The underside of your car is probably the last place you would think of when considering what parts are prone to wear and tear. The gas pedal, brakes, and tires are parts that easily show wear and tear caused by daily driving. However, your car does take a lot of abuse on the underside, especially around the engine splash shield. Most cars travel tens of miles each day, and probably not all these miles are covered on good roads.
Even on good roads, there are pebbles, rocks, and other debris that hit the underside of your car. An engine splash shield is the first line of defense against such wear and tear. The engine compartment of any car has several important components that can easily get clogged by debris.
The malfunctioning of any of such parts can cause serious car damage or inconveniences such as your car stalling on the road. The engine compartment has many moving parts, such as the CV joints that are lubricated. Dirt can easily mix with lubricants such as grease and cause malfunction of the moving components.
- An Ideal Splash Shield
- Advantages Of Injection Molding
- Metal And Plastic Splash Shield
Engine Splash Shield: What Is It?
A car’s engine splash shield is also known as the engine splash guard, the under-engine cover, or the skid plate. It is a rigid panel fastened directly below the engine bay. The panel is designed to protect the bottom of your vehicle’s engine or any other important parts from road debris, corrosive materials, and water.
Most cars come with the skid plate installed from the manufacturer, but others don’t have it installed from the factory. This does not make much of an issue because the engine splash shield can easily be installed or replaced if worn out. If your car does not have this shield, you can easily have it installed or replaced by your mechanic. This can also be done as a DIY project by any knowledgeable and handy car enthusiast.
Although the name (engine splash shield) suggests only the engine, the skid plate offers protection to other sensitive parts on the underside of a vehicle. Some of the parts that need some kind of protection and are integral to the functioning of your car include the oil pan and the transmission. Replacing such parts is significantly more expensive than getting an engine splash shield installed or replaced.
Engine Splash Shield: What Does It Do?
1) Protects Vital Car Parts From Dust
Dust can be very harmful to some parts of your car. Parts like the transmission and engine are integral to the workability of any vehicle. Such vital parts may lose a lot of their efficiency due to dust or other impurities. Water can also make room in any parts that dust can access. If the two impurities mix, they cause rust and corrosion to the parts they settle in.
Most of the components in the engine compartment are made of metal. This is to make them more resistant to wear and tear and also be able to withstand the heat generated by the engine. Although durable, these components are more susceptible to corrosion. During cold seasons, most roads are scattered with salty material, which can damage a car’s metal components.
Although the salt is beneficial for aiding the ice and snow on the road sections to melt off quickly, it can be equally harmful to the vehicles on the road. You wouldn’t want any sand or debris with salt in the composition to end up in your engine compartment. The engine splash shield plays a critical role in protecting the underside from coming into contact with such debris.
2) Protects The Engine And Transmission From Mechanical Damage
The importance of the drivetrain or transmission of a car needs no reiteration. One downside to most car designs is that the engine is well protected at the top with a hood; it is reinforced and covered on the sides by the body but left exposed on the underside. Most vital car components are well accessible from the underside of the car. This leaves them vulnerable to impact with dangerous road objects.
The engine splash shield may be the only form of protection for your car’s undercarriage. It offers protection against blows and hits from protruding objects on the roads. Its panel design also shields off water, mud, and snow. If your car doesn’t have a splash shield and you hit a pothole, rock, or curb, the impact can break your car’s oil pan. The oil pan is one of the most vulnerable and sensitive parts of the engine.
If you break such parts, the engine will malfunction, and the car will stall. Ripping off an oil pan means getting a replacement, some new oil, and other expensive engine repairs. These unnecessary costs can be avoided by installing an engine shield, which has become more rigid and durable.
3) Offers Customized Protection
Most cars have different engine and transmission setups in the engine compartment. This is to allow for different efficiencies and performance on the road. Therefore, engine splash shields may not be one-size-fits-all. You have to choose the right engine shield that effectively protects the underside of your vehicle. Fortunately, there are many options for undercarriage protective shields for any car brand.
The engine splash shield options vary from metal or plastic, each with disadvantages and advantages. If your car has a damaged splash shield or didn’t come with one from the factory, you can easily purchase an aftermarket unit and have it installed by your mechanic.
However, in some cases, you may lack an aftermarket splash shield design for your car. This is especially true for old model cars that did not have a shield from the start. This means the underside of the car was not designed to allow the mounting of a splash shield. Therefore, you may have to weld a custom engine shield and weld mounts to fasten the car’s shield.
4) Enables Better Off-Roading
Most 4X4 enthusiasts know that off-road terrains can be a hazard to unprotected underside car components. By going off-road, you expose the underside of your car to scrapes, hits, and blows by dangerous objects such as rocks. Driving on such roads without an engine splash shield should be a no-no. Fortunately, most SUVs, trucks, and jeeps come equipped with a durable shield under the car.
