Rock Sliders vs Side Steps – Which To Pick?

Rock Sliders and Side Steps are very different. In fact, they are worlds apart. Side steps provide a practical benefit by improving access to your vehicle. While rock sliders are designed to protect and support the weight of your car.

The construction, design and purpose vary between rock sliders and side steps so I have gathered all the information you’ll need to decide what best suits your needs.

What Is The Difference Between Rock Sliders And Side Steps?

Side Steps

This accessory can be manufactured using a variety of different materials but have the same basic structure and use. They provide easier access into your vehicle and essentially an aesthetic accessory that provides very little protection to your car. Side Steps are not designed to take the weight of your vehicle and can flex. Over time if you are using them to support the weight of your vehicle they are going to bend and end up looking like a banana, with no benefits at all. Side steps can protect the sills of your car for a short while, however, they will end up causing structural damage if they are continually used to support the weight of your vehicle. These steps are typically constructed using aluminium or steel.

Alloy Steps

  • Are commonly manufactured using Aluminium
  • Alloy steps use a form of channelling to make it rigid enough to stand on
  • There is a  possibility of the outer shell being coated in plastic for aesthetic reasons
  • Alloy steps are usually attached to the body of the vehicle with two thin pressed brackets
  • Practically serve as a great step
  • Offers very little side protection
  • Not suitable to use as a jacking point for a high lift jack

Steel Steps

  • Are a single tube design
  • Alloy checkered plate on top
  • Attached to chassis by 2 steel brackets
  • Steel steps offer some degree of side protection
  • They do not support the weight of the vehicle resting on them
  • Not suitable to use as a jacking point for a high lift jack


This accessory is important when you go off-roading as it can support the weight of your vehicle. This is particularly useful when you don’t have enough ground clearance or when you have misjudged your entry point and are on a compromised angle rock sliders offer some body protection. A bonus of using rock sliders apart from their intended use, you can still use them as a side step! Rock sliders provide a stronger barrier between your vehicle and obstacles you face off-road, making any vehicle body or structural damage less likely. They are particularly helpful in protecting your sills as sill damage can be a costly repair. So investingrock slidersders is a worthwhile accessory if not simply for protection. When you invest in this accessory be sure to use a brand with a good reputation ie PhatBars.

Doing your research before hand will ensure you end up with a product that is functional and built to last.

Rock Sliders

  • Twin tube construction, with four or more connections between the two tubes
  • Attached to chassis by 3-4 mountings
  • Normally on an upswept angle
  • Best for side and sill protection
  • Rigid enough to support the weight of the vehicle
  • Ability to high lift jack off ofthem

Side Rails

By investing in side rails (also known as brush or scrub bar) you can further protect your car. Side rails are mounted to the chassis and attach to the bull bar at the front of your vehicle. This particular accessory protects the flared wheel guards, preventing scratches, dings and dents from your off road adventures. The side rails can be integrated with side steps, so you still have easier access to your vehicle while protecting your wheel guards. If you tend to misjudge how big a gap is and scratch up the wheel guards a bit, this could be a great investment for you.

Rear Wheel Carriers

A lot of owners opt for a rear wheel carrier, as it makes room for a long range fuel tank or water supply. Other reasons to mount a rear wheel carrier could include, jerry can storage, larger tire, easy access etc. This accessory will bolt onto the bumper of the vehicle, however, the whole rear bumper is often replaced with one that is compatible with a single or twin spare wheel carrier. Make sure you get the right wheel carrier, so you can carry the tire size you want as some carriers only accommodate particular sizes.

Also, make sure your tail lights, number plate are all visible and in working order.

Buy a Quality Brand

Side steps, rear wheel carriers and rock sliders can be purchased from various manufacturers. Do your homework and research the different brands and evaluate the suitability of their product with your intended purpose. Be sure you’re getting a quality product that will last.  A few brands that are known for quality with these items include:

  • ARB
  • TJM
  • Ironman
  • 4WDSystems

Certain manufacturers such as Toyota, Holden, Mitsubishi or Nissan will have dealer accessories that can be fitted to suit your particular vehicle model.

How Much Should You Pay?

The amount you spend on these accessories is subjective and personal. It depends on who you are purchasing the side steps, rock sliders or wheel carrier from and if you are paying someone to install it for you or if you’re doing it yourself. Below are some rough pricing guidelines, to give you an indication of costs.

The Price Guides Below Included Accessory And Installation:

  • Side steps: $595+
  • Rock Sliders: $780+
  • Side steps and rails: $693+
  • Rear wheel carrier: $450 +

Have a hunt around in regards to purchasing the accessories look for quality and value for money.  Another way to save a pretty penny is with the installation. If you have the expertise and knowledge doing the fitment yourself or even custom building will be a more cost-effective solution. If not, its always best to have a professional fitment centre do this for you.

Things To Remember

  • When mounting the steps to your vehicle ensure they are not  mounted to low, otherwise this will impact your clearance
  • Ensure the step has a non-slip surface, the last thing you need is a twisted ankle.
  • If your planning on adding a long range fuel tank, ensure your tow bar set will accommodate the tank.
  • Check out your department of transport or road transport authority to ensure your installation meets the guidelines outlining vehicle modifications

Related Questions

What Other Accessories Are Available?

There is a range of accessories available, however, you should only install the things you are going to need. Here are a few equipment accessories to consider:

  • Bull bar
  • Recovery gear
  • Rearbar
  • Mud tires (if you’re going through muddy and slippery terrain)
  • Recovery points

How Do I Decide What Accessories to Add?

Do not feel pressurized to buy all the bells and whistles on the market. Consider what you actually need and take your time. Do your research to ensure everything fits together properly so your vehicle will function at its optimum. If you don’t plan tings out, you could end up having to redo aspects of it, costing you more money in the end. An example of this is someone purchasing a high lift kit, then a bull and rear bar, side steps, roof racks, rear wheel carrier and then with all that extra weight the bigger tires they wanted no longer fit! So they have to go and spend more money on suspension mods. Do your planning, before your purchase anything.

James Mitchell

Hi, I’m Jimmy Mitchell and I love exploring this great country with my wife and two boys. I have a 2015 Sterling LX that is the Mitchell Family camping machine. Lets Getaway is the website where I share things about my trailer as I learn them, and help other camper owners to enjoy their RV even more.

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