RA Motorsports Element Aluminum Front Engine Skid Plate For The 5th Gen (2010+) 4Runner With Optional Front Filler Plate: Install, Review & Overview
Engine protection is very important whether your 4Runner is just a daily driver or you navigate through complex trails. Skid plates are necessary to protect vital engine components such as your oil filter and oil pan.
The 5th Gen 4Runner comes with your typical front skid plate made from 1/16″ steel. If you have a premium trim like the TRD Pro, it comes standard with a 1/4″ aluminum TRD skid plate. The 5th Gen 4Runner Skid Plate Buyer’s Guide is a great resource on the other options for different skid plates, and why they’re important.
Upgrading your factory skid is an easy task and is often overlooked by newcomers to the modding community. Typically, people favor upgrading their suspension and tires first. The RA Motorsports Element front engine skid plate is a simple way to protect your investment.
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This skid plate is made from 1/4″ 5052 aluminum alloy and is designed to replace the factory sheet metal skids. This engine skid replaces both the front radiator support skid as well as the main engine skid plate.
These skids are designed to integrate with KDSS-equipped vehicles and accommodate full sway bar droop. The Element skid plate has opted not to implement oil access panels and instead has a completely smooth surface. This helps the plate avoid potential failure points and from collecting engine oil during services.
Understandably, some may see this as an inconvenience during oil changes. However, I don’t believe oil changes should be done in haste. Spending time under your vehicle may reveal surprises that may go unnoticed otherwise.
RA Motorsports skid plates are designed to be seamlessly integrated with each other when it comes to the full system. This is a unique feature of their product that most other companies do not offer. The front engine skid plate features an extra wide design that protects the lower control arm cam bolts. That’s in contrast to the factory skids that do little in this regard.
The riveted company tag that comes on the skid is a nice touch and adds a unique flair to their product, as opposed to the traditional cutout logo that most companies offer.
For my skid setup, I opted for the front filler plate since you lose the ability to use the factory plastic piece with the new skid plate. Other companies have the same problem, however, most do not offer the unique solution that comes from RA Motorsports. This filler plate creates that true flat-bottom look. Although this is made from only 3mm aluminum, it still offers greater protection than the factory plastic for your radiator and A/C condenser.
RA Motorsports also offers transmission or mid skids and transfer case skids as well. They also have fuel tank skid plates. All are made from stout, reinforced aluminum and come either raw unfinished, or powder-coated (for an additional fee). I opted for the former.
RA Motorsports offers flat-rate shipping for all of North America.
Installation Tools & Materials:
- Flathead Screwdriver
- Ratchet and Sockets (10mm, 12mm)
- M8x1.25 Metric Hand Tap
- Anti-Seize Compound
Start with removing the factory plastic filler plate. It can be removed via three 10mm mounting bolts and three plastic pop clips. Years of repeated removal have resulted in several of my fasteners going missing (as seen previously above).
Next, drop the forward section of the engine skid plate. This section uses two small tangs that allow the skid to rotate downward and avoid falling on top of you. Remove four 12mm bolts and lift the skid from the tangs. Finally, remove the rear section of the engine skid. These are 12mm bolts as well.
Remove any rust and dirt or debris that may be inside the mounting points on the frame, If rust is present, you may want to treat this now with paint or spraying rust preventative.
Step 1. Tap & Clean Threaded Frame Holes(Optional)
I opted to clean all the threads for this install as I knew these would be frequently removed for oil changes and repairs. Taking the time to bring your threads back to good health will pay off later.
Apply a liberal coating of anti-seize compound to all fasteners. The condition of the threads is important on these skids, as these things are relatively heavy. If they were to become loose while traveling at highway speeds, it could result in severe damage to you and the unfortunate motorist behind you.
Step 2. Install Filler Plate
You will want to install the filler piece first as it is sandwiched by the main skid to the lower radiator support frame.
Install the provided 10mm bolts but leave all mounting hardware semi-loose for now. This allows all parts to be perfectly centered and snugged together for final tightening. I installed the plastic bumper cover on the outside, mainly because if you were to tuck it under the filler plate, the plastic bumper cover tangs will become sandwiched and deformed.
Step 3. Install Engine Skid Plate
The main skid plate is next to be installed. The Elements kit comes with several spacers and collars that must be installed along with the plate. Referring to their provided diagram gave me an idea of where these components go.
The rear bolts use tapered collars that protect the head of the bolt from rounding in case it gets hit by an obstacle. The bolts also use a separate 10mm spacer that gets sandwiched between the skid plate and cross member. This allows the skid plate to rest flush against the contours of the transmission cross member.
When dealing with skid plates, leaving any gaps or space will allow them to bend and deform. Having the plate sit tightly against the frame and cross members minimizes the chances of this happening.
Leave all bolts semi-loose for proper alignment and fitment. Final torque is applied to all bolts when the skid plates are lined up correctly and fit nicely.
I replaced my skid plate mainly because of the condition of my factory skids. My 4Runner has spent the last 12 years driving year-round in Atlantic Canada. This region of the world boasts some of the nastiest, iciest, slushiest, and worst of all, saltiest road conditions you can find.
The factory Toyota skids are made of the same steel, which I can only assume is made in partnership with the soup can industry. They have not lasted the test of time, and are in dire need of replacement. I replaced them not entirely for off-road protection, but also for on-road protection.
When was the last time you ran over some debris laying in the roadway? Whether it be snow, ice, rocks, or rogue semi-truck parts, these can cause catastrophic damage to the critical components of your 4Runner. This is why I chose to replace my skid plate with something more stout. The added benefit of being able to bash them off rocks and trails also gives me peace of mind.
The Element front engine skid plate fits well, and the installation was straightforward. This skid plate fits tightly to the frame cross member in the center where it is most likely to be struck or deformed. Any gaps between mating points are taken up by the provided machined spacers.
The overall quality is impressive; the welds are well done and the final finish is high quality. Although I would have preferred a set of written instructions, the basic diagram they provide did the trick. I cannot vouch for their longevity during trail use, as I am currently locked in the dead of winter in my area and most trails are used by snowmobilers at this time. However, I will update the comments sections in the months to come.