When Jeanne and I bought our Nissan Xterra Off-Road SUV last December, we planned to use it for our toad vehicle behind our RV.  This SUV package came with an aftermarket steel bumper, grill and skid plate.  We especially liked the skid plate for off-road driving in the national forests.  Many of these off-roads are rugged, deep-rutted, and rocky, and can be tricky to navigate without damaging the under belly or radiator of the vehicle.

So, when we ordered the tow mount package for the Xterra, we knew there would be some modifications needed. However, we had hoped to keep the skid plate intact.  It wasn't long before we realized that we would lose our skid plate due to part interference with the tow mount kit.  We already had to sacrifice the tow hook in case we needed pulling out of some mud pit or steep snow drifts.

At the same time, we also bought an older Blue Ox tow bar, but this didn't have the self-locking feature that the new tow bars have.  When we unhitch the SUV from the tow bar, it just leans towards the ground.  This cannot be attached to the RV while driving or it would be dragging on the pavement with sparks flying like fireworks.  And that will surely draw the attention of any drivers or state troopers.

So, we needed some modification made to both the skid plate and the tow bar.  We found FortCrawlin fabricator shop in Fort Collins, CO.  These guys had the right tools to cut the skid plate with a water jet cutter.  The made a clean, straight cut across the back portion of the skid plate, giving maximum protection to the under belly, and secured with fastener to prevent any vibration to the skid plate.  This allowed us to leverage as much of the skid plate as possible while protecting and keeping it aesthetically pleasing.

FortCrawlin also fabricated a J-hook plate and welded it onto the adjacent tow bar.  While it provided the necessary support to keep the tow bar from hanging down to the ground, they also added a lock pin to keep it from falling off the J-hook.  With the weight nearly 30 lbs, it would take an enormous bump to knock the lock pin and tow bar off the rack.

We are pleased to be able to keep these parts with a little modification, and to ensure safety of the vehicle while in tow.

It pays to talk to some local 4x4 shops to find out who can do some special fabrication work for you and visit their fabrication shop to discuss what options you may have.  And the cost for fabricating these parts may be very reasonable as it was for us.  We highly recommended seeking out a specialist if you find yourself ever needing one.

My Favorite Quotes

The mountains are calling and I must go. - John Muir

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. - Chinese Proverbs

The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders. - Edward Abbey

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. - John Burroughs

Not all those who wander are lost. - J.R.R. Tolkien

To travel alone is risky business, especially into a wilderness; equally risky is to have dreams and not follow them. - Robert F. Perkins

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