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Preparing for the Worst: Armoring Your Tacoma

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Keeping your Tacoma protected from the unexpected while out in the wilderness is as important as stocking up for your week long camping trip. Should something happen to your truck, getting back to civilization becomes a daunting task. Investing in some armor for your Tacoma's oil pan, trans pan, and other vitals is a no-brainer.

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There’s no secret when it comes to the beatings that Toyota Tacomas take. How many times have you come across a trail-driven Tacoma in a parking lot with every panel dented, paint peeled on all corners, and the old holes where fender flares once anchored? It seems to be a daily sighting when it comes to these trucks. The Tacoma is an excellent off-road platform and they wear battle scars with pride, but a beat down, dented up truck isn’t exactly appealing to everyone. If you plan on taking your Tacoma off road but don’t want to deal with an eyesore as your mode of transportation, there are measures that can be taken to preventing the otherwise inevitable.

Why You Need Additional Protection

If you’re off-roading, you know that most obstacles are beneath you. It makes sense to add on aftermarket bumpers or grille guards. It’s a different story for the sides. What may happen may be considered redundant because you can always avoid the obstacles, right? The facts are that collisions with trees and large rocks are pretty much inevitable. Even as a good driver, it’s a good idea to add protection all around because there really is no telling what can happen.

Where to Add Protection

What areas can be protected on your Tacoma? With the appropriate setup, the entire truck can be armored from front to rear. The level of protection is entirely up to you. It can be done with some minor protection underneath or set up like a full on knight ready for battle.

Rocker Rails

As you crawl up and over stumps and stones, the rocker panels come dangerously close to obstacles that can beat them into a crumpled beer can. Rocker rails, also known as rock sliders, add protection to the lower sides of the trucks. The idea is that when something comes up to the bottom of the truck, the rails allow the truck to slide safely over the top rather than crumbling the rockers to bits.

Rocker Guard Plates

Rocker rails and rocker guard plates both work to protect the rocker panels but in totally different manners. Rocker guard plates are great for keeping things like sticks and rocks from scratching up the paint underneath. Sure, this is great for keeping the factory paint job intact, but underneath paint is bare metal. And without any paint, there’s a high risk of corrosion.

Quarter Panels

The quarter panels take a considerable amount of abuse, and it seems like very little can be done to protect them. While no particular piece is designed to keep the whole rocker panels protected, there is still an option. Tubular rear bumpers can be designed to wrap around the rear of the truck to keep the lower quarter panels intact. The lower panels are protected from the factory, but these tubular bars will keep trees and other large obstacles from colliding with the entire quarter in the right situation.

Skid Plates

When the Tacoma is crawling under rocks, the undercarriage is in just as much danger as the rocker panels. The skid plates keep mechanical parts safe, but also make it easier for the Tacoma to slide across the top of obstacles without getting snagged on the moving parts. The skid plates arrive in either case hardened steel or aluminum. Aluminum is lighter, of course, but costs more.

Aluminum Skid Plates:

Pros

  • Lightweight

Cons

  • High Cost

Steel Skid Plates:

Pros 

  • Low cost

Cons

  • Heavy Weight

Diff Covers

The differential is the lowest hanging part of the undercarriage of a Tacoma, even when lifted. The differential can easily come into contact with sharp rocks that can tear into the cover with ease. If the diff cover splits and loses all of its fluids, you can quickly run into a bad situation - and fast. Beefier diff covers are a no-brainer for off-roading and can have benefits of not only protecting the internals but keeping the fluid within cooler.

Light Guards

The lights on a Tacoma are easily the most vulnerable parts of the entire truck. This isn’t because of the location of the lights; it’s because of the materials they are made of. The plastic may be on the durable side, but will perish in the hands of a log or rock in a moment’s notice. To keep the housings from busting, light guards can be added to the outside. It’s a simple idea, but it is effective.

Grille Guards

Grill guards are designed to wrap up around the front end of the truck and keep the grille and lights safe from debris, trees, and other brush that could otherwise damage the truck. These units are lightweight and easy to install. Again it’s a simple design but very effective when put to use.

Heavy Duty Bumpers

Heavy duty bumpers are a great line of defense when armor is needed. They keep the front and rear end safe from collisions and can be fitted with additional defenses for the truck. As mentioned earlier, the rear bumper can wrap around to keep the quarters safe, but the front can feature built in bull bars or grille guards that are anchored securely to the heavy-duty bumper. This is significantly sturdier than traditionally mounted grille guards and bull bars.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro