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X3 E83 (2004 - 2010)
Talk about the E83 BMW X3 in this forum!

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  #1  
Old 02-23-2012, 10:13 PM
spokelizard spokelizard is offline
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X3 Underride Protection (Skid Plates)

I've been meaning to post this for quite some time, since I took care of this all late last summer. Just finally got around to it.

When I went out to the desert last summer I realized I wanted more protection underneath from some of the rutted and gravel tracks I was on.

IMG_0878 -2

So I investigated.

Here's a really heavy duty skid plate from a German company that converted early X3's into rally machines. But it wasn't available for my 2007, plus it looks heavier than I want for my daily driver that takes only occasional trips out to the wild.

hartge x3 underbody skid plate

Here's another skid plate available from a German company. This one's 5mm aluminum and was available for about €400 + shipping. This was available. I decided against it because it only extends about 1 meter from the front.

orc.de.underride protection-001

Last choice was the "official" BMW accessory. This was very pricey, but extends as far back as the transfer case yet is fairly lightweight. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone who had ever installed it, even though I checked with a couple of BMW dealers in the California desert who I was sure would be familiar with it if anyone was.

Here's the picture from the BMW accessory catalog. Doesn't show much!




And here's the drawing of that accessory from REALOEM.


real oem schematic underride protection-001

Well I decided to go with the "official" accessory. Price was about $1,150 including shipping. BTW, I ordered it from ebmwparts.com and I was very satisfied with their prices (beat everyone else!) and their service. The item actually shipped by air from Germany to Massachusetts which is where ebmwparts.com is, and then they forwarded it by ground to me in California. Took about 10 days overall.

I had it shipped directly to my indie mechanic. According to BMW, it was supposed to install in 2 hours, but it actually took the shop 4 hours to install. I split the difference, so total price installed was about $1,500.

Here's what it looks like underneath.


picture of underride protection installed.080411

Unlike the German items it's not a solid plate, but rather a grid of tubes with a rather thin (just 1 or 2 mm) solid plate up front under the radiator. So small gravel can still penetrate but there's protection against large stones and other obstructions. It weighs about 45 lbs, so that was a tolerable addition to vehicle weight.

Here's the front view. I kind of like it from for style points here.


front view 898 for Bimmerfest .081211

And a side view. You can see that it reduces clearance just slightly.


underride protection side view.081311

Well, after all that, I haven't been back to the desert since last summer, probably won't be back for another few months. But I'm ready. I think this is a reasonable though pricey solution to my needs for a versatile vehicle (daily driver + recreational). But it certainly doesn't give the same iron tank protection of the full length skid plate in the second picture above.

Thanks for reading.
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  #2  
Old 02-24-2012, 04:31 AM
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CleanKM CleanKM is offline
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Great review/write up! Let us know how it goes when you take her to the desert next time. You weren't concerned with the open tube design?
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  #3  
Old 02-24-2012, 07:39 AM
UncleJ UncleJ is offline
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Spoke, in your desert wanderings be sure to take some gorilla tape to fix the hole in the crankcase the pointed rock caused slipping between the tubes. Seriously, it looks like a good fix to slide you over the high spots. Still not what one would find on a Wrangler or JGC but unless you are a hard core rock crawler should do just fine. Nice write up!
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  #4  
Old 02-24-2012, 08:13 AM
noego noego is offline
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Looks good to me, and i applaud your use of the X3 in ways that are intimidating to many of us -- like me, for example . i hate scratches!

what took so long for the shop to do the install?
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  #5  
Old 02-24-2012, 10:39 AM
spokelizard spokelizard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CleanKM View Post
You weren't concerned with the open tube design?
Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleJ View Post
Spoke, in your desert wanderings be sure to take some gorilla tape to fix the hole in the crankcase the pointed rock caused slipping between the tubes.
Yep, that's why I wasn't 100% satisfied. Before I placed the order, the only thing I saw was the RealOEM schematic, and I wasn't sure whether those were railings or ridges on a metal plate. Turned out it was the former. I decided to go ahead with the installation, liked that it's lightweight and extends to the transfer case. Tradeoff is protection is limited.

UncleJ, your comment made me take another look at picture #2. Good crankcase protection, but none south of there. I dunno, maybe some day I'll swap it out.
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  #6  
Old 02-24-2012, 10:43 AM
spokelizard spokelizard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noego View Post
Looks good to me, and i applaud your use of the X3 in ways that are intimidating to many of us -- like me, for example . i hate scratches!

what took so long for the shop to do the install?
I bought my X3 to use. I carry a bicycle, and I like to travel off pavement (but no serious offroading) in the desert. When I came back last summer I had the car detailed and the engine steam cleaned. Most scratches buff out, anything else are scars with memories.

