Running boards have existed for about as long as trucks have been built. They usually are attached to doors or just beneath them. Passengers can use them to step up into the cabin and back out of it.
Many classic pickups and cars featured long, wide, and low running boards that connected the front and rear fenders. Those early boards served some very practical purposes. They helped to make the vehicle more structurally rigid while making it easier to get in and out. They also helped to stop stones, mud, and dust from damaging the exterior paint and getting into the cabin.
The wide boards also give you some additional room to strap cargo onto the side of a truck. Owners might strap a crate, large containers or water, or other cargo onto the boards along either side. That could significantly increase the amount of cargo a truck could haul.
The many advantages of running boards helped to make them standard equipment on trucks, sedans, and other vehicles for many decades. Their use declined for a period of time but has made a significant comeback with the emergence of the SUV.
Common Design of the Modern Running Board
The design of the modern running board is very different from the classic running boards that movie gangsters stood on to shoot it out with the police or spray a business with bullets. Gone are the very wide, flat, and long boards running from the front fender to the rear quarter panel.
The modern running board often is made from aluminum or steel and is more tubular in shape. They often are round with flattened areas with anti-slip inserts to enable you to get in and out.
Some truck running boards also extend and retract electronically so that they only are extended while entering or exiting the vehicle. That helps to make them less visible while not in use and makes your vehicle more aerodynamic.
Modern running boards are common on pickups and SUVs. They also are increasing in use on many cars, which often have retractable running boards. Running boards might be standard equipment, an option, or something that you add from the aftermarket.
Many Types of Running Boards
The old-fashioned running boards were very practical but also very heavy. As vehicle designs improved, the need for running boards decreased until only trucks and vans generally had them.
The emergence of the SUV helped to revive the running boards market, which now features a wide range of boards for just about any kind of vehicle. Some of the more popular types of running boards include:
- Traditional style.
- Side steps.
- Nerf bars.
- Electric boards.
The traditional style is more akin to the wide and flat running boards of old. They are smaller, lighter, and often feature rubber inserts for better traction.
Side steps are more strategically placed with one underneath each door. They usually are made from thick aluminum tubing that extends down and holds a flat step that is textured to improve traction.
Nerf bars are very durable and can do very well with off-roading vehicles. They feature several long pieces of steel or aluminum tubing that contain a long and flat metal piece that is textured and enables stepping in and out of the cabin.
Electric running boards are the costliest of the different types of running boards available on the market. Truck-mounted electric running boards can swing out to provide passengers with a step up and down when needed.
A control module sends a signal that deploys the electronic boards when a door opens. When it closes, the electric boards retract. They also might have LED lights that illuminate the ground when getting in and out.
Learn How to Use Running Boards
The biggest disadvantage of running boards is one that is easily corrected. Most people do not know how to use running boards to step in and out of trucks and other tall vehicles. They are too used to sliding in and out of their seats, which greatly accelerates the wear and tear on the seats and upholstery.
Fortunately, it is very easy to learn how to properly use side steps and running boards to get in and out of tall vehicles. You should position yourself facing toward the front of the vehicle.
You step up with your outside leg first. There likely is a grab handle positioned where you easily can reach up and grab ahold of it with your inside hand.
So you step with your outside leg and reach for the grab handle with your inside arm and hand. Then you enter the cabin easily and without rubbing against the seat upholstery. That will help to preserve the seating while making getting in and out a whole lot easier.