Part 3 – Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker


Finally, the last part of the rock slider build! Lets finish them up and see what they look like completed. The goal is to have some beefy nerf bars we can use to rub against rocks and still be able to open the doors after a long day of wheeling!

We left off part 2 looking roughly like this. The new rockers were welded in but not completed.

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
What it looked like at the end of part 2. New rockers welded in.

Sealing and Painting the Rockers

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Time to seal up the new rocker! This seam sealer stuff worked great and I would totally use it again for future sheetmetal projects.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Sealed up, ready for paint after being wiped down.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Once the seam sealer was dry, I always wipe down the surfaces with some mineral spirits and retired kitchen towels prior to painting.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Front of the rear wheel well
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
High dollar masking equipment 😉
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
It pained me to not weld down the whole seam but it is just not worth it. In body work, once the joint is strong enough then you can seal the rest up with seam sealer which also provides some additional rigidity.

Installing the Rock Sliders

10 months ago, I built the main bars of the rock sliders, finished cutting off the rockers, and welding on the above plates. As you can see we have been through a winter since then and even that work has since gotten rusty. Now that there is a wheeling trip coming up this weekend, I finally worked up enough motivation to clean / paint it all and finish the rock sliders.

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
I knew I wanted to reinforce the frame where the sliders attach because it isn’t super thick. These pre-cut 4×4 plates should work nicely

In a home fab shop, it is often easier to keep some simple tabs in stock for moments like this. They save a lot of time especially when the only opportunities I usually get to work are between 8pm and midnight after the kids are in bed.

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
I cut the top and bottom corners of each off so they were slightly smaller than the height of the frame.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Marked and ground off the paint where I was going to weld on the frame plates.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Reinforcement / fish plate ready to weld on.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Frame plates welded on

Making your own 1 3/4″ Tubing caps

On one of my previous trucks, I told myself I was going to cap off the tubes ‘later’ when I was building the bumper. Years later I was still having rusty water and mud drain out of the tube that I never capped. Now that I know myself better, I forced myself to go ahead and cap the ends of the rock sliders PRIOR to putting them on the truck. Here is a cheater method I used to make the caps using just stuff I had laying around.

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Large washers for a 1/2″ bolt. To weld up the centers, I put them on my copper backing plate.

These tools are usually called a copper welding spoon or welders helper. Handy for sheetmetal and random projects like this. They are a little more expensive than I remember, I am guessing it is just due to copper prices lately?

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Welded the center up.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Then ground the weld down. These could be popped right off the backing plate since the weld doesn’t stick to the copper.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Tacked it on to the end of the tubes. As you can tell, I used the closest spacer available within arms reach 😀

Notice I put the washer on the end and not inside the tube. I wanted the weld to be a fillet weld and not a butt weld where I would have had to grind most of it all off to get it flat.

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Viola! A completed tubing cap. Quick and easy.
No I didn’t sand it until it was perfect… it’s only purpose in life is to get stepped on and rubbed against rocks.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Next up I put the sliders up on jacks so I could start fitting the three tubes that will go to the frame.

I got the sliders up in position with the jacks then used the jackstands to hold the tubes to the frame as I was test fitting and welding them.

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
See the two big rusty dents in my rockers where they are almost rubbing the door?
Yep, that is what happens when you run out of time/motivation and say “I will weld on the rock sliders after this wheeling trip…”
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Each frame tube had a notch on one end then I hand-ground the other end with a combination of angle grinders and the chop saw to match the angle against the frame. Nothing scientific, just lots of eye-balling it.

The frame side had to be low on the reinforcement plates to make the tubes at more of an angle to miss the rocker panels. I wanted the sliders up as high as possible since this rig sits really low.

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
After fully welding the legs on, I painted the sliders and left them overnight. Once they are welded on the truck, it would have been really hard to paint the part close to the body.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Here is a tip. When you need to clamp on to something that is bigger than you welding clamp, put a vice grip or other clamp on it first then hook your ground clamp to that instead.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Tubes welded to the frame. Time to add some gussets!

Another example of random tabs and gussets that are good to have on hand. I have had these for years waiting for their time to shine. That time was today 😀

Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
These tube gussets turned out to be really handy. I just had to grind them a little on the frame side then tapped them on with a hammer.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
I then put a couple of tacks on to hold them in place and hammered in the corners till they were touching the tube.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Tube gussets fully welded on.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
From a rock’s point of view. The doors are very thoroughly protected now.
That muffler is another story though, it has already fallen off once…
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
Here is a shot that shows how far they stick out. I wanted it to be just enough to keep the doors out of rocks/trees but not far enough out to be annoying.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
The rock sliders blend in at this angle. Silent protection like a bodyguard or… a ninja.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
They angle up at the outside slightly but still have about 1/2″ clearance to the bottom of the door.
Mini Boatside and Rock Sliders on Vitara Tracker
I got the drivers side a little too close to the body, then when I welded on the gussets it appeared to have pulled them up even a little more. I was worried they might rattle on the body but I have driven it a couple of times and haven’t heard many new sounds yet so I am going to let it be.

There you go! Rock sliders built from scratch in a home shop. This is the classic buy vs make decision. I might have been able to buy some for $500-$1000 plus shipping but I want to keep the budget for this rig small and I enjoy doing projects like this anyways. I have quite a few man hours into these puppies but in the end it was worth it. If you don’t have a tubing bender, you can always change the design or cut and weld the tubes at angles instead.

Now YOU, go outside and make something!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.