SnailArmor Flat Tailgate Panel for the 3rd Gen and 2nd Gen Toyota Tacoma – Review and Overview
There are quite a few Tacoma tailgate panels on the market by now, but one thing sets the SnailArmor flat tailgate panel apart from everything else. To me, it came down to the custom etching. Being able to add your logo or whatever design you want on your tailgate panel definitely sets this product apart from everything else on the market.
Food Grade Safe Panels?
One of the first real tailgate panels out on the market for the Tacoma was the plastic food-grade option that allowed you to cut food and prep your dinner – all on your tailgate panel. The idea is pretty cool in theory, however, after a hard day of wheeling, I don’t know about you, but my entire truck is filthy. The last thing I want to do is clean my tailgate panel so I can then cut some fresh fish on it for dinner. I know to some people, this is an amazing product and I have heard many people say good things about their food-grade safe tailgate panel, but it’s just not for me.
Sometime after that food-grade safe tailgate panel circled the market, the first version of the SnailArmor flat tailgate panel was introduced. The founder of SnailArmor; Jimmy Jet who runs the popular YouTube channel Snail Trail 4×4 wanted a lightweight, simple design, flat tailgate panel. That’s it, no elegant frills like food-grade safe cutting capabilities, no cup holders, nothing other than a very simple flat tailgate panel.
Why Aluminum Over Plastic Panels
They can withstand extreme temperatures so you don’t have to worry about putting hot pots/pans on the tailgate. Plastic can gouge when using the tailgate as a workbench, where metal will not. The thin sections where the screws are on a mountain hatch often break when tightening them down.
Jimmy Jet’s Background
Jimmy Jet comes from a background of pretty hardcore rock crawling, and at any given moment has at least three to five custom rock crawler builds going on in his garage.
This guy literally does the two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive conversions in his sleep. Okay, I’m kidding but he’s super into it. Jimmy has deep roots in the early model Toyota pickup world. From a young age, Jimmy was always interested in off-roading, beating the living daylights out of those trucks, and then putting those trucks back together again.
It’s for Guys Who Wheel or Not…
I’m telling you all of this because the tailgate panel was designed for the off-roader who actually wheel their truck. You don’t need a food-grade safe tailgate panel to go have a good time. If you want a flat tailgate panel, here it is. It’s aluminum. It’s lightweight. It’s simple. it’s flat.
That’s Jimmy’s theory anyway – and I’m not going to lie, I bought into it. There’s something to be said about simplicity and the design and the SnailArmor tailgate panel is just that, it’s simple. SnailArmor provides everything you need for a straight swap install.
Custom Logo Etching
What I really like about the SnailArmor tailgate panel is the custom logo etching. I’m a sucker for branding anything, and SnailArmor makes it really easy. They do charge for additional logo etching services, however, it’s incredibly worth it. At the end of the day, when you open your tailgate and see YOUR logo or whatever vector design you choose to run – that’s a feeling you don’t get with any other panel on the market.
It definitely adds that “oh yeah, this is my build” feeling whenever you open the tailgate. We chose to run our Trail Tacoma full-length logo across the entire panel and couldn’t be more stoked with how it turned out. This is actually a pretty simple design too, you really should jump over to Instagram and check out SnailArmor’s Instagram page to see all of the intricate custom designs they etch in other owners’ panels.
So it’s Flat Right? No Cup Holders?
What about those other guys that offer cup holders? That’s a good question. When’s the last time you parked on a 30% descent, hopped out, cracked a beer, and then needed a cup holder. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Yeah, me neither. Jimmy’s thought-process in the cup holder theory of a tailgate panel is all so simple. You just don’t need one. And if you really want one, buy the other panel.
When you’re parked on flat ground is when you typically are finally at the end of the day where you can crack a beer set your beer on the tailgate panel and relax. It’s very rare when you’re parked on a 30% 40% incline and need to set your beer down. But, if you need a cup holder in your panel, we’re not knocking it. We’re just saying it might not get used all that much in the real world.
