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Why are they called "Rocker Panels"?

I still remember this incident vividly, years later. When I was a teenager I had to take a class in High School called Driver’s Ed, it was required to get a driver’s license at 16, and on one of the classroom tests they asked

Test Question: On a car, what is the difference between the rocker arms and the rocker panels?

Seriously! What this had to do w/driving a car I’m unsure. At the time I had no idea what either term meant. But years later at least I know what rocker arms are, and the name sort of makes sense, as these are engine gadgets that actually do rock back and forth on a pivot. So “rocker arms” makes sense to me.

But why the term “rocker panels”? This as far as I can tell is a structural-part on the car, something you have to step over to get inside, but they don’t rock back and forth on any pivots. Or do they?

Being a curious sort, why do the car knowledgeable use the name “rocker panel” for this otherwise innocuous car part?

I would guess something to avoid damage by rocks flying up, Drivers ed, oh the memories, more important part of the post, G D I have a kid that stops for birds in the road, (drivers ed teacher) or don’t worry about that stop sign, the kid blows through the stop sign and fails, luckily I was pre warned.

One of the definitions for the word rocker is: The amount of curvature in the longitudinal contour of a boat or surfboard.

Curved panel/rocker panel.


Interesting … hmmmm … So are car’s rocker panels curved then? Or do you mean since the term “rocker” applies to the sides of a boat, it would apply to the sides of a car too?

I don’t recall them having much curve on my Corolla. They seem more or less straight, front to back. Maybe the width varies, thicker in the middle possibly. I’d have to crawl underneath the car to say one way or the other. Actually now I think about it I don’t think it is possible to see them, the structural element is covered by a sheet of metal.

I’m thinking the reasoning for the term might be that the rocker panels are analogous to those curved pieces rocking chairs rock on. It’s not just the entire rocking chair that is called a “rocker”. Those curved rails I think are also called “rockers”, and sort of define the foundation of the sides of the rocking chair.

Here’s my theory, what do you think?

Foundation of side of rocking chair == rockers == foundation of side of car?


They’ve been called rocker panels since cars have been built with them. Their actual shape no longer matters.


Not having looked it up and being a boat person, I vote for @tester and his explanation.

I think Tester is correct. A little off topic but I remember just out of school and having to take the tests for the Army, I was trying to do as well as I could to avoid getting sent to infantry, and one of the questions was what a lathe dog was. I had absolutely no idea what it was. I now know after looking at Mrpete222’s shop classes. Unless you were exposed to this stuff, you really have no idea and I agree what does knowing a rocker panel have to do with drivers training?

Although I have no idea about the origins of the rocker panels, I do know where ‘dashboard’ came from. Back in the days on carriages, they placed a board in front of the seats with a bar on it to put your feet on when the horses were dashing, and kicking up a lot of dirt and mud. As they moved to horseless carriages, they became a convenient place to put gauges and levers. The name just stuck. I think a few other parts names are probably similar.

Most recently, the term applies to panels set up how to find which hard rockers will qualify for Obamacare.
Those with pre existing conditions including hearing loss, eye make up and excessive tatoos can no longer be denied coverage. “Rocker Panels” are " not death panels for hard rockers " as previously thought. Most have died early enough on their own not to be deny coverage. They have shown by the panel to yield a net surplus in contributory funds going into he system…Rockers are a valuable commodity and necessary for any universal healthcare plan to succeed. Originally the “Ozzie Panel” but changed to be more inclusive.

Ok, looks like @dagosa 's snark generator is going into overload :).

It was good snark though. Gave me a good kaugh

It gave me a good laugh also, but I fear that if Sarah Palin is monitoring this site, she will believe every word of it.

I heard the term came from the way old stagecoachs were constructed. The body was slung on a frame and it rocked back and forth. The term for some of the panels on wagons constructed like this was “rocker panels” and was carried over into the early automotive world like “dashboards.”

The rocker panels on the old stagecoaches were either the long strips of leather that suspended the coach from the frame or they were the curved pieces of wood that that sat on those strips of leather. As the stagecoach was pulled along, the coach would rock back and forth. By rocking at the same cadence that a human walks at, which is about a 100 oscillations per minute, the ride would seem to be quite smooth. I saw this at the museum at the Gateway Arch in St Louis.

I suspect that many of the carriages used by the wealthy also used this technology.

Edit, early cars, which were usually made by carriage companies didn’t have rocker panels, they had running boards instead. The rocker panels came about when cars were built close enough to the ground that you could step directly into them.

What about those sitting backwards…moon walkers, err moon rockers ?

These days there are those brave souls who depend on them do do exactly that…rock.
These are the rock crawling Jeep clubs around the four corners here…and they have no fear.
A little high center is no real obstacle. Just have your spotter rock it over to the other side.

I’m not sure how to see their videos…try you-tube and look for JeepsWest club videos.