You step over your ride’s rocker panels every day, but do you know what these are for? In this article, you’ll learn more about the importance of these panels and when to have them replaced.
What are Rockers?
Rocker panels, also known as rockers, strengthen your ride’s structure and prevent the middle portion of the body from sagging. They serve as structural reinforcement so that your cabin won’t deform in case of a collision. These panels help form your ride’s structural toughness, which is a crucial factor for vehicle safety.
Where is the Rocker Panel Located?
Each side of your vehicle has a rocker panel installed. You’ll find these panels under your doors, between your front and rear wheel openings. They’re connected to the front and rear portions of your vehicle and serve as the bottom edge of the cabin capsule, which protects you during a collision.
Most body-on-frame trucks also use their rocker panels to create torsional stiffness, which is quite important for an off-roading vehicle. Since most off-road trucks have higher ground clearance, these rocker panels can also function as a stepping platform for entering the vehicle.
Types of Rocker Panels
Replacement rocker panels can be classified into two types: welded and slip-on. Here are the pros and cons of each type:
Welded Rocker Panels
This type of replacement rocker panel needs to be welded onto your vehicle’s body. It’s recommended to remove your doors and fenders before installation to prevent damaging them during the process. This will also help fit the panels correctly below your doors.
In most cases, you’ll still need to do weld clean-up and get the panels ready for paint after installing them. If you’re not an experienced DIY-er, we recommend hiring a professional to do the job for you.
Slip-on Rocker Panels
Automotive adhesives or fasteners are normally used to attach slip-on rocker panels to your vehicle. Although installing these panels is easier compared to welded ones, it will still require some work. You’ll have to clear away traces of rust and drill holes for the rivets before installing the panels.
One disadvantage of installing slip-on rocker panels is that the fasteners, screws, or rivets may come loose under rough driving conditions. The fastener heads may also become noticeable on the top edges of your rocker panels, but a body filler can make these imperfections less noticeable.
Rust and Rocker Panels
Rocker panels are on the top of the list of auto body parts that are prone to rust, primarily because of their location. Panels located on the lower portion of your vehicle often take a beating from road debris. Off-roading may also take its toll on your rocker panels. As rocks and branches damage these panels and chip off their paint, they become more prone to rust and corrosion.
Harmful chemicals like road de-icers may also contribute to rocker rust. In fact, a 2017 AAA survey reported that drivers in the US spent a total of $15.4 billion in repairing rust damage caused by de-icing chemicals over the last five years.
You may also miss out on your rocker panels when doing your routine car wash because they’re located way below your line of sight. Your rocker panels may become susceptible to rust if moisture, road salt, and other debris aren’t properly removed. Some drivers also install plastic or metal trim over their rocker panels, making it all the more difficult to clean them.
Is it Safe to Drive with Rusted Rocker Panels?
New car safety ratings are based on the crash-worthiness of a brand-new, whole vehicle. When a vehicle’s rocker panels have been eaten away by rust, the integrity of the body is compromised, potentially making the cabin less resilient in a crash. Rust holes may also allow harmful exhaust to enter the cabin.
Furthermore, a rusted rocker panel makes it almost impossible to attach your factory jack. To avoid getting caught up in all this hassle, it’s crucial to fix any form of rust immediately.
How To Fix Rusted Rocker Panels
The only way to fix rusted rockers is to replace them. Luckily, there are many aftermarket rocker panels available on the market, which makes finding replacement parts for your ride a breeze.
How Much Does a Rocker Panel Replacement Cost?
A rocker panel replacement may cost you anywhere between $50 and $250 on parts alone. Some items may be priced higher depending on the brand you choose. Labor may cost you around $1000 to $4000. This may seem a bit pricey but this already includes the cost of removing your doors and polishing (for welded-type panels) after installation.
Rocker Panel Maintenance
Replacing your rocker panels can be costly, which is why you should clean them properly to prevent corrosion damage over time. Be gentle when wiping off grime and dirt to avoid damaging the panels’ coating. If you’re not sure which cleaner to use, we recommend talking to a professional to ask for a recommendation.
It’s also good to inspect your rocker panels for any signs of rust. The inside of the panel usually rusts first. If you notice signs of rust on its outer surface, it may mean that the inner portion is severely rusted.
Replacing your rusted rocker panels will reinforce your ride’s structural integrity and boost your confidence on the road. Get rusted parts on your vehicle checked and fixed right away to keep your ride in top shape for years to come.