Saturday, March 23, 2024

Jeep's Plastic Side Steps

Take Them Off for Off-Roading

The Jeep Wrangler's plastic side steps, usually on the Sahara model, serve a practical purpose in daily use. They offer a step for easier entry and exit. However, when it comes to off-roading, they can be more of a hindrance than a help. The Jeep owners manual throws a curveball for off-roading enthusiasts: it advises removing these side steps before hitting the trails. Despite their utility in everyday situations, they become vulnerable in the unpredictable and often harsh environments encountered off-road.

Jeep manual - side step removal

Jeep's manual is clear on this point: before you venture off the beaten path, it's wise to remove these steps. The reason is twofold. First, the plastic material, while durable under normal conditions, is not designed to withstand the impacts and abrasions from rocks, branches, and other off-road obstacles. Damage to the steps is not just a cosmetic issue; it can also lead to costly repairs and replacements.

Second, and perhaps more crucially, the side steps reduce the Wrangler's ground clearance and breakover angle. This reduction can make the difference between smoothly navigating over obstacles and getting caught or damaged midway. For serious off-roaders, preserving every inch of clearance is paramount to maintaining the Wrangler's legendary capability.

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Kyle spotting me on the trail

Lesson Learned                             

I learned this lesson the hard way. It could have been a very expensive lesson but I got lucky. After being guided through some larger rock, I headed over with the other Jeeps to wait for the rest to finish. I relaxed a little which is a big mistake. Never ever let your guard down. I should have been scanning the trail continually. Well, I went over a rock and there was a large noise that even concerned the other drivers. I drove my step rail, yes those plastic stock step rails, right over a large rock. The rock pushed the drivers side rail up slightly into the fender and popped out the fender.

Kyle fixing my side step

Luckily, Kyle, my guide,  knew exactly what to do. He got up on the step rail and jumped on it to push it back into place. Then with his hands he popped the fender back into place.

My Jeep on the trail

Making the Choice: To Remove or Not to Remove?

The decision to remove the plastic side steps before off-roading boils down to the type of adventure you're embarking on. If your journey involves light trails with minimal obstacles, the steps might not pose a significant risk. However, for more challenging terrains, taking Jeep's advice could save you from a headache down the line.

Jeep manual 0 side step removal

Removing the steps is a simple, straightforward process, one you can do with basic tools. The added peace of mind and confidence in your vehicle's capability are well worth this prep step. Moreover, it opens up the opportunity to explore alternative solutions, such as aftermarket metal rock sliders, which offer superior protection and durability for off-road enthusiasts.

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