Are Rock Sliders or Skid Plates with UHMW plastic worth it?

Dec 11th 2023

Q: by "userdude"

Just wondering what your thoughts are about slapping some plastic on these rock sliders? UHMW plastic is all the rage it seems, do you think that'd be worth the project?

A: Metal-tech 4x4, Mark Hawley

Happy to respond to this, drawing from 35+ years of off-roading and just under 24yrs building parts professionally.

Some comp guys have used cutting boards for years, AKA UHMW plastic glides. At the same time, some comp guys have also stopped using them, too, opting for steel or alloys to slide just fine on rocks.

In 35+ years of wheeling, I have never found myself saying, "Man, if only I had put a plastic glide on X, I could have made that obstacle". Matched-built rigs, one with UHMP and one w/o, driven by the same driver will have the same capability of making it through an obstacle.

Years ago, we tested plastic on the lower links and skids for our custom long-arm, long-travel FJ Cruiser and FJ40 rock-built truck. The thought was we could glide over rocks more easily. I could never find a difference vs. steel for how smoothly the truck went through the rocks. The downside was that I actually did wheel the FJ in rocks and the plastic started to get chewed up over time and caught, thus not sliding as well or working down, exposing the flat head fasteners holding the plastic. But the plastic keeps corrosion from happening, right? Nope. Also, over time, moisture built up between the mounting points and the plastic, and corrosion showed up (guys that usually promote UHMP live and wheel mostly in dry climates, where this is not an issue). Also, water worked inside the links through the mounting holes, again over time. I found no value anywhere outside of dedicated rocks since trees, roots, and mud just get packed into them. This was also on a truck that went into big rocks quite a bit; for most daily drivers, never see anything like that.

"Races are won in the garage" is a quote from all competition motorsports. In off-road comp use, you run your buggy, then go home and tear it down, check everything (including your glides if you run them) replace wear points, rebuild your suspension, etc., before racing it again. Sport performance offroad use, we never see or do this. Of course, we maintain, but no full teardowns. Most go deep into their trucks only to fix a broken thing but not strip it down, rebuild the suspension, etc., between runs. For Sport use, we need simple but proven performance upgrades that don't require regular service post-hard use.

Bottom line: With little to no significant gain in the rocks with them for sport use, they came off our trucks just like carrying around a 40 to 60lbs full Co2 tank to fill tires vs. a 20-pound good air compressor did. It seems like a great idea, but as you put the ideas to real use, the value is not there. I encourage whatever would be added to the build budget for plastic, to be moved to something that has a higher ROI since we all know our trucks always need another upgraded part somewhere!

However, some will indeed find value in plastic on skids/sliders in some way to them. If they do, I am happy for them. At the end of the day, if we have been on ANY offroad trail and we all make it home with our trucks under their own power, it's been a good day.

Mark Hawley

Founding owner of Metal-tech 4x4

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