Off-Road 101: Rock Rails Explained February 26, 2015

When talking about off-road driving and custom trucks, something that’s mentioned fairly often are “rock rails.” While diehard off-roaders know the ins and outs of these protective beauties, the rest of us can sometimes be left in the dark.

While the name sounds cool, knowing what rock rails do can help you determine if you need them and in turn, save you money whether you need them or not. In this edition of Off-Road 101 we take a look at rock rails to get them explained.

What Are Rock Rails?

At their most basic definition, rock rails are protective steel tubes or boxed steel that you install on your undercarriage. These run the inside length of your truck going from the inside of one wheel to the other. 

Rock rails sit just below your doorsills and are attached to the chassis itself. Their only function is to protect the bottoms of each door, or rocker panels, from damage. This damage generally comes from driving over obstacles like rocks or logs that, when taller than the ground clearance of the truck, can easily crush the sheet metal that is there.

Rock rails, or rock sliders as they’re sometimes known, can take a few formats based on the look expected. Next, let’s look at the different styles of rock rails/sliders.

The Different Types of Rock Rails

There are two key types of rock rails/rock sliders that most people use. First, there is the running board/step-up type. These take the shape of running boards to be used for stepping up into a lifted truck. While the part you can see is a step, this is connected underneath the truck to heavy-duty protection. These are great for weekend warriors that want to take their daily drivers out on the trail while still keeping a moderately stock appearance.

The second type of rock rail/rock slider is the full-blown boxed steel sliders. These are basically what the name implies, and are boxed steel tubes that attach either by bolts or by weld seams under the rocker panels of your truck. This is the safer and more hard-core method of protection, but the look isn’t the best. If you’re going for pure function and don’t care about it looking pretty, these are the way to go.

Protection vs. Cost

As we mentioned above, rock rails will protect your rocker panels (doorsills) from damage caused by rocks and other obstacles. While this is extremely useful and important, rock rails aren’t always necessary. If your off-roading entails keeping to the trail and hitting some mud from time to time, then you probably won’t get a benefit from installing rock rails.

Depending on the truck or SUV you’re buying them for, rock rails can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to $1,000 or more, and that doesn’t even include installation.

Rock rails/rock sliders are important when you go off the beaten trail and decide to drive where there are rocks, steep inclines, or other obstacles that could get into your path. Because of this, you should decide how you plan to off-road and buy accordingly.

With this in mind, money spent on protecting your truck or SUV is never money misspent. All it takes is a single rogue log or rock and you’re stuck with doors that won’t open and extensive damage to your undercarriage. While rock rails aren’t necessary for everyone, they can definitely help keep your ride safe.

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