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Underbody Protection

by Superior Engineering

Is your undercarriage properly protected? Michael Hays shows us how to make your truck unbreakable!

With the change in modern 4WD suspension geometry more towards a lower more stable driving platform, it is now more common to see lift heights in the 2-4in range.

Whilst this height allows for better on-road handling and more stable off-road and touring, it may also make ALL the suspension and driveline components more susceptible to damage from obstacles.

Most factory vehicles come with some types of basic guards and although they are adequate at protecting you from stone damage and light abrasions they often do little in providing adequate protection to your vehicle in off-road situations where rocks, stumps and ruts can easily damage your suspension or expensive driveline components.

Sometimes it’s not those hardcore trails that do the worst damage, accidents like a busted radiator from a wayward stick in a campground or a bit of roadkill on the highway smashing the 4WD actuator or bending a tie rod, can be all it takes to wreck a great weekend away.

So what types of guards are available and what should I look for?

Ideally look for protection plates that integrate to your vehicle’s design and associated components.

They should also have carefully positioned holes to allow correct air flow, access for servicing and changing fluids such as oil and also allow easy cleaning of dirt, mud and debris.

Any bolts that secure the sections should be recessed or have protection rings to ensure easy removal during use.

The materials and the processes used are varied but ideally the armour should be exactly that... a thin section that will deform and be difficult to remove for servicing can become a waste of money in the long run.

By using CAD & FEA analysis software a manufacturer can design in features that not only protect vital components but also transfer energy from impacts safely back into the chassis.

Another important design criteria is the ability to allow the vehicle to slide across objects without getting stuck on joins or sharp edges.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Underbody Protection Available?

Radiator Guards

Protect the front of the vehicle and vital cooling components like radiators and intercoolers from potential damage by deflecting object down and away.

Steering Guard

Often incorporated into the radiator or front section guards, vehicle specific steering protection is offered for vehicles where the steering rack and tie rods are susceptible to frontal impact damage.

Sump Guard

The most critical area of the engine to protect! Reducing the risk of impact damage that could cause sump damage and oil loss, where even a minor oil leak can cause severe engine damage.

Gear Box and Transfer Cases Skid Plates

As a minimum most vehicles can benefit from the addition of proper transfer case protection.

This is generally one of the lowest sections of the driveline and is very susceptible to impact in ramp-over situations.

Gearbox skid plates are mounted beneath the transmission and although less vulnerable than the transfer case they can easily suffer impacts from rocks and objects that can cause expensive damage.

Automatic transmissions have oil pans and hydraulic lines that must be protected due to their size and location.

The ultimate in underbody protection is something like the Superior Engineering full belly plate, which is made from 6mm steel and not only protects all the transmission components but provides a seamless skid plate to help lower vehicles slide easily over most obstacles.

Front Skid Plates

A good design will allow the front of the vehicle to slide or climb an obstacle without damage to suspension or steering.

On solid-axle vehicles they protect steering and suspension parts (ie. tie rod, draglink, panhards) between the bumper and the differential.

For IFS vehicles they protect suspension and subframe components such as steering rack, tie/relay rods, lower control arm mounts.

Provision for recovery points and bulbar mounts are essential.

Fuel Tank

With most fuel tanks already having basic thin pressed skins factory installed, it is preferable to either upgrade to a good quality heavy-wall long range tank or at a minimum add an aftermarket tank protection plate.

When it comes to protecting your 4WD, start with the basics and keep adding as you go.

As with any suspension components you may need, contact your local 4WD suspension specialist for information on the best parts for your 4WD.

Complete Superior Engine Sump and Diff Guard to suit the Holden Colorado RG
Complete Superior Engine Sump and Diff Guard to suit the Holden Colorado RG
Superior Steering and Radiator Guard to the Nissan Patrol GQ/GU and Toyota Landcruiser 76/78/79 Series
Superior Steering and Radiator Guard to the Nissan Patrol GQ/GU and Toyota Landcruiser 76/78/79 Series

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Deception Bay Queensland 4508
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Date Published: 2016-05-05

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