The shop had never done the install before. (No shop, including BMW dealers, that I contacted had done it.) The install required some alignment and drilling, so they were extra careful.
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  #7  
Old 02-25-2012, 07:43 AM
UncleJ UncleJ is offline
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Spoke, you may not need to "swap it out" just modify it perhaps to give you some "between the tubes" protection. A lot cheaper methinks and would probably serve well unless you decide to take it on the Rubicon! Anyway, good on 'ya for using your X3 like it should be.
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  #8  
Old 04-23-2013, 07:22 PM
mchova01 mchova01 is offline
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Sorry to bring back such an old post, but I am looking to do the same for a trip in the desert. How is the factory option holding up?

Have you come across any additional aftermarket options, something along the lines of the second one in the OP, but longer?

I tried doing a search, and couldn’t find anything (including factory) options.

Thanks,
Mike
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  #9  
Old 04-23-2013, 10:44 PM
spokelizard spokelizard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mchova01 View Post
Sorry to bring back such an old post, but I am looking to do the same for a trip in the desert. How is the factory option holding up?

Have you come across any additional aftermarket options, something along the lines of the second one in the OP, but longer?

I tried doing a search, and couldn’t find anything (including factory) options.

Thanks,
Mike
I've made just one more desert trip since my last post, it's holding up OK, and more importantly no damage on the underside.

If I had to do it over again, though, I'd stop at a shop specializing in 4 wheel drive accessories, to see if they have a generic that would fit, or the capability of fabricating something. I see you're in the Bay Area, there are 4 wheel drive shops in the East Bay, don't know about SF or the Peninsula.

I'm still concerned that the BMW option has too many gaps for good protection. The tradeoff is lighter weight. Plus when I had all my fluids changed recently (oil, transfer case, transmission) they could access everything without removing the protection.

You can try contacting the dealer in Germany who sells the second one pictured to get a better idea of the dimensions and protection. If you can't find it in a search, I might be able to locate the contact info again.

Where are you planning to go? What type of terrain? I've been meaning to post from my last trip, haven't gotten around to it yet. I think I found the limits to what the X3 can do on that trip.
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  #10  
Old 04-23-2013, 11:20 PM
mchova01 mchova01 is offline
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Hello Spokelizard,

I'm headed down to the Baja 500 at the end of May and will likely need some underside protection. I realize I am limited in offroad capabilities from the get go, but I'd like to have some protection. I will not be traveling alone (nor racing or chasing), and there will be real trucks available for assistance should I need it.

I live in the city and I'm in East Bay a lot for family, if you know of any decent places that can make the mods, please let me know. I tried searching on that front as well, but didn't find much except this: http://www.fluidmotorunion.com/archives/10237 But they are in IL.

I am also planning a few trips in the desert for taking photos and MTB'ing -- it's worth the investment.

Thanks,
Mike
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  #11  
Old 04-24-2013, 07:41 AM
UncleJ UncleJ is offline
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mch - Down across the border in Baja you hit the nail on the head by having "real trucks" with you for towing/assistance. Very important to not be on your own down there. Given the propensity of the X3 older versions to break springs (pigtails) that should be something on your mind as well when attempting to turn the Bimmer into a Jeep. There is a reason that those Wranglers (and CJ's) have such stout springs. Good luck on the trip and let us know how things went.
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  #12  
Old 04-25-2013, 08:29 PM
spokelizard spokelizard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mchova01 View Post
Hello Spokelizard,

I'm headed down to the Baja 500 at the end of May and will likely need some underside protection. I realize I am limited in offroad capabilities from the get go, but I'd like to have some protection. I will not be traveling alone (nor racing or chasing), and there will be real trucks available for assistance should I need it.

I live in the city and I'm in East Bay a lot for family, if you know of any decent places that can make the mods, please let me know. I tried searching on that front as well, but didn't find much except this: http://www.fluidmotorunion.com/archives/10237 But they are in IL.

I am also planning a few trips in the desert for taking photos and MTB'ing -- it's worth the investment.

Thanks,
Mike
This is the 4 Wheel Parts store near me that I had in mind. I've never been in there and I doubt they have anything off the shelf for an X3, but maybe they can fabricate underbody protection. Or refer you to someone who does. It's a chain so there may be one closer to you. Worth checking it out.

Here's the website for the German company that makes the item in my 2nd picture. I found them responsive by email. In English too (my German's not good enough.) They have a link to a U.S. partner, maybe they can help even though the U.S. partner doesn't show any X3 parts on its website.

From the collection of X5 pics at your link:



I like the idea of a roof mounted full size spare. But I'm concerned that unless that spare completely matches the diameter of the 4 operating wheels, adjusted for tire wear, there could be X-drive problems. Also gas mileage will probably take a hit with that on the roof.
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  #13  
Old 04-26-2013, 12:22 PM
UncleJ UncleJ is offline
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Spoke, sitting on an old disused mining road out in the middle of a dusty hot desert miles from anywhere with a serious rock cut flat (too big a hole for the "slime") any potential future X-drive problem will be the last thing on your mind I think!
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