Affordable, Complete Belly Skid Plate Package from Ironman 4X4 for 2005+ Toyota Tacoma – Install Guide & Full Review
One of the most important investments you can make to protect your Tacoma off-road is in a set of high-quality skid plates.
Whether you’re a weekend camper or a dedicated rock crawler, the most exposed parts of your truck are at risk of being caught, smashed, or ripped off on an unexpected obstacle.
Protecting these vital and expensive components should be a top priority. If you’ve ever taken a hard look at your factory skid plate or removed it for maintenance, you know that this small piece of tin is not going to protect you from any more than some tall brush.
Upgrading to a full underbody protection kit will ensure complete protection off-road, and allow you to go places you otherwise wouldn’t dare tread.
When considering which skid plates to use, you have the option of running the heavier steel or lightweight aluminum kits. While the aluminum options save considerable weight, they’re often much more expensive and are only a fraction as durable as their steel counterparts.
This is why I opted to test out the new 3rd Gen Tacoma steel skid plate kit from Ironman 4×4. At first glance, they may look like ordinary skid plates, but Ironman took their time with this kit, designing it from the ground up to blow the competition away at one of the best price points around.
Find It Online
- Skid Plate Kit for 2nd & 3rd Gen (2005+) Toyota Tacoma: Check Price
Skid Plate Package Features & Specifications
After unboxing these Ironman 4X4 skid plates, I couldn’t be more impressed.
These skid plates are fabricated out of 4mm thick steel and weigh a total of 81 lbs, which is impressively light compared to other full steel options. The full kit comes with three individual skid plates, a mounting bracket for the transmission skid plate, associated spacers, and all the necessary hardware.
Quality & Features
After some inspection, I’m happy to report the design and construction are top-notch.
They’re specifically designed with an integrated framework and extra gussets to evenly distribute loads and to prevent punctures and damage. That means they’re stronger and more durable than other pressed steel kits, offering up to 5X more strength compared to the competition, according to Ironman.
Along with this reinforcement, the skids feature fully recessed, high tensile-strength mounting locations and hardware—not only will your skids never move or shift, but you’ll also never have to worry about getting caught up on or damaging your mounting hardware.
Ironman designed these skids to be as smooth of a surface as possible, while also saving weight and providing access to your truck’s underbody for maintenance.
Size & Powder Coat
The size of the skid kit is also impressive—these skid plates cover 3X more area than the factory skids, protecting your engine, transmission, radiator, and steering components.
Impressively, they’ve also incorporated protection for the exhaust crossover location behind the transmission, which is one of the most common locations Tacoma’s get snagged on. Preventing damage here can save you the cost of an entire exhaust system!
To top it off, these skids come standard with a high-quality textured powder-coated finish. Beneath this is an EDP-E coat protectant layer that’s designed to prevent any corrosion of the steel if the powder coat is damaged.
This is a nice feature to have, especially if you live in areas that use salt on roadways. If you do receive any major damage though, I would highly recommend getting the skid plates replaced or re-coated to prevent any permanent rust damage.
- Mechanic’s Tool Set
- 10mm Socket
- 12mm Socket
- 17mm Socket
- Torque Wrench
- Floor Jack (optional, but recommended)
- Jack Stands (optional, but recommended)
- Creeper (optional, but recommended)
Note: The front skid plate may need to be modified to accommodate some aftermarket front bumpers. More on that later.
The installation process for these skid plates is very straightforward, and the entire process should take less than two hours. Ironman provides a great set of instructions and all the necessary brackets and hardware with the kit.
Step 1. Prepping for Installation
First, park your truck on a flat, level surface. Because clearance between the ground and the underbody of the truck is tight, a creeper may not fit. If this is the case, laying down a large blanket or sheet of cardboard makes the installation a bit more comfortable. If you have access to a lift, definitely use it! I chose to use some folding recovery treads from GoTreads to raise the front of the vehicle an extra 6 inches; you can also use drive-up ramps for some added height.
If you wish to jack the truck higher to fit underneath, be sure to place multiple jack stands securely around the frame of the vehicle, chock the wheels, and engage the parking brak.! Take extra care when crawling underneath our out from beneath the vehicle.
If your Tacoma comes with a front lower air guard installed, the first step is to remove this plastic piece. Remove the six 10mm bolts from the front of the air guard and the two 10mm bolts from the rear, then remove the air guard and set it off to the side.
Then, it’s time to get rid of the factory skids and skid plate braces. On the front skid plate, remove the two 12mm bolts from the front side of the skid plate first. Once these are removed, the front skid plate can rest on the built-in hooks on the frame while you remove the two rear 12mm bolts. After all the bolts are removed, lift the front of the OEM plate up and out to free it, and set it off to the side.
