One of the limiting factors where you are willing to take your 4×4 is the wish of not smashing your rockers up into your door. Fortunately, there are options for this. The most popular option is to either bolt or weld on a set of rocker guards. These are easily found in many different styles for your vehicle and can be easy to install. However they do have some drawbacks. If you are putting them on for looks then that is the best way to go. If you are planning on using them as a wheeling tool, then it might not be as good. The first drawback of the bolt on version is the loss of ground clearance. Having your rockers smashed in is why you are looking at getting some protection in the first place, that protection however, could be decreasing your clearance by 4” or more even. Ok, 4” doesn’t sound like very much, but it is. It can make the difference of being completely hung up and just cruising through.
That said, cutting out your rockers and replacing them with some heavy duty steel is not for the faint of heart. If you are not up for this or simply do not have the tools handy, some bolt on ones is the way to go. You can always upgrade in the future.
Cutting out the rockers and replacing with some heavy duty steel is the way we chose to go on our Project Grand Cherokee. In the first part of this article I’ll show you what we did to cut out the rockers and prep everything for the new metal.
First is to find a spot that you can have your rig down for a bit. To us, it’s the garage. We went ahead and jacked the rig up and took off the tires and ran tape where we thought it would be the best to cut. At first we left the doors on but later we took them off. Take the time to pull the doors, trust me, it makes a huge difference in ease.
At the same time we decided to trim the front and rear fenders. We wanted the rockers to match the body lines
as best as we could so we decided to cut the fenders so we could match it all up. Plus, we were there anyway, so why not. Cutting the fenders allows us more flex without putting on more lift. You want a good suspension that moves and has the room for the tire size you want to run. At the same time you want to keep your center of gravity down. Cutting the fenders will help you achieve this goal.
The masking tape is there to help keep the paint in good shape while we do our cutting. It also gives a nice contrast so we could see where to cut as the paint on this vehicle is a dark ash grey. At first, we were going to use the plasma cutter to do the cutting but that would have backed the paint up and we wanted this to look decent when we were done. In the end we used a cutting wheel and cut the outer layer off.
Once the outer layer was off, we spent some time cleaning out the mud and also found some rust. We cut out the rusty parts and painted the metal back up to seal it off. Since we were using 2” by 3” rectangular as the rocker back, we cut the rear of the rockers and some of the inner structure support up. We didn’t cut it all the way off as the inner structure is important so we just trimmed it to clear the inside of the rocker.
Since we are actually cutting up, we will be gaining more clearance then the stock rockers. It’s a win win situation.
Now that we have all of the metal removed, it’s time to start measuring and cutting out our metal. Stay tuned for part 2!