Rock Sliders are another part of the bar work that many four wheel drives have. They are designed to protect the sills (the length of panels that runs underneath your side doors) of your vehicle from large rocks and can also be used as a jacking point (if they are well designed and manufactured!). These can be purchased as an item off the shelf for many vehicle models, or you can make your own (which are usually the best anyway!).
What are Rock Sliders?
Put simply, Rock Sliders are basically a strong version of side steps (which many four wheel drives come standard with anyway). They tend not to stick out as far so that they don’t catch on anything. Rock Sliders are designed primarily to protect the sills of a four wheel drive as a pose to be something to stand on when you get in and out, but good Rock Sliders will accommodate both of these requirements. Rock Sliders generally run the whole length of the sills, meaning you leave nothing exposed to those nasty rocks.
Rock Sliders can also be used as a point to jack off (but only if they are strong!). This is handy if you get stuck as it allows you to lift one side of the vehicle up, pack the holes in and then lower it down again. Of course, it’s usually only the serious four wheel drivers that would need this anyway!
Where can you get Rock Sliders from?
If you want to buy these off the shelf, most of the larger four wheel drive stores will be able to help you out. However, if you have a very new model four wheel drive, or a four wheel drive that isn’t so popular you might be out of luck. If this is the case, you need to visit an engineering or fabrication workshop to get them to fabricate them for you, or you need to make them up yourself. Be prepared to pay a premium for the Rock Sliders off the shelf, and make sure that they are exceptionally strong. I have seen a few photos of very well known brand Rock Sliders that have bent up a huge amount and still creased the sill and door, which would be highly disappointing.
Making your own Custom Rock Sliders
If you are any good with a grinder and welder, I would highly recommend that you make your own Rock Sliders. Not only do Custom Rock Sliders look considerably better, but they can be individualized so that they perform everything you want them too. On top of this, if you put some serious thought into them they will usually outperform any Rock Sliders that you could buy off the shelf. Even better, they add to the 4x4 Accessories on your vehicle without you having to re-mortgage the house!
Be sure that you don’t weld these straight onto the chassis. The best ones are designed with a bracket that ‘wraps’ around the chassis and then is bolted together to form a clamp. There are many different designs around, and if you have a look around online you will find them without much trouble. The four wheel drive forums are often a great place to start! Make sure that you over engineer them too, as a pose to under engineer them. Rock Sliders are designed to protect the panels of your vehicle, and if they don’t do that then you are wasting your time building them! I would recommend at least 3mm thick steel, if not more!
Do you really need Rock Sliders?
Rock Sliders are an option; most people won’t ever require them. What is more important is a good Bull Bar, like the ARB Bumpers. If your vehicle already has side steps then you may decide not to change them with Rock Sliders. The only reason that you would really want them is if you are doing a lot of rock work, where the rocks get close to panels. Remember that one big rock can cause you a thousand dollars damage (or more!) in a second, so they are great insurance. Some side steps will take a bit of weight, but they will bend quickly (and the aluminium ones bend very easily) as they are not designed to take the vehicles weight. A good quality Rock Slider will be designed to handle almost all of the weight of your four wheel drive, as this is what happens at times.
The sills tend to be one of the more expensive panels to repair on a four wheel drive, so take care of them. However, if you spend the majority of your time on the beach and you don’t have the clearance to go over big rocks then there is a good chance that you don’t want Rock Sliders anyway! My Hilux just has standard Aluminum Side Steps, and I don't plan on changing this as I have enough clearance for what I need to do. I know that they will bend if I drive over a big rock, so I avoid them!
Making use of space near your Rock Sliders
The best four wheel drives are those that make use of any space that is available. An idea that I have seen on a few of the more serious four wheel drives is to mount little air tanks in between the Rock Sliders and the chassis. This is otherwise rendered a waste of space. The rock sliders should be made to protect the air tanks and these will allow you to pump your tyres up much faster. Of course, you need a compressor mounted onto your vehicle somewhere too, or they are a waste of time!
Rock Sliders tend to be a modification aimed at those who are getting into the more serious four wheel driving. For the majority of people you won’t need them, but they do prove to be handy at times. As I mentioned above; one incident with a large rock will cost you a lot more than the price of some good quality Rock Sliders.