Underbelly Armor: Installing a Skid Plate
A skid plate is a must for any off-road vehicle since it protects the undercarriage from damage. Without it, going over rough terrain can be quite daunting since at any time a rock or debris kicked up by your tires could puncture components like your gas tank or oil pan. Installing a skid plate is a relatively easy task that can be done with a few simple tools.
Required skill level: Intermediate
Needed tools and materials
- Floor jack
- 4 Jack stands
- Wheel chocks
- Socket set
- Skid plate
Setting up your vehicle for installation
Place the wheel chocks behind the rear wheels of your vehicle and use the floor jack to lift the front end. Have the front end rest securely on two jack stands.
Prepping the skid plate
Position the other two jack stands under the engine of your vehicle. Set your skid plate on top of those jack stands, with its mounting holes lined up with the pre-drilled holes in your vehicle's frame.
Installing the skid plate
Use your socket set to bolt the skid plate to your vehicle's frame. You can also use the mounting hardware that came with the skid plate.
Remove the two jack stands under your vehicle's engine. Use your floor jack to lift the front of your end a bit so you can remove the other two jack stands. Lower your vehicle to the ground. Remove the wheel chocks. Stand back and admire your work.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure your vehicle is securely resting on the jack stands before you place yourself under it. It is best to work with your vehicle parked on level ground and after its engine has cooled.
- This guide was written with a Ford Ranger in mind. The instructions may be somewhat different for other vehicles.
Skid Plate Buyer's Guide
- Skid plates protect fragile components in your vehicle’s underside from getting damaged when they hit the ground or get hit by something.
- They can perform other jobs, like improving the aerodynamic properties of small cars, keeping the bottom of low-riding vehicles away from the ground surface, and shielding the bottom of the engine compartment.
- A skid plate can go anywhere between $5 and $518. You can purchase individual plates or sets of 2 parts.
- Common materials for making skid plates include steel, aluminum, and plastic.
- Fake skid plates only make the car appear rugged enough to go off-roading. They cannot provide the same kind of protection as true skid plates.
The underside of your vehicle contains many critical parts such as the engine oil pan, fuel tank, transmission, and vapor canister. Their location leaves them vulnerable to hard objects coming from below, such as loose bits propelled by the wheels or hard objects jutting out of the ground.
Skid plates protect those fragile components from getting damaged when they hit the ground or get hit by something. This guide will help you learn more about these vehicle accessories and assist you in selecting new or replacement plates for your vehicle.
What is a skid plate?
A skid plate is a sheet that covers part of the vehicle’s bottom. It uses tough material that can withstand physical impacts and exposure to the elements, such as moisture that causes corrosion.
You can find skid plates on the front and rear parts of the vehicle’s underside. They vary in size with bigger ones covering a larger portion of the bottom in exchange for greater weight.
Many vehicle types and models come with skid plates. Off-road vehicles require these sheets because of the terrain they tackle. Lowered vehicles and motorcycles also feature them.
What does the skid plate do?
Skid plates do several things for the vehicle that mounts them. Depending on the vehicle type, they may prioritize one job over the other.
Off-road vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs often cross uneven terrain with objects like boulders and logs that can puncture something important. Their spinning wheels can also fling small rocks upward. To protect their soft “bellies” from harm, these vehicles usually feature heavy-duty skid plates made from the toughest material available.
Coupes, sedans, and other small cars improve their aerodynamic performance by covering their undersides with skid plates. While the plates provide a modicum of protection for the bottom, they also enhance the flow of air moving below the car, which translates to higher speeds and better fuel efficiency.
Low-riding vehicles sit close to the ground surface. Their underside runs the real risk of scraping against the road. Skid plates keep the bottom of these ground-hugging cars from coming into contact with the road surface.
Some vehicles don’t start out with skid plates since their manufacturers didn’t design them to leave the road. Instead, their owners added the plates to make their vehicle seem capable of going off-road.
Skid plates also serve as the underside equivalent of a vehicle’s hood. They shield the car’s front compartment from dirt, dust, and other matter that can clog moving parts, compromise seals, and damage the components.
How much is a skid plate?
Many factors affect the price tag of a skid plate. The plate’s manufacturer, size, material, intended location on the car, and quantity can raise or lower the cost of this part.
