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5 Different Types of Truck Running Boards

View from the side of a blue Jeep Wrangler parked near a building.

I love tall trucks and during my tenure as a Customer Service Advocate at a popular Online Car Dealership, I drove quite a few. It was especially difficult after driving it up on the hauler bed.

However, I’m not on the tall side, so I enjoyed the fact that I had a running board to help me get in comfortably, at least for the newer models.

I can’t imagine what people did, tall or short, before running boards were invented or re-invented(they were around decades ago). 

Plus, they improve the aesthetics and help protect your vehicle. One thing for sure, though, is that they’re not all the same, in terms of quality, beauty, and cleaning.

Let’s look at the different types of running boards for trucks and get the right function, design, and fit for your vehicle.

Types of Truck Running Boards

Not every side step is a running board, even though people tend to use the term generically. 

  • Running Boards
  • Power Running Boards
  • Lighted Running Board
  • Nerf Bars
  • Rock Sliders

1. Running Board

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There is less of a focus on shielding your doors from knocks with these superb additions and more on offering a step up into your vehicle.

Running boards are popular with drivers since there is no defined spot on the board where you must stop, regardless of where you choose to stand. There are a slew of options available if you’re seeking a specific way to get into the vehicle.

As with nerf step bars, the length of running boards can be customized to meet your specific vehicle’s make, brand, as well as cab length. Get the running board that is right for your truck or Jeep by having this info handy before making the purchase.

2. Powered Running Boards

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When not in use, a Powered Running Board, a more expensive version of the regular running board, can be tucked away underneath the vehicle’s cab. Once you open the door of the truck or Jeep, some versions automatically lower themselves.

If you ask me, it’s a little sassy. Many find that this additional benefit is not only stylish but also shields the powered running board from all types of weather and other road hazards.

If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd and amaze your friends, then Powered Running Boards are an excellent choice for you and your vehicle.

Stepping bars or running boards are a must if you plan to lift your truck so that the person you’re trying to help doesn’t trip and get wounded while trying to climb into your vehicle.

In other words, these items make getting in or out of the truck substantially simpler.

3. Lighted Running Board

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Running boards with lights add a touch of class while also serving a practical purpose.

To help the surface stay more visible at night, they’ve added lights at the ends. To avoid any missteps, the lights are turned on every time the doors are opened.

4. Nerf Bars

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Nerf bars, which act as a step-up to enter the vehicle, are a substitute for running boards. Running boards’ lengths are the same. In contrast to running boards, nerf bars are cylindrical rather than flat.

Solid rubber foot pads provide increased grip and avoid slippage, and they’re usually composed of aluminum or steel. Nerf bars have a more sporty appearance than running boards.

5. Rock Sliders

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Designed to protect your vehicle’s underbelly and doors while off-roading, rock sliders are a distinct subcategory.

Metal bars, appropriately termed “rock sliders,” are designed to assist your car in navigating and sliding down enormous rocks and boulders, should you ever find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place (you must admit, that one cracked you up!!).

They are a popular choice for Jeep owners who want to improve their stock vehicles. Although they don’t technically step bars, their energy characteristics lead many people to mistake them for such.

With regular off-roading, these rock sliders are an absolute need. They shield your chassis and door panels from harm. There’s no reason not to look into upgrading. You’ll be glad you did it, and so will your Jeep.

Why Are Running Boards Important?

1. Easy Access to Your Vehicle

Running boards are designed to make it easier for passengers to get in and out of a vehicle. This is especially true if you have children who frequently find it difficult to go in or out of the house.

Shopping for a running board might be a daunting task for those who own an SUV or truck that doesn’t come with one, but there are a variety of options to choose from.

Choosing from the above-mentioned options won’t be a mistake. The first thing I’d get for off-roading is a set of rock sliders. They’re worth the price. Because of this, everyone may join in the fun.

2. Keep Your Truck’s Interior Spotless

Sometimes, you or your passengers will need to remove some dirt from their shoes before getting in the car. Some of the debris or mud can get inside the vehicle without running boards, making its interior filthy.

As a result, installing a side step on your truck or SUV is an excellent way to ensure the interior remains neat. A doormat that keeps the dirt, mud, and sand off of your automobile is what this does.

3. Protect Your Vehicle’s Paintwork

Small rocks, as well as debris, are thrown against your vehicle’s body when its tires spin. Inevitably, the paint on your car’s doors and undersides will begin to peel if the fenders don’t capture all the dirt.

Fortunately, a running board will help reduce the amount of damage done by tire debris. Most of them run along the length of the cab and are very effective at protecting your doors as well as rocker panels from small rocks, gravel, and other harmful threats.

4. Extend the Life of Your Seats

I’ve noticed that many folks who drive trucks or SUVs that are raised off the ground tend to slide off their seats when exiting their vehicles.