For best off-road performance, the engine and transmission have to be in top-notch condition. This can only be possible if they are well protected from mechanical impacts, especially from the underside. Apart from shielding the vital parts from impact, a skid plate will also help the car skid easily over an obstacle when stuck during off-roading.
5) Helps Against Rust
As we mentioned earlier, most car components are made of metal, and metal is prone to rust. When exposed to impurities and non-slip materials like dust and water, metal components form rust. Car components like the distributor can cause the car to stall or malfunction if they form rust. You can read more on how rust can affect your car’s distributor and bring forth a myriad of problems.
Sure, an upper splash shield protects components like the radiator, but this is not as important as the underside splash shield. Without the under-engine splash shield, the engine compartment is completely exposed from underneath. Install a metallic or plastic engine shield to avoid rust that may cause other expensive problems to your car. This can help metallic components last more.
What Is Considered A Good Engine Splash Shield?
The automotive sector has seen competition amongst major carmakers shift to detail and comfort. However, the larger elements still have a huge say on which car designs are successful. The skid plate is one of the key components that have a huge impact on the car’s overall performance. This is why most car manufacturers will go the extra mile to find an engine splash guard design that fully meets the driver’s needs.
Although the main function of the under-engine shield is to effectively protect sensitive parts of the steering and powertrain system, it is not limited to other functions. Considering the importance of the driving experience, it is prudent to factor in this aspect when designing and making all car parts. The engine splash shield plays an important role in improving the driving experience, especially on acoustic comfort.
A good underbody shield should absorb most of the shock generated by the engine and undercarriage during travel. This should reduce the amount of noise that reaches the cabin when driving. Another aspect of a well-designed engine splash shield is the aerodynamic support.
Although to a lower degree, the under-engine shield improves airflow in the undercarriage. Considering the effect that air resistance has on fuel efficiency and the car’s overall handling, it is definitely worth it to have an engine splash shield that improves aerodynamics.
A vehicle with a great under-engine shield can achieve better fuel economy and even higher speeds. As a driver, you will also experience improved handling and better steering response when cornering. Although the body design has a bigger impact on the aerodynamic aspect, the car’s undercarriage design should not be overlooked.
Which Engine Splash Shield Material Is Better?
For the engine splash shield to optimally perform its job, it must be made of a durable material that provides adequate protection against wear and tear. Besides protecting the vehicle’s vital components, the skid plate’s material should also provide acoustic insulation. Most companies use the injection molding technique to manufacture engine splash shields that serve both purposes.
Advantages Of The Injection Molding Technique In Making Skid Plates
1) Better Driving Physics Properties
Engine splash shields made by injection molding are light, which means they do not significantly impact a car’s weight. At the same time, injection-molded under-engine shields maintain optimum rigidity and streamlining. This keeps the aerodynamics of a vehicle’s underside at high levels.
2) High Durability
Injection-molded skid plates can handle most common mechanical damage, such as abrasion and impacts with pebbles and other debris. They can stay intact for a long time during the operation of the car on different drive terrains.
3) Excellent Insulation
Elements used in making engine splash shields can absorb unpleasant shocks and thereby improve the acoustic comfort in the cabin. You would not want to hear each and every small stone hitting the underside of your car. Not having to hear the unpleasant noise contributes to an improved driving experience.
4) More Room To Innovate And Improve
Injection molding is a manufacturing technique that is relatively inexpensive compared to other methods employed in making engine splash shields. Therefore, engineers tasked with developing better engine splash shield designs have more room to maneuver and try out many undercarriage shields for aerodynamics.
Engine Splash Shield: Metal Or Plastic
Plastic Splash Shield
Most stock splash shields are made of plastic or fiberglass. Fiberglass is a form of reinforced plastic. It is composed of glass fibers embedded in a resin matrix. Although fiberglass is lighter than plastic, it is much stronger. Plastic, on the other hand, is more flexible and is made of organic polymers.
Plastic undercarriage shields will offer average protection against light abuse from the car’s operation on the road. They cannot withstand heavy abuse, such as impacts with huge rocks and road abrasion.
Aluminum Splash Shield
Aluminum engine splash shields are another affordable option. They are also lighter and more rigid than plastic. However, they lack strength when compared to steel skid plates.
Although they don’t bend or tear easily like their plastic counterparts, aluminum engine splash shields tend to break more catastrophically than steel splash shields. They shear off, shatter and develop rips and holes when exposed to road use. It is, therefore, harder to repair aluminum splash shields, unlike steel skid plates.
Despite being the softer metal, aluminum splash shields provide plenty of protection to a vehicle’s sensitive parts on the underside. Although the rigidity of the material used to make the splash shield determines the strength, the geometric design also plays a critical role in the skid plate’s effectiveness.
An aluminum splash shield with an effective geometric design that deflects weight and impact well can be equally effective as a steel splash shield. Also, aluminum makes a great option on standard roads because of its rust resistance. Although aluminum can be corroded, the engine splash shield won’t be degraded as quickly and easily by salty wet roads as their steel counterparts.
