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On a 2003 Camry, there are two plastic/fiber material panels that are mounted long-wise on the left and right side from the front under the bumper. They appear to be dirt/rock shields under the engine. Photos are below.
The panels came loose on the rear parts toward the center of the car and hung down to about 2 inches from the pavement. Only one of the original screws on the rear parts is still attached to the panel (the others seem to be gone).
Since I can't easily skinny under the car, I would like to ask the following:

1) Do these panels have any functional purpose? Or are they just protecting the bottom of the car from water, dirt and rocks? Other than that, can the car operate safely without them?

2) For the missing (toward the back of the car) screws, is there a possibility that new screws could not be affixed due to some other missing parts? I can't see where they are mounted.

3) Do these panels need to be loosened or removed for regular maintenance? I wonder if some service in the past could have caused this.

This car is 13 years old and runs fine, but the body is in average shape so I am not concerned of the cosmetic condition.

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  • If your clips are broken, you can buy them dirt cheap on amazon. – rpmerf May 19 '16 at 12:09
  • The panels are desirable but not critical/necessary for operation. – Seppi Aug 16 '16 at 19:57
  • if you don't mind water etc getting where it shouldn't . take em off, if they were vital they would be attached way better than they are, – Warren Sep 14 '17 at 21:33
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The shields have multiple purposes. What you stated about rocks and debris is very true. They do protect the engine bay from stuff getting kicked up into it.

Another thing they are designed to do is to allow proper cooling and airflow. On some vehicles, without these in place, the engine can overheat due to the air not flowing through the right parts of the vehicle at speed, namely the radiator. I don't know if this is true here, but worth consideration.

The other thing they help with is aerodynamics and fuel economy. Once again allowing air to flow easily over the under parts of the car and not catch on the bits and pieces. Not having them in place will probably lower your fuel economy.

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    Protecting the engine bay from road dust/debris will also prolong the life of your accessory belts and pulleys, and prevent them from developing annoying squeaks. They also keep the engine bay relatively clean. – MooseLucifer May 18 '16 at 21:48
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"Do these panels have any functional purpose? Or are they just protecting the bottom of the car from water, dirt and rocks? " That is a functional purpose :-)

They come loose all the time on older cars due to the plastic push fasteners failing and falling out, that and techs that damage them when removing the cover for service and do not replace them with new ones.

Push fasteners come in different diameters and styles, diameter is important, most imports are 10mm.

You should keep it attached.

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