Toyota Tacomas are built tough and built to last. However, if you plan on doing any serious offroading or rock climbing, damage will happen. Body panels will get dinged and the undercarriage and other components under can get damaged. Thankfully, there is a massive skid plate aftermarket to armor your Taco to take a beating.
What Is A Skid Plate?
Skid plates are panels made of a tough and abrasion-resistance material that are bolted (usually) onto the bottom side of a vehicle to prevent damage from occurring to the underside of a vehicle when it makes contact with the ground.
For a Tacoma, the biggest place you’re going to want to protect would be under the engine and your front suspension. You can get carried away and cover other suspension components and beyond as well. Prices are going to range from around $100 up to over $1000. Your average price will be around $200 for just the front cover. This is very inexpensive considering what you’re protecting. Let’s get into some examples.
Different Types of Skids Plates
Now that you’re an expert on what a skid plate is, where does it actually go? What exactly does it protect? How much of my truck can I protect? These are all valid questions! There are plenty of expensive and important components under our Tacomas that, while designed to be durable, shouldn’t have mountains scraping against them. Thankfully, there are a family of skid plates designed with this in mind.
Front Skid Plates
These skid plates mount directly behind your front bumper and offer a front line of protection from whatever you throw your truck into. Generally they make use of your truck’s existing mounting points, so no extra drilling is required.
Even mild off-roaders can benefit from a front skid plate. These offer a level of armor to parts such as radiators, A/C condensers, oil pans, engine accessories, and more. These are one of the panels that can be easily seen from anyone outside your truck (even if your Tacoma is not lifted), so it’s also a great opportunity to get something that looks good as well to show off that you mean off-roading business! You can check our our front skid plate here.
Transmission Skid Plates
No one likes transmission issues. They are expensive, and any issue with them will render your Tacoma undrivable. While Toyota does make a very robust transmission, you don’t want to take advantage of that and come crashing down on a bolder. Enter the transmission skid plate.
Designed to secure the transmission from the wild trails, a transmission skid plate will generally also mount up underneath your Tacoma with no extra drilling required. While great on their own, they are even better when paired with a front skid plate and transfer case skid plate. Adding all three together will effectively armor the whole front and mid section of your Tacoma in one (almost continuous) go. You can check out our transmission skid plate here.
Transfer Case Skid Plates
Your transfer case is designed to provide power as needed to your front and rear wheels. It is an absolute must to keep this crucial part protected during your off-road adventures. Directly behind your transmission (and transmission skid plate, if you get one), this skid plate will mount to existing factory mounting points.
While best to pair with a front and transmission skid plate due to its small size, this plate will ensure a better chance of survival of your transfer case during your next rock climb. You can check our our transfer case skid plate here.
Lower Control Arm Skid Plates
Lower control arms are basically responsible for “holding your front wheels” in place. You can imagine the bad day you could have if you get these hung up on a rock. Thankfully there is a skid plate for that! These are designed to effectively enclose the exposed bottom and sides of your lower control arms to take the brunt of any impacts.
When shopping around, you do want to take note about fitment. Many manufacturers have special notes such as not being able to fit TRD Pro models, or models with a TRD front skid plate. Do your research before you buy! You can check our our lower control arm skid plates here.
Fuel Tank Skid Plates
Obviously a hole in your fuel tank is bad. Not only do you risk spontaneous combustion, but running out of fuel and potentially being slapped with a fine from the EPA is bad too. While very durable, if you do some serious rock crawling and can afford the extra protection, you might want to look into one of these skid plates. I could go into further detail, but hey… Holes in your gas tank are not good. You can check our our fuel tank skid plates here.
Rear Shock Skid Plates
While not something you would normally think about protecting, your rear shocks are actually pretty exposed to everything. Protecting them can be a bit of a challenge since they are designed to retract and expand as needed, but there are a few options on the market for the serious off-roader who wants every bit of protection. For the reason above, most opt to protect one of the most crucial impact points: the bottom.
