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.
Your vehicle’s underside contains many critical parts such as the engine oil pan, fuel tank, transmission, and vapor canister. Their location leaves them vulnerable to debris 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 help you find 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 but weighing more.
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 Does a Skid Plate Cost?
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 use 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.