Whether you call it a splash guard, a splash shield, or a skid plate, this is one piece of equipment on your car that you seldom see unless it’s been damaged in some way and is hanging down from below the engine bay, often scraping on the ground.
Even if your most adventurous trip is to a McDonald’s Drive-Thru there are several common causes for the engine splash shield to hang, here are the 6 most common causes and how to fix them.
1. Fastenings Can Fail
The splash guards are typically fastened to brackets on the front, sides, and back with bolts or clips. The clips, in particular, often made of plastic, get brittle with age and break.
They’re also damaged by scraping against curbs and other obstacles and eventually fail to support the splash shield.
When splash shields, which are either metal or plastic, are bolted to the underside of the front bumper, they are often secured by plastic, nylon, or other non-metallic bolts, and these are also subject to failure.
Constant vibration from the engine and the road surface, flexing, and damage from debris thrown up all contribute to failure of the fastenings after some time.
Metal splash shields are more durable, compared to the plastic alternative, but are subject to the corrosive effects of salt and moisture, so they will only last for a while, particularly with cars that spend most of the time at the coast.
Rust will weaken the fastening points of the shield as well as damage the cover itself. Eventually, it will break at one or more points and hang below the engine.
3. Poor Installation
It’s unlikely that the engine splash shield would be poorly installed on the production line. Still, subsequent mechanical work on the car may have necessitated the removal of the splash guard.
For example, some vehicles have a shield covering the sump plug, which requires the removal of the shield when doing an oil change.
If it’s not secured correctly and the fastenings are not tightened, the shield could quickly work its way loose.
4. Single Event Damage
It’s easy to damage the splash shield, as many a driver has discovered. Misjudging the height of a curb, driving over a protruding rock, or doing some off-road exploring could result in severe damage to the splash shield, either by ripping it from its mountings or ripping a hole in the shield itself.
This is unlikely to happen if one restricts your travels to paved roads, but if your car is not designed for rough terrain, the chances of winding up with an engine splash shield hanging off its mountings are high.
5. Long-Term Damage
The engine splash shield takes a lot of punishment, to a certain extent from the engine above it, but more so from the road (or lack of a road) beneath it that the vehicle travels on.
The whole purpose of the shield is to prevent debris from reaching the moving parts of your engine, such as pulleys, fanbelts, and throttle linkages, or to get into the air intake.
As a result, the shield bears the brunt of this potentially damaging material, and it’s inevitable that eventually, it will break and hang down and even break off entirely from its mountings.
6. Excessive Vibration
If the vehicle is driven extensively over rough terrain or unpaved roads, there is an increased chance that the vibrations from the engine and from outside elements will loosen some of the brackets holding the splash shield in place.
As it loosens, the shield itself will shake and eventually come away from its mountings.
What Are The Fixes For An Engine Splash Shield That Hangs?
The common fixes for a splash guard that hangs are limited and depend on what condition the shield is in. In a nutshell, you can choose to refit, repair, or replace.
Refitting A Hanging Splash Shield
Vibrations can loosen the fastenings, whether they are screws, bolts, or clips. If you see the shield hanging, the first thing to do is to check whether anything has been damaged.
If it’s essentially undamaged apart from a few scratches, it can be secured back in place, possibly with new fastenings, correctly tightened with locking washers in place.
Repairing A Damaged Engine Splash Shield
Suppose the shield has been torn from its mountings and is hanging as a result but is in good condition otherwise.
In that case, it is possible to repair it by restoring the mounting points so the shield can be re-attached. This can be done using fiberglass in the case of a plastic shield or by welding if the shield is metal.
If the shield has been torn or is distorted by an impact, it might have been weakened to the extent that it’s not worth repairing, but it is possible to seal the tear in a plastic shield and straighten out a bent metal one if you have the time and need to save some money.
Replacing An Engine Splash Shield That Hangs
If the shield is old and worn out or has suffered long-term damage, it needs to be replaced rather than repaired, as it’s unlikely to be adequate protection for your engine for very much longer, even if you do manage a temporary fix.
Replacement is not difficult if you have the correct replacement part and the right tools. Depending on the make of the vehicle and whether you choose a metal or plastic shield, it could cost anything from $25 to $250 to buy a replacement part.
Is An Engine Splash Shield An Essential Component?
There’s a considerable number of car owners who don’t think a splash shield is necessary at all, but this is debatable.
If your engine splash shield is hanging and you’re not able to repair it immediately, there’s no harm done in removing it to complete your journey, as long as it’s a short one.
Mechanically, the shield plays no part in your vehicle’s performance, but it does play a very useful, if not vital, role in protecting the engine from long-term harm caused by dust, dirt, and moisture that gets hurled by the tires as you drive.
It also acts as a buffer should you drive over a rock, a curb, or a pothole that would otherwise make direct contact with your engine, and it could save you the cost of a major repair.
There are six common causes for your engine splash shield hanging. Some of them are avoidable, but unless you are a very careful driver, the chances are that you will need to repair or replace the shield at some point.
One thing is for sure – driving for any time without a splash shield in place could be a very costly mistake.