Scrapping and impacts to this part of the shocks are common during off-road use, and not only does this degrade the life of the shock, but it could make them challenging to remove when you go to replace them in the future if they get all bent and banged up. This may not be something to overlook! You can check out our rear shock skid plates here.
Other Awesome Brands of Tacoma Skid Plates
Our friends over at Tacoma World have voiced their opinions on what they like running on their trucks. I have mentioned Bay Area Metal Fab on here a couple times, and they seem to be a driver favorite. BAMF doesn’t have a wide selection on skid plate sections, but they do have a heavy-duty steel IFS (independent front suspension) skid plate.
At $325 with an option to have it powder coated for $90, this solid steel skid plate will offer protection and durability from a well-known name.
Mobtown Offroad is also a big fan favorite, and they offer the full selection of multiple panels and metal options. They have the front, transmission, fuel tank, and transfer case skid plates. If you get all of them, you’re looking around $1125, but it depends on if you get aluminum or steel. Their front skid plate is popular due to the oil cutout it has. This allows you to get your oil changed without having to take the skid plate off. Individually, each part is around $250.
RCI Off Road offers some great options for skid plates. Not only do they offer the variety of plates that Mobtown does, but also a rear-differential and A-arm skid plates as well. Instead of purchasing each piece, they also offer a complete package. Each part allows you to choose between black powder-coated steel, raw aluminum, or black powder-coated aluminum. Each part has a similar price to Mobtown’s prices.
If you want to go full Toyota, there is an OEM option. As with many OEM parts, it’s going to be more expensive over aftermarket, but you’re generally assured a good fit. Amazon offers a TRD front skid plate for Tacomas for about $454. It’s still an aggressive-looking part for factory, and it should perform well, but you don’t get any options. It’s one color, and it’s made out of aluminum.
Steel or Aluminum?
For a lot of these, you have the option of steel or aluminum? Which is better? Which should you get? This all depends on how you are using your truck. Steel is a very strong metal. It can take a beating and keep on going. If you are doing some serious rock crawling up the side of a mountain, you will want the protection of steel. The downside is that steel is very heavy. Weight affects the performance of your truck: gas mileage, acceleration, braking, balance, and so on.
On the other end, aluminum is very light. The tradeoff is that it’s not as strong. If you’re a weekend warrior who goes on a couple of trails that might have a hill or two, aluminum is the way to go. Weight will still be added to your truck, but far less than steel. Don’t be shy about protection: aluminum will get most jobs done the same way steel will, but depending on the thickness and how sharp the rock is that your truck just crashed down on, it could be the difference between a scratch, and a full puncture.
Like I’ve said with tires and other modifications countless times before on this blog: know your end goal, and buy accordingly.
Other Body Armor Options
Skid plates protect all the expensive mechanical and electronic stuff. What about the rest of your truck? While I have your attention, let’s take a quick look at some other options.
Brush Guards and Rock Sliders
I’m putting both of these together because I have separate posts about them that cover the parts and options in great detail. In short, brush guards do a great job at protecting the front of your truck and sliders protect the body and sides of the undercarriage. Here are the links to those posts:
If you’re concerned about rolling over during your adventures, a full-on roll cage might be a good option, but if you want something that looks good, is cheaper, and still offers some protection, a roll bar is a good option. You can get them for around $500.
A very expensive option, but very durable if you’re serious about off-roading would be bumpers. Stock bumpers look great but offer no protection while rock crawling. Off-roading bumpers are heavy but designed to take a beating.
There are plenty of options to protect your Tacoma when you’re battling the Earth. It all depends on where you’re going, and how hard you’re pushing your truck. Regardless, make the investment now so you don’t have to pay the price later to replace expensive components.
BAMF - Courtesy of BAMF
Mobtown - Courtesy of Mobtown Offroad
TRD Factory - Courtesy of TacomaWorld user tacopromatt