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Running Boards, Nerf Bars and Side Steps: 

How to Choose the Best for Your Truck or SUV? 

If you’re in the market for a new or used SUV or  truck, no doubt that your starting to look for running boards for your new ride. Even though they are the ultimate versatile vehicle, they can be challenging to get in and out of, especially for children and those with limited mobility. Fortunately, there are a wide array of step options for your vehicle, from traditional running boards to sporty nerf bars and simple side steps.

Here, we’ll examine each option to help you choose which one might be best for you.

Running boards

Running boards are flat, wide boards that run the length of your truck’s cab. They provide a wide and uniform stepping surface for the length of the board. Running boards meet the carriage of your truck, so that there is no major gap between the two. The uniform stepping surface combined with the shared line of the truck cab makes running boards a streamlined, integrated choice as a step. The wide surface makes it a stable and safe choice for those with limited mobility or shaky balance.

Nerf bars

were originally used to protect the sides and undercarriage of the truck from debris encountered off road. These bars have gained popularity as a step though because of their sleek and sporty appearance. Nerf bars are often spaced away from the body of your truck cab, which distinguishes them visually from the truck cab. They are often tubular or oval shaped and provide a flat, no-slip stepping surfaces at cab doors.

Side Steps

Side steps are a great approach for people who just want a simple step into and out of their truck. If you get side steps, you’ll need to be sure that both you and your passenger feel comfortable spotting these smaller steps so you avoid a misstep and potential fall when exiting the truck.

Rather than running the length of the cab, side steps are slightly larger than the width of your foot, making for a compact stepping option that doesn’t greatly alter the look of your truck. These steps may look similar to a metal rung, or they may look like a shortened running board. Even with this little step, there are lots of options!

Regardless of which step option you choose, running boards, nerf bars, and side steps all have a wide range of options. You’ll need to consider if you’re interested in:

Chrome or black
Textured or rubberized
Additional features like a boot scraper
Cab length or wheel to wheel (for running boards and nerf bars)

Wheel-to-wheel running boards and nerf bars are ones that extend beyond the truck’s cab, from the front to back wheel. The big advantage of these steps is that they allow a stepping surface at the truck’s bed, which can be especially helpful if you’re not particularly tall, if your truck is lifted or if you need to easily access items within your toolbox.

If you have questions about the best step for your truck, or if you want a quality install on your new running boards, contact us at: Merrillville Auto Glass & Trim,  We’re here to help your new truck function its best for you for years to come!

Side Bars vs. Running Boards

Though side bars and running boards are sometimes used interchangeably by some manufacturers, ARIES makes a few key distinctions between the two categories. The following points are intended to help you choose which product will best serve your needs and preferences.

Side bars

Side bars are referred to by many names, including nerf bars, step bars and side steps, to name a few. A side bar's primary function is to provide a stepping surface into the vehicle. For this reason, they are generally used on larger vehicles, such as pickup trucks and SUVs. However, for aesthetic value, they are also found on smaller vehicles, such as compact SUVs and crossovers.

Side bars are typically designed to mount with a certain amount of space between the step and the body of the vehicle. This space can vary, depending on the model, but it is generally a few inches. They are also designed to mount low on the vehicle, allowing for less ground clearance but providing a more functional step for lifted vehicles. Side bars also usually have individual step pads to correspond to each door on the vehicle, and they are generally narrower than running boards.

Side bars are different from running boards because they:

Leave extra space between the step and the vehicle
Offer less ground clearance for an easier step on lifted vehicles
Feature individual, custom-positioned step pads
Typically have a narrower width than running boards

 Running boards

Like a side bar, a running board provides a stepping surface into the vehicle. However, it generally mounts flush against the vehicle's rocker panel, or closer to it, instead of leaving a gap. Running boards are also typically wider than side bars and have an overall flatter profile. Instead of individually placed step pads, the flat stepping surface usually has a tread that spans the length of the board.

Running boards are found on everything from larger pickup trucks and SUVs to smaller crossovers, providing a convenient step and additional aesthetic value. Unlike side bars that mount down and away from the vehicle, running boards typically offer more ground clearance, making them an excellent choice for lower vehicles.

Running boards are different from side bars because they:

Mount relatively flush against the rocker panels
Offer more ground clearance for lower vehicles
Feature a single, full-length tread
Typically have a wider, flatter profile
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