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Old 08-02-2021, 02:12 PM #1
OffKamber OffKamber is offline
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Aluminum VS Steel Skids - real world review

I have a 2019 4Runner which is lifted, beadlocks and has steel skids. I beat the hell out of it (broke my steering rack twice, broke my rear axle shock mount, broke a control arm... and so on). Point is to say I beat on it. It's currently getting the RCLT kit installed. I have steel skids on it and have yet to seriously dent or bend them.

I just purchased a 2021 4Runner for my wife. It's being built as a light overlander as we have 2 kids and don't all fit in one vehicle with gear. She will be going on trips with me that are more overlanding (not hard trails). So I decided to get RCI aluminum skids to save weight and make it a better commuter. I can tell you that they are much lighter than my steel.

This past weekend my friends decided to go to Coyote Flats. My Toyota is in the shop and I didn't start on my wife's yet. On Thursday I threw on the aluminum skids and rock rails that I had waiting for install and took my wife's 4Runner on the trail with stock suspension and tires.

If you haven't been to Coyote Flats (to Funnel lake and the campgrounds around Baker Creek)... it's not a difficult trail. On 33's with a lift anyone can make it. If your stock... your fine too but you will get some rock rash underneath. I honestly was easy on the rig, took my time (which is rare for me), and made sure to be as light as possible using the skids... but I used them as they are intended to be used.

Came back home with cracked welds and a bunch of dents in the skids. They did their job but probably won't be able to handle another trail without repairs. RCI did a fantastic job with the skids... not their fault at all. It's my fault.

I always used steel skids. However, after reading a ton of comments on the forums I got convinced that aluminum was good enough for this build. Now I know that aluminum is only good enough for a pavement princess that goes out on easy dirt trails with small ruts once in a while. Definitely don't let your aluminum touch a rock.

Just figured I'd share a real world review...






Last edited by OffKamber; 08-02-2021 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 08-02-2021, 03:14 PM #2
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Thanks for sharing. Can't say I'm surprised by your results, which is why I went all steel on mine. I'm certainly no expert on material properties of metals, but I did have a class in college where we studied steel, aluminum, and some other metals like brass just to compare for ductility and strength, and whatnot.

To me the weight savings that aluminum offers is irrelevant. Depending on which fabricator you go with, the difference in equivalent weight is anywhere from 5 to 18 gallons of fuel. Try this some time, drive around when your truck is at 1/4 tank and pay attention to how it handles, and how it accelerates, and then go fill up the tank and see if you can notice any difference from before and after. I tried it a few times before I ordered skids, and couldn't tell any difference.

I can understand going with aluminum if you're trying to shed every pound and loading up near the maximum gvwr, but otherwise it's just an inferior material to steel for this particular application.

Apologies in advance to anyone who may get butthurt by my comment. Just my opinion.
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Old 08-02-2021, 03:23 PM #3
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All depends on design and support of the plate. I've seen both fail, even with light use, and then some take hard abuse without issue other than some scraping on the aluminum.

A somewhat apples to apples comparison is between my neighbor's Tundra's gas tank skid and my 4R's. His is steel and mine's aluminum. They're both from Victory 4x4 so similar in design and build quality.

His split open at the cut and welded joint, and dented bad upon gently rolling onto a longer, round rock climb. Had to be fixed by a fabricator and welds are stronger on it now.

Mine took most of my 4R's weight when trying to climb a sharp angled waterfall I didn't have enough rear clearance for, even slid sideways on the skid a little. No dents or cracks, just the gouging from the rock. It was basically in the middle of the skid plate where there's the least structural rigidity and it still didn't bend.

But, I recently scraped on one of the edges twice in two trails and have noticed a lesser version of the same type of splitting as in your RCI skid. Where they cut, bend, and weld seems to be where these fail the most. Not sure why they don't reinforce those cut joints with a strap gusset behind them or connect them with strategic mounting. On mine, if there were one more mounting point forward of the cut joint it wouldn't flex enough to split itself apart.

So again, I've seen both materials fail with lighter use than what you're putting them through, due to design.

What company steel skids have you been using that held up to the punishment?

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Old 08-02-2021, 03:44 PM #4
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I also have RCI Steel Skids
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Old 08-02-2021, 03:59 PM #5
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Yikes that's some damage from a "easy" trail. Do you intentionally try and utilized the skids or is that unavoidable ? I'd be worried about your rear diff, shock mounts, gas tank, exhaust components.
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Old 08-02-2021, 04:06 PM #6
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On my 4R I have full stainless. here on the east coast we have to worry more about rust and I had no interest in constant painting.

On my LC200 I have a mixture of all aluminum and stainless. All are from Budbuilt which make some stout products, nothing against anyone else, it's a personal preference and who is closest to where you live.
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Old 08-02-2021, 04:45 PM #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forgetful View Post
Yikes that's some damage from a "easy" trail. Do you intentionally try and utilized the skids or is that unavoidable ? I'd be worried about your rear diff, shock mounts, gas tank, exhaust components.

On mine I raised shock mounts, skidded the diff. On this one as itís for east overlanding itís not needed. Just put your tires on tallest rocks and your fine. Gas tank gets skidded. Exhaust gets shortened to the rear axle. Rear plastic bumper gets some damage but thatís ok.

Itís unavoidable btwÖ I really tried hard on this trail. Iíve been wheeling for 14 years including Rubicon, Fordyce, all of the hammer trailsÖ and I couldnít avoid some parts with stock lift and tires


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Old 08-02-2021, 05:07 PM #8
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Pics working for anyone else? I have full RCI aluminum skids and am interested to see.
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Old 08-02-2021, 05:11 PM #9
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Pics working for anyone else? I have full RCI aluminum skids and am interested to see.
Pics work for me. Try a different internet browser from the one it's not working on.

Last edited by dezertbomber; 08-02-2021 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 08-02-2021, 05:12 PM #10
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Pics work for me. Try a different internet browsing from the one it's not working on.

Think I fixed it


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Old 08-02-2021, 05:44 PM #11
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Think I fixed it
I see them twice now.
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Old 08-02-2021, 05:58 PM #12
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Was this mostly from the rock garden section near the lakes? It seems a little excessive, I've run this trail multiple times with stock skids and steel plates and have never experienced the amount of damage I saw on your plates.
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Old 08-02-2021, 06:04 PM #13
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ouch! Looks like my stock skid plates from one baja trip. But my wheel wells are also beat to shit from the tires full bump rubbing while doing 50-60. I think we drive similarly...


cant wait to see the Marlin Crawler kit all done!
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Old 08-02-2021, 06:06 PM #14
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Quote:
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Was this mostly from the rock garden section near the lakes? It seems a little excessive, I've run this trail multiple times with stock skids and steel plates and have never experienced the amount of damage I saw on your plates.
No.... that rock garden was maybe 5-10%. Mostly going down to the field near Baker Creek.
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Old 08-02-2021, 06:29 PM #15
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Quote:
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No.... that rock garden was maybe 5-10%. Mostly going down to the field near Baker Creek.
Ah my bad that makes sense, I was thinking you were talking about coming from the Bishop side where its smooth sailing
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