Jeep rock rails – sometimes called rock sliders – are exactly what they sound like: heavy-duty metal pieces that run along the sides of your rig to protect your rocker panels from damage in the event you catch a tall boulder between the wheels. They’re engineered to support your vehicle’s weight and scrape or slide along the boulder, soaking up the abuse so your Jeep’s bodywork doesn’t have to. Along with things like beefed-up off-road bumpers and skid plates, Jeep rock rails constitute an important part of any rig’s total protection package.
There’s a lot of confusion out there regarding what constitutes a rock slider or rock rail, and what constitutes a nerf bar. Nerf bars are similar to rock sliders in appearance, but typically built more for show, and perhaps to protect your doors and rocker panels from runaway shopping carts and the odd parking lot mishap. They’re generally made from thinner-gauge metals, and less suited to real trail abuse; they might protect your rocker panels from an impact, but there’s a good chance they’ll be destroyed in the process.
If you’re looking for the right set of Jeep rock rails for your ride, we’re here to help. Here, we’ve rounded up six of the best Jeep rock rails on the market in one convenient list, so you can find the perfect set for your off-road rig.
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Smittybilt SRC Classic Rock Rails (JK)
One of the best-known and well-respected brands in the Jeep aftermarket, Smittybilt offers these durable low-profile rock rails for two-door and 4-door JK Wrangler models. In our not-so-humble opinion, these are the all-around best Jeep rock rails on the market: tough, not too expensive, well-designed, and easy to install. Formed from thick-gauge steel with a textured black finish to resist rust, these rock sliders bolt right up using your Jeep’s factory mounting points, and while their no-frills, no-nonsense design isn’t all that flashy, that makes them perfect for those who prize function over form.
EAG Side Armor Rock Sliders (JK)
EAG’s Side Armor Rock Sliders are an excellent value for the money, with unique looks and multi-purpose functionality that make them an attractive option for the casual rock crawling enthusiast. They split the difference between rock rails and nerf bars, with large-diameter tubing to defend against parking lot mishaps, and undercarriage protection to keep rocks from tearing into your rocker panels. The tubing doubles as a step for easier access to the cabin, and the design, which features drilled sheet steel and a textured black coating, provides an extra dose of style.
Tyger Auto Star Armor Side Step Nerf Bars (JK/JL/JT)
These Tyger Auto Star Armor nerf bars aren’t going to provide you with the utmost protection for your ride; they’re not true Jeep rock rails, and with a 500-pound rated weight capacity per side, they aren’t designed to support the full weight of your rig. But if you’re the sort who only occasionally finds themselves on a rocky trail, they’re worth considering. With options for two- and four-door JK and JL Wranglers, plus a design aimed specifically at the new JT Gladiator truck, these nerf bars cover a lot of the bases, with underbody protection, a convenient step for easy cabin access, and outstanding looks from a rugged shape and textured black finish. They even ship with a 5-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
u-Box Tubular Running Boards (JK/JL/JT)
Another stylish, convenient option for the owners of JKs, JLs, and JTs, these u-Box Tubular Running Boards are competitively priced and stylish, with “Since 1941” stencil graphics cut into slotted steps that run between the inner and outer steel tubes. They’re closer to nerf bars than real Jeep rock rails, but their tough design features tubular braces between each of the main tubes for some extra rigidity, giving them plenty enough strength for the casual rock crawling enthusiast. They’re made from strong, forged carbon steel with a rust-combatting e-coating underneath a tough black coating – enough protection to survive 100 hours in the salt spray test, according to the manufacturer.
Rugged Ridge Steel XHD Rock Sliders (JK)
The Cadillac of Jeep rock sliders, the Rugged Ridge Steel XHD is the real deal, offering unparalleled underbody protection for your Jeep Wrangler JK or JKU. They’re made from laser-cut 3mm thick steel plate that’s ready for whatever the trail can throw at them, with a durable black texture finish, and integrated 4-inch steps that make entering and exiting the cabin a cinch. They’re designed to cover some of your Jeep’s most vulnerable bits – namely, the lower rocker panel and pinch seam – and they even feature a rubber gasket where the rails make contact with the factory rocker panels, keeping your bodywork protected from abrasion and dents.
Smittybilt XRC Rock Sliders with Steps (TJ)
If you’re trying to protect an older Jeep Wrangler TJ, we recommend these XRC Jeep rock rails from Smittybilt. Reasonably priced with outstanding build quality, these rock sliders are formed from 3/16-inch cold-rolled steel – that’s nearly 5mm thick, for you metric users – for superb underbody protection, and they rock a tough matte black finish, shipping with stainless steel mounting hardware for comprehensive protection against rust. Integrated tubular side steps not only look cool; they also make climbing into and out of the cabin much easier, which you’ll surely appreciate if you’re rolling on bigger-than-stock tires.
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