What is a skid plate on a car?

Have you ever looked at a car parked on the street or in a parking lot somewhere and thought, “wow, look at the skid plate on that car”? If you’re confused by this question, don’t be, because it’s clear you never thought about it and neither did anyone else. Firstly, it is because skid plates are not installed on all vehicles. Second, it’s located on the underside of a vehicle where few would think to glance at it.

The skid plate is one of the most underrated and underappreciated components of a vehicle, which is why we decided to write a blog post about this humble vehicle part.

What is a skid plate?

A skid plate is a specially formed sheet metal plate that is mounted to a vehicle’s chassis, usually at the front end of the vehicle. The express purpose of the skid plate is to protect the undercarriage from abrasion and collision with uneven surfaces. For that, they are very durable and made of abrasion-resistant materials (see more below), and they can withstand a lot of damage.

As we mentioned in the introduction, skid plates are not common to all vehicles. Cars designed for city use, for example, rarely come with skid plates because they invariably drive on flat, even ground and usually have enough clearance for anything the city can throw at them. Some cars with a very low profile, however, such as sports cars, can be equipped with one, as they are susceptible to abrasion when going from flat to a sudden incline, which can happen even in the city.

Where skid plates really come in handy, however, is in the world of adventure and off-road driving. Vehicles such as the Jeep Wrangler, or perhaps a Ram 1500, Ford F-150 or other preferred vehicle for off road driving, trail driving, and more, they are very likely to have skid plates installed, whether or not they have good ground clearance. This is because it is impossible to predict changes in off-road terrain, especially when trying to crawl on rocks and similar activities.

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skid plate

Aerodynamics

Yet another added function and benefit of adding a skid plate to a car is the potential to improve a vehicle’s aerodynamic qualities. A skid plate can work to actively reduce turbulence and allow air to pass more smoothly across the underside of the vehicle. This is very beneficial for you when you drive at high speed or want a more comfortable experience when driving on the highway for example.

What are skid plates made of?

Given their function, non-slip plates must be made of abrasion-resistant materials, and they are. The two most common metals used in skid plates are good old-fashioned heavy-duty steel, as well as more contemporary, lightweight aluminum. Skid plates made from aluminum are usually a little cheaper and don’t add a lot of weight to your vehicle, but the flip side of this is that you pay a premium in terms of strength. Aluminum plates will never be as strong as steel plates.

You pay more for sheet steel, but it’s the only material that’s right when it comes to heavy duty protection for your vehicle’s undercarriage. Aluminum plates can sometimes grab the surface they are skidding on due to their lightweight structure. Steel is stronger and will slide over things easier and with less chance of undue wear and tear.

undercarriage plate

Other materials used for skid plates include rigid plastic and carbon fiber, which offer strength and are even lighter than aluminum.

Sliding board vs. Belly Pan – Is There a Difference?

You might have been led to believe that belly pan was basically just another word for skid plate, but that’s not the case. The two components have certain characteristics in common. Both are mounted on the underside of the vehicle and serve as protective covers for the undercarriage, but are different in their composition and precise function.

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A belly pan is installed on the underside of a car primarily to protect against potential damage from road debris, rock chips, and other damaging materials as they are hurled around the site while the cars drive on the roads. You fit a belly to the underside of the car for the same reason you might coat the front of the car with paint protection film🇧🇷 It provides a physical barrier against common types of flying debris on the road.

Skid plates are stronger and ready to take heavier abuse and damage than bottom pads because they are placed to protect the vehicle when it can actually make physical contact with the ground.

car belly

What is the typical cost of a skid plate?

Skid plates are varied and numerous in the aftermarket parts scene, and the prices you can pay are varied as well. Sliding plates can range from $30 to $50 to $500 depending on size, material, strength and brand. That’s the cost of the component, but if you also have the skid plate professionally installed, you also have another $40-50 in labor costs.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to install a skid plate, with most fastened with just a few screws. This also keeps labor costs down and is not a time consuming task.

Are non-skid plates legal?

Skid plates are technically legal, but they may not be completely safe for street vehicles or racing vehicles, which we’ll cover in more detail in the pros and cons section. All in all, however, there is something to be said for emergency procedures involving an engine when skid plates are involved.

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Can you install non-slip boards yourself?

Sliding plates are relatively simple to install and usually snap into place with just 4 or more screws. The brackets you need are already there in most cases, and all you need is a ratchet, some sockets and a jack stand to get the job done.

Where can you buy a skid board?

You can find a number of non-slip plate options for various models. here

Pros and Cons of Skid Plates – Are They Worth It?

To wrap up our blog on non-slip boards, let’s consider the pros and cons of these components.

Pros:

  • Protection for critical exposed components in the undercarriage, especially against speed bumps and rough terrain
  • Protection for critical components from off-road terrain threats such as rocks
  • Lower service requirements for these parts due to added protection
  • Improved aerodynamics on vehicles with a flat floor

Cons:

  • It has to be removed during undercarriage maintenance, which is annoying
  • Reduces safety as it prevents the engine from falling over in a serious accident, leading to a dangerous engine that can fall into the passenger cabin instead of behind the vehicle

In the end, it cannot be denied that if you drive an expensive car that is regularly exposed to the threats of the terrain below – whatever they may be – then an extra layer of “armor” is always beneficial. The dangers presented above should be taken seriously, however, and drivers should consider the implications carefully, perhaps only using the skid plates at times when they know they are useful, not just leaving them there permanently.

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