cut out significant sections of the stock fascia in order for it to fit. While this might be fine for many people, others are far from comfortable with hacking up body panels on their vehicles. We sought another option.
Our immediate solution was to use, on my vehicle, a prototype guard that never went into production (we call it Front Guard 1.5). Good for me, but not useful for anyone else. Not to worry, though: we also effectively redesigned the production Front Guard model (which would make it Front Guard 4, I think) and its bracketry in order to fit the XK with very minimal cutting. The results should be a win for everyone.
So that takes care of armor under the front. What about the side?
Well, 4xGuard has a solution there, too. Though designed for the Grand Cherokee, with no thoughts toward the Commander, their Side Guard actually mounts perfectly, exactly as it would have on the WK:
Very slick. Replacing the stock rockers with 4xG’s Side Guards has a number of quality results:
- Increased clearance. The rocker gain is well over an inch on the WK, and I think it’s even more significant on the XK, which is terrific for the breakover angle at the edge.
- Increased protection. The plastic rocker from the factory is, well, useless (sorry, Jeep). This metal rocker is tank-built tough. The difference is night and day.
- Increased comfort. Because of its design, the Side Guard is a fully functional step that (again) doesn’t detract from rock-crawling capability.
- Increased safety. Not only from a body-protection point of view, but because it has built-in jacking points (designed for a Hi-lift jack or its equivalent) this thing will be very useful in an off-road pinch.
The downsides of the Side Guard on the XK are simply summed up: the product was designed for the Grand Cherokee. As such, while it mounts without any problems whatsoever and its functionality is uneffected, at the front and rear there are “gaps” between the body and the rail where the differences in design between the two vehicles reveals itself: the XK’s body is apparently more rigidly straight, while the WK’s body bends outward more sharply at these points. These are merely aesthetic issues, and frankly no one but me has ever noticed them without me pointing them out, but they’re there:
Anyway, if you can afford the price — which is relatively inexpensive but still pricey, if you know what I mean — this is perhaps one of the most generally useful adds you can make to one of these vehicles. Heck, I use it every time I open the door.
The Rear Guard from 4xGuard, like those products already discussed, was designed for the Grand Cherokee (WK). Alas, unlike the others, it just doesn’t fit well on the Commander. It’s not that it won’t mount — it will — but it just doesn’t fit the contours of the vehicle:
As you can see, the Rear Guard mounts with no real issue; the problem is that the back of the Commander apparently tucks forward a bit more at the corners than the Grand Cherokee does, resulting in a skidplate that “hangs” out in space far more than it should. The whole thing just looks out of place to me.
I could tell from this experiment, though, that while the Rear Guard didn’t really work, the Commander’s rear end certainly would look better with a little bit of definition. So what to do?
Well, I reused spare parts. My Commander came with a small chrome fascia piece up front that I replaced with the Front Guard (see above). Since it wasn’t doing anything productive sitting on a shelf, that fascia got flipped around to the rear, where it mounted very nicely between the frame rails using 4xGuard’s brackets, a drill bit (needed to drill two holes in the fascia), and some spacers that I made out of PVC and painted black. The result is swell:
So that’s it! Next up, I think, will be the Matrix.