Element by RA Motorsports Aluminum Gas Tank Skid Plate Install & Initial Review for the 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma
Skid plates. If you’re doing any kind of overlanding or off-roading, skid plates are a great investment.
You could argue that the gas tank skid plate is absolutely essential. The gas tank on a 3rd Gen Tacoma is fairly exposed, and to top it all off, the OEM gas tank skid plate isn’t really a skid plate. It’s just a flimsy piece of plastic. Even worse, Toyota decided not to add any skid plate whatsoever on certain models of Tacoma.
I was pretty shocked to notice this when I went to start this install. If you didn’t know either, well now you do. I seriously question the decision to not put something a bit more robust to protect the gas tank or in the case of some models, anything at all. This news should make just about most of us start looking for a new skid plate.
Good news. I already found one for you! The Element Aluminum Gas Tank Skid Plate from RA Motorsports. Super lightweight, easy to install, and plenty strong for wheeling in the rocks. I’ve also covered the Element Aluminum Full Belly Skids, you can see the full skid plate install and initial review here.
Update (4/4/2021): We’ve since published the full trail-tested review of the complete skid plate package.
Although this article is focused around a 3rd Gen Tacoma, this skid plate fits all Tacomas from 2005 and up.
Let’s get started.
Find it online
- 2005+ Toyota Tacoma Aluminum Gas Tank Skid Plate: Check Price
- 2005+ Toyota Tacoma Steel Gas Tank Straps with Extended Studs: Check Price
The team at RA has extended a discount code good for 5% off any order on their site.
Use code – trailtacoma – at checkout.
*As of 9/22, these guys are offering $50 flat rate shipping on all US-based orders. This currently only excludes rock sliders due to weight.*
If you only order the skid plate, you’ll be reusing your factory nuts.
If you buy the new gas tank straps, the 4 nuts that fasten the skid plate to the straps are included.
Note: This particular skid plate is only mounted to the gas tank straps; there are no actual frame mounting points.
The Element skid has a list of directions that comes with the package.
We’ll go through them in more detail in the install below.
Tools & Materials
This is a relatively simple install, even with the new gas tank straps. You’ll only need some basics.
- Mechanic’s Tool Set: Check Price
- 14mm Socket
- 1/2″ Socket
- Pliers: Check Price
- Floor Jack (Optional): Check Price
Step 1. Remove OEM Gas Tank Skid
The stock gas tank skid, if your truck came with one, is held in place with four nuts.
To begin, remove these four nuts and the skid plate will come right off.
Step 2. Install New Gas Tank Straps
As you have likely noticed by now, the gas tank is held in place with two main straps.
If you had to, or if you opted to buy the new gas tank straps with extended studs, you’ll need to swap the OEM straps for the new ones. Each strap is held in place with one bolt and a locking pin/clip.
Note: Do not remove both straps at once. You’ll need to swap these one at a time, otherwise, you will drop the entire gas tank. RA Motorsports recommends that you do this install with as close to an empty tank as possible.
It’s also beneficial to place a jack under the gas tank and have it propped against the gas tank while you swap the straps, just in case.
To begin, start with the strap in the front. Above, you can see the OEM strap and associated bolt.
Undo this bolt using your 14mm racket and socket and then move to the other side to disconnect the other end.
If you follow the gas tank strap, you’ll see it ends here. This again is the one towards the front of the truck.
There is a pin that is held in place by a retaining clip. You need to push down on the end and then pull the clip out. This is pretty self-explanatory once you get under the truck. Once those are removed, the strap falls right out.
Grab your new strap and install it in reverse from the steps above, starting with the pin and clip and ending with the 14mm bolt. It’s also important to note that you will need to transfer the rubber isolator/bushing from your old straps to the new ones.
Once you’ve got the front strap in, you can move to the one in the back.
This strap’s bolt is a bit more difficult to get to as it sits between the gas tank and the leaf spring. You’ll need the extension here. You might be able to do without, but I imagine it would be a much bigger pain.
The back of the rear strap looks something like this. The access is a bit better than the front one.
You can also see the pin and clip easier in this image. Again, removed the clip and the pin, and install the second new strap.
You can see the new straps above.
They’re essentially the same as the old ones, just with extended studs.
Step 3. Install New Gas Tank Skid Plate
Lift the new skid plate into place, and using the provided nuts, or reusing your OEM ones, if you have them, and tighten them down.
If you’re doing this install alone, it might help to hold the skid plate up with a jack. It’s not very heavy, but you only have two hands and the jack will make your life easier.
These nuts are 1/2″ in size, kind of odd that they are standard, but it is what it is. You could probably get away with using a 13mm socket, but risk rounding the head on the nut.
That’s it! Probably one of the easiest skid plate installs I’ve ever dealt with. The entire process shouldn’t take more than an hour. Maybe two if you’re being extra careful or you’ve never worked on your truck before.
Simple, easy, and incredibly lightweight. This skid plate weighs in at 16 lbs, if you have any experience with undercarriage armor, you know that’s as light as it gets.
This plate adds some much-needed protection to an essential part of your truck. I took the truck and did some pretty hard wheeling almost immediately after the install.
Because the gas tank sits so high up, in the middle of the truck, even a tough, rocky trail didn’t present with an opportunity to bang this skid plate up. However, I’m quite sure that it will do what it was designed to, without adding an obscene amount of weight at the same time.
For more than 95% of us, this aluminum skid plate offers ample protection, while saving on weight. Bottom line? This one is a no brainer! Go and support a great small business with an awesome eye for detail and design.