Do you know the difference between rock sliders and side steps? Do you know what they are for or which one you should have for your needs? Not to worry, I’m here to help you out! I have gathered all the information you’ll need about rock sliders and side steps for you.
Rock Sliders and Side Steps are very different. In fact, they are worlds apart. Side steps provide a practical benefit by improving access to your vehicle. While rock sliders are designed to protect or sills/side panels and support the weight of your car.
Keep reading to find out the differences in material, construction and more between the two accessories and whether you should invest in a pair of rock sliders.
What Are Side Steps?
This accessory can be made out of different materials but have the same basic structure and use. They provide easier access into your vehicle while offering very little protection to your car. Side Steps are not designed to take the weight of your vehicle as they have a lot of flex.
Over time if you are using them to support the weight of your vehicle they will eventually bend and end up looking like a banana, with no benefits at all. When this happens you are going to need to replace the side steps so they are effective as a side step. Side steps can protect the sills of your car for a short while, however, they will end up causing damage, especially when you’re using them to support the weight of your vehicle.
Key Features Of Alloy Side Steps
- Aluminum made
- Form of channeling to make it ridged enough to stand on
- Possibility of plastic outer shell for aesthetic
- Attached to body of vehicle with two thin pressed brackets
- Great as a step
- Very little side protection
- Unable to use high lift jack
Key Features Of Steel Side Steps
- Single tube design
- Alloy checkered plate on top
- Attached to chassis by 2 steel brackets
- Some side protection
- Wont support weight of vehicle resting on them time and time again
- Unable to utilize high lift jack
What Are Rock Sliders?
This accessory is important when you go off-roading, the primary purpose of rock sliders and what they are designed to do is to support the weight of your vehicle from the underside. This is particularly useful when you don’t have enough ground clearance and are tackling particularly aggressive rock tracks. Another nice benefit of rock sliders is using them to purposefully use the rock sliders to “belly slide” your 4wd across rocks and sand ridges.
One bonus of using rock sliders beside their intended use of helping to protect the underside of your vehicle is you can still use them as a side step, unlike side steps which you definitely cant use as rock sliders!
At its core, rock sliders are designed to provide protection between your vehicle and obstacles you face off-road, making it less likely to take on damage. They are particularly helpful in protecting your sills and lower panels. Once you’ve damaged a sill, you are looking at an expensive repair. So, it’s best to plan ahead and fork out the money for the rock sliders. When you invest in this accessory be sure to use a brand/fabricator with a good reputation ie Phat Bars.
Doing your research beforehand will ensure you end up with a product built to last, that can take hit after hit.
Key Features Of Rock Sliders
- Twin tube construction, with four or more connections between the 2 tubes
- Attached to chassis by 3-4 mountings
- Normally on an upswept angle
- Best for side and sill protection
- Sturdy and can take hits all day long
- Ridged enough to support the weight of a vehicle
- Ability to high lift jack off of them
Should I Swap My Side Steps For Rock Sliders?
Obviously, everyone’s circumstances are different, but i personally feel that Rock Sliders are a smart insurance policy against panel damage. I wouldn’t buy them as my first accessory but if i found i was finding myself on more and more aggressive 4WD tracks, it would certainly be getting a pair as panels are not cheap to fix and there is a lot of expesive quipment on the underside of your 4WD.
What Are Side Rails / Scrub Bars?
By investing in side rails (also known as brush or scrub bar) you can further protect your 4WD. Side rails are mounted to the chassis and attach to the bull bar at the front of your vehicle. This particular accessory protects your flared wheel guards, preventing scratches, dings and dents from your off road adventures as well as further protect your vehicle from animal damage.
The beauty of side rails can be integrated with side steps or rock sliders, so you still have easier access to your vehicle while protecting your wheel guards. If you tend to misjudge how big a gap is and scratch up the wheel guards a bit, this could be a great investment for you.
Rear Wheel Carriers
A lot of owners are now opting for a rear wheel carrier, as it makes room on the underside of your 4WD for a long range fuel tank or water supply. Other reasons to mount a rear wheel carrier could include, jerry can storage, larger tire, easy access etc.
