Element Belly Skid Plates Install

3rd Gen Tacoma with Full Aluminum Belly Skid Plates from Element

Front, Mid & Transfer Case Aluminum Option For Tacoma

There are a few modifications that I would consider essential. Tires, lift and armor. Probably in that order.

If we’re talking armor, front and rear bumpers are great to have, but it’s much more likely that you’ll bang up the undercarriage before you tear off the OEM bumpers. Sliders and skid plates are a priority.

There are not a crazy amount of skid plate options on the market, let alone aluminum options.

Enter Element by RA Motorsports.

These guys have a humble beginning building Subaru parts for their community. Since then, they’ve branched out into several makes and models, and most recently, extended their offerings to the off-road community through Element.

Aluminum Transfer, Mid/Transmission & Front Skid Plates from Element by RA Motorsports

The skid plates are designed in a way that is unique to Element. Taking inspiration from the racing world, the team designed a set that fit together seamlessly, giving the undercarriage of your truck a smooth, protective surface to ensure crucial components of your drivetrain stay properly protected.

I chose to go with their upgraded “Moab” package, which adds quite a few additional braces across the entire system for better rigidity. It’s no secret that aluminum is not a strong as steel, and we like to push our truck. With the added braces, I was willing to try the system out. In the picture above, from right to left, you can see the transfer case plate (w/ the new crossbar), then the mid/transmission plate, and finally, the engine plate.

This article will serve as a step-by-step install guide, overview and initial review. Although this article is focused on a 3rd Gen Tacoma, the system works on the 2nd Gen as well.

We’ve also covered Element’s offering for gas tank protection. See the gas tank skid plate install and initial review.

Update (4/4/2021): We’ve since published the full trail-tested review of the complete package.

Let’s get started.

Find It Online

Discount Code

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.*


Aluminum Skid Plate Hardware - Element by RA Motorsports

  • (2) Aluminum Spacers
  • (2) M8 x 40mm Bolts
  • (4) M8 x 30mm Bolts
  • (2) Carriage Bolts
  • (2) Nuts for Carriage Bolts
  • (1) Additional Nut

Required Tools

  • Mechanic’s Tool Set: Check Price
    • Ratcheting Wrench & Sockets


Element Skid Plate Install for 2005-2020 Toyota Tacoma

Step 1. Remove OEM Plates

I already had my factory skids removed, so no image for this step.

However, this step is easy. The front skid is mounted by four easily visible nuts and the same goes for the rear. Locate these bolts and remove them and then the two should drop right out.

Step 2. Remove Frame Support

Step-By-Step Skid Plate Install Guide - 3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma

To start, you’ll need to remove a few steel supports.

The first, if you have them, are the above-seen supports that run from the frame to the transmission cross member.

There are four bolts that mount each one. Remove these on both sides.

Frame Steel Support from 3rd Gen Tacoma

This is what the removed support looks like.

You won’t need the support or the bolts from here on out.

Removing Steel Supports for Front Skid Plate - 3rd Gen Tacoma

Next, you’ll remove support where the front mounts. You can see the two mounts above.

These are attached with a total of seven, 17mm bolts. Remove all of them and the supports will drop out.

Removing Steel Support for Skid Plate Install

For reference, here are the two removed supports.

You will need to reuse four of the mounting bolts, so don’t get rid of them.

Step 3. Install New Support

Element Aluminum Skid Plate Install - Adding New Support

To help mount the skids to the frame, you’ll need to install a new support.

Above, you can see the support. Grab your two carriage bolts and accompanying nuts and bolt everything to the frame. This support is installed along the cross-member that helps to hold the transmission.

DIY Aluminum Skid Plate Install Guide for 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

Line up the holes, center the new support and bolt it down tightly.

Step 4. Disconnect Brake Line

Full Aluminum Skid Plate Install on Tacoma - Disconnecting Brake Lines

The first part of the package to install is the transfer case portion. It mounts to the game in two spots.

One of those spots can be seen above. Part of the hard brake line here is secured with a frame mount. Loosen the bolt holding the brake lines to the frame.

Step 4. Remove Sticker

Element by RA Motorsports Aluminum Skid Plate Install Guide

Then, you’ll need to go to the opposite side and remove one of the three stickers which cover holes on the frame.

The one farthest to the back is the second frame mounting point.

Step 5. Transfer Case

DIY Aftermarket Skid Plate Installation - 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

You’ll need to line up the slots in the skid plate with the holes in the frame.

