Getting older with a degenerative back condition and having a high-stance Jeep TJ can make for an ever-increasing problem with getting up and into the vehicle. Due to this, I had been looking for the last couple of years for some form of step to be able to make this easier, and yet, something that was durable and purpose-built enough to handle potential damage from typical off-road obstacles. I considered a number of manually deployed step approaches, including some DIY versions, but having to get something out, attach it, and then take it off and store it each time was just too labor intensive to be practical IMO. I also considered AMP Research Power Steps (which I have on our Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck), but I realized that these expensive electric steps would not be able to handle the slightest contact with a rock in the rocker panel area without substantial damage.
I was about ready to throw in the towel when I came across the Rock-Slide Engineering (R-SE) Step Slider thread on the JK Owners forum ... https://www.jkowners.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18115
While the Step Slider concept took quite a while to go through the prototyping and testing phases as R-SE worked the bugs out, I was happy to learn that the TJ version Step Sliders had been recently released for sale to the public as of my first call to R-SE back in late December. Due to $1,799 cost, I had to wait to get my tax refund in hand before proceeding, but I at least knew that the R-SE Step Sliders were exactly what I had been looking for.
Since I had a 1.25" Daystar body lift in addition to a couple of aftermarket M.O.R.E. frame hangers for tying-in the front tubes of my roll cage that might present a clearance problem with the Step Slider housings, I decided to have R-SE do the installation. And since R-SE is located in Utah where I live, I felt the 700 mile round trip drive was worth the effort to get a professional installation done by the Step Slider manufacturer.
The installation took place first thing on Tuesday. I initially met Steve Bennion, who is the owner and head of sales & marketing at R-SE. Steve took me around their shop area and showed me my TJ Step Sliders as well as their final assembly operation, their recent work on an LJ, and then the Step Slider installation on his 4-door JK. I also got to meet Kevin Smith who is R-SE's head of production who went through the design and operation of the Step Sliders. I was then introduced to Dan who would be doing the Step Sliders installation on my TJ. All in all, I found everyone at R-SE to be professional, friendly, and extremely helpful.
First off, here are some shots of the TJ version Step Sliders:
As Steve had previously indicated, the underside attachment approach is different for the TJ version Step Sliders as compared to the JK version, where the TJ version bolts up directly to the bottom of the pan. A slot approach is used for the JK version, where the slots engage the side body mounts for underside mounting purposes.
I didn't take any pics of the actual installation while at R-SE, however, here are several shots of the newly installed Step Sliders I took after I got back home ...
Deployed - Drivers side:
Deployed - Passenger side:
Retracted - Drivers side:
Retracted - Passenger side:
Custom cut-out for M.O.R.E. frame hanger (one on each side):
Lighted on-off switch for Step Sliders:
LED step lighting strip (one on each side):
(By the way, I highly recommend the LED light kit for nighttime use).
One minor thing I wasn't anticipating, is that the side sections of the Step Slider housings don't end up being fully flush with the tub sheet metal. Here are a couple of shots of this:
This is due to the shoulder thickness of the Nutserts used on the side of the tub sheet metal (which almost end up acting as washers between the Step Sliders and the sheet metal). Again, this is very minor and in no way adversely affects the strength of the Step Sliders. However, I am contemplating putting a small bead of black silicone caulk along the top edge to seal that slightly open edge.
A couple of other noteworthy items occurred during the installation at R-SE. While Dan was primarily doing the installation, Kevin was staying involved throughout the process. He had Dan pull-off the Step Sliders at one point to finely tweak the retracted fit of the step plates. Kevin also upgraded a couple of pins on the hinged step internals with stronger bolts & nylok nuts, so I definitely appreciated the extra attention.
Most noteworthy was after the installation was completed, Dan had me start up my engine as a final electrical check and he heard a suspicious sound. He traced it down to a bearing going out in my tensioner pulley. With another 350 miles ahead of me to get home, neither Dan or I wanted to have that pulley seize up on me and take my serpentine belt out, so he quickly ordered up a replacement pulley from a local auto parts house, installed it in short order, and all I got charged was for their discounted parts cost. That's what I call going beyond the call of duty!
Also, while I was at R-SE, Kevin was good enough to call me outside at one point to take a look at the test-fitting of their prototype Step Sliders for a Ford F-150. From what Kevin shared with me, R-SE has plans to not only have Step Sliders available for Ford pickup trucks, but also Dodge, Chevy/GMC, and potentially Toyota pickups.
I also didn't realize it until later in the day that R-SE is a bigger operation with more employees than I first thought. I could obviously see when I got there that they were in the first section of the building (including where Mt Logan Offroad used to be before they moved to another local location to provide more space), but I then realized that they had all of the rest of the building as well. When I mentioned this, Kevin gave me an impromptu tour of the other areas where they have a staff dedicated to metal working, including cutting, welding, and grinding operations. So, in addition to the design work, all fabrication & welding take place in-house, including final assembly and shipping. As far as I could tell, about the only thing they farm out is the powder coating operation, which is just a stone's throw away from them.
From what Steve & Kevin told me, they are shipping Step Sliders world-wide, so with their other products, Rock-Slide Engineering is definitely a going concern, which I was able to see first hand on Tuesday.
I realize some will say that the price-point for the Step Sliders is high, but it is something that I personally really needed with my back condition and my wife also loves them as she is rather short and has always had something of a problem getting into our Jeep TJ (our sill sits 36" off the ground with 35" tires, a 5.5" suspension lift, and a 1.25" body lift). It is a quality product that will likely be able to hold up to almost anything thrown at it (as long as it is installed correctly), and it looks damn good as well. There also really isn't anything like the Step Sliders being offered by anyone else, so it definitely fits a unique niche. Most importantly, while it is understandable to be initially wary of small shops & operations with perhaps a one-off or flash-in-the-pan product, I can personally attest to the professional & knowledgeable staff at Rock-Slide Engineering, the much larger operation & staff they actually have, and the number of existing & new products coming down the pike. It's definitely a busy place with a lot going on.
Bottom-line ... my wife & I are really pleased with the new Step Sliders on our Jeep TJ!