Why You Need A Skid Plate For Your Subaru And Our 4 Favorite Options
A skid plate is one of the most valuable accessories you can purchase to make your Subaru more capable and durable for off-road use. In this article we’ll discuss why you need a skid plate and some of my favorite skid plate options for Subies. I’ll also share some personal experience about how heavy duty skid plates have saved my vehicle’s engine.
In 2020 during a cold fall day I decided to drive my Subaru out on some forest roads. I found a gate open that is usually closed and I was so excited to go explore the roads behind it. I drove around for a good hour checking out the area and then drove onto a road that was pretty overgrown. There was a small drainage ditch that I drove across with no issue at all. I took a few photos and then turned around to start heading home. As I drove back across the same ditch, I managed to drive directly into a hole that was covered by overgrowth. Instead of being shallow like the rest of it, this portion had a hole that was probably 3 feet deep with a huge log covered by thorny vines that had slowly taken over as this road rarely sees traffic. Not only was I now stuck, but the log had a spike on it where a branch had broken off and was sticking out enough to cause serious damage to the underside of my Subaru.
Fortunately I had just installed a Primitive Racing skid plate and had their transmission skid plate as well. The sharp portion of the log slammed into the skid plate and taco’d it up and pushed it against the oil pan. I spent 2 hours trying to dig my car out of the mud and even used traction boards before finally calling for help. By this point it had started raining and everything was muddy. The truck that came to rescue me ended up losing 4WD after they pulled me out. It was a long night but the Forester was perfectly fine thanks to having full skid plates. Had I not had them I would have, at the very least, needed to get the vehicle towed all the way home and likely would have oil starved the engine if I tried driving it.
I’ll never drive trails in my Subaru without skid plates ever again. I still have that skid plate and it works just fine to this day! I’d like to share some of the best skid plate options that are available for Subarus so that you can make sure you’re never stranded with a damaged engine. This list is in no particular order and each option is great. Check each one out and decide which one fits your budget and application best.
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Why Subarus Need A Metal Skid Plate
I’ve personally been using lifted Subarus as wheelers for over a decade. During that time I’ve had the ability to discover some vulnerabilities of the platform. Where 4×4’s have heavy duty axle tubes shielding the highly tucked oil pan, and a high-riding transmission pan, Subarus have low exposed vital components that need aftermarket protection. Two of the most notable are the engine oil pan and the automatic transmission pan. They are both easy to damage on Subarus and if you happen to own a Subaru with a CVT, those transmissions can be extremely expensive to replace.
Primitive Racing Skid Plates
Primitive Racing has been making high quality Subaru parts for years. With heavy roots in rally, Primitive knows what it takes to make something that can handle the abuse of hard trail driving. Most of their skid plates are made using 3/16″ T-5052 aluminum and can be installed with no drilling.
Most of their skid plates weigh less than 18 lbs and can be ordered with oil filter and drain holes or a removable cover for quick oil changes. When paired with the Fumoto oil drain valve, oil changes are a breeze without removing the plate (removing the skid usually takes about 5 minutes if you opt for the solid version.) The Primitive skid plates are also vented and don’t interfere with the vehicle’s ability to dissipate heat.
Some of the Primitive Racing skid plates are also available with a “stinger tail” which is an added section of aluminum that doubles the thickness below the oil pan. This option isn’t available if you choose to get oil drain holes. But I recommend it for anyone who is planning to take their Subaru on challenging trails.
One thing I really appreciate about Primitive is that they’re a small, privately owned business that has consistently delivered good products for years. Their parts are designed, sourced, and manufactured here in the USA.
The bottom line: Primitive has the widest range of quality skid plates available in the most configurations of any brand that I’ve found so far. Additionally, their pricing is very competitive despite the rising cost of materials.
Anderson Design & Fabrication Skid Plates
ADF has become a staple in the off-road Subaru community. They build a wide range of lift kits and accessories right in the state of Oregon. The brand started off building strut spacer kits but have been quickly expanding their product offerings to include skid plates.
They use 3/16″ laser cut 5051 aluminum which is what I always look for when buying a skid plate. I really like the way many of their plates come up on the side to form a “pan” of sorts. This adds structural rigidity and keeps debris and objects from entering around the sides of the plate.
The Anderson Design skid plates are available for all current Subarus as well as some of the older models that we all love. If you want to try out a newer design from a solid manufacturer, the ADF plates are a fantastic way to support a US-based small business.
LP Aventure Skid Plates
LP Aventure offers a great selection of skid plates for most newer Subaru models. Plates for most vehicles from 2010 and up are available from this Canadian based company.
The LPA skid plates have a sturdy design that I really like. They’re produced using 3/16″ aluminum and extend far enough back to provide great aerodynamics and protection. Their front skid plates also accommodate a direct bolt-on design with an optional CVT skid plate if you want full protection.
There are a couple of things that you may want to keep in mind. The first is that almost none of their skid plates fit without their bumper guards already being installed. This can be a big deterrent for a lot of owners who can’t afford or simply don’t want their bumper guard. Second, their skid plates are a little spendy compared to the competition.
I would recommend these plates to anyone who already has or is planning to get an LP Aventure brush guard for their Subaru. They’re also a great option for Subaru owners living in Canada. I’m a big proponent of shopping as locally as possible to support the community around you.
RalliTEK Skid Plates
Another great option for Subaru owners who want extra off-road protection is the RalliTEK skid plate. RalliTEK has been producing performance parts for Subarus for over two decades. Not only are they heavily involved in rally, but they provide parts for “go fast” builds. Needless to say, they have a well rounded understanding of our cars.
Their skid plates usually are produced with 1/8″ aluminum and come with oil drain cut outs. A lot of their plates also have raised sides to provide more protection from objects on the trails.
While I really like the RalliTEK plates, I found them to be a bit more expensive than some of the other options. For example, a 1/8″ 2008 WRX front skid plate with oil drain holes from RalliTEK is currently $329 while the same skid plate is $279 from Primitive (including oil drain holes.) We also wish they offered an option to order each skid plate in more configurations. Options like 3/16″ thickness and no oil drain holes would be ideal since that’s the setup we prefer for hitting more risky trails.
This list isn’t terribly long considering there are many other skid plate options out there. However, these are the only brands I’d consider using on my Subaru. They are all made by companies that have a good reputation and are readily available for most models.
Hopefully this has given you some direction as you build up your Subaru for the trails. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out using the contact form. You can also reach out to many of these companies directly for information if there’s additional guidance you may need.
Other Considerations When Purchasing A Skid Plate
You may want to consider the possibility of purchasing a CVT or automatic transmission skid plate. If you drive a manual, you can skip this. But I think it’s important to have an engine and transmission skid plate at bare minimum. The rear differential skid plates are also nice because they provide additional protection and uniform aerodynamics under the car. However, I’ve found that rear diffs are usually pretty robust and take a lot to damage with impacts from rocks.
Buying rally washers to use with your hardware is also a nice feature if you have the extra money to spend. They can help keep the bolt heads from getting deformed on rocks.