Columbia Rovers Aluminum Fuel Tank Skid offers 1/4-inch of fuel tank protection at only 18 pounds of added bulk. I’ll admit, I’m still a skeptic of aluminum when it comes to protecting a two-ton truck from rock damage, but recent conversations with other off-roading experts have convinced me to give it a try. I’ve opted to do this test with a fuel tank skid, since there is not one available from the factory, and it is not a place I would consider in the least bit vulerable (in 5 years of wheeling a Discovery, I have never hit the fuel tank).
This ultra-light skid is currently available for first and second generation Land Rover Discoverys, and the Range Rover Classic, from Columbia Overland for $200 plain or $225 powder coated in black. Installation is extremely easy (on a Discovery 2) and can be done by one person with two jack stands, a floor jack, and a pair of 2x4s in about 30 minutes. You’ll need a 13mm socket for the two rear bolts and a 15mm for the front two.
25 gallons of fuel is heavy. The first thing you will want to do is go for a drive. If you have a full tank, go for a long drive. Carry a fuel can full of extra fuel and drive until well after the low fuel light comes on and you think you have about a gallon left, then head home and let the truck cool off (you’ll be under the truck working next to the exhaust). You’ll need to be careful to make sure that the fuel tank doesn’t drop more than an inch or so while you’re swapping the factory strap for the new skid plate, which is why you want it to be as empty (light) as possible. The easiest way to do this is to put yourself under the fuel tank and hold it up with your knees while you slide the strap out, slide the skid in, and get the bolts back into the rear end (leave them loose). After that it is an easy task to hold up the front end of the fuel tank and skid while you put the front nuts back in place and tighten them down. Then, go back to the back and finish tightening the rear bolts.
The skid seems well built and the finish is perfect. Overall I’d give it 5-stars, but I haven’t had it out on the trail yet. For strength, all I can say is that it certainly does well supporting the weight of the vehicle when used as a jacking point to raise the rear of the vehicle. I have a trip to the Mojave National Preserve scheduled for later this month, so with any luck I’ll have the opportunity to bash it on a few rocks and see how it holds up.