When it comes to all terrain vehicles (ATV), there is a whole array of different customizations that you can implement on your vehicle. From more technical customizations such as adding wheel spacers to widen the stance of your vehicle to more surface customizations such as simply changing the color of the body of your vehicle.
For some riders, especially if you are new to off-road riding, these customizations can be overwhelming. Whilst you do not necessarily need to make all these changes to your bike, and you can start riding it as it is when you buy it, many riders prefer slowly adding customizations as they understand the type of rides they prefer.
In order to help you understand one particular customization that you can add, we have collated this guide to skid plates. Therefore, if skid plates are something that you are considering getting for your bike, this guide can help you make your decision.
What is an ATV skid plate?
A skid plate is a feature that you attach to the bottom of your vehicle. The main function of a skid plate is to protect the bottom of your bike and the undercarriage of the vehicle, which can otherwise be susceptible to damage if left uncovered. There are multiple different essential parts of your bike that are placed on the underside of the bike, from the fuel tank to the transfer box.
In most cases, those who are planning on using their ATV off-road, which is most riders, will benefit from a skid plate. There is more chance of debris flying up under the bike when riding off-road and so ATV bikes need that extra layer of protection to ensure no damage is caused and you do not have to pay extra to fix broken parts.
Are skid plates necessary on an ATV?
All new ATVs are ready to be ridden, so technically installing a skid plate on your quad or ATV is not essential. However, it is preferred by many. As previously mentioned, most people buy an ATV with the intention to take it off-road, and it is when you start riding off-road that skid plates are beneficial.
It is up to personal preference and it is ultimately your choice whether or not you want to invest in a skid plate. Saying that, the initial investment that you make in a skid plate is more than worth it for the protection it provides. If you choose to ride without one, it could seriously damage the undercarriage of your bike and different parts within your bike, which could end up costing you far more than the skid plate would have cost to install.
What material are skid plates made of?
When it comes to materials, there are a few different types that are used to make skid plates. Below are some of the most common types of materials used.
Historically, steel has been the go-to material for skid plates. However, it has slowly gone out of fashion for a variety of reasons. Whilst it is an easy material to work with and it is easy to fix when damaged, this pliability does not work in favor of its protective abilities. Moreover, it is an extremely heavy material so it can weigh down vehicles, which is not a desirable trait.
Aluminum has quickly taken over steel in terms of favored skid plate materials. It has the same benefit of being easy to repair as steel without the additional weight that steel carries. Moreover, it is a more economically friendly option than other materials.
Many riders initially find it jarring once they install their aluminum plates as they continue to rattle even once you have followed all the instructions and completely secured the plate. However, if you can get over the noise, which will be barely noticeable once you get used to it, aluminum could be the perfect plate option for you.
Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW ) is an extremely tough and durable plastic. These plastic skid plates, similarly to aluminum, have soared in popularity in recent years. This type of plastic offers the best of both worlds. Although it will not break easily, it is also slightly flexible so it can flex and bend whilst still retaining its shape.
Moreover, a plastic skid plate offers benefits that any kind of metal skid plate cannot offer. For example, it will allow debris, rubble, rocks and roots to easily glide off the surface of the plate, whilst metal plates tend to catch on these extra bits of debris, which in turn can damage the plate. The only downside to UHMW plastic plates is the fact that they are not as easily repairable as other types of plates, which can make them more expensive in the long run.
What is the best material for a skid plate?
The best material for a skid plate is aluminum. Although it does not necessarily offer the breadth of benefits that UHMW plastic offers, it offers everything you need. It is better than steel and is still at a price point that most people can afford.
It is not an extremely heavy material, which means the lack of extra weight makes the ride smoother overall. Moreover, it is an extremely easy material to fix, meaning that even if it does suffer some of the damage that plastic plates can prevent, it is not a huge problem like it is when a plastic plate is damaged because it can be easily repaired.
Although it can add some additional noise, you will get so accustomed to it quickly. When you are partaking in off-road activities that call for skid plates, you will likely not be able to hear this extra noise all that much over the adrenaline-fueling activity you are partaking in.
Tips to choose an ATV skid plate
In addition to material, there are some other factors that you might want to consider when thinking about investing in a skid plate.
When it comes to the fit of your skid plates, you have two main options, a custom fit or a universal fit. First, we will explore the custom fit and what it can offer. Firstly, a custom fit is more expensive than a universal fit as you are paying for it to be perfectly molded to your ATV. Therefore, if you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, a custom fit might not be for you. Nevertheless, on the whole, the custom fit offers more benefits.
Model-specific skid plates are designed to specifically protect all the parts of your bike. Moreover, because it is designed specifically for your vehicle, it is extremely easy to install. If you are willing to fork out the extra money for a custom fit, we recommend doing so.
Although the universal fit might not offer all the practical benefits, they are still better than no skid plate at all. If you are on a tighter budget but still want a skid plate, you should go for a universally fitted skid plate. However, you should be aware that because they are not specific to your vehicle, they are far harder to install. Moreover, due to the fact that it is not a perfect snug fit like a custom skid plate, it is more prone to collecting dirt and debris under the plate which could cause it to corrode faster.
Theoretically, because a universal skid plate is more prone to damage, it actually might end up being more cost-effective to fork out the initial money in order to buy the universal fit. However, if you are unable to do this, definitely go for the universal fit, as at least some form of skid plate is better than no skid plate.
Thickness is an important factor when picking out your skid plate. The thickness that you will want to get will depend largely on the material of the skid plate that you choose. For example, steel plates tend to be fairly thick.
The thickness of a skid plate will bring with it different features for your vehicle. If you decide to get it thicker, you will be giving yourself more protection, but it will make the overall weight of your vehicle heavier. You therefore need to weigh up the pros and cons of different thicknesses until you reach a happy medium that will work for the kind of riding you want to do and the type of vehicle you have.