What Are Running Boards On A Truck Or SUV And Do I Need Them?


Some after-market vehicle accessories make you wonder whether they are necessary at all – and one such class of addons is running boards. You’ve driven your truck or SUV all this time, but now you are looking at running boards and asking yourself why you need them now.

It’s not until you see a passenger struggling to get into the car that it hits you, “I’ve got to get them!” That is why this research was done– to determine whether they are worth it.

What Are Running Boards On A Truck Or SUV And Do I Need Them?

Running boards are accessories that run alongside your vehicle that function as a step to entering and exiting it. They are important because they make it easy for passengers to get into and out of your truck or SUV. They also keep debris away from your car. 

There are several benefits to installing running boards on your vehicle, but first, let’s get to understand more about the types and their function in detail. 

What Are Running Boards?

Running boards are optional add-ons installed at the bottom of the vehicle, mostly at the foot of the door to help people step on them as they exit or enter the vehicle. They are also called running bars or side steps.

They are popular in tall vehicles such as your truck or SUV. They were first installed on cars to provide a better footing into and out of cars because compared to modern vehicles, vintage cars sat higher off the ground.

Later releases saw new models that featured a favorable ground clearance, and since then, running boards became optional. Others, however, kept them for appearance purposes.

With a lot of options and styles available, you can add some custom specifications such as color matches and powered ones to make your truck look like a premium trim or very expensive.

What Are Running Boards Made Of?

These vehicle accessories are made of several types of materials, including:

  • Fiberglass
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Diamond-plate steel
  • A tube-like piece that runs alongside the perimeter of the car (as seen mostly in Jeep trucks) 

There are also other features that you’ll likely encounter as you shop for these accessories. But the most common one is steel – stainless steel to be precise.

If you look closely, most running boards come equipped with rubber grips and are also capped with the same material or plastic to prevent water from seeping into the tubes.

Some types of rolling bars feature cold-rolled steel. Others are powder-coated, normally in black, to prevent corrosion and rust. 

What Types of Running Boards Are There?

The term running boards, in a broad sense, refers to just about any type of side step installed on a vehicle, outside, and beneath the doors of your truck or SUV.

In an actual sense, a running board is another type of side steps alongside nerf bars and rock sliders. Those are the three main types you will find on the market.

Running Boards

Of the three types of side steps, rolling boards are the classic, fixed, wide, and flat fixtures that run across the length of your truck from your front fender to just about the back edge or the rear fender.

Their flat surface features rubber grips that run the full length to ensure no slippage as you or your passenger steps into and out of the vehicle.

These fixed accessories usually come in stainless steel or thick plastic materials and are installed on metal brackets. Many SUVs come with plastic types, although the most modern of them, alongside newer trucks, often carry nerf bars and powered retractable running board styles. 

These powered running boards are more common in today’s SUVs and trucks. While the vehicle is resting, the side step is tucked away safely under your vehicle’s rocker panels. They are motorized and will only extend outwards when you open your car’s doors to get out or in.

If you asked me, power running boards are the coolest. Not only do they give your vehicle a neat look when tucked away, but they are also protected from harsh elements you might encounter along the road. They are the go-to side steps if you want to impress your buddies out there.

Nerf Bars

Unlike running boards that are flat, nerf bars are mostly tubular. They are available in round, oval, round, and others are even square-shaped. The available configurations feature a cab length or wheel to wheel.

Nerf bars come with indented treads to provide a good grip near each door. Other designs have textured surfaces to provide the extra grip need for safely boarding the vehicle.

Nerf bars are also mounted to your truck or SUVs on the side underneath the doors. Most of them, however, have sections cut out in their lengths for the passengers’ feet.

Rock Sliders

Of the available types of these after-market accessories, rock sliders are the hitters, and if you are a trucker doing some serious off-roading, then you should consider them.

They are available in frame or body mounts. They are not running boards per se since they sit higher than usual, but some have steps that qualify them for the same function.

