What are Truck Running Boards?

What are running boards

Running boards have somewhat eye-opening origins and an interesting evolutionary path dating back hundreds of years.

These days they are found commonplace on trucks and other vehicle types and serve an understated yet essential function to help optimize our vehicular experience.

Indeed, we consider running boards as some of the most useful customizations that can be made for trucks. 

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    What is a Running Board?

    A running board is a narrow step fitted on the exterior of an automobile beneath the side doors of an open vehicle.

    They are typically placed on each side of the vehicle and usually extend from just behind the front wheel well to just before the rear wheel well.

    Running boards are primarily intended to assist passengers to enter and exit the front and rear of the vehicle.

    On some specific vehicle types, like certain trucks used by soldiers, running can be used to carry passengers during transit, although this is considered dangerous to do for civilians. 

    The Origin of Running Boards

    The origin of running boards

    The origin of running boards can be traced back to horse-drawn carriages and then evolved for use on combustion engine vehicles.

    In order to disembark the carriage efficiently without dirtying one’s clothing while stepping down from their ride, some sort of footrest or step would have been necessary.

    Variations of running boards have also been typically seen on trams, trains, and buses.

    Running boards were used on cars in the first incarnations, typically the running along the sides over the wheel wells. This was needed because cars in those days usually sat quite high from the ground. 

    During the early 1900s running boards started to become less prominent. This was due to the design of cars becoming less bulky and sitting lower to the ground.  

    Since then, running boards have only really been a prominent feature on larger automobiles, such as larger SUVs, and trucks.

    What are the different types of Running Boards?

    The different types of Running boards include the following:

    Cab-Length Boards / Wheel-to-Wheel Boards

    These are basically running boards that run the full length of your vehicle cab – from wheel to wheel. 

    Nerf bars are typically tubular shaped version of running boards used on certain types of racing cars. The purpose of nerf bars in these circumstances is to protect the vehicle from serious collisions with other racing cars.

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    Rock sliders function to protect the vehicle from gravel  and tone chips that may be kicked up from the ground.

    This is typically the case when the vehicle is used in rougher terrain and in off road activities where stray debris from the grounded would otherwise chip and damage the bodywork.

    Rock sliders also contain what is sometime called a kickout, that works to push the vehicle away from larger rocks and other obstacles that would be a risk of damaging the underside of the vehicle. 

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    Retractable side steps are a very popular option that can be extended when in use and hidden when not is use.

    Manually operated retractable side steps can be simply extended or hidden with your foot.

    Alternatively, automatically operated retractable side steps will usually extend by themselves when you open the truck door, allowing them to be used as normal.

    When the user closes the door the automatic retractable side steps will retract and be hidden from sight, keeping the truck looking neat when they are not in use. 

    The manual and automatic retractable side steps are highly sought after varieties of truck step. This is for good reason, but they are also the most expensive option on this list – especially the automatic version.

    Play Video about Retractable running board video guide

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    These are attached to the side of the vehicle in a similar fashion to running boards, but have smaller sections designed to be “stepped” into with one foot each.

    You will usually see at least two step sections on drop step bars.

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    Similar to drop step bars, but without the bar. Instead the steps are affixed individually.

    These are equally useful for providing easy access to the trunk, so you may also find these attached to the rear of the truck, as well the sides.

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    These types of running boards have lights fixed into them which provide user good visibility when it’s dark. 

    Last update on 2024-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    Do Running boards prevent door dings?

    Running boards can prevent door dings as they create clearance between the door and other vehicle or stationary objects.

    Furthermore, being on trucks makes them even more effective due to the extra height of trucks.

    The added height ensures that the doors of smaller vehicles like cars and some SUVs are less likely to miss the running board when opened.

    It can be said that this clearance can create somewhat of a barrier between your truck and the other vehicles in certain situations. Although it must also be said that this is by no means a consistent form or protection.

    Do running boards scratch cars?

    Do running boards scratch cars

    Running boards can easily get in contact with other cars if you get too close, potentially causing scratches.

    Adding rubber around the perimeter of the running board can add some protection to minimize this.

    A way to completely avoid scratching other cars with running boards is by purchasing retractable ones as mentioned above.

    Retractable running boards will retract from view when not in use, and only come out when you need them to.

    Are running boards bad for your car?

    Fuel Efficiency

    The presence of running boards may reduce fuel efficiency by increasing drag. 


    One of the few issues with running boards is that they may not be visible in the wing mirrors when the driver approaches tight corners or tight maneuvering is required. 

    Special care is therefore required when negotiating these potentially hazardous situations. Mistakes could lead to damaging the running board on unseen curbs etc, or damaging other vehicles. 

    Paint damage 

    Depending on the installation running board may also cause damage to your own paintwork.

    This is usually a result of the gasket between the running board and the vehicle body breaking down.

    Continued use of the running board under this circumstance will likely cause a small amount of rubbing between the surfaces which can eventually lead to abrasion of the paintwork. 

    For this reason, it is important to get the right type of running board for your vehicle and install them correctly. Or at least repair any signs of movement. 

    But, generally speaking, running boards are fine for your vehicle and will not cause any damage if installed correctly. 

    Play Video about Running board buying guide video

    Are running boards safe?

    Running boards are designed specifically to facilitate the safe entry and exit of passengers and drivers from a vehicle. As such, they are safe to use for the intended purpose.

    A well-made set of running boards, or factory-fitted ones should last a very long time before wear and tear deem them unsafe to use.

    The only point from a safety perspective to take note of (and this was touched upon earlier) is the lack of visibility f the running board from drivers on some vehicles.

    In these circumstances, the running board could get caught on curbsides and potentially other vehicles, if they protrude out far enough or you are close enough to the other vehicle. 

    Generally speaking, these situations are rare, and on balance should not outweigh the benefit of using them for their intended purposes.

    How much do running boards cost?

    Running boards vary in price but can cost anywhere from under 100 dollars to a couple thousand dollars. They are usually designed to be installed by the customer, but if want a professional to install them for you also factor this into the cost.

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