All the other posts indicate that they have been there. I have too. Agree with all the other posts. Protect first, then go for more artiiculation, gears, lifts or whatever else. Protect your gas tank (TomKen is good). Protect your oil pan (TomKen is fair - weld 1/4" or 3/16" steel to the bottom, front and sides of the lower portion of your oil pan. That's good too and cheaper) Protect your steering box (several on the mkt). Protect your rocker pannels (again several on the mkt. TomKen 2x4 is good. Others available too) Tow things (hooks, pins, d-rings whatever) on both ends. On the back attach to the frame. If you want to use the bumper, make sure it is attached to the frame (stock is not and is not strong enough anyway). Attach to the frame as well as the rear cross member. Frame attachment is extremely important, if not the most important.
Bottom line - PROTECT yourself first, then go for the more modified suspension, axles, gears, lifts, winches or whatever. Gas tank skid plate is $150 or so. Replacing the gas tank is more expensive. Protecting the oil pan is $75/$150 - that much or more to replace. Steering box protection $50/$100 - replacement ???. But remember, all these replacements involve your not getting home under your own power when the stock one breaks.
TIP: If everyone tells you that 3/16" will work, get 1/4". If everyone says get a Dana 44, then get a Dana 60. If everyone says lift it 4", then lift it 5". Example: I ran a Dana 35 with ARB for about 30,000 miles. Extreme to extreme plus trails. The axle held up, and when inspected at axle change time (changed to a D60), it looked good. Will a 35 work? Yea, cause it did - with me. Is a 44 better? Absolutely, and probably all any Jeep will ever need. Do you add an additional edge of dependability and reliability with a 60 vs a 44? Without a doubt! My philosophy is - if you are going to change something, change to something that will never, ever, under any circumstances, regardless of the trail or stress, it will never ever have to be changed again. It will last even when you will it to your first born. It will last when he gives up and passes it on to his heir.
There is, however, a limit to this line of thought. A 20,000 pound Jeep is difficult to drive on the trail. Tends to fall through the earth's crust.
Please pardon my jump from pure mechanics to philosophy, but the more I reread my own thoughts, the more I realize - DAMN, I'm right again. ....... :-) (for those who didn't recognize it :-), :-), :-) ))) <smile> , (grin) <smiley face> ....)
Doug '97 TJ
My Web Site