Running Boards Buyer’s Guide
- A running board, also known as a footboard, is a flat and narrow step located under the vehicle doors.
- Running boards are meant to function as a step underneath the vehicle doors for entering or exiting the cabin.
- Running boards can be classified into two based on length: cab length or wheel-to-wheel.
- Other types of running boards based on design include lighted running boards, custom molded running boards, and retractable running boards.
- The cost of running boards may vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement footboards will generally cost you in the range of $145 to $1,700. These are sold individually, in sets of two, or as part of a kit.
What Are Running Boards?
A running board, also known as a footboard, is a flat and narrow step located under the vehicle doors. It is typically mounted flush against the rocker panel and protrude 4 to 7 inches from the vehicle body. Running boards are usually installed on trucks, workhorse rigs, and vans with high ground clearances.
Footboards are made from heavy-duty thermoplastics, stainless steel, or aluminum. They usually come in black or grey, and in polished or powder-coated finishes. To create an anti-slip surface, they may be grated, stamped with a diamond design, or come with rubber foot grips
What Is the Purpose of Running Boards?
Running boards are meant to function as a step underneath the vehicle doors for entering or exiting the cabin. They were first used in horse-drawn carriages and were later adapted by automobiles. As vintage cars were designed to sit higher than modern vehicles, running boards improved these vehicles’ accessibility. Today, running boards for trucks, SUVs, and vans both serve functional and aesthetic purposes.
Footboards can also be used to clean off mud or snow from your shoes before entering your vehicle. They help prevent tracking dirt into your vehicle’s interiors by using them as a doormat. Lastly, they are an affordable yet stylish accessory that you can install to update the look of your vehicle.
Types of Running Boards
Car running boards can be classified into two based on length: cab length or wheel-to-wheel. As its name suggests, cab length running boards run the entire length of the passenger cabin. On the other hand, wheel-to-wheel running boards start from behind the front wheel, extend beyond the cab, and end right before the rear wheel. This gives drivers a third step that can be used to access the truck bed or roof rack from the side of the vehicle.
Here are some other types of running boards based on design:
Lighted running boards
Built-in LED lights on this type of car running board make it easier to see the step when entering or exiting the vehicle in the dark. At the same time, the lights also illuminate the path underneath the footboard, allowing the driver or their passengers to avoid any puddles or find their footing on uneven terrain.
Custom molded running boards
This type of running board is designed to follow the lines and curves of a vehicle seamlessly. This option is also advisable for vehicle owners who want to color-match this component to their body paint.
Retractable running boards
Also known as power running boards, this type of footboard automatically extends when the doors are open and retracts when they are closed. They are powered by electric motors on the bracket and triggered by door sensors that determine when the step is needed.
This is a great option for people who wish to keep their vehicle lines sleek while maintaining maximum ground clearance. Tucking the footboards away can also keep it from messing with your vehicle’s aerodynamics.
Common Causes of Running Board Damage
Driving through hard snow and ice can put your running boards through a beating. Kicked up rocks and debris can damage this part upon impact. Rubber grips may also crack or peel off and require replacement over time.
Going over the weight capacity of your running boards can also cause them to wear down faster. Aluminum and plastic vehicle running boards typically have lower weight capacities and a shorter lifespan than their steel counterparts.
Why Is Running Board Replacement Important?
Running boards are extremely important if you have kids or elderly passengers who would have difficulty jumping in and out of a tall truck or 4x4. The grip on these steps makes it more comfortable and safer for you and your passengers to access your vehicle, even while it’s raining or snowing.
These footboards also help protect your vehicle doors from dents and dings caused by kicked up debris while off-roading. They are a must-have for people who usually drive on gravel and unpaved roads. At the same time, using this part to keep your vehicle damage-free can help you protect the resale value of your vehicle.
How Much are Running Boards?
The cost of running boards may vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement footboards will generally cost you in the range of $145 to $1,700. These are sold individually, in sets of two, or as part of a kit.
How to Install Running Boards
Fitting your vehicle with a running board is an easy project that can be completed in an hour or so. The difficulty of the install will depend on whether you have chosen a universal-fit running board or a vehicle-specific one.
A universal-fit running board is likely to require some drilling on the bracket pieces to match your truck’s pre-drilled holes. Once the holes on the vehicle frame and brackets are lined up, the running board will only need to be bolted in place.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
What you'll need:
- 2 pair locking pliers
- Wrench and socket set
- Hex head bit set
- Screw gun
- Variable speed drill
- Bolts, clips, and nuts
- Running board kit
- Vehicle owner manual
Step 1: Unpack the running board kit. Check if it has all the components you need for installation (like connecting bolts and brackets). Lay them out so you can easily pick them up as needed.
Step 2: Check under your vehicle to see if it has pre-drilled mounting holes. If it doesn't, use your variable speed drill to make the necessary mounting holes. Refer to instructions from the running board manufacturer and your owner manual for details. You can never be too careful when it comes to drilling holes into your vehicle.
Step 3: Get the mounting brackets that are included in your running board kit. Attach them to the mounting positions using the bolts, but don't secure them tightly yet.
Step 4: Get your running board and hold it up to the mounting brackets to make sure the mounting positions are perfectly aligned. If they're not, put your running board aside and make the necessary adjustments. After ensuring that they are properly positioned, lock your mounting brackets tightly into place.
Step 5: Hold the running board up to the mounting bracket again. Rest it on the mounting brackets as you line up each connection.
Step 6: When everything's all lined up, fasten it securely (using the bolts, nuts, washers, etc.). Have a friend hold the running board in place while you do this. Make sure to tighten everything.
Step 7: Repeat the process for the other side.
The rule of thumb here is to attach loosely first and then to tighten after you are certain of the alignment and positioning. Always refer to your owner manual and the running board manufacturer's instructions for specific details.