Ask any modern car owner about their top five must have additions to a car, and skid plates are bound to make the cut. But it is not too surprising to see, especially if you are an automobile enthusiast or even have basic information about maintaining a car.
Whether you are driving on uneven city roads or unpredictable pathways, skid plates offer ideal protection against objects and obstructions that are strewn throughout the road. The best part? While these plates heavily safeguard your vehicle’s delicate undercarriage, they also do so within a minimal investment. That’s why, picking these plates as a critical car modification is definitely a no brainer.
But apart from their unmistakable shielding properties, the structure of these plates opens doors to plenty of added benefits. This also leads to the burning question: Do skid plates have any aerodynamic effect?
To help you seek a definitive answer to this, here is a detailed guide towards skid plates and their aerodynamic properties.
Skid Plates and Their Effects Vary According to Installation
Since these protective plates cover the hollow areas under your car and obstruct the airflow to its chassis, it is natural to wonder if they can reduce the air drag during a drive and improve your car’s overall performance.
But before you learn about the aerodynamics effects of skid plates, it is important to see how those properties come into play.
First things first, it’s crucial to understand that not all of these plates are made the same. For instance, a steering box skid plate covers a solely different area under your vehicle than a gas tank skid plate. Whereas, a transmission skid plate provides protection to a completely other component than an oil pan skid plate.
In other words, if you only have a skid plate to protect your gas tank or transmission, then it will not cover other components or areas that are located under your car. As a result, the air drag against your whole vehicle will not get blocked out completely.
On the other hand, if you have an optimal skid plate or have integrated a complete underbody cover setup, the overall air drag will reduce greatly. This brings about noticeable aerodynamic effects, and makes way for smoother driving and improved handling in some situations.
Since the amount of air drag faced by your car directly correlates to its aerodynamics, only an optimal or complete installation can give you the aerodynamic effects that really make a difference.
However, there are various other factors that are at work here. This calls for a greater understanding of the installation of these plates and the subsequent effects of their addition to your car.
What Kind of Skid Plate Installation Has an Effect on Aerodynamics?
The answer to this question depends upon your car’s model, suspension, chassis, and any customizations that you have made to it. With it, the kind of skid plates you are installing also contributes to this factor.
For some cars, a few well-placed protective plates can have a noticeable effect on air drag and related aerodynamics. Whereas, others need a full-blown underbody cover in order to achieve that objective.
A precise inspection by an auto body professional or detailer is the only way for you to assess whether getting these protective plates will have any effects on your car’s aerodynamics or not. By taking a close look at your car, these experts can tell you if these plates will be helpful for your vehicle and deliver any additional benefits that go beyond basic protection.
With that being said, there are still a few points that help you get a general idea of the effects you can experience with this customization option.
The Factors That Contribute to the Aerodynamic Effects of Skid Plates
It’s clear that if you are going for aerodynamic effects through your skid plate installation, you should consult with a professional first.
But being mindful of the following aspects also helps you prepare for what to expect in terms of aerodynamic performance.
Track the Weight of Your Skid Plates
While you can install all the plates that are available for your car, adding them mindlessly to your vehicle can actually weigh it down. This is especially true if you are using protective plates made from a heavy material such as steel.
This added weight can counter any positive aerodynamic effects that you garner by installing these plates in the first place. This is why, it’s important that you track the weight of these plates and their possible effects on your car. This ensures that you are managing your expectations in terms of protection and performance in a transparent manner.
Pay Attention to the Suspension of Your Car
Lowered cars already have better aerodynamics, and adding skid plates to their structure can improve them even further. This is especially true if your protective plates are made out of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic, which is lighter than steel yet proves itself to be a sturdy material.
With that being said, it is important to remember that some lowered cars might already be at their optimal level of aerodynamics. If you install protective plates on these vehicles, it might not make much of a difference in terms of reducing air drag. However, it will still provide you with optimal protection against hits and bumps on your drive.
More Skid Plates Don’t Always Translate to Better Aerodynamics
As a combination of the two points mentioned above, it is important to remember that installing a plethora of these protective plates doesn’t mean that you will create a supercar out of your vehicle. It will still have to bear the effects of weight as well as current air drag.
This is why, your main objective of installing these plates should not be about improving the aerodynamics, but focused on the protection of your car. This outlook makes sure that you are not losing sight between the primary and secondary benefit of installing these plates on your vehicle.
How to Install Skid Plates Under Your Car?
Skid plates have become so popular in the past few years that they now come preinstalled on various high end cars. Some brands such as Tesla go a step further, and offer factory-fitted undercarriage shields that cover the whole undercarriage at once and act as an elevated form of skid plate protection.
If you have an older car, then you can get these plates installed by a professional auto body expert or a detailer. You can purchase them through a reliable vendor in person or even order them online according to the specific model of your car. You can also make your pick between different materials, and choose a set of plates that fits your budget and requirements to a T.
Some auto body experts offer custom made undercarriage covers that eliminate the need to source multiple plates from different vendors. If you choose to go that route, you can get optimal protection and air drag prevention if the other factors of your car align in a perfect manner. In some cases, this bespoke service actually ends up saving you more money as compared to buying different plates for your vehicle.
For more info on the features, benefits and pricing of skid plates, click here, alternatively, use our interactive map to find an authorized installer near you. If you enjoyed this article, check out our blog.