What SnailArmor Says
“SnailArmor Flat Tailgate was designed out of necessity. I personally didn’t want to spend the money for another plastic tailgate just to have one be flat. I also don’t see the need to have a food-grade cutting board somewhere that gets dirty. This is why I designed SnailArmor. I wanted to get rid of the plastic wavey panel that came stock and replace it with something flat, more rigid, and all-around more useful.” – Jimmy Jet
The SnailArmor Panel
The SnailArmor Flat Tailgate is laser cut from 5052 Aluminum. Then it’s powder coated with black textured paint to give you a little grip under your feet, however, it can be slippery when wet. Then SnailArmor laser etches the logo or any custom designs you might want onto the panel.
Find it online:
- SnailArmor Tailgate Panel: Check Price
What makes SnailArmor stand out?
- It’s the flattest tailgate on the market
- Makes for a flat work surface
- Creates a table for camp cooking or setting your drink onto
- Countersunk screws as a replacement for the button heads for the ultimate flat feature (hardware included)
- Specifically designed for each model
- Yes, 2nd and 3rd Gen tailgates are different
- Cutout on the plate for 2nd Gen Tacoma allows the plate to sit lower than competitor plates
- Prevents from slipping on grooves when jumping into the bed
- Cutouts around the area where the tailgate raises, so there are no gaps, allowing the panel to sit flat against the tailgate
- Personalize your SnailArmor Flat Tailgate with custom laser etching
- T30 Torx bit supplied
- Free shipping to the Continental United States
- SnailArmor Flat Tailgate: 9.70 lbs
- Stock Tailgate Panel: 6.94 Lbs
Tailgate Panel Install
Installation of the panel is incredibly simple. The entire install can be done in under an hour. Below, we are going to break down the step-by-step installation on the SnailArmor tailgate panel.
Step 1. Loosen Torx Screws
Using the T30 Torx bit, remove all 8 Torx screws (7 if it’s the 2nd Gen) along the top/outside of the tailgate liner. Leaving the tailgate in cap in place. Save the hardware as you will need them to reinstall later.
Remove the eight screws around the outside in the bottom/inside with a T-30 bit. You will not need these screws for installation. SnailArmor provides new screws for the bottom half of the tailgate panel.
Step 2. Remove Factory Liner
Remove the plastic OEM tailgate liner from the vehicle and place it to the side. Notice how the tailgate liner sits underneath the tailgate in the end cap. The factory tailgate insert will not be reused.
Step 3. Clean Sheet Metal (Optional)
Optional: Clean surface and put a coat of wax on tailgate interior surface. This may prevent from any debris being caught under the new flat tailgate panel that is going in.
Step 4. Install Panel
Notice how the two different sides of the SnailArmor flat tailgate panel are different. One side has the countersunk holes for the flat head screws, this side should be facing upwards. Install SnailArmor tailgate, ensuring the panel is underneath the tailgate end cap, just like the OEM tailgate liner.
Step 5. Hand Tighten Torx
Hand-tighten two of the large Torx screws along the top of the end cap through the SnailArmor tailgate panel.
Step 6. Hand Tighten Phillips
Using a screwdriver or ratchet driver, hand-tighten the provided flat head screws around the outside of the tailgate panel. Do not over-tighten the screws as the plastic tabs on the backside of the tailgate panel can’t get stripped. Also on this topic, the plastic tabs on the back end of the tailgate panel can sit a bit off in relation to the tailgate panel which may cause the screws to sit just above the recessed portion in the tailgate panel. This is normal. If this happens, loosen all of the screws, and hand-tighten them all slowly until each screw is perfectly flat with the tailgate panel.
Finally have the tailgate panel logo to match my windshield banner logo.
To me, it comes down to the custom logo etching services that SnailArmor provides. If I didn’t have a logo that fit as well as the trail Tacoma logo fits, I would probably opt for something cool like a TRD logo, maybe a topographic pattern, mountains, or something else. This tailgate panel is simple but allows for customization.
Well done SnailArmor. Well done.