This accessory will bolt onto the vehicle’s bumper, however, the whole rear bumper is often replaced with one that is compatible with a single or twin spare wheel carrier. Make sure you get the right wheel carrier, so you can carry the tire size you want as some carriers only accommodate particular sizes. Also, make sure your tail lights, number plate are all visible and in working order.
Where Should I Buy My Rock Sliders?
Side steps, rear wheel carriers, rock sliders can be purchased from various brands. Do some research beforehand to be sure you’re getting quality for money for your particular model. A few brands that are known for quality with these items include:
- ARB – While not a traditional rock slider per se. ARB Make a great rock resistant side step/side rail combination for most makes in a side step profile, obviously as with most ARB accessories you can get them colour matched to your vehicle and one nice thing about ARB sliders and brush bars is they are rated for side airbags. Again as with most ARB equipment, its not cheap!
- XROX – Xrox Rock sliders have one job. Protect your underside and sills, nothing more, nothing less. I like the fact they have an upwards profile. If your serious about your rock hopping then you must invest in a par of Xrox. *Please note that XROX bars sit in a legal grey area so please do some research before buying a set.
- Rocksliders.com.au – Arguebly the orignal and the best, Rocksliders are the OG of the rock sliding space. They still make great sliders and have a range to suit any need.
some manufacturers has Toyota, Holden, Mitsubishi or Nissan, can also have accessories available for purchase and fitting to suit your vehicle.
What Rock Sliders Would I Buy For A Toyota Hilux?
I get asked this question a lot and obviously, personal taste is a subjective thing. Me, personally i would be looking at a set of Phat Bar Angled Rock Slider For A Toyota Hilux. These are one tough slider and are well priced for what they are.
I also like the idea of a slider that angle upwards as they also help to protect from side rocks on narrow tracks and actually help you to slide better, plus they just look mean
How Much Do Side Steps And Sliders Cost
The amount you spend on these accessories all varies. It depends on how or who your purchasing the side steps, rock sliders or wheel carrier from, then if you are paying someone to install it for you, or if your doing it yourself.
Below are some rough pricing guidelines, to give you an idea of what you’re going to be out of pocket for. But all these costs are worth it in the long run, especially if you like tackling uneven and rough terrain plus its a lot cheaper then a damaged sill or panel.
The price guides below included accessory, I would add $200 – $300 for installation:
- Side steps: $595 +
- Rock Sliders: $780 +
- Side steps and rails: $693 +
- Rear wheel carrier: $450 +
Have a hunt around in regards to purchasing the accessories as it could save you a little bit of money, but make sure you do your research on the quality of the product. Another way to save a pretty penny is with the installation.
If you have the know how I would fit the sliders myself or ask a friend or family member to help out. This will save you money, as most sliders will have mounts especially for your 4WD, otherwise if in doubt hire a professional. If you have access to the equipment and know how, you could always custom build a set or rails, sliders or a wheel carrier yourself.
Things To Remember When Taking On A DIY Project
- When mounting the steps to your vehicle ensure they aren’t mounted to low, otherwise this will impact your clearance
- Ensure the step has a non-slip surface, the last thing you need is a twisted ankle or worse, just
because your step was slippery
- If your planing on adding a long range fuel tank, ensure your tow bar set will accommodate the tank.
- Check out your department of transport or road transport authority to meet the guidelines put in
place for vehicle modifications
What Other Accessories Should I Get?
There is a range of accessories available, however you should only install the things you are going to need. Here is some points of other equipment you consider:
- Bull bar – Check out our article on Bull Bars Here
- Recovery gear
- Rear bar
- Mud tires (if your going through muddy and slippery terrain)
- Recovery points
Where Do I Start With Modifications?
You need to make a plan and take your time. Do your research to ensure everything fits together properly so your vehicle will function at its optimum. If you don’t plan things out, you could end up having to redo aspects of it, costing you more money in the end.
An example of this is someone purchasing a 2 inch lift kit, then a bull and rear bar, side steps, roof racks, rear wheel carrier and then with all that extra weight the bigger tires they wanted no longer fit! So they have to go and spend more money on suspension mods. Do your planning, before your purchasing.