Updated: May 18

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Rock Sliders – What Are They? How Do They Work?

Are you a serious off-roader?

Then you may want to consider one of the most practical 4WD accessories. We’re talking about rock sliders because of their functional benefits.

Many people wonder what rock rails or sliders are and if they’re worth it.

They’re not the most glamorous addition but they provide your vehicle with substantial protection. In this guide, we’ll break down everything that you need to know about rock sliders. It will also help you identify the style that best suits your needs.

Let’s get started!

What are rock sliders?

Rock sliders resemble steel tubes or shells that fit on the underside of a 4X4.

These accessories provide the undercarriage with extra protection. It’s like giving your vehicle body armour. They extend along the base of your vehicle between the front and rear tyres.

Not all rock sliders are the same. They are available in two common varieties.

Step Rock Sliders

These rock sliders are the more aesthetically pleasing option. Firstly, they provide a step, making it easy to enter and exit the vehicle. As a secondary benefit, they provide some protection.

While they look great, they’re typically less robust than the alternative.

Step Rock Sliders

Boxed Steel Rock Sliders

This variety is less attractive but they’re more functional than step rock sliders. Drivers sacrifice ease of access to their 4WD but gain extra peace of mind when offroading.

Their primary function is to provide solid protection to your vehicle, rather than an access step.

Boxed Steel Rock Sliders

What are the benefits of using rock sliders?

Let’s look in more detail at the benefits of using these excellent accessories!

Underside protection

The undercarriage of the vehicle is extremely vulnerable.

It’s very easy to tear this exposed area when driving alongside rocks and rugged surfaces. Bullbars and fancy lights won’t help if you’ve completely scraped the side panels passing between some boulders. This can result in thousands of dollars worth of damage.

That’s why the primary role of rock sliders is to prevent damage to your 4WD’s side and underbody. In this way, they serve a similar purpose to bash plates.

Whereas a bonnet protector and bull bar will keep the front of your car safe, rock sliders will protect the sides and undercarriage, to an extent.

Underside protection

Pivot Point

Another potentially useful function of rock sliders is the ability to act as a pivot point on tight turns.

Sometimes obstacles may make it difficult to manoeuvre the vehicle. However, this pivot point makes it easier and less dangerous for your ute or SUV.

Recovery Point

Nobody wants to think about their 4X4 flipping over.

In reality, this is a possibility if you seriously misjudge the terrain or have a conventional traffic collision. The rock sliders can act as a recovery point in this scenario by attaching a cable and pulling it upright.

Kickout

Kickouts are another important benefit of rock sliders. The end of the sliders has special bumps. These work to push the vehicle safely away from disruptive obstacles like large rocks.

It doesn’t protect the wheels but it acts as a buffer that reduces the likelihood of damage to the bodywork.

Kickout

Step

Another secondary bonus is that they can work as a step and make it easier to access the vehicle. That’s because they’re lower to the ground so you don’t have to step as high.

Step

How much do rock sliders usually cost?

Unfortunately, rock sliders aren’t a cheap investment.

Usually, they cost in the region of $1,000. However, it’s possible to find cheaper options. Bear in mind that these may be less reliable. It’s inadvisable to buy from an unknown brand because it could cost you more in the long term.

It’s also possible to find custom rock sliders but these will cost more than standard options. Ensure that the dealership or manufacturer provides a warranty.

If you’re confident and skilled when it comes to DIY you may save money by installing them yourself. This isn’t the best idea if you have any doubts because a lot can go wrong.

Installing Rock Sliders

Next, let’s look at the process of installing rock sliders. Note that this is a general guide and that some differences may occur depending on the make and model of your product.

As we said, it’s viable to install them by yourself. But if you’re not comfortable drilling holes in your vehicle, take it to a dealership!

For a visual guide, check out this video via Legendex Performance.

Tools Required

Welder

If you’re installing weld-on rock sliders then this is a necessary piece of equipment. Remember that welding doesn’t allow for manoeuvrability like a bolt-on alternative.

Drill

A drill may be required for some bolt-on rock sliders. The installation will include making holes to insert the nuts and bolts.

However, some bolt-on sliders won’t need a drill because they’ll fit into the original step’s position.

