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What is a Running Board? 

If you've never heard of running boards, you've likely used one — especially if you've had to enter a large SUV or truck. You may know them as nerf bars, truck step bars, step rails, or truck side steps — with running boards being a bit different than those options.


Regardless of how you know them, these accessories are integral to helping passengers get into a truck or SUV and the overall protection of your vehicle. Running boards can range in price from around $260 to over $1,500.

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What are running boards?

A running board is a platform that extends from the front wheel to the back wheel of a truck or SUV. Sometimes, running boards can be confused with truck side steps or nerf bars for trucks, but they are a bit different. Side steps can be narrower than running boards, while nerf bars are typically placed on larger trucks and are tubular. 

Running boards allow passengers to enter an elevated vehicle like a larger SUV and can be made of a variety of materials. There are aluminum running boards known to be lightweight and less vulnerable to rust. Alternatively, steel running boards are heavier and more durable. 

Sometimes, in the middle of the running board, there’s a hard rubber surface to aid in helping individuals step in and out of the vehicle. Running boards have many benefits that might be attractive to drivers. 

Uses for Running Boards 

You may be surprised that there are numerous perks to adding a running board. Here are some reasons to consider installing a running board for your truck or SUV. 

Easy entry into your large vehicle

This is primarily why many people may initially see the value in a running board. It helps passengers get into a larger vehicle with more ease. This is especially true for truck running boards. 

Often, drivers may have installed lift kits to increase their truck’s ground clearance, and while this may benefit a better off-roading experience, it can make it challenging for individuals to get into and out of a car. For this reason, a running board not only helps individuals easily step into a truck or SUV, but it can prevent someone from getting injured from trying to get into a car that’s high off the ground. 

Other uses for your running board

Running boards serve other purposes for your vehicle. Here are some other benefits of installing running boards: 

  • Protecting your car from dirt – Running boards can almost act like a doormat outside your home. Before passengers step into your vehicle, they can rub off dirt, grime, or substances like mud or snow. This can help keep the interior of your truck or SUV clean. 
  • Prevent dirt and debris from damaging your car – Whether you’re on an off-road adventure or traveling on a treacherous road, your vehicle can be susceptible to many materials colliding with it. A running board can act as a barrier and prevent these substances from damaging your car. 
  • Enhance the look of your car – Many vintage cars still use running boards to improve their car’s look. Depending on the material it’s made of, a running board might add to the aesthetic of your vehicle. 

Ultimately, a running board can provide great value for your truck and SUV. They’re a practical addition to your car that can make it easy for you to get in and out of your car while protecting your vehicle from damage. 

How to install running boards

It’s important to remember that the process for installing a running board can vary depending on the make and model of your car as well as the type of running board you have. Therefore, make sure that you consult the instruction manual for the running boards. 

1. Inspect the product

You want to ensure you have all the materials you need to get started. So, inspect all the hardware advertised on the package. Additionally, this is an excellent time to read the instructions to get a feel for the installation process and confirm that you have all the hardware mentioned in the instructions.

2. Gather the necessary tools

Next, you’ll want to gather all the tools you need to complete the installation. You’ll likely need the following:

  • Ratchet and socket set
  • Googles and gloves 
  • Box end wrenches

If you want to make it easier to slide under the car, you may also want to invest in a creeper.

3. Find the factory holes

Depending on the car, holes might already be drilled into the location where you’ll install the running board. But, if they aren’t there, you’ll need to add them and ensure they match up with the running board bolts. Running board instructions may include some tips on how to do this. You’ll then add the bolt plate for the running board.

4. Add the brackets

The number of brackets will depend on the make and model of your car as well as your cab’s size. You’ll want to begin attaching the front bracket, but don’t tighten it all the way as you may need to change the location of the bracket later.

5. Install the running boards

Put the running boards on top of the brackets, and center it. Once you’re satisfied with the location and have ensured that everything is lined up properly, tighten all the bolts to keep the running boards in place.

How to maintain them

Running boards handle a lot of dirt and grime, so the primary way to maintain them is to clean them. You can combine water and a simple all-purpose automotive cleaner to wash away debris. Be sure to use a microfiber cloth to help clear away dirt. You’ll also want to inspect the running boards for structural damage like cracks routinely. This activity can help you determine whether to repair or replace the running boards. 

Running boards serve a variety of purposes for your vehicle. At Autozone, we have many options across several different price points. Check out our inventory to order your next running board. You can get the parts you need at your local AutoZone Store.

If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

FAQ/People Also Ask

What is the purpose of a running board?

Running board help passengers get into a car that’s higher off the ground. It also can protect against debris damaging your vehicle while driving.

How do you use a running board?

You attach a running board under your car’s cab. It will likely extend from the front wheel to the back of the vehicle.

What is the difference between side steps and running boards?

They both perform the same function for individuals. However, running boards offer more surface space than side steps.

Are running boards worth it?

Running boards have some notable benefits: they make getting into your truck or SUV easier, protect your vehicle from debris, and even prevent dirt and grime from entering the cabin.

Do running boards affect gas mileage?

They can add a bit of drag and weight to your car, so you can opt for retractable ones if you want to avoid this.

Can I install my own running boards?

Yes, you can. Installing a regular running board doesn’t require a lot of tools, and they come with instructions. However, you may have to drill holes into your truck or SUV if they don’t already come with them, which can add an extra step.

How long does it take to install running boards?

Depending on the type of running board you install, the entire process should take a couple of hours or so. 

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