Best Skid Plates For 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

Steel Skid Plates For 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

Top Underbody Armor Options By Style, Design & Material Types

You probably spent some time exploring various armor mods for your Tacoma. There are so many options, choosing one can be incredibly difficult.

We’ve put together this guide so all of the best options could be easily found and compared. We’ll cover the 2005-2023 Tacoma.

Determining what you need will vary from person to person and usage. Will your truck see mild off-roading, or will you consistently smash big rocks and dragging across big obstacles? Maybe you’re more of a weekend warrior that won’t experience as much potential for damage.

From full belly packages to ABS sensor guards, we’ve got you covered. We’ll dive into materials, prices and more.

Let’s get started!

Choosing Materials

Ironman 4x4 Skid Plate Package For 2005-2023 Tacoma

The two main options to choose from are steel and aluminum. Check out this post – steel vs. aluminum skid plates – for a more detailed look.

Before deciding what company to go with, you want to pick the material. Unfortunately, not every company offers both. It might be wise to choose one first, and then figure out which companies you will or won’t be able to buy from..

The following two sections will outline your choices and the differences between the two metals.

Aluminum

Element Aluminum Skid Plates For 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

Pictured: Element by RA Motorsports – fully belly coverage.

This is the lightest of the two types as well as the more expensive. One of the biggest advantages of aluminum is weight savings. It can weigh up to half the weight of their steel counterparts – especially when looking at a complete package.

Weight

Weight is a huge factor because when you start adding armor, gear, etc., the pounds quickly start to add up. The idea is simple, the more weight you have, the tougher it will be for your truck to handle the weight, and this will affect driving characteristics and handling both on and off-road.

The main idea is to not exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your Tacoma. The closer you get your to this number, the more you’ll feel it. Ideally, you want to be well under the GVWR. Keeping the overall weight down also keeps the gas mileage up. That’s just logical. The less strain, the less fuel consumption there is. Aluminum is much more economical in that sense.

Strength

A big question you might frequently hear about aluminum is strength. It’s no secret that steel will hold up better to abuse on the trail. The real question is how much abuse you’re planning on. If you’re an occasional weekend wheeler, you’ll stick to mild to moderate trails and service roads, and you don’t plan on bashing your skids repeatedly, aluminum is more than likely enough. There’s no need to carry around all of the excess weight if you’re not going to use it. Keep in mind that one big hit with aluminum can and more likely will deform. Aluminum is not designed for those who wheel hard and often.

Friction

Aluminum is a softer metal; it’s much easier to deform than steel. In that case, aluminum is also at a disadvantage because impacts tend to “stick” more with aluminum than with steel. In simple terms, aluminum plates, due to their softer material, “grab” onto rocks. There’s more friction when compared to steel. In contrast, steel doesn’t bite as much, they slide over big obstacles better. This is advantageous when you’re crawling through a big rock garden. The increased friction between the rock and the aluminum could reduce momentum and ultimately make it more difficult to traverse an obstacle.

Corrosion 

Finally, aluminum is much more resistant to corrosion than steel. Even left bare, they wont rust, and the rate of corrosion is very slow.

Pros

  • Light(er)weight
  • Less impact on MPGs and handling
  • Corrosion-resistant

Cons

  • Typically pricier
  • Not as strong
  • Increased friction over obstacles

Steel

Pictured: Cali Raised steel package.

Now onto the steel option. Some of this may be a repeat of the above.

Weight

Steel is the heavier of the two. Again, the biggest factor here is exceeding your GVWR, reducing MPGs, and potentially needing to upgrade your suspension. We already touched on the GVWR and MPGs, but not on the weight capacity of your suspension.

As you might know or have seen, by the time you add heavy mods, your suspension will begin to sag. That will ultimately affect your ride height and comfort. You’ll have to get better parts to compensate Something to think about. As you can tell, weight is a subject that you really can’t get away from.

Strength

If you’re someone who is super friendly with the skinny pedal or just looking to wheel your Tacoma super hard, steel is the option for you. Steel skid plates can take one heck of a beating without deforming and they give you peace of mind. The best if you’re looking for maximum protection and minimal worry.