While it may not seem like a significant concern at the time, your seat’s side bolsters will wear down over time. Your new car’s generally flawless stitching, upholstery, and supporting cushions will all fade over time.

If the worst happens and you shatter or crack several of the accent pieces keeping everything together, you’ll have to pay to have them replaced.

All of these calamities can be avoided, however, if your vehicle is equipped with a running board that you can use to exit the vehicle safely. Passengers and anybody else who slides from the seats will not be able to damage your seat.

What Types of Materials Makeup Running Boards?

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

  • Fiberglass
  • Rubber
  • ABS Plastic
  • Diamond-plate steel
  • Aluminum baseboard

Shoppers will find additional features as they shop for these devices. Steel, in particular stainless steel, is the most common material.

To prevent water from getting into the tubes, most running boards have rubber grips and caps made of the same substance or plastic to keep water out.

Cold-rolled steel is used in some varieties of rolling bars. Others are covered in black powder to protect them from corrosion and rust.

Advantages of Running Boards

Additionally, running boards are useful if you have little youngsters or older passengers in the back of your vehicle. They act as a stepping stone for passengers who are shorter or shakier to enter the car.

Getting into an SUV or truck may be challenging if you don’t take an extra step. Running boards also help keep automobiles safe from roadside debris. Dirt, rocks, and nails can be kicked up by the wheels of moving vehicles.

If it comes into touch with your car’s side panels, doors, or windows, this debris can cause serious damage. Running boards safeguard your car from damage by preventing debris from slamming against it.

Your car’s inside will be cleaner if you use running boards, too. Their purpose is to serve as a doormat, allowing passengers to clean their shoes before stepping inside your car or SUV.

Disadvantages of Running Boards

To inspect or fix something, crawling beneath your truck or SUV with running boards can be tough. Running boards might make car maintenance more difficult if you’re a do-it-yourselfer who does it regularly.

On the other hand, based on the type of material you select, running boards may only support a small amount of weight. Molded plastic, which does not have a baseboard, is particularly vulnerable to this problem.

Because they are used as a ladder, running boards must be kept dry and clean at all times to prevent major injuries. Always keep an eye on the gripping surface for signs of wear so that you can remedy the situation with additional traction (i.e. deck tape).

How to Choose the Ideal Running Board?

When deciding if running boards are a nice choice for your truck or SUV, it’s important to evaluate whether or not you’re looking for style or usefulness.

What kind of running boards should you acquire if you decide to add them? There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Plastic running boards are still the least expensive alternative, but they are also the least lasting and can not be relied on for any significant support. In a nutshell, they’re designed to be visually appealing.

The aluminum baseboard of molded plastic running boards provides vital performance and toughness for those seeking an extra boost.

This style of running board is built to last if you choose steel. Steel running boards are more expensive, but they last far longer and can bear a greater load and stress.

How Significant is the Length of the Running Board?

The length of your running board will be listed when you place your purchase.

Some truck bars and boards are mere “cab length,” meaning they only cover the length of the cab, while others are “wheel-to-wheel,” meaning they cover the entire length of the vehicle, from one wheel to the other.

This makes loading and unloading cargo from the truck’s bed and entering and exiting the cab a breeze.

No matter how long you go, you should think about whether or not you want to have an easier time getting into the truck bed if you choose a long-running board.

If that’s something you’re interested in, the “wheel-to-wheel” length is probably worth a few additional bucks.

Another consideration is the size of your cab. To ensure a proper fit, based on the length of your bar or board, you must know the cab size of your vehicle, as well as the type and brand of the vehicle.

It’s not going to work on a regular cab truck, for example, with a “cab length” nerf bar. Even if you select the “wheel-to-wheel” option, every bar and board is customized and manufactured to fit your specific make, version, and cab length.

How are Running Boards Installed?

Running boards can be added to your truck in a matter of minutes. However, installing heavy-duty running boards like the metallic rock sliders may call for the assistance of another second set of hands.

Running boards that you buy for your truck or SUV typically come with a user manual that explains exactly how to install them.

Most trucks and SUVs have pre-drilled holes for running boards, so it’s a nice thing. As long as the mounting points are properly fixed and fastened, you’ll have no problem securing them in place.

As an alternative, if your car doesn’t have pre-drilled holes, you’ll be on your own to drill them. Otherwise, hiring a professional to complete the task would be preferable.

They’ll bore the holes and assist with the installation of the running boards if you hire their services. If you’ve never done it before, it could cause major damage to the vehicle’s frame.

Is The Width Of The Running Board Important?

There should be no more than an inch or two of the running boards protruding from the vehicle unless necessary for a person’s safety. When determining how far they should protrude, it is advisable to do so while standing on it vertically.

This clearance should be adequate if you are steady on your feet and don’t trip over anything. The width of the running board is influenced by the design of the door. Another set of hinges must be positioned further along with the door.