Updated: May 18

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Bash Plates – What Are They? How Do They Work?

Off-roading is a wonderful activity if you have a reliable 4WD vehicle. You get to explore the great outdoors and experience the thrill of the trail. However, it does come at a risk, with 4WDing being particularly tough on your vehicle’s underbody. The answer? Bash plates.

If you’re wondering what bash plates are and how they work, this article is intended to give you everything you have to know about them.

We’ll discuss what they are, the benefits and downsides of having them, the cost, and a complete step-by-step guide in installing them.

What Are Bash Plates?

Bash plates, also known as underbody protection plates, are 3-4mm thick steel plates that are placed on the underside of your vehicle. They are placed in critical places, such as under the:

  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • Transfer
  • Radiator

They are designed to protect these important components from rocks, tree stumps, and anything else that you drive over that could cause damage to your vehicle.

Although most vehicles are fitted with factory-installed bash plates, they are only capable of withstanding minor impacts.

Unless you’re driving an old 4WD vehicle, most modern vehicles have thin and flimsy bash plates that are designed to be lightweight and cost-effective.

They aren’t designed to take a massive hit like you might get when going over really rough terrain.

Along with rock sliders, bullbars and bonnet protectors and other protective 4x4 accessories, they are designed to keep your vehicle out of harm's way.

What Are Bash Plates

The Benefits of Installing Bash Plates

Bash plates are often overlooked. 4WD owners tend to focus more on new tyres, and equipping their vehicle with visible upgrades.

Bash plates, on the other hand, rarely get a look in. Plus, good quality bash plates can be very expensive, making them less appealing for most off-roaders.

However, you can get a lot of benefits from installing decent quality bash plates. Some of them are:

Protects Important Components In Your Vehicle

Everybody knows that a car’s underside contains some of the most important components of a vehicle that are responsible for it to function.

Having high-quality after-market underbody protection plates gives you protection that none of the factory plates made of thin metal or plastic can.

Protects Important Components In Your Vehicle

Saves You Money

Sure, installing high-quality bash plates will cost you some money. But if you’re regularly driving in tough terrain, having steel bash plates will prevent you from having to replace a more expensive component like a front differential or transmission.

Prevents Your Trip From Getting Cut Short

If you’re travelling in the great Australian outdoors, chances are, you’ll be hoofing it through some pretty tough trails.

Breaking an important component of your vehicle can mean cutting your trip short, an accident, or even being stranded out in the middle of nowhere.

Bash plates give you peace of mind that your car is less likely to break down from impact or abrasion while out on a trip.

The Downside of Installing Bash Plates

Installing new bash plates also does come with downsides. One of the most obvious ones is the cost which we will discuss more later.

The other disadvantage is the weight. A full set of bash plates weigh around 30-50kg depending on the size, material, and thickness of the bash plates.

If you’re more concerned about the weight of your vehicle and less about the strength of the protection, then after-market bash plates may not be for you.

The Downside of Installing Bash Plates

How Much Do Bash Plates Cost?

Bash plates do come at a cost. For a single plate, expect to pay $200 to $600 depending on the size, brand, material, and thickness.

If you’re looking to install a full set, be prepared to spend in the vicinity of $1000 for high quality.

In general, steel plates are cheaper than aluminium plates. However, there is a time and place for steel vs aluminium plates. Both are great options depending on the activity you’re doing.

Be careful in buying cheap bash plates made of plastic or thin metal. They may be attractive budget-wise but most often than not, they are no better than the factory plates already installed in your vehicle.

How To Install Bash Plates

In installing your bash plates, all you need is a wrench or a reversible power drill and a thread locker like Loctite.

If you wish to follow a video that goes into the installation process, here’s one that may be helpful to you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG8Lww4LYKw

For your convenience, I’ve detailed the process in a step-by-step format below.

Step 1: Choose your bash plates

Choose a set of bash plates that have the same bolts and mounting points as your vehicle’s factory plates. This is important to prevent any damage from impact and to assure that the bash plates attach firmly to your vehicle’s underside.