Corrosion

Finally, a downside to steel is that it rusts. No secret there. Now, steel skid plates tend to be 3/16″ thick, which doesn’t rust as quickly as you might imagine. The key here is proper preparation and coating, whether that be a DIY project with rattle-can spray paint or a professional powder coat. If you’re interested in painting your own metal parts, see our post – prepping and painting bare metal armor.

Pros

  • Usually cheaper
  • Stronger than aluminum
  • Less friction, slides better over obstacles

Cons

  • Much heavier
  • Expect more corrosion (rust)
  • More impact on MPGs and handling

Types

  • Front/Engine
  • Transmission/Mid
  • Transfer Case
  • Gas Tank
  • Rear Differential
  • Lower Control Arm
  • Rear Shock
  • ABS Sensor
  • E-Locker Motor

Front

3rd Gen Tacoma With Aluminum Skid Plates from Element & Dirt King LCAs

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The front (engine) skid plate, is the best place to start. The engine and the oil pan are some of the most vital components. If one of these gets damaged, there’s no fixing it on the trail – and that can get costly, quick.

As one of the low points of the undercarriage, and what hit obstacles first, it’s the most likely to take damage. The factory ones do the job if you’re going to stick to the pavement, but they’re very thin and crumple easily under loads that you might see on the trail. The coverage from an upgraded option is usually better than OEM too.

If you have to pick just one from this list, we recommend that you get a front skid. It’s the best place to start and will give you the most vital protection.

BrandMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
Front/Engine
C4 FabricationSteel62N/A
RA MotorsportsAluminumN/A28-34
CBI Off-RoadBothNot listedNot listed
RCI Metal WorksBoth4722
Victory 4×4Both3720
Expedition OneSteel50N/A
All Pro Off-RoadBoth4422
Ricochet Off-RoadAluminumNot listedN/A
OK ExpeditionAluminumN/A25
TRD Pro (OEM/replica)AluminumN/A26
M.O.R.E.Both6129
Cali RaisedBoth4921
DV8 Off-RoadSteelNot listedN/A
Rival 4x4AluminumN/A25
GreenLane OffroadAluminumN/ANot listed
Talon's GarageBoth5329

Transmission

Aluminum Mid/Transmission Skid Plate for 2nd & 3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma

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The middle part of the puzzle is the mid/transmission skid plate. The sole purpose is to protect vital transmission components as well as the pan from hazards.

Having a damaged transmission off-road will most likely lead you you being stranded or at the mercy of a difficult recovery. This skid is usually sold as a part of a set, since it works with the surrounding ones. You typically won’t buy one the mid/transmission coverage.

Note: Some companies forego multiple pieces. Instead of the more traditional three piece design, they make a full package that only consists of two. So depending on which you go with, there might only be two pieces. C4 and CBI are examples.

BrandMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
Transmission
C4 Fabrication Rear SkidsSteel94N/A
RA MotorsportsAluminumN/AN/A
RCI Metal WorksAluminum & Steel3518
4x InnovationsAluminumN/AN/A
Ricochet Off-RoadAluminumN/AN/A
Mobtown Off-RoadAluminum & Steel4518
All Pro Off-RoadAluminumN/AN/A
Victory 4×4Aluminum & SteelN/A18
OK ExpeditionAluminumN/AN/A

Transfer Case

Transfer Case Skid Plate For Tacoma

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These will usually attach to the transmission crossmember and then to a new crossmember you add behind the transfer case. This protects not only the transfer case but the low-hanging portions of the exhaust in the middle of the truck.

Adding one to your build, in conjunction those above, will complete the full primary coverage of the most vital areas. It will create a smooth profile which will help when sliding or rubbing up against rocks.

You’ll want to pick up one cohesive setup for the primary coverage, as these tend to be designed to work as a system. This is not black and white though, as some sets will work together, even with factory ones.

BrandMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
Transfer Case
C4 Fabrication Rear SkidsSteel94N/A
RA MotorsportsAluminumN/AN/A
RCI Metal WorksAluminum & SteelN/AN/A
Victory 4×4Aluminum & Steel60N/A
M.O.R.E Off-RoadAluminum & Steel4520
4x InnovationsSteelN/AN/A
Mobtown Off-RoadAluminum & Steel4524

Gas Tank

Gas Tank Skid Plate from CBI Off-Road Fabrication for 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

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Can anyone explain why most Tacoma trims don’t come with any protection here? Certain ones do, but even so, the factory version is plastic and doesn’t offer much of anything. Not sure what Toyota was thinking there…

With that being said, picking up a gas tank skid is necessary, even if you aren’t going to go off-road very frequently. An aluminum option is a perfect choice here. But if you are going to spend a fair amount of time on the trail, all the more reason to pick one of these up.