Rock sliders mostly protect the undercarriage doors of your truck or SUV when off-roading.

They are mostly metal bars that double up their function by keeping large rocks and other obstacles out of the way, should you find yourself stuck – because even to most reliable off-road vehicles get stuck sometimes.

They are, therefore, quite strong, and many folks associate them with nerf bars due to their qualities and functionality.

Why Are Running Boards Important?

1. An Easy Step

The main function of running boards is to help a passenger climb in and out of the vehicle with ease. This is particularly the case if you have kids and they are often struggling to get in or out.

If you own a truck or an SUV that didn’t come with a running board, you can shop around for the best style that is less intrusive and is highly functional, depending on your needs and your budget. 

You can choose from the above-discussed types, and you won’t regret it. If I hit the off-roads regularly, I’d get myself rock sliders. They are worth it. Plus, they make the step-up easy for anyone.

2. Keep Your Interior Clean

Occasionally, you or your passengers must wipe some dirt off the shoes before boarding the vehicle. Without running boards, it is possible to carry some of the debris or mud into the vehicle, making its interior furnishings dirty.

Having a side step on your vehicle, therefore, is a good step to keeping the interior of your truck or SUV clean. It acts as a doormat that keeps the road grime, mud, and debris out of your car.

3. Protect Your Paint

When your vehicle tires spin, they throw small rocks and debris against your vehicle’s body. Sadly, the fenders don’t catch all the dirt, and eventually, the paint, especially on your vehicle’s door and undersides, begin peeling off.

Luckily, you can minimize the damage caused by the debris thrown by the tires using a running board.

Most of them run across the length of the vehicle and are quite efficient in ensuring that the small stones, gravel, and damaging hazards are blocked from hitting and scratching, or even worse, denting your doors or rocker panels. 

4. Make Your Seats Last Longer

There is a habit I have noticed is common among many people with trucks or SUVs that sit higher off the ground, and that is sliding off their sits when getting out.

While it may seem like such a big deal, eventually, the side bolsters of your seat will beat. The otherwise perfect stitch that your new vehicle came with will degrade, and so will the fabric and the supporting cushions.

Under grim circumstances, you might eventually end up cracking or breaking some of the trim pieces holding everything together, and this will cost you to replace.

If, however, you have a running board that you can easily step onto and you alight from your vehicle, all these misfortunes won’t happen. Your seats will be saved from the unwelcomed torture by passengers and anyone else sliding off them.

How Do I Install Running Boards?

The process of equipping your truck with running boards is usually very simple. However, you might need an extra set of hands if you are planning to install heavy-duty running boards such as the metallic rock sliders.

 Most of the running boards you choose to install on your truck or SUV usually have an accompanying manual that details the how-to-install instructions.

The good thing is that most trucks and sports utility vehicles come pre-drilled for easy running board mounting. All you will have to do is find the right equipment to fix and fasten them well on the mounting points to ensure that they stay in place.

However, if your vehicle doesn’t come with pre-drilled holes, you will be forced to drill them yourself, if you have the skill. Otherwise, it will be better if you had a professional do the task for you.

He/she will drill the holes and help you install the running boards. Doing it yourself might lead to some serious damage to the vehicle’s frame, especially if you’ve never done it before.

How Far Should Running Boards Stick Out?

Running boards should only stick out a few inches, only as far as needed for anyone to safely enter or exit the vehicle. The best way to determine how far they should stick out is by standing vertically on it.

If you are comfortable and don’t stumble, this should be the perfect clearance you need. Bear in mind that the shape of the door affects the size of your running board. Others need to be installed deeper under the door.

Should I get Running Boards?

Yep. There you have it, all the reasons why a running board is important for your SUV or truck. They offer protection, ease of entry, and they keep your vehicle clean. What was not mentioned, however, is that some running bars make trucks look amazing.

Meanwhile, since you are here and are looking for running boards for your truck or SUV, you may as well learn a thing or two about which SUVs last the longest.

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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