Drill

Safety equipment

Safety equipment is important regardless of the style of rock sliders. In particular, eye protection and gloves are essential.

High jack

Whichever style of slider you have, you’ll need a jack to lift it into place. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to install it.

High Jack

Woodblock

Use this in conjunction with the jack. It provides more surface area and reduces the risk of scratching the sliders.

Spanners/ratchets

These are necessary to remove the original step and for tightening bolts.

Spanners

Torch/light

This will make life easier when you’re crawling under the car.

How to install rock sliders?

1. Remove the original step

Take out the original step so that there’s space to install the slider. Use your spanners or ratchets to do this safely.

Retain the old bolts!

2. Drill holes

This is an optional step because many modern rock sliders will fit into the original place. Follow the instructions carefully because a lot can go wrong. Remember to paint the holes after to prevent water damage.

Leave the paint to dry for a few days.

3. Position the slider

Place a flat board on the jack. Then put the slider on the board. This will provide it with more stability. Move the jack under the vehicle and slowly position it so that it’s in place.

Line the tabs against the vehicle frame, leaving room for the u-bolts.

4. Bolt the slider

Insert the u-bolt through the slider. There should be one for each tab. Avoid the brake lines because you don’t want to damage them by accident!

5. Adjust slider into final position

The slider should have some leeway away from the vehicle. Otherwise, it could scratch and squeak the bodywork. Before fully securing it, gently ease it into the final position.

6. Tighten everything

This step speaks for itself. Tighten all of the nuts, tabs, and washers. Then you’re ready to go!

Top Tips:

It’s advisable to do the non-fuel tank side first. If it’s your first time installing sliders, it will be easier because it’s not as tight and there’s less risk.

Having a mate around to help will also speed up the process, especially if you don’t have a jack!

What To Consider When Purchasing Rock Sliders

Lastly, let’s check out some important aspects to consider when purchasing rock sliders. These include key points of consideration and frequently asked questions.

Vehicle Compatibility

Each make and model of 4WD is slightly different, so make sure that you are purchasing rock sliders that specifically suit your vehicle, otherwise you simply won't be able to install them.

Here's some vehicle-specific guides to help you make your decision.

Weld-on Sliders or Bolt-on Sliders?

The first thing to think about is whether you want to use bolt-on or weld-on sliders.

This guide focused on the bolt-on variety. However, weld-on sliders have their advantages. Firstly, you won’t need to drill holes in the side of your SUV. Many people dread this prospect because one mistake can affect the resale value.

There can also be issues with rust if you don’t paint the drilled holes. Otherwise, the exposed metal will be vulnerable to corrosion.

Weld-on sliders can be more secure than their counterparts. But a lot can go wrong. Welding is a skill and not everybody is good at it. It can be expensive to pay a professional to install the sliders.

If you don’t need to drill holes to install your new bolt-on sliders then it makes life easier!

Steel or Aluminium Rock Sliders

Another aspect to consider is the material.

There are a couple of varieties of steel rock sliders. The key advantage that they have over aluminium is their clear durability. Steel is very strong and robust. It’s also less likely to receive dents than the alternative.

Aluminium is considerably lighter than steel. However, this is the only significant benefit. Most users agree that steel is a better long-term option because it’s usually cheaper too.

That’s why we recommend steel as the material of choice.

Steel or Aluminium Rock Sliders

Are Rock Sliders Worth It?

Rock sliders are definitely worth the investment if you take off-roading seriously. They’re one of the most practical accessories you can buy along with 4WD snorkels.

As we emphasised, they can potentially save thousands of dollars worth of damage. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

However, if your main focus is the aesthetic of your ute or SUV, they may be a low priority. These are more about functionality than making your vehicle look like an awesome beast.

But they’ll give it the protection to perform like one!

Final Thoughts

The extra protection that rock sliders provide makes them a brilliant addition to any 4WD.

Anybody with serious off-roading ambitions should buy a set for their vehicle. Admittedly, they’re not cheap but it’s a lot better than unnecessary undercarriage damage.

Hopefully, this guide has made clear what rock sliders do and how to install them. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.


This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.


This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.

Louis

While Louis does most of his trips near his home in south-east Queensland, he has been camping as far afield as South America and Africa. He loves researching, testing and experimenting with camping gear whenever possible.

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