How to Choose Aftermarket Skid Plates
This post will help you choose aftermarket skid plates. We'll cover why they're so important, which ones are available, how to choose between them, and other details you may be wondering about.
Why You Need Aftermarket Skid Plates
Off-roading is tough on the bottom of an ATV and UTV, and the stock skid plates that come with machines are not up to the task. You could easily cause serious damage to your vehicle with one good rock collision. And some ATVs have no stock skid plate at all! Many off-roaders upgrade to aftermarket skid plates as soon as they buy their new 4-wheeler. It's the first thing they tackle.
Types of Aftermarket Skid Plates
Steel skid plates were very common at one time, but they have been phased out because they simply don't cut it. They corrode too easily, and they are both heavy and not able to withstand much damage. The upsides are that they're cheap and easy to repair. If you buy an ATV/ UTV with a steel skid plate, you should probably replace it. The only time steel skid plates would be recommended is if you intend to lightly use your ATV for the easiest trails or light farm work.
Aluminum skid plates are widely used because they are tough, made of marine grade aluminum so they are corrosion-resistant, and able to be repaired. They are also easier on the budget than the competition: UHMW plastic. The downsides are that they are not as wear-proof as UHMW skid plates, that impacts sound loud, and the skid plate can rattle even if it is properly installed.
UHMW plastic skid plates are generally considered the best. They flex and are highly resistant to wear and damage from impacts, scratches, and most danger you'll encounter off the road. There are some downsides though. They are the most expensive option, they can't be repaired in the rare event that they become damaged, and the flexing they do that makes them so tough can actually cause damage to delicate ATV / UTV parts you've covered up. So, it is amazing protection, but it isn't perfect protection.
Which is Better, Aluminum or UHMW?
The jury is out on which is best. Most people think UHMW plastic is the all-around best, but there are plenty who still prefer aluminum.
Some say aluminum can get kinks in it that may get caught on rocks, roots, etc. and cause problems.
Others say they've used aluminum for many years, and it works great for them.
Aluminum skid plates can actually provide additional structural support to the frame of the ATV, offering extra defense against other types of collisions. UMHW can't do that.
Some are wary of UHMW skid plates because people have had to replace parts that were damaged because the skid plate flexed.
Some like the control of being able to repair their aluminum skid plate.
Others won't do without UHMW's seeming imperviousness and the way it glides over obstacles.
It's basically up to you to determine what you prefer based on those points. The most important thing is that you have aftermarket skid plates of some kind, because unless you're always riding on amazingly smooth ground, your vehicle needs more protection than they come with.
Which Skid Plate Do You Need?
You should consider how much you want to or feel you can spend and how you intend to use your 4-wheeler.
If you plan to hit the tough trails and the underside of your ATV / UTV is likely to take serious punishment, the cost of UHMW plastic may be well worth it to you. The downsides of potential part damage or not being able to repair the skid plate should it need it may be outweighed by the benefit of fewer damages overall.
If you're more into speed or trail riding or moderately aggressive off-roading, you might not need to spend more money on UHMW and feel perfectly comfortable going with aluminum.
However you ride, aluminum is a very valid and respected skid plate choice if you feel a UHMW skid plate is too costly or just prefer aluminum. But UHMW is generally considered the best if you want to invest in it.
Other Things to Know About Aftermarket Skid Plates
Skid plates fit the underside of your ATV / UTV model perfectly, so you'll be looking for one to match your particular model, not just a skid plate of a certain type.
Aftermarket skid plates have access panels to allow you to change oil and such without having to remove the plate and holes strategically added in to allow water and debris to run out. You don't have to worry that aftermarket skid plates will be an obstacle to anything but damage.