Next, the two support braces found underneath the front OEM skid plate can be removed. The Ironman skids’ built-in gusset-ing completely replaces these structural components. Remove the seven 17mm bolts from each of these braces. We will be reusing this hardware, so do not discard these bolts.
These braces run from the front cross member to the rear cross member underneath the truck. These cross members are located near the front and rear forks of the lower control arm. This helped me orient myself after crawling out from under the truck and back under to retrieve the hardware, and also made the mounting holes easier to locate.
Step 2. Install Front Skid Plate
With the braces removed, the Ironman front skid plate can now be installed.
I found it easiest to start at the rear of the skid plate and line up the mounting points to the holes left from removing the braces, as there are no other confusing holes around them. Reusing the OEM 17mm bolts, attach the skid plate to these mounting locations and tighten the bolts finger tight.
Because the mounting locations are recessed, it’s easiest to use a 17mm socket on an extension without a ratchet.
This will support the weight of the skid plate while also allowing you to adjust them later on.
To finish attaching the front skid plate, use the 17mm OEM bolts to attach the front of the skid plate to the frame in the factory skid mounting locations. With the rear in place, the front of your skid plate should line right up with the three bolt holes.
You can adjust the skid forward and backward to center the hole in the frame with the hole in the skid plate. Leave these bolts finger tight as well to allow for some adjustment.
Step 3. Install Mid/Transmission Skid Plate
Next, the middle skid plate can be fitted to the frame. The middle skid plate is easily identified by the large cutout in the center, towards the back. This cutout will align with the factory jacking location (cross-member) underneath the truck, and the entire skid plate is tapered to align perfectly with the rear of the front skid plate, making it easy to orient correctly.
To install this skid plate, first lift the front side of the skid plate to the frame and rest it on the rear end of the front skid plate. This will allow you to hold the skid plate in place with one hand and insert the two 17mm OEM bolts with the other. Just like before, these mounting positions are recessed into the skid plate, so using an extension with a 17mm socket works best. Tighten both front bolts finger tight.
The rear of the middle skid plate will now use the provided hardware from Ironman. To properly align the skid plates, Ironman has included two steel puck spacers that will sit in between the frame of the vehicle and the rear two mounting locations of the middle skid plate. Using two M8x35mm bolts, lock washers, and flat washers, place the puck spacers on top of the skid plate and thread the bolt through the skid plate and the puck spacer into the frame. Leave these two bolts finger tight as well.
Step 4. Install Rear Support Bracket
Before attaching the rear skid plate to the vehicle, the rear skid plate support bracket will be installed. This bracket provides the rear mounting locations for the rear skid plate and allows you to slide the rear skid plate up and down as needed to fit around the exhaust. This bracket can be a bit tricky, but with a little patience, it’s still very doable.
First, locate the cross member that sits just in front of the exhaust crossover and just behind the transmission. This cross member has access points on the underside and two holes on the front and rear. We will be attaching this bracket to the front side of the cross member, so the open side of the bracket should face the front of the vehicle and the flat face of the bracket should sit flush on the cross member.
Ironman has provided two nut plates to use for mounting this bracket.
The easiest way to get everything mounted up is to slide one nut plate up through the access point at a time, orienting the plate with the nut facing the rear so the flat face of the plate sits flush against the inside of the cross member. Place a lock washer and flat washer onto one M10 bolt and thread this bolt into the plate a few turns to hold it in place. Now that this plate is in place, repeat for the other plate.
Next, with your left hand, secure the first nut plate inside the cross member and remove the bolt. Lift the rear skid plate bracket into place with your right hand and place it flush against the cross member and into your left hand, lining up the holes with the nut plate.
Then, you can use your right hand to thread the bolt back through the bracket and cross member, and into the nut plate. This bolt will now hold the bracket up, and you can swing it over to the other side and repeat the same process. Tighten these bolts until the lock washer starts to compress, then back them off a full turn. This will ensure these bolts are just loose enough to adjust and save us time later in the install.
Step 5. Mount Rear/Transfer Case Skid Plate
With this bracket in place, we can now fit the rear skid plate. Place the front end of the rear skid plate onto the rear portion of the middle skid plate and insert two M8x25 bolts with lock washers and flat washers through the rear skid plate and into the middle skid plate to hold it in place.
A 13mm socket can be used on these bolts. Lift the rear end up to the bracket and insert four more M8x25mm bolts with lock washers and flat washers through the rear skid and into the bracket. Once these are finger tight, install the other two M8x25mm bolts with lock washers and flat washers on the front to join the middle and rear skid plates. All 8 of these bolts can then be tightened down to the listed torque spec of 17 ft-lbs.
