Protection, needed or not needed?, Many new 4×4 drivers ask this question. Well, it all depends on what you intend to do with your 4×4. Most 4×4 vehicles are pretty tough beasts and can cope with the average track and green lane without too much of a problem, but it’s when you stray away from this category that you may want to consider underside protection plates.
For a relatively small amount of your hard earned cash you can purchase protection for pretty much all of your vulnerable underside components. Think of it this way, £100+ for a fuel tank skid plate or a thousand for recovery, new fuel tank, and labour charges. You could loose £100 in fuel through the hole you have just punched through!!
Some vehicles have it fitted just for the image and look never being in a situation where it will be needed. However, if you do like to drop off the black top for a look around those interesting tracks in the distance, it’s always better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it …
The most commonly used underside protection accessories are listed as follows;
Engine & Gearbox skid plates
This is one of the most common skid plates found on a 4×4, some newer vehicles come with them already installed. Pretty basic requirement really for a vehicle that does what it does, as without an engine or gearbox your 4×4 is just a lump of metal stuck out in the middle of nowhere.
Fuel Tank plates
4×4 standard fuel tanks are pretty tough things but it only takes one sharp rock or stump to punch a small hole through and all of that critical travel juice is gone, leaving you again with a lump of metal in the middle of nowhere. A fuel tank skid plate will wrap your motion lotion in a second layer of protective aluminium or steel place allowing some serious bashing without worrying.
This is an important one to consider if you are looking to invest in underside protection. Usually they are a shorter plate not running the full length of the engine, these guards tend to have a multifunction protection role covering some of the more sensitive items at the front of the engine, including radiator, steering components, oil cooler and sump. Again these items differ in protection levels from model to model and most are available in steel or weight watching aluminium options.
Your diffs are tough bits of kit that put up with quite a lot of abuse on a daily basis but woe betide you if it gets a big bang from a hard rock at the wrong point. Not only expensive but impossible to fix out in the field without specialist tools, a small thing like a cracked casing can prove to be immobilising with oil loss and dirt ingress you will not get far. For a very small amount you can invest in the bolt on guards or more expensive wrap around guards
Rock Sliders, Side Bars
For this type of protection, along the sill line below the doors, there are many varying types on the market offering different levels of protection. The lesser protection is offered by the side steps or bars which bolt to the chassis aiding access into the vehicle and offering sill protection from dings. Rock sliders are a heavier duty option that will support the weight of the vehicle whilst sliding over rocks and tree stumps, usually replacing the sills altogether with a lower profile than side bars, rock sliders will take serious beatings and some have an added side protruding rail to push small trees and vegetation away from the truck.
The above items are the most commonly used protective items but no means least, there are other items available on the market for your vehicles underbelly, some general others more vehicle specific, it would be worth researching the weak spots on your vehicle for which protection is recommended.