Steel Engine Splash Shields
Steel splash shields are heavier and stronger than aluminum under-engine shields. Because steel is highly rigid, most off-roaders prefer steel skid plates. Due to their rigidity, the engine splash shield does not grip objects after impact. They skid easily over the object until they are free from contact. Most damages on steel engine splash shields are easily fixable since they are most likely mild dents.
Engine Splash Shield Replacement
Signs That You Need To Replace Your Engine Splash Shield
Due to the location of the engine splash shields, they often get damaged. It is common to see cars with loose or broken panels hanging from underneath the car. This is a common sight, especially in winter. This is because cars have to drive through snow and cold puddles on the roads. When cold, plastic shields become fragile and break easily. Therefore, the slightest impact when parking over a high curb or driving over road debris or snow will break the engine splash shield.
If the splash shield shows any symptoms of aging, you should replace it immediately or have your mechanic replace it. Unlike most other car parts that require more mechanical knowledge to diagnose, it is fairly easy to tell an engine splash shield that needs to be replaced. If you don’t see it hanging loosely, you will hear it scraping road bumps.
It is also common for the fasteners holding the shield to the car to become loose and fall off. A splash shield that is not well fastened will hang loosely and even scrape the road. When driving with a loose splash shield, you may hear a scraping or flapping noise. With some car models, the splash shield has to be taken off each time when doing an oil change. This can cause the fasteners to wear out quickly and become loose.
Engine Splash Shield Replacement Costs
For an average car, a splash shield center part can cost anywhere between $45 to $190. Aftermarket parts are usually cheaper than stock replacement parts from an automaker. Compare prices online before settling on one dealer. For some car models, the splash shield includes a separate front shield and side guards. These are also available as aftermarket parts.
The side guards and front shields are priced from $15-$150 each. Depending on the car model you own, you may also need some hardware such as bolts and clips. You can use the old clips from the broken splash shield if they are still in good condition. Labor charges vary depending on the complexity of the job. The labor costs vary from $35 to $160. If you are replacing the fender line as well, it will cost you an extra $45-$120 for the fender plus $55-$120 labor charge, plus $20 for the clips or bolts.
How To Replace An Engine Splash Shield
With the appropriate tools and know-how, you can conveniently replace your splash shield at home. You can make big savings on labor charges by replacing them yourself. If you are interested in replacing it yourself but don’t have the know-how, the following video will help you do just that. If you are not comfortable doing it at home, you can always find a qualified professional to do the job for you.
Tools And Parts You Will Need
- A new splash shield
- Screwdriver or socket wrench
- Bolts, screws, and washers, or clips
- Clean, dry rag
- Car jack
- Flathead screwdriver
- Flashlight or other sources of light
- Protective gear such as gloves and googles
Step #1: If the engine has been running, let it cool off completely to avoid burns or any other heat-related accidents. Find a safe flat surface and park your car. This will prevent the car from leaning or rolling over when jacked up.
Step #2: Use the jack to raise the car. Before working on the splash shield, ensure the car is secured with jack stands on both sides.
Step #3: Locate the worn-out splash shield. Typically, it is located directly below the engine. Inspect the shield for any signs of damage to ascertain if it just needs repair or replacement. If damaged, unscrew or unclip the fasteners to remove the old damaged engine splash shield.
Step #4: Inspect the splash shield mounts and hardware for any signs of wear and tear. If worn out, replace them as well. Afterward, install your new engine splash shield. Make sure it’s well fastened and positioned. An improperly positioned shield is more likely to suffer damage and come off quickly.
Step #5: Lower the car and road test it.
Things You Should Consider Before Replacing Your Splash Shield
Custom Vs Factory Splash Shield Options
Most custom skid plates can provide more protection than the factory splash shield that comes with the car. For example, the Ford Focus comes with a splash shield that needs to be taken off every time you perform an oil change. This part can be replaced with ADF custom skid plates that offer a better weight to strength ratio. The custom splash shields also have compartments that allow oil changes and regular maintenance without removing the splash shield.
Thoroughly Read Through Your Vehicle’s Warranty
Read the fine print of your warranty guide if you want to keep your car’s warranty. According to some automakers like Ford, if you decide to install non-Ford parts, they have to be of equivalent quality, durability, and performance. If not so, you risk losing your warranty coverage. You will likely experience a hard time getting your automaker to replace or repair non-approved custom car parts.
Engine splash shields are an essential part of your car. In the long run, you may end up spending more time and money not installing a skid plate in your car. If you drive your car without a protective shield for its undercarriage, you are making it more susceptible to engine damage. This is why it is prudent to replace or have your car equipped with an effective skid plate. It is advisable to future-proof your vehicle for unseen incidents long before they happen and cost you more.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.