Underbody Protection for Range Rovers


Vehicle with steering guardIntroduction
Diff Guards
Exhaust Guard
Fuel Tank Guards
Gearbox and Underbody Skid Plates
Rock Sliders / Sill Protectors

Steering Guards
Complete Underbody Protection Kits


Introduction
I have never understood why Range Rovers (and other Land Rover models) come to us with their underbodies basically unprotected, while many other makes of 4x4 -- even those that are clearly not serious off roaders -- provide underbody protection for such vulnerable components as the transfer case, fuel tank, etc. A partial explanation may be that the land where Range Rovers are developed consists mainly of muddy rather than rocky terrain so the need is lessened. Another reason may be that on Land Rovers the underbody components are designed to be less vulnerable than on other 4x4s. For example as noted in the fuel pump section of this site, the fuel pump is designed to keep on working even when the tank is crushed by a rock.
Of course, all skid plates add weight, and most reduce available ground clearance as well as interfering with access for maintenance, so some folks do without them and rely on careful driving. However, some of these items might just prevent something vital from being busted a long way from home.  For serious off road work involving crawling over rocks, there is probably no substitute for strategically placed skid plates, diff and steering guards, and rock sliders. Fortunately the aftermarket suppliers have filled this void, and this page is an attempt to review some of the available designs (photo at top of page courtesy of Atlantic British).

Diff Guards

The lowest points on almost any 4x4 are the front and rear differentials, and although the housings for these are relatively strong, they may not be a match for a good hard collision with a rock sticking up out of the ground. Range Rovers witrh solid axles (Classics and 4.0/4.6 models) have both front and rear diffs on the same side of the vehicle so a high-clearance passage exists from front to rear under the vehicle -- very handy for driving over high obstacles. Conversely, if you hit a rock wit the front diff you will probably hit it with the rear too.

Classic Diff Guards
Most Land Rover parts houses can supply some sort of diff guard for Classic models. In fact, the most common design is shared with other Land Rover models and simply clamps over the center of the vulnerable diff cover. Rovers North sells them for about $150 each or $300 for the pair. The photo below left shows the ones sold by Atlantic British, for  $259 for the pair. A less expensive option is a similar design offered by British Pacific (photo below center), for $69.95 each or $139.90 a pair. They also offer a heavy duty design by Mantec for about $105 each or $210 a pair (photo below right).

Diff Guards (Classic)

BP Diff Guard

Mantec Diff Guard

Atlantic British Diff Guards (photo courtesy of Atlantic British)

British Pacific diff guards (photo courtesy of British Pacific)

Mantec diff guards (photo courtesy of British Pacific)


A more expensive design by Southdown USA (about $400 for the front axle only) is sold by Rovers North, and consists of a plate that bolts under the axle, with a downward bulge in it for the diff. As well as protecting the diff, this also shields the vulnerable track rod behind the axle, but at the expense of some loss of clearance under the axle. For the rear diff, Southdown makes a small but sturdy bowl-shaped guard that goes underneath the diff and is held on the housing with steel straps. Cost is about $240 from Rovers North.

P38 Diff Guards
On the Classic, the diffs were on the right hand side of the vehicle, and on the 4.0/4.6 they are on the left. Hence anyone used to driving one can easily make mistakes when switching to the other. In my Classic I had become so accustomed to nonchalantly lining up the vehicle so that protruding rocks passed under the left side, that I was concerned when I got my 4.0 that I might have a lapse and do the same thing, lining up the rock for a perfect collision with the diff. I decided to instal front and rear diff guards. Some of the clip-on Diff Guards for earlier Rovers do not work as well on the axles used on the 4.0/4.6, although the ones sold by British Pacific (photos above center and right) are also intended for the newer model. However when I obtained my 4.0. the only ones available were made by Safety Devices (manufactured for the 1997 Land Rover Trek Range Rovers) so I ordered them from the UK. They are a sturdy design and have served well. Unlike the simple clamp-on design used on the Classic, these guards have brackets that circle the axle housing, attaching them more positively.  These guards subsequently became official Land Rover accessories and are still available today -- see pictures below. Safety Devices also has a distributor in the United States: Stable Energies, 175 Passaic Street, Garfield, NJ 07026, (973) 773-3177 (Bob or Lourette).

diff guard front

diff guard rear

Southdown Diff Guard

Well worn front diff guard on my 4.0/4.6. This guard is made by Safety Devices.U-bolt on left encircles axle, and two bolts on right use holes in diff housing for  sway bar (removed on my vehicle).

Safety Devices rear diff guard -- well worn example on author's 4.0SE. Guard is attached with U-bolts around axle housing to left and right of differential housing.