Bash plates are sold by vehicle model, so be sure to select plates that match your make and model exactly.

Step 2: Remove the centre stone tray

If you have a bull bar fitted to your vehicle, you may notice there’s a piece of metal over your front bash plate. You’ll need to remove it to gain access to your front plate.

Step 3: Remove the factory plates

As mentioned earlier, modern vehicles come with cheap metal plates. The first step would be to remove them using a wrench or a reversible power drill.

Start with the plate in the front of the vehicle covering the engine and the differential. For a 200 Series Landcruiser, there are 3 pieces to this plate. Remove the 2 side pieces before removing the centre support plate.

Then, remove the centre plate that protects the rear of the engine as well as the plate protecting the gearbox.

You must retain all the bolts used in your old plates because you’ll have to reuse them for the new ones.

Step 4: Install the new bash plates

Begin by installing the centre plate. Position your centre plate over its mounting position and keep them in place by inserting the bolts loosely.

Then, install the front protection plate by engaging the rear mounting slots with the mounting bolts and securing them in place.

Adjust the plates so that they are positioned in the centre and tighten them up using a wrench or a reversible power drill.

Then, install the bash plates protecting the gearbox using the same methods we’ve described.

You must apply a thread locker to all the bolts used to prevent them from loosening over time. A brand that we recommend is Loctite.

Step 5: Return the centre stone tray

Finally, refit your centre stone tray by bolting it to the original holes on the bull bar and you’re done.

When installing, be careful when you’re under the bash plates. These things are quite heavy and since you’re under them in the installation process, take care to not drop them onto your face!

Also, make sure that they are firmly held in place by tightening up the bolts and applying Loctite. These things might fall when you’re on the road if the bolts loosen up.

What To Consider When Choosing Bash Plates

Now that we’ve discussed what a bash plate is, its benefits, and how to install them, it's time to discuss what bash plate is right for you.

This is typically a battle between steel plates or aluminium plates, both have their own pros and cons worthy of consideration.

Vehicle Make & Model

Before considering anything else, you'll want to make sure that you're only looking at bash plates that are designed for your specific vehicle. Check out our guides for bash plates for different vehicles below:

Weight

Weight is a major factor in the battle of steel vs aluminium plates. On average, aluminium plates are more or less 50% lighter than their steel counterpart.

That said, if you’re looking to keep your vehicle lightweight for gas mileage or you’ve got a lot of other accessories that weigh your vehicle down, aluminium plates might be a better option for you.

Cost

Steel plates are a lot cheaper than aluminium plates. However, because steel plates are much heavier, they tend to affect your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

That said, it may be cheaper to buy steel plates but you might be spending more on gas over time.

Durability

When it comes to durability, a bash plate made of steel is king. They are resistant to bending, making them ideal for more aggressive terrain.

Furthermore, they usually skid along rocks more easily, whereas aluminium plates tend to ‘grab’ onto rocks making it harder to slide over uneven terrain.

Durability

Activity

As mentioned earlier, there’s a time and place for both steel and aluminium plates.

In general, steel plates are more suitable if you’re driving through rocky, gravelly terrain and are almost certain to cop a few big rock hits to your underside.

On the other hand, aluminium plates are more suitable for those who drive on gentler trails. You’ll still have peace of mind that your vehicle's engine and gearbox are protected in the event of some minor rock strikes.

You could also consider a steel and aluminium combo. The front plates are at the most risk of hitting rocks. Therefore, you could try using steel front plates and aluminium at the rear.

Conclusion

We’ve discussed what bash plates are and their importance in off-road driving. We’ve also gone through the installation and the buying process.

I hope this article has served its purpose and provided you with everything you need to know about bash plates.


This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.


This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.

Louis

While Louis does most of his trips near his home in south-east Queensland, he has been camping as far afield as South America and Africa. He loves researching, testing and experimenting with camping gear whenever possible.

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