A skid plate can go anywhere between $5 and $518. You can purchase individual plates and sets of 2 parts.
Choosing a skid plate
Skid plates are tough parts that perform rough jobs in harsh conditions. If you’re replacing the old plates on your vehicle, you want the new parts to match their predecessors.
Pick a skid plate designed for your vehicle. Take note of which end of your car needs a new or replacement plate, as you cannot interchange front and rear skid plates.
Ask an experienced and trusted expert at a car parts shop for their opinion on a suitable skid plate. Or use the filter bar of an online store to track down a guaranteed fit by entering your vehicle’s year, make, and model.
A skid plate is only as good as the material that comprises it. Steel, aluminum, and plastic each offer strengths and weaknesses that may or may not suit your vehicle’s specific needs.
Once the go-to material for skid plates and other add-on parts, steel remains a good choice. It’s tough yet malleable, making it easy to repair and modify to suit your vehicle’s specific needs.
Steel skid plates come with several disadvantages. The material’s pliability makes the plate more likely to bend or dent from impact. Long exposure to air and moisture causes steel to rust and weaken. It also weighs more than the other materials. Finally, a steel skid plate can make quite a racket whenever it hits or scrapes against a hard object.
Many skid plate manufacturers switched to aluminum. This metal weighs less than steel while offering decent protection against impacts and retaining the same ease of repair.
Unfortunately, aluminum skid plates need more thickness to achieve the same level of protection as their steel counterparts. They also make noise when hit.
In recent years, plastics became a popular choice for making skid plates. Plastic withstands stresses that would bend or fracture metal. Even if a plastic plate bends, flexes, or stretches, it will usually return to its original shape.
While steel or aluminum skid plates can snag on objects, plastic plates usually slide smoothly over those same surfaces. Finally, they produce much less noise when they hit something.
There are drawbacks to choosing plastic skid plates for your car. To achieve the same level of impact protection, plastic plates must have a thickness greater than steel or aluminum plates. Even thick plastics prove prone to gouging and any damage cannot get repaired.
Fake skid plates
Not all skid plates provide proper protection for a vehicle’s underside. Some plates only make the car appear rugged enough to go off-roading.
These “fake skid plates” may not cover the vital parts in the engine’s undersides. They may use flimsier material that cannot stand up to the pummeling encountered when driving across rough terrain or on roads littered with debris. Or the plates themselves are thinner to save on cost, weight, and material.
If you want to make your car look tougher and don’t plan to tackle bad roads or tough terrain, you can settle for fake skid plates. For those who want peace of mind whenever you drive over rough ground or crumbling roads, don’t settle for anything less than a proper skid plate.
How to Install a New Skid Plate
Note: These instructions are made specifically for Ford Ranger automobiles.
Having a correctly installed skid plate is needed to keep vital components in the undercarriage of your vehicle from getting damaged. A skid plate protects the steering linkage, transfer case, gas tank, and oil pan from getting hit by debris, especially while driving through off-road paths. Aside from providing your automobile with protection, this component also helps to give you a smoother ride. So, make sure it is firmly mounted before you hit the road to guarantee that it will shield those crucial parts of your vehicle and allow you to be more comfortable while inside your vehicle.
Below is a guide to help you properly install your new skid plate into your automobile. If you own a Ford Ranger, then the following instructions are tailor-made for you. But, even if you drive a different vehicle, you will still be able to successfully secure your skid plate into it with the help of this guide.
Tools and Materials Needed:
- New skid plate
- Floor jack
- 4 jack stands
- 2 wheel chocks
- Socket set
Safety Reminder: Put on safety glasses, latex gloves, and other protective gear whenever working on your automobile.
- Push the wheel chocks against either back tire of the vehicle to prevent it from rolling.
- Raise the front part of the automobile using a floor jack and place two jack stands underneath the body rails for support.
- Put the other two jack stands below the engine and place the new skid plate on top of them.
- Align the mounting holes of the skid plate with the factory-drilled holes of your automobile's frame.
- Secure the skid plate to the frame using a socket set and the mounting hardware that was provided with the skid plate.
- Take out the jack stands that are under your vehicle's engine. Raise your automobile to be able to remove the other two jack stands.
- Lower your vehicle to the floor.
- Take the wheel chocks out from the back tire. You're now good to go.