Another diff guard design for the 4.0/4.6 made by Southdown in the US. Rear diff guard shown. (photo courtesy of Atlantic British)


Exhaust Guard
Safety Devices made an exhaust guard for the 1997 Land Rover Trek Range Rovers. It can probably still be ordered from them.


Fuel Tank Guards

Classic:
Rockware has made a 1/4" thick aluminum skid plate available to protect the fuel tank on Range Rover Classics and Discoverys ($325). Southdown USA also makes one for the Classic, available from Atlantic British and Rovers North.

P38:
A fuel tank guard is available from Safety Devices for the Range Rover 4.0/4.6 model (originally designed for the 1997 Land Rover Trek Range Rovers). Southdown USA also makes one, costing $363 from Rovers North.


Gearbox Guard
Gearbox and Underbody Skid Plates
Only a few skid plates are available that actually go underneath the Range Rover's underbody. The thick alloy skid plate from
Atlantic British pictured at right is designed to protect the gearbox / transmission area. Cost is about $359. Rockware advertize that they will make custom-built skid plates for the underbody. They also make frame sliders for the D-90 and Discovery that would probably fit the Range Rover Classic. So far I am not aware of anyone who makes protection for the exposed parts of the transfer case and handbrake drum. However, Rockware supplies a pinion guard, fuel tank guard and catalytic converter skid plate. Safari Gard used to make a replacement rear bumper, which wraps around to protect the quarter panel, but has recently (2004) discontinued production of Range Rover  bumpers.

Rock Sliders / Sill Protectors

See separate Rock Slider page

Steering Guards

Classic
The most common type of skid plate used on Range Rovers and other models of Land Rover is one to protect the steering gear. On the Classic models especially, the track rod is a flimsy piece of tubing that hangs down well below the front axle and is always getting bashed and bent on obstacles. This is not a good design, but we are stuck with it. I even recall an off road test done by Four Wheeler magazine in which this happened and Land Rover rushed in a new track rod to save the day. On my Classic I eventually gave up and left the track rod in a permanently upwardly bent shape. However I realize this is not the ideal solution!  Safari Gard makes a strengthened tie rod, and Fabitron makes a strong chrome moly version. Rockware now makes a recontoured rod with higher clearance in the critical area behind the long side of the axle. East Coast Rover makes a guard for the track rod, and also has a kit which repositions the steering stabilizer out of harm's way.

A strategically placed skid plate can prevent the bending happening in the first place, and also protect the other steering components. Some examples are shown below (photos courtesy of Atlantic British).

steering skidplate

skidsteeral

Terrain Master Skidplate

Alloy steering skidplate from Atlantic British (about $229) mounts to existing bumper mounts. Rovers North sells a similar design for about $375.

More expensive variant ($279) made of 7 mm  aluminum -- comes with slightly different mountings for Range Rovers with and without brushbars.

Terrain Master aluminum alloy steering guard is slightly more elaborate and incorporates jacking points. Cost is about $469. (Source: Atlantic British).


Skid Plate from BP

BP Skid Plate

Steering guard of 7 mm aluminum from British Pacific ($279.99)
Photo courtesy of British Pacific

Steering guard mounted to vehicle with ARB winch bumper
Photo courtesy of British Pacific


Rovers North also sells a more expensive two-part steering guard made by Southdown USA, consisting of a conventional front steering guard similar to those above, plus an axle skid plate that extends behind the front axle to protect the vulnerable track rod. The axle guard, as mentioned above, consists of a plate that bolts under the axle, with a downward bulge in it for the diff. This is a rather expensive setup, costing about $800 for the set of two guards, and does cause some loss of clearance under the front axle. Safari Gard used to make a strengthened track rod, and Fabitron makes a strong chrome moly version. Rockware made a recontoured rod with higher clearance in the critical area behind the long side of the axle. East Coast Rover makes a guard for the track rod, and also has a kit which repositions the steering stabilizer out of harm's way.  The version used in Camel Trophy Range Rovers was supplied by Safety Devices.

P38
For the P38 models, an official accessory skidplate similar in design to the steering guards shown above is available through the dealer network. More recently, a version made by Southdown (makers of armor for the Camel Trophy vehicles) has become available. This skidplate and its matching axle guard, both made of 8mm steel (about 3/8 inch), combine to protect the entire front underneath of the vehicle. These items are sold in the US by Atlantic British.

steering guard

axleguard

4.0/4.6 steering guard made by Southdown (Photo courtesy of Atlantic British)

4.0/4.6 matching axle guard by Southdown (Photos courtesy of Atlantic British)



Complete Underbody Protection Kits
For the Classic Range Rover, Atlantic British offers a discounted complete skidplate kit consisting of two diff guards, a steering guard, a gearbox skidplate and full instructions for about $729.



 

 

 

 

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Page revised February 9, 2012