You've seen them on trucks and SUVs — those little plastic or metal bars under the vehicle in front of your tires. You might have heard them referred to as running boards, nerf bars, or side steps. And you've probably also heard of people installing them (or having them installed) on their trucks or SUVs and loving how they change the looks of their rigs. But what you haven't heard so much about are all the other things these handy accessories do.
Although they're probably not going to protect you from rugged terrain and steep climbs, running boards give you an easy and quick way to get in and out of the vehicle's cabin. They provide safe footing while giving you something stylish and practical to complement your existing truck accessories.
Whether you're looking to buy online or pick up the right running board accessories at your local auto parts store, read on. We'll go over everything the things you need to know about running boards in this guide.
Different types of running boards
You can choose from many different types of running boards. Here are some of the most popular options:
These are fixed to the truck, so they won't move when you open or close your door. They're also the least expensive option because there's no installation required.
These running boards retract when the doors close and extend when the doors are open.
These are the most expensive running boards but also the most stylish. They're made from stainless steel or aluminum and are designed to drop down when you open or close your door, so you don't have to step over them.
They are running boards with lights, so you can see where you're stepping at night.
- Tubular Running Boards
This type of running board is designed with a larger surface area than flat ones. They typically extend at least three inches beyond each side of your truck bed and feature rounded edges that look great when paired with an aftermarket brush guard or bumper. These running boards are available in several materials, including aluminum, composite plastic, and stainless steel — all of which offer different benefits and drawbacks depending on your needs. They are best paired with lifted trucks outfitted with large mud tires, giving the vehicle an aggressive look.
Factors to consider when shopping for a running board
Set a budget before you begin shopping. Running boards can be expensive, so knowing how much money you want to spend before shopping around is crucial. You may find a few models with great deals, but they might be poorly constructed and low-quality, so it's not worth investing. Look at different brands and models online and in stores to get an idea of what is available in your price range.
You'll want to make sure that whatever type of running board you choose will fit onto your vehicle without any problems. Most manufacturers ensure their products are compatible with most vehicles, but it's always good to double-check before making your purchase. You don't want to buy something only to find out later that it doesn't work on your particular model.
When shopping for a running board, it's essential to consider its quality. Look for a product that is made of durable materials and offers a lifetime warranty.
Essential running board installation tips
Check the weight capacity
Remember to check the weight capacity of the running board you plan to buy. This information should be readily available on the company's website or catalogs, so look there first. To get an accurate idea of the exact weight each running board can hold, take note of both the maximum and minimum weight capacity numbers listed by the manufacturer.
Make sure that it's slip resistant
Make sure that the running board is slip-resistant. It should have a non-slip surface so that you won't slip or slide when you step on it. It will help keep your balance when getting into or out of your vehicle.
Research the tools you'll need to install it
The first step is to research the tools you'll need for the job. It would be best if you had basic tools like a socket wrench set and screwdrivers at home, but you may need some specialty tools depending on the brand of running board installation kit you're using. MMost kits contain instructions that tell you which tools are necessary for each process step.
Don't use old mounting brackets
Refrain from using old mounting brackets when installing a running board. The bracket may be damaged and won't provide enough support for the new running board. Instead, use the new brackets provided in the running board kit or any aftermarket parts store.
Ensure electrical safety during installation
Running boards can be powered by electricity or hydraulics, but they all require a power source. You'll need to ensure that this power source is safe and meets local requirements. Check for any electrical wires or connections that may be in the way. You want to avoid accidentally cutting or damaging any of these wires during the installation process.
Set aside an extra budget for installation costs
Running boards are usually sold as kits, including the running board itself and all necessary mounting hardware. It means that you'll have to pay for professional installation. The price can run $200 to $500 or more, depending on the vehicle size and the kind of mounting kit required (including drilling). If you're good with tools, you can save money by installing them yourself —be sure to get any necessary parts first so that you don't have to make multiple trips back to the hardware store.
Running boards can be a practical addition to your truck or SUV. They literally give you a leg up when entering and exiting your vehicle. Many running boards come in various colors and materials to match the looks of your vehicle. Other options come with lights embedded into their sides to provide added security at night or during inclement weather. Running boards are a must-have for serious off-roaders and truck and SUV enthusiasts.