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Understanding Skid Plates: Why They're Essential & How to Choose the Best Type

Understanding Skid Plates: Why They're Essential & How to Choose the Best Type

6 minute read

f you’re planning on tackling tough terrain, you need truck skid plates that are built for off-roading. Sure, maybe they don’t turn heads, and plenty of people outside the community couldn’t tell you what skid plates are or what they’re useful for. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored. A good plate is your last line of defense against unseen (and misidentified) hazards on the trail that are waiting to damage your custom off-road vehicle, costing you time, money, and frustration. 

Skid Plates Explained

Lots of vehicles have plates, but truck skid plates on off-road vehicles are built different. While a sports car may have to worry about protecting itself from road or track debris, and a stock truck may have a slightly tougher plate to handle yardwork or light duty off the road, your off-roader needs something different. When you get off the beaten path, you face larger, sharper rocks, ditches, drops, and tree stumps that are targeting your engine, transfer case, and more. Your skid plates take the hit before your expensive vehicle components do, protecting them by absorbing or redirecting the force of the impact.

Truck skid plates are made of tough metal, unlike those made for sports cars, lightweight ATVs and motorcycles, which can get by with plastic, carbon fiber, and thin, light-duty grade metal. This doesn’t just help them reduce the risk from impacts but better secures them to the vehicle. These generally come in three categories:

  • ⅛” Steel - Steel is the strongest protection the underside of your vehicle can have. Steel is strong, cost-effective, and easy to cut and shape, making it a favorite among both the top manufacturing brands and custom fabricators.
  • 3/16” Steel - Thicker steel takes your protection to the next level with a strength that takes the hardest hits, shrugs them off, and keeps going.
  • Aircraft-Grade Aluminum - Strong and lightweight, aircraft aluminum offers comparable protection as steel but with a lighter weight. That lighter weight comes with a higher price tag, however, as aluminum is both more expensive as a material and to properly cut and shape.

Ford Bronco Raptor Rock Fighter Skid Plate

Universal Vs. Custom Fit Vs. Integral

When looking at truck skid plate upgrades, you’ll see a lot of options, and they go beyond just the materials used to make them. Both universal fit skid plates and custom fit models are available. Universal fitment gives you the most flexible mounting options across a wide range of vehicles. Custom skid plates are designed for perfect fitment on a specific vehicle and, sometimes, even on a specifically modified vehicle. 

  • Universal - Gives you the adaptability to work with a wide range of vehicle configurations, but this style of plate may require modifications to the plate or vehicle in order to provide the intended protection as you customize your vehicle.
  • Custom - Custom plates fit tighter to your vehicle for better protection. While these give you a neater look and more tailored protection, you lose the flexibility of installation that comes with a universal fit.
  • Integral - Another type of custom fitting is integral truck skid plates that are included with other protective aftermarket upgrades, like bumpers. Top brands, like SVC and Addictive Desert Designs, will put their engineers to work creating skid plates that pair perfectly with their custom bumpers. These give you more seamless protection designed around the customizations you’ve chosen.

    Strength Vs. Weight

    Finally, you need to understand that while protection is your priority with truck skid plates, it comes with certain trade-offs you’ll have to balance based on your expected off-roading activities.

    • Strength - The bigger the expected hits, the more strength you need. Rock crawling and overlanding, especially, need to maximize their protection from shard rocks, unexpected drops, and other hard-hitting obstacles.
    • Weight - If your preferred passion is sand dunes, off-road racing, and the cultivated wild feel of maintained trails and off-road parks, you can opt for lighter-weight truck skid plates that don’t burden your vehicle or drag it down. 

      Top Skid Plate Options

      RCI Metalworks Raptor transmission skid plate installed

      RCI Metalworks Raptor Skid Plates

      RCI Metalworks makes tough custom truck skid plates, and their options for the Ford Raptor are a great example. Available in ⅛” medium-duty steel plate or ¼” aluminum that offers comparable strength, the lighter weight of these two options over thicker steel options gives you a good balance for Ford’s super-truck, which excels at speed and sand. The modular design lets you choose protection for the transmission, fuel tank, or engine to complement other installed skid plates, or opt for a package deal that covers more of your undercarriage for one money-saving price.

      Addictive Desert Designs

      ADD makes solid metal to protect your vehicle, and that includes truck skid plates that are featured in some of their most popular bumper packages, like the Bomber and Stealth Fighter. The same skid plate made with 3/16” aluminum is available separately for lightweight protection. This protects your vehicle, upgrading from plastic and light-duty skid plates without adding extra weight to your front end.

      CBI 4Runner Front Skid Plates installed on a 4Runner


      When it comes to tough aftermarket upgrades, CBI has earned a reputation for rugged off-road parts that help you push your driving skills and vehicle to their limits. The 5th Generation Toyota 4Runner is one of the most popular off-road SUVs on the market, due largely to the decade-plus lifecycle of this current iteration. To help keep this off-road powerhouse safer, the CBI full body skid plate gives you 3/16” of powder-coated steel to maximize your protection for overlanding, mudding, and rock crawling. It’s the closest you can come to a fully-armored chassis on the market.

      Customize Your Vehicle’s Protection

      We have the SUV and truck skid plates you need in stock and ready to ship. Call and talk to one of our experienced off-road specialists if you need help planning your build or need more product information. They’re by the phone days, nights, and weekends. Order your aftermarket skid plates from Offroad Alliance today.

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