Until the JK came along, steel was the favored choice for all types of body protection on Jeep vehicles—and for good reason, too. Steel is resilient and offers unrivaled protection for bodywork. The compromise to steel is its mass, and its propensity to rust if left unprotected. Tipping the scales at nearly 5,000 pounds (hardtop) in stock form, the JK Unlimited can benefit greatly from low-mass aluminum accessories. Thankfully, the aftermarket has addressed this concern with a virtual smorgasbord of bolt-on aluminum parts. Utilizing aluminum in place of steel can shave significant weight off a build. But is the weight savings worth the vulnerability to rock rash? It’s a question we’re out to answer with this project.
In this segment, we’re focusing specifically on rocker panel protection. All Jeeps have a section of sheetmetal below the door openings, just waiting for a trail obstacle to come along and crinkle it up. In the case of the popular four-door JK, the longer wheelbase greatly increases the need to cover up the at-risk area. The added length requires additional material and even more added weight to properly protect. It’s a trickle-down effect that plagues the JK owner, and while lightweight solutions are available, most are costly and unproven in the rough. We decided to take a chance and see if aluminum rock sliders would hold up to the abuse of consistent trail use. We picked up a set of RockGuard Rock Sliders from TeraFlex because they are the lightest available today. At just over 18 pounds per side, these bolt-on sliders have little effect on vehicle mass, yet they cover up the entire rocker panel and provide a deflective angle to ward off any would be rock bites. Check out the highlights from the installation process performed by the professionals at Jack-It in West Valley City, Utah.
The Teraflex aluminum sliders may not be the toughest rocker protection available for the JK, but they are the lightest, and they come with a very handy step surface. If we had to do it all over, we would stick to our ultra-light strategy and possibly look into the idea of filling the inner void of the sliders with high-density expanding foam to help ward off deflection. That’s not to say that our sliders are not holding up well, because in actuality they are, especially when you consider how many times they have been used to pivot the vehicle around obstacles on the trail. However, we don’t think the aluminum sliders will take three more seasons of use at the current level, and at some point they are going to need to be replaced.
The Bottom Line
If you drive your JK every day, don’t do much hardcore wheeling, and don’t want to weigh it down with heavy steel parts, RockGuard Rock Sliders from Teraflex are the perfect balance of protection and mass for average street and trail use. If you build your JK specifically to tackle extreme rocky terrain, stick to steel sliders and accept the weight penalty.