If you are going to wheel your Wrangler, especially over any sort of rocky terrain like we find here in the central East Coast, one of the first things you will want to upgrade is your differential covers. The stock covers are incredibly thin and a small snag is all it takes to break the seal enough to cause a significant leak. Leaving your gears at high risk of running dry and sustaining costly damage.
First Aid for your Jeep
First I am going to talk about how to save your bacon if you do damage your factory covers. Very little equipment is needed to “control the bleeding” for most scenarios. Hopefully, you notice you tagged a diff, (most likely the rear), or your buddy behind you sees the fluid trail early. Early intervention is always best! Most of the time, you can stop or drastically reduce the rate of fluid loss by just grabbing the most versatile tool of all…..yes, your hammer. Hammer the lip of the diff cover to compress the gasket behind it against the diff housing. If you are unsure about your remaining fluid level, get the Jeep as level as you can and grab a 3/8” ratchet to SLOWLY back out the diff fill plug. If fluid starts to seep out, awesome, stop what you are doing and tighten the plug back up. If you get the plug out with out any spill, add some gear oil to top it off; tighten up your plug and ride out to the trail head.
Depending on your comfort level, you may want to add some gasket maker, razor blades, and cleaner to your diff first aid kit. I have only had to do it once, but a full field replacement of the cover and fluid can be done with minimal tools. Side note: gear oil is expensive, make sure the person you are helping is willing to compensate you for at least your materials!
Since I don’t believe in off-roading abstinence, I invest in protection. There are so many great products to pick from, each ranging in cost, but I decided to go with the AEV Diff Covers. I have nothing but great things to say about these. Beyond being a super attractive addition to your axle housing, these are packed with features:
- The extra material thickness along the lower lip of the cover is substantial and makes the risk of bending away from the diff housing very unlikely.
- The bolt holes are recessed so you won’t have to worry about damaging the fastener heads.
- There are clearly marked plugs for the front and rear differential, making fluid level checks really easy.
- The cover surface area helps keep fluid cool and the finish coating is unbelievably durable.
- The oversized fill cap makes filling your diffs a snap AND the opening is large enough to get a look at your gears without removing the cover. Oh, an its o-ring sealed and has the normal 3/8” square making it easy to open and tighten down with a ratchet.
AEV also produces a rear differential skid plate that I found to be worth every dollar. On exceptionally rocky and rough trails, I never had to worry about the diff smackers hurting my housing, busting my lower CV joint, and contact with the rear cover becomes even less likely. Its easy to remove, clean, and refinish the surface which helps extend the part’s service life.
With a little up-front investment, a major weakness of your typical Wrangler can be hardened. You can enjoy your wheeling time with a ton more confidence that your rig can take a hit that otherwise would have ruined your day.
Editors note: Jeep recognized this issue with factory covers and uses upgraded covers on the Recon edition and several other factory upgraded Jeeps.