with Tim Tackett North Coast Off Road
Installing the Calmini Diamond Plate Rocker Panels
Finally I got tired of looking at those wimpy stock plastic covers on Suzi's rockers. I knew there was likely some corrosion going on as well, and with winter coming in the salt belt, it was time to lose them. I chose to go with the black powder coated steel diamond plate panels in lieu of the aluminum for personal reasons, primarily to match the color scheme of Suzi. They also impart a bit more protection as they are harder to bend.
Tools/Materials Safety Glasses, ear plugs, 3/16" drill bit, 3/8" electric drill, flat head screw driver, pop rivet gun, grinder, wire brush, 5 minute epoxy putty or body repair materials, rust resistant primer, black silicone caulking. It should be noted that some of the instructions shipped still reference using a 1/8" drill bit for 1/8" rivets. Calmini has increased the rivet size to 3/16" for increased holding power.
The Install 1) Unsnap and fold down the end caps on the front and rear of the plastic panel. 2) Unzip the side panel from the fixed metal backing plate, starting at the front and working your way back. They come out of the groove quite easily. 3) Once exposed, you will see a line of plastic snaps along the bottom of the panel. Do not try to pry them out from the bottom, they are very tough, and will only cause frustration. Take a flat head screwdriver and push down on the pin sticking up in the middle of the four fingers. You may have to tap these lightly on the end of the screwdriver. 4) Once off, you will likely se a lot of dirt and corrosion on the metal backing plate. Clean this off as well as you can to make it easier to see the spot welds. 5) Now you need to drill out the spot welds, this can be done with a drill bit, but most likely you will end up with a hole in the panel. I use a spot weld cutter available at most auto part or auto paint supply stores. They run about $25.00 for the arbor and the little cutters. Take a punch and center punch each spot weld. 6) Drill out each spot weld to allow for the removal of the mounting plate. The spot welds are arranged in a staggered order top to bottom. Drill at a moderate speed with firm pressure on the drill. If you drill too far, you will cut into the rocker panel behind. The intent is to release the mounting plate from the body. 7) Surprise, you probably just found some rust and a lot of dirt! Depending on the area of the country, it could be mild as pictured here (Suzi was from California) or, it could be severe. Using a grinder and wire brush, clean up the area as well as you can, removing the remainder of the spot welds as you go. Now is the time to make repairs if warranted 8) I wound up with several small divots and a few holes, so I used a metal based five-minute epoxy to fill and somewhat level off the rocker. Once hardened, I used the grinder to knock everything flat. It doesn't have to be perfect, it gets covered up anyway. 9) I then sprayed on a liberal coat of primer and some rattle can touch up paint that closely matched Suzi. When dry, you are ready to lay out the holes for the pop rivets. 10) Using the new rocker plate as a guide, hold it in place on the rocker, and mark the top middle hole. Remove the rocker plate, and drill with a 3/16" bit. 11) Reinstall the new rocker using a pop rivet to hold it in place (DON'T SET THE RIVET YET!), and then mark the other holes. I like to do this for each row, and then put more rivets in to hold it in place while marking the next row. This helps ensure the holes get in the right place. 12) Once the holes are all drilled, and it fits with all the rivets in place, remove it one last time. Clean the area behind the panel of any shavings, and then apply a bead of black silicone around the perimeter of the body panel where the new rocker plate will go. I also put a shot in each hole. 13) Put a little silicone around the inside of the rivet head, and insert one rivet in the top middle hole, and then put the new rocker plate on the vehicle. 14) While firmly pressing in (a little help would be best here), set the steel rivet. Be careful, as it takes a lot of force to set them, and the end (tail) comes flying off at a high speed. Wear your safety glasses and keep you head out of the way! 15) Install the remainder of the rivets working from the center out (do the middle, then the rear, then the front. 16) Now the new panel is on, and if you put the silicone in the right place, you should barely see it at the top and ends. I run a bead around the top and ends (have to remove the flares to seal the ends fully), to completely seal out any water or corrosion. 17) Clean up any excess silicone along the edges, and then put a little bit in the hole of each rivet. 18) Once the silicone is cured in the rivet holes, I take a razor blade and trim off the excess. I then use a bottle of flat black model paint and paint the heads of the rivets black to match the black powder coat, and prevent them from rusting. Additional rivets can be obtained from you hardware store if desired, but since I will be installing the Calmini Rocker Skids, I felt the 6 rivets were enough. 19) Move to the other side, and repeat. 20) Enjoy the new look, and additional protection of your new Rocker Panels.
A few after thoughts as I sit back and look the job over.
Use Acrylic Silicone caulk instead of ordinary 100% Silicone, as it can be painted over if necessary. Although seemingly sacrilegious, if you do not "flatten" the body seam and install the rocker guard tight against the bottom of the body, you run the risk of having it easily torn off/damaged. Either by an intruding rock catching the inside lip and pushing the entire guard outwards, or by having the weight of the vehicle come down on the cantilevered lip and popping the guard off the body.
North Coast Offroad stocks multiple manufactures products for your Suzuki vehicle, including the item profiled above. Visit us at http://www.northcoastoffroad.com