All-Pro Extreme Rock Guards (2000) ...

It took a few extra weeks but my new All-Pro Rock Sliders are finally installed! This has turned out to be the most expensive and frustrating automotive project in years. This is in NO WAY due to All-Pro or their rock guards!!! While cutting a "fish mouth" in one of the legs my hand slipped and sliced a tendon. If you're looking for attention I don't recommend this method!!! Eight to twelve weeks in brace that almost completely immobilizes your hand is NOT FUN! Guess I should be happy as I won't loose mobility or anything.

All-Pro Off Road supplied the rock guards, material for the legs, backing plates and gussets. Since these are intended for Toyotas I had All-Pro send the bars unassembled and unpainted - without the legs fabricated and welded on - so I could cut, fit and weld the bars to my Sport. All-Pro makes two different models, the standard set and an "extreme" set with "kick-outs" towards the rear of the bars. Having already noticed that 99% of my dings are occurring in the area of the rear doors I thought it wise to opt for the "extreme" set. All-Pro makes these in three lengths; after a few measurements I ordered the shortest set - 60" end to end. This set leaves a gap of about 5.5 inches between the edge of the fender well and the end of the bar. I know some will consider this an unacceptably large gap but I've never had a problem with this much gap before so I'm not overly concerned. Guess it depends on what the terrain you 'wheel on is like.

Here is a quote from All-Pro's web site giving a more technical description ...

We now have our All-Pro Rock Guards for all Toyota trucks and 4-Runners. Our guards are made from heavy duty 2" x .120" wall tubing for the rocker panel protector and 1 3-4" x .120" for the outer tube. The outer tube angles up at 25' to provide more ground clearance and more door protection.

Since I was obviously in no condition to install anything after my little accident, I took the bars, legs, other assorted pieces to a local 4x4 shop here in south Denver. High Country Performance 4x4. This is the same shop that installed the ARB carrier in the 3rd member and supplied the Rancho RS9000 shocks for my Sport. Having seen quite a bit of their fabrication work on other vehicles I felt comfortable taking my Sport there. Took one day and I got my Sport back with a nice freshly painted set of rock guards installed! Total cost was about $385 for the installation. Cost of the bars from All-Pro was $450 so total cost has come up to about $850. Told you this got expensive. If you do the install yourself it should be about $285 less.

Since there are a lot of people that don't know what a "rock guard", also known a "rock skid" or "rock slider", is and an equal number that just assume they're just really expensive "nerf bars" let me explain a couple things. Nerf bars and rock guards or rock sliders are designed for two different purposes. A nerf bar is really just a tubular running board; nothing more then a side step and about as durable. Most nerf bars are attached to the vehicle at each end of the bar utilizing a body mount bolt or existing holes in the chassis or body and supplied hardware; some have a thin strap that attaches the center of the nerf bar to the body to prevent sagging of the nerf bar over time. They are generally a single large diameter - 3" to 5" - thin walled steel or aluminum [ shaped tube. Usually cost about $200-300 for a nice set and sometimes that even includes installation. Nerf bars are almost always installable in your driveway with basic hand tools in an hour or two, tops.

Rock skids or rock guards are typically made out of smaller diameter 1.5" to 2.5" inch tube or 1" to 2" thick by 3" to 5" wide boxed steel with a wall thickness of at least .120". In the case of vehicles with frames the legs - two but most likely three or more - are usually welded directly to the chassis or to reinforcement plates that are then welded to the chassis for increased load distribution. For unibody vehicles guards or skids are bolted or screwed to the body itself every six to twelve inches. Properly designed and mounted guards or skids should support the weight of the vehicle and often are used as jacking points. Rock skids or rock guards will almost certainly be beyond the capabilities of most people to install at home do to the fabrication skills and equipment required. i.e. heavy grinders, arc welders, cut-off saws, etc.

Rock guards or skids should be capable of allowing you to place the guard or skid (supporting the weight of the vehicle) on a rock and pivot the vehicle or slide (on the rock) from one end of the bar or skid to the other without damage to the vehicle or major damage to the bar or skid. As well, it should protect the rocker panel area from damage by rocks and debris. The most significant difference between nerf bars and rock guards or skids is that nerf bars are not designed to support weight from underneath. Nerf bars are steps and as a step it is designed to support weight from the top. Rock guards or rock skids are intended to support weight and provide protection from underneath. Most nerf bars when hit from underneath simply fold up into the body the owner expects them to protect; occasionally doing more damage then had there been no nerf bars present at all.

Now, in several of the pictures you can see undercarriage damage. What DOES NOT show, however, is the damage to my rocker panels. The body pieces that run under the doors from fender to fender. Thankfully, none of the damage is serious - that means my doors still open! - but repairs would still cost several hundred dollars - AT LEAST as much as the cost of a set of All-Pro's rock guards. Ironically, one of the dents in the passenger side rocker panel was caused on Pearl Pass in Colorado by a factory nerf bar. While the factory Montero Sport bars are better then some I've seen, when the weight of the vehicle came to rest on the nerf bar the bar collapsed and bent in an upside down V shape and the point was forced up into the rocker panel. Hopefully this explains why it seems I spent so much on "rock guards" when I could have bought a set of "nerf bars" for MUCH, MUCH less.