You can now move the rear end of the rear skid plate up and down to check the clearance between the exhaust crossover and the cupped portion of the skid plate.
In my case, the skid never touched the exhaust downturn, even when the bracket was slid all the way up, and the rear skid plate lined up nicely with the rest of the skid plates in this position, so I decided to mount this bracket to the cross member in the highest position.
Step 6. Make Final Adjustments & Torque Bolts
There is just enough clearance in this area to fit a 17mm socket on a short extension in between the skid plate and the underside of the vehicle to tighten the mounting bracket.
If you’re having trouble with clearance, a U-joint swivel and a long extension can be used to reach these pesky bolts. Tighten these bolts to 33 ft-lbs.
Now, from the rear of the vehicle, work your way towards the front to tighten the rest of the bolts down to their suggested torque specs.
Tighten the two M8 bolts at the rear end of the middle skid plate to the frame, then tighten the two 17mm bolts at the front of the middle skid plate to the frame to 17 ft-lbs.
With the front skid plate still loose, attach the front skid plate to the middle skid plate from the front with the two M10 bolts with lock washers and flat washers and tighten these bolts to 33 ft-lbs.
Lastly, tighten the two rear 17mm bolts and the three front 17mm bolts on the front skid plate to the frame to 33 ft-lbs.
If at any point in this tightening process holes do not line up nicely, the skid plates can be loosened and adjusted accordingly. Tightening these bolts to the recommended torque specs will keep the skid plates from shifting around after use.
Initial Review & First Impressions
Right off the bat, I cannot stress how solid these skid plates feel. There is just no comparison between these and the stock tin skid plate. The gusset-ing and reinforcement are also unlike anything I’ve seen on any other skid plate brands. I don’t doubt these plates are as strong as or stronger than other heavier, more expensive steel skid plate options.
I had no issues fitting the skid plates to the frame and to each other, so they’re designed to fit perfectly underneath the Tacoma. As mentioned earlier, I cannot guarantee these skid plates work with aftermarket front bumpers. I personally had to chop the front lip off of the front skid plate entirely to get it to fit on the truck. I’m not sure if this was a unique case, or if anyone running an aftermarket front bumper that mounts directly to the frame will encounter this problem as well.
There seemed to be a space that this lip could potentially fit into, but my BAMF bumper’s bash plate extends right to the frame. If this is a common problem, hopefully, Ironman notices this issue and resolves it in the future. But doing a bit of trimming and some light repainting of the raw metal edge wasn’t too big of a deal.
The only other issue I noticed with these skids is the powder-coated finish. The color and texture are fantastic, and the coating seems thick, but I found it fairly easy to rough up and even remove some of this finish just handling the skid plates during the install. Which, oddly enough, held up to rocks really well. More on that in the next sections.
Huge props to Ironman for pre-coating these skids in a protective coating before applying the powder though… I’m not worried about these rusting whatsoever. The care taken to package these skid plates to prevent damage in shipping was also excellent. They arrived in perfect condition.
I tested the skid plates almost immediately after I installed them. I tested high centering the truck on a mound of dirt to see if the weight of the truck would shift the skids or damage the powder coating.
After a few hard falls onto the dirt, I found nothing had moved and there were no signs of damage whatsoever. All of the bolts remained tight and nothing had shifted.
A few days later, I took the truck to a rocky trail to see if there were any worthy obstacles and found that the front skid plate gave me a slightly higher clearance than the stock skid plate did. That is somewhat evident from the images if you know what you’re looking at.
There were a few obstacles I had come across before that touched my stock skid plate, but I was barely able to clear everything on the trail without touching the skids.
Finally, a few weeks later, I took a trip to Broken Arrow in Sedona, AZ to really give these skids a proper test.
While there, I made contact with a few loose rocks, fell heavily onto a rock ledge, and scraped the rear skid plate going down the staircase obstacle.
Even though this was a relatively tougher test, none of the skid plates shifted or showed any signs of serious damage.
The front skid plate showed some dirt where it had impacted a rock ledge, but was totally undamaged.
I have to say that this kit impressed me more than I expected. The quality and design are top-notch, the price is extremely fair for what you get, and the performance has been excellent.
These skids are likely very close in strength to other, more expensive, and heavier kits, and do a great job of covering up the most crucial exposed underbody components. They haven’t gotten caught up on any obstacles so far, everything glances right off.
I’d highly recommend everyone check out this kit—save weight and money without sacrificing any performance!
For even more skid plates, check out this post we covered on the top skid plates for the 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma.