You don’t have to spend much time off-road to learn that rockers (the sheetmetal below the doors and between the front and rear tire on each side) are one of your 4x4’s most vulnerable areas. We know this because we have dinged, dented, and staved in countless rockers while fumbling about on trails all over the U.S. Negotiating any obstacle off-road means getting the front tires over it, and then the rear tires, with a tense moment in between when your rig’s rocker panels will come uncomfortably close, if not hit, the obstacle below.
Our 1987 Suzuki Samurai is one rig whose rockers we definitely don’t want to worry about leaving exposed because we know they would be ruined in short order. Lucky for us (and other Samurai owners), aftermarket parts are available and inexpensive.
Enter Low Range Off Road’s Defiant Armor Rocker Mount Rock Sliders for Samurai. They are available with a formed step for $399, with a tube step for $349, or with no step for the screaming deal of $299. We opted for the no-step version to keep the rig as light and narrow as possible. Follow along as we install them.
The Low Range Off Road Defiant Armor Rocker Mount Rock Sliders are pretty straightforward parts. They bolt onto the body to protect it on the trail. Installation instructions are online. The kit includes several tools useful for the installation, such as drill bits, a spot weld cutter, and a tool to help you install the jack nuts. With so much painting going on with the Bronco project (see “Paint Crazy”), our first step in the Rock Slider install was to wipe them down with parts cleaner and spray them with black epoxy primer.
The first part of installation involves removing the side molding and its retaining brackets. We had removed these brackets some time before this install and also removed the similar factory fender flare brackets from all four corners using our own spot weld cutter, but Low Range includes a nice spot weld cutter for this purpose. The factory fender flares can be reinstalled (not on our Sami) after the rock sliders are installed, but the plastic side molding won’t be reused.
Per the instructions, we held the rock sliders to the side of the Samurai’s tub with a block of wood and a floor jack. You can use a rubber mallet to center the rock slider front-to-back relative to the door opening and wheel arches. The Rock Sliders key into the body contours, so make sure they are pushed firmly up and in for the next step of the install.
Using the supplied 1/4-inch drill bit, use the rock slider as a template to drill the holes in the side of the rig. The instructions tell you to drill the five pilot holes along the bottom of the slider, but we chose to drill and install the jack nuts in the sides of the rockers first so the unit i as close to the body as possible when drilling the bottom holes.
With the slider removed, we drilled out the pilot holes to 7/16 inch using the supplied drill bit to make holes for the jack nuts that secure the slider to the side of the Samurai’s body. It sure is nice to have rock sliders and extra tools after a project like this.
Jack nuts are similar to Rivnuts or Nutserts, both of which we’ve used in the past. The difference is they seem to be less reliant on hole size and roundness and the arms that “jack out” when they are seated spread farther than the metal rivet portion of a Rivnut. Whether they are stronger than a properly installed Rivnut or Nutsert, we can’t say, but they guys at Low Range Off Road chose them for a reason—perhaps because the sheetmetal they attach to is paper-thin and not easy to drill a nice round hole into.
We found that we could install the jack nuts using a 3/8-inch impact driver with the kit’s included 3/8-inch hex socket, one of the included conical bolts, and the included jack nut installation tool as the instructions (and online video) suggested, but it took us a few tries to figure out the method. You have to push hard against the jack nut installation tool and slowly tighten the bolt with the impact until it’s seated and then stop. It’s easy to tighten too little, then too much. If you overtighten, or if the jack nut gets in the hole crooked, you may have to cut out the jack nut and start over.
We figured out a slower but more reliable way to set the jack nut using a fully threaded 1/4-20 bolt, a nut, a washer, the jack nut installation tool, and a couple box end wrenches as shown. (We’d normally also hold the wrench closest to the camera, but had to hold the camera somehow for the pic.) As said, it took longer, but it gave us the feel necessary to learn what the jack nut was doing during installation. Lucky for us, Low Range supplies several extra jack nuts in the kit. We also found more 1/4-20 jack nuts at our local well-equipped hardware store.
With all the jack nuts seated in the side of the Samurai, we temporarily mounted the slider on the rig and drilled the five pilot holes that go up through the bottom of each slider. Then we removed the slider and drilled out and installed the last few jack nuts as before.
Here’s the footplate for the A-pillar of our rollcage. Our plan was to install the Low Range Off Road rock sliders and tie both of these to the frame for added bash-proofing and cage security in the event of a roll. Our plan is to use a section of rectangular tubing to grab the footplate. This part will then reach out and be bolted or welded to the rock slider, something like shown here.
So it seems like the obligatory Hi-Lift under a rock slider may be a thing of the past, or is it? Of course, since Samurais aren’t very heavy it may not be that impressive that these sliders do what they are supposed to. We still felt it necessary to show that these Low Range Off Road Defiant Armor Rocker Mount Rock Sliders are designed to do a job. For now, this will have to do, but be assured that we are going to bash these things on the rocks soon and often. We’ll get back to you all as to how they are holding up to our abusive ways.