Easy Steps for Installation of Rocker Panel
The rocker panel adds both visual appeal and safety support to the vehicle. In the past, larger vehicles bend in the middle when a front end collision is encountered. But after the 1940s, the car engineers have put the rocker panels as an additional support to the structure of the vehicle, preventing it from crumpling in collisions. They are found between the wheel wells on both sides of the vehicle. And as they are not located under the carpet or leather lines in the interior but mostly in the external area, they have a shiny, polished look for added aesthetic value. But as time and use wear the part, the rocker panels need to be replaced sooner or later. Here's a simple guide for you to follow in removing the old ones and installing new ones. The whole process takes around 45 minutes.
Required skill level: Novice
Tools and things you'll need:
- New rocker panels
- Rubbing alcohol
- General purpose adhesive cleaner
- Prep solvent
- Rubber roller
- Detailing cloth
Preparing for the installation
If your car came with factory rocker panels, remove them and clean the area. Use the adhesive cleaner to clear out all the remaining adhesives from the old panels. Then use the rubbing alcohol to wipe the areas clear of any lingering dust. Unlike other cleaning agents, the alcohol dries up quickly without the need to wash it off, so it is ideal for this preparation process.
Placing the rocker panels
Lay the rocker panels on the sides of the vehicle and make sure they match the correct sides. Then carefully peel off the plastic backing and go one section at a time. Make sure the panels are perfectly aligned on the area before you stick them, because the adhesives are very powerful.
Once the whole rocker panel is in its place, use the rubber roller and press firmly. This is to attach it firmly and eliminate air pockets so as to prevent the rocker panel from falling off easily.
Other installation tips
When installing the rocker panels, make sure you have your car cooled down and that you are in a cool, shady area. This is because the ideal temperature is 65 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit for best results with the adhesives.
Rocker Panel Buyer’s Guide
A rocker panel was originally for providing extra support to keep the middle section of old vehicle models from sagging or dropping low. In modern vehicles, it adds rigidity and improves handling.
Another job of the rocker panel is to prevent the cabin from crumpling in the event of an accident.
Although rocker panels and side skirts seem interchangeable, rocker panels differ from side skirts in terms of functionality. Rocker panels are meant to give the frame added protection and sturdiness, while side skirts either boost the aerodynamics or improve the vehicle’s visual stance.
Replace your rocker panels if there are collision damage or chemical reactions such as rusting.
The two types of rocker panel replacements are full and slip-on.
OE rocker panel replacements on CarParts.com could cost you around $10 to $350 depending on which vehicle model one is designed for.
Your car’s exterior profile is made up of multiple body panels that are stylishly molded to give your car that sleek, distinct look. Depending on the vehicle make and model, these body panels are often a combination of aluminum, plastic, and steel. Exterior body panels run from the front fascia of your vehicle all the way to the rear, including the bumper covers. The sides consist of the door panels, front and rear quarter panels, and rocker panels or simply “rockers”.
What is a rocker panel?
The rocker panel was originally created for providing extra support to keep the middle section of old vehicle models from sagging or dropping low. That’s because cars from the ‘50s and ‘60s are constructed with a unibody structure. Nowadays, rocker panels are meant to connect the front and rear of the vehicle, especially those with ladder-on-frame chassis. It gives the vehicle more rigidity, which therefore improves its handling.
Another job of the rocker panel is to prevent the cabin from crumpling at the time of an accident. Since the front and rear ends of a vehicle are designed to crumple and absorb the force of an impact, the cabin needs to be rigid enough to protect the occupants. With the rocker panels, the frame has extra strength to withstand the impact.
Where is the rocker panel on a car?
If you think you know your car a hundred percent inside out, then look at the panel below the doors. Some people would refer to it as “side skirts”, but more than 50% of the time, this judgment would appear to be incorrect. Located on the bottom part of the exterior’s side profile, the rocker panel can easily be mistaken as side skirts mainly because the latter is more colloquial in nature compared to the former. As a result, some people interchangeably use the two.
