Here’s a little #ThrowbackThursday action, Smokey the Jeep style.
Last Christmas, the brown Santa (that’s UPS for the uninitiated) brought my then-eight-month-old (to me) Jeep a little present to help make her more trail-worthy.
One of the most vulnerable parts on Jeep’s JK Wranglers is the evaporation canister. Part of the fuel system, the canister sits on two-door JKs just under the left-side rear seat. Early JKs like Smokey had no factory protection for this plastic box, essentially begging a nice-sized rock to come up and show it who’s boss. (Newer JKs come from the factory with a rudimentary evap skid plate. While not suitable for hard-core use, they provide at least a basic level of protection.)
Some JK owners choose to relocate their evap canisters to a less vulnerable location, but this can trip computer codes that I didn’t want to pay a dealer to reset. Thus, I began looking at skid plate options.
While there were lower-cost options available, I found only one evap skid plate truly merited serious consideration — the version offered by Poison Spyder Customs.
Weighing in about 25 pounds, the three-piece powdercoated steel skid plate offers three solid sides of protection from rocks, logs and other trail debris. It arrived from Northridge 4×4 via free post-Christmas shipping in a plain brown box. Inside, the skid plate was wrapped in white sheet-foam and included a simple front-and-back instruction sheet with serviceable black-and-white photos. In addition to its quality design, the Poison Spyder unit’s biggest advantage is the three-quarters of an inch of ground clearance advantage over the factory or competitors’ units. More on that later. The only downside? The package didn’t include a PSC decal. While certainly a minor point, it was a little disappointing since not many folks are going to stick their heads under your Jeep to look for the spider cutout.
PSC’s design eliminates the factory mounting plate, which secures the canister to the underside of the Jeep’s body. Instead, the canister is removed from the vehicle and secured inside the steel box, which is then bolted directly to the vehicle undercarriage. With proper tools, installation is simple and straightforward. Take note of that caveat — with proper tools. My first-generation PSC design leaves only a small gap to reach the two 19 mm forward bolts. Using a standard-length box wrench, I discovered the wrench would contact the factory transfer case skid plate and/or driveshaft, making installation of the outboard-side bolt impossible. After an hour of searching across town to find a short-length 19 mm wrench, installation was concluded quickly and without further incident.
Ultimately, what could have been a 30-minute task took me about 2 hours. It’s a valuable lesson in being prepared before you begin. It’s also worth noting at this point that PSC has since redesigned its JK skid plate to include a larger opening with greater access to the forward mounting bolts. This access might allow the use of a ratchet and socket, eliminating the likelihood of self-inflicted frustrations like mine.
At $105 plus shipping, the Poison Spyder evap skid is, as you’ve likely read or heard before, cheap insurance against a potentially costly repair. The top-notch quality is what you’ve come to expect from PSC, and the design is innovative. I’ve not yet impacted mine, so I can’t speak to the skid’s ability to take a hit, but the solid, hefty feel of the skid gives me great confidence Smokey is well-protected.