My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

My Girl: Gettin' After It!!
My truck on her maiden voyage in Moab 2012

Friday, December 26, 2014

Reworking the Skids

It finally happened. I had hoped to actually be in the shop over the course of the couple of days they were working on swapping out my differentials. Life got in the way. My wife's work schedule was not clear to me until maybe the week before I had initially scheduled and had planned to take off work. Then I had to reschedule the shop work, and by the time I got confirmation, it was too late to give my job notice. Plus a few key meetings shifted to that same week. So I don't have any photos of the differential work.

I think I wrote previously about the sad state of the undercarriage anchor points. I had wanted to order a new radiator skid and thereafter rework attachment points. With the holidays looming, and the reality that I really needed a full set and not just one, I decided to save my money and see if I could come up with something inventive in the near term to re-establish the locations where the weld nuts had failed and remount the skids. I believe I have succeeded.

It might have been Keith's rig up at Pine Barrens that had one which inspired me
 I had really hoped that ARB might make a rear differential cover for the C200K. We were up at Pine Barrens when I caught a glimpse of someone's aftermarket cover. I think it was Keith R. Anyway, I asked him over the radio and he advised it was Ballistic Fabrication that made them. I went to their site around the time I was poised to pull the trigger on the front and rear lockers. They were out of stock. I checked another smaller fabricator and they were not fabricating any at this time either. It turned out that carries a few Ballistic Fab covers in stock. I ordered it and started getting it prepped in advance of the differential work.

I forgot he had a nose and neglected to cut out that part of the tape masking.

 I brought Veronica in for an initial consultation. I had hoped to have dropped all of the skids by then, but things came up. Baby things. There was no getting around it at this point when I had to bring her by for the actual work. This is the rear differential skid I got from a year or so ago. I was too much of a punk at the time to consider taking off my differential cover; so, I opted for the skid.  It started off silver. Then I rattle-canned it (spray-painted) black once I noticed the finish was flaking and getting scrapped. Clearly it was doing its job and was skidding off of stuff.

I decided I would take the opportunity to clean this up and return it back into service also even though I was going with a heavier duty cover.
 One of the U-bolts got absolutely creamed and the nut was partially sheered off. The closest size I could obtain was 3" pipe U-bolts, but the spacing wasn't quite right. It took some manipulation in the vice to get it to work with the hardware.
 I had actually planned on discarding the two skids to the right. The silver one is the improvised truck body shelving that I used as a transmission pan skid. Beneath it is the Pro-4x engine skid which runs along the side of the front differential. I really wish it was extended to offer some protection to the front differential housing which hangs just a little bit below the frame right there in the same vicinity. I decided a few days ago I was going to keep them for a few months longer until I can get heavier duty skids to expand protection in those areas.I painted the rear differential skid to now match the rear differential cover.
 The red split loom is the air line going into the rear differential housing. The guys at Arlington Motorcar Service gave me a bunch of ARB stickers. I just decided to slap this one on the housing.
 These artifacts are the four bolts that were free-spinning due to the snapped weld nuts. I hit them rather decisively with the angle grinder to liberate them one and for all.
 I took a shot of the vulnerable underside sans skids. The little bit of blue hose is the air line to the front differential. I gave the tech extra split loom to run onto the tubing, but alas, it appears this is something I will have to do.
T-nuts. One original, one modified.
 I did some research on the various approaches to correcting sheered weld nuts. I tried finding nut-serts or rivet nuts at my local Home Depot and the Lowes. They are not carried here. I couldn't even find them online. I ran across a couple of posts that indicate that you can order them from McMaster-Carr, which I did verify. You also will need a tool. They sell kits of between 50-100 depending on preferred thread size, but, at most I would need maybe 10 (?)

Then there were other more invasive approaches of either cutting into the frame, rewelding the nuts and then welding the frame shut. There were approaches of fishing a bolt welded to a small plate and having the reverse mounting approach where a stud is always available below the frame and the nut is mated up. I wanted to avoid that though so as not to have to deal with sheered studs in the near future.

What I arrived at independently was to try to take these T-nuts, flatten out the head, and see about welding them to the frame. I thought, in the worst case, I might need to ream out the existing holes a bit to accommodate the body. As it turned out, the 1/4-20 size fit perfectly for the two engine skid locations without any drilling. The two other locations for the stock radiator skid were a little smaller of an opening. As I am not mounting a true radiator skid at this time, I just left those openings alone for the time being.
 Initially, I tried wedging them against the clamp body, but this proved to be too loose of a fitting. I ultimately put a jack stand beneath the bolt and then rotated the bolt until the bolt head pressed firmly against the top of the jack stand.

 I did note that Nissan did provide ample holes in the frame which could probably support the welded bolt-stud approach I described above. Anyway, I welded them into place and then ground down the welds. In the worst case scenario, I could just grind these away and then drill out the hole to rid myself of the T-nuts if this turned out to be a bust. For now, they appear to be holding firm.

I went ahead and bolted up the silver skid. There was nothing special about that operation; so, there are no photos. I just got replacement hardware and was sure to turn the bolts so that the threaded portions were up towards the underside of the body. For some reason, the first go 'round, I had the front anchor locations with the bolts facing down. The one on the driver side ultimately had to be cut off to liberate that skid plate.

So the front was a special story, for which I reached back into the photo archives.

 To get the stupid thing off, I ended up cutting with the angle grinder just below the anchor bolt holes (these are salvaged column leveling plates from a jobsite).
This was the aftermath of removing it the first go 'round. And I never wanted to again deal with the pain of accessing the two 6" bolts that help hold it to the rear cross member. Well, out of necessity, I did have to revert back to relying on this skid plate. To facilitate connecting and being able to more readily remove it in the future, I took another scrap piece of leveling plate and lined up the anchor bolt hole locations. I bolted it up at the top of the plate and then welded it to the remnant shown above.
The outcome is that I now have 4 bolted attachment points which I can unbolt in order to drop the full assembly in the future. That little two inch lip will probably need to be ground off at some point, but I can await the arrival of my new skid set (whenever I get the money and place the order) before I have to tackle that job.

So I'm about as armored up as I was before.

I can hit some trails now and test out the new prowess afforded the truck via the recently installed traction aids. And I am one more critical step closer to trying to tackle the Rubicon. When I get the heavy duty skids on, it'll be go time.