Requirements ...

  • Metric 3/8" socket set
  • All-Pro Off Road Rock Sliders or Extreme Rock Sliders. Unpainted and without the legs pre-cut and attached
  • The leg material, backing plates and gussets from All-Pro
  • Arc or MIG/TIG welder
  • Metal cut-off saw
  • Bimetal hole saw and large 1/2" drill press OR actual tool for doing "fish mouth" cuts (recommended) - available from Summit Racing
  • Grinder / flapper wheel for removing the undercoating and crud from the chassis
  • At least two sets of jack stands tall enough to support the rock guards in the position and location they will ultimately be mounted in
  • A dozen 8" long, 4" wide and 1" thick boards come in handy, too
  • Associated marking and measuring tools, including an angle finder
  • A couple cans of good rust prohibitive spray primer and paint
  • A can of good undercoating
  • A helper. Unless you've done this before, this really is a two person job
  • Flat garage floor

Installation ...

Step 1Get everything together. Unpackage the guards. Strip all the tape and glue off. Now is a good time to get them ready for primer and paint.
Step 2Remove the two rubber "blocks" mounted to the side of the frame right in front of the leaf spring mounts on the chassis on either side of the vehicle.
Step 3Before starting note that on the frame on the driver side rear there is a bracket for the fuel filter that may need to be relocated slightly depending on where you locate the rear most guard leg.
Step 4Get out the tape measure, grease pencil, pad of paper and pencil. I started on the passenger side just because it was there. Position the jack stands and set one of the bars on the stands - in the case of the extreme bars kick-out to the rear. Don't worry about the angle of the guards. All you're trying to do now is get the bar up where you want it. You can use the boards to lift the bar up a bit if needed. I centered the bar between the front and rear wheel wells. This puts the end of the bar about 5.5" from either well. As for the height, I wanted the bar about an inch to and inch and a half or so below the rocker panel. Yes, this sounds like a lot but if you mount the bar under the rocker panel lip remember that the guard part of the bar angles up. You have to have clearance between the guard and rocker panel and the guard and door when the door opens. Anyway, I measured the backing plates - 4" square - and the frame - 4" tall. Hmmm. I found if I centered the leg on the plate and centered the plate on the frame rail the bar ended up EXACTLY where I wanted it. Figure out how high you want the bar to sit and then take the appropriate measurements. Ok, that takes care of the vertical bar alignment.
Step 5Now, where to weld the legs to the frame. Basically, since the frame is pretty free of "stuff" attached to it on the outer sides, I positioned the legs evenly along the bar. Place jack stands under the guard of the bar and lift it until you have the rock guard at the angle you want. I used grease pencil to mark on the chassis where the legs would mount to make sure I would clear everything and as a reference. Both the rear legs ended up being 7.5" long and the front leg 11" long with the guard at about 25-30 degrees. This is LEG length measured from the end of the leg to the outer edge of the bar. NOT from the backing plate on the END of the leg to the bar. Now, before you start cutting things, you may want to move stuff around a bit. I angled my bars up as advertised by All-Pro, but this forces you to move the bars outboard of the frame to, as I said above, clear the doors and rocker panels. I angled mine up to give more protection for the doors as well as more ground clearance around the guard area. If ground clearance is less of an issue, or you want to move the bars inboard to better protect the underside, or to shorten the legs so as to increase strength then 6-6.5" and 9.5-10" legs may be better. You are writing all your measurements down, right?
Step 6Ok. Now that you have all your measurements, you should be ready. All-Pro supplies two lengths of 2"x.120" OD tubing. If you make the cuts correctly, then this will be enough. I measured from one end of the tubing in 8.5"+thickness of blade - DO NOT FORGET to take into account the metal lost in the cut in your measurements!!! - and marked. By measuring and cutting this way when I used the hole saw to make the fish mouth cut I would actually be creating TWO fish mouths with just the one cut. Ok. Cool. Make the cut. Now, measure 7.5" from the fish mouth and mark. A fish mouth cut looks like an open fishes mouth. The point you measure from is where the jaw hinge of the fishes mouth would be, not from the tip of the nose (or jaw).:-) Use the cut-off saw to cut off the second leg. Repeat this step one more time for the third leg only this time measure 12" from the end of the tubing and use the hole saw to make another cut. AGAIN, DO NOT FORGET to take into consideration the width of the cutting blade when you make your cuts! You should now have three legs ready. De-burr the cuts.
Step 7If you are ABSOLUTELY SURE that you've made no mistakes in your measurements and the first set of legs are correct you can create the legs for the other guard by repeating the above step, now. Otherwise, I'd wait until you have one complete guard done and you're sure you're happy.
Step 8You should now have three, or six:-), legs, two guards, six backing plates and six gussets. Using the measurements you took down earlier, position one set of legs on their respective backing plates and TACK weld the plates to the legs. TACK WELD! DO NOT completely weld them on or I can guarantee you'll have made a mistake that will require you be able to redo something that this makes impossible. Murphy's Law applies here, too. Make sure the legs are square to the plates before you tack weld them on. Tack weld one gusset to the top of each leg and backing plate combination.
Step 9Fun part! Get your helper to hold the guard. Carefully fit one of the legs where its supposed to go and use the grease pencil to mark the frame around the plate on both sides. Repeat this for the other two legs. Get out the goggles and grinder and clean off the undercoating down to bare metal at least .5" to either side of your marks. This is where the legs will be welded on to the frame and the area needs to be clean for a good weld. Do this for the areas where all three legs will be mounted.
Step 10The next step is to tack weld the legs to the bar and frame. This can be accomplished in a couple ways. Position the bar on a couple blocks of wood to lift it off the floor 1" - assuming my measurements as always - and lift the guard to the angle you'll want it at when its finally on the truck. Hold it in place with a couple more blocks of wood. BTW, a couple bricks helps here, too, to hold things steady. Position each leg along the bar one at a time and tack weld. OR, position the front most or rear most leg between the bar and frame and tack weld the leg to the frame. Repeat this for the opposite leg and then do the center leg. Position the bar on the legs and tack weld the bar to the legs. The first is easier because its off the vehicle, but does not assure the plates will be square to the frame when the bar is mounted; that means you do it over until they are square. The second is harder (ever weld upside down???) and you have to make SURE you get the bar and the fish mouth cuts square or you'll have gaps to fill and the bar may not sit where you intended it to; it'll be out of align. The second method, although harder is the more precise.
Step 11Congratulations!!! You now have one bar tack welded to your truck! Double check EVERYTHING. Make sure that the doors open. There is enough clearance between the rocker panels and rock guard. Make sure you are absolutely happy with where the guard sits because you're really close to making this permanent.
Step 12Ok. Happy? Good. Cut the tack welds holding the bar assembly to the frame. i.e. the tack welds attaching the backing plates to the frame. Better have someone/something holding the assembly up, 'cause its going to be heavy and unwieldily. Clean up the cut welds on the plates and frame with your grinder. Finish weld the legs to the bar, legs to the plates and gussets to the legs and plates. Good! Now clean up and paint the assembly EXCEPT for the plates and a few inches of one leg. You can't weld paint, remember? And, you need somewhere to attach the clamp on your welder. Let dry.
Step 13Almost done! Ha! Just kidding! There's a bit more to do. You should have one dry assembly. Reposition the assembly on the truck and tack weld it to the frame. Check everything out. Make sure its where you want it. Got it? Cool. Finish weld the assembly to the frame. You won't be able to weld the top of the plate to the frame unless you shorten the plate .5" but you will be able to get the bottom and sides. Along the bottom and two 1" welds along each side. You don't want to make long vertical welds on frames and don't weld one entire plate at a time. Do short beads and let things cool off before continuing. Let everything cool and clean the welds off. Prep the area and paint. Use a good rust prohibitive primer/paint combo and paint the area well. Let that dry and re-undercoat the area. Apply several coats.
Step 14Now, for the other side repeat steps 1 through 13.

