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Heavy Duty Rockers
Cutting out the stock rocker panels and replacing with box steel



Intro

I made this mod back in '98. At that time, as far as I know, the only person I know of who had done it was Martin Gaisch from Cherokee Austria. There were plenty of nay-sayers at the time, who said it couldn't or shouldn't be done, welding a big chunk of steel to the unibody XJ. Since then, many have made the same mod (there are some good articles in the tech section at www.madxj.com). It's nice to be vindicated, and kudos to Martin for coming up with the idea.

After damaging my rocker panels off-road I decided it wasn't worth repairing the stock sheet metal and then trying to fabricate (or buy) some form of protection. Instead I thought I'd just replace the whole thing with something much stronger. They're constructed from 1/8" 3.5" X 3.5" square steel tubing. The front and rear ends are cut flush with trimmed fender flares. The front ends have "caps" welded over them but they are left open at back for cleaning (park nose high, insert pressure wand!) They are attached to the body by full-length weld along body sheet metal below doors, and welded through holes every inch or so along pinch seam. Brutal, heavy and strong. The cutting of the old panels was done with a DeWalt reciprocating saw, the holes are 1/4", and the welding was done with a Lincoln SP125 Plus MIG (110v). Note - I initially balked at the idea of removing the bottom of the front fender, and altering the bottom of the A pillar but it looked way stupid just ending square just behind the fender so I went ahead and finished them full length, which is the only way to go. This is why there appears to be a vertical seam near the front. As far as the "cut out" of the square tubing goes, initially I did some measuring and decided on 3.5 X 3.5, as it tucked up in the rocker panel spot perfectly. But lo and behold my Jeep isn't straight, (I later learned none are along this pinch seam line) and when I positioned the whole thing, it stuck out (laterally) more in front than in back (especially on the left side of the Jeep, - can U say crash damage - funny what u find eh?) Also, my buddy pointed out that they should probably stick out a bit to protect the doors, anyway. So to save weight, line them up evenly (we decided on even with the most outboard part of the fender flares front and rear) and save $$$, and since I had the 3.5 ", we cut the right angle bracket from what is the top inside corner of the rocker. Of course to get it all to line up correctly they are "tapered" brackets, that is the right-angle bracket cut from the "new" rocker and used to join the new rocker to the pinch seam, was much wider at one end than the other.

2finished_rocker.jpg

Here's the finished product.

3_drilled.jpg

Here's a shot of how the stock rocker was removed and the holes drilled for plug welding.

4rocker_-_door_open.jpg

View showing how the top of the rocker was welded to the body sheet metal just below the doors.

5rocker_-_side_-_rear.jpg

View showing how the rockers were cut to match the flare's angle.

Note: the body seam weld only stops here instead of going full length because I had some rust in this area.

6rocker_before_install.jpg

The complete rocker replacement ready for installation, with the "bracket" cut out and re-welded in the correct position.

7rocker_profile.jpg

Close-up of the rocker, showing detail of removal and re-attachment of "bracket".

8rocker_rear_view.jpg

Rear view of installed product, showing open end to allow for cleaning and draining.

9rocker_underneath_lengthwise.jpg

View from underneath, with rocker installed.

From right to left you can see the rocker itself, the "bracket" attached to the rocker, and the other end of the bracket where it joins to the "pinch-seam".

91rocker_welding_underneath.jpg

View from underneath looking transversely.

Somewhat hard to make out but from top to bottom you can see floor of Jeep, plug welds attaching bracket to "pinch-seam", and longitudinal weld attaching bracket to rocker, then the rocker itself.

92rockers_being_installed.jpg

View of the rockers being installed.

93finished_rocker_closeup.jpg

Close-up of the finished product.

They were spray-can painted in 3 steps using:

1) Sherwin Williams self-etching primer
2) Tremclad flat-black rust paint
3) Canadian Tire premium (gold can) rubberized rocker guard (black).

94finished_rocker_front.jpg

Front angle view of the finished rockers.

Note the cap welded on the front to limit mud ingress from spinning front tires, as opposed to the open backs, for drainage and cleaning.


Summary:

Very probably the very best mod I ever made, as simple as that!


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