What Are Running Boards on an SUV? A Comprehensive Guide

what are running boards on an suv

If you’ve ever wondered what those sturdy strips beneath the doors of SUVs are, you’re not alone. These vehicle accessories, known as running boards, serve a crucial purpose beyond just aesthetic appeal. In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of running boards, exploring their functions, benefits, types, installation, maintenance, and more.

Understanding Running Boards: What Are They?

Running boards, also referred to as nerf bars or side steps, are narrow platforms typically mounted beneath the doors of SUVs and trucks. They run along the length of the vehicle’s cabin, providing a convenient step for passengers to enter and exit the vehicle. These accessories are especially useful for vehicles with higher ground clearance, making it easier for passengers to access the cabin.

The Purpose of Running Boards

Running boards serve multiple functions, enhancing both the practicality and aesthetics of an SUV:

  • Assistance with Vehicle Entry and Exit: One of the primary purposes of running boards is to assist passengers in entering and exiting the vehicle, especially for those with mobility challenges or shorter stature. This accessibility feature makes SUVs more inclusive and user-friendly for a diverse range of individuals.
  • Protection Against Road Debris: Beyond their role as steps, running boards also provide a layer of protection for the vehicle’s lower body panels. By extending beyond the vehicle’s frame, running boards can help shield these vulnerable areas from road debris such as rocks, mud, and gravel, reducing the risk of damage and preserving the vehicle’s exterior.
  • Enhanced Aesthetics: In addition to their practical benefits, running boards can significantly enhance the visual appeal of an SUV. Available in various styles, materials, and finishes, running boards allow SUV owners to customize their vehicle’s appearance, adding a touch of ruggedness, elegance, or sportiness, depending on their preferences.
  • Added Safety: The textured surface of running boards provides additional grip, reducing the risk of slipping, especially in wet or icy conditions. This safety feature enhances the overall driving experience, instilling confidence in passengers as they enter and exit the vehicle, regardless of weather conditions.
  • Functional Utility: Beyond their primary function as steps, running boards can also serve as a convenient platform for accessing roof-mounted cargo or cleaning the vehicle’s windshield. This versatility adds to the practicality of running boards, making them a valuable addition to any SUV.

Types of Running Boards

There are several types of running boards available on the market, each offering unique features and benefits to suit different preferences and needs:

1. Molded Running Boards

Molded running boards are typically made from durable plastic or fiberglass and are molded to fit the contours of the vehicle’s body. They offer a sleek and integrated look, seamlessly blending with the vehicle’s design while providing a sturdy step for passengers. Molded running boards are often preferred for their aesthetic appeal and streamlined appearance.

2. Aluminum Running Boards

Aluminum running boards are lightweight yet sturdy, making them an ideal choice for off-road enthusiasts and adventure seekers. These running boards are known for their durability and resistance to corrosion, making them suitable for harsh weather conditions and rugged terrain. Many aluminum running boards feature a non-slip surface for added safety, providing reliable traction in all weather conditions.

3. Retractable Running Boards

Retractable running boards offer a unique blend of functionality and aesthetics, deploying automatically when the vehicle’s doors are opened and retracting when not in use. This innovative design provides a seamless and streamlined appearance, enhancing the vehicle’s overall look while offering practical benefits. Retractable running boards are popular among luxury SUVs and high-end vehicles, adding a touch of sophistication to their exterior.

4. Stainless Steel Running Boards

Stainless steel running boards are known for their durability, strength, and resistance to corrosion, making them a popular choice among SUV owners. These running boards often feature a polished or chrome finish, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to the vehicle’s exterior. Stainless steel running boards are highly durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions, making them ideal for long-term use.

Installation and Maintenance

Installing running boards on an SUV is a relatively straightforward process, but it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure proper fitment and alignment. Most running boards come with mounting brackets and hardware included, making installation hassle-free for DIY enthusiasts.

Installation Steps:

  1. Gather Tools and Materials: Before beginning the installation process, gather all the necessary tools and materials, including a socket wrench set, screwdriver, and mounting hardware.
  2. Position the Running Boards: Carefully position the running boards along the underside of the vehicle’s doors, ensuring proper alignment and spacing.
  3. Attach Mounting Brackets: Secure the mounting brackets to the vehicle’s frame using the provided hardware, making sure they are firmly in place.
  4. Attach Running Boards: Once the mounting brackets are securely attached, align the running boards with the brackets and secure them in place using the provided hardware.
  5. Test for Stability: After installing the running boards, test them for stability and ensure they are securely attached to the vehicle’s frame.

Maintenance Tips:

  • Regular Cleaning: To keep your running boards looking their best, regularly clean the surface to remove dirt, mud, and debris. Use a mild detergent and water solution and a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub the surface.
  • Inspect Mounting Hardware: Periodically inspect the mounting brackets and hardware to ensure they remain secure and tight. Tighten any loose bolts or screws as needed to prevent the running boards from becoming loose or unstable.
  • Apply Protective Coating: If you have aluminum or stainless steel running boards, consider applying a protective coating or wax to maintain their appearance and protect them from corrosion. This extra layer of protection can help prolong the lifespan of your running boards and keep them looking like new for years to come.