That's all there is to it! Let the paint and undercoating dry well (several days) before you run the vehicle through the local hi-pressure car wash.

Review ...

October, 2011 Its been a bit over 10 years; long past time for a review. Overall opinion of the All-Pro Extreme rock skids? Awsome! I am throughly happy with the skids. They've been through hell on some of the worst trails in Colorado and Moab, Utah and have far exceeded my expectations.

The '97 Montero Sport these were mounted on weighs in at 5500 lbs. GVW unloaded and upwards of 6500 lbs. loaded. I've sat the vehicle down hard on these bars many times over the years with only very minimal scoring of the metal. No bends or dings and no evidence at all of tubing crush.

The kick-outs are wicked! They take a bit of practice to use effectivly but eventually they can become your best friend on narrow, twisty trails. I've gotten very good at using the kick-out to 'bump' the back end around turns. This can decrease your turning radius and protect the rear tire, rim and rear quarter pannel. If you're making a tight left hand turn and there is crud sticking out from the left is to use a light impact on the left kick-out to bump the back end to the right and away from trees or big rocks on the left. Kind of a poor man's rear stear.

I only have a few sugestions after running these for years. Make sure you paint them well. Use a good, durrable rust inhibitive paint that's easy to touch up. I don't recommend powder coating. Powder coating doesn't allow the bars to slide as well on some surfaces.

Get a roll of non-slip tape for the top of the bars so you have something to step onto besides bare metal. Sliping and falling out of a vehicle that sits 25+ inches off the ground sucks. Bare metal gets really slipery when wet and downright dangerous when icy.

All-Pro Off Road is now offering what they call Rock Slider Fill Plates. I like the idea from the perspective of making it safer to get in and out of lifted vehicles and protecting the door and rocker paint from splash. It is going to make it harder to clean mud and crud out of the bars, though. This is probably a small price to pay for preventing a broken ankle. Just as side note, the plates may be ordered seperately but will not fit the older Extreme bars.