What Is A Rocker Panel?

What-Is-A-Rocker-Panel-

Rocker panels are a common addition to most modern automobiles, and serve important functions both in terms of safety and aerodynamics. 

But what exactly are rocker panels, and how are they used within the automotive industry?

What Are They? 

A rocker panel is a stamped piece of steel that is attached to the outer body of the car – usually along the sides of the car, between the front and rear wheel wells, and just below the bottom of the doors. 

Where Are They Positioned? 

Rocker panels are located beneath the doors, and between the front and rear wheel wells, usually out of the reach of the eyeline, so as not to interfere with the overall aesthetics of the vehicle – or the operation of the doors and other components. 

On sports cars, these are generally designed with an inward curve, meaning they are almost invisible to the eye when in a standing position. 

What Are They Used For? 

Rocker panels serve many roles within the automotive industry. 

Support

Rocker panels have many functions, but their main role is to add structure to the underside of the car (see also ‘What Are Skid Plates?‘), and stop the center from sagging over time.

You might think this is not likely to happen, but depending on the weight carried by the car (and the weight of the car itself) this could potentially happen, causing damage and maybe death if not properly maintained. 

This is why the rocker panel is so important, as the steel helps reinforce the underside against not only weight, but other environmental factors such as rocks, bumps, and potholes.

Rigidity

Aside from the roof panels and their associated connections, the rocker panel is the only thing ensuring that the front and rear of the car stay together and attached.

Without these panels, prolonged use could result in detachment, injury, or even death – making them not only incredibly useful, but also vital for safety and long lasting strength. 

For those who enjoy off-roading, rocker panels are also important for enhancing torsional stiffness – that is, to ensure that the car will not warp and twist when placed under the stress of rugged terrain. 

Protection

In most modern cars, there are often front and rear crumple zones that will smash and absorb energy in the event of a crash.

The benefit of the rocker panel is to ensure that the car has a protective frame around you and your passengers, making sure that the car doesn’t crumple to such a degree that you become trapped or, even worse, crushed. 

Types Of Rocker Panels

There are two main types of rocker panels that can be used. 

Types Of Rocker Panels

Welded Rocker Panels

These are great for those drivers who engage in off-roading, as the welding makes them much firmer, and reduces the risk of them being destroyed or ripped off during driving. 

Slip-On Rocker Panels

These are less expensive, and more common, and are usually held in place with automotive adhesive or some equivalent.

They also slip over the existing rocker panels, helping to add another layer or protection and support. 

What Are The Downsides? 

When we talk about downsides, we don’t necessarily mean that you are better off without them.

Rather, they have certain negative aspects, or specific things that they are prone to due to their position on the car, and the environmental elements they are exposed to. 

Rust

These components are perhaps more prone to rust than other parts of the car. This is because they take a look of moisture, salt, and mud due to their proximity under the car. 

They are also usually missed by automatic and hand car washes, meaning that buildups of corrosive elements (like salt and mud) are seldom cleaned off properly.

This means that depending on the material they are made out of, car owners can go through this quicker than other exterior components – particularly in areas like the rust belt where the conditions are harsher. 

Damage

For fans of off-roading, the rocker panel can be the first thing to become damaged.

This is because rural trails can have large potholes, jutting rocks, or moveable, wet terrain, which can cause unforeseen damage to the underside of the car. 

Unfortunately, the rocker panel is usually the first thing to become damaged, and if you were going at some speed, it could even result in it becoming dislodged, removed entirely, or just severely damaged. 

In these circumstances, it is best to replace them as soon as possible, as the tears and wrinkles in the metal can let moisture in, which can then turn to rust.

Similarly, damage like this weakens the structural integrity of the underside of the car, making it more susceptible to further damage in the future. 

Corrosion

Rust is a type of corrosion, and when this is bad enough, it can make it near impossible for you to properly position a jack underneath your car  – at least in a manner that is considered safe and effective for use. 

Due to the location of these components on the underside of the car, spots of corrosion and rust can go unnoticed, especially amongst fair weather, or less involved motorists, which means that after time this can worsen and become incredibly damaged without you even noticing. 

This could prove catastrophic, especially if you are engaging in some auto body work, and you only discover the extent of the corrosion once your car is jacked up. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about rocker panels, and their effectiveness within the automotive industry. 

Rocker panels are an underrated and underappreciated component on our cars, but one that could quite easily help save our lives when the worst happens. 

So, if you are a car owner, especially one who engages in off-roading, then be sure to perform regular maintenance on your rocker panels – it might just save your life!

Dave Oliver

Dave Oliver is a seasoned car modification expert with over twenty years of experience in the field. His knowledge spans from restoring vintage models to implementing the latest customization technologies. He brings his passion and expertise to life through informative and engaging articles.

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