Expert Tips for Maximizing Your Running Board Experience

Running boards are more than just functional accessories for your SUV—they can enhance both the appearance and utility of your vehicle. To help you get the most out of your running boards, here are some expert tips to consider:

1. Choose the Right Style and Material

When selecting running boards for your SUV, consider both the style and material that best suit your vehicle and driving needs. Whether you prefer the sleek look of molded boards or the rugged durability of aluminum, choose options that complement your SUV’s aesthetics and provide the functionality you require.

2. Opt for Professional Installation

While some running boards can be installed as a DIY project, opting for professional installation ensures proper fitment and alignment. Experienced technicians have the expertise to install running boards securely, minimizing the risk of issues such as misalignment or instability.

3. Regularly Inspect for Damage

To maintain the integrity of your running boards, periodically inspect them for any signs of damage or wear. Look for cracks, dents, or rust, especially along the edges and mounting brackets. Promptly addressing any issues can prevent further damage and prolong the lifespan of your running boards.

4. Keep Them Clean

Regular cleaning is essential to keep your running boards looking their best and prevent dirt and debris buildup. Use a mild detergent and water solution to gently scrub the surface, paying attention to crevices and textured areas. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the finish of the running boards.

5. Consider Adding LED Lighting

For added functionality and style, consider upgrading your running boards with integrated LED lighting. LED lights not only illuminate the step area for enhanced visibility at night but also add a custom touch to your SUV’s exterior. Choose options with weather-resistant housing for durability in all conditions.

6. Use Caution in Inclement Weather

Exercise caution when using running boards in inclement weather, such as rain, snow, or ice. The surface of the running boards may become slippery when wet, increasing the risk of accidents. Take extra care when entering and exiting the vehicle, and consider installing non-slip tread covers for added traction.

7. Invest in Quality

When purchasing running boards for your SUV, invest in quality products from reputable manufacturers. High-quality running boards are built to withstand the rigors of daily use and provide long-lasting durability and performance. While budget-friendly options may seem appealing, they may not offer the same level of quality or reliability.

8. Customize with Accessories

Enhance the functionality of your running boards by customizing them with accessories such as side railings, step pads, or mud flaps. These add-ons can further personalize your SUV while providing additional protection and convenience for you and your passengers.

By following these expert tips, you can maximize the benefits of your running boards and enjoy a safer, more stylish driving experience in your SUV. Whether you’re navigating city streets or tackling off-road trails, quality running boards are an investment that pays dividends in both form and function.

Unlocking the Full Potential of Your SUV’s Running Boards

Enhance your SUV’s functionality and style with expert tips for optimizing your running board experience. From installation to maintenance, these insights will help you make the most of this essential accessory.

1. Prioritize Quality Over Price

Invest in high-quality running boards from trusted manufacturers. While cheaper options may seem appealing, they often lack durability and may not provide the same level of performance and longevity.

2. Ensure Proper Installation

Opt for professional installation to ensure your running boards are securely mounted and aligned correctly. Proper installation not only enhances safety but also prevents premature wear and damage.

3. Choose the Right Style and Material

Consider your driving needs and preferences when selecting running boards. Choose from various styles and materials, such as aluminum, stainless steel, or molded plastic, to find the perfect fit for your SUV.

4. Regularly Inspect for Damage

Perform routine inspections to check for any signs of damage or wear. Addressing issues early can prevent further damage and prolong the lifespan of your running boards.

5. Keep Them Clean

Maintain the appearance of your running boards by regularly cleaning them with mild soap and water. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the finish of the boards.

6. Enhance Visibility with LED Lighting

Consider upgrading your running boards with integrated LED lighting for improved visibility at night. LED lights not only enhance safety but also add a stylish touch to your SUV’s exterior.

7. Exercise Caution in Inclement Weather

Be cautious when using running boards in adverse weather conditions, such as rain or snow. The surface may become slippery, increasing the risk of accidents. Consider adding non-slip tread covers for added traction.

8. Customize with Accessories

Personalize your running boards with accessories such as side railings or step pads to enhance functionality and style. These add-ons can further customize your SUV to meet your specific needs and preferences.

By following these expert tips, you can maximize the benefits of your SUV’s running boards and enjoy a safer, more enjoyable driving experience. Whether you’re commuting in the city or embarking on off-road adventures, quality running boards are a valuable addition to any SUV.


In conclusion, running boards are versatile accessories that offer a range of benefits for SUV owners, from enhanced accessibility and safety to added protection and aesthetic appeal. Whether you’re looking to improve the functionality of your vehicle or simply add a touch of style, investing in quality running boards is a decision you won’t regret.

By understanding the different types of running boards available, as well as the installation and maintenance considerations, you can choose the right option for your SUV and enjoy the many advantages they provide. So, next time you see those sturdy strips beneath the doors of an SUV, you’ll know exactly what they’re for—and appreciate the added convenience and style they bring to your driving experience.

About the Author

Dan Collins
Dan Collins

Rooted in a familial history of garage work, Dan Collins pursued his passion and earned a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering in 2003. His journey in the automotive world was fueled by a fascination with cutting-edge companies offering products beyond the ordinary. At Cars Bibles, Dan utilizes his professional standpoint to... Read full bio

Scroll to Top