I thought I’d share my beliefs regarding undercarriage vehicle protection. – Body protection and “rock sliders” will be covered in another post.
Basically the way I see it undercarriage protection falls into 3 general categories:
- Skid Plates/Guards – which generally cover an area & multiple components
- Individual component guards – as the name implies, this guard covers just the “one” component that is vulnerable
- Component Upgrades – for strength & durability
Overall, I prefer to avoid skid plates and guards where I feel they are either excessive or have limited benefit. Therefor I tend to prefer component upgrades and individual component guards whenever possible. Below is a bullet point list of some of my thoughts.
Pro’s to skid plates & guards:Relatively easy install
- Designed for “bolt in” installation
- Definitely the best case protection in big hit impacts.
- If I were building a high speed racing truck, or competitive rock buggy, I would be more inclined to “plate up” a truck.
- Or if I were building a vehicle for someone I know would prefer to build a “tank” that is hard to destroy.
- To me, off-roading (wheeling) is about finesse and driving skill. not about how much throttle one can lay down to get through an obstacle.
- Sometimes the best option for protecting known issue areas / fragile components.
Con’s to skid plates & guards:Loss of ground clearance
Does not increase strength of component protected
- Sometimes loss of approach / departure angle
- Could cause additional hang up point
Block access to repair & maintenance items
- Ex. Steering components & trailing arms could still bend or be overloaded.
Can sometimes trap mud & trail debris
- In addition, depending on usage, the mounting hardware can become damaged and make it very hard to remove/reinstall for access.
Can sometimes limit current functioning of vehicle
- If not cleaned out properly can not only add weight to the truck, but could hold moisture against other items adding to potential corrosion issues.
Mounting general “bolt in”, but no guarantee to clear other vehicle modifications
- I’ve had some steering guards that contact the steering drag link on articulation, binding the steering and even wearing against the drag link – in essence adding a failure point.
- I’ve had to modify some in the past to work, but so far haven’t run into one that “can’t be made to fit”.
So in my experience for general off roading in the Colorado and mountain states I find this formula works well for the older solid axle Rovers:Upgrade steering components, axle shafts, and trailing arms with stronger versions
- sometimes high clearance versions are available to increase the ground clearance as well.
- Add a fuel tank skid plate (most maintain ground clearance and protect the tanks better than the stock version)
- Add specific differential cover guards rather than whole housing guards
For the newer independent suspension Rovers – 03 and newer Range Rover, 05 and newer LR3 or RRS.
The large skid plate options are generally the only real options as they are designed to replace the thinner factory skid plates without loosing ground clearance. And individual part upgrades are not available yet (and not really needed) from what I’ve seen so far.
This article is by no means a “rule” to abide by, and is only one person’s perspective.
By Jeffrey Corwin
Long time off road and Land Rover enthusiast.