Varying with manufacturers, most options will have a wrap-around edge design to help protect all corners of the tank from harm. Some mount strictly to the gas tank strap bolts, while others utilize frame mounting points or a combination of both.

Skid PlateMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
Gas Tank
C4 FabricationSteel53N/A
Cali Raised LEDAluminum & SteelN/A37
CBI Off-RoadSteel80N/A
RA MotorsportsAluminumN/AN/A
RCI Metal WorksAluminum & Steel3520
Victory 4×4Aluminum & Steel5027
Ricochet Off-RoadAluminumN/AN/A
M.O.R.E Off-RoadAluminumN/A24
Rago FabricationAluminum & Steel65N/A
SOS Off-Road ConceptsAluminumN/A25

Rear Differential

DRT Fab Rear Diff Skid for Toyota Tacoma

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Make sure you check which diff you have. These do not fit all 2nd & 3rd Gens.

You’ve probably noticed the lowest hanging part of the driveline, at the rear of your truck. What you’re looking at is often referred to as a ‘pumpkin’ – but the technical term is the rear differential. It’s an easy component to snag.

As the lowest part of the truck, you can bet you’ll hit it at one point or another. Due to its shape, the diff can also get hung up on rock and trees. A good option will help  due to its shape, which is flat and angled, to better slide over rocks. The rear axle and differential are pretty strong, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

A hard hit to the housing or the yoke could be detrimental. They might look a bit pricey, but their design not only helps to protect your diff, but it also helps with technical spots where your diff could get you stuck. The more you wheel, the more we recommend one.

Skid PlateMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
Rear Differential
C4 FabricationSteel22N/A
R4TSteelN/AN/A
RCI Metal WorksSteel22N/A
Bay Area Metal FabricationSteelN/AN/A

Lower Control Arm

CBI Off-Road Fabrication Lower Control Arm (LCA) Skid Plate for 3rd Gen Tacoma

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The LCAs are another low-hanging part of your truck that is susceptible to a fair amount kits. Lower control arms are the point that connects your shock, spindle, frame and other assemblies.

They are a crucial suspension component part and are not cheap to replace if damaged. Hitting your lower control arm can potentially lead to suspension issues, and alignment problems. Some manufacturers build to protect the alignment cams as well. Almost all options are made to wrap the lower control which ensures all sides are protected.

Some people argue they are a waste of money, but both sides have good arguments for/against.

Skid PlateMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
Lower Control Arms
RCI Metal WorksAluminum & SteelN/A18
CBI Off-RoadAluminum & Steel25N/A
Victory 4×4Steel22N/A
4x InnovationsSteelN/AN/A
Total ChaosAluminumN/AN/A
Runnin4TacosSteel22N/A
Rago FabricationSteel23N/A
Cali Raised LEDSteel14N/A

Rear Shock

Cali Raised Rear Shock Skid For Toyota Tacoma

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  1. Cali Raised Rear Shock (2005-2023): Check Price

    Sticking with the theme of low-hanging, we have to mention the rear shock.

    The lower portion of the rear shock bolts to the axle on each side. They also hang beneath the axle tube. Protection, the Cali Raised option, covers not only the bolt/mount, but also has a portion that extends to protect the shock shaft.

    Fortunately, they are the cheapest, so it’s easier to justify the cost.

    Skid PlateMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
    Rear Shock Strut
    Rago FabricationSteelN/AN/A
    P&P EngineeringSteelN/AN/A
    RCI Off-RoadSteelN/AN/A
    Cali Raised LEDSteelN/AN/A

    ABS Sensor Guard

    Jomax Customs Billet ABS Sensor Guard

    Top Brands

    1. Jomax Customs ABS Armor: Check Price
    2. SDHQ Billet ABS Guards: Check Price

    This is one area people don’t really talk about. For those who are unfamiliar, ABS is a system on modern-day vehicles that prevents the wheels from locking up under hard braking.

