Rocker Panels: What Are They and How To Replace Them

A rocker panel is a stamped piece of strong metal that constitutes the structural body of a car. Rocker panels are an integral part of a car body structure. In other words, although rocker panels are not a very popular part of the car, they are important. They are situated along the side of a car, between the front and rear wheel wells openings. They are one of the few components of a car that connects the front of the car to the rear. So let's dive in and learn more about them.

What Rocker Panels Do

Rocker panel function

Despite their humble appearance and location, rocker panels play an important role in an automobile. In those days when cars were more of unibody constructions (the body and the frame of the car were one), these panels were needed not for the sole purpose of connecting the front of the car to the rear, but to provide the structural reinforcement that prevents the bottom of the car from sagging in the middle.

In more modern cars, rocker panels are one of those pieces that tie the front of the car to the rear and as such, give added rigidity to the car which contributes to better handling. Also, the high strength of rocker panels helps to create a passenger cabin area that doesn’t deform in an accident; thus helping the passengers walk away unharmed.

So, these panels are important when it comes to safety in a modern car. For trucks and off-road vehicles, they do not only serve the above-mentioned functions; they also serve as steps for drivers of these vehicles, helping them to climb substantial heights.

Rocker panels don’t get the credit for the role they play in an automobile, but in truth, they are one of the very essential components. Without them, a car would not be a car.By the way, make sure to always have your car clean if you want it to last for a long time.

Here you will find the best car cleaning products that can help you maintain your car clean and shiny.

Where The Name Rocker Panel Came From

Rocker panel name origin

One of the frequently asked questions when it comes to rocker panels is the reason why they are called rocker panels. However, no one is sure as to where the name rocker panel came from or why they are termed so.

The only answer we have to this question is some assumptions. For example, some people believe that it is named from the rocker culture in the 60s; a time when vehicles featured chrome-plated rocker panels.

Another assumption on why it is called rocker panels is that these panels are used to "rock" four-wheel-drive vehicles when they are stuck in a particularly unpleasant situation. The latter assumption is more realistic and logical, right?In some countries, rocker panels are called a sill (as in windowsill).

Similar to how a window sill structurally supports and holds a window is how a rocker panel structurally holds a vehicle. To learn more about that check out this blog post here.

Location of Rocker Panels

Location of rocker panels

Rocker panels are located in the bottom part of a vehicle exterior’s side profile. They are often mistaken as side skirts but are different. The reason why most people get confused differentiating between the rocker panels and side skirts is due to the fact that side skirts are more colloquial as compared to rocker panels.

Even though they seem interchangeable, rocker panels and side skirts are not the same thing; they differ in functionality. Side skirts are aftermarket parts attached to the rocker panels.

They are not part of the vehicle's actual structure and do not strengthen or supplement the vehicle in any way.Side skirts function varies according to design – some side skirts help to improve a car's aerodynamics while some visually make the overall stance of a vehicle wider and lower. Rocker panels, on the other hand, are designed to give a vehicle's frame added protection and sturdiness.

Maintaining Your Rocker Panels

Rocker panel maintenance

Rocker panels ride closest to the road when you drive and as such, they get continually coated in the salt, the de-icers, the road debris, and all other gross things you drive through. These chemicals will result in the metals of your rocker panels becoming corroded and consequently, becoming rusty.

To help your rocker panels last much longer, you have to clean them regularly. One thing to remember is that since they are located in a spot that is not so visible to the eyes, they are often ignored when the vehicle is cleaned. To clean your vehicle’s rocker panel, you may need to bend down to the ground, since the rocker panels are low to the ground.You’ll need patience for you to effectively clean your rocker panel.

Cleaning your rocker panel may not be an easy task but it is worth doing, considering the fact that it is much easier to provide them good maintenance than having to replace them. While cleaning tar in your rocker panel, you must be careful not to take off your paint alongside it.

A good cleaner that will help you remove tar without taking off your paint is WD-40. You can buy this cleaner from Amazon here. Other materials you'll need for effective cleaning of your rocker panel are the following: After cleaning your rocker panel, consider coating it in a ceramic, protective layer of wax, or apply some rust inhibitors.

Of course, it will get dirty as long as your drive, but you can ensure it doesn’t get rusty. Applying this maintenance tip is a good way of doing so. Speaking of maintenance, you should also not forget the tie rods. Here you will find detailed reviews of the top 7 tie rods.

Replacing Your Rocker Panel

Rocker panel replacement

If you notice that your rocker panels are damaged or rusted, you may need to replace them. The kind of replacement you do for your rocker panel depends on the extent of damage to the rocker panel. If it is serious damage, you would need to replace it with a full welded rocker panel.

However, if you wish to replace your rocker panel on your own, but have no welding experience, you can opt for a slip-on rocker panel. A slip-on rocker panel is easier to install as it does not require you to have any welding experience.

A full-rocker panel replacement involves cutting out and replacing the entire damaged panel while a slip-on rocker panel replacement involves cutting out the damaged part of the existing panel and fitting on it a slip-on rocker panel.To see exactly it should be done, check out the following video:

Key Takeaways

We’ve covered in this guide all you need to know about rocker panels. If you are interested in buying a rocker panel to replace your old and worn one, you should take note of the following:

  • The right rocker panel for your vehicle may not be right for another vehicle and so, you must find one that is specific to your vehicle’s make, model, and year.
  • Pay attention to the materials from which these panels are made – some are metallic panels while others are rubberized. Choose one that complements your style.

Finally, make sure whether you truly need to buy a new rocker panel or whether you can only fix it. Hopefully, this article helped you to learn more about the importance of these types of panels of your car!

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