2018 Lexus GX460 Build Project: Talons Garage Skid Plates

An off-road vehicle is nothing if it can’t survive the time it spends on the trail. Armor, specifically in the form of skid plates and rock sliders, are vital pieces of protection for the vehicle’s drivetrain and running gear. While some vehicles come armored to the gills bone stock, the Lexus GX460’s factory protection is severely lacking. Thankfully, the friendly folks at Talons Garage sent over a set of their skid plates for testing on our 2018 GX460 build project.

Since the company’s founding in 2021, Talons Garage has been making off-road armor for a wide variety of vehicles, with more on the horizon. Delivered in a few separate boxes, it’s immediately clear that the build quality on these parts is phenomenal, from the welds to the cuts to the coating. Rarely is a big piece of metal impressive, but I was quite enamored by the Talons Garage skids. It’s worth noting that the standard Talons Garage GX460 skids are made of aluminum (which are plenty strong while helping save weight), but Shaun (who co-founded the company with his wife Crystal) knew I was going to subject the skids to the Northeast’s rock-heavy trails and wanted to give steel a shot for durability testing.

If evidence was ever needed for the reason why skid plates are important, have a look at the stock engine skid that we pulled off the GX to install the Talons Garage full skid set:

Now, installing skid plates is usually pretty straightforward. On some vehicles (ATVs, in particular) they can be mounted up in less than an hour. The overall process for mounting up Talons Garage skids is quite simple as well, and the company has full instructions available on their website. Usually I would bolt up the skids myself, but time limitations and a concurrent need to replace a set of recalled upper control arms led me to have a shop do a professional install. I’m glad I did so, because the White Knuckle Offroad rock sliders and Talons Garage skids did not play nice, with the actual bolts that are used to mount bolt-on sliders to the frame interfere with the outer portion of the transfer case skid. Solution: A bit of creativity, an angle grinder, and some anti-rust paint for the cuts.

There was no effectively no way to know this would be a problem going into the install, but kudos to the guys at The Custom Shop for getting it done. Had we not run into this, and even for most driveway mechanics or enthusiasts, installing the Talons Garage skid plates can easily be done in the driveway.

The Talons Garage skid plates match up great with the Ironman4x4 front bumper.

The first realization about the Talons Garage skid plates once they were fully installed on the GX was just how much coverage there is from this design. The factory only provides the GX460 with an engine skid, but the full Talons Garage kit includes an engine skid, transfer case skid, and transmission/catalytic converter shield, plus a few other tidbits like a steel crossmember brace, ventilation holes to keep transmission temperatures down, and built-in access to the oil drain plug and oil filter. Needless to say, there’s an absolute ton of added protection while retaining an ease of maintenance that is as close to factory as possible.

Testing a skid plate is the most fun part of it: Hit the trail, attack an obstacle (or obstacles) that has a decent likelihood of making contact with the underside of the vehicle, then assess the damage (and hopefully lack of such). We trekked out with some buddies (admittedly some of whom had even more capable rigs) and put the Talons Garage skid plates to the test.

Test them we did, the skids taking some very solid hits over the course of their first day on the trail. While steel does weigh more than aluminum, steel skids do slide over rocks quite easily which in turn helps a vehicle make it over obstacles. Better yet, the Talons Garage skids alleviated the worries, holding of breath, and nerves that come with traversing trails strewn with rocks, trees, and even breakover-testing berms. Time and time again, the Talons Garage skids took the impacts, large or small, with total ease and zero issue whatsoever. They held up great, too, with no damage to speak of; the surface-level scratches that were limited to cosmetic harm would have further destroyed the stock skid plates, and in turn prove that the Talons Garage skids provide a great barrier against the rocks that would otherwise have hurt the underside of the GX.

It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to off-road upgrades, but the Talons Garage skid plates really did just that. They’re a fantastic piece of kit and a drastic improvement to the durability of our GX460. Talons Garage might not be one of the “big” names in the off-road armor realm, but the quality of the product shows how passionate the company is about what they make. This is a super high quality set of skid plates and I highly recommend them as what should be one of the first upgrades to anyone’s GX460 that will see time on the trails.

And a big shout-out to Shaun and Crystal for helping coordinate this stage of the GX build and for their willingness to give a different material a shot. Assuming the high level of customer service and product quality extends to the rest of their offerings and business operations, this is a company that’s here to stay. I can’t speak highly enough of them and of the Talons Garage skid plates.

Bonus pictures:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here