Do you need a skid plate?
Skid plates are important for off-roading. Especially if you are doing any type of overlanding or rock crawling, skid plates are highly recommended to protect the underside of your vehicle.
4Runners are one of the best vehicles for off-roading and protecting your 3rd gen 4runner with a skid plate will save you from damaging expensive parts.
But what is a Skid Plate and the different types? Do I need a skid plate? Can I live without one?
What is a Skid Plate?
A skid plate acts as a barrier to protect the underside of your vehicle. Its sheet metal construction helps protect your oil pan, filter and engine components against rocks, debris, and sharp objects during off-roading.
Your engine and powertrain are exposed when going off-roading. A sharp rock or deep trench may cause a lot of damage and leave your off-roader stranded and needing repairs. When you encounter a sudden drop or big rock, skid plates are there for the vehicle to rest on too.
Skid plates protect the heart of the vehicle from mud and dirt. With water ingress damaging the engine, and sand and dust getting into important areas, installing a skid plate is essential in these situations.
Types of Skid Plates
Full Belly Pans
For entire underbody protection a belly pan is a great option. Belly pans are either a big sheet of metal or broken down into smaller sections that cover the whole undercarriage. They are designed to withstand harsh impacts to the underside of your vehicle while off-roading. With off-roaders coming in different shapes and sizes they have to be bespoke designed to each vehicle model. Meaning belly pans are expensive and more difficult to install than other types of skid plates.
Front Center Skid Plates
To protect the underside of the engine bay, these are mounted at the front of the vehicle and form part of the bumper. Meaning your radiator, hoses, main frame, and engine are protected using front center skid plates. Ideal for off-roading as this crucial area gets a lot of abuse and needs protecting. Typically, they are less costly than full belly pans and are easier to install. True North Fabrications steel skid plate is perfect for your 96-02 3rd gen 4runner.
Available in raw steel or satin black powder coat, they enhance the look of your Toyota too. Bespoke designed for the front of your 4Runner, the 1/8 steel skid plate weighs just 35lbs and the tougher 3/16” steel weighs 52lbs. It’s also an easy bolt-on install to the front of your 4Runner.
Front Suspension Skid Plate
Another exposed component is the suspension. With low arm protector plates, the control arms have a barrier against debris and rocks. If your suspension is not protected, steering and ride handling are affected when your off-roader comes into contact with an unexpected obstacle.
Do I need a skid plate?
If you drive off-road, it’s best to install a skid plate to protect the underside of your vehicle. On highways and sealed roads, there isn’t much worth in installing skid plates. But this depends on your area. Most areas have potholes, a lot of construction and general uneven pavement. Here, a skid plate may be worthwhile.
Gravel roads and loose pavements also can damage a vehicles engine if not protected by a skid plate. Although it is not classed as off-roading, it still involves dust and rocks getting lifted from the ground when you drive and getting protected could save you an engine rebuild.
The reason why owners choose a skid plate is to protect the oil pan. Any damage that causes oil to leak can end a fun day out adventuring, or worse, your whole engine. The damage to an engine as a result of no oil can be expensive and involve a full rebuild. Other recommendations include protecting your front differential and control arms first. This is up to you as a vehicle owner.
Do I need an aftermarket Skid plate?
Vehicle manufacturers may install a skid plate to protect the engine. Especially luxury models with a low ground clearance, as humps or ramps on the road can hit the underside of the vehicle. But OEM skid plates may not be as protective as aftermarket options because they use a weaker materials.
Do Skid Plates Improve Fuel Economy?
Surprisingly, skid plates can aid in improving fuel economy. This is because the vehicles external surfaces are smoothed out. Meaning airflow is improved as the car can more easily cut through the air.
It’s important to note skid plates add weight to your vehicle and are fitted to off-roaders, which do not have fuel economy as their main selling point. Saying that, it is estimated they can be as much as 1-3mpg improvement in your fuel economy. Saving you a lot in the long run if you drive your off-roader a lot.
SO, Skid Plates – Are They Worth It?
Taking your vehicle out in nature is a great way to spend a weekend. Not only will you connect with the earth, but you also get to meet new people, experience new parts of the country and get away from the stresses of everyday life.
It can be dangerous adventuring in your 4Runner or Tacoma if you don’t get it protected. Not only have you got a reliable, capable machine, you can get it protected with a skid plate from True North Fabrication for complete peace of mind. Using our expertise in the field of off-road accessories, you know you’re getting a high-quality skid plate that also looks the part and easy to install.
Check out our range of accessories for protecting your off-road vehicle today. We specialize in 4Runner, Tacoma, Tundra, FJ Cruiser, Bronco parts and more to enhance your next adventure!