Fitment, Style, Installation | Rocker Panel Trim Options Explained

Chrome Rocker Panels
Vintage Cadillac de Ville With Large Rocker Panel
At the top of the series, a vintage Cadillac Fleetwood featured larger rocker panel moldings that extended up onto the doors.

Since the demise of built-in running boards after World War II, auto manufacturers have been using rocker panel moldings to dress up a vehicle area that would otherwise be plain-looking and nondescript. Technically, a rocker panel is the section of a vehicle’s body below the doors and between the front and rear wheel wells. For decades, stainless steel molding strips were installed over rocker panels for styling purposes and to protect the body from stones and debris. Typically, a value-priced base model would have no rocker panel moldings at all, a higher-trim level would feature a slim molding strip just below the doors, and the most expensive version of a car would be equipped with wide rocker molding sets that extended further up onto the doors.

Cadillac Calais With Chrome Rocker Panels
This 1976 Cadillac Calais is a typical example of how even luxury brands left off things like rocker panel moldings, vinyl roof coverings, and even passenger-side mirrors on their base models.
Cadillac de Ville With Slim Rocker Molding
Moving up a notch, Cadillac de Ville buyers were treated to more features such as a slim rocker panel molding that did not extend onto the doors.

As chrome and brightwork fell out of favor with OEM stylists a decade or two ago, traditional rocker panel moldings began to disappear from new cars. Often, they were replaced by gray or body-colored plastic pieces similar to ones that first debuted on European cars. So it’s true that in one form or another, rocker panel moldings are still used to add visual interest and break up large expanses of painted metal on modern cars and trucks. For fans of the traditional look, we offer a variety of rocker panel moldings made from modern materials that bring a look of chrome to your new or classic vehicle. In this article, we’ll cover the different types of moldings you’ll find for sale in the Chrome Rocker Panels section of our website, because we feel it’s important to point out that they can differ greatly in size and area of coverage.

Materials Used
Areas Of Coverage Of Rocker Panels
In a nutshell, this picture allows a quick look at areas of coverage that different types of rocker panels provide.

The rocker panel moldings we offer are made from high-grade stainless steel that’s blended with high content of chromium. While this stainless alloy mixture naturally resists corrosion, it should be noted that the blend also resists becoming tarnished - even by a minor amount. Metallurgic properties allow rocker moldings made from it to be precision formed so they’ll maintain the right dimensions, contours, and overall shape during the manufacturing process. The stainless steel rocker moldings we sell have been buffed and polished until they resemble a mirror-like chrome finish.

Low Rocker Panel Kits

SAA’s Rocker Panel trim pieces and B&I’s chrome rocker panels are made in a variety of styles for a wide selection of cars and trucks (B&I even makes pieces for Porsches). If you’ve got a full-size pickup or SUV from Chevy, Cadillac, Dodge, Jeep, or Ford, take a look at the types of pieces you’ll find with Putco’s Rocker Panels and ICI’s SE-Series Rocker Panel Moldings. And for 1987-2006 Jeep Wrangler owners, Rampage offers lower rocker panel kits which extend from front fender to rear fender.

You will have noticed by now that the term "rocker panel trim" can refer to any bright trim piece which extends along the bottom side of the vehicle. Let’s further define these trim pieces by their location. Note that product availability will vary based on vehicle and trim manufacturer.

"On-Rocker" Kit
On Rocker Panel Kit

An on-rocker panel molding is one that covers only the actual rocker panel itself, below the door level from wheel opening to wheel opening. These molding kits do not contain any pieces to cover doors.

"Lower Door" Kit
Lower Door Kit

A lower door kit includes moldings that attach at the very bottom of the doors and extend a short distance upward. This kit also includes moldings that bridge the gap between doors and front & rear wheel openings. Lower door kits do not actually cover the rocker panel itself.

"Upper Door" Kit
Upper Door Kit

Upper door kit moldings are larger than lower moldings, covering the majority of the bottom half of the door area. Upper moldings start just below the point where thin molding inserts would go on the mid-section of doors (if a vehicle is so equipped) and usually continue down all the way to the bottom edge of the doors. Upper door kits typically include matching pieces to cover gaps between doors and front & rear wheel wells. Like lower door kits, these do not actually cover the rocker panel itself.

"Full Rocker Panel" Kits
Full Panel Kit

A full rocker panel kit will start with an Upper door kit and add On-Rocker moldings that cover the actual rocker panel molding itself below the doors from wheel to wheel. In many cases, the on-rocker molding pieces may extend up higher to cover gaps between doors and front & rear wheel wells. This ensures the covered area looks even along the side of the vehicle. Some full rocker panel kits may include a molding insert piece which replaces or fits on top of a factory original body side. For example, you may be presented with a choice of 8-, 12-, or 16-piece kits on some 4-door models. An 8-piece kit would provide wheel-to-wheel coverage only, the 12-piece may add pieces that mount on bumper covers ahead of the front wheels, and the 16-piece set might also include trim to mount aft of the rear wheel.

Installation Is Easy

All rocker panel moldings are secured in place with 3M™ double-sided acrylic foam tape. This tape has proven effective enough to be used by most automobile manufacturers on their assembly lines to attach new trim. And because no drilling is required, there's no need to worry about creating holes where compromised metal can rust. A foam core allows the tape to expand and contract evenly during extreme temperature changes, and it provides conformity over surface irregularities. Installation is not only simpler; there are no unsightly fasteners to deal with. After a pre-cleaning of the body part with a prep agent to make sure no oil or waxy substances inhibit adherence, the overlay part with pre-applied tape is pressed into place.

To help guide you through the selection of rocker panel trim pieces we offer, we’ve set up the corresponding Rocker Panel section of our website to provide you with the choices that will fit your vehicle. While you’re there, you might want to consider other bright trim pieces to complement your new shiny rocker panels. Some like it subtle, and some like it gleaming! However much chrome trim you add, take pride in making your ride look like no one else’s on the road.

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