    The ABS sensor is located right above the lower control arms and on the rear axle. Wheels with big offsets often expose the sensors and they’re always vulnerable to being hit by something like a stray branch. The ABS sensors are vital to the traction system and can be a costly fix if damaged. Furthermore, if they break, it will have a significant impact on the braking system, not to mention a whole lot of error lights on your dash. It could even put your truck in limp mode.

    Check out Jomax Customs ABS armor install and review.

    Skid PlateMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
    ABS Skid Guard
    SDHQ USAAluminumN/AN/A
    SNS Custom DesignsAluminumN/AN/A
    Jomax CustomsAluminumN/AN/A
    Archive GarageSteelN/AN/A

    E-Locker Motor

    E-Locker Motor Guard Skid Plate for Toyota Tacoma

    We added this one to the list, but it’s not as relevant. There are effectively no options, and the need for this one is heavily debated. Could you use one? There’s always a chance of damage, but the likelihood here seems to be low.

    As far as we can currently tell, Low Range is the only brand that still offers one. And it only fits a specific range of Tacoma e-lockers. We could not confirm fitment for 3rd Gen or late model 2nd Gens.

    Skid PlateMaterialSteel (LBS)Aluminum (LBS)
    E Locker Motor Guard
    Low Range OffroadSteel3N/A
    Marlin CrawlerSteelN/AN/A

    Notable Mentions

    Ironman 4X4 and ARB both sell complete steel belly skid plate sets.

    Both of these companies offer (almost) full coverage (front, transmission, transfer case). You can only buy these skids as a set. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing. Relatively speaking, these are very competitively priced. Especially Ironman 4X4, which comes under $700. Now that is a great price!

    See our ARB skid plate review and Ironman 4×4 skid plate review.

    These are affordable, they come from long-standing trustworthy brands and the protection they offer is enough for most off-road and overland enthusiasts.

    Find It Online

    • Ironman 4X4 Underbelly Skid Plates 2005-2023 Tacoma: Check Price
    • ARB Under Vehicle Protection 2005-2023 Tacoma: Check Price

    Final Thoughts

    Full Aluminum Skid Plates from Element by Ra Motorsports for 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

    Deciding what skid plates to purchase can be a lengthy and time-consuming process.

    We hope that this guide made things a bit easier for you. There are so many choices out on the market, but not to worry, you really can’t go wrong with most of them.

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    8 Comments
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    Ken Smith
    7 months ago

    Do any cover the catalytic converter to prevent theft?

    Dave
    Dave
    2 years ago

    I have a 18 TRD Sport, I do not want to remove the front air dam. I still would like a skid plate. I bought a Toyota TRD and I would need to remove the air dam, so I put tit on my 2nd gen. Any recommendations for 3rd gen skid plate without removing air dam

    BHB
    BHB
    2 years ago

    There’s nothing wrong with the OEM skid plate. It does the job; weighs what it weighs; Toyota designed/engineered. Like me, I doubt many Tacoma owners spend much time laying under their Tacomas admiring their skid plate.

    Jay
    Jay
    1 year ago
    Reply to  BHB

    Salts totally destroy these OEM splash skids in less that a dozen years!!

    Scout
    2 years ago
    Reply to  BHB

    It all depends on your application. If you’re frequently out on the rocks on the trail, the factory skid plates will not cut it. It’s not really a vanity modification, it’s meant for function off-road.

    Todd C Menard
    Todd C Menard
    3 years ago

    Thank You! This has been a great help to a rather simple question, with less than simple ramifications without skids in the right places. I understand the GVWR and common weight issues. I have deformed my aluminum skids on my 2019 TRD Off-Road a few times opting to remove and sledgehammer them back into position… somewhat! Lol. I am a weekend ORr, however, find myself underwater or occasionally coming down hard on the skids… so I will probably opt for steel. I also Tow so I will be looking for a TrailTacoma video on rear leaf replacements… although axles and… Read more »

    Todd C Menard
    Todd C Menard
    3 years ago
    Reply to  Todd C Menard

    Follow-up to my previous reply –
    I contacted both RCI and Ironman for pricing and neither offer a complete kit. The kits only include the engine, transfer case and transmission. RCI does offer additional plates to cover the rr differential, lower control arms, and gas tank. The total is $1450.
    Ironman only offer the same skid plates in their kit. However offer no other skid plates.

    Larry
    Larry
    3 years ago

    You show an archive garage product in the picture but font list it in the list.

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