This may take a bit longer as the fit is tight and you don’t have a lot of wiggle room to work with. Be patient, eventually, all the holes will line up.

Using one of the four 30mm bolts, secure the driver’s side of the transfer case skid plate. Do not tighten this bolt down completely, you’ll likely need to shimmy things around in order to get all of the skids to fit together.

Transfer Case Aluminum Skid Plate Install on 3rd Gen Tacoma

Take the extra nut from the supplied hardware and another of the 30mm bolts.

Again, line up the hole and tighten down. Keep this bolt loose as well. Once these two bolts are mounted and it is fairly secure, move the skid plate until the holes towards the front of it line up with the nuts inside the previously installed aluminum crossbar.

Element Aluminum Skid Plate Installed on 3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma

This is what the installed transfer case skid plate will look like on your truck.

You can see the holes towards the front of the plate and where the transfer case skid touches the aluminum crossbar.

Step 6. Mid Plate

Element Aluminum Mid/Transmission Skid Plate Install - 3rd Gen Tacoma

This is where you’ll see how well each piece slides into the next.

Complete Aluminum Skid Plate Install on 3rd Gen Tacoma

Slide the mid skid plate into the transfer case skid plate, and using the other two 30mm bolts, place them through the holes where the two meet. Leave them finger tight.

You can see these bolts above and in the previous picture.

Element Mid/Transmission Aluminums Skid Plate - 3rd Gen Tacoma

Move to the front of the mid skid plate, and for now, to make it easier to hold the plate up, thread in the two 40mm bolts by hand.

This is temporary, just to free up your hands.

Step 7. Front Plate

Element Aluminum Front Skid Plate Install - 3rd Gen Tacoma

Once you’ve got the front skid properly mated with the mid skid, find a way to hold it up while slipping the spacer, as seen above, between the frame and where the previously mentioned skids meet.

Complete Aluminum Undercarriage Skid Plate Package for 2nd & 3rd Gen Tacoma

Grab the two 40mm bolts and insert them through the holes in the skids, through the spacer, and leave them finger tight.

Now is where you find out how well the whole system is lined up. This is where I ran into some issues.

If you don’t line up everything well enough, the bolt holes for the front skid plate won’t line up. I had to go back and loosen all of the bolts (my fault) and push the entire system back one skid at a time until everything lined up perfectly.

Element by RA Motorsports Detailed Skid Plate Install

Once everything lines up, grab two of the 17mm bolts you removed earlier and using your socket wrench and an extension and insert them through the two holes seen above. Don’t tighten them all the way just yet.

Element Aluminum Skid Plate Install on 3rd Gen Tacoma

Finally, take two more of the 17mm nuts, and again, finger tighten.

Step 8. Check Alignment

If you’re satisfied with the way the holes are lined up and they fit together properly, full tighten down the entire system.

That’s it! You’re all done. Not the most difficult install, by any means.

Complete Skid Plate Package on 3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma

This is what the complete protection package looks like from the back of the truck.

Almost seamless! I really dig the look. You can see the full system from the front back in the first image in this post.

Final Thoughts

Lifted 3rd Gen Tacoma with Aluminum Skid Plates from Element by RA Motorsports

These are pretty awesome!

Collectively, they weigh less than 70lbs. And that’s with the “Moab” reinforcement package that adds 7lbs. That is a TON of weight savings. Other steel skid plates systems, weigh around 150lbs, more than double these.

The polished aluminum finish looks great, and the design is like nothing else out on the market. The install was fairly easy and I’m stoked to test these out. I included a teaser shot of the first trail run with these above. The full review and overview will be published shortly.

I really put these skid plates through the test and I have some great things to report about the entire package and the team over at RA Motorsports / Element.

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2 years ago

I was all set to buy when I realized that there’s no provision for oil changes. That’s a deal breaker for me :/

2 years ago

Edit: I didn’t put the first bracket upside down.
Any threaded holes that don’t currently have a bolt in, needs to be cleaned, or retreaded. Test them before install.

2 years ago

Wish I’d seen this before my installation. Somehow put the first bracket upside down.
Didn’t know I had to remove the skid plate mounts.
hope everything will fit tight and smooth.

3 years ago

I’ve got the front skid and really like it so far! I think my only beef is that it seems to hang a touch lower that other skids, so you compromise a little clearance.

Steve Sparks
Steve Sparks
3 years ago

After using them a bunch have you noticed loud creaking or popping noises coming from the areas where the plates overlap?

3 years ago

So, you have to take the whole front skid plate off every time you change your oil? I’ll pass!

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