Although they seem to be interchangeable, rocker panels differ from side skirts in terms of functionality. Rocker panels are meant to give the frame added protection and sturdiness. Side skirts, on the other hand, vary in function depending on the design—though most side skirts attach to the rocker panels. Some are designed to improve a car’s aerodynamics, while others visually make the overall stance of the vehicle lower and wider.
Why is it called a rocker panel?
There are no historical records regarding why people call it the rocker panel. However, there are varying opinions and theories as to how it got its name. Some people believe that the term “rocker” was derived from the rocker culture in the ‘60s, where vehicles featured chrome-plated rocker panels. Meanwhile, a more realistic and logical theory states that these panels are used to rock the vehicle sideways by using a foot and applying force to make the side dip and bounce.
When should you replace your rocker panel?
If there is physical damage (crack, hole, dents...)
Your rocker panels are most likely to receive the same beating as the front and rear bumpers. Like bumpers, rocker panels protect the underside of your vehicle from road debris, rocks, and gutters that are tall enough to scale its ground clearance. So it is important to inspect any scrapes, dents, cracks, or holes as any damage can degrade the structural integrity of the panel—worse, the overall structural integrity of the frame.
If it is rusted
Aside from damage caused by impact, you also need to inspect for any signs of paint chipping. Remember that your rocker panel is exposed to water and mud puddles. A break in the paint job would lead to rusting as water can easily come in contact with the rocker panel’s surface. Prevent rocker panel rust from happening by bringing it to a professional painter for a paint repair. However, if there’s already rust and it appears to be eating the metal, the only choice you can make is to replace the panel with a fresh one.
Things you need to know before replacing your rocker panels
There are two rocker panel installations depending on the damage of your rocker panel. Grave damage would most likely require you to replace the panel with a full welded rocker panel. If, however, you don’t have welding experience but wish to replace the panel on your own, you may opt with a slip-on rocker panel, which is built slightly larger to fit on top of the existing rocker panel.
This type of rocker panel replacement is meant to replace the entire existing panel. It is welded on the area where the damaged panel was cut out from. This means it is important that you have at least a mid-level experience when it comes to welding. To achieve the best repair result, you may let a professional welder install the part for you.
This type of rocker panel is relatively easier to install as you won’t need a welding experience. Slip-on rockers are fastened with screws, clips, or adhesive. Before you can install this panel, you must first remove the damaged part of the existing panel by cutting it away, especially if you’re replacing it due to rust. This is the tedious side of installing a slip-on panel as you may need to sand down the affected area after cutting the rusted portion away.
How much does a rocker panel replacement cost?
OE rocker panel replacements on CarParts.com could cost you around $10 to $350 depending on which vehicle model one is designed for. Designs vary and the amount of material used to create a certain design adds up to the cost. This means that the material used, manufacturing quality, and size all affect the price tag. There are full and slip-on rocker panels for you to choose from apart from the options of buying solo pieces or sets.
For a less-hassling transaction, you may narrow down your search by indicating your vehicle’s year, make, and model under the search menu. You may further filter the results by ticking your preferred brand, budget range, and location of installation.
QMI or Willmore: Which Rocker Panel Rocks Better?
Rocker panels add greatly to the overall look of the vehicle, especially with their high grade mirror polished attribute. Aside from this, they also feature some safety and protective enhancements. But with regular use, the rocker panels also get exposed to all sorts of environments as you go about your daily driving. As a result, they lose their appeal and get corroded after a time. When it is time to get new rocker panels for your car, you will have to consider a number of factors to help you decide what is best. Here is a simple guide to help you out:
Aluminum versus metal: this has always been a popular comparison issue when it comes to choosing which is stronger. QMI only offers stainless steel rocker panels, while with Willmore, you have the option to choose between stainless steel and aluminum. The difference in strength between the two materials is very little, but when it comes to stiffness that means that it does not flex, the aluminum wins the battle. This helps support the structure of your vehicle when a collision is underway.
Willmore is priced 75 USD to 210 USD, including discounts and promos. On the other hand, QMI sells for 144 USD up to 203 USD. Willmore offers a better value for your money than QMI when it comes to product cost.
Willmore rocker panels are covered with a one-year Willmore Manufacturing limited warranty. Equally, QMI's rocker panels come with a one-year QMI limited warranty.
