Running Boards

Tips for picking better running boards

What is the point of running boards?

The exterior parts of a vehicle are often modified to enhance some aesthetic properties, change the look, or for utility reasons. Running boards and side steps can do all the above, and this versatility makes them a rather desired modification. They make the vehicle look broader and larger and also make it more accessible for the passengers.

So in its essence, a running board is a special platform you can attach to the vehicle to make it easier to get on board or get out. It is basically a step often installed on trucks, SUVs, and cars made or modified for off-roading. Such cars have a particularly high ground clearance to be able to go over the obstacles, but this also makes them difficult to climb on for the passengers. And that is when the side steps and running boards can provide a good solution.

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Find practical insights for comparing different side steps and running boards


Running Boards terminology and definitions

Nerf Bars vs Running Boards

Since they are very alike and have the same purpose, people often ask if the nerf bars and running boards are the same. The difference is in shape. Running boards are flat and wide steps attached to the bottom. They often have long rubber non-slip pads near the doors.
And nerf bars are shaped like wide tubes running along the car's side. They also have antislip pads for your soles, but much narrower and smaller.

Are side steps the same as running boards?

Side steps are individual steps attached under each door to help people get in and out of the vehicle. That is their main distinguishing feature.
Side bars provide less surface to step on than running boards. There is also a gap between the side step and the vehicle itself when the running board looks flush with the body.

Nerf Bars vs Rock Sliders

Rock sliders are an extra feature for off-roading. They are designed to protect your truck, SUV or pickup from rocks and debris. Although you can try to use them as an alternative to side steps or running boards, it is not that comfortable. But you definitely shouldn't try to use your running boards as rock sliders, they are too fragile for that. And some models are mounted in a way that makes them useless as protection from debris.

Are running boards worth it?

The aftermarket running boards are a perfect combo of utility features and style. They have a variety of benefits:

The main reason people install custom running boards for trucks is to make the process of getting on and off the vehicle easier. The special ground clearance for off-road vehicles prevents people from effortlessly entering and exiting, so some support can make a big difference. This makes running boards and side steps of all types a very good modification.

There is also a small perk that comes with the nonslip pads on the running boards. The uneven surface scrubs some of the mud, dust, or sand off your soles, and as a result, less dirt gets inside the vehicle. This is how installing the running boards can help you keep your interior neat and clean even while you travel the unpaved wild paths.

Aside from that, the aftermarket running boards designed specifically for trucks and off-road vehicles are built with sturdy materials. They can protect your car's body from occasional stones, branches, and other debris on the road. Anything that protects the paint from scratches and the metal from bumps is your friend.

Big trucks look absolutely awesome with some chrome running boards on both sides. This mod visually balances out positive wheel offset, hiding the wide tires from view, so the car looks larger, but the wheels don't stick out too much.

Can you install running boards yourself?

Installing the running board on a truck does not take a rocket scientist. Usually, trucks have factory-made holes in all the right places to hold side steps, nerf bars, and running boards if you happen to need them. This makes the process so much easier since all you have to do is carefully align the board and tighten the hardware.

Though, not every vehicle has those holes from the very beginning. In that case, you can drill them, but it is a risky endeavor. The best advice here is to have a professional mechanic drill the holes for mounting to avoid compromising your vehicle's frame. It is a structural element, after all, so be very careful with that.

Do running boards affect clearance?

When you add parts to the lower part of your vehicle, the new clearance depends on the way those parts are mounted. For instance, side steps and side bars will definitely lower your ground clearance more. They are mounted down and outwards, hanging closer to the ground below. Meanwhile, the running boards let you save a lot more of that much-needed clearance.

However, any type of running board will make your vehicle look more "down to the ground". They visually lower it and make it look sleeker.

Types of custom running boards

These car accessories come in many shapes and materials. They can be made of aluminum, steel, fiberglass, polymers, and ABS. They all have pros and cons, so the choice depends on your expectations. For better durability, pick aluminum or fiberglass. For more affordable options, consider polymers and plastics.

As for the shapes, they are divided into several categories:

  • - side steps
  • - nerf bars
  • - running boards

They all have different properties, look, and mounting type. Side steps are small and rarely change the look. Nerf bars are made of tubes and small platforms with cuts to prevent them from being slippery even in the worst weather. And the running boards are basically steps you can attach to your truck. They can be adorned with LED strips to achieve a fierce look and help you in the dark. Or you could go all the way and modify your car with electric running boards. This upgrade will definitely earn you many surprised looks, and it is so convenient too.

How to choose custom running boards

It might seem secondary at first, but here design actually matters. When you pick the running boards by their looks, keep in mind that the pattern on your steps will have an impact on how slippery they are when it rains or snows. So it will be a good idea to find side steps or running boards with antislip pads and patterns just to be safe. These accessories are meant to help you get on and off the vehicle easier, not to add another slippery obstacle on your way.

One more super important thing you absolutely have to remember is the question of fitment. You have probably noticed that many replacement car parts are very model-specific. The same is true for running boards too. Always check if the custom running boards fit your car perfectly. This will save you a lot of trouble.