Winner: Willmore and QMI
Installing Willmore rocker panels onto your ride is an easy task. This is because it already includes 3M adhesive backing for a more secure fit. In the same way, the QMI also already comes with a 3M manufacturer-approved double-sided tape for safe and easy installation. With both brands, drilling, cutting, and tools are absolutely unnecessary.
Winner: Willmore and QMI
Putting all the aspects together, the Willmore rocker panels seem to rock and roll slightly better than their QMI counterparts. But at the end of the day, you may have other factors you wish to consider. And that may yield a totally different verdict.
How to Install a Rocker Panel in 5 Easy Steps
A fully functional rocker panel helps protect your auto's undercarriage from mud, rocks, and other kinds of road debris. With constant exposure to these damaging particles, the rocker panel may rust or corrode over time. In case you need to replace a damaged rocker panel or install a new one, here is a quick and easy five-step guide to help you go about the task. The whole DIY installation process should take less than an hour to finish.
Required skill level: Novice
Needed tools and materials
Locking pliers or small clamps
Preparing for the task
Removing the fenders first should help make the installation job easier because this will give you more room to work. Once done, cut off the old rocker panel and make sure that a large amount of the part is grinded off. This should help you fit the new rocker panel more tightly if grinding the panel welds does not help in the removal of the damaged part.
Clean rust damage
You might also want to check the auto's underside for rust damage. Luckily, you may simply clean the rusting area using acetone and a rag. Make sure to clean the parts near the fender and the cab to prevent premature wear.
Position the rocker panel
Once the area for installation is cleaned, put the new rocker panel in place. If the previous steps were done properly, the part should fit snugly in place. Once in place, secure the part with locking pliers or small clamps. Some rocker panel types come with an adhesive. These types are easier to install than other types because they would only need a roller to be firmly set in place.
Weld the part in place
The old spot welds from the previous rocker panel should help you guide in welding the new rocker panel in place. Simply use an MIG welder for this procedure.
Grind off excess metal
With the use of a metal grinder, grind off any excess metal from the part's spot welding so the part will look good as new. Once done, the new part should be good to go.
Willmore Manufacturing vs. Smittybilt: Which Brand Offers the Better Rocker Panel?
Since a rocker panel is located at the side of the car and in between two wheel wells, it is highly exposed to dirt, mud, and other road debris. With constant exposure to these damaging elements, a wise driver must choose the right rocker panel type to prevent the part's premature wear and tear. Both the Willmore Manufacturing and Smittybilt brands claim to engineer the best rocker panels available in the market. If you don't exactly know what to look and what to avoid for, then here's a quick one-on-one battle between the two leading manufacturers of rocker panels today:
Ease of installation
Although both brands come with an easy installation feature, Willmore Manufacturing ends up as the winner since they offer parts that require no drilling. Both brand types actually require only less than an hour to complete installation. But unlike most rocker panels offered by Smiittybilt, Willmore parts are more convenient and trouble-free to install because of an adhesive backing.
WINNER: Willmore Manufacturing
Durability and corrosion resistance
Both brands were subjected to corrosion tests, and it turned out that both stainless steel rocker panel types of Willmore Manufacturing and Smittybilt are quite resistant to rust and corrosion. Willmore's set of rocker panels offer a strong protection against rusting, chipping, and peeling while Smittybilt's hand-crafted steel tubing is precisely engineered for off-road performance. It's a win-win situation for both brands when it comes to strength and durability.
WINNER: Willmore Manufacturing and Smittybilt
For car owners seeking cheap yet fully functional rocker panels, the Willmore Manufacturing brand might be a good choice. The brand averages around 100 to 250 USD, which is less expensive compared to Smittybilt's 200 to 300 USD price average.
WINNER: Willmore Manufacturing
Both brands are excellent at their craft, but when push comes to shove and you need to choose just one of the two manufacturers, then Willmore Manufacturing is a better option. Despite its highly-durable quality, the brand is also more affordable compared to other brand names. In fact, most rocker panel parts from Willmore come with a trouble-free installation because of adhesive backing.